Thriving plants for Michigan’s environment


Thriving or dying.

Lush gardens are found between the pages of glossy magazine covers. Pruned and pinched for a photo shoot, not unlike a model. As novice gardeners we strive for success the first time out. When success eludes us we ponder why. The plants weren’t strong enough, the seed was bad, or the inevitable and dreaded thought that, “I have a black thumb and can’t grow anything.” Starting a garden can be overwhelming. Where to start? Start in your backyard or on your patio!

Success begins small. It’s important to choose the edibles that you or your family are sure to eat. My top suggestions for beginner gardeners:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Green Beans
  • Swiss Chard
  • Onions

Each of the above can be planted in a raised bed, large containers or in a garden plot. If planting in large containers, only one tomato, cucumber or zucchini plant per container. These veggies will also need support in a container. Use a trellis or wire cage to obtain maximum potential for vining plants. Crop rotation is the utmost important to a successful food garden, even for the smallest garden. Rotation of crops helps avoid blights and also allows the soil to regenerate from year to year.

Have you considered throwing Swiss Chard in a perennial garden? Swiss Chard’s bold and beautiful color can be beneficial during the bloom cycles in a perennial bed. How about adding your onions in the mix too? Their long green stalks can add color and texture.

Bonus Idea: Plant a small cover crop to return nutrients to the soil. For our climate, Hairy Vetch is a good choice for adding nitrogen back into the soil. Simply plant in the early fall and till in into the soil in the spring.

Jody Sharrard and her husband Jeremy take pride in being fifth generation dairy farmers in Peck, Michigan.