Eating several servings of vegetables daily is a priority for a healthy diet. But instead of always having to run to the supermarket or local farm stand to see what looks good, why not start growing your own produce at home? Creating a vegetable garden in your own backyard (or even in window boxes, if you don’t have a yard) is quite doable, whether or not you have a green thumb.
Since May 19 is World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day, we thought this would be a good time for everyone to get their hands a little dirty. After all, the weather is nice and warm and tending to your a vegetable garden is a good excuse to spend more time outdoors. Plus, you’ll be thrilled in the near future when the tiny seeds you’ve nurtured grow into plants that bear an array of delicious, nutritious vegetables.
Here are six good starter suggestions for the easiest vegetables to find success with as a newbie gardener that also packs a mighty fine health punch:
A safe bet for novice gardeners, simply purchase bell pepper seeds at a nursery and plant them in a very sunny spot. Place each plant roughly four to six inches apart and make sure to water them regularly. The peppers should be ready to pick in about 60 to 80 days when they have turned the color you selected (e.g., red peppers have become red). Bell peppers are a wonderful source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, as well as potassium and riboflavin.
Plant your seedlings about three inches apart but be prepared to pull a few of the clusters if they start overcrowding each other. Choose a spot with full sun or partial shade for optimal growth and water them regularly. For harvesting, your carrots may take 60 to 80 days to be ready, and you’ll have a good sense of when to uproot one because the top will be full and green. Just pull one carrot to make sure it looks full-sized and if so, start collecting your crop. You will benefit from the fiber, potassium, manganese, niacin, and vitamins A, B6, and C that they offer, in addition to carotenoids, which have been shown to provide some protection from age-related macular degeneration and resulting vision loss.
Cucumber seedlings need ample sunlight to thrive, so choose your planting spot well and set them about 12 inches apart. Setting up a trellis will provide space for their vines to branch out, but it is not required to successfully grow your cucumbers. With regular watering, your crop should be ready in approximately 50 to 65 days. Cucumbers are rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and free-radical fighting antioxidants.
Choose a variety of green beans that grows in a bush, unless you want to erect a trellis to provide space for a vine. Beans require ample sunlight and regular watering and they should be planted approximately six inches apart. If you see any signs of shriveling in the plants, they are not getting enough water. You should end up with a nice crop of green beans in about two months, and they are an excellent source of iron, zinc, fiber, potassium, and folic acid, and they even offer some protein.
Spinach grows well in either full sun or a lightly shaded area, spaced about eight inches apart. Your plants will be ready to harvest and bring to the table in approximately 40 to 50 days. Spinach is high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folic acid. Plus, it is one of the best sources of lutein/zeaxanthin and has been found to promote eye health, lowering the risk of developing cataracts and preventing glaucoma.
Pick whatever variety of tomato you like best and buy some seedlings at a nursery. Plant them in a very sunny area and space them at least 18 inches apart. Water the plants regularly and when the tomatoes turn their reddish hue and achieve their typical size, in about two to three months, they will be ready to gather and enjoy. Tomatoes are full of iron, magnesium, fiber, potassium, niacin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and lycopene. And tomatoes may help you breathe easier, as they have been shown to fight age-related damage in the lungs.
The quality and flavor of homegrown vegetables is fabulous and once you see that it’s really not difficult, you’ll want to expand your garden every year.