Growing vegetables can be a very satisfying experience. It doesn’t take a lot of effort either if you set up the process correctly at the beginning.
Most importantly, there are several basic questions you should be able to answer before starting a garden. Here’s a list of those basic questions to consider:
Seeds or Plants?
I prefer starting vegetables from seed because I can choose the exact plants I want, and I can make sure the seeds are organic. When you buy plants from the hardware store, there’s no telling what you are getting, and your selection is very limited. We grow heirloom tomatoes which are fantastic, and you just aren’t going to find these plants at a hardware store.
Containers or in the Ground?
- Container: If you are going to be growing plants in a container, you should know that some plants aren’t suitable for smaller containers. For instance, root crops won’t do well in shallow containers. But if you can get ½ of a 55-gallon drum, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers can grow fine in these.
- Ground: If you are growing in the ground, you have more options. However, you also need to determine how much space you have. Winter squash plants have vines that grow more than 15 feet long. Corn is wind-pollinated so it’s better to grow a group of corn plants, and corn can grow to over 7 feet.
Outside Garden or in a Greenhouse?
- Warmer climates: If you live in an area that enjoys warm weather most of the time, or you have a greenhouse, growing vegetables is easier. You can grow just about anything without worrying about the weather.
- Cooler climates: If you live in a colder climate and your garden is an outside garden, then it becomes a little more complicated.
In both cases, you have to know the date of your last frost. This is the average date of the last killing frost that could hurt your warm-weather seedlings. In Wyoming, the last frost date is May 21st. I’ve learned from hard experience that the second week of June is less risky when planting seedlings outside. But since I now have a greenhouse, I can plant my seedlings on May 1st.
The National Climate Data Center website has a list of all the last frost dates.
What Vegetables Will You Grow?
There are two types of crops from which to choose. Depending on what you want to grow, you may need to start seeds sooner in the year, rather than later. The types of crops include:
- Cold weather crops: they like cool weather – peas, kale, kohlrabi, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach, radishes. These should be planted in late winter so they can mature by the time hot weather arrives. As it gets hotter, these plants will either bolt or stop growing.
- Warm weather crops: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, most herbs, corn, melons, cucumbers. These are started about 8 weeks before the last frost date. Soil and night temperatures below 50 degrees will really hamper these transplants. It must be warm enough before you transplant them.
How Will You Control Weeds and Pests?
We use black mulch cloth in our greenhouses and in the outside garden as well. We don’t have many pest problems here, except for aphids. To get rid of them, we try to cultivate ladybugs and use natural pepper and onion sprays to kill the aphids.
Once you can address these points, you are well on your way to a successful adventure in growing vegetables.