How to Grow Fresh Veggies and Herbs at Home

The sun’s out, the birds are singing, and the fresh scent of spring warmth is in the air. What better way to enjoy seasonal fare than by growing the ingredients yourself? This spring, add your skillful touch to home-grown veggies and herbs to make your dishes all the more special.

Growing herbs and vegetables can be simple and rewarding, whether you’re using raised beds or container gardens with new soil, or the soil in your yard. Of course, you’ll want to be sure your soil is safe for growing, [1a] particularly if you live in an urban area. Once your growing location is primed and ready, it’s time for a spring awakening — brush off your gardener’s gloves and get growin’!

moneymagpie_grow-1

Let it grow

1. Cucumbers

There’s nothing like feeling “cool as cucumber” on a hot day! These tasty and refreshing veggies are fairly easy to grow, as long as they are provided with plenty of moisture (especially around the time they flower), so water them deeply either once or twice a week!

To retain moisture, try organic mulch, which also helps to block out weeds. While you should always grow cucumbers in a sunny spot, too much heat can be a problem. Keep them cool with a natural shade (taller plants!) or a shade cloth to partially block the sunlight. [1]

Depending on the type of cucumber you grow, they’re typically ready to be harvested within 50 to 70 days. When it’s time to pick your cucumbers, those with skilled hands can turn the cucumber parallel to the vine and snap. Otherwise, cut the stem with scissors or pruning shears — a little help from our trusty tools always gets the job done!

2. Corn

Just one bite of rich, sweet corn is enough to put a smile on your face. Who could forget flavorful childhood memories of creamed corn or juicy corn on the cob? Revamp your favorite recipes with the help of your own garden. Seeds are best planted in the spring where the soil is warm. If need be, warm the ground with a black plastic cover and plant the seeds through holes, about 1 to 2 inches deep and 9 to 12 inches apart. [2]

Make sure that your soil is well-drained, full of organic material, and fertilized before you plant. As with cucumbers, mulch helps to retain moisture and defend against the damage of weeds. Water your corn with about an inch of water a week by watering at the surface of the soil with a soaker hose or drip irrigation. [3] Pro tip: make sure not to spray the corn from above!

When corn silks crop up, wait three weeks and begin to check for ripeness by pulling back part of the husk and piercing a kernel. If there’s liquid, it’s ready to be enjoyed! [3]

3. Tomatoes

We couldn’t write about growing in the Garden State without our all-time favorite Jersey tomatoes! Who can resist that juicy bite on a sandwich or in a salad? Tomatoes are surprisingly easy to grow as well. In order to grow the tastiest, the soil must be supplemented by lots of nutrients: organic compost, manure, and even eggshells, and insulated with a 3-4 inch topper of straw or grass mulch. [7]

The key ingredient to a hearty tomato is roots. More roots mean lots of water and nutrients — and incredible tomatoes! Bury your tomato plants 2/3 of the way into the ground to ensure that strong root production. You’ll want to water your plants at the roots too, with about 1 inch every week. [7] Depending on the type of tomato you choose, whether Beefsteak, Roma, or Cherry, harvest times vary, but typically take around 50 days. It sounds like a lifetime for a juicy and delicious tomato, but trust that it’s worth the wait!

Aromatic herbs to enhance a meal

1. Basil

This magical herb not only elevates meals and beverages with its peppery and minty taste, it also helps fight infections and general feelings of sickness. Talk about a two-for-one! Basil is relatively easy and quick to grow, as long as the seeds are planted in well-drained soil and kept in the sun. Add a rich compost to the soil to keep it moist! [4]

It’s best to plant basil near other herbs or vegetables that require similar heating and watering, like parsley or tomatoes (did someone say Caprese salad?) When the soil becomes dry, water basil at the base and make sure to avoid the leaves.

Basil grows rapidly, and it’s important to prune the leaves regularly to ensure a large and bushy plant — even if (gasp) you don’t intend to use the leaves. Harvesting basil and trimming it back is one-two-three easy. Clip the basil stem right below a point where two larger leaves meet, and voila. For the tastiest product, get snipping before the plant flowers! [4]

2. Chives

The delicately bitter taste of chives is one that can’t be beat. Sprinkled on foods like toast, fish, soups, and salads, this powerhouse plant packs a special punch. Planted from seeds, chives will take about a year to produce the amount you would want to eat. For quicker results this spring and summer, use purchased plants or transplants. [5]

Chives should be planted in warm soil and full sun, and watered very well. Be sure to fertilize with a slow-release mix before and during the planting process. Once the chives grow to be about a foot tall, it’s time to harvest!

At this point, you can snip off what you need. Even better, chives grow beautiful lavender and white flowers that can be eaten or simply used as decoration! [6] Not to mention, they’re sure to spruce up the look of your garden.

Vegetables, fruits, and herbs are vibrant and nutritious treasures of the Earth, with versatile tastes, health benefits, and countless options for preparation. Growing them yourself brings a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. We know it’s important to use local produce, and for the spring and summer seasons, you can’t get any more local than your own back yard. Who knows, this fun and rewarding activity might start to “grow” on you!

[1a] https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-03/documents/urban_gardening_fina_fact_sheet.pdf
[1] https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/cucumbers
[2] https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/corn/how-to-grow-corn.htm
[3] https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/corn-growing-guide
[4] http://www.thekitchn.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-growing-basil-221272
[5] http://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/gardens/chives
[6] https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/chives/growing-chives.htm
[7] http://gardenbedsnj.com/growing-tomato-plants-in-nj.html

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