Following up on my recent post about the joys of direct-sowing garden seeds, I thought I'd offer a few suggestions today for easy veggies to direct-sow. Here are my top ten favorite easy veggies:
- Leaf Lettuce. Simply scatter the seed, cover with fine layer of soil or compost, and keep moist. You'll be harvesting dainty, flavorful leaves in about three weeks. It's a good idea to sow a fresh crop every couple of weeks to ensure that you have a constant supply.
- Spinach. It is best to harvest spinach young, when the leaves are about two to three inches long. To keep it from bolting in summer heat, try planting a heat-tolerant variety like 'Bloomsdale Long Standing.' As with lettuce, sow a fresh crop every few weeks.
- Zucchini/Summer Squash. You could start these indoors, but why? These prolific plants germinate very well once the soil has warmed a bit. Direct sow them after your last frost date.
- Radishes. Sow these anytime to enjoy in salads and on crudite platters. Be sure to give them even moisture. The greens are alos edible, and, if harvested when they are about two inches long, provide a slightly pepper zing to salads and sandwiches.
- Kale. My favorite kale is 'Lacinato' also known as "dinosaur kale." While kale is usually considered to be a cold season crop, I grow it successfully throughout the summer, harvesting the largest leaves fairly regularly. Young leaves are delicious raw in salads, and mature leaves can be cooked like spinach or added to soups.
- Beets. I've mentioned before that I don't really like beet roots, but I love the greens. They're very pretty in salads, and provide a bit of sweetness when mixed with other baby greens. Grow beets in loose soil, and keep them evenly moist; beets that are allowed to dry out often develop woody roots. Which is important if you actually plan to eat your beet roots...Please note that each beet seed is actually a cluster of seeds, so you'll have to do some thinning when the greens are a couple inches long. Thin to approximately two inches apart.
- Swiss chard. This is another green that grows well all summer in my zone 6 garden. Varieties such as 'Bright Lights' are just as beautiful as they are tasty. Chard does very well in containers as well as in traditional garden beds. It can be eaten sauteed like spinach, and the stalks can be eaten raw like celery (but it's tastier than celery as far as I'm concerned!) Give chard even moisture and harvest the outer stalks regularly to keep your plant producing all summer long.
- Beans. Whether you choose pole beans or bush beans, they are super-simple to grow. You often see recommendations to treat the seed with a bit of legume innoculant to increase yields, but in all honesty I seem to end up with too many beans even when I don't add the innoculant. Plant them after soil has warmed. Pole beans should be planted about six inches apart; bush beans can be planted three to four inches apart. You will need to provide a trellis if you plan to grow pole beans, which will reach six feet tall or more. Keep them evenly moist, and harvest the beans when they are thin and tender. If you leave them too long, they will get stringy and tough. Be sure to harvest regularly. Both bush and pole beans are prolific, and you may well end up with more than you can use. Luckily, beans freeze well, and you'll be happy to enjoy their fresh taste in soups and stews when winter arrives.
- Peas. Peas need cool weather to grow well, so they're an ideal spring or fall crop. You can select snow peas, snap peas, or shell peas, but they all have the same basic requirements: cool weather, full sun, trellis or other support to climb on, and even moisture.
- Cucumbers. Plant cucumbers once your soil has warmed in the spring. You can choose bush or vining types, slicers or pickling cucumbers. You'll need to provide a trellis for vining types, and be sure to give your cucumbers plenty of moisture, because cukes that are allowed to dry out often develop bitter fruits. Certain varieties, such as 'Bushmaster' even grow well in containers. For a different change of pace, try growing heirloom 'Lemon' cucumbers, which grow to lemon-sized yellow-striped fruits. They're delicious, and look great in a salad.
So, there you have it: ten veggies to direct-sow in your garden. In my next post, I'll have a list of annual flowers to direct sow in your garden.