With all the conversations these days around pesticides and genetically modified organisms, you are probably starting to seriously think about going back to the basics and growing your own food so that you do not have to deal with the latest food controversy. But, the thought of starting a vegetable garden can be overwhelming for a lot of reasons. For many people, the biggest barrier to starting a vegetable garden is the sense of how long the whole process will take, and if the time and effort will even be worth it in the end.
So, how long does it take to grow a vegetable garden? This depends on which plants you are cultivating. Some vegetables, such as radishes, can grow to maturity in as little as thirty days. Others, including corn, potatoes, most types of lettuces, and beans, can take several months. Your time investment will hinge on which plants you choose to grow in your garden, but you can guarantee at least a month before you see tangible results.
It is a labor of love to grow a vegetable garden, but the act of gardening can be therapeutic, and the tasty fresh vegetables that you can guarantee are not genetically modified nor drenched in pesticides are a fulfilling reward in and of themselves. Read on to learn more about the amount of time you can expect to expend on different kinds of vegetable plants and the time you will need to spend on upkeep and maintenance of your garden as a whole. We will also delve into good times of the year to get your vegetable garden up and running, as well as wait times between planting different vegetable seeds and finally seeing those little baby sprouts push up through the soil – every gardener’s dream come true.
Different Vegetables at Different Rates
If you are interested in cultivating a vegetable garden, you likely want a broad range of different kinds of plants, both because more variety is certainly more tasty and because you will want to have a big, varied harvest to enjoy and see that all of your hard work was ultimately worthwhile. A great vegetable garden will feature a long list of different plants, from beets to cucumbers to tomatoes. But all of these plants have different requirements and different lifespans to maturity.
Some plants have more similarities than differences. When a group of plants share a core list of similar characteristics, they are categorized together into a “family.” The germination ages of plants within a family typically do not vary too much. For example, as mentioned above, most kinds of lettuces take several months to reach full maturity. That is because most lettuces belong to the Cole crops family (also known as the mustard family!), along with other vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
Other prominent plant families include the legumes family, which most people are more familiar with. Legumes include beans, peas, and peanuts (though peanuts are not exactly a common garden vegetable as they are more complicated to grow). Beans and peas typically take between six and eight weeks to fully mature. Members of the nightshade family, which include peppers, eggplants, and that most popular of garden vegetables, the tomato, take a little bit longer, usually around two months. If you are looking for a real time investment (an investment which also produces a big flavor payoff, we might add), you may be drawn to the onion family. One member of the onion family, the ever tasty garlic, can take up to nine months to reach full maturity.
Initial Time Investment
Once you have a better sense of how long it will take to enjoy your delicious home grown vegetables, another huge hurdle to getting a vegetable garden going is the process of actually getting it started. If you are a new gardener, you may be feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of getting a garden up and off the ground (literally). It is true that the biggest time investment you will make in your garden is in the beginning, when you are setting the garden up and planting all of the seeds. But this time investment will produce a big payoff in the end.
First and foremost, you should know that not all vegetable gardens need to be a ton of plants in a big square of dirt that will take up most of your yard – if you even have a yard. You can have a small vegetable garden in planter boxes, or an even smaller vegetable garden in a collection of pots out on your apartment balcony. Obviously, the larger garden will take more time to set up and maintain than the smaller options.
If you really want a quick turnaround on your initial planting, it can be helpful to not start all of your plants from seeds, but rather from small baby plants you are able to purchase from gardening stores. This method can also help take a lot of the pressure off when it comes to worrying about your garden abilities – it is much more difficult to kill a plant that has already sprouted than to not provide enough adequate nutrients to coax a seed to germinate and push up through the soil. Then again, it can be extremely satisfying to grow a plant completely from scratch, so there are pros and cons to both methods.
When Should You Start a Garden?
It is true that there are both good and bad times to initiate the process of growing a vegetable garden. If you choose to start your garden at an inopportune time, your plants could struggle to get going or could even die off before they produce anything remotely edible. Such an experience could be discouraging enough to dissuade a novice planter from ever taking up gardening again.
Most peoples’ instincts around starting a garden lean towards spring – that is the time for new growth to start pushing back against the chill of winter, right? This belief holds true for many plants, but there are also some plants that are hardy enough to begin growing while winter is still in full blast (although we should note that, if heavy freezes are still happening, you should wait until things become a little less frosty before starting any plant). These tougher plants include kale, peas, spinach, cabbage, beans, broccoli, collard greens, lettuce, chard, and leeks – many examples of the cole crops and legumes families referenced above. Crops that should wait until slightly warmer temperatures to get growing include squash, corn, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and pumpkins – examples of the nightshade and grain families.
How Long Does it Take for Vegetables to Sprout?
If you are going to go full Mr. McGregor and cultivate a vegetable garden entirely from scratch, you will want to go in knowing exactly when you should expect your vegetable seeds to begin sprouting. Otherwise, you will likely spend some nerve-wracking days anxiously watching your garden and feeling like a failure when you do not spy little shoots pushing up through the soil – when in reality, your seeds have not even opened up yet!
Seed sprouting rates can vary just as much as vegetable germination rates, although of course, sprouting is a much quicker process than harvesting. Members of the legume family usually take a couple of weeks to see shoots poking through (beans typically around a week and half, peas typically closer to three weeks). Cole crops such as lettuce and broccoli are typically much quicker, with lettuce seeds popping up as sprouts in as little as two days (although often closer to a week) and broccoli seeds coming through in under a week. Nightshade plants take much, much longer – tomatoes can take a full two months to push through the soil, and peppers are usually closer to a month. So do not despair! Depending on what plants you have chosen, it is perfectly natural for some seeds to take quite a long time to lift their heads and see the sun at last.