If you're new to gardening, choosing which vegetables to grow can quickly become an overwhelming task. There are so many! And, each one has specific needs and growing conditions. It's a lot to take in all at once, we know! We want you to be successful, so we've compiled this list of easy vegetables to grow for the beginner gardener.
Tomatoes are so easy to grow; the seeds will sprout wherever they land to the point that they sometimes become a nuisance. They're infamous for growing out of compost piles and wherever you may have discarded some tomato seeds.
The key to growing big, juicy tomatoes is to plant them in full sun. This is non-negotiable in the tomato-world. Full sun all day is essential. Before planting tomato seeds, chart the sun exposure of the space for the entire day.
Tomatoes are separated into two categories, indeterminate and determinate. It is extremely important to know which type you are planting as their growth styles are significantly different.
Indeterminate – These tomato plants grow large and wild, sometimes up to 7-8' tall; they will turn into a jungle of branches if not pruned regularly. Indeterminate tomatoes should not be grown in containers or small spaces. They must always be staked or trellised. Heirloom tomatoes are generally always indeterminate. Harvests are staggered as the fruits ripen at different times.
Determinate – A more bushy, shorter tomato variety, determinate types grow between 3-4' tall. These tomatoes grow to a specific height, stop, and then all the fruit is ready to harvest at the same time. Determinate tomatoes are ideal for container growing.
Between indeterminate and determinate, one isn't better than the other. They're just different, and tomato types and varieties vary within each category.
Zucchini (and Summer Squash)It's your year to offload mountains of zucchini to your neighbor's. There's a reason people joke about excess zucchini – it grows fast and easy. One or two plants are plenty to provide zucchini for a small family. Always plant summer squash or zucchini in full sun. During the harvest season, check your plants at least every other day. The more often you pick them, the quicker more will grow! Plus, zucchini always tastes better when it is smaller.
CucumbersPlant cucumbers seeds in full sun, make sure they get ample water, and wait for a robust harvest. Like zucchini, once cucumbers start producing, you need to check the plants every day or every other day and pick all that are ripe. A cucumber can double in size in one day! If they are left on the vine, they'll get seedy and bitter, and the plant won't produce more until the ripe ones are gone. Cucumber vines grow quite long, so plan on trellising the plants or make sure they have room to spread out.
This hardy green thrives in many different conditions. Once the kale plants reach 5-6" tall, begin harvesting the individual leaves. One plant will produce for months without stopping as long as you remove the larger leaves regularly. Kale will grow through fall and even into winter, not bothered by light frosts or cold.
The absolute easiest vegetable to grow, radishes mature fast and abundantly. Radishes are often ready to harvest 30 days from planting. They are root vegetables, so they need good, healthy soil to grow robustly. Radishes also require full sun. Because they grow so quickly, it is best to do multiple plantings. Also, this way, you don't end up with a ton of ripe radishes all at once; the growing and harvesting can be staggered.
No matter which vegetables you plant, remember to start small. With all the choices, it's easy to overdo it and get overwhelmed. Choose 4-6 of your favorites and focus on growing them successfully. The following year, you can grow more. Incremental gardens are generally the most fruitful. Also, plant what you like. Sure, cucumbers are easy to grow, but it's silly to plant them if you don't like them. Most of all, though, have fun! Gardening is an adventure. There will be successes and failures, and that's ok. It's all part of the process.