What Is Your Garden For – To Garden Or Grow Good Food?

At the outset, if you make up your mind what your interest is in your garden or proposed garden, you will avoid confusion later.

Is the garden merely to supply food as easily and cheaply as possible, or is it to provide vegetables of superb taste and texture which just cannot be bought in the market?

Growing Good Garden FoodPin

In other words, is your interest in quantity or quality? If it is in quantity and the garden is mainly to provide food, you will be better off buying vegetables at the market, for you will save money and trouble.

Suppose your desire is for those superb vegetables that make your mouth water. Then, by all means, have a garden.

Importance Of Full Sunshine

The garden site should have full sunshine. I cannot emphasize this too much.

In the summer, the sun rises in the northeast. It is, therefore, as important to have no shade in the northeast as in the east.

This does not seem important in the summer, with bright sunshine and long days, but certain plants such as late corn and everbearing raspberries will not ripen if the full sun is denied.

I, like many others, have found this out by sad experience. Instead of cutting down offending shade trees at one fell blow, I cut down a few each year, and it has taken me about 8 years to get full sunshine.

Ideal Location: Nearness To House

This is most important. You will often visit the garden to make plans for the future and to pick and sample the fruits and vegetables.

If your garden is too far away, you won’t enjoy it because the effort to visit it is too much.

Nothing gives more pleasure than picking and eating on the spot a bright red strawberry, young peas right out of the pod, and raspberries, particularly in the late fall.

Until you have experienced the pleasures of walking in your garden before breakfast, smelling the soil so earthy on a spring morning, and sampling your products, you will never feel close to the soil or be fond of your garden.

One of the prettiest sights I remember is an asparagus bed late in the fall visited before breakfast.

The plants were about 3′ feet high, and the tiny drops of water on the foliage glistened like diamonds in the early morning sun.

Good Soil

Good soil is almost as important as full sunshine. Swampland can be drained, roots can be removed, and sand can be enriched with humus—but all at great expense.

It is well worth sacrificing some of your trees or lawn to obtain a good location with good soil.

The ideal site needs to have two soil conditions, including:

  • One part of the garden needs good soil with sand beneath to grow early vegetables.
  • The other part of the garden requires good soil with a cold, wet clay subsoil, which provides the ideal condition for celery and fall peas.

This combination is almost impossible, but if you have one or the other, make the best of what you have.

If you can’t have early peas, try for the other end of the rainbow, which is just as good.

In other words, find out the good points of your soil and then utilize them.

Suppose your garden is located over sand which is ideal for early vegetables. In that case, you will need considerable humus for the best results, and you will also need a sprinkler system because the sand foundation absorbs rain very quickly.

With this foundation, you will find it pays to mulch.

Protection From Frost

A location free from late and early frost is essential for early and late vegetables.

Generally, in any particular locality, the crests of the slopes have a longer season free from frost than do the valleys.

Our garden near the crest on an eastern slope at Candlewood has a season free from the frost for 151 days.

An experimental garden, 500 feet away, on bottomland on the western side of the crest, has a season of only 124 days.

This alone shows the importance of the proper location. If you choose to select the proper site, you should inspect the sites in the early morning, both in the spring and fall, to determine the comparative dates when the ground is first to fit for planting and the last and first frosts.

Protection From Winds

The better protection a garden has, the better it does.

A brick wall around the garden probably gives the best results, but that is a pretty expensive luxury.

A hedge is satisfactory and makes a great deal of difference. It is not only practical, but it is also attractive to look at.

Listen To Advice From A Qualified Person

If someone recommends a vegetable to you, consider a moment before deciding to try it.

What are the qualifications of the person giving the advice? Unless he is qualified, the chances are 9 out of 10 that the variety recommended, if tried, will prove to be of no importance, and the experiment will be a waste of time and energy.

Because a particular variety is best for the farmer because of its shipping qualities, yield, and other factors, it does not mean that it is best for you.

Create Your Vegetable List

Every home gardener has to make up their list of vegetables for their land, which can’t be done without trying several varieties and selecting the best.

When you try a new variety, I suggest that you try only a half row the first time. If it is better than what you are growing, try one-half the crop next year.

If what you are growing is reasonably good, it is better to be sure of the new variety than to take a chance on something you don’t know about.

Comparing Varieties: Do The Eating Test

To compare two varieties, you should cook and eat them simultaneously, but remember that if you obtain from some friend a sample of a variety that tastes better than yours, you can’t be sure that it will also be better when grown in your garden.

The only way to determine whether some variety is superior is to grow it in your garden and then cook and eat both varieties at the same time.

We have often had as many as four varieties of one vegetable to compare at one meal.

Make the eating test several times during the growing season before you determine that some new variety actually being grown in your own garden is better than your standard variety.

Remember that some varieties are best early in the season and others late.

Then, too, certain varieties mature early and won’t mature late and vice-versa. This is particularly true about peas, raspberries, and strawberries.

Good Cooking

What has cooking to do with the raising of vegetables? The answer is “nothing.”

But cooking is a prime factor in whether or not you can enjoy eating your good vegetables once you have grown them.

How often have I seen delicious vegetables ruined by poor cooking?

Anyone who takes the trouble to raise vegetables should know how to cook them.

It takes only very little practice to cook the few important ones such as asparagus, beans, cauliflower, corn, and peas.

The difference between poor cooking and good cooking is enormous, so, by all means, do a little thinking about cooking.

Our fundamental rules are simple and are as follows:

1. Cook as quickly as possible.

2. Don’t cook vegetables ahead of time and let them stand. If you go to the trouble of raising good vegetables, it is far better to wait for a little for them than to have them wait for you.

3. Fancy sauces are not necessary.

4. Use the Mystery Chef method for asparagus, beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, limas, peas, and spinach. This method is described in the Mystery Chef Cook Book, which you should read.

Growing Beets

Beets are not generally considered an interesting vegetable, which is quite correct for the beets sold in the market.

In fact, most beets can be classed simply as food. You eat them only as a last resort, but young beets are quite different.

Picked early and small in size, up to 1 ¼” inches in diameter, they are delicious to eat, tender, and sweet.

There is just as much difference between new and mature beets as between new and mature potatoes.

Until we found the variety Red Ball, it never seemed to me that beets were worth eating after September 15.

Although their quality begins to fall slightly, they are still good to eat until the ground freezes solid.

Any large beets that may be left in the rows are used for making beet soup. Therefore, they are better for that purpose than young ones.

Growing String Beans

String beans (which rightly should be called snap beans) are, of all vegetables, most satisfactory to grow in your garden. 

They can be grown over a long season and are of superb quality.

What more could you want?