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Nothing compares to the flavor of homegrown fruits and veggies straight from the garden. Because you can harvest them at their peak and serve them right away, you don’t lose vital nutrients while they are transported and stored.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits in the home garden ensures your family will be eating them at their prime and allows you to make important decisions about the variety of fruits and veggies to grow. You can grow an assortment of your favorite vegetables and fruits in your home garden, even if space is limited.
Many vegetables and fruits can be grown in containers on the deck or balcony, which is within easy reach for a quick snack. They can also be grown along borders of flowerbeds, to line walkways, and in hanging baskets.
Choosing a Garden Spot
Your garden spot plays an essential role in the success of your garden. It needs proper lighting, good soil, and needs to be the right size for your family. Taking the time to evaluate how much sunlight the area receives, preparing the soil properly, and settling on an appropriate size will get you off to a good start for growing vegetables and fruits at home.
Choose a garden spot that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Most fruits and vegetables thrive in direct sunlight and will do fine with all-day sun. Some vegetables, like lettuce, radish, and salad greens, can tolerate less sun and even grow well with some shade during the day.
It is important that the soil is level and drains well. If the area remains wet in the spring after snow melts or spring rains dissipate it will likely be too wet for gardening. A sloped garden spot may cause water to run off the garden when it rains leading to soil erosion and dry soil as the rain will not have time to sink into the soil.
Vegetables and fruits need rich, well-drained soil to thrive. That means you will likely need to amend your existing soil with compost to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil. Organic matter improves the texture of the soil, provides good aeration for the roots, and promotes good drainage.
You will also need to till or turn the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, so the roots will have plenty of room to grow. Remove any rocks, sticks, or other debris from the soil and rake the area smooth to prepare it for planting.
Testing your soil to determine its nutrient content and pH level is recommended for new gardens. Many University Extensions offer soil testing for a minimal fee. They will give you a full report of the condition of your soil, including recommendations for adding soil amendments and fertilizers.
One of the most common mistakes new gardeners make is choosing a garden size that is too large to manage successfully. Gardens take a lot of time and energy to keep them in good shape. If your garden plot is too large to manage you may get discouraged and lose out on the joy of growing your own fruits and vegetables.
The Almanac recommends a garden size of 10’ by 10’ for beginners. A family of four may be better served with a 12’ by 24’ plot. Still, anything more extensive than that is likely to become unmanageable, especially if you are working and have limited time to spend in the garden.
Choosing Plant Varieties
One of the positive aspects of growing your own fruits and vegetables is choosing the varieties your family enjoys the most instead of relying on what is available at the supermarket. Vegetables like tomatoes come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and flavors.
Choose plant varieties that your family enjoys when deciding what to plant in your garden.
Days to Maturity
Days to maturity refers to how many days after planting (or transplanting tender seedlings) it will be before your fruits and vegetables are ready to harvest. Choosing varieties with days to maturity less than the number of growing days in your area is essential.
The days to maturity are listed on seed packets, plant descriptions, in seed catalogs, and may be listed on seedling packs, too. If you are considering seedlings and the days to maturity are not listed, talk to the nursery attendant to determine if they are right for your region.
Planting a Garden
Vegetables and fruits can be planted from seed or seedlings. There are advantages and disadvantages or both.
Seeds vs. Seedlings
- Seeds are less expensive than seedlings, but it will take longer for your fruits or vegetables to mature.
- Seedlings need to be hardened off before you can transplant them to your garden.
- Seedlings are an excellent choice for fruits and veggies that take a long time to mature. Many gardeners routinely plant tomatoes and peppers from seedlings and direct sow other crops like cucumbers and beans.
How many vegetable plants do you need?
Overplanting is another common mistake by new gardeners, as what looks like a lot of space in the spring before the garden is planted will fill in quickly as your fruits and veggies mature. Use this guide to determine how many fruits and veggies you should grow in your garden.
|VegetablesNumber of VeggiesBeans, Corn15 feetBeets, carrots, salad greens, lettuce10 feetOnions, radish, collard greens, okra5 to 6 feetCucumbers, zucchini, summer squash2 hillsTomatoes, peppers3 plants|
Fruits and vegetables are classified as warm season and cool season and need to be planted at different times. Warm-season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, and corn cannot be planted until after all danger of frost has passed in your area. Cool-season vegetables, like radishes, lettuce, salad greens, onions, and potatoes, can be planted about two weeks before the last expected frost in your area.
Fruits vs. Vegetables: What’s the difference?
You may have noticed that many gardeners use the terms fruits and vegetables interchangeably when referring to their fresh garden produce. There is a good reason for that. Many of what are commonly sold or marketed as vegetables are actually fruits.
In technical terms, vegetables refer to edible parts of the plants, like roots, stems, and leaves, while fruits refer to a seed-bearing structure, like tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and squash.
In practical terms, most people refer to any plant part that is sweet and soft as a fruit. Berries are often included in this group.
Best Fruits for a Home Garden
The best fruits for your home garden are those that your family prefers, but you may want to consider the following easy-to-grow fruits for your garden.
Melons are an excellent choice because they will produce fresh fruit in the same year. There is a wide variety to choose from, like watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydew. If you are limited in space, look for bush varieties or try growing vining melons on a trellis.
Strawberries will produce within a year or two. While you may get a small crop the first year, the second year’s crop is typically larger. Buying strawberry plants and planting them in your garden will give you fresh strawberries for years to come.
Blueberry bushes can be grown in the home garden and don’t take up a lot of room. While they may produce fresh blueberries in the first year, some varieties take 3 to 5 years to produce an abundant crop.
Raspberries are quick-growing and don’t require a lot of care, although they do typically need to be staked. Like other berries, the first year’s crop will be limited, but they will produce abundantly the second year and continue to produce fruit every year.
Blackberry vines are similar to raspberries and often produce prolifically after the first year. These berries generally produce berries in late summer or early fall.
Easy Vegetables for Beginning Gardeners
Bush beans germinate and grow with little care from you other than watering and weeding. These veggies produce abundant beans and can be harvested over several weeks. Keeping the young beans picked causes the plant to continue producing new beans.
Radishes can be planted early in the spring, several weeks before the last expected frost. They mature quickly with fresh radishes ready for picking within four weeks.
Salad greens can be harvested by cutting or picking the outer leaves and allowing the inner leaves to continue to grow. They are crisp and tender and don’t require a lot of care.
You can buy either vining or bush cucumbers plants for the garden. While they do take a few weeks to get established, they produce an abundance of baby cucumbers once they set runners and begin to spread. They are best harvested and eaten when they are 3 to 4 inches long and will continue to produce new fruit for a month or more as long as you keep the young fruit picked.
Peas can be planted in the early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Although many are listed as short or dwarf peas that do not need staking or fencing, it is always best to provide them with some support, such as a short garden fence or trellis. Peas produce tender pods that are great for snacking and later fill out with tender baby peas inside.
Zucchini and Summer Squash
Zucchini and summer squash are large plants and take up considerable space in the garden, but the advantage is one or two plants will provide you with an amazing amount of zucchini and squash. They are prolific producers as long as you keep the fresh fruits picked and don’t allow them to grow to a gigantic size.
There are many varieties of tomatoes to choose from, from tiny cherry tomatoes to huge beefsteak tomatoes. How many tomatoes you will get from them depends on the variety. One large cherry tomato plant will likely produce more tiny tomatoes than your family can eat.
What fruit and veg grow quickly?
Waiting for your fruits and vegetables to grow can be frustrating. Like some tomatoes and peppers, some veggies can take all summer to reach maturity. Likewise, many fruits don’t produce until the second or third year. Adding quick-growing fruits and vegetables to your garden ensures you will get some fruit and veggies right away. Try these quick-growing fruits and veggies in your garden.
Quick Growing Vegetables
- Beans — Bush beans mature in 50 to 60 days.
- Radish — Radishes are ready in less than 30 days.
- Lettuce — Lettuce matures in 45 to 60 days.
- Salad greens — Young salad greens are ready in 30 to 40 days.
- Beets — The young tops of beets can be harvested for beet greens in about 45 days. Young beets are ready in 45 to 60 days.
Quick Growing Fruits
- Melons — Although they take longer to grow than many quick-growing veggies, melons are one of the quickest-growing fruits you can grow in your home garden. They mature in 70 to 90 days, depending on the variety.
- Strawberries — Many strawberries will produce some fruit in the first year in your garden. Although the harvest may be small, these delicious berries are worth adding to your garden so that you will have fruit the first year. Strawberries typically produce the best in their second and third season.
What vegetables can you grow in containers?
You can grow nearly any vegetable in 5-gallon buckets or large containers on the deck or balcony. Look for bush or dwarf varieties that don’t take up a lot of room. You can also grow radishes, lettuce, salad greens, and even beets for beet greens in a window box.
Should you grow flowers and herbs in the vegetable garden?
Many gardeners find success in growing marigolds and fragrant herbs in the vegetable garden. They are thought to deter insect pests. Growing basil near your tomatoes is thought to improve the flavor of your tomatoes.