If you’ve decided to grow your own vegetables this year, here are some tips to help you start.
Choose the right location. The garden should be in full sun with easy access to water and good soil. Soil quality is critical. You want fertile soil that drains well. Avoid planting too close to large trees and shrubs, as they will compete with your vegetables.
Start small. Only plant the space you can manage joyfully. Gardening should be fun, not burdensome. Be practical. Select vegetables your family likes to eat. If space is limited, concentrate on vegetables that yield the greatest return for the effort, such as pole beans, tomatoes, root crops and leafy greens.
Vegetables are started from seed or transplants. Generally, seed can be sown directly into the soil for beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, onions, peas, pumpkin, radish, spinach, squash and corn. Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes are most commonly transplanted.
By careful selection of varieties known to do well in your area, you can grow vegetables that are disease-resistant and good yielders of high-quality, nutritious produce. For greatest success, do not use seed more than one year old, as seeds lose viability with age. When buying transplants, look for healthy, stocky, medium-sized, disease- and insect-free plants with good roots. Avoid using plants that are tender, yellow, spindly or too large. Do not use plants with spots on the leaves, brown lesions on the stems or knots on the roots.
When to plant depends on the hardiness of the vegetables and the climate in your area. Certain vegetables can withstand frost; others cannot.
Early spring and early fall are for cool-season annuals. They are cold-hardy and thrive in temperatures below 70 degrees. These include beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips. Cool-season crops will bolt as the days lengthen and temperatures rise.
After the last spring frost, warm-season annuals can be planted. They are frost sensitive but thrive in temperatures above 70 degrees. They’ll grow until the first fall frosts. These are beans, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, pumpkins, southern peas, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and watermelons.
Plan to water and weed your garden consistently during the growing season. Weeds compete with the vegetables for water, nutrients and light, and they can harbor insects and diseases. So eradicate them.
Vegetables can be harvested throughout the summer, making your time and effort worthwhile. For more information, visit planttalk.colostate.edu/topics/vegetables/1811-planning-vegetable-garden/
When you have questions, Colorado State University Extension has research-based answers. Get answers to your horticulture questions by visiting ask.extension.org any time day or night. Follow the El Paso County Master Gardeners on facebook.com/ColoradoMasterGardeners.EPC/