Black Thumb Gardening, Part II

In gardening circles, they call it having a black thumb: that innate talent for killing any plant you come into contact with. Well, they don't all have to die! While you're unlikely to exchange your black digit for a green thumb, there are some plants that just about anyone can grow with a high change of success.

Last time, in Part I, we covered some of the hardier flowers, like four o'clocks and pansies, and houseplants such as Devil's Ivy and Screw Pine. All of the above take a determined effort to kill. But what about plants for the pot? Well, let's see...


Salad greens are pretty simple to grow, particularly cress and arugula (a.k.a. rocket). As long as you take care to plant them after your last expected freeze date, all you need to do is water them occasionally, and they'll grow like weeds (that's one reason arugula is called "rocket").

Cress can be ready in as little as two weeks, arugula in about four. Both have a peppery zest. Just avoid growing cress in hot weather, or it'll become inedible. The same will happen to both cress and arugula if you let them bolt -- that is, flower. Arugula's okay for warm weather, but its growth will slow down.

Greens and Roots

Two easy veggies that produce edible greens as well as tubers are radishes and turnips. Many people don't know that radish greens are edible, but they too have a peppery bite. Even better, both tops and bottoms are ready for dinner in as little as a month.

Turnips mature in about two months, and they produce delicious greens. In fact, you can harvest selected turnip leaves early, then allow the tubers to keep growing before harvesting everything at once. The turnips can be prepared like potatoes (especially boiled and mashed) or added to boiled greens for flavor.

Other Easy Crops

As many people know, it's hard to go wrong with zucchini and cucumbers; they're basically just plant and forget, as long as it rains enough (or you set up a timed sprinkler system). Other cucurbits like squash are also pretty easy, but they're more susceptible to diseases that can ruin your efforts.

While Your Humble Writer has had little luck with tomatoes, most people have no problem at all with them, and peppers require little effort at all. If you like gumbo, then plant some okra; it too is easy to grow.

One of the great things about all these veggies is that they can help you save on grocery dollars with healthy, homegrown goodies. Can't complain about that; it's a great advantage above and beyond overcoming your black thumb!


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