The Right Garden for You
Start your own backyard-to-table movement by planting veggies you know you’ll eat.
Few summer pursuits are more gratifying than watching garden plants you’ve nurtured from seedlings sprout and produce vegetables that then make it into your mealtime rotation. Less gratifying? Having such an overabundance of produce that you can’t possibly eat it all. Or worse, miscalculating what you and your family might actually like to consume, so you end up with piles of untouched zucchini when you would have preferred tons of tomatoes.
To grow the kind of garden that suits your tastes—literally—use this handy guide to plot the ideal patch. The result: a harvest of veggies you’ll eagerly cook and eat, without needless waste. (Of course, the exact amount of vegetables produced by your garden will vary according to factors such as climate, plant variety, and growing techniques.)
Italian-food aficionados: If your family includes red-sauce fans, tomatoes should clearly be central in your garden. Experiment with different types, like beefsteak, Italian plum, and cherry tomatoes. You can also grow other sauce components and/or pizza toppings, such as peppers, onions, and spinach. Rounding out your Italian-food-friendly plot: herbs such as basil and oregano.
Salad lovers: For families who like to eat greens, growing a host of them will make filling your nightly bowl fresher and more fun. Good options include arugula, romaine, and butter lettuce. A head lettuce plant typically produces only one head, but if you pick just the outer leaves on leafy varieties, such as red leaf lettuce, the plants will keep producing, says Melinda Myers, a horticulturist and gardening expert in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
Meat-and-potato maniacs: Mostly traditionalists at your table? Consider planting hearty veggies such as potatoes, onions, and carrots. Most onion varieties produce one bulb per plant, and carrot seeds yield one carrot each, says Myers. Plentiful and versatile side dish veggies, such as summer squash and zucchini, are smart options too.
Stir-fry fans. If your crowd will go for anything that comes out of a wok, get those tossable veggies planted. Among the best: broccoli, onions, and peas. And don’t forget this stir-fry seasoning staple: garlic. A single pound of garlic bulbs will yield 4 to 8 pounds of harvestable garlic.