Ten Great Vegetables for Home Vegetable Gardens

So you’ve decided to grow vegetables at home. Which specific vegetables should you think about putting in your garden? The usual rule is that anything you can buy locally at a good price, you should just buy it rather than growing it. However, if you can significantly improve the quality by raising your own vegetables, then maybe that’s reason enough to grow it at home.

Lets take a look at the top ten vegetables that are grown in home vegetable gardens.

Tomatoes

Did you know that tomatoes are actually fruit? It’s true, but the tomato finds itself most often at home in vegetable dishes. Most of the tomatoes that you can buy are picked green and ripened artificially. Commercial growers discovered that ripe tomatoes were almost impossible to ship without being damaged. Plus, ripe tomatoes don’t last long on grocery store shelves. So regardless of how much tomatoes cost at your local grocer, anything you grow at home will be vastly superior. Because of this taste improvement, tomatoes are probably the most common, most popular choice for home vegetable gardens.

Lettuce

If you only eat iceberg lettuce, they you can probably stick with store-bought heads. But if your tastes run to more exotic or fancy leaf lettuce varieties, you can often grow these more inexpensively at home. And your lettuce will almost always be sweeter and crisper from your own garden.

Peas

Your garden can really shine when it comes to peas. Finding fresh peas in the grocery store can be difficult. After peas are canned, they get pretty mushy. Frozen peas are closer to fresh taste and texture, but the freezing process still tends to rob them of color and flavor. Once you taste the delicate, delicious sweetness of home-grown peas, you’ll be hooked on vegetable gardening for life.

Carrots

In order to keep carrots fresh, grocery stores store them at very cold temperatures. After a certain point, this makes the carrots bitter and tough. Fresh carrots from your own vegetable garden will be sweeter and more tender.

Radishes

You can usually find radishes in the produce section, and prices are often quite reasonable. However, the quality deteriorates quickly the longer they’re stored. Once you put them up against fresh radishes, you’ll discover there’s really no comparison.

Greens

Again, the advantage with greens is freshness. What good is a cheap price when the greens are yellow and wilted?

Asparagus

Canned asparagus isn’t really asparagus at all–at least that’s what fresh asparagus lovers would say. Fresh asparagus in stores can be really expensive. To really enjoy asparagus as it was meant to be, plant some in your home vegetable garden.

Peppers

An pepper that’s not a green pepper will probably be very expensive in the store. Plus, there’s a good chance it will be starting to shrivel. For peppers that are vibrantly colored, crisp and affordable, grow your own.

Cucumbers

If you’re tired of dry, bitter cucumbers that are mostly seeds anyway, add this vegetable to your garden.

Corn

Sweet corn is almost impossible to buy at its peak from the grocery store. Corn quickly loses its sweetness and moisture when it’s been off the stalk for as little as six hours. You can bet that it’s not in the grocery store six hours after picking. But it could be on your dinner table in 30 minutes at home.

These are the top ten vegetables found in most home vegetable gardens. If you’ve been wondering how to get started, this should give you some ideas.

Rock Gardens for Landscaping

Your landscape may not be perfect, but that’s just finea rock garden can help to improve one in many ways. You may have a space on your lawn that has too much shade and so you can’t grow any plants there, or maybe you have a space which is too dry because rain can’t get to it or maybe because you’re in a drought.
On the other hand, you may have too much rain, making your yard very soggy and swampy, too much so to support normal vegetation. A rock garden can help you out in any or all of these areas.
Planning well is the first step to success with a rock garden, especially for a novice. If you find that your land is overly rocky, then just get rid of some of those rocks and arrange the remainder in a pattern you find aesthetically pleasing.
Including a few shallow-rooted plants can pleasantly break up all that rock with a little green. But the area may have rocks set too densely, in which case, you could border the area with something artificial, like railroad ties, or something natural, like tracing it with small plants.
If you have hills on your land, it could cause erosion in your soil. Including a rock garden can strategically stop erosion while improving the appearance of your yard. You should try for rocks which are indigenous to your locationit will provide that demure, natural look.
If you have an area which is too dry or has soil which just isn’t fertile, you’ve got another great place for a rock garden. Another option here is the Japanese rock garden. That’s the kind where you use rocks and sand to create a pattern in the ground; if your area has a typically dry climate, then this will look completely intentional instead of continuing an ugly spot on your lawn. Some call this kind of rock garden by the name “Zen garden,” but that’s a misnomerthe two aren’t exactly alike.
If you have exceptionally shady areas, then include some shade-dwelling plants in your rock garden there. Instead of just plants that grow among rocks, you would have plants that grow in the shade interspersed to provide a more personalized and thoughtful decoration to your yard.
But regardless of what sort of land you have, you can benefit from having a rock garden. Is your property vast and seemingly impossible to mow? Breaking some of that up with rock gardens can save you time when mowing the lawn, but it would also provide some lovely decorations to your yard.
Just because you break up your land, that doesn’t mean you don’t care about it or for itbut it gives you time to focus your attention while adding beauty to your landscape. You could even include other rock garden projects, like a pond and waterfall.
Lastly, have you ever heard of pointillism? It’s an art term. It’s what happens when an artist, such as Georges Seruat in his Un dimanche aprs-midi l’le de la Grande Jatte, makes a larger picture by making many small dots with his brush. You could do this yourself with stonesturn your lawn into an art gallery for your rock garden paintings!

Designing a Rock Garden

If you learn how to design your own rock garden, then you’ll know how to improve the look and appeal of your whole yard. For every rock and plant you can put in your garden, there’s a way to design itbut that doesn’t mean you should go planting willy-nilly and expect it to come out right. Deliberate planning can mean having a garden both aesthetically pleasing and rewarding as neighbors glare at your garden, green with envy.
Your first task is examining the space you have. All yards have a ground surface, of course, so you’re good there. But yours probably has grass, trees, weeds, or other kinds of vegetation. Look for a part of your garden without any of this vegetationand you’ll find the best place for you rock garden.
You can use a very popular method of making a rock garden: place bedrock jutting from the ground dramatically with your garden on top of it. The idea in placing your plants here is to hide cracks in your bedrock to create an illusion of a single piece, instead of many smaller pieces.
You could also try the Japanese rock garden method. Usually, this consists of sand in a limited area with a few rocks strewn around it. It often includes artful designs traced through it with a rake. This could be a very beautiful arrangementand you could change it whenever you like.
Once you’ve examined your land, you need to select an area without anything growing thereon already. If you’re staring down a natural rockscape or a big pile of dirt, then you’re golden, because all of your pre-planning work is finished.
If all you have between your house and the edges of your property is grass, you may have a little more difficulty. Your rock garden could be used to improve your driveway or sidewalk, or the space in between. You may wish to break up your land with a rock garden between a few shrubs, or maybe a space which is totally bare save for the grass.
Make sure to clear your desired area of everything in it. The last thing you want popping up in your rock garden is unexpected vegetation. Once you’ve finished that, go out and get a few rocks! But you can’t get just any old rocksyou need to determine what rocks are typical to your location and concentrate on those for the best natural look.
If you have a rocky space in your yard now, then you’re off to a good start. You could break those rocks up and use them elsewhere on your lawn. Next, you’ll need to decide on plants.
Naturally, you should consider what sort of plants may be found in rocky areas near you. They’re often small and they usually need less water than other kinds of plants. If you’re after that true natural look, then your options will be limited to the precise ecology in your area.
The best arrangement for a rock garden is to get some rocks of random size, often no more than five, and pile them together. Don’t arrange them in a linethat’s not natural.
And if you’re looking to add plants, then place them sparsely between many of the rock piles even among them. If you put vegetation in your rock garden, then it needs to be deliberate. And when you’re done, you’ll have a complete, low-maintenance decoration for your lawn.

Common Rock Garden Plants

If you want to include plants in your rock garden, then your first task is to select the appropriate plants for your areaand for yourself. Your USDA zone is likely to be the single most important factor in your decision.
This information tells you what sort of plants can survive your coldest days. In particular, you should probably choose a plant for any zone if you live in an especially cold area. Other areas are usually close enough for what you need.
Something else you should consider is the level of sunlight you receive. Putting a plant which needs a bunch of sunlight won’t work if all it gets is shade. Gardening is too much effort if your plants are just going to die. Lastly, be careful regarding poisonous plants. You probably want to avoid them, since they may have unpleasant results on your family and your garden.
Some plants can survive through the year in any zone, which makes them great for nearly any garden. This type includes green carpet and basket of gold. The basket of gold plant needs about three hours of sun to do well, but the green carpet plant needs hardly any sun to survive. There are some plants that need a lot of sunlight; these include stonecress, dwarf yarrow, rock jasmine, rockcress, catsfoot, alpine aster, sea pink, ice plant, mountain avens, whitlow grass, sulfur flower, spurge and alpine poppy (both of which are poisonous), evergreen candytuft, dwarf baby’s breath, oregano (as an herb, it’s also very good for cooking), soapwort, speedwell, and pasque flower.
If you receive about three hours of sunlight each day, then your options include pinwheel, sheep bur, carpet bugle, aubretia, windflower and alpine columbine (both of which are poisonous), creeping bellflower, alpine pinks, snow in the summer, shooting star, fleabane, hens and chicks, cranesbill, coral bells, trumpet gentian, lewisia, lithodora, phlox, penstemon, Northern Jacobs Ladder, saxifrage, primrose, cushion pink, stone crop, woolley thyme, blue eyed grass, and snowbell.
If you don’t receive any good sunlight during the day, you still have some options availablesuch as particular kinds of Northern Jacobs Ladder, hens and chicks, and primrose, as well as all kinds of rockery orchid. If you prefer the plants in your rock garden to be taller, you can use windflower, pinwheel, shooting star, alpine columbine, sulfur flower, evergreen candytuft, lewisia, and coral bells.
But if you prefer shorter plants, then creeping bellflower, trumpet gentian, hens and chicks, sheep bur, dwarf baby’s breath, rockery orchid, green carpet, woolley thyme, and stonecrop are perfect for you.
But regardless of your region or your climate, there are probably some plants that would work great in your own rock garden. And so long as you take care to select only plants which fit your capacities for sunlight, water, and temperature levels, then you’ll probably have a rock garden, maintenance-free, just about all the time for you and your neighbors to enjoy. And if you take a little extra time in your designs, you can match colors with your plants to turn heads even better with your display.

Raised Garden Beds: A Quick and Easy Gardening Solution

Want to get started with your garden quickly and easily? Try raised garden beds. There are no weeds to pull, no soil preparations, no rocks to remove. When you’re ready to plant for flowers or vegetables, just decide on a location, put in some bed retainer walls, and add dirt.

One reason for the popularity of raised garden beds is their simplicity. But you can actually use this method to start your garden earlier. That’s because raised garden beds warm up earlier in the season. If you were starting a traditional garden bed in the existing ground, you’d be forced to wait until later in the year.

First, choose the wall materials for your raised garden bed. There’s almost no limit to the materials that could be used to create a garden bed. Rock walls can be used to create a natural, carefree design. Want a more formal looking garden bed? Use bricks. Using wood or railroad ties is an easy alternative that also looks good. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find these materials for free.

The height of your garden bed will determine how much material you need. The design of your raised beds is completely up to you. Do you want multiple levels or a single height? Single height garden beds are usually about one or two feet tall, but tier designs can range up to five feet in height. Your budget and the space available will also determine what you’re able to do.

After deciding on materials, you need to choose the location. The best location will depend on how much space you need and how many hours of sunlight the plants need. In general, vegetables will need more sunlight than flowers. Choose your location wisely. You’re not going to want to tear it down and start over.

Once you know where you’re building your raise garden bed and the materials that you’re using, it’s time to get started. Lay out your wall material in the design you want. Once you’ve created a frame, you’re ready to fill it with soil. How much is enough? The soil should come to within one or two inches of the top of the raised bed walls.

Now you’re ready to plant. Were you expecting more? Remember, we said raised bed gardening was easy. You can plant seedlings, sow seeds, or even transplant mature plants. After the planting is done, make sure to add some mulch material like bark or grass clippings. This will help keep the plants and garden bed moist.

Enhance Your Raised Bed Garden With The Best Vegetable Choices

Several things influence which plants you select for your raised bed garden, like zone, amount of sun and your own preferences. But there are some good general guidelines for choosing vegetables from which everyone can benefit.Don’t plant vegetables you dislike. Home gardening is all about enjoyment. What’s enjoyable about forcing your family to eat things they don’t like just because you grew them at home. If there’s no payoff of enjoyment waiting at harvest time, you might find it hard to go out and do the work you need, even in a low maintenance raised bed garden.Excellent vegetable choices for this type of gardening include corn, cucumbers, beans, Swiss chard, lettuce, squash, radishes and tomatoes. Beginning gardeners should have no trouble growing these varieties. Another easy choice are herbs. Even if you’re an experienced gardener, you might want to stick to these easier types when starting out with raised bed gardens.

How patient are you? If you hate to wait, you should select vegetables that reach maturity quickly. Spinach, beans, beets, squash, peas, carrots, cucumbers, radishes–all of these get you to first harvest in a hurry.

Another decision deals with early versus late growing season. Early season varieties like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, peas, parsley and spinach can actually be put into the ground as early as four to six weeks before the last frost.

Other early season vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes and Swiss chard can be planted about four weeks before the last frost. Tomatoes, corn, beans and summer squash will do fine as long as you wait until the date of the last frost. Finally, about two weeks after the last frost date is the best time to plant peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and winter squash.

For late season vegetables, you can plant these fall varieties: Swiss chard, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants and beans. You’ll be eating fresh all the way up until first frost in the fall.

The easiest course for beginning gardeners is to stick with the normal growing season. Easy varieties grown in the middle of the growing season will keep things simple and uncomplicated when you’re just starting out.

By they way, make sure your choices are well-suited to your area. North America has been divided into a handy set of growing zones by the USDA that will help you pick the right vegetable varieties. Check the chart before you plant.

Finally, plant with your local lighting conditions in mind. Will your raised bed garden be located in the shade or under full sun. If you’ve already chosen the location, you’ll have to adjust your vegetable picks. Otherwise, flexibility of location is another great advantage of raised bed gardening.

Creating a Raised Bed Garden

image (1)The size of your raised bed garden is something that you can choose, but staying within certain guidelines will make things easier. Stick with a four-foot maximum on width so you can reach all the plants without straining. Theoretically, you could make it as long as you want (or as long as space permits). Many gardeners choose to create raised beds that are four feet on each side. You can scatter around several your landscape, or make one long bed.Standard lumber is an acceptable choice for materials. The height of the edges depends on your vegetable choices. Shallow-root veggies like lettuce, spinach and radishes will do fine in a two-by-six frame. Larger vegetables like tomatoes and corn will thrive in deeper raised beds. If you use two-by-twelve boards, you can create a soil depth of about ten inches.

When you buy the lumber, you’ll have to decide between treated and untreated lumber. If your frame is untreated, you had better plan on replacing it in a few years after it rots. However, treated wood could potentially leech toxic chemicals into your garden soil. The chemicals will likely be picked up by your vegetables and passed on to you and your family.

Safety would dictate choosing untreated wood. On the other hand, most experts claim that the small amount of chemicals you are likely to ingest presents no danger to your health. Ultimately it is a personal choice. Whatever decision you are comfortable with should be fine.

Get your lumber cut at the store before you take it home. This will help the ends fit together and keep your soil from leaking out. This is hard to accomplish at home unless you have a big saw and some skills using it. Anything handheld, like a handsaw or circular saw, probably isn’t enough.

Attaching the frame pieces to each other works best with four-inch ribbed deck nails. These raised bed gardening frames need to be able to hold in a lot of pressure with soil and plant material. Regular nails may not have what it takes to keep it together.

A flat surface for assembly will make your frame sturdier. Your driveway or deck (assuming they are flat) would be ideal. The only downside is moving the frame to your garden spot. You might need to line up some helpers. (Bribe them with future vegetables!)

If you choose to have multiple boxes, put them two or three feet apart. Give yourself enough room to move between them effortlessly. Get them in the right spot from the beginning. Once you put the soil inside, they will be pretty much impossible to move without taking out the dirt.

What about the soil under the raised bed? Till it if you like, but it’s not required. If your plants need more than six to twelve inches of soil, they’ll be able to push into the untilled dirt under the bed. Just make sure you put in high quality soil to help your plants thrive.

Commercial potting soil is okay, but try to improve its quality even more. Adding organic material should do the trick. Composted manure, homemade compost, or other organic materials will boost the quality of your soil quickly.

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Could Raised Bed Gardening Multiply Your Yields?

Have you ever noticed plants growing inside rectangular wooden frames? It’s called raised bed gardening. This alternative method for growing plants raises them above the garden’s normal soil level. Soil may be mixed in with tilled ground below or placed directly on untilled soil.Raised beds are popular because they are beneficial in several ways. The most amazing plus they provide is increased productivity. You expect from two to three times the produce from the same square footage of space. Essentially you eliminate the need for pathways and rows, and can devote the entire area to plant growing.

There’s another benefit to raised bed gardening. You have much greater control over soil conditions. And you can improve them more rapidly. It doesn’t really matter how poor your existing soil is. For example, soils with high sand or clay content can really make gardening a challenge. But with raised beds you simply add purchased or created soil to your frame and you’re ready to grow!

Raised bed gardening pretty much eliminates any concerns about weeds. Finding and removing weeds in the smaller enclosed space of the raised bed is much easier. And chances are you’ll have fewer weeds overall. Your added soil will have fewer weed seeds, and the existing soil is buried too deeply for weeds to sprout through.

You may not have considered this before, but there’s really no limit to how high you can raise a bed. All you have to do is put a bottom on the frame. Then the raised bed can be placed on a table allowing access by those who might have trouble gardening. The elderly and the handicapped can enjoy gardening without limitations.

Raised bed gardening was popularized by a program called Square Foot Gardening. Developed by Mel Bartholomew, the associated book and TV series presented a system that only needed a fifth of the space required by traditional gardens.

This system divided the bed into sections. Plants of different sizes are assigned to different sections. Overall, the system requires fewer seeds and less water. Even better, the garden beds are organic and practically weed-free. But the primary selling point was the five-fold increase in productivity.

Other grid system raised bed gardens have been introduced. Cubed Foot Gardening operates on the same basic principles as Square Foot Gardening. It’s creator, Christopher O. Bird, even won the endorsement of Bartholomew for his system.

However, grid systems like this aren’t necessary to access the benefits of raised bed gardening. From herbs to vegetables to wildflowers, raised bed gardens provide a flexible way to enjoy the benefits of gardening without many of the headaches.

Organic Gardening: How to Prepare the Soil

Organic gardening means gardening without the use of artificial pesticides, chemicals or potentially dangerous substances. It doesn’t matter what you’re growing–flowers, trees, bushes, fruit trees, vegetables–as long as it’s being cultivated in a natural way. The most popular feature of organic gardening is that there’s no danger of consuming chemicals in organically grown herbs, vegetables and fruit.

Preparation of the soil is essential to successful organic gardening. Since you won’t be using chemicals to artificially enhance the health of your soil, you need to make sure that the soil is in top condition to begin with. Although it will take some extra time and effort, the results will be well worth your investment.

What you need is rich compost material to mix in with the soil. Many organic gardening enthusiasts insist on creating their own compost. If you’re not quite up to that yet, rest assured that it’s possible to buy organic compost from garden centers or like-minded gardeners. But you really might want to think about starting your own compost bin for next year, it’s not really that difficult to do.

Back to preparing the soil. Basically, you’ll be adding some things to the garden bed and allowing them to sit through the weeks before planting. Take care that you only add natural ingredients though. As these organic items decompose, nutrients are created.

Your first order of business is to loosen and turn the soil. Next, gather up some organic materials and add them to the garden bed. You can use sawdust, shredded newspaper, used coffee or tea grounds, ashes from your fireplace, and even fruit and vegetable waste from your kitchen. Add one or more items, whatever you have. You don’t have to collect everything on the list. It will work better and faster if you make the material as small as possible. For example, you can chop or grate kitchen scraps into smaller pieces before adding them to the soil.

Once you’ve added organic material, turn the soil a couple of times to make sure the new items are thoroughly mixed in and covered. Go outside, water the garden bed and stir it around again about two or three times a week. After you’ve done this for three or four weeks, your soil will be ready to start setting out plants or putting in seeds.

Want to make your soil even richer? Start preparation in the fall before the first freeze. Then your organic garden will really be producing some beautiful bounty the next spring.

Xeriscaping: Low Water Gardening In Harmony With Your Local Climate

Have you given up on having a garden because of the high cost of water or restrictions on water use in your area? Then you need to take a look at xeriscaping. This gardening method creates beautiful landscapes using trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants that are acclimated to your local climate. Because you are using plants that grow naturally in your neighborhood, they normally need much less water and require much less care. And that’s why xeriscaping is becoming so popular among home gardeners.

Xeriscaping has become particularly widespread in the desert southwest of the United States. Water is a scarce commodity, so financial and environmental pressures reinforce the need for gardens that require little or no watering.

So are you thinking about cacti right now? That’s where most people go in their minds when someone talks about a garden that doesn’t need water. Cactus gardens can be remarkably beautiful, but xeriscaping is not limited to this option. There are other ways to create a beautiful outdoor landscape that can thrive on natural rainfall.

Have you discovered those special water crystals that you add to your garden’s soil? They are designed to absorb and hold water for about two weeks. This helps ration and release water so that your plants can get from one shower to the next without extra watering from you, and without drooping and turning brown.

Each time rain falls (or you water your garden), the crystals absorb the moisture, then begin to slowly release it back into the soil for your plants to use. Some potting soils on the market already contain these crystals, or you can buy the crystals by themselves to add to your garden as needed.

There are other ways to conserve water in your garden. Try adding a thick layer of mulch. Use natural materials like dry grass clippings, dead leaves, sawdust, bark, wood chips, etc. Not only will this help you recycle your own lawn waste, it also keeps the soil around your plants from drying out. This layer helps hold in moisture during the summer, and doubles as a blanket against the cold of mid-winter.

And then there’s the plants. Cactus plants are not the only plants that thrive on small amounts of water. But they probably are the most efficient when it comes to moisture. Don’t just think needles when you think of cacti. Most of these garden camels have gorgeous blooming flowers. Some even change color with the seasons.

Other low-water, drought-hardy plants to consider include the Desert Mallow and the California Poppy. These plants have flowers that range from orange to peach in color. Not only will they survive the dry season in style, they’ll make your garden unique. Your harmonious landscape design will really stand out (in a good way) in your neighborhood.

When you first see some of these dry weather plants, you may be surprised. Their leaves look different with their pale hue and “hairy” look. However, they also attract hummingbirds and butterflies. And they prove that it is possible to have a garden that grows in harmony with your local climate while looking beautiful the whole time. Give xeriscaping a try, and help save your community’s water.