The Backyard Vegetable Garden

Every year I plant at least three vegetable varieties and half a dozen herbs in my backyard garden. They are split between containers or embedded among my shrubbery and flowers. What’s lovely about this is the vegetables blend right in with the other plantings. For example, last year I planted zucchini alongside some dwarf evergreen bushes. The contrast in the foliage of the evergreen versus the zucchini leaves looked nice and the bonus came when the zucchini flowered. This single zucchini plant produced an abundance of fruit.

January is a good time to start thinking about seeds, seedlings and the timing of plantings. One of my favorite garden reference books is Mini Farming by Brett L. Markham. I often refer to this book for guidance and inspiration.

As you plan for your vegetable garden, it’s important to think about what you will plant and when you will plant. Chapter 7, Time and Yield is helpful because growing seasons vary wildly across the United States and the average temperature in most places in on the rise. When I first moved to New England, an entire crop of tender seedlings were frozen because the last frost in Connecticut is much later than the last frost in Maryland.

Selecting What and When to Plant

Every family has their veggie preferences. If you are new to backyard vegetable gardening, I would start with varieties that are disease resistant and easy to grow. I have had a good experience with cucumbers and zucchini. You can grow these from seeds right in your garden. It takes about 3 days for a cucumber seed to germinate and about 7 to 14 for zucchini. Starting seeds indoors is always an option. The benefit from starting your own seeds is you avoid bringing contaminated soil into your garden environment and you get a jump on the growing season.

You can also buy seedlings from a trusted source. In New Hampshire, I recommend Stout Oak Farm. Their annual seedling sale is May 22 to 24. They are certified organic and produce the most healthy, flavorful vegetables. Notice the date of the sale, late May, if you are in the south, you will purchase your seedlings much earlier.

Also think about “timed planting” that means you stagger the planting of seedlings across a few weeks in order to extend the growing season. Those of us with limited gardening space can produce a planting plan just like larger scale organic farmers do. The plan should consider germination time, maturity time and environment. For example, plant lettuce first before the heat of the summer, then radishes and follow with kale which loves cooler temperatures.