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Hey new vegetable gardener: some things you can expect…

Welcome to the ranks of Maryland food gardeners. We live in every zip code and grow food in buckets on rooftops, in community garden plots, in front and back yards, and in large rural gardens. Rest assured, you will sweat and toil, learn a ton, have fun, and put delicious, fresh food on the table. You probably have hopes and dreams for your new garden, and that is great. But you also need to adjust your expectations to realities, notably Mother Nature.

For a variety of reasons, your crops will not always resemble those pictured in seed catalogs (you may even come to believe you are growing an entirely different plant species). You will learn that “doing everything right” doesn’t guarantee success with every crop, every year. Insect pests, diseases, or a little neglect at the wrong time, will reduce productivity, create teachable moments, and increase your respect for farmers.

Are there “best beginner crops”?

Bush bean, tomato, cucumber, pepper, summer squash, and leafy greens (lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard, kale, mustard, etc.) are good starter crops, although they have their share of pest problems. (You will need to grow or buy tomato and pepper transplants; seeds of the other crops can be planted directly in garden soil.) Other crops may be more challenging. For example, they may require more room, such as winter squash and sweet potato, or a more permanent space, like asparagus and horseradish (perennials that live year-to-year).

It is always a safe bet to start small and plant what you like to eat and have the space and time to grow.

What to expect in terms of appearance and growth?

Beetles chewed holes in these bean leaves but the damage can be ignored; it will not reduce the harvest from these healthy plants.
Cold temperature injury to tomato leaf


When do I start harvesting? When should I remove plants?

This productive Tuscan kale plant is showing the wear and tear of a long growing season. Caterpillars have chewed some holes and the oldest leaves are beginning to yellow and die.
‘Fortex’ pole bean can produce high yields over a long harvesting season.

Good luck, new gardening friends. We are here to help and take care of each other and our planet.

By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist. Read more by Jon.

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