Vegetable Garden Best Bets

Below are listed some of the better suited vegetables for square foot gardening. For the sake of those who are new to gardening I'll start the list with some of the more gardener-friendly vegetables. Root crops are among the easiest to grow, so we'll begin there. Most root crops are well suited for square foot gardening, planted either directly in the garden, or in raised containers.



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Root Crops

If maximizing garden space is anywhere near the top of your priority list, then any of the root crops will be an ideal choice for the square foot garden.

Root crops are frost tolerant and, though the greens are commonly eaten in salads, the primary edible portion of the plant is underground, protected by soil and mulch. Roots are edible at practically any stage of maturity, so season length is less important than with other vegetables.


CarrotsNot only are Carrots one of the most popular and easiest vegetables to grow in a backyard garden, they are an ideal choice for a Square Foot Garden. As with some of the other root crops, most carrot varieties will allow 16 plants per square foot, four rows of four.

They do best in cooler weather. Plant in the early spring of fall, in a deep, loose, well turned soil that will drain but still retain moisture. A raised square foot garden is ideal for this vitamin rich root crop. Germination occurs at 6 to 18 days. Thin the young carrots soon, as soon as they've formed a small, edible sized root.

BeetsStop right there! Do not move on to the next vegetable! Not yet, anyway. Or at least not until finding out that you don't have to like beets to like beets. Anyone who likes spinach should love beets. Their young leaves are great in salads, and the older leaves are so similar to spinach that the two can be cooked together.

Beets are another ideal choice for the small garden. They prefer cooler climates and can sometimes survive a frost. Despite their proclivity to cold weather most beet varieties can withstand all but the hottest locations. They like full sun, but if necessary will grow in partial shade. Beets do best with pH levels of 6.2 to 6.8.

As with carrots, plants can be spaced 16 per square ft. Varieties range in color from gold to deep purple. Most of the plant is edible. Beet roots and greens can be harvested at any time, though the younger roots are more tender and have more flavor.

RadishesRadishes may be the easiest and fastest vegetable you will ever grow. Little planning and space is required. A square foot will contain 16 plants, but any spare couple of inches of ground between larger plants will provide a few extra radishes within 3 to 4 weeks.

Beginning in early spring, plant seeds a half inch deep. Successive plantings every week or so will bring a continuous harvest. There are over 200 varieties available in every color and shape imaginable.

Sweet PotatoDon't be afraid to try Sweet Potatoes in a square foot garden. The “bush” varieties, such as the "Porto Rico Sweet Potato,"can be grown within limited spaces. One or two to the square foot planted at the garden’s perimeter should work. The sweet potato is a warm weather vegetable that requires a lengthy frost free season—100 to 125 days.

HorseradishHorseraish seeds are difficult to find, but the better nurseries will oftencarry young plants or "sets." Horseradish is a perrenial root crop that will take over your garden if you let it. Therefore, it is not a natural candidate for square foot gardens, but it is possible to sufficiently limit their growth within the confines of a raised garden bed. Plant in the early spring in order to harvest the same year. Otherwise plant in the fall

Since Horseradish do best in loose, well-drained soil, a raised square foot garden is ideal for this vitamin rich root crop. They don't do well in acidic soil. An optimum pH range would be 6 to 6.5



Leafy and Miscellaneous Salad Vegetables...

LettuceThe various types of "leaf" or "loose-leaf" lettuce, such as Black-seeded Simpson and Oak Leaf are the most commonly planted by backyard gardeners. Just behind them in popularity would be Butterhead or Romaine. Butterhead produces tender leaves with a distinctive flavor in a small loose head. Romaine has an upright elongated head. Crisp head varieties, such as the "Iceburg" types seen in supermarkets are more difficult to grow and are suited for colder climates and won't normally do well elsewhere.

Lettuce is best grown in the cooler months. Spring and fall are ideal. Lettuce seeds are so small that thinning will be necessary. The outer leaves of loose leaf varieties may be picked and used as needed. Start your lettuce in succesive plantings to ensure a continual harvest.

SpinachSpinach is another vegetable that can be planted successively, beginning in the early spring, for a continuously harvested crop. Spinach does a little better in cool weather and in warm climates partial shade will probably benefit the plants. It is an ideal candidate for the square foot gardening method. Like beets, spinach requires 4" spacing, so you can fit four plants within one of your garden squares.

Green OnionsGreen Onions/Scallions - Why the slash? Well, the definitions, I suppose, would depend upon who is doing the defining. Many people say that a green onion is simply how we, in this country, refer to a scallion. Others will tell you that a scallion is a slightly less mature version of the green onion, and that a green onion will have developed a barely perceptible bulb. At any rate, neither is a distinct plant. If left alone, both

will eventually become full blown onions. "Green" onions are among my favorite plants to grow. During certain months nurseries will stock onion "sets." Seare simply small bulbs, usually less than an inch in diameter. As you might imagine they mature much more rapidly than plants grown from seed. Since you won't be allowing full onion bulbs to form, you can place 16 green onions per square. But, since they take up such little space, you can put a set in any space square inch in the garden. A week to ten days is all they need. Plant a few sets every day and never run out of green onions.

Tomatoes** There is an abundance of Tomato growing information on the internet, so I'll just point out that Tomatoes, the bush type, do well in a raised square foot garden. Among the most popular of cultivated plants, tomatoes are technically a fruit that is usually prepared as a vegetable. There are roughly 7500 types of cultivated tomato, ranging in color from yellow to red, purple and black.

Cucumber**Cucumbers probably originated in India roughly 3000 years ago, making their way to Europe in the 6th or 7th centuries A.D. Despite the asteriks, some of the bush varieties of cucumber can be grown in square foot gardens, either at the perimeter or in containers.

Cucumbers thrive in full sun and nutrient rich soil. Mulch frequently. Pick cucumbers at leasgt every other day to promote continual production.

Bell PeppersAs with all peppers, Bell Peppers are a wrm weather plant. In my experience in California, where in some areas 110 to 115 degree temperatures are not uncommon in August and September, Bells thrive and even seem to do best in those hottest months. In cooler climates you may want to start the plantrs indoors in the spring, moving them to the garden once it gets warm.

Peppers are a good candidate for a square foot garden, but you won't want to crowd them. One pepper per square will be fine, and there's no need to seperate them or grow them in containers.
In addition to full sun peppers prefer moist soil, so using mulch is a good idea. The plants will mature in 70 to 90 days. The same information holds true for other varieties of sweet pepper, such as Sweet Banana Peppers, Pimentos and Cherry Peppers.

Most peppers start out green, then change colors as they mature. Bells are now available in practically every color in the rainbow-- white, yellow, orange, red, chocolate brown. Red bells are not a distinct type; they're simply a muture Bell Pepper. Harvested earlier, they would have been Green Bells.

EggplantFor most people the word Eggplant brings to mind a large, oblong, purple/black vegetable that through some culinary transmutation becomes an Italian dish utilizing parmesan cheese. The good news for gardeners is that the image at left represents only a very small percentage of available vegetables. Eggplants now come in every conceivable shape, size and color.

Eggplants are easily grown. They are nightshade family members and can be grown in the same manner as tomatoes. The one thing they can't tollerate is cold, so eggplants are often started from seed indoors, then transplanted once there is absolutely no chance of frost.




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