Starting your Vegetable Garden – The Main Vegetable Types & What you Need to Know
If you want an abundant, productive organic vege garden then it’s important to first understand a little about the different vegetable types, and the conditions in which they thrive. Vegetables tend to be grouped into 3 main categories: fruit and seed vegetables; leaf and stem vegetables, and root and bulb vegetables, depending on the part of the plant that is most commonly eaten.
They can also be grouped according to their temperature preferences: cool season vegetables grow best at low temperatures of 50-70 deg F (10-20 deg C); warm vegetables grow best at temperatures of 70 def F (20 deg C) or above, while a third, temperate group prefers temperatures of between 60 -75 deg F (15-25 deg C). If you grow vegetables out of season then, despite your best intentions, you are doomed for disappointment as your vegetables will either fail to germinate and grow, or rapidly bolt to seed.
This article is not designed to act as a comprehensive guide to growing individual vegetables – there are many good books available that will cover these basics and that may be well tailored to your own particular climate. Instead, you will find an overview of each of these groups, and their requirements, in turn. If you do not have a vegetable gardening book then most seed packets give detailed maps or descriptions on the back, explaining the best time to plant in your area.
Fruit and seed vegetables.
This group include beans, peas, eggplants (aubergines), capsicums (bell peppers), tomatoes, sweetcorn and cucurbits (vine crops such as cucumber, zucchini (courgettes), pumpkins and squash).
As a general rule, these are warm or temperate season plants which hate frost. In colder areas they should not be planted out until early summer, but will grow quickly. Do not be tempted to plant them out too soon – you will only be frustrated at their lack of inclination to thrive.
Leaf and stem vegetables.
This group includes vegetables such as cabbages, lettuce, brussel sprouts, rhubarb, chard (silverbeet), spinach and celery. Broccoli and cauliflower are also often included in this group, although strictly we eat the flower buds, not the leaves or stems.
This group includes a range of cool and temperate weather crops which are sown in the cooler winter months or early spring.
Root and bulb vegetables.
This group includes most of the kitchen staples such as onions, shallots, carrots, potatoes, turnips and beets. Again, this group tends to include mainly cool and temperate crops, which may run to seed if planted too late in the season.
The key to successful crop rotation is to keep it simple. Unless you are a commercial gardener very few people have the time or inclination to prepare complex crop rotation plans year on year.
As I have far too many things on my ‘to do’ list as it is, I keep my planting schedule as simple as possible. My approach is to divide my beds up into blocks, and then plant only one vegetable category, such as bulb vegetables, or leaf vegetables, in each block. Then the next season I move all the plantings one block to the right, so I am now planting a different vegetable category in each block. This seems to have worked well so far!
If you follow this simple guide to vegetables you should have no trouble planning a successful, disease-resistant garden to feed you and your family year round!
Fi McMurray is a garden enthusiast and author who has been gardening organically for 10 years. She has been involved with 2 award-winning gardens at the prestigious Ellerslie International Flower Show in Auckland, New Zealand.
Her latest book is “An Introduction to Successful Organic Gardening”, which joins her previous books “Successful Rose Gardening” and “Secrets to a Thriving Herb Garden”. You can find out more about Fi’s books at her website, www.fimcmurray.com
Fi lives north of Auckland, New Zealand, with her husband and two small children.