You want to plant a garden, not dig holes in the yard, but where to begin? Real Woman asked local experts to give us the dirt on easy-care gardening. Now channel your inner Mother Nature, and get growing.
5 Easy-Grow Produce Picks
Luckily for beginniner gardeners in the Mercer County area, easy-to-grow produce options abound, says Burpee’s Vegetable Product Manager Chelsey E. Fields. Here, some of her top picks for local plantings.
Roadside stands and community gardens often seem overrun with zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, owing to their high yield and easy attitude. If your neighbors aren’t already sneaking their extras onto your doorstep, these are perfect picks for an easy-care veggie garden. (Start squash and cuke plants from seed and the rest from seedlings.)
Foodies, though, may enjoy supplementing these abundant staples with some interesting options like these. The first three are large-seeded, so they’re easy to sow, even for kids. The others grow nicely from plants, which you can order online (at burpee.com) or purchase locally. Information on factors like spacing, planting depth, and daily care are clearly explained on seed or plant packaging. Burpee also has a mobile app that will tell you what to sow when, based upon your zip code.
Big Kahuna Bush Beans
These giant beans grow on compact bushes, so they work well in patio pots or garden beds. The 11-inch pods are easy for little hands to harvest and a snap to clean for cooking. They also provide a quick payoff, as they’re ready to harvest in under 2 months.
Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber
These plants yield dozens of lemony-sweet 1-inch cukes that are perfect for salads, snacking, or pickling. Though they’re vining, the fruits are lightweight, so the plants do nicely in hanging baskets as well as on trellises.
Cupcake Hybrid Summer Squash
This customer favorite offers muffin-shaped fruits 2- to 5-inches long with a sweet-and-savory flavor. They’re your new go-to for grilling and stuffing, as they have soft skin like that of a zucchini. The plant’s 3-foot spread means you can grow it in a small bed or a 24-inch-diameter pot. One plant should be plenty for a family.
Meatball Hybrid Eggplant
Get ready to make Meatless Mondays more exciting. These 5-inch rotund fruits capture “the flavor and texture of meat” as no other veggie can. Use it in everything from meatballs to veggie burgers to baba ganoush. These seeds need to be started indoors, so beginners may want to order plants instead.
Peppermint Chocolate Mint
New this year, this peppermint-patty-flavored perennial lends a sweet aroma to your garden—and a delectable flavor to iced tea, fruit salad, or ice cream. As with eggplant, purchase seedlings to plant, but be sure to confine these plants to pots, or they’ll take over your garden.
3 Questions for Chelsey Fields
Bringing the farm-to-table concept to your kitchen may be easier than you think. Here, some insights from Burpee Vegetable Product Manager Chelsey E. Fields.
Q: Are vegetable gardens a big undertaking?
A: Most people feel that their number one barrier to home gardening is time. There’s a misconception that your first garden is going to be this giant undertaking, but it’s ok to start small and then build up from there.
Q: How do I choose what to grow?
A: Rather than growing what you think you should, select a few foods that interest you and that will do well in your area. How many people are in your household? What do you want to do with your harvest? Do you want to grow lunchbox snacks, enjoy a weekly side dish or a nightly salad, or pluck the occasional sprig of fresh herbs? Your answers may help reveal what and how much to plant.
Q: What should I know about local soil?
A: In Bucks County, we have some clay soil, and in New Jersey the soil can be sandier. You can search online to locate local cooperative extension agencies, which analyze your soil in spring to tell you what you need to add for optimal conditions. Even the smallest garden will benefit from working in a few bags of composted manure.