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    carrots

    Garden Planning: 6 Simple-to-Grow Vegetables

    Benjamin Kilbride, Editorial Assistant at The Old Farmer’s Almanac 

    The time has come to begin planning the garden and growing starters—choose plants that will be worth your while.

    Reach Up

    Sugar Snap Peas

    Recommended varieties: ‘Sugar Ann’ (52 days to maturity), ‘Early Snap’ (70 days), ‘Sugar Snap’ (70 days)

    Sugar snap peas are self-pollinating and cold-resistant, perfect as both an early- and late-season crop. Peas return nitrogen to the soil as part of their natural growing process, so they’re great to plant in garden beds where nitrogen-hungry crops such as spinach or kale have been planted in the past year. Sow sugar snap pea seeds 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart, with 18 to 24 inches of space between rows. Water peas profusely—they don’t mind wet feet and can become stunted in dry soil.

    Once sugar snap peas reach maturity, they will produce for 3 to 4 weeks, so be ready to harvest regularly. Pick pea pods off of the vine by gently twisting them at their base.

    Save sugar snap peas in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

    Cucumbers

    Recommended varieties: ‘Raider’ (50 days), ‘Sweet Success’ (55 days), ‘Straight Eight’ (58 days)

    Cucumbers are a vine crop and can be trained to grow up trellises and fence posts to save space. When planting cucumbers, pick a location that has well-draining soil and receives plenty of sunlight—sow seeds 1 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart in hills or rows. Provide cucumbers with plenty of water, especially on hot days.

    Harvest cucumbers when they are 6 to 8 inches long. Separate them from the vine by gently twisting or with a clean, sharp knife.

    Place cucumbers in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 

    Dig Down

    Carrots

    Recommended varieties: ‘Kaleidoscope Mix’ (60 days), ‘Touchon’ (70 days), ‘Autumn King’ (70 days)

    If given the proper growing conditions, carrots require little attention. They prefer cool temperatures, ranging from 55º at night to 75ºF during the day. Carrots like loose, well-draining soil, so turn over the earth to a depth of at least 1 foot before planting. Sow carrot seeds 1/4-inch deep in rows 6 to 12 inches apart. Once the seedling shoots begin to emerge, thin the carrots to 2 to 3 inches apart by pinching the tops off of any unwanted plants—pulling the entire plant out might disturb neighboring seedlings and hinder their growth. Keep carrots well weeded and watered.

    When mature, harvest carrots by gently loosening the surrounding soil to prevent any of the crisp roots from breaking. Get a firm hold on the green shoots and wiggle from side to side while slowly pulling up. Remove the leafy tops.

    For long-term storage, pack carrots in layers into a container filled with loose soil—store the container in a cool, dry location for up to 6 months. For short-term storage, place carrots in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. 

    Radishes

    Recommended varieties: ‘Cherry Belle’ (22 days), ‘Comet’ (25 days), ‘Early Scarlet Globe’ (23 days)

    Radishes are an easy-to-grow root crop, maturing quickly for early harvesting. Sow radish seeds in well-draining soil 1/2-inch deep and spaced 1 inch from each other. Plant in rows 4 to 6 inches apart. For a steady supply, stagger multiple plantings by 8 to 10 days. Keep radishes well weeded and watered.

    When mature, harvest radishes by gently pulling them from the soil by their shoots. Remove the leafy tops.

    Store radishes in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 

    Grow in Between

    Chives

    Recommended varieties: common chives (Allium schoenoprasum), garlic chives (A. tuberosum)

    A resilient perennial, chives grow rapidly all season long and are easy to manage. They tend to spread by sending up runners (side plants). From seed, chives germinate in 7 to 21 days, with ideal soil temperatures rangingfrom 60º to 70ºF. Propagate by dividing in spring or fall, allowing about 10 inches of space between each group. Chives like plenty of sun and water for high yields. 

    Harvest by cutting to 2 to 3 inches from the ground multiple times throughout the season. Cut chives will stay fresh stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 7 days in a sealed container or plastic bag. 

    Basil

    Recommended varieties: sweet basil (60 days), Thai sweet basil (60 days), purple basil (80 days)

    Basil is straightforward to grow and a staple of any garden. When started from seed, basil germinates in 5 to 7 days; it will grow to be 2 to 3 inches tall over the first 3 weeks. Plant basil in well-draining soil with temperatures between 60º and 70ºF. Plant seeds 1/4-inch deep and 8 to 10 inches apart. Basil requires a lot of sun, so plant in an open area free of shade. Water heavily and regularly.

    Harvest only the leaves of basil when the plant is young and the leaves and upper stems when the plant is mature. Pinch the stems to encourage growth, which will make the plant short and bushy. If flower buds appear, remove them immediately or the flavor of the plant will be affected.

    Harvested basil leaves and stemswill stay fresh stored in the refrigerator for up to a week in a sealed container or plastic bag.