Top Ten Best Vegetable Crops to Grow in Northeastern Ohio

The Snarky Gardener lists the best vegetables for Northeastern Ohio gardens

The list is ordered by asking, “If I was starting a new garden today, what would I grow to (almost) guarantee success?”  An important fact to remember is that success includes planting them at the right time of the year.  Some can withstand frosts and prefer spring or fall.  Others love the heat of July and August.  Also, some can handle a bit of shade where others must have at least 6 hours of sun a day to grow well.  All these variables are noted below.

1.  Tomatoes

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Mildly Snarky tomatoes – 7/4/2013

Tomatoes are a garden staple and usually a great success in any garden I’ve ever had.  They should be started inside from seed or purchased from a reliable grower.  Cherry tomatoes produce a lot and are less picky than other varieties.  Most tomato plants (except for Roma types) will keep growing until the first frost of the fall and will need support (technical term is indeterminate).  I’ve used 6 foot steel fencing for this purpose as you can also grow peas up them. Plant tomatoes deep so the first primary leaves are touching the soil as the buried stem will put out roots. Tomatoes do need full sun – the more, the merrier.

When to Plant Tomatoes in Northeastern Ohio: around the middle of May after all danger of frost has passed.

2.  Onions

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Green onions and garlic

By onions, I mean the bulbs you buy at the garden store and use as either green onions (tops and all) or later as full onions.  Onions (and other related plants – garlic, leaks, chives) are also mammal resistant, as deer and rabbits and groundhogs will usually leave them alone.

When to Plant Onion in Northeastern Ohio: These can first be planted in March or April and can be continuously planted through the fall.

3. Green Beans

tendergreenseeds

Easy to grow (once the spring frosts are over) and will help to improve the soil with their nitrogen fixing.  They also produce food quickly (under 60 days) so they can be planted later in the season (through the beginning of August here in Ohio).  Beans are a favorite food of groundhogs and rabbits though so you’ll need to fence them in.

When to Plant Green Beans in Northeastern Ohio: around the middle of May after all danger of frost has passed until August.

4.  Zucchini

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Burpee’s Sure Thing Zucchini
Very prolific, zucchini are always welcome in my garden.  I tend to go with the all-female varieties – like Burpee’s Sure Thing.  Plant Zucchini in mounds with 2 or 3 seeds per mound.

When to Plant Zucchini in Northeastern Ohio: around the end of May after all danger of frost has passed and the ground has warmed up.

5.  Potatoes

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Yukon Gold potatoes – 6/15/2013

Planted in spring, potatoes are really easy.  Just put in the ground and hill up dirt or mulch (leaves or straw) as the plant itself grows up.  Just wait for the plant to die off and then dig up your taters.  You will need store bought seed potatoes as grocery store potatoes are usually sprayed with chemicals that keep them from sprouting.

When to Plant Potatoes in Northeastern Ohio: as early as St. Patrick’s Day through May.

6.  Garlic

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Garlic, like potatoes, are super easy.    I did find out the hard way, you must split the bulbs up into cloves before planting.  But after they are in, you are good to go.  Garlic can be strategically planted to help deter critters (deer, rabbits, etc) from eating other crops.  Many animals do not like the smell of garlic.

When to Plant Garlic in Northeastern Ohio: mid October to be pulled in July or March/April (though this will grow smaller bulbs).

7.  Turnip Greens

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Easy to grow and very nutritious (a so-called “super food”), though somewhat bitter to eat sometimes (colcannon anyone?).  I’ve been going with Seven Top turnips over the last year or so, which are only grown for their greens.  The standard Purple Top White Globe turnip is also good for it’s greens, though you do have to worry about the roots getting tough and dried out as the summer temperatures spike.  Turnips prefer cool weather and can be sown in early spring or fall and will overwinter (and then promptly go to seed if not harvested in time).  They can also handle partial shade.

When to Plant Turnips in Northeastern Ohio: March through May and then again in August and September.

8.  Carrots

Red Cored Chantenay Carrot

These are an issue for some gardens as rocky or clay soil can make for forked carrots.  Red Cored Chantenay is the 6 inch variety I grow that’s just perfect for Northeast Ohio’s clay soil.  They also overwinter well, coming back up for a special spring treat.  The tops are loved by fuzzy animals, both mammals and caterpillars.

When to Plant Carrots in Northeastern Ohio: April to August.

9.  Peas

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Freshly picked Sugar Snap peas – 7/2/2013

Think of peas like green beans (i.e. they fix nitrogen) for the spring and fall.  They can be planted as early as St. Patrick’s day in Northeastern Ohio.  And like green beans, they are loved by bunnies and groundhogs, so you’ll need to fence the peas in and the rodents out.  Also, they are tasty right off the vine, so there’s a chance they never make it back to the kitchen.

When to Plant Peas in Northeastern Ohio: March through May and then again in August and September.

10.  Kale

Red Russian Kale - 1/29/2013

Kale is a relative to cabbage and broccoli but easier to grow.  Red Russian kale seems to be a winner as I know several other local gardeners who also raise it. You’ll need to keep an eye out for little green worms as they love kale.

When to Plant Kale in Northeastern Ohio: April through September.

11.   Spinach

Tyee (F1) (OG)
Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Tyee Spinach (F1) (OG)

I threw spinach in because it’s one of my favorite “super foods”.  I like it better than most other greens (including lettuce and kale).  But it’s a little hard to get started and will bolt (go to seed) once the weather gets hot.  Also, spinach can handle some shade.

When to Plant Spinach in Northeastern Ohio: April / May and again in August/September.

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