Erika asked us for a list of 1-3 easy to grow items for beginners.
I’d go with potatoes, green beans, and garlic. Check out the new YouTube series Growfully with Jenna’s Quick and Dirty Planting Guides if you’re just starting out!
Of course I couldn’t limit myself to 3!
1. Lettuce Mix (from seed)
2. Potatoes/Onions (from seed potatoes/onion sets)
3. Green beans (from seed)
4. Kale/Collards/Swiss Chard (from plant)
“I have planted a garden for the past several years, but this year I wanted to try a different approach. I have several raised beds in full sun, and I wanted to start a mini forest garden in place of the traditional garden I’ve been growing. I’m very interested in growing wheat this year. I also wanted to grow beans and squash, which I have struggled with in past years. It seems like the only things that have grown well for me are tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. Do you have any advice for starting a small forest style garden, or tips to have better success with wheat, beans and squash?”
Our mantra at OSUE is don’t guess, soil test! You see if you have an imbalance in pH or nutrients this could affect everything you grow. This is a great time to soil test and some of the soil labs are still open for business. You can use Penn State https://agsci.psu.edu/aasl/soil-testing or choose one of the certified labs listed on this Ohio State Factsheet, https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-1132. When you get your results you can contact your Extension Educator for help interpreting the results and recommendations. Bean and squash also have a few pests and diseases associated with them, which can be another challenge in growing. Here is a factsheet from Purdue with many of the problem insects of vegetable gardens, http://extension.missouri.edu/sare/documents/vegetableinsects.pdf. And that leads into my best advice for starting a small forest style garden, research the pest and disease issues of the plants you will use. Many gardeners love the idea of having fruit trees but do not understand the heavy management (pruning and treatment for disease) that these crops need to grow well. Research this, or use native and unusual plants that do not have so many disease issues.
What Maggie said! Also, you might want to explore the permaculture concept of “guilds,” or intentional groupings of plants that work to each other’s benefit. They look cool and work really well in backyards. Here is a great article on Guilds for the Small Scale Home Garden. As for wheat, here’s some good information from Farm and Dairy about growing grains in your home garden.
Ginnette Simko is Countryside’s Farm Manager. Maggie Rivera is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Educator at OSU-E, Cuyahoga County. To submit a question to “Victory Garden Gurus,” email Ginnette at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also consult OSU’s Ask an Expert online!