If you’re new to gardening or just starting your vegetable patch here is a list of 5 vegetables which are relatively easy to grow and will produce a good harvest for you to enjoy:
1. Garlic – Garlic is very easy to grow but will take a few months before you can harvest the cloves. You need to purchase starter bulbs from a nursery or garden supply company. You can usually purchase these by mail order too. Once you have your cloves, break them up and plant the individual bulbs with the pointy tip pointing up about 1.5 – 2cm below the ground. It helps to have a friable soil as soils which are too heavy will produce smaller bulbs. You can also grow garlic quite successfully in pots. Choose a sunny position, water regularly and fertilize throughout the growing season with a complete fertilizer. Put some mulch around the plants to reduce weeds and keep moisture in the soil. Garlic is usually planted in Autumn and will be ready for harvest in spring or early summer once the flowers have finished and the leaves have died down. Once harvested the bulbs will keep for many months and you can even keep one or two aside to plant for the next crop.
2. Lettuce – Lettuce is super easy to grow and can be grown everywhere, in the vegetable or flower garden, in containers in the courtyard or on the balcony. There are dozens of different cultivars available giving your salads both color and variety. Lettuce plants need regular watering and protection from the hot afternoon sun plus fertilizers high in nitrogen to promote leaf growth. Leaf lettuces tend to tolerate much warmer temperatures than head lettuces. They also have the benefit of you being able to harvest the outer leaves and the plants will grow new ones for later picking. This means you can have fresh lettuce from your garden for many months. You can grow your own seedlings from the huge variety of seeds available or purchase seedlings in punnets. Imagine the money you will save by having a number of different varieties growing in your garden rather than purchasing the mesclun mix in grocery stores which can be quite expensive.
3. Potatoes – If you’ve never tasted home grown potatoes, then you’re in for a treat if you decide to grow your own. And they are so incredibly easy to grow. Seed potatoes are available from nurseries or garden centers or by mail order. They are best planted in late winter to early spring as they don’t like frosts. Once the shoots start to emerge they will grow very quickly and you may like to stake the individual plants as they tend to sprawl a bit if left to their own devices. It’s also a good idea to apply a deep layer of pea or sugar cane mulch or straw to protect the growing tubers from light to avoid them turning green. Green potatoes are poisonous as are the stems and leaves of the plants. Keep adding more mulch as the plants grow as this will also help to promote higher yields. You can also grow potatoes in bags or other containers and even old tires. Just make sure you are able to add more mulch as the plant grows. Once the plants have flowered you can start to harvest new potatoes by digging gently around the base of the plant to find tubers which are large enough to eat. When the plant has completely died down you can harvest the remainder of the crop by digging up the entire plant. Make sure that you dig around a bit as the tubers can be spread around and quite deep. Home grown potatoes can last for many months if kept in a cool, dark place.
4. Silver beet or Swiss chard – Silver beet is very easy to grow producing large glossy green leaves and different colored stalks depending on the variety grown. The leaves are highly nutritious and high in iron. This vegetable can be grown in the garden over long periods of time and the outer leaves can be harvested continually until the plant eventually goes to flower. The plant can also re-sprout from around the base if cut off when it starts to flower. There are some very interesting heirloom varieties available, including ones with red or yellow stalks, making them quite an attractive specimen which can also be grown quite happily in the ornamental garden. Keep the plants watered regularly in the warmer months and use a fertilizer high in nitrogen to promote leaf growth.
5. Spinach – Spinach prefers cooler weather as the hotter temperatures tends to make the plants go to seed. Spinach plants produce beautiful dark green leaves which are high in vitamins and are excellent to use both in salads and for cooking. The spinach plant produces a deep taproot so its a good idea to loosen the soil a little before planting out into the garden once the last frost is over. Young plants can be grown in semi shade to protect them from the hot sun which will extend the growing season. Like silver beet, spinach prefers a nitrogen rich fertilizer to promote leaf growth. If you like a constant supply of spinach you can plant seedlings successively to ensure a longer harvest and continually harvest the outer leaves as needed.