Eating fresh-picked corn or vine-ripened tomatoes is a life-altering experience. But where do you start? How do you choose from racks of seeds, catalog after catalog and rows upon rows of nursery seedlings? Successful small-scale farmers know what and when to plant, and how to start the crops.
Grow only those vegetables you enjoy eating. Give priority to those prized for incredible flavor when eaten fresh from the garden: sweet corn, beans and peas, tomatoes and young spinach, among others.
Choose crops that require less room if you have a small vegetable garden or grow vegetables in a container. Lettuce is a great pot plant, and 'Patio' or 'Tumbler' tomatoes will grow well in a hanging basket. Plants that climb and vine, such as cucumbers and pole beans, can be trained up a trellis to take up less room horizontally. Tuck herbs and parsley into flower beds.
Buy seeds at nurseries or by mail order starting just after the New Year, when the selection is freshest. Look for seed packets marked as having been packed for the current year. Buy vegetables online and from mail-order seed companies for a far greater selection than you'll find at neighborhood nurseries. Burpee (burpee.com), Johnny's Selected Seeds (johnnyseeds .com), Park Seed Company (parkseed.com) and Thompson and Morgan (thompson-morgan.com) are a few long-established sources.
Sow seeds of colorful radishes or giant sunflowers to introduce children to the satisfaction and fun of growing their own food. Or lean 3 stakes together, tie them together at the top, and train pole beans up the stakes. Voila! A bean teepee.