April 20, 2013

How to Plant a Garden: Direct-Sow Vegetables and Crops to Grow from Starts

One of my favorite things in life is talking to people who are starting a food garden for the very first time. Such conversations make me overjoyed. I love picking their brains, helping them plan what they might grow, answering questions, and even helping with the physical garden work. If I could be a full-time vegetable gardening consultant, I’d do it. (Does this career exist?)

One of the most common questions I hear from brand new gardeners is, “So, do I just get packets of seeds, and start planting the seeds right in the ground?” For many crops, yes. But for several, this doesn’t work well. Here’s a guide to what you can “direct sow” by seed right in the ground, what you need to plant via starts, and even what crops you plant by something other than seed.

Direct-Sow Vegetables and Herbs


The following crops are quite easy to grow, and you can plant seeds straight in the garden. Seed packets are cheap, so these crops give you an incredible bang for your buck. When planting any seeds in your garden, create a nice “seed bed” in which to plant. This means working and loosening the soil with a garden fork, digging in some compost, breaking up any big clumps with a hoe, and then working any small clumps in your hands so the soil is nice and fine. You can plant seeds in shallow furrows, or “broadcast” them into a defined area (for instance, instead of planting leaf lettuce in rows, you might toss out lettuce seeds in a 4-foot-by-4-foot area, and then cover the seeds with fine soil). Anytime you plant by seed, tamp down the soil with your palms after you cover the seeds with soil, water everything in well, and you’re done. Keep the area moist (but not overly wet) as your seeds germinate and begin to grow.

Arugula
Asian greens (such as bok choy)
Bright green leaf lettuce growing in gardenBeans
Beets
Carrots
Cilantro
Collard greens
Corn
Dill
Lettuce
Mustard greens
Okra
Parsley
Parsnips
Peas
Radishes
Spinach
Swiss chard
Turnips

Transplant Crops


A young tomato start just planted in garden
These crops are best planted as transplants, also called “starts.” Grow your own starts indoors, or get them from the farmers market or a garden center. Loosen the soil well before planting, and dig some compost into the planting hole. Plant your starts deeply, tamp down the soil around each plant, and water well immediately after planting.

Basil
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Eggplant
Kale
Onions
Peppers
Tomatoes

Crops You Can Direct-Sow or Plant as Starts


Young cucumber plants in potsThese crops will do fine when direct-sown by seed, but also work really well as starts. By using starts, you get a jump start time-wise, and will be harvesting mature veggies sooner in the year.

Cucumbers
Melons
Squash
Zucchini

Perennial Herbs to Plant Once Via Starts


Buy a start of these herbs, plant them in your herb garden, and they’ll come back year after year.

Chives
Thyme herb growing in container
Lavender
Marjoram
Mint
Oregano (may need some protection to survive winter in colder climates)
Rosemary
Sage
Sorrel
Tarragon
Thyme

Oddball Crops That Aren’t Planted by Seed


Garlic (plant cloves ideally in fall; can also be planted by cloves in spring)
Potatoes (in spring, plant golf-ball-sized chunks of potatoes with a couple of “eyes” per chunk)
Sweet potatoes (planted via slips)

More Perennial Crops


Close up of strawberry plant in gardenThese fruits and veggies are planted in various ways, and generally take a year or two to become well-established and start producing a harvestable crop. So, they may not be the best choices for brand new gardeners. (But I don’t want to discourage you! Dive in if you’re living in a spot where you know you’ll be for the long-term.)

Artichokes
Asparagus
Blackberries
Blueberries
Horseradish
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Strawberries

I hope these lists help new gardeners decide what crops will work well for them—and give them some of the info they need to jump in and grow some delicious, beautiful food. Gardening is the healthiest addiction I know of—and I’m happy to nudge anyone through the gateway.

Lettuce photo by Flickr/ilovebutter; tomato photo by Flickr/J. Chris Vaughan; cucumer starts by Flickr/angies; thyme by Flickr/david.dames; strawberries by Flickr/meaduva

11 comments:

  1. That's really good learning for me, Thanks for share with us..

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  2. You need to choose in advance which vegetable seeds you wish to plant. Before you select the seeds do some exploration as a few vegetables can't be sowed until the last ice has passed. Fundamentally, this implies some patio nursery vegetable seeds, for example, onions and carrots for instance, can't be begun inside however should be begun in the ground.

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  3. Natural vegetable gardening implies that you won't be showering harmful chemicals on your crisp nourishment, and you won't be spreading synthetic manures on the ground. On the off chance that you don't do that, how would you keep your patio nursery from turning into a bug devour or avert scanty, low quality harvests?

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