By Bethany Hayes
In recent years, gardening began to pick up steam as a hobby, and current events led to an explosion in vegetable gardening like never seen before. As a self-proclaimed gardening addict, it makes my heart happy when I see others enjoying and learning about gardening. More people than ever asked me questions this year about how to garden and easy vegetables for beginner gardeners.
My first piece of advice regarding what you’ll grow in your veggie garden is to grow what you like. Once you spend more time gardening and feeling confident in your abilities, it’s time to branch out and grow new foods.
Some vegetables are easier to grow than other ones. Let’s take a look at the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden.
9 Easy Vegetables for Beginner Gardeners
Let’s start with peas – one of the fresh vegetables I tried to grow. If you have kids, peas need to be on your list to grow. My kids don’t eat cooked peas unless I add them to chicken pot pie, but they can eat cups of fresh peas off the vine.
Peas are so easy to grow that my kids are the ones who take responsibility, planting and caring for them. They prefer cool weather, so they grow best in the spring and the fall. Growing them in the summer is possible if you live somewhere that doesn’t have hot summers. We live in Ohio, and I find that our summers are too warm to grow peas in the summer.
Here are some tips for growing peas.
- Peas need a support system to grow up because they’re a vining veggie. You can use a trellis, an arch, or a teepee.
- Once you plant the seeds, keep the area well-watered until they sprout. Peas won’t germinate in dry soil.
- You don’t need to start peas inside. Instead, plant them outside 2-3 weeks before your final frost date.
- Once the plants start to produce, harvest daily.
Radishes are an underrated vegetable that is slowly gaining popularity. They are some of the earliest veggies that you can plant in the spring and some of the fastest to mature. Some varieties of radishes grow in as little as 24 days – that’s only three weeks!
Radishes are another vegetable that’s appropriate for kids to grow. Kids are impatient, so when they see sprouts after only a few days, it brings them some excitement about gardening and helps them wait for the rest of their vegetables to grow.
Here are some suggestions for growing radishes.
- Since radishes are a root crop, you shouldn’t start the seeds indoors because they won’t transplant well. Instead, sow the seeds outside 2-3 weeks (or earlier if you have protection over your crops) before your final frost date.
- Keep radishes well watered; since they’re cool-weather crops, they prefer moist, not soggy, soil.
- The seeds are small, so it’s easy to plant them too close together. Once they sprout, thin the plants 3-4 inches apart to give the roots space to grow.
- When you harvest radishes, pull up at the root top or use a spade to pry them from the soil gently.
Summer squash, such as zucchini, is one of the easiest vegetables for beginner gardeners. You can start squash seeds indoors, but they quickly become rootbound, so don’t start them until two weeks before you want to plant them outside. You can buy seedlings or plant the seeds directly outdoors.
Everyone knows that zucchini can be overabundant. I might have been known to dump zucchinis on my neighbor’s porch and run. Make sure you don’t plant anything too close to these because they’re known to take over surrounding plants.
Here are some things to know about growing zucchini plants.
- Squash plants are heavy feeders, so make sure you add compost to the soil before planting.
- The soil needs to be well-draining. They like moist but not soggy soil, and they also like being in an area with direct sunlight.
- Since zucchini do like to be fed often, fertilize once a month. It’ll help your plants produce tons of blossoms and fruits.
You can grow many different lettuce types in your garden, from leaf lettuce to mixed greens and even heads of lettuce. Lettuce is a cool weather plant that you can grow early in the spring and fall. You might be able to grow lettuce in the summer if you provide afternoon shade to prevent the plants from bolting due to heat.
It’s hard to mess up growing lettuce. Make small trenches in the garden bed, sow your seeds, and thin out the seedlings when they’re 3-4 inches tall. It’s relatively cold-resistant, so if your plants encounter a bit of frost, it’s not a huge deal.
Here are a few tips for growing lettuce.
- Plant your lettuce seeds 2-3 weeks before your final frost date.
- If you do encounter frost, tossing a thin blanket over the top will protect your plants.
- When the seedlings are 3-4 inches tall, thin them apart, typically 5-10 inches apart. Look at your seed packet to see the recommended spacing.
- You can sow a new row every two weeks. It’s best not to plant all of the lettuce at one time; sowing often is called succession planting, and it helps ensure you always have a row ready to harvest and one not far behind!
5. Green Beans
Green beans come in two options – pole and bush beans. Pole beans grow up a support system, such as an archway or trellis, and bush beans produce on a small 2-4 foot tall bush.
That’s not the only difference.
Pole beans produce their harvest over the entire growing season, making it easier for you to feed your family. You can pick some here and some there. Bush beans produce all of their harvests within a few weeks, making it easier to preserve everything. Plus, you can plant a second row of beans, growing more than you might be able to with pole beans.
Here are some suggestions for growing green beans.
- Green beans are warm-weather crops, so you don’t want to plant them until after the danger of frost passes.
- Soak the beans 24 hours before planting. Soaking the seeds helps to soften up the beans’ exterior coating, making it easier to sprout.
- Pole beans should be planted 4-6 inches apart, but bush beans need to be planted around 10-14 inches apart because the plants will spread out.
- Make sure you plant them in an area that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight.
Too many people avoid growing scallions because they don’t see the value in them. Have you ever added scallions to your dish? Toss some garlic and scallions into a pan with butter and couscous – you have a delicious side dish, friends.
Scallions grow well nearly anywhere, and you can start to harvest within 60 days. You can then store them in your refrigerator for several weeks, or they can be left in your garden for months.
Here are some tips for growing scallions!
- Sow the seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost in your area. It’ll take 7-14 days for the seeds to germinate and sprout.
- Plant them outside when the danger of frost passes. They should be kept in an area that receives full sunlight.
- Never plant scallions in a place where you grew onions in the previous year.
- Add plenty of compost to your soil before planting to help provide nutrients while increasing drainage.
Here is another plant that is so easy to grow, which is why most gardeners add them to their garden beds. Even if you don’t like adding cucumbers to your salads, you can make them into homemade pickles, which are exponentially yummier than fresh cucumbers.
You can either plant cucumber seeds directly into the ground or start the seeds indoors three weeks before planting them outside. Cucumbers can be planted out once the danger of frost passes. Remember, these are a warm-weather crop!
Here are some things to remember about growing cucumbers.
- Most cucumbers need some support because they vine outward. Letting them grow on the ground increases disease risk, so provide a trellis or whatever you want.
- These plants like to be warm, so keep them in a spot that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight.
- Simultaneously, cucumbers dislike dry soil – they’re made with a lot of water – so water cucumbers daily. They need moist soil, or the leaves wilt quickly.
8. Swiss Chard
I avoided growing Swiss chard for too long because I assumed it was hard to grow. The plants are so beautiful; they might be hard to grow, right?
I found that Swiss chard is one of the easiest greens to grow, and they add beautiful pops of color throughout your garden bed. You can direct sow the seeds in your garden bed in the spring, 2-3 weeks before the final frost date in your area, but I had better success growing them as transplants.
Here are some tricks I learned about growing Swiss chard.
- Start your seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before planting outside. They take 7-14 days to germinate, but the stems quickly develop their fun colors.
- You can grow chard in areas that have partial shade – 4-6 hours of sunlight per day – but they do grow well in full sunlight as well.
- When the plants are 12-18 inches tall, you can harvest the outer leaves and then continue to harvest all growing season.
Some gardeners skip over growing carrots because they seem too tricky to grow, but like radishes, carrots are incredibly easy. You grow carrots directly in your garden beds or containers. Container growing carrots is an excellent option!
Many gardeners prefer to grow carrots in containers over raised beds. Carrots need loose soil, and over time, the soil in your garden beds becomes compacted, and if you can’t loosen it up enough, growing carrots in containers can be a preferred option.
Here are some tricks for growing carrots.
- Carrots need to be directly sown in your garden. Once the seeds sprout, you will thin the seedlings, providing 3-4 inches between each plant.
- Before planting, mix compost in your soil to provide nutrients and increase drainage.
- Carrots can be grown in partial shade or full sunlight. As long as they receive between 4-8 hours of sunlight each day, they should grow well.
When you decide to grow a garden for the first time, you want to pick crops that grow well, your family will enjoy, and be easy for you. Choosing some of the easy vegetables for beginner gardeners gives you crops that will provide you with success in your first year. Each year, you can grow more challenging vegetables as you become more confident in your skills.
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