"I've learned that keeping a vegetable garden is worth a medicine cabinet full of pills."
Lettuce is my favorite vegetable to grow and eat and is probably the best suited for square foot gardening. It does not require much room and it does not seem to mind being a little crowded. As you can see from an actual picture of my lettuce plot to the left, I crowd the plants in! Contrary to popular belief, I believe lettuce is a very hardy plant and is easy to grow. Lettuce will grow better in the cooler spring and fall times of the year, but heat tolerant varieties of lettuce will grow in the summer with some shade protection. I start all lettuce seeds in my cold frame in small 1 1/2 inch plastic cells and transplant mature seedlings directly into the garden. I plant lettuce in small north-south rows because it is easier to measure the distance between plants by using row plantings. Slugs are the only insect pest of lettuce. The best way to control slugs is by vigilant handpicking, in the evening or early morning. See also my garden blog/journal entry about growing and harvesting lettuce: http://timssquarefootgarden.com/blog/?p=40
Salad Bowl - An All America Selection Winner and the best loose leaf type I grow. This is my top lettuce pick for the beginner gardener or the gardener who wants a zero maintenance lettuce plant. It is best to give these plants a little more room to grow (6-7 inches) than the rest of the lettuce varieties. Just a few plants will probably yield more than one person could eat. Better as a spring lettuce. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Green Ice - This is a fast growing loose leaf type. It is a super fast grower in my early spring garden. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Chicken Lettuce - An heirloom loose leaf lettuce, although it has a growth habit of a romaine type. Very early spring lettuce. Not very heat tolerant, so harvest in spring and remove the plants when the weather starts to warm up. Seed Availability: Limited
Sierra - The most versatile lettuce I grow. Very early in spring and is relatively heat tolerant, but flavor can turn slightly bitter when grown in warmer temperatures. It has very good cold tolerance and is an excellent fall lettuce. Listed as a romaine type in one catalog, but it has more of a large butterhead growth habit. Seed Availability: Limited
St. Blaise - An excellent romaine type that is particularly well suited for growing under row covers in both early spring and late fall. One of the best varieties for "extending" the lettuce growing season. An excellent choice for fall planting. Seed Availability: Limited
Buttercrunch - This All America Selection Winner is the standard by which all other butterhead type lettuces are judged. It grows well in any part of the growing season. Since it seems fairly heat tolerant, it is a good choice for warmer summertime plantings. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Esmeralda - This is a butterhead type that has a larger growth habit than Buttercrunch. A good spring lettuce. Seed Availability: Limited
Green Towers - This is my favorite romaine variety. This Harris Seeds exclusive is the fastest maturing of all the romaine varieties that I grow. It also shows good heat tolerance for those late spring plantings. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Paris White Cos - This is the largest, but slowest growing romaine variety that I grow, but it is worth the wait. No other romaine can compete with its crispness and size of leaf. A fully mature leaf from this plant will be as crunchy as a stick of celery, no kidding!! Seed Availability: Readily Available
Craquerelle du Midi - This is the best lettuce to grow in the warmer summer months. It will also grow very well throughout the rest of the growing season. An excellent "all season" lettuce variety with a growth habit of a small romaine. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Nevada - This is one of my favorite lettuce varieties for its flavor and texture. It is a French crisphead type and forms large open heads instead of the tight heads like the traditional iceberg. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Atoll - This French Batavia type has the growth habit very similar to Nevada. Texture and flavor is also like Nevada. It requires light for seed germination. Seed Availability: Limited
Summertime - This is a true crisphead lettuce type that is relatively easy to grow and is also fairly heat tolerant. This is my number one pick of all the true head lettuce varieties. This should be given a little more room to grow than most of the other lettuce types. Give this lettuce 7 inches between plants. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Red Deer Tongue - Relatively early spring lettuce. Buttercrunch type growth habit with 5 to 6 inch pointed leaves when fully mature. Seed Availability: Limited
Reine Des Glaces - French crisphead heirlom variety. Decent grower even with poor weather. This variety has wild pointy edges on the leaf margins. Bolts quickly with hot weather. Probably a better choice for fall planting. Seed Availability: Limited
Rouge De Grenoblouse - French crisphead variety, but seems to have more of a loose leaf growth habit and texture. A decent spring lettuce. Seed Availability: Limited
Jericho - Excellent heat tolerant romaine. Seems to take the heat when most of the other lettuce varieties have bolted. Slightly smaller plants than regular romaine, but this variety produces excellent "hearts of romaine." About as fast maturing as "Green Towers." Seed Availability: Limited
Winter Density - An upright growing butterhead variety. Will withstand a light frost. An excellent choice for fall planting. Seed Availability: Limited
Radishes are super easy to grow and fast maturing. It is the perfect plant if you do a lot of succession planting. One can usually harvest an early crop of radishes before the warm season plants need to go in.
Champion - This All-America selection winner is a really good performer in my garden. This radish does not get hot or woody when it reaches maturity as other radishes tend to do. Seed Availability: Readily Available
When I say peas I am talking about the shelling kind (sometimes called English Peas). They are fun to grow and nothing beats the flavor of freshly pick garden peas. They are best grown in the spring in the north and should be grown on a trellis. I recommend expandable or fold out temporary fences that can be taken down and folded up for easy storage. With reasonably good weather I can raise a crop of peas in the spring and a crop of bush green beans in the same spot in the summer/early fall.
Mr. Big Pea - This All-American selection winner is a great shelling pea that grows really big seeded peas. A strong trellis is a must if you plan to grow this variety. Not the fastest maturing variety, but certainly one the best for top yields. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Broccoli is a fun and unique plant to grow. The taste of fresh garden broccoli is far superior than any bought in the store!! Broccoli prefers the cool spring and fall temperatures, but will tolerate some heat if the soil is kept moist. Two crops of broccoli can be grown in the same plot during the growing season (spring and fall). The spring crop usually matures in late June and will produce one main head per plant with many side shoots during the following 2 to 3 weeks (depending on the variety). The major garden pest of broccoli is the cabbage worm, which I control with applications of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Broccoli is a relatively heavy feeder and will benefit from a side dressing of a good all purpose organic fertilizer about a month after seedlings have been transplanted out into the garden.
Packman - This is my favorite broccoli variety. It matures a little later than Green Comet, but it produces excellent size main heads with abundant side shoots after the main head is harvested. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Carrots can be grown in both the spring and late summer for fall harvest. I prefer growing carrots in the fall as they become sweeter as the weather cools. As with any root crop, carrots prefer loose fertile soil. They are an ideal crop for a raised bed. I use pelleted carrot seeds as they are easier to plant since the regular carrot seed is so small. The only disadvantage to sowing carrot seeds in the late summer is that they require moist soil to germinate, which is not normally present at that time of the year. I am usually able to keep carrots growing well into the fall by putting hoop houses over the plots.
Carrot Varieties I Grow:
Scarlet Nantes - This variety is fast maturing and is more blunt shaped than other carrot varieties. It is well suited for harder clay and rocky soils. Seed Availability: Readily Available
The 2001 garden season was the first time I grew cauliflower. I was impressed by how easy it was to grow (maybe it was beginners luck). Cauliflower is much like broccoli in that it prefers cooler growing temperatures, but it seems to take a little longer to mature than broccoli. Two crops of cauliflower can be grown within one growing season. I prefer to grow cauliflower as a fall crop, as I think it grows better in the progressively cooler fall weather. Again the major garden pest is the same as broccoli, the cabbage worm, which I control with applications of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Cauliflower is a relatively heavy feeder and will benefit from a side dressing of a good all purpose organic fertilizer about a month after seedlings have been transplanted out into the garden. I transplant cauliflower seedlings out into the garden in early spring.
Snow Crown - This All American Selection Winner performed very well in my garden, as you can see from the above picture. Since 2001 was my first year of raising cauliflower, it was the only variety that I grew. I was very impressed by how well the fall crop preformed. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Cabbage is very much like broccoli and cauliflower and grows best in the cooler weather of spring and fall, although it seems a little more heat tolerant than either broccoli or cauliflower. I like to grow the quick maturing varieties so I can harvest the plants to allow more room for the other maturing crops that are growing in the same plot. I usually only grow one spring crop, although one could grow two crops per growing season without much trouble. My spring crop of cabbage is usually ready for harvest around the 4th of July. Again the major garden pest of cabbage is the same as for broccoli and cauliflower, the cabbage worm. This insect is controlled with applications of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). I transplant cabbage seedlings out into the garden in early spring.
Dynamo Hybrid - This All American Selection Winner is described as a space saving variety. It seemed to have performed well in my garden, but because of it slow maturity (70 days) and small growth habit, was soon over run by my broccoli and brussels sprout plants. Seed Availability: Not Available
Tastie Hybrid - This cabbage variety is fast maturing (50 days) and is better suited for my garden plot because it grows fast enough to keep it from getting crowed out by the other crops. Seed Availability: Not Available
Everlast Hybrid - A very good performer in my garden. Fast maturing 2 to 3 pound heads at maturity. Seed Availability: Not Available
Golden Acre - Excellent Replacement for Everlast (which is no longer available) 58 days - Early, disease-resistant variety bears solid softball-sized 3- to 4-lb. heads. Compact plants are great for small gardens. Heads are tightly packed with ice green leaves. Sweet, green leaves are refreshing in salads. Seed Availability: Readily Available
There is nothing better than the taste of fresh celery from your garden. I like to eat fresh celery with french onion dip (YUM!!). I grow celery from seed and transplant out into the garden in late April or early May. Celery is somewhat hard to start from seed and is very slow growing. I usually start twice as many seeds than I need, because I always have some seedlings die every year. Once transplanted in the garden, Celery likes evenly moist and fertile soil. I usually mulch very heavy around the plants with dry grass clippings. Uneven soil moisture might cause the celery plants to develop "Black Heart" disease. You should shade the small transplants until the plants get established. Despite all of these factors, I still love growing celery. I like to harvest the outer mature stalks first and let the inner stalks continue to grow. In a normal growing season, I can harvest fresh celery from around mid to late July until frost. I freeze the celery leaves and some stalks and use them in soups and as a garnish on chicken and turkey.
Tango Hybrid: This is the only celery I have grown. It is a faster maturing variety than most other celeries (85 days) and it seems to grow well in my garden. Seed Availability: Limited
I started growing brussels sprouts as a novelty plant, but now I have come to appreciate them for their uniqueness and cold tolerance. I transplant my seedlings out in the garden in early spring making sure to plant them on the north side of the plot so they will not shade out the rest of my crops. They will be at least 5 feet tall when fully mature in the fall (see pictures above). Because they grow so tall, they will have a tendency to fall over if not tied up with long stakes. As the sprouts mature, the leaves should be pulled off to allow the sprouts more room to grow. I think brussels sprouts add visual interest in the fall garden, as they kind of look like miniature palm trees when all of their lower leaves and sprouts have been removed!! The sprouts are best left on the plant and harvested after a few hard frosts have improved their flavor. I also like to pick off the lower sprouts and leaves when the first ones start to form in mid summer. In mid September, I pinch off the new top growth which stops the vertical growth of the plant and causes the plant to put its energy into the sprouts already on the plant. Since brussels sprouts have such a long maturity time (about 85 days), they will benefit from a mid summer side dressing of a good all purpose organic fertilizer and a good soaking of water if the weather turns dry. Again the major garden pest of brussels sprouts is the cabbage worm, which is controlled with applications of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
Jade Cross - This All America Selection Winner is the only brussels sprout variety I have grown. It has performed well over the last 8 years I have grown this plant. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Bush green beans are a fantastic garden plant in terms of production and ease of growth. Bush green beans will produce quite well in a relatively small space. They are also a good crop to plant in a section that has already produced other spring crops. Most bush green beans are fast maturing and can continually be planted up to 2 months before the first fall frost date. The only drawback I have found with green beans is that it is the only vegetable crop I grow that I have to use non-organic pesticides on. This is the only way I can control the spotted and striped cucumber beetles and the Mexican bean beetles, short of covering them with row covers. I can usually control these beetles with 4 or 5 targeted light applications of Sevin per growing season. Contrary to some reports, I find that green beans, unlike other legumes, do very well without dusting the seeds with nitrogen fixing powders. I plant bush green beans 4 inches apart in small north-south rows 6 inches apart. This planting makes it easier to measure distances between seeds and the extra space between rows make cultivation a little easier.
Derby - This All American Selection Winner is my top performing green bean. The production of this variety is nothing short of outstanding every year! It is not the earliest maturing variety, but in my mind, it is the best. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Roma II - This bush green bean variety is a romano Italian flat pod type. The production of beans is not nearly as good as the Derby, but it has a fantastic beany flavor that I really like. I always grow 4 or 5 small rows of this variety specifically for fresh eating. Seed Availability: Readily Available
I started growing pole lima beans in 2005. The variety I have been growing is King of the Garden pole lima bean. You need to give these plants very strong vertical support. I have been saving seeds from my own plants since about 2008. I have found that these lima beans will out produce any bush lima bean and since they grow vertically, they do not take up too much room in the garden. If you like lima beans, you should try growing this variety. Seed Availability: Limited
A vegetable garden is jut not complete without some fresh sweet corn!! I grow corn (actually, my brother does) in one 4'x8' raised bed. Corn is planted in four staggered east-west rows. Corn is planted 11 inches apart in rows 13 inches apart. With this spacing a total of 34 corn plants can be grown in this plot. Almost any corn variety could be grown successfully in a plot of this size. The only problem is that it seems the squirrels like the corn as much as we do. The last few years, the squirrels have taken some of the corn. Starting in 2007 a small battery powered electric fence was installed to keep the squirrels out of the corn. The season is rounded out in this plot with some late summer plantings of fast maturing bush green beans.
Varieties of Corn I Grow:
NK-199 - Matures in 81-90 days and has blocky ears up to
8 inches long. This variety is certainly not the sweetest corn around, but
I like its unique corny flavor. This is a relatively tall corn variety
that puts out strong roots. Once the plant is established, it is not as
likely to be blown over by the wind as other smaller corn varieties have a
tendency to do. Seed Availability: Limited
Silver Queen - Matures in about 88 days. This is an outstanding white corn variety. Combines size, sweetness and lasting quality. Tall and attractive plants produce 8- to 9-in. ears with 14-16 rows of creamy white kernels. Seed Availability: Readily Available
I started growing cucumbers in 2005. I grow them on large square fold out tomato cages. These cages only stand about 4 foot high. I like the fast maturing varieties that I can harvest and then pull up when the plants are finished fruiting. I grow these mainly for pickling
Varieties of Cucumbers I Grow:
Eureka Hybrid - This is the variety I grew for 2005 and 2006. It was a very good performer for me with a very fast maturity. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Diva Hybrid - I have been growing this hybrid since 2007. It is an AAS 2002 winner and a fast maturing variety. An excellent variety for pickling. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Onions are a fun and a relatively easy plant to grow. I purchase plants from a mail order catalog and the plants are usually delivered in early April for direct planting into the garden. I plant onions in small north-south rows 4 inches apart in rows 6 inches apart. This plant spacing gives the onion a little more room to grow and allows for easier cultivation between rows. I apply a side dressing of a good organic fertilizer specifically for root crops about one month after setting the plants out.
Candy - I planted this onion variety for the first time, in 2001. This new hybrid is described as a "day-neutral" onion; meaning that it does not need a particular light requirement (short or long day) for best growing, but will grow equally well in all parts of the country. I have been very impressed by how well this onion has grown for me, year in and year out.. It also stores very well. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Red Candy - An "Intermediate-Day" red onion that matures fast and stores well!! 90 days - One of the deepest, brightest red onions available to the home gardener. Gorgeous color and a fantastic flavor. This favorite has deep red outer skins and beautiful inner rings with purplish edges and a full bite! Seed Availability: Readily Available
Egyptian Topsetting/Walking Onion - I have grown these unique perennial onions since 2006. You only need to initially buy a few handfuls of these little topsetting onions and they will multiply like crazy for years to come. I grow these exclusively for very early spring green onions, although some people will also pickle the small topset onions or use the very pungent mature plants. Culture: Plant the small topset bulbs 3 inches apart in mid to late fall for overwintering (if you are not planning on harvesting some for green onions, then plant them no closer than 5 or 6 inches apart). In early to mid spring, harvest every other plant for green onions and let the rest of the plants mature to full size. By late summer each of the remaining mature plants will have produced many small topsetting bulbs which should be harvested and stored until fall. Also at this time the very pungent parent plant may either be dug up and used or composted. One may also plant these topset bulbs in a perennial bed and let the plants spread out over multiple years, but be warned, they will take over an entire bed in not time as the topset bulbs fall over and root themselves (that is why they are also called walking onions). I prefer to dig the entire parent plant up every year and replant the new topsets each fall in the vegetable garden (usually in the seasonal bed rotation with the full sized bulbing onions). Ten to Fifteen mature plants should give you more than enough topsets to plant a 3' x 3' area in the fall. Seed Availability: Limited
I grow two types of peppers: Green (bell) peppers and hot chili peppers. Peppers are slow maturing, so I can only grow one crop in the same area during the entire growing season. I must admit to crowding these plants together more and more every year, but they do not seem to mind it so much. I like to place small tomato cages around each plant to help support the peppers as they ripen. This is especially important for the large bell peppers. I start all transplants in the cold frame in the spring and transplant out into the garden after all danger of frost is past. These are, by far, the slowest growing seedlings I start! However, once the weather warms up, these plants grow like crazy. These plants will definitely benefit from a good layer of mulch and a good drink of water every week (especially when the weather turns dry). These plants are very seldom bothered by insects.
Park's Karma Hybrid - Karma gets top ratings for its heavy yield, large 6- by 4-inch shape, showy dark-green-to-bright-red color, and thick walls.
Taste is outstanding. These peppers will do better if staked or caged due
to their high yield. Seed Availability: Limited
Sweet Banana - This sweet banana pepper matures in about 65 days and yields extremely well. Not bothered by insects or disease this pepper was an All American Selection winner in 1941 and continues to be popular today. Seed Availability: Readily Available
Super Chili Hybrid - This 1988 All America Selection Winner hot pepper variety is not only a very hardy plant, but is also a nice ornamental plant. Super Chili was the first hybrid chili pepper. The yields from these compact plants are outstanding. The pinky finger size red chili peppers are ideal for most uses. I use them, almost exclusively, to make hot tabasco like sauce and for dried crushed peppers. Seed Availability: Limited
Hungarian Wax/Hot Banana - This is an heirloom variety of a medium to hot banana pepper that grows really well for me. It matures in about 65 days and has outstanding flavor. This yellow colored tapered pepper turns red when fully mature. Seed Availability: Readily Available
What would a vegetable garden be without tomatoes? Tomatoes, in my opinion, are the easiest vegetable plants to grow. They seem to thrive on little or no attention. I water my tomatoes very sparingly, if at all, and they never seem bothered by insect pests. Staking or placing cages around plants is a must in a small square foot garden. If not, they will have a tendency to fall over and encroach into other adjacent growing areas. The bigger the cages, the better. It is best to find or make cages about 1.5 feet wide and 3 feet tall. I found a square galvanized steel cage from Park Seed that works really well and it folds up flat for easy storage. Bush tomato plants will also need to be located on the far north side of any plots so as to not shade out other vegetable crops. I start all my tomato seedlings in a cold frame and set out plants when the danger of frost is past.
Roma - This paste type variety is the only tomato variety I grow. I have been very pleased with both the yield and the hardiness of the Roma. This is an excellent tomato for sauces because of its low water content, but is also an excellent fresh tomato. I use these tomatoes almost exclusively for tomato sauces. Seed Availability: Readily Available
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