What’s hot this year? Growing your own food. I’ll be planting my first vegetable garden this year too. I have a thriving herb garden, but have lots of questions about starting a veggie garden. So here’s some advice from Bayer Advanced Garden Expert (www.bayeradvanced.com), Lance Walheim who also contributed to ‘Vegetables For Dummies’ book.
Budget Smart Girl (BSG)-Everyone wants to plant a vegetable garden this year. If you’re a beginner, what vegetables would you recommend? What should you avoid?
Lance Walheim (LW)-If you know the cultural basics, they are all about the same but in general I’d say tomatoes, squash, lettuce, beans, peppers and potatoes are easiest just because of the amount of harvest you get.
BSG-Is it easier to start with seeds or plants? Any vegetables you wouldn’t recommend growing from seed?
LW-Plants are easiest but some like root crops and spinach should always be started from seed. Corn, melons, squash, pumpkins, lettuce, peas and some others are also very easy or best from seed. I wouldn’t recommend a beginner direct seed tomatoes, peppers or crucifers outdoors, but they’re not too hard to grow indoors.
BSG-What should you look for when you’re selecting vegetable plants?
LW-Healthy, green foliage, not root bound and usually smaller is better than big.
BSG-Where should you plant your vegetable garden? I’ve heard it should be a spot that gets at least six hours sun per day.
LW-Full sun and well drained soil. Level ground is also important. You also need a water source. I like to have it closer to the house if possible.
BSG-Are raised beds a better choice for the newbie vegetable gardener?
LW-Raised beds simplify things but you have to get the soil right.
BSG-If you have a small yard or live in an apartment, what are some vegetables that you can grow in containers?
LW-Almost anything these days, except maybe corn but I’ve even seen that done too. There are many dwarf or compact varieties bred for pots and small space gardens.
BSG-How about the new Topsy Turvy containers? Are they are good way to grow vegetables?
LW-I’ve heard people about who’ve had great luck with those.
BSG-How about growing things like blueberries in containers? I’ve seen some catalog advertising varieties designed for containers?
LW-Blueberries are perfect for large pots like a half barrel–just make sure you plant in a low pH soil (I use pure peat), plant several varieties for cross pollination, and prune, water and also fertilize. There are small varieties but even the bigger ones will be productive for years.
BSG-Any other ideas for ways to grow vegetables if you’ve got limited space. For example, lettuce in hanging baskets?
LW-You can do it but you better know how to water and fertilize properly.
BSG-If there’s anything else you’d like to add, any other tips, or sites you recommend for products or further reading, feel free to add them.
LW-Contacting your local cooperative extension* for proper planting dates and adapted varieties is very important.
*If you need to find your nearest extension office, visit http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html