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.
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.
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.