There's really no real substitute for going outside and picking fresh food to eat. The feeling of achievement alone is worth it, not to mention the taste. If your vegetable gardening is limited by time and/or space, think about maximizing both of those valuable assets.
Your Vegetable Garden
As always, rule number one is forget the rules and grow what you like. Having said that, if you'd like some suggestions on how to best use your garden space, here are some vegetables that offer a very good return on your investment:
- Tomatoes offer a good crop yield for the space allotted. Staking the plants conserves space and makes picking easy.
- Green onions pack a lot of crop and flavor into a small space.
- Leaf lettuce and spinach are cool-season crops that produce early in the spring. Plant them again in late summer for a second, fall picking.
- Turnips are another cool-weather crop that offers a double return - you get to enjoy the greens and the roots.
- Squash and zucchini vines cover a lot of ground, but supply lots of produce in return.
- Pole beans do best grown vertically. Bush beans also produce very good yield for the space.
- Herbs in general are also a great investment. Fresh herbs in the market can be expensive and often you must buy more than you really need.
- Carrots require deep, loose soil, but are fun to grow, especially for children.
- Radishes are one of the fastest-growing veggies, some varieties mature in 30 days or less.
- Cucumbers, especially trellised, produce a lot of food for the space.
- Peppers of all types can also be expensive at the supermarket. In addition to providing food, peppers are attractive additions to the home garden.
- Cole crops such as broccoli and cauliflower are cold-tolerant and good to set out and harvest early in the season.
Those of you lucky enough to have larger gardens can find room for more space-intensive crops such as melons, pumpkins, potatoes and corn.
Would-be vegetable gardeners with small spaces should consider gardening in containers or vertically. For best results, all gardeners should:
- Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil, reduce weeds and moderate soil temperature.
- Plant in a quality soil to ensure maximum yields.
- Install drip irrigation. A drip system places water right where it's needed - at soil level near the roots.
All results assume that the plants are healthy, grown under proper conditions and receive adequate care.