Carrots are not difficult to grow in the vegetable garden. Like many root crops, they are biennials, meaning they grow the first year and flower and set seed the second. Carrots need to be dug before they begin to form flower stalks or they will become hard, bitter and woody.
Grow carrots from seed. They don’t like to be transplanted so thin seedlings so there is space between plants for each to develop without crowding its neighbor.
Give carrots a rich, moist – but not wet – soil. They like compost but manure will cause roots to fork. Remove stones and plant them where nothing will interfere with roots growing downward. There are short-growing varieties that are best for stony or shallow soils.
Carrots grow attractive feathery foliage and can be grown among other garden plants if you don’t have a vegetable garden. They will need to be dug when they are large enough to be eaten, so if you plant them among other plants be sure to make sure you have room to dig without injuring their neighbors. You can also grow them in pots so long as they have enough depth for the long roots to grow uninhibited. Harvest them when they are big enough to be eaten. Younger carrots may be smaller, but they are tender and tastier than the older giants.
Not only are fresh carrots flavorful, but they are rich in vitamins. Look for wide, short, or round varieties or try one of the colorful cultivars in red, purple, yellow or white instead of the usual orange. Enjoy your garden carrots raw, cooked or store them in a cool dark place for the winter.
As the prices of fresh vegetables soar and the safety of commercially cultivated crops comes into question, there is no better time than now to grow your own vegetable garden. If you don’t have a lot of space or time to spend growing your own edibles, you can still build a small vegetable garden. There are many ways to do this, so here are just some ideas on how to build a small vegetable garden that will reward your efforts.
Find a location in the garden — front or back yard or patio — in full sun. Make sure it is easily accessible for maintenance and harvesting. If you have to hike to crop food, you may not use your vegetable garden enough. You can build a vegetable garden directly into/onto the ground, or, if you don’t have that space, you can build a vegetable garden using containers or a container concept. A small space garden can be adapted to many different forms and formats with a little imagination.
Outline your shape. Design it so it enhances your space. A well designed vegetable garden can look good enough to go in a front yard or decorate a back patio. Much will depend on the materials you choose. For example, if you use interesting materials for containers, your garden can create its own sculptural effects. You can even add decor like a waterfall or container water garden. Or if you build a raised garden planter that curves along the side of a patio with ornamental blocks or stone, it can be highly decorative. Raised beds are particularly useful in dry or wet soils, areas with poor soils or tunneling pests.
Convert a large receptacle or build your own form into a vegetable garden by punching drainage holes in the bottom, adding a two to three inch layer of broken clay pot shards or 3/4″ gravel and filling the rest with a rich loam. If your tub or form is not decorative you can paint it or edge the front of your vegetable garden with showy cascading flowers.
The easiest way to build a small vegetable garden is simply to carve out a small area of your garden and plant your edibles, amending the soil to make it as rich as possible. Better yet, building a small raised vegetable garden will be easier to care for, stay safer from pets and wild critters, and can be made of decorative materials so it makes a statement of its own in the garden.
Always start by choosing a spot where your edibles will get at least 6 hours of full sunshine. Look at the space you have and sketch out a shape that will look attractive (and be reasonably easy to build) in the spot you chose. It’s always wise to draw your ideas out on paper first where changes only require an eraser! Design the shape so you will have easy access to all parts of the planter — including the middle. And make sure you have a water source convenient.
In areas where gophers cause damage, you can place a sheet of 1/2″ hardware cloth or similar material over the bottom of your planter to bar their entry from below. Sides can be made of rot-resistant wood, vinyl, bricks, fitted cement blocks or any other interesting, convenient or decorative material that will form a solid wall.
You can fill your planter with nice rich organic soil and you won’t have to deal with digging or amending the local soil.
You can then pipe in water inside the planter or slip in a drip irrigation line over the outside walls. By focusing water in this confined space, you’ll avoid water run-off and wastage.
If you prefer lower sides — 18″ to 2′ high, you may want to put a decorative fence around the top to deter wild animals or curious pets. If you build it higher, the fencing will be more optional. You can also add trellises or single-sided fences for growing up twiners like beans and peas.
No matter where or how you build your vegetable garden, you will want to use a rich soil with lots of humus and organic material. Vegetables are heavy feeders and they will grow best with plenty of water, good drainage, sun and nutritious soil. Whether built on soil or a solid base, always make sure you have good drainage. Crocking and gravel make good base layers for drainage and if you are in an area that can flood naturally, build in drainage pipes to conduct standing water away from your vegetable garden for potential winter storms. Also consider what kind of watering you want; low emission sprinklers or drip. Most vegetables and fruits will not forgive drying out — even once — so make sure you build your vegetable garden close to a hose bib for occasional supplementation.
Having a small vegetable garden will not only help feed your family with more flavorful, healthy food and herbs, but it can be a decorative asset to your home and landscape. And building and maintaining it is a fun project for people of all ages. So, consider building a small vegetable garden of your own. Once it is built, you just plant, watch it grow and harvest!
Beets (known to some people as beetroots) come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors. Best grown from seed, you can grow beets that are round, long or flat. They can be deep purple, red, pink, white, orange, yellow, or banded with colors. The newer varieties tend to be sweeter than the older, red ones, but which you like is a matter of taste.
Like other root crops, pull seedlings that grow too close together to allow space for each plant to grow wide at the shoulders without bumping into a neighbor. Beet seeds often contain more than one seed inside so it is common for what looks like a single seed to grow two or more seedlings next to each other. Thin to just one. Thinnings do not like to be transplanted so don’t bother trying to rescue them. Since germination can be spotty, it is better to plant beets generously and then thin.
Good soil with plenty of compost kept moist will keep them happily growing with as much sunshine as possible. On stony or clay soils round beets will grow better than the deeper rooted varieties. Like other root crops, harvest them before they start to flower in their second year (typical biennials) or the roots will become stringy and tough.
An extra benefit to growing beets are the beet greens. All varieties grow edible, spinach-like leaves, although there are also varieties that are cultivated more for their leaves than their roots. Pick the young leaves and cook them the same as chard or spinach. Leaves are rich in iron and beet roots are filled with vitamins. Beets are colorful, nourishing and easy to grow in the home garden.
Vicia faba is the Latin name of the bean commonly known as the fava bean, broad bean, bell bean, field bean or tic bean. It is a member of the legume family with roots that fix nitrogen in the soil. Plant these beans from seeds since you are not likely to find them for sale as started plants. They germinate and grow easily. Unlike most other beans, fava beans grow best in cool temperatures making them a good winter crop in mild climates and fine for spring and summer elsewhere.
They grow into thick plants with remarkably showy flowers – stacks of long, white, pea-like blooms with unusual big black splotches – a color rarely seen in flowers. Pollinated flowers grow into long, soft, rounded, green pods with large beans. The pods are plush and velvety inside, creating a soft cushion for the beans.
Beans can be prepared from raw or dried seeds. Fava beans are an ancient food as they were cultivated in the Mediterranean area for thousands of years before the birth of Christ. Some few people have an inherited enzyme deficiency that can lead to a dangerous allergic response to fava beans. The condition is not common. Fava beans are favorite ingredients in many culinary dishes all around the world.
These beans are easy to grow and not grown as often as they deserve. They are attractive with showy flowers, taste delicious in a wide range of recipes and are highly nutritious. The Vicia faba is a fast-growing plant and enriches the soil where it has grown with nitrogen. Consider growing fava beans in your garden. They are very rewarding decorative and unusual vegetables.
Since fruit and vegetable gardens are escaping their traditional backyard homes and moving into front yards, edible plants are taking a new look at themselves. No one much considered the aesthetics of these plants, but suddenly the ordinary tomato and the practical snap bean are breaking into the fashion world.
As landscaping demands require gardens to become useful as well as beautiful, new design ideas are encouraged. This may require a little creativity, but a front yard fruit and vegetable garden can be both productive and artistic. In fact, the possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the designer. Here are some ideas that might get you thinking about creating your own edible masterpiece out of your front yard.
Like any picture, it’s best to sketch your idea out first. With an edible front yard it is probably more important than with the typical flower garden because your design has to be well thought through. Just as a painting can be created in different media, your landscape design can be ‘painted’ with less traditional plants. And like any new media, it is a good idea to either practice first with the new medium or at least plan out how you will get the best out of the new material.
Just like any other landscape design, start by figuring out what permanent features (hardscapes) you will want, how one area will relate to the next, add paths or transitions, figure out any systems that will need to be set into place (like irrigation), and decide where the biggest living plants (like trees and large shrubs) will go. Then you can add planter areas and finish with décor.
Growing fruits and vegetables usually requires at least a half day sun. Design your plantings so each individual plant gets the kind of light, water and sun it needs. This is no different from any other landscape design. Also use sprawling plants as groundcovers, to cascade over walls or to hang from ornamental baskets. Climbers like beans or even melons can clothe trellises, tee-pees or ramble over fences. Shrubs can form backdrops and small, neat plants are ideal to delineate edgings.
Since you will not want to do a lot of pruning to keep edible plants in controlled shape, use forms not only as supports and guides, but as artistic aspects of your garden. Raised garden beds can become artistic with wall decorations, murals or show off bright layers of paint. Build a wall with multicolored bricks, blocks, or wrap it in bamboo fencing. Cover a panel with a lively outdoor fabric print. Or spill ornamental flowers down the side to turn the most ordinary raised garden wall into eye-catching art. You can even develop color schemes to create a theme to your garden.
Speaking of art, you can make a theme garden out of your edible front yard by adding sculptures or fountains. (Try growing water cress in a water garden or plant Corsican mint or penny royal in a damp, shady spot for a lush green carpet.) Build pathways with colorful tiles or interesting stones. Mulch open areas with tumbled glass or colored gravel. Edible plants can be the filler for any artistic design you want to create.
You can keep the arrangement simple and use the plants for the design by carving your front yard garden into geometric patterns each filled with another edible plant. Or copy the elaborate concept of English knot gardens using a mixture of herbs and other low-growing fruits and vegetables.
Mixing common vegetables with flowers is also a good idea. Many common garden flowers are also edible, like the popular marigold, calendula and nasturtium. Some vegetables have colored foliage and showy flowers. Many fruit trees are as flamboyant in flower as non-fruiting ornamental trees. You can even design a theme garden by substituting food plants for the more traditional foliage or flower choices in an otherwise Japanese, Mediterranean, Southwestern or English styled garden.
What ideas can you come up with to turn your front yard into the envy of your neighborhood? Put your imagination to work. With a little planning and creativity, you can design a front yard fruit and vegetable garden that outshines your neighbors less productive landscapes. In fact, some edible gardens can be executed so cleverly that no one will even guess what you have planted until you offer to share your healthy, flavorful produce.
Now here’s an idea for people who want something different in their garden or people who want a vegetable garden in a limited space. How about growing your vegetables on a wall? Vegetable growing is fast becoming a major way to build a successful landscape or garden area.You have a whole choice of ways to make a fence or wall become both decorative and productive. You might want to try one of these.
One way to grow vegetables on a wall is to simply plant vines and trailing vegetables. Trailers can be grown in pots or troughs seated on top of a block wall or thick fence. Grow them so the plants spill over the containers and cover much of the surface below. Trailing edibles you can use are hanging tomatoes, asparagus pea, strawberries or squashes. You can also mix them with flowers like ivy geraniums or Million Bells to add more color.
Grow climbers up the fence or wall. Smooth surfaces can be scaled with the help of trellises or stakes, by tying plants on chicken wire or by embedding hooks or ties in the wood or cement. Wire and chain-link fences will form the perfect support for twining vines with no help at all. Good edible climbers are pole beans, Malabar spinach, peas, cucumber and watermelon among many others. To cover an ugly chain-link fence, smother it with grapevines or raspberry, blackberry or boysenberry plants. Sprinkle a little extra color by adding edible climbing nasturtiums.
Vegetable and fruit plants can be planted in the soil, in containers or in even decoratively painted window boxes along the base of the fence. Often a fence or wall will add protection from cold, heat and wind and help your edibles grow even better. You don’t need to be limited to climbing and trailing edibles, either. Try just planting a row of tall, narrow-growers to decorate an unattractive fence. Asparagus plant will offer a fluffy hedge appearance. Or add some herbs like angelica or fennel for colorful foliage with a lovely scent.
Another way to grow plants on walls is by setting up a vertical wall system. You can buy ready-made vertical wall systems to assemble yourself then plant them with vegetables. Or you can try some of the new ‘pocket’ gardens that are fabricated for attaching to a wall or fence. These pockets are like a whole wall-full of draped, flexible containers that drain naturally. Add a little soil to each pocket and you can grow an assortment of vegetables that do not need to be either trailers or climbers. Probably the best effect will be had by mixing different vegetables with an assortment of growth habits so the wall becomes not only productive, but decorative.
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