I have a raised vegetable garden ( I am new to vegetable gardening) which was just built. It has compost and some topsoil in it. I am a bit lost on what to grow when. I love all vegetables and am simply hoping for some easy starting veggies! I hear beets and asparagus are easy to grow. I am in zone 7. I would like to plant as soon as possible and thank you for taking the time to respond! Jonathan.
Answer: You might want to start with your cool season veggies at one end, allowing plenty of room for those warm season plants that need plenty of space, like tomatoes, squash or corn. Many of the plants will offer multiple yields as well, so make sure you leave enough room around the plants to get to each one. To take full advantage of the sun, run your rows north and south if at all possible.
I would suggest that you actually draw your garden on graph paper. This will help you visualize how much space each plant is going to need. Most vegetables are pretty easy to grow but each has its own particular likes and dislikes with moisture, fertilizer, and soil. For the novice gardener I would stick with the basics: tomatoes, squash, peppers, peas or beans; leaf crops such as lettuce, spinach or chards; root crops like beets, kohlrabi or turnips; or venture into some brussels sprouts or broccoli. Don’t forget a few herbs, but be careful where you plant them. They are aromatic and can transfer their flavor to some fruiting plants. For your first year I would not venture into asparagus, as it needs space and takes a year or two to start producing. If you really want to try the asparagus and have another place in your yard to devote to it, set out a few crowns, but do some reading on the prep and overwintering first.
Many novice gardeners tend to over-plant. The plants start so little, after all. Make sure you read the planting instructions for each plant. Choose only a couple of tomato types and a couple of squash plants, as these will take a lot of space. Leave at least a foot of space between these and any lettuce or root vegetables. There are also plants that do well together and those that should not be planted together. We carry a helpful book on companion planting.
Be wary of four-legged friends that you will notice showing up for dinner and lunch. Fencing in your garden will prevent rabbits from nibbling. If you have deer in the area they may begin showing up, as well. You might need something from our Pest Control area to help.
As your plants are growing, plan on feeding them some compost or add essential nutrients around the base of the plants, primarily fruiting plants (tomatoes, beans, squash). Avoid adding nitrogen-heavy nutrients, but rather bloom-building phosphates. On fertilizer packages there are three numbers, such as 4-12-0. These represent nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). The N gives you lots of big green leaves and P give you lots of nice big blooms. Once veggies have started to set bloom you want to continue to encourage that blooming.
Have a great gardening year,