I have been rather specific about varieties of flowers and vegetables to grow in recent columns, so this one will back up a bit and be more general about just what to grow in the vegetable garden.
When I was a newlywed, my only source of vegetables was the grocery store, with forays to the farm markets in the summer. Then, my husband started to grow tomatoes to make his own spaghetti sauce, and that did it!
I dug a little patch of lawn to grow a few green beans with seeds brought from England and that went so well, I put in some peppers the next year. And I was hooked.
Green beans still are my favorites to grow. The seeds are big enough to sow them exactly where you want them to come up, and there are pole beans to grow up a string or a trellis, and bush beans that will prosper anywhere, even in a flower bed. My favorites are runner beans, but any kind you choose to plant will give you a great crop with plenty to eat and leftovers to freeze.
Corn sounded intimidating to me, but it proved to be easy and successful. Just be sure to plant in a block and not in a narrow row, to be sure fertilization happens properly. There are seeds everywhere, white, yellow or bi-color varieties according to your preference, and you also can grow decorative Indian corn or popcorn if you are feeling adventurous.
People are divided about growing potatoes. They do take a lot of space, but if you have children around, nothing is more fun in the garden than digging for treasure and coming up with the raw material that can be turned into French fries. And if you miss a few tubers, they will spend the winter happily resting in the ground and appear the next spring.
Throwing potato peelings on the compost pile will also guarantee some volunteer plants free for the digging. I have planted some fingerling potatoes in many shades this year, straight from the grocery store and cut into pieces with a sprouting eye in each section.
Don't ask me about broccoli. I rarely have success with it, even though I try every year because we eat a lot of it year-round. I have found the best way to guarantee a sufficient supply is to take out my billfold and go to the store.
If you want to start an early crop, try peas. You can plant the seeds as soon as the ground can be worked, which is now, then just give them a few twigs for support and let them grow. I find the regular peas too labor-intensive to shell, so I prefer to grow those with edible pods.
Peppers, eggplant and tomatoes are necessities in the garden. Either start the seeds inside, or buy the small plants after mid-May and watch them grow.
That leaves the leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and cabbage. I find them more attractive to bugs and diseases than those mentioned above, and they are cheap to buy.
And finally, what about root vegetables?
Carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips and such need good soil that has been prepared carefully, fertilized and dug and raked until it is a good, fine texture, and they are slow-growing. But if you are ready for the preparation, it is good to have them available through the summer and fall.
Those are the vegetables I would recommend for a basic garden. But who can stop at basic? Just think about the fun in store if you try asparagus, cardoons, celeriac, kohlrabi and the like.