Should you Grow these Veggies? You decide!
You may remember, last week I talked to you about 7 veggies worth growing. This week, let’s chat about a few you might want to think twice about!
NOTE: As I mentioned last week, each area of the country and even each individual garden will have very different conditions, so you may find you can grow a vegetable I’ve had no luck with and have no problems. Therefore, the information below should be taken as a suggestion only. If you’d love to give one of these veggies a try, please don’t let me discourage you! You never know what might work wonderfully in your garden.
The winter squashes include varieties such as pumpkins, delicata, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash. I’ve never grown spaghetti or acorn squash personally, but they’re all similar in their pros and cons.
Since this post is about the veggies you might NOT want to grow, let’s start with the cons.
One big con of any type of winter squash is the sheer size of the plants. The vines of full-sized pumpkins, in particular, get HUGE! Some can get 25 feet long with an equal spread. That’s a lot of garden real estate for a single plant!
You can mitigate this somewhat by growing most winter squash varieties on trellises. Just be sure they’re very strong!
Full-sized pumpkins can’t be trellised as the vine won’t support the weight of the pumpkin itself, but other types will be fine, the vines will grow stronger as the fruits grow heavier.
The thing is, with the size of the plants, they don’t seem to be terribly productive. I’ve grown butternuts and rarely gotten more than one fruit off of a single plant. Even the smaller squashes like delicata don’t produce a large number of fruits per vine.
The second con I’ve had terrible trouble with when growing any winter squash variety is both squash bugs and squash vine borers. They’re voracious and the numbers they attain are just ridiculous.
Trying to garden organically and deal with these two pests in large numbers is an exercise in frustration.
There are multiple ways to deal with them, and this article is very thorough, with several organic options you can try.
No matter what you do, you’ll likely have these pests, and if you’re a beginning gardener, you may not want to put yourself through the frustration in your first few years. Beginning a garden can be frustrating enough without knowingly planting vegetables or other plants that are irresistible to these pests!
The biggest pro with growing this type of squash is that it’s FUN! Who wouldn’t love to go out to the garden every day and watch a pumpkin getting bigger and bigger? I think every kid should have that experience when they’re little, so if you have kids, pumpkins may be something you want to give a try, possibly using some of the tips in the article I mentioned above.
Again, as with the winter squash, the biggest con is the ratio of vine size to the amount of fruit you’re going to get. Watermelons and cantaloupe are a little more productive than winter squash, but the vines are still very large.
Again, if you can grow them on trellises, this will help with the space problem, and all but the largest watermelons can be trellised successfully.
Con #2, at least here in the North, is the long growing season required for watermelons and cantaloupes. You’ll definitely want to get plants from a nursery or start your own seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost if you live in the colder zones like I do.
Even with starting my seedlings indoors, I’ve still run into cold weather problems at the tail end of the season while waiting for my melons to ripen. Which brings me to Con #3…..
It might just be me, but I have a terrible time telling whether watermelons and cantaloupes are ripe. Yes, there are ways to tell (see this post for some of them), but I still seem to manage to harvest at least one melon per season either too early or too late!
This one’s easy: FRESH WATERMELON (or cantaloupe)!!
There’s nothing like a melon fresh from the garden. The taste is incomparable, and you’ll never duplicate it with a supermarket melon. As I mentioned with tomatoes in my last post, you may want to grow them for this reason alone, despite their difficulties.
You might be wondering why in the world I wouldn’t recommend growing carrots!
Here’s the thing: Unless your soil is perfect, light and fluffy with NO (and I do mean NO) stones, pebbles or anything else to inhibit their growth, your carrots are going to end up twisted, stubby and deformed.
In order to keep that from happening, you’ll need to dig at least 10 to 12 inches into the soil (whether by hand or tiller, depending on your preference). The soil must be loosened significantly and ALL rocks and stones must be removed.
Thus, the biggest con here is that carrots are A LOT of work! I’ve tried growing them completely in sand, and although it worked to a point, I can’t really recommend it yet because I need to do some more tweaking. If I achieve success with this method, I’ll update you in the future for sure!
- The plants themselves are easy to grow and care for. They’re not picky about weather conditions or fertilizer, and do very well above the ground. They’re even quite cold-tolerant. It’s just the roots that cause the trouble!
- They’re very attractive plants, and they also function as a host plant for Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies. That alone may make them worth growing for you, especially if you don’t care about actually harvesting any carrots.
Now you really do think I’m nuts! I mean, everybody grows zucchini and countless jokes are made about their overabundance every year.
But here’s the thing: At least in my garden, zucchini seems to be the single most attractive crop for every squash bug and vine borer within a 10 mile radius. Assiduous and constant vigilance, picking and squishing hasn’t been enough to keep them from decimating my plants year after year.
If you don’t happen to be plagued by the little buggers, by all means grow zucchini! If you do, be warned that you should plant more plants than you think you’ll need or want, because at least a few will succumb to the pesky creatures during the season, because they WILL find your plants!
- Minus the bugs, zucchini are quite easy to grow, although they’re very sensitive to cold and should be planted when you’re sure your last frost is long gone. They need adequate water when it’s dry, and occasional feeding, but are otherwise undemanding.
- Zucchini plants are a great choice if you need to garden in containers. As long as the container is large, they do very well. Need some help with other veggie plants you can grow in containers? Check out my Container Vegetable Gardening post here.
- Fresh garden zucchini is much tastier than the store-bought variety. As with tomatoes, they’re almost a different “animal”, and just can’t be compared.
- Should you have an overabundant harvest, zucchini is easily shredded and frozen for use later in recipes like zucchini bread. Need some help with what to do with your zucchini? Check out this post for some ideas.
I’m specifically talking about sweet peppers here as I’ve never grown Jalapenos or other hot varieties.
As with tomatoes in my previous post, I considered whether to add peppers to the “do grow” list or the “don’t grow” list. There are good arguments both ways with peppers (as with tomatoes!), so I’ll let you be the judge.
- Like tomatoes, to which they’re related, peppers can be prone to blight and other diseases. Therefore, if you’re not going to rotate them to a different area of your garden every year, you’re taking a serious chance on getting a really bad disease, and you probably shouldn’t grow them!
- As with tomatoes, peppers can be picky. I’ve had years where they’ve done well, but other years where they’ve barely done anything. The funny thing is, I haven’t been able to pinpoint what causes good years versus bad, as I’ve had a great harvest in both wet and dry years. Of course, this makes things more difficult because I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what’s going on with them.
- If you do decide to grow them, be sure your peppers have nice, well-drained soil amended with organic matter. You’ll need to feed them a few times a season and be sure they get regular and adequate water as well.
- Another trick I’ve discovered is to grow 2 peppers together in each hole. I don’t know why it works, but they seem to grow larger, and they definitely help to support each other.
- For their size, peppers are very productive if they’re healthy, and they’ll continue to produce as long as you pick regularly right up until frost. Each plant doesn’t need a huge amount of space either. I have a raised bed about 8 feet by 3 feet planted with peppers. This past year, I canned ridiculous amounts of salsa and pepper relish, my hubby had plenty for fresh eating, and I still gave massive amounts away!
- Peppers are also great in containers. They need a large container in order to do well, but have no problems, as long as they’re given adequate fertilizer and water.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post and that it’s been helpful for you in deciding what you want to plant this year in your garden! If you haven’t already, please be sure to sign up for my Resource Library for extra bonus content, plus a once weekly newsletter with happenings around the blog. No spam, ever, I promise!
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