Best Garden Vegetables for the Beginner

When you first start a vegetable garden, it’s easy to get caught up in the dream of a bountiful harvest, involving all of your favorite produce. However, there are some vegetables that just aren’t as easy to grow, even if you are interested in it. As a beginner, you could become disheartened with your efforts to grow corn, or to produce the perfect melon — especially if you live in an area that is prone to cold weather.

I grew up in Idaho, and I know what a hard frost can do to plants. Additionally, in areas like Northern New York and Southeastern Ontario, you can end up with a short growing season. As a result, it makes sense to choose your produce attempts carefully. As a beginner, here are a few garden produce options that can yield encouraging results:

  • Green beans: These are easy to grow, and they grow fast, so you end up with a relatively early harvest, which can be encouraging for a beginner. Plus, they are easy to freeze or bottle for eating during the winter.
  • Tomatoes: Start with a strong plant, and plant after the frost, and you can see great results. In fact, tomato plants are often more productive than you can imagine. They preserve well through bottling or freezing, and you can use them to make spaghetti sauce and salsa as well. You can stock most of your tomato-based pantry items with help from produce from your garden.
  • Basil: Hardy and easy to grow, you can dry it, and use it with tomatoes. Most other herbs are also easy to grow and dry for beginners, including perennial herbs like certain types of oregano, thyme, and rosemary.
  • Zucchini: There’s a reason there are jokes about zucchini and other squashes. You can easily get a large harvest from this easy-to-grow produce choice.
  • Greens: All types of greens grow fairly well. Kale is an especially good choice, no matter your climate. You can even use greens in winter gardening, if you get the right varieties. Spinach and various lettuces are great choices in addition to kale.
  • Radishes: If you like radishes, you can plant these and see good results fairly quickly. They grow even in soil that isn’t particularly good, and you can harvest them after planting in spring and in fall.
  • Strawberries: Add a little sweetness to your garden with the help of strawberries. Strawberry plants are hardy, spread, and are perennial. Put your strawberry patch in a sunny spot and you’ll be happy to see good results.
  • Peppers: Different peppers are fairly easy to grow, and can grow even in the northern U.S./southern Canada if you plant after the last frost and keep them in a sunny spot. You can pick them at different times to get different flavors and colors.

One of the best things you can do when you have a climate that runs a little colder is to plant seedlings ahead of time. Plant your seeds in egg cartons or in other small holders, and keep them properly watered in a sunny window. That way, you’ll have a solid plant going when it is warm enough to plant them outside.

Basic Emergency Preparedness Tips

When natural disasters hit, or when extreme weather like the snowfall seen across the Eastern United States is seen, my thoughts turn to emergency preparedness.

The proper emergency preparedness steps can help you save money in the long run, since you won’t be as vulnerable to some of the costs and difficulties that can come with an emergency. When you are in the midst of an emergency, it’s not the time to prepare. You need to be ready ahead of time. And if you do take the time to prepare little by little, you won’t have to spend a lot of money all at once. Here are 3 tips that can help you improve your emergency preparedness:

1. Figure Out What You Need

Your first step is to figure out what you need. What if you weren’t able to get to the store for a few days? What would you eat or drink? What if the water and power went out? How would you cook and wash up? Think about these situations and then make a list of things you might need to help you through these times. In most cases, being able to get through a week or two is probably enough.

Think about how you would get through, and then make a list of things you might need.

2. Buy Things Gradually

It can be a financial nightmare to go to the store and immediately get everything you need for emergency preparedness. Instead of buying enough food to last you for a month all in one go, get a few extra things at a time. Get an extra bag of frozen vegetables, or buy two or three extra cans of tuna. The same thing applies to other emergency supplies. You can buy a couple of hand-crank flashlights on one trip, and purchase an extra blanket on another trip. Get extra toilet paper on a trip, and a new First-Aid kit on another. You’ll make the whole thing more manageable if you plan ahead and build your store gradually.

For larger purchases, you might need to set aside money. If you want to buy a generator or if you want to by a propane heater or a new grill for cooking when the power or gas goes out, you might need to put together a short-term savings goal to help you save up for what you need.

3. Rotate Your Stores

A few items each week ...

A few items each week …

Finally, make sure you rotate your stores and regularly check what you have. Hand-crank flash lights and radios need to be cranked every couple of months in order to remain efficient. You should rotate through your food storage so that food isn’t going bad. You can replace what you use the next week. Regularly check 72-hour kits and First-Aid kits and replace items that you might have used.

Make sure your stores are kept in an accessible place. You want to be able to get to what you need quickly and easily — even if you are just grabbing a bag to bring with you in the car. Speaking of which, it’s a good practice to keep your gas tank at least half full at all times so that you can leave quickly, and get a reasonable distance away, without waiting in gas lines.

What are your best tips for emergency preparedness?