May 16, 2020
Growing Vegetables at Home
By Brian Monaghan
Master Gardener and Madison Environmental Commission Member

If you have an interest in growing your own vegetables at home, here are a few suggestions on where to plant and what to do. Without plowing up the back yard, you can grow almost any vegetables in between your shrubs, along a grass border, or in pots. Use your imagination!

The factor that impacts vegetable growth most is how much direct sun the area receives in a day. Certain crops such as leafy greens can get by on 4 hours. Root vegetables require at least 6 hours, and fruiting veggies require at least 8 hours. If your only sunny area is the patio or deck, then consider using containers. No matter where you plant, the care is basically the same: Plant, water and weed.

Starting From Seed vs. Transplanting Seedlings

You can grow vegetables either from seed or by purchasing plants from a garden center and transplanting them. Certain plants do not transplant well, such as squash, cucumber, carrots and peas. These should be seeded directly into the ground or a container. Other plants such as beans, lettuce, arugula, and cilantro are easier to seed and mature almost as quickly as transplants.
What’s more, these cool-weather crops can be planted anytime the soil can be worked with.

The warm-weather fruiting crops — such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant — are better off being grown as transplants, since they should not be planted until after the last frost date. In North Central New Jersey, that would be around the third week in May.

No matter whether you direct-seed or transplant, be sure to read the directions on the package or label. Certain seeds need light to germinate, while others need to be buried. However, if planted too deep, the germinated seed may never reach the surface. Also, certain plants such as tomatoes can be buried up to their top leaves and excel. Most other veggies must be transplanted at a soil level that is at the same height as the soil level in the original pot.

Caring For Your Plants

However you choose to start your crop, an initial watering is necessary to get the growing process under way. After germination or planting, you should never let the ground go bone dry, or let your plants sit in puddling soil. If the plant is wilting, give it a drink. For those who choose containers (which must have drainage holes), be extra watchful — the plants will dry out more quickly than if in the ground. You may have to water on a daily basis if it’s hot and rainless.

If you have any doubts or questions about how to care for your plants, Rutgers offers vegetable and herb garden fact sheets on a wide range of topics.
Express Your Creativity and Have Fun

Be creative and don’t worry about sticking a plant here or there. As the photo at right shows, maixing Swiss chard (rainbow varieties) in among your flower beds could add a unique pizzazz! A tomato vine between the azalea bushes or a zucchini in a pot by the front door should at least spark some interesting conversation with the neighbors. And, if you grow it yourself, no matter what, it will taste better and have greater nutritional value!

So, have some fun and spend your time well by growing some vegetables. After all, you’re in the Garden State!

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