The Minimalist’s Vegetable Garden

Did you plant a vegetable garden this spring?

I love my modest veggie patch. It isn’t pretty, but it produces.
Every vegetable gardener needs a trustworthy and detailed “how to” book for advice and troubleshooting. The Taunton Press, publishers of Fine Gardening magazine, recently released Growing Vegetables and Herbs, which offers planting and pest control advice for many vegetables along with recipes. I wrote the chapter on chard for this Taunton book, and enthusiastically recommend both the book and planting chard. Chard powers along through cool weather and hot, putting out new leaves to replace those you harvest. It earns a high plantability rating from me for having the lowest maintenance requirements of anything I grow, coupled with generous yields. No work? Lots of produce? Goes from spring to fall? My kind of plant. Check out my chard recipes in Growing Vegetables and Herbs.


Given how busy spring is around here, with the exception of tomatoes I don’t plant my vegetable garden until after July Fourth. This was originally a default move— one year I didn’t get around to planting until my clients’ gardens were set for the summer and my son went away to camp. Now it’s my preferred schedule.

By planting beans, squash, and cucumbers in early July you are out of sync with the flea and cucumber beetle life cycles so those hassles never materialize. The soil is warm and the weather is generally hot, so these plants grow and produce quickly. Chard, kale, arugula, cilantro and heat tolerant lettuces grow quickly, too. Last year we ate kale and arugula planted in July at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.


I have a share in a local CSA so we get early vegetables from the farm. For whatever reason my CSA and nearby Verrill Farm seem to have a lull in cucumber production right around when my July planted crop matures, so my crop fills a supply gap. My cucumbers and cilantro are going strong in late August/September when tomatos are at their peak– a happy match. Cukes and cilantro planted in May would have bolted by then.


If you plant an early July garden, give yourself a few days’ head start to weed out the crabgrass, spurge and nut sedge……..