| by Stephanie Rogers |
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Few meals are more satisfying than those made with ingredients that you grew and harvested yourself. Growing your own edibles will save you lots of money, and many require less care than you might think.
These 10 edibles, including herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables, are easy to grow from seed so you get the most bang for your buck – plus, they’re very conducive to growing organically, so you can feed yourself and your family the freshest food ever!
In the spring and fall, when temperatures are still relatively cool, lettuce is an easy and rewarding plant to grow – and there are so many delicious varieties. Plant the seeds directly in the ground under less than ½ inch of soil, keep them watered and watch the seedlings sprout. Once they’re a few inches tall, the fun begins – you can thin your plantings by making salads of baby greens. Once the weather starts getting hot, dig up what remains of the lettuce and plant a warm-season crop in its place.
You haven’t had peas until you’ve had them fresh from the garden. Pea plants, including shelling, snap, snow and sugar pod peas, are a cool-season vegetable that will climb up a trellis and produce charming little flowers before the pods start to appear. They attract very few pests, so they’re easy for beginners or those with little time to maintain.
Once warm weather moves in, place four cucumber seeds into little mounds of soil 3-4 feet apart and add plenty of organic compost. The vines grow quickly and can take over a lot of garden space, though bush varieties are more compact. They’ll be ready to harvest in just about 60 days. Make sure to pick these delicious, juicy veggies before they get too big – harvest frequently for better quality.
These edible flowers add a pop of color and a peppery bite of flavor to salads, and make a beautiful garnish for all kinds of savory and sweet dishes. Why grow flowers that are just ornamental when you can have nasturtiums, which look lovely and can be eaten, too? Nasturtiums are incredibly easy to grow, and will also help keep aphids away from nearby plants. Plant the seeds 8-12 inches apart in the springtime in full sun and keep them well watered, and you’ll have cheerful edible blooms that require very little care.
Zucchini and yellow summer squash are very prolific producers; so much so, that you may need to give baskets away to family and friends by mid-summer! Plant four seeds one inch deep in small hills of soil and water the first day. They’ll germinate really quickly, and you’ll be eating zucchini and squash within 45-55 days. Pick while still young, 4-5 inches long, for best flavor.
All strawberry plants need to produce lots of sweet, succulent fruit is a sunny spot and some water. They do very well in hanging baskets and in strawberry pots, so they’re a great choice for gardeners with limited space. Start from seed in early spring, or get a few small plants at your local nursery. Pests and diseases rarely plague strawberries, so they’re practically a worry-free crop.
Carrots need very little attention and they don’t attract pests. The feathery foliage adds a touch of ornamental greenery to your garden beds, and since they take up so little space, they can be squeezed in practically anywhere. Work the soil so it’s loose and well-draining and plant seeds 3/8 inch into the soil. They take just about two weeks to germinate, and are ready in 60 to 80 days depending on the variety.
Basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary, chives and other culinary herbs are a great way for a beginner to get started with edibles, whether you have a garden space outdoors or a pot in the window. Most herbs like plenty of sun and well-drained soil, but other than that, they aren’t too picky. Most herbs do best when started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost, but many will do just fine when sown directly into the garden during warm weather.
9.Sweet Bell Peppers
Garden-fresh bell peppers are so satisfyingly crunchy and sweet. Heat-loving pepper plants are an ideal veggie to grow in the summertime. Seeds should be started indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost, or you can buy small starts at a nursery. Add lots of compost and manure to the garden soil and water regularly.
Last but never least, tomatoes are perhaps the most enjoyable plant you can grow in your garden. The taste of a store-bought tomato can never compare to the fresh, juicy taste of a vine-ripened home-grown tomato. Since they’re so popular, it’s fairly easy to find organic and even heirloom varieties at nurseries if you don’t want to start them from seed. Roma or plum tomatoes make delicious sauces, while bigger slicing tomatoes are best eaten raw.