It's not too late!

If you begin planting a vegetable garden now, you can savor the pleasure of eating delicious, sun-warmed tomatoes in six to eight weeks. Gardening can be a creative way to stake out some alone time or an ongoing plan to spend hours outdoors in the sunlight. Although planning and planting a garden requires some effort, it's probably easier than you imagine and, in no time at all, you can have an attractive addition to your yard.

What to Grow

The Farmers' Almanac Gardening by the Moon Calendar, which applies generally to regions with favorable climates, recommends the best dates in June 2013 for planting specific vegetables. On the "most fruitful days" of June 10 and 11, gardeners are advised to plant tomatoes, beans, peppers, corn, cotton, and other crops that yield above ground. June 16 through 18 are earmarked as good days to plant peas, beans, tomatoes, and other fall crops bearing yield above ground. The calendar marks June 19 and 20 as an especially good time for planting fall lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, and other leafy vegetables. Above ground crops planted at this time will also do well. June 23 through 25 are designated as the time for beets, potatoes, onions, carrots, and other root crops. And the final three days of the month are favorable for planting both root crops and vine crops as well as transplanting.

Planting 101

The National Gardening Association has outlined its advice on how to plant. Timid gardeners might want to try purchasing starter plants or seedlings from a nursery. Plants that have been growing at an outside nursery can go straight into the ground. For your first garden, it would be best to avoid greenhouse-grown plants as they may more easily wither when exposed to the harsh realities of an outdoor garden. Another option is to plant seeds indoors and then, after they have grown to seedling size, transplant them into your garden later. With direct seeding, you sow the seeds directly in your garden. For areas of the country that are less ideal for gardens, direct seeding is risky, as the plants would take so long to grow that the first frost might kill them before they delivered their yield.

To seed your garden, mark the placement of a row within the garden, and then make a furrow at the correct depth along the row. The seed package will instruct you on how to sow, providing you with information on the depth and spacing of seeds. Remember, some seeds may not sprout, so seeds should be sown more thickly than you want the final spacing to be. Cover the seeds with fine soil and then firm them in with the back of a hoe to make sure that all the seeds are in contact with the soil. Water gently.

Modest Is Best

Although first-time gardeners are often eager to prove themselves, it's best to start small. Keep in mind a smaller, well-tended plot is preferable (and may even produce more) to a weed-filled or disease-ridden mega garden. It is important, also, to consider how much your family will eat. Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash, continue to provide throughout the season so many gardeners find they don't need many of these plants.

No matter how big or small you decide to make a vegetable garden, three basic conditions equal success:

1. Direct sun. Most vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. If they don't get enough light, they'll be more susceptible to attack from insects or diseases, and they won't yield as much. If your yard doesn't have a spot with direct sunlight, you can still grow leafy vegetables.

2. Plenty of water. Most vegetables love water and can't tolerate a dry spell. The closer your garden is to a source of water, the easier it will be for you.

3. Good soil. Success begins and ends with good soil. Vegetables do well in moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter, such as compost or peat moss.