Summer is here and that means fresh local fruits, veggies and more! Get to a farmer’s market and support your local food economy. You have my permission to stop reading this and go.
While at the market, did you see any tempting plants to buy? Growing your own can often seem burdensome. I mean veggies are cheap enough, right? But while prices are coming down at these markets, they can be super cheap from home and super local too! There are some veggies that you can grow that produce more than you can eat and certainly more than the couple dollars you shell out for the plant or seeds. Gardening is also therapeutic. I love clearing my mind while I water my garden and get my hands dirty. Nothing is more rewarding than literally enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Below are five veggies that are super easy to grow:
The summer is salad season. Kale, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Romaine, Butterleaf … these are just some of the live greens you can buy, even at a grocery store, to grow. If you order seeds, you can even nab some locally adapted, organic, and/or heirloom varieties.
Greens grow well in most soil that is well-draining. Mustard greens grow in almost anything. Grab enough organic compost to cover a plot with a few inches of it and big enough to give each plant some space to grow nice and big. Work the compost into the ground so that you have a foot or so of loose, fluffy soil. Make sure this plot will be shaded from the harsh afternoon sun. Excessive heat makes greens go to seed faster which means the leaves will be bitter – gross. Plant your greens in the soil and water really well so that the root ball is soaked. Add an inch of mulch to cover the soil, retain water, and prevent weeds from growing. I recommend some shredded hay or old leaves if available.
Make sure that you water consistently in the morning to keep the soil moist. Greens can be harvested two or three times to get real value out of them. Once they are getting pretty big, take a knife and slice the whole plant off while leaving a couple inches poking out of the soil. Don’t worry. It will grow back.
Greens love onions and vice versa. This is called companion planting. Onions emit chemical signals as odors in the air and as changes in the microbe cultures in the soil. This keeps pests away from your greens AND gives you onions. These can be bought as little bulbs and planted in the same quality soil described above. Plant them intermixed with your greens.
Radishes also grow well with the simple soil arrangement above, but can handle a little more sun. They are quick producers so you can stagger your planting to keep harvesting throughout the whole season. Grow these from seed and thin out the sprouts (which you can eat) so they are spaced every six inches or so between each other and rows. Pick them when they are cherry sized for a rawsome garden snack.
Beans come in two main varieties: bush/tepiary and pole/vining. While pole beans need support to grow up, bush beans do not. Beans and other legumes like lentils and peas also come with an added benefit for your garden – they put nitrogen in the soil while your other plants use it up! Oh, and you also get beans!
Potatoes multiply, but not before your eyes. The magic happens underground. Potatoes are tubers or swollen root structures that are part of an expanding underground network fed by the soil and the green plant above.
You can buy some spuds from your local nursery or even use potatoes that have sprouted that you bought from the store. To maximize space, follow or expand upon a simple technique featured here.
In a nutshell, you keep the potato tubers expanding up by constantly adding more compost to a bucket or another well-draining container as the potato plant grows out of it. Once you fill the container completely, and the plant reaches the end of its life you empty it and harvest your taters! You can also grow potatoes in the soil with lots of compost. This way you can leave some of the potatoes in the ground and they will come back year after year.
Check out some other useful garden tips here.
Image source: Jim Linwood/Flickr