Local produce is very popular these days, and it doesn't get more local than a garden plot or container in your backyard.
Growing your own vegetables is easy, economical, and highly rewarding.
Ground Planting How-To
To plant vegetables in the ground, begin with a sunny spot and well-draining soil. When considering a location for your garden, keep in mind how large your plants will grow once they've matured.
Shaun Kass, Martha's personal gardener, shares a step-by-step guide to vegetable planting:
1. Choose crops based on what you like to eat and how much space you have. Although planting times vary by climate zone, most crops fall into two groups:
- Before the last frost: Peas, lettuces, radishes, brassicas (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collards), spinach, onions, and potatoes
- After the last frost: Cucumbers, summer and winter squash, beans, corn, and Swiss chard
2. Be sure to take into account sun requirements when mapping out your plot. Large plants can cast shadows, so it's wise to set them apart or place them next to smaller plants that can tolerate a bit of shade.
3. Preparing a soil bed is simple: Clear debris and weeds, loosen the soil by digging about 1 foot deep, and incorporate a few inches of rich compost.
4. Now you're ready to plant! Since the specifics vary by crop, follow the directions provided on your seed packet or plant label. For example, peas and tomatoes need stakes to climb, while brassicas may benefit from plastic rings around the seeds to help deter ringworms.
Container Planting How-To
If you don't have enough room in the yard for a garden plot, consider planting in containers. Although containers have some limitations, you can exercise more control over the growing environment, and they can be quite striking visually.
Andrea Mason, our in-house gardening expert, breaks down the planting process:
1. Choose a container that is as large as possible and preferably of a lightweight material such as fiberglass or polypropylene. This will allow you to move the pot more easily if needed, and they won't dry out as quickly as porous containers such as terra cotta and pottery.
2. Make sure your container has drainage holes; cover the holes with a pottery shard or a piece of landscape fabric.
3. Fill 3/4 of the container with a good organic potting soil that has been enriched with a time-release fertilizer and compost.
4. When planting your vegetable plants, bear in mind each plant's eventual height. Situate them to make the best use of available light, so taller crops don't shade the shorter ones.
5. Once arranged to your liking, remove the seedlings from their containers and plant, being careful not to disturb their tender roots. Allow adequate space between the plants to give them room to grow.
6. Fill in around the roots with more potting soil and gently pat down.
7. Leave some room around the outside of the pot for trailing plants like cucumbers and zucchini, whether they're grown from starter plants or seeds.
8. If planting seeds, follow the instructions on the back of your seed packets for that specific variety's planting depth and spacing.
9. To avoid damage to maturing root systems, provide stakes for the tomatoes, peppers, and peas at planting time. These supports will help keep the plant contained and upright under the weight of fruit production and during high winds.
11. Place container in a spot that has at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day.
For more tips on vegetable gardening, see our Vegetable Garden Guide.