Frequently Asked Questions: Vegetable Gardening

Hello there, garden enthusiasts!

Bob Wasson here, ready to tackle some of frequently asked questions about starting and maintaining a vegetable garden. For this article, we’re going to assume that you’ve selected a spot that gets plenty of sun, soil is tilled and ready, gloves on, trowel in hand and ready to dig! We’ve put together some down-to-earth advice you need to help your garden thrive.

Q1: What should I grow if I’m new to vegetable gardening?

Answer: What do you like to eat? Start with what you love because there's no better feeling in gardening than enjoying the fruits of your labor! But if it's too hard to decide, know that there are so many options that are both easy and rewarding. Here are our top recommendations!

 Top 5 Beginner-Friendly Vegetables

  1. Tomatoes - The quintessential Indiana garden vegetable, tomatoes come in many varieties suited to different uses and tastes. Tomato cages or supports should be used. Install these early for best results.
  2. Lettuce - Easy to grow and quick to harvest, lettuce is perfect for beginners and can be grown in succession for a continuous crop. It thrives in cooler weather but there are varieties that can withstand a bit of the summer heat.
  3. Carrots - Carrots are fun to grow and only need loose, sandy soil free of stones. Once you sow the seeds, they can take a while to germinate but are very low-maintenance once established.
  4. Green Beans - Opt for bush beans if you want simplicity, as they grow quickly and don’t require staking. They’re prolific producers and can be harvested within a few weeks of planting.
  5. Bell Peppers - With a little patience, bell peppers are a colorful and useful garden addition. They grow well in warm weather and can be used in a variety of dishes. This also does well with a little support as the plentiful peppers can weigh down the branches.

Top 5 Beginner-Friendly Herbs

  1. Basil - A must-have in the garden, basil is easy to grow from seeds or seedlings and loves warm weather. It pairs beautifully with tomatoes, both in the garden and in the kitchen.
  2. Mint - Extremely hardy and vigorous, mint is best grown in pots to prevent it from taking over the garden. It’s perfect for teas, desserts, and garnishing numerous dishes.
  3. Parsley - Parsley is not just a garnish—its vibrant taste brightens salads and soups. It grows easily and can even thrive in partial shade.
  4. Chives - Chives are a wonderful addition to the garden, with their mild onion flavor and pretty purple flowers. They are perennials, so they’ll come back year after year.
  5. Rosemary - Hardy and drought-resistant, rosemary is perfect for a beginner’s herb garden. It thrives in hot, sunny locations and can be used in a myriad of culinary dishes. Since it is drought tolerant, make sure that this plant doesn't get the same amount of water as the rest of your garden. Leave it on the end or corner or even in a pot of it's own.

 Q2: Do I need to fertilize my vegetable garden? If so, what should I use?

Answer: Yes, fertilizing can significantly enhance your garden’s productivity. For vegetable gardens, I recommend using a balanced, all-purpose organic fertilizer. You can apply it at planting time and then follow up with additional side-dressings midway through the growing season. There are many different kinds of fertilizer, but one we would recommend is Espoma Garden Tone because it is organic as well as balanced to target root growth and vegetable production. Be sure to read the label for specific application rates and instructions.

Q3: How do I protect my vegetable garden from pests?

Answer: The key to managing pests is vigilance. Keep an eye on your plants for any signs of damage and identify the culprits early. For organic control of insects, neem oil and insecticidal soaps are effective treatments that are safer for your plants and the environment. Its a good idea to have an all purpose fungicide on hand and ready to use. Copper Fungicide is an organic option that controls most problems you would encounter.

Q4: What are some good companion planting suggestions for my vegetable garden?

Answer: Companion planting is a fantastic way to enhance your garden’s health and productivity. It involves placing plants together that can help each other grow better, either by deterring pests, enhancing flavor, or optimizing space. Here are a few classic combinations that work well for gardeners:

  • Tomatoes and Basil: Planting basil alongside your tomatoes can help repel pests like mosquitoes and flies, and some gardeners swear it enhances the flavor of the tomatoes!
  • Carrots and Onions: The strong scent of onions can deter carrot flies from attacking your carrots, making this pairing not only practical but a great space-saver.
  • Cucumbers and Radishes: Radishes can help deter cucumber beetles and act as a trap crop, attracting pests away from the cucumbers. They also mature quickly, so you can harvest radishes before cucumbers need more space.
  • Peppers and Marigolds: The bright and colorful marigolds can help repel nematodes and other pests from attacking your peppers. Plus, they add a splash of color to your vegetable garden.
  • Lettuce and Tall Flowers (like Cosmos or Sunflowers): Tall flowers provide shade for lettuce, which thrives in cooler temperatures, extending its growing season.

These are just a few examples, but there are many more combinations to explore. Companion planting not only makes your garden more diverse and visually appealing but also encourages a healthier ecosystem.

Q5: I'm overwhelmed by the tomato options... What should I choose?

Answer: Here are some suggestions based on usage!

Fresh Salsa

For fresh salsa, you want tomatoes that are flavorful but firm enough to hold up well when chopped.

  • Roma: These are classic salsa tomatoes due to their dense, meaty flesh and fewer seeds.
  • San Marzano: Known for their sweet flavor and low acidity, making them perfect for a balanced salsa.


Cooking tomatoes are typically used for sauces and pastes because they have fewer seeds, more flesh, and cook down well.

  • San Marzano: Their low moisture content and sweet flavor also make them excellent for cooking into sauces.


For canning, you want tomatoes that are meaty with good acidity and flavor.

  • Heirloom Brandywine: Known for their exceptional flavor, they are great for canning despite their larger size.
  • Roma: A prolific producer of classic paste tomatoes that hold up well in cans.


Slicing tomatoes are large and hold their structure well when cut, making them perfect for sandwiches and burgers.

  • Beefsteak: Large and meaty, ideal for slicing due to their size and solid structure.
  • Big Boy: Known for their uniform size and excellent flavor, these are great on any plate.

Salad Topper

Salad tomatoes are generally smaller, sweeter, and more acidic, providing a burst of flavor in a bite-sized form.

  • Cherry Tomatoes: Sweet and tangy, perfect for a quick snack or salad topping.
  • Grape Tomatoes: Slightly firmer and less watery than cherry tomatoes, with a sweet, concentrated flavor ideal for salads.


Some tomato varieties are versatile enough to be used across multiple types of dishes.

  • Celebrity: Known for their balance of sweetness and tanginess, robust flavor, and medium size, making them good for salads, sandwiches, and cooking.

Sun Gold: These small, orange cherry tomatoes are incredibly sweet and versatile, suitable for salads, cooking, and eating straight off the vine.


Conclusion: We hope this has helped answer some general questions and provide some guidance on starting your garden! Please as always, stop in any of our stores for expert advice. 

Happy Gardening!

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