Summer will be here before you know it, and now is the time to start planning your vegetable garden. Let's take a look at some options.

In-ground vegetable garden

man planting seeds

Getting started

If this is your first vegetable garden, it's best to start small. A good size for an in-ground garden is 50-75 square feet.

Root crops such as radishes germinate quickly and reach maturity within 30 days of planting. Others require approximately 100 days to mature. Knowing the length of time required to reach maturity allows you to plan for the harvest.

person holding beet roots

Some varieties of large-rooted carrots take up to 90 days to mature, while small-rooted varieties can mature in 50 days. You may want to harvest some of the same beet variety at 30 days in order to enjoy the baby beets, or you can let them mature another month and harvest full-size roots.

It's important to select varieties that are right for your type of soil. If you have heavy clay soil, try growing beets, radishes, and carrot varieties with short roots, such as 'Thumbelina' and 'Little Finger'. Loose, sandy soil is good for cultivating longer carrot varieties with large roots, like 'Imperator' and 'Atomic Red', as well as turnips and parsnips.

Raised beds

Raised beds elevated above the ground are often enclosed by boards or other rigid materials. They can be more easily accessible for gardeners who use a wheelchair. Click here to learn how to build a raised bed.

man gardening from a wheelchair

This type of bed is perfect for growing root vegetables. Carrots, beets, radishes, and parsnips flourish in rich, loose soil where they have space to spread out. When you’re growing plants for their roots, it’s important to be able to select the growing medium. Raised beds can be filled with the perfect type of soil for whatever you choose to grow. The soil should always be free of rocks and debris that might hinder root growth or cause misshapen veggies.

a group of raised beds

Growing the root vegetables listed below is easy. And you'll not only be able to harvest the edible roots, but also the nutritious green tops, which can be used fresh in salads or cooked.

Containers

In the interest of full disclosure, this is my favorite way to grow vegetables. I can walk out on my deck and easily harvest fresh veggies.

Container gardening is a fun way to grow edible crops just about anywhere. Even if you have an in-ground vegetable garden, you may want to consider growing some containers of edibles that are readily accessible.

Potatoes

harvested fresh potatoes

You've probably heard potatoes referred to as spuds, but do you know how the nickname originated? The Medieval words spyde and spad referred to a primitive digging tool. Because it was used to plant and dig potatoes, the tubers themselves eventually acquired the name "spud".

Carrots

fresh harvested carrots

carrots growing in the ground

(Heirloom Parisian carrots (Daucus carota var. sativus) in my raised planter)

Beets

fresh harvested beets

Beets are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and plant compounds, and some of those have medicinal properties. They're naturally sweet, but low in calories.

Radishes

fresh harvested radishes

One cup of sliced radishes has a mere 19 calories. Horseradish is one type of elongated white radish; 'Daikon' is another type that's frequently used in Japanese cuisine. It can be pickled, dried, grated, and stir-fried.

In Mexico, the annual Noche de Rabanos (Night of the Radishes) festival takes place 24 hours prior to Christmas Eve. Mexican sculptors create Nativity scenes using giant radishes.

mexican radish festival

(AlejandroLinaresGarcia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scallions

One of the easiest vegetables to grow, you can tell the variety of scallion by examining the bottom of the green leaves where they begin to turn white. If the cross section is D-shaped or has a flat side, it's Allium cepa. If round, it's Alliium fistulosum.

fresh scallion

Garlic

Don’t like the smell of garlic on your fingers? There's an easy way to get rid of it. Stick your hands under cold running water, then grab a stainless steel object and rub your fingers with it. The smell will disappear.

pile of fresh garlic

Turnips

As of 2020, the heaviest turnip recorded and the official Guinness World Record holder weighed in at 63 lbs.14 oz.

In the South, turnip leaves are often cooked and eaten as turnip greens.

Turnips are a cool-season crop, but they don't require a long growing season. In mild climates, turnips are sown either in early spring or in late summer and develop rapidly enough to produce a crop before extreme temperatures occur.

pile of fresh turnips

Sweet Potato/Yam

Yams (Dioscorea) and sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are not the same thing. Yams are closely related to lilies and grasses.Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are drier and more starchy.

Sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family. Skin color ranges from white to yellow, red, purple or brown with white, yellow, orange, or orange-red flesh. Varieties are classified as either firm or soft. The firm category remains firm when cooked, while soft varieties become moist and soft. They're often labeled as yams in the United States.

pile of fresh sweet potatoes

Taro root

fresh harvested taro

In ancient folklore, Taro was a child who grew into a plant and eventually helped create the human race.

Simple skin contact with raw taro causes itching, and consumption causes throat irritation.

Taro plants require significant moisture to grow so this plant is a good choice for very wet or flooded areas.

Taro leaves contain a high amount of protein and are usually served boiled and mixed with condiments.

Click to learn about the many health benefits of taro root.

fresh harvested root vegetables