Springtime is planting time around here! The sun is out and I am too, putting our top five favorite plants in the garden.
This morning’s harvest.
I grew up in a garden. Wait, that sounds weird. How about, I grew up spending much of my childhood in a garden. That’s better.
And it’s the truth! My father is a master gardener and he spent many hours in our backyard cultivating the plants for our family’s enjoyment. And our favorite part, was the vegetable garden. Yes, there was plenty of planting and weeding and watering and cutting. But there was plenty of eating! And that was a wonderful thing. There is something marvelous about watching something grow that you’ve tended with your own hands. And then enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor.
Something must have stuck. A seed must have gotten planted deep inside of me. Because it has grown into my own love of gardening. Give me a little water, some rich dirt, sunshine, and a little green plant… and I’m a happy girl.
So, you can imagine my unbridled joy when we finally bought our own home last year… complete with big, wild, untamed, waiting-to-be-cultivated backyard. (Sigh of great happiness.)
We had a bit of fun putting a few things in the pre-existing, quite worn, grow-boxes last summer. But this year we got serious! I mean, we’re having some serious fun growing our garden! We put in a drip irrigation system (no more hand watering!) and have four full 5×5 foot boxes growing strong.
I thought I’d share a few of the plants we’ve put in our fruit & vegetable garden so far this year. They are all pretty easy to grow and fun to eat!
Here are our top five spring/summer plants that are fun and fairly easy to grow:
Strawberries – There is nothing quite as yummy as juicy ripe strawberries warm from the sunshine. We buy the little plants in packs of 6 early in the spring and put them somewhere they can get lots of sun. At the end of the season, cover them for the winter and plants will continue to bear fruit for another 3-5 years. If space is an issue, strawberries do well in containers you can keep on a sunny patio.
Zucchini – If you want a plant that will grow just about anywhere, this is your plant. They will grow easily from seeds, but we bought small plants this year in both green and yellow varieties. Zucchini loves the sun and will need a bit of space to grow. Put them in the ground in early spring after the last frost. They grow quickly and soon you’ll see the pretty blossoms, followed by the yummy squash. Zucchini have the best flavor and are the most tender when they are small. Pick them when they’re about 5-7 inches long and enjoy them sauteed, baked, or our new favorite…spiralized! Again, if space is an issue, I have seen a zucchini plant successfully grown in pot with a plant cage to hold up the vines.
Peas – Our favorite variety are the sugar snap peas. We eat them right off the vine. They hardly ever even make it into the house. Seriously, it’s like garden candy. Peas are some of the easiest plants to grow from seed. Just plant a whole row of them in early spring and give them that perfect amount of water (not too wet, not too dry) and watch those little sprouts pop up out of the dirt! Garden magic! Peas need something to climb on. We simply use two stakes and twine stretched between them. As the plants grow, weave them in and out of the twine for support. Pick peas early for the best flavor, and the more you pick, the more they produce!
Tomatoes – The hardest part about growing tomatoes is choosing which ones from the thousands of varieties you want to grow! There are so many! This year we went for a wide variety. We’ve got my favorite little yellow pear tomatoes, a medium pink tiger stripe, a big beefy black tomato… and I can’t even remember the other three! I’ll find out when the fruit pops out! The key to tomatoes is SUN. Tomatoes need 6-8 hours of sun. They are easiest to grow from small plants and do best planted in mid-spring and early summer. Tomatoes will also need a cage for support and enough room around them to grow. They do well in pots with a cage on a sunny patio too. Pick them when they’ve ripened to the color of their variety and watch more grow! Store tomatoes at room temperature (not in the fridge) to keep the best flavor.
Carrots – Carrots like it cool. So best planting time is very early spring, or even early fall. One of the most important things to do for carrots is provide a nice, loose soil. This makes sense, since you want the roots (the part we’re gonna eat) to be able to grow nice and long and unencumbered. You can plant them as seeds, though I’ve had mixed results (probably having to do with my lack of attention… oops.) This year we put them in as tiny plants and they’ve grown like crazy. In fact, I forgot to thin them out (which also helps them to grow long and unencumbered) and I now have braided carrots. Which are actually kind of cool looking. And they still taste amazing!
These are our top five plants for the spring. All pretty easy to grow as long as you set them in the amount of sun that they like and keep them watered well (but not soaking).
It’s actually pretty therapeutic for me to go out to the garden and check on the plants. I’ll pick whatever is ripe, pull away dead leaves, check the soil dampness, talk to the plants. There is something soul-satisfying about being a part of growing something. And enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of my labors. And being in the sunshine.
Maybe it’s also because I identify with the plants. A little water, soil, and sunlight… and I grow too.
Do you have a garden? What do you like to grow?