Grow or Buy?

Are you new to gardening? As you’re picking out those beautiful plants to pop into the ground, keep in mind that some are easier to work with than others. Plants that require special care to produce great veg might not be the best options for beginners, especially those of us with busy schedules.

Corn
Corn / Theresa Wysocki / CC BY 2.0

Grow

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are super easy to grow if you choose tried and true varieties, have plenty of sun and receive regular rain. A three-dollar beefsteak plant can easily produce 15 pounds of tomatoes, making it a worthwhile investment. Tip:  Rotate the location of your tomatoes on a three-year cycle.

2. Leaf Lettuce

Growing leaf lettuce is as easy as sneezing. You can pick exactly the amount you want exactly when you want it. Be wary of head lettuces, though, as they are quick to bolt. Tip: Sprinkle a teaspoon of seeds in you garden ever 1-2 weeks during the growing season for constant fresh lettuce.

3. Bell Peppers

Easier to start from seed than tomatoes, peppers are a great companion tomato is you’re planning to make sauce from your garden. Tip: Peppers can be picked green to encourage more growth, though letting them ripen to red on the plant makes them sweeter.

4. Winter Squash

Like the ubiquitous zucchini, winter squash are a snap to grow. They store well through the winter and offer a host of powerful nutrients. Tip: Squash leave need a lot of space, so plant them on the outer edge of your garden to give them room to spread.

5. Sugar Snap Peas

Peas are a cool-weather plant that produce kid-friendly snacks straight off the vine. They sprout quickly from a recognizable seed, making them a fantastic teaching opportunity as well. Tip: Give peas a little support to grow around for the best results.

Buy

1. Sweet Corn

What makes corn tricky is the pollination. It’s wind-pollinated, so you need to plant nearly 20 square feet to get results, and if you’re trying to grow more than one variety, you could end up with a poor tasting hybrid. Tip: Microwave your corn to make it easier to shuck.

2. Cauliflower

Temperature is the crop killer when it comes to cauliflower. They demand a long growing season with carefully moderated temperatures that can be tricky to achieve, on top of specially techniques for keeping the heads white. Tip: Grow broccoli, an easier member of the same family, instead.

3. Eggplant

On top of being very temperature sensitive, eggplants are very susceptible to certain pests that are hard to deal with organically. If you want to keep your garden pesticide-free, eggplants aren’t the easiest choice. Tip: For minimal bitterness, buy eggplant fresh and use them the same day.

4. Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes and yams, both tropical in origin, need a long, hot growing season, which means covered beds and higher maintenance in northern climates with no promise of a great yield. Tip: If you’ve got to grow them, try growing sweet potatoes in a container for easier climate control.

5. Celery

The trick to crispy celery is constant moisture. If you don’t have an irrigation system or time to stay on top of watering your garden, getting crunchy stalks may present a problem. Tip: Grow celery just for the leaves, or grow it as a houseplant for easier moisture monitoring.

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