Grow your own vegetables – Veggie 101

Become a Veg Head.  Seriously, if you’ve always wanted to grow some of your own vegetables, now is a great time to try your first vegetable garden. Why grow your own?  Taste, nutrition, availability, safety, savings and pride.

Nothing tastes like a sun-warmed tomato fresh from the garden. It hasn’t traveled miles to get to you, losing nutrition and consuming resources.  

Homegrown means you’re not vexed by limited availability at stores. And you know exactly what those vegetables have been treated with – or not.  You can save money, too. Yes, there are start-up costs. But you can save on secondhand tools, seeds from friends, DIY supports and more.  Compare store-bought and homegrown prices and you usually come out ahead.

And then there’s pride.  You will grin big time when you harvest your first handful of peas, your first whopping zucchini, your first bell pepper.  It. Just. Feels. Good. And it tastes better.

Harvested vegetables

Lots of folks make vegetable gardening complicated, but I’m not going to do that.  Here are the basics:

  • First, make a plan.  Grow what you love.  If you go gaga for green beans, plant them.  If you don’t like eggplant, don’t plant it.  Have a family confab and list your favorites.
  • Start small.  You can grow 40 pounds of veggies in a 4-foot by 8-foot garden.  Make it manageable.
  • Heck, you can start growing in a few containers on a deck.  That’s what I did.  Or, use a small raised bed or in-ground garden.  Make it work for you.
  • Site it right.  Most veggies need 6-hours of full sun. Don’t skimp.  Plan your garden for a level, sunny spot near a water source and away from trees, shrubs or buildings that cast shade. 
  • Healthy soil grows healthy plants.  Get a soil test to determine your pH and nutrients.  It matters.  You want deep, rich soil and a soil test will tell you what your soil – and your vegetables – need. We’ve got all you need at your local Extension office or online at the HGIC website.

With your most-wanted list, location, soil test results and resolve in place, put pencil to paper and sketch out your garden.  You’ll finesse this quick-but-dirty design as you go.

You can grow from seeds or transplants – those small plants you see at nurseries.  Transplants are easier, so focus on those.  But try a few easier seed crops like basil or greens.  It’s fun and saves money.  

Once your veggies are planted, it’s time to tend.  Watch, water and wait. Water deeply less often to build deep roots.  Look for problems and respond swiftly. Yelp for help if you need it. Most importantly, delight in your plants’ growth, flowers and harvests.

There are plenty of deeper resources to help you get it right from planting dates to crop profiles on the HGIC website.  Try How to Start Vegetable Gardens and Vegetable Crops.

I hope you’ll try a vegetable garden this year.  The rewards are great…and tasty. 

By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media. Read more by Annette.

This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media.

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