Fragrant basil is a must-have in gardens for people who love to cook. If you love basil you’ll agree that you can’t plant enough. You can grow this tasty herb in garden beds or in containers. Basil requires a sunny spot—and really takes off in hot weather.
Beans come in many colors, shapes and sizes. So if you want a vegetable garden that’s as pretty as it is delicious, try colorful varieties. Bean pods come in basic green as well as yellow, purple and speckled.
Growing broccoli in your garden is fun, but you probably won’t get the big heads you see in the market. Homegrown broccoli will be fresher and more tender than what you buy at the store, though. Broccoli is a cool-season crop that grows best in spring and fall.
Carrots are among the easiest veggies to grow. Plant seeds in cool weather and pull them out of the ground within 60 to 75 days, depending on the variety. Enjoy traditional orange carrots or try some more colorful varieties: yellow, white, red and purple.
In a square herb bed, chives look nice positioned at each corner. They’ll even grow in containers. Place chives in your garden with fast-and-easy harvest in mind. After they flower in early spring, cut back the plants to encourage new growth.
Lettuce greens are among the easiest and most satisfying crops to grow. Sow lettuce seeds in the ground or a large container and start enjoying fresh salads in a few weeks. Lettuce comes in four basic types: crisphead, butterhead, romaine (cos) and looseleaf.
This sun-loving, drought-tolerant herb forms carpets of foliage in herb beds or containers and can even be planted between stepping-stones in a walkway. Avoid overwatering -- drought conditions concentrate its aromatic oils, resulting in better flavor.
Fresh peas are so delicious—and so easy to grow. Plant in the early spring or fall because peas are a cool-season crop. They take from 58 to 67 days to mature. Because of their vining nature they grow best on a trellis or trained on a fence.
Peppers require the same growing conditions as tomatoes: heat, full sun, water and nutritious soil. For sweet peppers, choose bell or banana peppers. If you like them hot, try Ancho (poblano) peppers; jalapenos are hotter; habaneros are the hottest of all.
One of the first crops of spring, radishes germinate and grow quickly in cool spring temperatures and can be planted with slower-to-emerge crops like carrots and parsnips. In less than a month they can go from the ground to your plate.
Raised Edible Garden
This garden features cool-weather crops including lettuce, onions, broccoli and potatoes—all intensively planted in a small raised bed. To make your bed more colorful, edge with annual flowers such as sweet alyssum, marigolds or petunias.
Raspberries are easy to grow and fun to pick and eat. Long, thorny canes produce jewel-toned berries in red, yellow, purple and black. Various ripening times and colors make it possible to pick raspberries from midsummer through fall.
Homegrown strawberries are one of the great treats of a backyard garden. Plant several types and you can enjoy them throughout the season. June-bearing plants produce one large crop of berries. Everbearing types produce one crop in summer and one in fall.
Summer squash is a prolific and delicious addition to your garden. Green-skinned zucchini or yellow squash is excellent raw or cooked. Drop slices into summer salads for extra crunch. Squash likes to spread out, so make sure you give it the space it needs.
If summer has a flavor, it has to be the tomato. Nothing beats plucking a sun-warmed fruit from the vine and slicing it up for a meal. Tomatoes, which are annuals, need four things to grow: heat, full sun, water and fertile soil. Provide regular water and fertilize monthly.
Other vegetables that offer a very good return on your investment include:
- 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.
- Spinach is a cool-season crop that produces early in the spring. Plant 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.
- Cucumbers, especially trellised, produce a lot of food for the space.
- Cole crops like 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.