How to Start a Vegetable Garden

Why not get down to earth with these tips for gardening and growing your own vegetables? It's easy, deliciously rewarding, and wallet-friendly.


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Gardening Tools

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Prepare soil for seedlings and seeds with a trowel. Harvest lettuce, basil, and chives with scissors.


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Growing Lettuce and Radishes

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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.


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Growing Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Chives

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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).


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What Seed Packets to Buy

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Try these picks from our pro, Rosalind Creasy, but don't be afraid to play around with other types.

Simpson, red salad bowl, oakleaf, kaleTry: Mild Mesclun Mix Greens available at gurneys.com

Baby lettuces, mild chicory, endive, and arugulaTry: Paris Market Mix available at reneesgarden.com

Sweet, crisp, ruffled red leavesTry: Rubane Romaine available at johnnyseeds.com

White, pink, and red round radishesTry: Easter Egg II available at reneesgarden.com

White radishes ready to harvest in 30 daysTry: Icicle available at gurneys.com


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What Seedlings to Buy

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Try these picks, also from Rosalind Creasy.

Quarter-size, golden orange tomatoesTry: Sun Gold available at burpee.com

Thumb-size red tomatoesTry: Juliet available at whiteflowerfarm.com

Basil with big fragrant leavesTry: Summerlong available at burpee.comTry: Genovese available at garden centers

Chives with mild onion taste and purple flowersTry: Common chives available at garden centers

Originally published in the May 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine.