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12 Easiest Foods to Grow at Home During Quarantine

Don't let those empty supermarket shelves stress you out. Growing fresh fruits and vegetables at home is easier than you think!

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Growing onions in a vegetable gardenPhoto: Shutterstock

First, don’t panic. There’s no shortage of food

As alarming as it is to see bare shelves in the supermarket, food producers and reports say there’s plenty of food to go around. Unfortunately, news of the coronavirus has scared us into panic-buying and hoarding. Sometimes we can’t find the basic foods we want, like lettuce for salads, tomatoes for sauces and stews, and pantry staples like dried beans and spices. Then again, some of us are avoiding going into the stores at all, unsure how to protect ourselves from this invisible enemy.

All this has led to a bump in buying seeds and plants and searching for gardening tips online, so we can grow your own foods at home. The good news is that many fruits and veggies are easy to grow, even for beginners, and they’ll thrive whether you’re gardening in a backyard plot or in containers on your patio, porch, or apartment balcony.

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Green beansPhoto: Shutterstock

Grow beans in a snap

You might be surprised to know you don’t need a big garden to grow green beans. Bush beans are space-savers, but you can also grow beans vertically, by choosing pole varieties and training their vines onto a trellis, fence, or other support. Full sun, regular waterings and moderately rich soil will pay off in a plentiful harvest, and beans don’t need much fertilizer, although they’ll benefit from a side-dressing of compost in mid-season if you didn’t work a lot of compost into the soil before you planted. Check your seed packet to know approximately when your variety will be ready to harvest, and keep the plants picked so they’ll keep producing. Freeze or can your green beans to enjoy them all year long.

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Zucchinis in brown wicker basketPhoto: Shutterstock

Plant prolific zucchinis

Zucchinis have a reputation for being so easy to grow, and so prolific, gardeners joke about having to leave their extras on a neighbour’s doorstep, ring the bell, and run away. Just one plant can yield six to 10 pounds of zucchinis in a single growing season. Plant their seeds directly in your garden or a large container once the soil warms up to at least 15 degrees C. They need full sun and moist, easily-draining soil amended with compost. Give them an inch of water each week, if there’s no rain, and harvest when the fruits are small (botanically speaking, zucchinis are fruits) and the skins are tender. You can freeze zucchinis or bake them into breads, slice them into strips for pasta, grate them for fritters or chop them into vegetable chilis.

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Radishes growing in a gardenPhoto: Shutterstock

Raise crunchy radishes

Many gardeners love fresh radishes for that crunch that you get when you bite into them—but these simple root veggies are good for more than eating. Because the seeds sprout quickly—often within a week—you can use them in the garden to mark the rows of other crops that don’t come up as fast. Simply sow the seeds outdoors about 1/2 to one inch deep while the weather is still cool. Wait 10 days and plant again for a continuous crop until the summer heat arrives, or sow more radishes when the temperatures drop in fall. They’ll thrive in a sunny spot that has loose soil amended with organic matter. Thin the seedlings to two inches apart, so their roots won’t be crowded, and keep the plants evenly moist. Some varieties are ready to harvest just three weeks after planting.

Learn about the low-light plants that thrive in near darkness.

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Growing cucumbers in gardenPhoto: Shutterstock

Cultivate cucumbers

Like zucchini, cucumbers are prolific and easy to grow. Just give them a spot with moist, fertile soil and lots of sunshine. Start the seeds when the soil warms up to at least 15 degrees Celsius, tucking them an inch deep into the ground. They’ll sprout in a few days. Keep them happy with regular waterings and, if you didn’t work a lot of organic matter into the soil before you planted, side-dress them with a balanced, soluble fertilizer when the fruits set. The cucumbers are ready to harvest when they’re still small and the skins are tender. To keep a steady supply for the table, make successive plantings. If you’re short on space, train vining cucumber varieties onto a support like a fence or trellis, or plant a bush variety in a container or raised bed. Use your cukes in salsas, salads, gazpacho, and smoothies or turn them into pickles.

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AeroGarden Harvest Elite 360Photo: Amazon.ca

Start sweet peppers indoors

Some seeds take longer than others to germinate, and if your growing season is short, you’ll want to sow them indoors to get a head start on the season. Sweet peppers, for example, aren’t hard to grow, but they can’t take the cold and should be started eight to 10 weeks before your last spring frost.

With this seed-starting system, you provide the seeds and tuck them into biodegradable sponges made from sphagnum peat. The reusable tray holds 50 sponges and comes with a bottle of liquid plant food and a guide to get you growing. Transplant the seedlings into your garden or outdoor containers when the weather warms up. You can also use this seed system to grow herbs on a sunny windowsill. Growing herbs and edibles from seeds is cheaper than starting with plants, but a few things can make the task easier.

Here are more vegetables you can grow indoors.

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Heirloom tomatoesPhoto: Shutterstock

Plant tasty tomatoes

The hardest thing about growing tomatoes might be choosing your favourite kind. There are cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, heirlooms with rich flavours, Romas for stews, pasta, and sauces, and hearty beefsteaks. Gardeners in cool regions may want to start with transplants to save time over growing tomatoes from seeds. The plants need full sun and soil that drains easily. For best results, your soil should contain lots of compost and be slightly acidic, with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. As the plants grow, apply a fertilizer recommended for tomatoes as directed on the label.

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Growing lettuce in raised garden bedPhoto: Shutterstock

Sow lettuce for salads

Lettuces are great for beginning gardeners. They grow fast, take full sun but tolerate some shade, and can be tucked between other fruits and veggies or into containers. They’re also available in lots of tasty, colourful varieties. If you don’t have an ideal garden spot—for example, your soil contains a lot of clay or rocks—use a raised bed instead. Add good quality planting soil, you won’t have to dig. The loose soil will also make it easy to pluck any weeds that pop up. Sow your lettuce seeds in early spring or fall and keep the plants watered regularly. Lettuce started in spring will last until the summer heat arrives and fall-sown lettuce will grow until a killing frost. Harvest the outermost leaves first but don’t pull up the plants, so they can keep producing.

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White onionsPhoto: Shutterstock

Set out onions

Make a little hole in the ground, tuck in a bare-root onion seedling, and stand back. In two or three weeks, the small plants will be ready to pull and use as green onions, or you can wait until the bulbs are bigger and then harvest them. Mature onions will let you know they’re ready when their tops turn yellow and bend over. Just brush off the soil and put the onions, with the tops still attached, in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place to cure for a week to 10 days. Then remove the top foliage and roots and store the onions in a cool, airy place until you’re ready to use them.

With a few easy tricks, you can keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer.

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Indoor herb gardenPhoto: Amazon.ca

Fill a windowsill with herbs

During a quarantine, an herb garden makes a thoughtful gift for a housebound friend or a fun and easy growing project you can enjoy without leaving home. This garden features energy-efficient LED lights, a self-water planter, and over 50 pre-seeded plant pods to choose from. (Think cilantro, basil, lavender, wild strawberries, thyme and even chili peppers!)

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Potatoes on rustic table settingPhoto: Shutterstock

Grow a bagful of potatoes

Humble, nutritious potatoes are a great choice for beginning gardeners, especially when you use grow bags filled with good potting soil and compost. Start with seed potatoes that haven’t been treated to resist sprouting. Cut them into chunks with two eyes per chunk and let them dry overnight before planting them. Then give them full sun and regular water. Add more soil to the bag when the plants are about eight inches tall, leaving the top set of leaves uncovered.

Add more soil when the plants grow another eight inches tall and repeat this process until the bag is full. When the foliage turns yellow, stop watering and wait about a week before you dig up the potatoes with your gloved hands. Many grow bags are reusable and available in different sizes.

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Growing peas in gardenPhoto: Shutterstock

Plant a bushel of peas

There are lots of delightful types of peas. Choose disease-resistant varieties, and you won’t need to do much more than plant them, water regularly and harvest them. Start your peas in cool, spring temperatures, before the hot weather arrives. For a fall crop, sow your peas in late summer and give them some shade and extra water until the mercury drops again. Sow the peas in wide rows, covering them in spring with an inch of soil and planting two inches deep for a fall crop. They don’t usually need fertilizer, but they do need a deep, weekly watering if rain is scarce. For best results, grow your peas, including dwarf varieties, on a trellis or other support. Read your seed packet to know when to harvest, and pick often, so the plants will keep producing. Fresh peas have the best taste, but you can freeze or dry them to use later.

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Spicy red peppersPhoto: Amazon.ca

Grow spicy peppers for fiery flavour

You’ve heard that variety is the spice of life—well, so are jalapenos, habaneros, and other spicy peppers. Start your pepper seeds in the soil discs that come in this indoor garden pepper seed starter kit, and when they sprout, move the seedlings into the fabric grow bags. Use the box as a tray to hold them. When the peppers are a couple of inches tall, and the danger of frost in your area has passed, transplant them into a garden spot that gets full sun. Use the scissors from the kit to snip off your peppers when they’re the size you want. Spicy peppers don’t just add heat and flavor to your foods. They also contain capsaicin, which is thought to act as an antioxidant to help fight infection and prevent some types of heart disease.

Next, save time and money by trying these gardening shortcuts.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest