There's few things more rewarding than growing vegetables in your own backyard. The fresh taste of a vine ripened tomato or snap pea harvested at its flavorful peak is second to none. Vegetable gardening is a great family activity, one that provides rewarding outdoor exercise. And knowing that your organically-grown veggies carry none of the risks of today’s commercial, factory-farm produce can be priceless.

To ensure you raise the best-tasting, most nutritious food for your family — in ways that make your garden as safe and healthy as it can be — takes planning, know-how and experience. Click here for information on locating your new garden plot, improving soil health, selecting the best vegetable varieties for your growing conditions, and caring for your plants — naturally! — all the way to harvest.

Growing Garlic

GarlicA member of the onion family, garlic (Allium sativum) has been cultivated for thousands of years and was most likely brought to this country by European immigrants. Today growing garlic has become popular in many home gardens. The plant is valued for its pungent flavor and many health benefits.

Site Preparation:

Each spring, work plenty of compost into your growing area. Garlic thrives in all zones and does very well in raised beds, except in very dry areas. It requires full sun, sandy, fast draining soil rich in organic matter and regular water during the growing season.

How to Plant:

Plant garlic in spring in cold winter regions, in late fall in mild winter areas. To plant, break the bulbs apart into individual cloves, plant with the pointed end up, 1 inch deep in rows 1 foot apart. (more…)

Growing Eggplant

Growing EggplantEggplant is a member of the Solanaceae family which includes tomatoes, peppers, ground cherry and potatoes. A warm season annual, growing eggplant is relatively easy and it is one of the prettier vegetables found in the home garden. Numerous varieties are available.

Site Preparation:

Eggplant should be planted in full sun and requires ample water and fertile soil with lots of organic matter. The plants are easily injured by frost and will not do well with long periods of cool weather (see Eggplant Requires Heat, Patience).

Tip: Use plastic mulches to warm the soil and increase eggplant yields.

How to Plant:

Eggplants should be treated like tomatoes, the only difference being that eggplants like it warmer. Plant them from nursery stock, or starts, after the soil has warmed in the spring. Set plants 20-24 inches apart in raised beds or double rows 20-24 inches apart. Apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer throughout the growing period. (more…)

Growing Cucumbers

CucumberCucumbers are one of the most popular plants in today’s home garden. Before you plant, consider how much space you can devote to growing cucumbers. The regular varieties require about 15 square feet per plant. However, they can still be grown in small gardens by training vines onto a trellis or wire fence. They may also be grown in containers.

Site Preparation:

Cucumbers require a planting site in full sun and even soil moisture. Mulch around plants to prevent soil from drying out between waterings. A straw mulch works best and will help keep them off the ground. Allow plenty of room for each plant, making sure that the soil is rich in organic matter and well drained.

How to Plant:

Cucumbers need warm soil and do not tolerate frost. Wait for warm spring days and soil temperatures above 60 degrees. Grow trellised plants 6-10 inches apart. When planted in hills and allowed to run, grow three plants to a 2 foot wide hill, with the hills spaced 6 feet apart. Apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer in early spring; then provide supplemental light feedings (side-dressings or foliar spray) monthly throughout the growing season. (more…)

Growing Corn

CornNative to North and South America, corn (or maize) was cultivated some 4,000 years before Columbus first set foot in the New World. Today home gardeners know that the flavor of a fresh picked ear of heirloom corn delivered directly to a pot of boiling water is worth all the effort, fertilizer and space required for growing corn.

Site Preparation:

Corn requires full sun, ample water and deep rich soil to perform well. Prepare the planting site by working in generous amounts of compost. Corn needs to be well protected from frost.

Tip: Cover the growing area with plastic for two to four weeks prior to planting to warm the soil. (more…)

Growing Celery

CeleryAlmost absent of calories, yet chock-full of important vitamins and minerals, growing celery produces flavorful leafstalks for use in everything from salads to soups and casseroles. Celery requires long periods of warm, but not high temperatures and can be grown in home gardens in most parts of the country. It is not suited to humid climates.

Site Preparation:

Celery thrives in cool, moist locations. Select a planting site that receives at least one half day of sun and is rich in organic soil. A heavy feeder, celery does well planted after legumes.

How to Plant:

Seeds should be planted in flats in the early spring, and set out when the soil begins to warm. Set seedlings 6 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. (more…)

Growing Cauliflower

CauliflowerFor many backyard gardeners, growing cauliflower can be a rather difficult task. This nutritious plant is very temperamental and requires undisturbed, continuous growth for the head, or flower, to develop. As a result, growing success is often influenced by several environmental factors, including temperature, insects and moisture. Some gardeners will even set a few cauliflower plants out every week, hoping that at least a few of them will get the proper weather conditions.

Site Preparation:

A cool season biennial which is grown as an annual, cauliflower requires full sun and regular water. The soil should be rich in organic matter and nutrients. To prevent insect and disease problems, avoid planting in spots where other brassicas have been grown the previous three years. (more…)

Growing Carrots

CarrotCrunchy and sweet, growing carrots is easy! A wonderful source of Vitamin A and anti-oxidants, they provide color and nutrition to a gardeners diet. Carrots grow best in cool temperatures (between 60-70˚F) and may be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring.

Site Preparation:

Select a garden site in full sun or very light partial shade and prepare the soil with ample amounts of mature organic compost. Carrots will reach perfection only when planted in deep, good-textured soil that is free of stones and debris. Plant the long varieties only if you can provide this type of soil. Choose shorter varieties if your soil is heavy or stony. (more…)

Growing Cabbage

CabbageEasy to plant and delicious to eat, home gardeners growing cabbage are rewarded with abundant and dependable harvests. Extremely hardy, this member of the brassica family is a cool season biennial grown as an annual. Delicious raw or cooked, it’s excellent in slaws, salads, soups, or stir fried.

Site Preparation:

Cabbage requires regular water, full sun to partial shade, and fertile, well-drained soil. Plants thrive in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. If possible, avoid growing cabbage in spots where other brassicas grew the previous three years.

Tip: Humus rich soil is the key to a great harvest. Add ample amounts of organic matter to the soil prior to planting. (more…)

Growing Broccoli

BroccoliChock-full of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as calcium, phosphorous and iron, growing broccoli is popular with many backyard gardeners. Belonging to the cabbage or cole family, this popular dinner side dish tastes best fresh and is prized for its cool weather hardiness and ample production.

Site Preparation:

Broccoli is a cool season annual plant that requires full sun and regular water. It does best in loose, fast draining, fertile soils. Dig in a legume cover crop or 30 lbs. of compost per 100 square feet prior to planting. Since broccoli is a heavy feeder it thrives after a legume, such as peas. Rich, well ballanced soil will prevent many broccoli deficiencies.

Tip: Humus rich soil is the key to a great broccoli harvest. Add ample amounts of organic matter to the soil prior to planting. (more…)

Growing Beets

BeetsA delicious addition to home gardens, growing beets is a great choice for fresh eating, roasting or canning. Both foliage and roots are edible and baby heirloom beets, with their earthy sweetness, are a culinary treat!

Beet tops or “greens” as they’re called are an excellent source of vitamin A and the roots are a good source of potassium, iron, vitamin C and fiber. Rich in flavor, chock-full of nutrition, and available in a variety of colors, it’s no wonder home cooks are serving up beets like never before.

Site Preparation:

Beets prefer a cooler climate and should be grown in well drained, loose textured soil for best results. Choose a site that gets full sun and dig down deeply (at least 10 inches) to promote good root development. Work in 15-20 lbs. of compost for every 100 square feet of soil. Beets also make an excellent raised bed crop, just make sure that they get plenty of water. (more…)

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