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It’s a fact; certain crops are easier to grow. Maybe it’s because they’re faster to go from seed to harvest or maybe they’re bothered by fewer pests and diseases. Either way, new food gardeners or those with little time may want to stick to these below crops which I’ve found to be some of the easiest vegetables to grow.
A low-maintenance vegetable garden:
A vegetable garden isn’t a no-maintenance space, but with a little planning, soil care, good site selection, and smart crop choices it can certainly be a lower maintenance garden. If you’re new to gardening or just tight on time, keep it simple and keep it small. You can grow a lot of food in a single raised bed or a few containers. And thanks to hardworking plant breeders, we have so many compact vegetable varieties to choose from. Read seed catalog descriptions carefully if you’re looking for smaller-sized crops and be sure to check out this post from Jessica about the best veggies for containers and small spaces.
Before you break ground on a new garden, look around. Your chosen site should offer plenty of sunshine – at least 8 hours per day. Most vegetables don’t appreciate having wet feet, so well-drained soil is also important. If your existing soil is less than ideal, a raised bed may be your best option. Raised beds offer so many advantages. They warm up early in spring, drain well, and can be intensively planted which means more food in less space. Plus, my raised beds have far fewer weeds than my old in-ground garden. It also pays to pull weeds before they flower and set seeds. If you’re ready to be a raised bed gardener, you’ll find plenty of great planning advice from Tara in this post.
The best soil for vegetables
Pay attention to your soil – healthy soil is everything! These may be some of the easiest vegetables to grow, but they’re not going to be happy planted in poor soil. Dig in some compost or aged manure before planting and again between successive crops to keep production high. Gardening in containers? Use a high-quality potting mix – not garden soil – blended with compost for your potted vegetables. I also like to add a granular organic vegetable food to my raised beds and container gardens at planting time to feed plants all season long.
Finally, if you’re still on the fence about building or making a new garden bed just for vegetables, consider that many of these crops – like bush beans, cherry tomatoes, and garlic – can be planted in existing flower gardens. We think food and flowers make perfect planting partners – garden BFF’s! – as discussed in this article.
The easiest vegetables to grow
Okay, now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to talk crops. I’ve been growing vegetables since I was about eight years old and experience has taught me that these are the easiest vegetables to grow.
Bush beans are almost foolproof! They go from seed to harvest in less than two months and offer weeks of tender pods. Beans appreciate warm soil and warm weather, so don’t rush spring planting. Plant seeds after the last frost, sowing them 2 inches apart in rows spaced 18 inches apart. Once the seedlings are growing well, thin bush beans to six-inches.
Grow a rainbow of beans! I love planting a mixture of green, purple, yellow, and even red varieties. Mascotte is an All-America Selections winner that yields a heavy crop of slender green beans held high above the foliage which makes for easy picking! Dragon’s Tongue is an heirloom bush bean that can be used as a snap bean or a fresh shelling bean. The extremely ornamental flat pods are butter yellow with purple streaks!
Peas taste like spring to me and we just can’t grow enough. There are a few different types of peas: snow peas, sugar snap, and shell peas and all are easy to grow. Sow pea seeds in early spring as soon as you can loosen and enrich the soil, about 4 to 6 weeks before the last expected frost. Sow seeds one to two-inches apart in double rows spaced six-inches apart. If growing a variety that needs to be staked, it’s a good idea to add a pea trellis or hang netting before you plant.
Peas can also be grown in containers and planters. Opt for super dwarf varieties like Tom Thumb or Patio Pride that only grow six-inches tall.
Tomatoes are the number one garden vegetable grown in North America. Large-fruited varieties take a long time to deliver their harvest, but quick-growing cherry tomatoes start producing around two months from transplanting. Start with healthy seedings from the garden center, planting them in garden beds or large containers once the risk of spring frost has passed.
In the garden, stick to early maturing, productive cherry tomatoes like Sun Gold (crazy sweet and my all-time favorite), Jasper (blight-resistant), or Sunrise Bumble Bee (yellow with red stripes). All of these will need a sturdy stake or support inserted at planting time. Tie the plant to the stake with twine as it grows. In containers, try compact growing Sweetheart of the Patio, Tumbler, or Terenzo.
It’s a garden fact: no matter how many summer squash plants you grow, you will always have more than you can eat – even if you only planted one! Direct sow seeds in a bed well amended with compost or manure (zucchini are GREEDY!) after the last spring frost. Once fruits begin to form, harvest often for peak quality and flavor. For pattypan and round varieties, pick when the fruits are two to three inches in diameter. Harvest zucchini when they’re four to six inches long.
There are a lot of beautiful varieties to try in your garden. I love the adorable scallop shape of pattypan squash which come in a several colors, as well as heirloom zucchini like Costata Romanesca which has alternating dark and light green stripes. In containers, stick to bush types like Patio Green Bush or Astia.
The refreshing crunch of a just-picked garden cucumber is one of my favorite ways to cool down on a hot summer day. Cucumbers are warm season veggies. Direct seed them in garden beds or containers a week after the last spring frost. Or, save time and plant seedlings purchased at a local garden center. Give them plenty of compost and water consistently for the highest quality cucumbers.
If space is short, try growing compact bush cucumbers like Pick-a-Bushel, Saladmore Bush, and Spacemaster, giving them a tomato cage to climb. If you have more space in the garden try varieties like Suyu Long, Lemon, and Diva.
Garlic is a ‘plant-it-and-forget-about-it’ vegetable. Tuck individual cloves in the garden in mid-autumn. Do not harvest until the following year in early to mid-summer. The plants are bothered by few pests or diseases and grow fine in regular garden soil. Don’t plant supermarket garlic, which may have been sprayed. Instead, buy garlic for planting from your local garden center or farmer’s market.
Once planted, mulch the beds with straw to hold soil moisture and reduce weeds. Harvest when half of the leaves have yellowed, hanging the plants to cure in a dry spot for two weeks. After curing, clean and store bulbs. It really is one of the easiest vegetables to grow!
While most salad greens are fast to go from seed to harvest, leaf lettuce is fast and easy. Sow seeds directly in garden beds in mid-spring sprinkling them in a six-inch wide band. Keep the seed bed evenly moist until the plants are growing well. I sow leaf lettuce in containers, window boxes and fabric grow-bags. Baby greens are ready to pick when they’re two to four inches long. If you clip leaves from the outside of the plant, the center will continue to grow, prolonging the harvest.
Flip through any seed catalog and you’ll discover dozens of awesome leaf lettuce varieties like Red Salad Bowl, Red Sails, Lollo Rossa, and Black Seeded Simpson. Plant a small band of several colors and leaf textures for the prettiest salads.
For more tips and inspiration for growing a great vegetable garden, check out these posts:
- The best fast-growing vegetables
- 6 high-yield vegetables
- The best vegetables for container gardens
- Growing a salad garden
- Vegetable gardening facts you need to know
These are some of the easiest vegetables to grow, but what would you add to our list?