Choosing which vegetables to grow

Favorite warm- and cool-season vegetables at a glance plus growing season basics

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Cucumbers. Cucumber varieties include long green slicers, small kinds for pickling, and yellow, mild-flavored lemon cucumbers. In spring, sow groups of four to six seeds in hills 4 to 6 feet apart; thin seedlings to two or three per hill. Or sow two or three seeds in groups spaced 1½ feet apart at the base of a trellis; then thin seedlings to one per group. Harvest begins 50 to 100 days after sowing; be sure to harvest frequently to keep plants producing.

Melons. Cantaloupes (also known as muskmelons) are the easiest melons to grow, because they ripen the fastest. Planting through black plastic (see page 172) speeds harvest. In spring, sow four or five seeds per hill; space hills 4 to 6 feet apart. Thin seedlings to two per hill. Harvest 70 to 115 days after sowing.

Peppers. Sweet peppers are available in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes ― from bell types to long, slender frying peppers, in hues from green to bright yellow and purple. Hot peppers likewise offer a range of sizes, colors, and pungencies. Start seeds of sweet or hot peppers in flats indoors 6 to 8 weeks before planting time; or buy transplants. Set plants out in spring, spacing them 1½ to 2 feet apart in rows 2½ feet apart. Harvest 60 to 95 days after setting out plants.

Squash. There are two basic types of squash. Both are planted in spring, and both are available in vining or space-saving bush varieties. Summer squash (zucchini, crookneck, pattypan) are eaten when the fruit is small and tender; harvest 50 to 60 days after sowing. Winter squash form hard shells; they are harvested in fall (80 to 120 days after sowing) and can be stored for winter use. Sow seeds of bush types 1 foot apart in rows 3 to 5 feet apart; thin seedlings to 2 feet apart. Sow seeds of vining squash in hills spaced about 5 feet apart, placing four or five seeds in each hill; thin to two per hill.

Tomatoes. Easy to grow and prolific, tomatoes are a home-garden favorite. A huge number of varieties is available, varying from tiny cherry types to 2-pound giants; fruit colors include red, yellow, orange, and even pink. Start seeds in flats indoors 6 weeks before planting time; or buy transplants. Set out in the garden in spring, spacing plants 2 to 4 feet apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Bury as much as half to three-quarters of the stem of each plant; roots will form along the buried part and strengthen the plant. Stake plants or place wire cylinders around them for support.

 

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