When thinking about how to start growing vegetables, the first thing you’ll want to look at is seeds and placement.
• Situate your vegetable garden in a sunny place and start growing food early in the spring. Keep planting all summer long so something fresh and tasty is always ready to harvest.
• Place the garden near your kitchen. It will be easy to run out and pick a few things you need, and you can spy on the garden from your window. Picking tomatoes after you see them blush crimson is a perfect way to get them at their best.
• Soak seeds to get a jump on the season. Before germinating, seeds need to drink up moisture, just as if drenched by spring rains. Once they become plump and swollen, the little embryo inside will begin to grow.
Colorful ornamental peppers last longer than flowers and add festive color and texture to beds and borders. Plants range from six inches to several feet tall. Foliage may be green or purple. The glossy fruits grow from an inch or less in length to more than six inches and can be pointy, round, or blocky. They have bright colors and waxy coats and range from cream through yellow, orange, red, purple, and brownish-black. Grow peppers during warm weather in full sun, after the danger of frost has passed.
There is nothing like a fresh, sun-warmed tomato, so they are on everyone’s list. There are many kinds to consider, from beefsteak to cherry to heirloom varieties. There are also petite types bred specifically for hanging baskets. Tall and rangy cherry types can be trained up a trellis or over an arch.
Prune tomato plants to direct maximum energy into tomato production. Choose your pruning plan based on what you want from your tomatoes. For larger and earlier (but fewer) tomatoes, remove any shoots that emerge on or beside the main stem, and tie the stem to a stake. For more tomatoes later, let plants bush out and support them in tomato cages. Pinch off any flowers that open before July 4.
Choose between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes according to the way you prefer to harvest. Determinate tomatoes (such as Celebrity) tend to stay compact and produce most of their tomatoes at about the same time. This is convenient for freezing, canning, and sauce making. Indeterminate tomatoes (such as Big Beef) keep growing and developing new tomatoes as they go. They produce a greater yield but spread it over a longer harvest period.
Dozens of different cultivars are in each class; there are plenty to pick from. You might have to check seed catalogs to find out whether a particular tomato is determinate or not.
Stake your tomato cages so a bumper crop won’t pull them over. Work a tall stake through the wire mesh near the perimeter of the cage, and stab or pound it to 8 inches deep in the ground. This will anchor the cage (and the plant inside) firmly despite the pull of strong winds and branchfuls of ripening tomatoes.
When you grow your own vegetables, you’re feeding your family with healthier and less-expensive foods that will give them the nutrients they need while giving you hours of enjoyable gardening.