Yard and Garden: Starting a Vegetable Garden

Find a good site and grow what you need

April 9, 2021, 2:18 pm | Ajay Nair, Cynthia Haynes

AMES, Iowa -- During the COVID-19 pandemic, gardening has increased greatly in popularity. People are home more and eager to grow some of their own food. Below are a few frequently asked questions on how to start a home vegetable garden, answered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulture specialists Ajay Nair and Cindy Haynes. Also included are several links to ISU Extension and Outreach publications for more information.

Planting a garden.What is a good site for a vegetable garden?

Vegetables grow best in well-drained, fertile soil. The garden site should also receive at least six to eight hours of direct sun each day. Avoid shady sites near large trees and shrubs. Most vegetable crops will not produce well if they don’t receive sufficient sunlight. The site also should be fairly level to avoid soil erosion problems and free of difficult-to-control weeds, such as Canada thistle and field bindweed. Access to a water source for irrigation during the growing season is important.

What if I don’t have enough space for a large vegetable garden? Can I grow vegetables in smaller plots or containers?

Yes, many vegetables can be grown in small plots or in containers. Consider selecting more compact or dwarf varieties of vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, etc., for these situations.

What are some easy-to-grow vegetables?

A number of vegetables are relatively easy to grow. Peppers, bush beans, leafy greens and even tomatoes often make the easy-to-grow vegetable lists. But also be sure to select vegetables that you are most likely to eat, as you are more likely to properly maintain them.

What is the difference between cool season and warm season vegetables?

Cool season vegetables prefer cool daytime temperatures, while warm season vegetables prefer warmer daytime temperatures. Cool season vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, spinach and lettuce will tolerate light frost, whereas warm season vegetables like tomatoes and peppers are not frost tolerant. Cool season vegetables can be planted in mid-April in central and southern Iowa. Warm season vegetables should not be planted in Central Iowa until mid-May. Some short-cycle cool season vegetables can be planted again in late summer for fall harvest.

For more information on growing a wide range of vegetables, visit the Horticulture and Home Pest News website.  

Nair can be reached at 515-294-7080 or nairajay@iastate.edu. Haynes is available at 515-294-4006, or chaynes@iastate.edu.


Original photo: Planting a garden.

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