Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Easy Crops for New Gardeners

Recently my brother-in-law asked me what are some easy things for new gardeners to grow.  He and his family are moving from the 2-bedroom apartment that has been their home for the last several years to a house.  The yard around the house has what he referred to as "a shade problem" (i.e. a gardening opportunity!)  Here's what I've come up with (note that I live in the Mid-Atlantic):

Spring planting:

sugar snap peas*

Summer planting:

green beans*
summer squash / zucchini
grape or cherry tomatoes*  (okay, see the statements below about tomatoes)
sunflowers, marigolds
hot peppers (if your summer is not too short)

*children usually enjoy picking

For the bold, there are some slightly harder but really worthwhile crops.  Here are my suggestions for dealing with the biggest difficulties of these medium-easy plants.
carrots - need a lot of watering at first, and take a while to come up (interplant with radishes to mark the rows)
pumpkin - needs a lot of space (plant near the edge of your garden and follow the spacing recommendations on the packet no matter how ridiculous it seems at first; mulch the area around the hills to keep weeds from filling in the gaps)
tomatoes - need staking and can get crazy (I like the large, round metal cages; "pinch out" the extra vines that try to grow between the main vine and the branches); also can suffer from blight in hot, humid areas (pinch off the diseased leaves and chuck 'em in the woods (or trash can); mulching around the base of the plant can help; don't let the branches rest on the ground; don't let the plant get too bunched up)

If anyone is looking for some tips for starting their new garden, check out the "New to Gardening?" link above.

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