By Kristin Marino
It’s happened to us all: That shiny, plump tomato looks great in the grocery store, but once you get it home and put it in your salad, it has all the flavor of packing peanuts. Not only that, but it may have traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to get to that grocery store.
Forget about that beautiful, bland grocery store veggie. This summer, why not grow your own?
It’s not as hard as you might think. In most cases, you can make it easier on yourself by purchasing plants as seedlings and using containers for your plants. As far as what you should plant? It really doesn’t get easier than these three veggies.
Truly, there are few things tastier than a fully-ripe tomato plucked fresh from the vine and eaten while it’s still warm from the sun. Tomatoes are easy to grow if you keep it simple. Grab a few seedlings, some nutrient-rich potting soil, some plant fertilizer, some containers if you need them, and get to planting. Rather than going the Martha Stewart route and trying to grow fancy heirloom tomatoes, for your first time out of the box, you may just want to choose a good basic tomato like a beefsteak.
If you choose a bush plant, you won’t have to support the vines, but the vines are pretty easy to support with tomato cages, which are usually only a few dollars. Containers should be placed in a warm and sunny area after the last freeze of the year. Fertilize your plants as soon as you put them in the containers, wait a few weeks, and then fertilize every other week.
Fun tomato fact: The Maya and Nahua people of Mexico were the first to cultivate tomatoes. They didn’t become a mainstay of the Italian diet until late 18th century.
From jalapeno to sweet red, most varieties of peppers do well in containers. Bell peppers can be grown in a rectangular or round container. Look for containers than are at least 14 inches deep and leave you enough room to have your plants about 14 inches apart. You can find seedlings for peppers in the garden area of your local home improvement or gardening center. As with tomatoes, you’ll want to wait until the frost has passed, place the container in full sun, and fertilize once right after you plant then every week or two after that.
Fun bell pepper fact: Sweet and hot peppers were first cultivated in Central and South America over 2,000 years ago, and Christopher Columbus introduced them to Europe after his voyage to the New World.
All you need to be up to your eyeballs in fresh-baked zucchini bread by the fall are some seeds, a bag of good dirt and a container. This plant is so easy to grow, you don’t have to start with seedlings and transfer them, you can just plant the seeds in the same container you’ll use to grow and harvest your squash. Like its friends the bell pepper and the tomato, the summer squash likes a rich, organic soil, full sun, warm temps, steady watering, and some fertilizer every so often. The bush varieties work brilliantly in a container, because they don’t have to be staked.
Fun squash fact: Along with corn and beans, squash is one of the oldest food sources grown in the Americas. Remnants of squash seeds found in caves in Ecuador were determined to be 12,000 years old.
More tips for a good harvest
If you run into trouble with your plants, do a quick Google search for symptoms. For instance, dark spots on tomatoes, known as blossom end rot, can be a result of lack of calcium. Adding calcium powder to your soil can help. Hint: crushed Tums added to water can do the job pretty well, also.
To maximize yield, pick vegetables as soon as they are mature so new veggies will form.
Kristin Marino is a contributing writer at AlliedHealthWorld.com, writing on a variety of health and lifestyle topics for those interested in living a healthier, greener life.