The Q&A Archives: Vegetable Gardening

Question: I wanted to try my hand at growing a few vegetables and fruit this year. I will be renting a garden plot at one of our local parks. It is my first attempt for anything of this sort. I would appreciate if you could suggest a few vegetables and fruits that would be suitable for a first time gardener. I was interested in growing strawberries in a container on my patio and would appreciate any tips on the above.

Answer: The real secret to successful gardening is good soil. Take some time to work plenty of organic matter into the garden plot prior to planting or sowing seeds. Spread 3-4 inches of aged compost, leaf mold, peat or aged manure over the surface of the plot and work it in to about 12 inches. Organic matter will loosen the soil, help it retain moisture, and release nutrients as it decomposes. If the site receives full sunshine all day you can plant tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans, or any of your favorite veggies. If the site is somewhat shady, you can concentrate on growing leafy crops like lettuce, spinach and cabbage. Make sure the seeds you sow are not planted too deeply (check the package for exact instructions), keep the area well watered until the seedlings are thriving, and mulch the bed well to keep down weeds. While the plants are growing you'll need to supply water on a regular basis.

Growing small fruits is as easy as growing any other plant. Strawberries need lots of sunshine and well draining soil, blackberries and raspberries have the same requirements (but need lots of room!) and each of these are easy to grow. For some specific ideas, and cultural requirements, try one of the following books: Sunset Western Garden Book, ISBN# 0-376-03851-9, or Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, ISBN# 0-87596-599-7.

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