Tips for Gardening for the “Vegetable-Challenged”

There is a practical side to having a vegetable garden. You hope to be able to eat what you grow. It is certainly disappointing to have a flower garden that flops, but likely, you weren’t planning on eating your flowers. When a vegetable garden doesn’t work, it is another level of sadness. Your plants may have died AND you didn’t even get to harvest from them.

Admittedly, any garden has a wide array of growing needs, but there are plants that are quite simple to grow. Here are a few suggestions.

Garlic: By far, one of the easiest plants to grow. They are planted in fall when the heavy garden workload is done. Garlic is also one of the first plants growing in spring, sometimes even in snow. This gives you a great opportunity to stay ahead of the weeds. Garlic is relatively pest free and most wildlife do not seem to enjoy it. In spring, some garlic varieties will send up a curly pigtail shoot from the top of the plant called a “scape.”

This is the flower of the plant. Breaking or pulling this shoot off will dramatically increase the size of the bulb below ground. Harvest garlic when the bottom four leaves are beginning to turn brown and dry out.

Tip: The scape is delicious and is widely used in recipes for garlic flavor.

Spring radishes: If you like their flavor, you can’t beat these for their ease of growing. Along with salad mix, it is one of the earliest to harvest, reaching maturity in as little as 25 days. They can be planted as early in the spring as your garden will allow. There are bugs that will enjoy the leaves, but the roots are generally left alone. They take up very little garden space and you can plant another crop in the same area after they are finished.

Tip: Pick radishes when they are the size of a large marble (1 inch in diameter or less). Plant in early spring or late fall.

Beans: Wait until early June to put beans in the ground since they need warm soil to germinate well. Beans need to be picked about every three days to avoid pods that are stringy and tough. Look for “bush” beans for optimal space usage instead of “pole” beans which will require trellising for support. Beans come in a wide array of colors and can be planted several times throughout warm weather for a continuous supply.

Tip: If you don’t want any fresher beans, leave the plants to grow past maturity, harvest the dried-out pods and save the beans for use in the kitchen.

Jake Lambrecht is currently the Urban Farm Manager at Nourish and manages the Educational Urban Farm on Geele Avenue.