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How to Start a Vegetable Garden
Prepare soil for seedlings and seeds with a trowel. Harvest lettuce, basil, and chives with scissors.
Growing Lettuce and Radishes
Plant these veggies by patting seeds into the ground in the spring about 6 to 8 weeks before your region's average last frost. Seed websites and packets describe lettuce types by season, telling you what to grow when, depending on where you live. Seeds are fast-growing, so you'll need to wait only a few days before they sprout. You can pull up radishes once they're mature and cut or pick greens frequently to encourage new growth. When the weather gets hotter, the lettuce plants mature and bloom, or "bolt," making them taste bitter. For a crop that will thrive later in the season, try a more heat-tolerant variety such as Lettuce Looseleaf Heatwave, $3.75, burpee.com.
Growing Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Chives
Get a jump on your patch by planting already-started seedlings. You can order these plants online but common varieties are easily found at nurseries and garden centers. Tomatoes and basil are heat lovers and are damaged by frost or prolonged cool weather so put them in the soil when it warms up (nighttime temperatures should steadily remain above 45 degrees).
What Seed Packets to Buy
Try these picks from our pro, Rosalind Creasy, but don't be afraid to play around with other types.
Simpson, red salad bowl, oakleaf, kale
Try: Mild Mesclun Mix Greens available at gurneys.com
Baby lettuces, mild chicory, endive, and arugula
Try: Paris Market Mix available at reneesgarden.com
Sweet, crisp, ruffled red leaves
Try: Rubane Romaine available at johnnyseeds.com
White, pink, and red round radishes
Try: Easter Egg II available at reneesgarden.com
White radishes ready to harvest in 30 days
Try: Icicle available at gurneys.com
What Seedlings to Buy
Try these picks, also from Rosalind Creasy.
Quarter-size, golden orange tomatoes
Try: Sun Gold available at burpee.com
Thumb-size red tomatoes
Try: Juliet available at whiteflowerfarm.com
Basil with big fragrant leaves
Try: Summerlong available at burpee.com
Try: Genovese available at garden centers
Chives with mild onion taste and purple flowers
Try: Common chives available at garden centers
Originally published in the May 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine.