With the economy still behaving beastly, let's look at one way you can help your wallet. Grow your own vegetables! Growing vegetables is fun, and as easy as one, two, three.
Rule one. Grow what you like. Most Americans eat only a single serving of vegetables per day. This is despite the fact that most of the teeth in our mouth, and the longest stretch of our digestive system, are designed to deal with vegetative matter. Grow what you like best to eat, since homegrown tastes better than store bought, you may expand to two or more servings per day.
Rule two. K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Silly! Start small. You were undoubtedly envisioning a huge bed with rows of carrots and cabbages. You could do that, but why bother? Get some big plant pots, put them where they will get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day, then fill them with potting soil. The potting soil is the most expensive part of the operation, but good soil grows good plants.
Rule three. Keep the tiny little babies moist while they get established. Seeds and seedlings may need twice a day moisture in summer until they are big enough and have enough roots to drink only once a day. A good potting soil helps keep them moist.
One, two, three. It really is that simple. Now here are some additional details in case you are the detail-oriented type.
Now is the time for a fall garden. The fall garden includes things that can stand frost (due after Oct. 15), or will be ready before that date. Thus, if you like tomatoes, get seedlings from the nursery and grow them now. You should have a fine fall crop of tomatoes. (For tomatoes from seed, start indoors in February.) Other plants that may not survive the frost but you still have time to grow include peppers, bush beans, winter squash and zucchini.
Fall plants that survive frost include mostly leafy and root crop vegetables. Artichokes, arugula (also called roquette, Italian lettuce), beets, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chives, collard greens, endive, garlic, horseradish, jicama, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce (head and leaf types), mesclun mix, mizuma, mustard greens, onion (seed ok too), pak choy (another kind of Chinese cabbage), parsnip, potato, radish, raduccio, scallion (green onions), shallots, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip.
Last, but not least, is a plant that will need more room — peas. Unless you have many large pots, they will need to go into the ground. Everything else can be started now, but mid-September is the time to plant peas.
Pot size and depth depends on what you plant in it. Rule of thumb, the pot should be as deep as the plant will be tall. Tomatoes and peppers do best in pots 2-1/2 feet deep, or greater. Likewise for squash and other pumpkin family members. Shallow pots, around a foot and a half deep are fine for most leafy vegetables, like lettuce, spinach, and chard. Go two feet for broccoli, beans and Brussels sprouts.
Carrots do better in deep pot unless you plant the small ones. Thumbelina type carrots can be grown in six-inch deep pots, making them a great kid project. Warning! Tiny pots dry out very quickly. You need to water smaller pots more often or the kid project will turn into a discussion about death. Incidentally, carrots like a soil with extra sand in it for best performance and root formation.
Grow what you like. Keep it small and simple. Make sure you water as needed. As easy as 1-2-3. Happy veggie gardening.
Jacqueline has been gardening in the Southwest since childhood. Dr. Soule has been writing articles about how to garden successfully in our area for over two decades. Look for her column in these pages every week.