Ever been to the county fair and marveled at the mammoth blue ribbon pumpkins on display or other giant veggie varieties? Perhaps you have wondered how on earth they grow these giant vegetable plants. Despite their massive size, growing huge vegetables requires a lot of TLC, intensive prep work, and patience. Gird yourself with these and the following information about giant vegetable plants, and you too may find yourself with a ribbon or a trophy; at the very least you will have fun!
Types of Giant Garden Vegetables
Do some research and decide what giant veggie varieties you would like to attempt to grow. There is quite a variety beyond the gigantic pumpkin, although those are quite dramatic with the world’s record going to a 1,400 pound behemoth. Giant veggie varieties of broccoli (35 lbs., 16 kg.), carrot (19 lbs., 8.5 kg.), beet (43 lbs., 19 kg.), celery (49 lbs, 22 kg.), and red cabbage (45 lbs, 20 kg.) to name a few, are some of the massive produce that can be grown.
Seeds, although a bit pricey, can be purchased from seed catalogs for giants such as:
- Big Zac and Old Colossus heirloom tomatoes
- Oxheart carrots
- Giant Cobb Gem or Carolina Cross watermelons
- Atlantic Giant pumpkins
Other giant veggie varieties of seeds specifically chosen for their inordinate sizes are:
- Tropic Giant cabbages
- Giant Silo corn
- German Queen and Beefsteak-type tomatoes
- Big Bertha green peppers
- Kelsea Giant onions
- Gold Pak carrots
Another option for growing huge vegetables is to save seed from particularly large produce which you have grown for sowing the following season; this doesn’t work with hybrids though.
How to Grow Giant Vegetables
Enticing isn’t it? Now the question is how do we grow giant vegetables? Number one order of business is soil. Growing giant veggie varieties must have nutrient rich, well draining soil. It’s a great idea to amend the soil with as much organic matter as possible along with nitrogen prior to winter. Then in the spring, till the soil as deeply as you can, especially if growing giant root crops, like carrots, since they need lots of loose soil for their huge roots. Also, creating raised beds to encourage better drainage of the giant vegetable plants is a plus and be sure to plant the giant in full sun.
Fertilization is, of course, key. The large pumpkin, squash, and melon varieties may need liquid fertilizer once a week, while the smaller root crops need a bit less frequent feedings. Leafy veggies, such as cabbage, require high nitrogen fertilizer. The type and frequency of feeding is dependent upon the type of veggie you are growing. A slow release organic fertilizer that continuously feed the giant over the course of the season is ideal. A rule of thumb is to fertilize with high phosphorus food before plants are pollinated and high potassium content once fruit is set. Organic gardeners should water daily with compost tea.
Plant your giant veggie varieties as soon as possible in the spring to take advantage of the longest possible growing season and water them well. These giants need water! You may water by hand if you only have a few plants or drip irrigate. Drip irrigation provides the boon of a slow supply of water to the roots and is more effective than large amounts delivered less frequently, which can stress your giant babies out and result in cracking the fruit.
Okay people, if you are like me, this is the tough part. Remove all the veggies from the plant except 2-3 of the healthiest with the eventual goal of removing all except the best one to encourage the plant to put all of its energy into growing a giant. Place a porous mat under the growing giant to protect it from rot and pests and keep the giant clean. Inspect daily for pests and take immediate (using non-toxic methods like hand picking) action to exterminate them. Keep the area around your prize weed free.
Final Thoughts on Growing Giant Veggies
Another question you may have upon beholding your giant vegetable is “are giant vegetables edible?” Well, they could be eaten, but often giant veggie varieties are grown for the attribute of their shocking size, not flavor. Chances are you are growing the giant for bragging rights anyway and not to consume, so enjoy the novelty and excitement of growing the “biggun” without thought to actually eating it.
Be patient when growing your giant and talk to other folks who have successfully grown giant vegetables. They will often be a font of information as well as proud to share their success stories.
Choose a convenient site in full sun with easy access to water and fertile, well-drained soil. Avoid areas near trees and large shrubs that will compete with the garden for sunlight, water, and nutrients.
Sunlight. Most vegetables need at least eight hours of direct sunlight. Plants that we grow for their leaves—including leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, chard, and spinach—and plants that we grow for their storage roots (such as radishes, turnips, and beets) can be grown in as little as six hours of sunlight but do much better with eight hours or more. Plants that we grow for their fruit, including tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers, need at least eight and do better with 10 hours of sunlight.
Water. One of the most important aspects of gardening is water, which makes up 90 percent of a plant’s weight. Water is heavy and difficult to move, so locate the garden near a potable water supply, making it easy to water the garden properly. Dragging a hose hundreds of feet or carrying buckets of water across the yard every few days makes having a garden a lot more work. On average, vegetables need one inch of water per week, and you need to provide only what is not supplied by rain. Water the soil, not the plant. Many diseases are spread by water splashing on the leaves. Overwatering can also lead to insect and disease problems as well as washing nutrients away, converting a valuable garden resource into pollution in nearby streams.
24 Must-Have Victory Garden Vegetables
I know, I’ve been on a victory garden blog post kick of late. There are a few reasons I’ve been writing about growing victory garden vegetables: first, victory gardens are the type of garden preppers should maintain two, I love history, and victory gardens have a big place in American history and third, victory gardens are on everyone’s mind right now with COVID-19, as evidenced by recent articles in Berkeleyside, CBS News, New York Times, and even Realtor.com.
I’m no professional gardener, but I have dug into the dirt more than once. I even built my own concrete block raised bed garden for vegetables. I’m not relying on my amateur experience for this post, however. I’m not making up this list of the best victory garden vegetables. The list comes from the WWII-era ABC of Victory Gardens pamphlet (linked to at the end of this post).
The vegetables listed below, I believe, were chosen at the time because they’re forgiving, meaning easy to grow, hearty. They are also – for the most part – vegetables that grow in abundance and come with a high nutrient and calorie count. These are also the reasons the following vegetables are great choices for a prepper’s survival garden.
24 Must-Have Victory Garden Vegetables
- Beans (BUSH) – A “must” for every garden. Great producer and easy to grow. Likes sandy loam. Sow early in May or when the soil is warm. Plant every two weeks up to August 1st for continuous supply. Rows 18″ apart. Seeds two to three inches apart and two inches deep. One packet for 25′ row. Organic Blue Lake Bush Bean Seeds
- BEANS (POLE) – Very productive! Matures later than bush beans but bear longer. Plant second week in May not later than June 15th. Place rough 7′ poles at least 1′ in the ground about 3′ apart. Sow seeds around each pole. Thin to 3 or 4 of the strongest plants. One packet for 15 poles. Organic Kentucky Pole Bean Seeds
- BEANS (BUSH LIMAS) – One of the most succulent of all garden favorites! Likes rich sandy soil. Plant about May 15th with the eyes down in rows 2.5′ apart and seeds 5″ apart. Thin to 10″. Never cultivate or touch plants when wet. A 25′ row requires 1.5 packets. Henderson Baby Lima Bean Seeds
- BEETS – An old time favorite that requires little attention. A good storage crop for winter use. Likes a rich well-loosened sandy loam. Sow every three weeks to end of July for continuous supply. Sow seeds 1″ apart and 1″ deep in rows 18″ apart. Thin to 3″. Use tops for greens. One packet for a 25′ row. Organic Gaea’s Blessing Beets Seeds
- BROCCOLI – Start seed in a cold frame on March 15. Transplant about April 30th. For later crop, sow seeds May 30th in rows 2′ apart. Thin to 18″. Plants will continue to bear after first cutting. One packet for a 25′ row. Waltham Broccoli Seeds
- CELTUCE – Delicious as salad or cooked. Grows easily and quickly. Has four times more Vitamin C than lettuce. Use the leaves and inside meat of the stalk. Plant about April 30th in rows 2′ apart. Thin to 6″. One packet for a 25′ row. 100 Celtuce Seeds
- CARROTS – Soil must be deeply worked and loose. Sow April 15th in rows 1′ apart and 1″ deep. Thin to 3″. Sow every two weeks to July 1st for continuous supply. One packet for a 25′ row. Rainbow Blend Carrot Seeds
- CABBAGE (EARLY) – Sow seeds indoors late in February and transplant early in April, or buy plants at that time. Plant in rows 18″ apart with 18″ between plants. They like a light dry soil. Will mature in about 90 days. Cultivate lightly as roots are near surface. Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage Seeds
- CABBAGE (LATE) – Sow this variety outdoors in May or June. Transplant in July, or buy plants at that time. This type likes heavier richer soil. Will mature in October or November. Plant in rows 2′ apart with 18″ between plants. Beware of the cabbage moth! Late Flat Dutch Cabbage Seeds
- CHARD (SWISS) – Very tasty. You can cut and it comes again and again. Many people prefer it to spinach. Plant rows 18″ apart. Thin plants to 6″. Sow in April or May. One packet for a 25′ row. David’s Garden Swiss Chard Seeds
- CORN (SWEET) – Be sure to have some if your garden is big enough. Plant May 1st to May 15th when soil is thoroughly warm. For a continuous supply, sow every two weeks until end of July. Plant in rows 3′ apart with seeds every 4″. Thin to 12″. Alternatively, plant in hills 3′ apart each way, allowing 2 or 3 plants to remain in each hill. Plant in a number of short rows instead of a few long ones, as an aid to pollination. One packet for 4 twenty-five foot rows. Peaches and Cream Sweet Corn Seeds
- KALE – It is full of vitamins and delicious when cooked. Sow seeds from April 15th to August 15th. Frost improves its flavor. Plant in rows 3′ apart. Thin or transplant the seedlings 12″ apart. One packet for a 25′ row. Curly Kale Seeds
- LETTUCE – America’s favorite salad! It’s crisp, tender, and high in vitamins and minerals. For a head start, plant seeds indoors or in a cold frame about March 1st. Transplant or sow seeds outdoors as soon as soil can be worked. Sow every two weeks until August for continuous supply. Plant in rows 12″ apart thin to 6″. One packet will so two 50′ rows. Lettuce Lovers Seed Collection
- OKRA – A vigorous grower not found in enough gardens. Easy to grow. Young pods are delicious as cooked vegetable or for use in soups and dishes. Plant May 15th in rows 2′ apart. Thin plants to 18″. Two packets for a 25′ row. Texas Longhorn Okra Seeds
- ONIONS (SEED) – They like a well-tilled, well-drained soil. Plant as soon as ground can be worked in rows 1′ apart and 1/2″ deep. Thin to 3″ (or more if larger types are grown). Bend tops down (but don’t break off) when bulbs are full grown to hasten ripening a good crop for storage. One packet for a 25′ row. Civilys Giant Onion Seeds
- ONIONS (SETS) – These will mature much more quickly than seeds. Can be thinned out and used as scallions in about 6 weeks. Plant April 15th 2 or 3″ apart in rows 1′ apart about 1/2″ deep. One pints will do two 25′ rows. Hill Creek Evergreen Bunching Onion Seeds
- PARSNIPS – If you ever tasted tender parsnips, you would grow some most certainly. Requires a deeply worked soil. Sow about May 1st in rows 2′ apart and 1/2″ deep. Thin to 4″. Frost improves their flavor. A good crop for winter storage. One packet for a 25′ row. Organic All American Heirloom Parsnip Seeds
- PEAS – No other vegetables is so universally popular and with good reason. A freshly picked garden grown pea is unsurpassed for flavor and tenderness. Plant early in March as soon as ground can be worked. Plant in rows 2′ apart and 2″ deep. Place seeds 2″ apart. Do not thin out. Use trellis netting when seed is planted. Repeat plantings every two weeks until last May. Use 1/8 pound of seed for a 25′ row. Little Marvel Pea Seeds
- POTATOES – The gardener’s bread and butter. They like a rich sandy loam with plenty of humus. Buy good seed potatoes. Cut them nito pieces with 1 or 2 eyes. Plant April 15th in rows 30″ apart, 12″ apart, and 4″ deep. You will need about 2 lbs. for a 25′ row. White Kennebec Seed Potatoes 5 lbs
- RADISHES – They like a sandy loam but will grow well in any type. They grow quickly especially if a quick-acting fertilizer is applied. You should sow them every 2 weeks from April 15th to August 15th. Plant in rows 1′ apart 1/2″ deep. Thin to 2″. One packet for a 25′ row. Early Scarlet Globe Radish Seeds
- SPINACH – An easy crop to grow with good soil and cool weather. Plant your first crop April 15th in rows 1.5′ apart, 1/2″ deep. Thin to 5″ apart. Sow every two weeks until June 15th. Plant your seeds for a fall supply from August 15th to September 15th. One packet for a 25′ row. Gaea’s Blessing Organic Spinach Seeds
- SQUASH (BUSH) – Easy to grow and prolific. Delicious when fried, baked, or stewed. Plant in hills 3′ apart each way. Sow seeds in each hill 1″ deep. Thin to 4 of the strongest plants. One packet will do for 10 hills. Bush Baby Zucchini Summer Squash Seeds
- TOMATOES – A crop that seldom fails. It likes almost any kind of soil. You can sow seed indoors about March 15th, but most gardeners prefer to buy plants and set them out around May 15th. Plant them singly in hills at least 3′ apart each way. The tomatoes will ripen better if you tie the plants as they grow, to sturdy tomato cages. Pinch off side shoots as they appear, to make the fruit larger. Burpee Fourth of July Hybrid Seeds
- TURNIPS – A good substantial tasty dish. Hardy and easy to grow. Plant April 15th in rows 1′ apart. Thin to 4″. A grand winter storage crop. Make a 2nd planting in July or August. 1/2 packet for a 25′ row. David’s Garden Turnip Seeds
Vitamin Values Chart
If you enjoyed this post, see my related posts: What is the Best Victory Garden Size for You? and Preparing Soil for a Victory Garden. Also, feel free to download the ABC of Victory Gardens pamphlet from which most of the information in this post was derived. Thanks for reading and
prep garden on!
3. Kale: cut and come again
Kale is super nutritious and grows easily in containers and in garden beds, photo above by Nicole. In mild winter climates they can grow year round. They are also very cold hardy, and the leaves turn sweeter when temperatures get colder.
The 3 popular varieties are Lacinato kale (our favorite, also called Tuscan kale or Dinosaur kale), Curly kale, and Red Russian kale. Photo by A little seedy.
List of Vegetables from A to Z
Few gardening ventures are more satisfying than growing a vegetable garden. Whether you have a half-acre plot or a few pots on a patio, bringing a crop of tomatoes, beans or corn to harvest gives a feeling of accomplishment. Once you’ve mastered the basic garden vegetables, try the more exotic types.
Here’s the list to choose from! Did we leave anything out? Leave a comment and let us know, so we can add it.
Artichoke: A perennial plant resembling thistles, artichokes are only hardy to US. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 6. Artichokes require rich soil and plenty of moisture to produce well.
Arugula: Sow arugula seeds in early spring or fall. This salad crop prefers cool temperatures. Enjoy its unique, peppery taste alone or in a salad of mixed greens.
Asparagus: Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, taking two or three years to become established, but it lives for 20 to 30 years. Asparagus requires minimal care and produces sweet, tender stalks every spring.
Basil: Basil and tomatoes are often planted together. Gardening lore says that the two improve each other’s taste. They are certainly well-paired in dishes, such as bruschetta and pasta sauces. Start basil from seed or transplants and grow in sun. Keep the soil moist and pinch back the leaves.
Beans: Plant beans after the soil is warm, and don’t soak the seeds first, contrary to popular belief. They’ll rot or crack. Bush beans produce a lot of beans over a few weeks the harvest season of pole beans extends until frost. Try shell beans as well.
Beets: Beets take up little room and can be planted in early spring for a summer harvest or late summer for a fall harvest.
Bok Choy: This crisp, flavorful cabbage is used primarily in stir fries. It thrives in cool, moist conditions and tolerates part shade.
Broccoli: Broccoli is a cool-season crop that tolerates late spring frosts. Fresh broccoli tastes infinitely better than commercially-produced counterparts. Cut stalks off the main plant for a continual harvest. Rotate crops to minimize insect problems.
Broccoli Raab: This Italian cousin of broccoli has similar growing requirements and produces loose flower heads instead of compact, formed bunches.
Brussel sprouts: Brussel sprouts need a very long season to grow—as much as 175 to 185 days, depending on the variety. The taste is actually improved by a touch of frost.
Cabbage: Start cabbage early in the spring when the soil is soft or set out transplants. Like brussel sprouts, cabbage likes a nice, long growing season and plenty of moisture. Cabbage stores well for the winter.
Cantaloupe: The sweet fragrance of ripening cantaloupe in the garden is reason enough to grow it, but the sweet taste is even better. Plant cantaloupe after all chance of frost is passed in a warm, sunny location.
Carrots: Carrots are slow to germinate, especially in dry conditions, but they take up little room and are easy to grow. Thin carrots to 2 inches apart and grow half-length varieties, such as ‘Danvers Half-Long’ if you have heavy soil.
Cauliflower: Cauliflower is a bit trickier to grow than some of the other brassicas. It doesn’t tolerate heat or frost, but needs at least two to three months to mature. Cover the cauliflower head with the leaves of the plant when it is about the size of an egg to “blanch” the cauliflower, which turns it white and improves its taste.
Celery: Home gardeners seldom grow celery. It grows slowly, requiring as much as six months to mature, and prefers a cool, moist climate and very rich, wet soil. Read about celery health benefits.
Chile peppers: These pungent, flavorful peppers thrive in dry, warm weather, such as that found in the southwest. Start them from nursery transplants and place them in a sunny location. Limit water as the fruit matures to improve the flavor. Roast peppers in a hot oven or use fresh.
Chives: Chives are a perennial herb, so give them a permanent location. The thin, green leaves are excellent in salads and sauces the blossoms are edible, as well. Chives tolerate cold winters and drought conditions.
Collards: Easy to grow and brimming with vitamins, collards deserve a place in any garden. Grow them as an early spring crop in the north and a fall crop in the south. They tolerate and even prefer slightly cool temperatures.
Corn: Corn takes a lot out of the soil and requires plenty of space, but gardeners grow it anyway for the sweet, crisp taste of fresh corn. Corn is pollinated by the wind so plant it in a block of at least four rows, rather than one long row.
Cucumber: Cucumbers thrive in warm, moist conditions. Plant them after the last frost in a sunny location. Cucumbers take less room in the garden than most cucurbits and can even be trellised. Grow bush varieties in containers.
Dill: Dill grows easily from seed, is delicious in a variety of dishes and attracts beneficial insects to the garden with its tiny flowers. Interplant it throughout the garden to confuse pests.
Eggplant: Those shiny, purple lobes are the royalty of any garden. Grow eggplant as you would tomatoes. Plant seedlings in a warm, sunny location after the last frost. Keep the soil evenly moist and protect eggplants from late spring frosts by using row covers or cloches.
English peas: Also known as garden peas, these are the traditional peas eaten without the pods. Start them from seed in early spring. They don’t tolerate hot, dry conditions.
Escarole: Use escarole in salads or sautéed in olive oil with garlic. Plant escarole from seed in midsummer for a tasty fall crop.
French Sorrel: Tasty in salads and soups, French sorrel is a perennial green that is easy to grow. Sow seeds in early spring and make cuttings throughout the season. Don’t allow the plant to grow above 12 inches or go to seed.
Garlic: Plant garlic in early spring. Purchase varieties adapted for your climate zone and plant the cloves pointed ends up and 2 to 3 inches deep. Dig them up when the tops die back.
Kale: Kale is a cool season vegetable that plants well from seed or a transplant. It is successful as a spring or fall crop. Harvest leaves before heat, since higher temperatures make the leaves bitter. Fertilize kale with a nitrogen rich fertilizer about a month after transplanting or when the plants are about 4 to 5 inches tall. Kale is rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, making it a great vegetable for nutrition.
Kohlrabi: Plant kohlrabi from seed in early spring when the soil is soft. The plant produces a turnip-flavored root in as little as six weeks.
Leeks: These mild-flavored cousins to onions are expensive to buy at the grocery store, but easy to grow in the garden. Sow them from seed in early spring or use transplants. Dig them with a trowel rather than pulling them to harvest. Mulch them to overwinter because they don’t store well.
Lettuce: Plant lettuce in early spring, as soon as the soil is soft. Choose soft-headed lettuces over head lettuce, which tend to go to seed more quickly. Keep the soil moist so the lettuce is tender and mild.
Okra: A staple of Southern cooking, okra thrives in warm, moist conditions, much like eggplant and tomatoes. Start it indoors six weeks before planting if you live in the north. Southern gardeners can plant it from seed in late spring.
Onions: Onions take a long time to grow from seed and are often grown from sets instead. Buy onion sets locally, choosing those adapted to your area.
Radicchio: This exotic, Italian salad plant looks lovely in the garden with its red foliage. It needs five months to mature and prefers cool temperatures. Plant it midsummer for a fall crop.
Parsnip: Parsnips look like white carrots, but have a texture closer to potatoes. Use these root vegetables in soups, stews or roasted. Sow parsnips in spring and keep the soil evenly moist. Like carrots, they are slow to germinate, and may take as long as a year to grow. They benefit from a few frosts.
Peppers: Sweet peppers need a warm location and moist soil to develop the thick-walled, sweet fruit. They are more difficult to grow in dry regions than chile peppers.
Potatoes: This staple crop is drought-resistant and yields more protein per square foot than any other crop but legumes. Start with certified disease-free seed potatoes and rotate crops every year to minimize disease.
Pumpkins: Pumpkins take up a lot of space in the garden with their long, lazy vines, but their cheerful, orange or white fruit are worth the space. Plant them in late spring when the soil is warm.
Radish: Radishes are a good crop for the beginning gardener or even a child. They germinate quickly, take up little space and reach maturity in four to six weeks. Use them in salads or eat fresh.
Rhubarb: This old-fashioned perennial plant is actually a vegetable, but is eaten as a fruit. Give it a large space in full-sun and keep the soil moderately moist. Harvest rhubarb in mid spring to early summer, but don’t eat the leaves, which are toxic.
Rutabagas: Rutabagas are round, squat root vegetables that are typically eaten boiled, or mashed and served with butter. These humble vegetables thrive in cool temperatures, but require at least three months to mature. Plant them in early summer in the north, and late summer in the south.
Shallots: Shallots seem like a luxury item, but they are easy and inexpensive to grow. Buy a few shallots and break them apart to create sets. Plant the sets with the pointed side up 2 to 3 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. The sets will form a new cluster of shallots.
Snap peas: Snap and snow peas have crisp edible pods, eaten fresh or used in stir-fry. These plants are just as easy to grow as garden peas. Plant them in early spring for a late spring crop.
Spinach: Delicious in salads or steamed, spinach is one of the earliest garden greens. It goes to seed as soon as temperatures spike. Try new smooth varieties that are easier to wash than the crinkled type.
Summer squash: Summer squash includes yellow squash, zucchini and patty pan squash. These plants grow easily and are prolific producers. One or two plants is usually plenty.
Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes need at least five months of warm weather, making them a popular crop for Southern gardeners. Try adapted varieties if you live in the North.
Tomatillo: Tomatillo plants resemble tomatoes–tall, gangly sun worshipers that take up more than their fair share of the garden. The green fruit develop a papery skin when they are ripe. Use them for Mexican sauces.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are the most commonly grown garden vegetable, and with good reason. Home-grown tomatoes are infinitely better than those found in the grocery store. Plant them from seedlings after the last frost and choose disease-resistant varieties.
Turnips: The ultimate peasant food, turnips are a fast-growing root vegetable that thrives in cool weather. Boil them, mash them or roast them.
Watermelon: Watermelon needs long, hot summers and plenty of water to mature. Grow adapted, short-season types if you live in the north.
Winter squash: Winter squash, such as acorn and butternut squash, take up more room in the garden than summer squash and require more time to mature. However, they store well and have a high vitamin content.
Zucchini: Zucchini is actually a specific type of summer squash, so it is grown using the same methods as summer squash. A great choices if you are looking to get a lot of vegetables from one plant, because they make a lot.
Most vegetables have similar growing requirements, simplifying gardening tasks. Select varieties well-suited to your region, give them adequate water and sunlight and reap the rewards of fresh, nutritious produce.