Once your soil is ready for planting — meaning it is dry, free of ice crystals and crumbles easily — you can start planting spring vegetables, Eartheasy says. Early-spring crops offer the makings of a great salad: lettuce, mustard greens, Swiss chard, peas, spinach and leeks. To keep the table stocked with healthy, homegrown vegetables for months at a time, add varieties that take a longer to mature, such as broccoli, cabbage, radishes, kale, onions and new potatoes. “If you expect a hard frost, cover seedlings overnight with anything you have on hand: an overturned bucket or cardboard box, large flowerpot, a portable garden cloche, or a clod frame.”
If you’re starting your first serious vegetable garden, you’re in for a treat. Fresh-picked produce tastes better than store-bought, says a beginner’s guide from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Be sure to pick a good location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day; features soft, rich soil and good drainage; and won’t be disturbed easily by winds or foot traffic. Start small to ensure you don’t create more work (or more of a single crop) than you can handle. Give your plants enough room to grow, and observe each crop’s watering requirements carefully. And finally, choose vegetables that are easy to grow in your area and that you like to eat, and you’ll be hooked in no time.
During World War I and II, many families in the United States planted victory gardens to reduce pressure on the public food supply and aid in the war effort. Today, consider growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs for relief from the high prices of factory-farmed produce, says FamilyFoodGarden.com. For the ultimate in victory garden foodstuffs, consider crops that can withstand early frosts such as potatoes, cabbage, carrots and radishes. For extra flavor, try onions, garlic and herbs. And to have bountiful produce without a lot of work, try perennial or self-seeding plants such as rhubarb, kale and spinach.
Planting a garden with vegetables you buy and eat on a regular basis can help maintain your healthy diet while saving money, says the Thrifty Little Mom. Her garden selections include spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers and zucchini, which can be expensive to buy in stores and taste best when harvested fresh from the vine. Keep your garden simple by dedicating plots or raised beds to growing, and remember that many vegetables must be planted in full sun to thrive, she adds. Avoid waste by canning, freezing or giving away some of your all-organic, home-grown bounty.