The Hippo


May 27, 2020








Produce recommendations for lazy gardeners

Easiest vegetables to grow
Bush beans
Lettuce mix
Three fruits for beginner gardeners
Red raspberries

Produce-ing results
Getting started with low-effort fruits and vegetables

By Allie Ginwala

When it comes to lazy gardening, if you want to put minimal effort into growing produce, because you have limited time, resources or experience, the best way to keep it easy is by being proactive.

Start early in the season
“I recommend snow peas, onions … then kale, lettuce mix, and radishes would be some of the easy early season vegetables to think about,” Jeremy DeLisle, UNH Cooperative Extension Education Center program coordinator, said in a phone interview. 
Early season crops tend to grow quickly with a short overall time from planting to harvest, and they also have fewer weeds to contend with — those become more of an issue later in the season.
“Once we get past the danger of frost and we have a chance for soil temperatures to warm up, then we would be looking at cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini, and I think another really good option is bush beans,” DeLisle said. “That’s a bean that’s just like we're used to eating, but does not require any trellising. ... [It] takes a level out for the gardener [and is] also quick from plant to harvest.”
While the lazy gardener may have a selection of vegetables to choose from, fruits require more of a long-term investment and commitment. 
“The quickest you're going to get is one full season so from the time you plant until the time you harvest one year is going to be the fastest turnaround,” DeLisle said. “With that in mind, I think strawberries are one of the better options.” 
Although they require time and patience up front, it pays off in the long run. 
“There is a potential that you could get at least three and maybe as many as five [seasons],” he said. “A lot of the work is up front but potentially for a long-term return.”
Jack Wagner, perennial manager at Lake Street Garden Center in Salem, agreed that strawberries are a good fruit for those looking for easy maintenance. He recommends hanging strawberry plants that can be found at garden centers.
“You can hang it right out of your back door and reach out and grab a strawberry every day,” Wagner said in a phone interview.
Prep and maintain
One of the best ways to ensure a smooth and easy growing season is through preparation and maintenance. Before digging up and planting in a home garden, DeLisle suggests getting a basic home grounds soil test, which gives a baseline for what the soil needs in order to successfully grow a vegetable garden.
“Once that’s done … you'll know exactly what you'll need to add to make sure fertility is there for vegetables,” he said. “If we have well prepared, healthy soil that we have nurtured through the addition of organic matter, compost, proper fertility, then we’re going to end up with thriving, healthy plants that are much less likely to be attacked by pests and disease.”
Another tip for staving off diseases — making caring for crops much easier — is watering directly into the soil and plant roots, not the leaves of the plant.
“The preference is to avoid wetting the plant when you're watering and actually water the base of the plant at ground level,” DeLisle said. “For a lot of our fungal diseases moisture is one of the factors. If we can do a good job of controlling leaf moisture we can really reduce the incidences of those diseases.”
“I like to water not with a hose but with a bucket [and] to do each row individually,” Wagner said. “With a bucket … you know exactly how much water you're putting down.” 
Direct seed vs. container planting
In terms of where to plant produce (a pot, a garden bed, a patio box), there are multiple easy choices. DeLisle said vegetables like radishes, zucchini and squash can all be direct seeded without trouble, as long as the instructions are followed. 
“It’s important to follow recommendations on seed packets in terms of timing and spacing,” he said. “Think about how deep in the soil and that’s going to be one of the most important things to consider when direct seeding into the garden.”
“If you're just starting out, a container is a good way to start,” Wagner said. 
Tomatoes, peppers or eggplants can be put in a container near the house, making it easier to remember to care for as you tend to walk by it more often. 
“It’s a good place for a beginning gardener to start. Keeps it off the ground, diseases away,” he said. 
With a container right on the deck or patio, the work of preparing a garden is eliminated. 
“I think the containers are a fantastic way for people to get interested and it’s fun for kids,” Wagner said. “They can see it growing, see it change. It’s fun to reach out on the way home from school and grab a fresh tomato from the vine.” 
If container tomatoes or bedded strawberries are more of a commitment than you want, try growing herbs in containers and reap the benefits of fresh ingredients with minimal work. 
“Herbs in general like a hot, Mediterranean climate and things like basil, thyme, oregano, sage, French tarragon are all really good to grow in containers,” Wagner said. “They love the heat and do quite well.” 
As seen in the April 16, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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