While tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant need to be started from seed indoors, many homegrown fruits and vegetables are easy to grow when seeded directly in your garden. Growing these crops is as easy as drop and grow.
Warm Season Crops
Most herbs can be grown from seed in the garden. I’ve had success growing basil, chives, cilantro, and dill direct seeded when the soil is at least 70 degrees.
Dig a little trench about half an inch deep and sprinkle seeds in rows or squares. Then cover with compost and keep watered. It is reasonable to expect the herbs to harvestable in about a month.
Watch your herbs for signs of bolting. They should be harvested before they go to flower for the best flavor. You can prune flowering limbs to stay ahead of bolting, but you can only delay it a little bit. When they do bolt, just let them go and save the seed for next year.
Squash and zucchini
Squash and zucchini are very large plants. Technically zucchini is squash, and the plants look identical except for the fruit.
These big beautiful plants need to be planted at least 18 inches apart. They will be crowded even then, but, if gardening space is tight, they can live this close to each other.
Be aware that in crowded environments, getting a good harvest will require diligent pest and disease control.
To set in the ground, drag out rows about two inches deep, drop the seeds, then cover with dirt or compost. Fertilize once or twice as needed. Many summer squash are bush types, but winter squash and pumpkins are sprawling vines so provide loooots of space accordingly.
Squash plants tend to get overcome by squash bugs in our garden. I really dislike squash bugs. They are so nasty!
Cucumbers are a climbing vine and grow up any trellis, very nicely. They are easy to grow, love the sun, and there are a ton of varieties! Try something different like the lemon cuke which looks like a lemon, but tastes like a cucumber. For us, cucumbers are great to have in the garden for fresh eating. Eating a cool cuke in the shade is always refreshing when you’ve been working in the heat.
For starting from seed, they are not very different from squash or watermelons. Speaking of watermelons..
Mmmm! Watermelons are one of my favorite things about summer! Every summer I wait and wait and wait for what seems like forever before these fruits are ready to harvest! In the south, watermelons are easy to grow because they love the heat, but in cooler climates it may be more difficult because of their long time to harvest.
Give them 3-4 months to mature and at least six feet between plants as the vines are very large and will take over your yard.
Some gardeners recommend pinching off all but one or two flowers to make larger, sweeter fruit. We usually let them grow because we are greedy and want to eat all the watermelons. You do how you like to do.
When you plant your okra, check your seed pack for spacing, some okra plants are over 10 feet tall whereas others are only 3.
Okra loves heat and is one of the few veggies that will live all summer long and keep producing until frost in hot, humid conditions. Once these babies start producing, you are going to be picking okra Every. Single. Day.
Early in the season, larger okra pods can be harvested. However, as it gets hotter, they become woody as they grow so harvest them young. When they get over-ripe, they are fibrous and inedible. We let the woody pods go on the stalk and harvest them for seed at the end of summer.
There are two types of bean plants: bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans are smaller and grow like bushes. Pole beans are vines and best grown on a trellis or support of some kind as the vines can get 8 or more feet long.
Traditional green beans are harvested while the pods are still young. Soup beans are harvested after the pods are matured and dried. Check your seed packs for specific information on your variety.
We like to plant both bush and pole beans. For classic green bean flavor, pick Blue Lake bush beans. We also like Top Crop for easy picking. Pole beans are later to develop than bush beans, and they keep on giving after the bush beans tire out. Try the heirloom Rattlesnake for pretty speckled beans.
It’s very important to commit at least an 8×8 foot area for your corn. Planting at least 16 corn stalks arranged in four rows of four is required for adequate pollination. Whether sixteen seems like a little or a lot depends on your garden goals. Each corn stalk will only supply one to two ears of corn.
So it’s easy to see that it can take a lot of space if yearlong homegrown corn is the goal. On our farm, Silver Queen earns a top spot for most delicious to eat fresh. So, so sweet and yummy! It’s like candy, y’all!
Our daughter once ate a whole ear of raw corn! Being able to eat really fresh produce is something I missed out on as a child, and I’m so glad our kiddos get to enjoy our garden.
Cool Season Crops
Carrots need to be set out a month before your last frost and actually taste much better when grown through a couple of frosts.
We grow ours in raised beds where we can control the soil since our soil is mostly Georgia red clay. For nice big carrots, clear the growing area of stones and till deeply to ensure healthy roots (=carrot).
Be careful using manure as it will cause them to fork or grow legs. Rocky soil will also do that. They are ready to harvest about three months after planting, but a fall crop can be left in the ground over winter as long as the ground does not freeze.
On the other hand, many varieties will develop a hard pithy core if left unharvested during hot dry periods of summer.
Beets like to live in cool, fertile, slightly acidic soil. Start them as soon as you can work the soil after winter.
They love the cold weather so get these guys in the ground early. Beets are super cool to grow with kids, too, because there are so many beautiful colors!
For root crops, don’t apply heavy nitrogen based fertilizers. Give them more phosphorous to get bigger bulbs. All parts of the beet are edible fresh or cooked. Beet greens are quite delicious, but pickled beets are one of my favorites!
Growing turnips is very satisfying. Grown in early spring and in fall, they come up quickly and grow like the dickens! They like cool weather and should be harvested young. I like the classic bicolored purple top turnips in our garden. We plant them for the greens so we sow them very close together. Thin them out to 4 inches between plants for bigger bulbs.
Radishes are another satisfying crop in the garden. They are fast growing, and I love their bright color! Their peppery flavor is nice pickled or sliced thinly in a salad, but I recently learned that fried radishes are the bomb. I’m definitely going to have to try that. I don’t know why I haven’t tried it before! I’m southern. I know that fried is the best way to eat things!
Chard is a cool season crop grown in early spring and again in fall. Most varieties will even tolerate some frost. It’s really easy to grow when direct seeded in the garden. Plant them about 1/2 inch into the soil and water. It’s really that simple. In warm climates, choose an area that gets some afternoon sun.
Harvest chard when you are ready to eat it. Young leaves are more tender and sweet. Many varieties can be harvested as soon as 4 weeks after seeding. I love growing rainbow chard in our garden. The colors are so striking!
Lettuce is very, very easy to grow and will tolerate some shade. The only trick to lettuce is to protect it from heat which encourages bolting and an unpleasant bitter flavor. Grow lettuce in the early spring and again in fall. Sowing a new
To grow lettuce, scatter seeds in the desired area, row, or pattern then cover with about half an inch of soil and keep moist. In hot climates grow in an area where the plants will get afternoon shade.
Lettuce is best harvested young as the leaves will become bitter and unpleasant as they get older. As long as you have cool weather, sow a new crop every two weeks to keep the fresh salad eating going!
Spinach is grown very much like lettuce. It appreciates a cool weather, tolerates some shade, and grows very quickly. Grow your spinach in early spring and again in fall. Starting a new crop every 2 weeks will extend your harvest. Garden fresh spinach is one of the veggies that you should try growing even if you’ve never liked it before. It really does taste better.
I’d love to hear what you drop and grow in your garden! Leave me a comment below!