Are you new to vegetable gardening? Welcome! There are many easy to grow vegetables that you can plant where you live.
When we talk about vegetables that are easy to grow, we need to clarify whether we are talking about:
Since this site is dedicated to growing in short seasons, that is where the bulk of our focus will be but first let’s talk briefly about vegetables for any region.
While it can be dangerous to generalize because there is always an exception, usually the larger the seed the easier the plant will be to grow -- or at least to start.
So if you’re a first time gardener and a little impatient, or maybe you want a garden for children, you may want to start with something like peas, beans, corn, squash, beets, cucumbers, swiss chard, radish, or spinach. These all have pretty good size seeds, can be direct seeded outdoors and germinate pretty quickly.
Carrots, on the other hand, need a carefully prepared bed and could take two to three weeks to peek through the surface, while tomatoes and peppers don’t stand a chance in northern climates unless you start your seeds indoors.
Here are some key considerations you should take into account when deciding what is best to plant:
Where do you live?
The first thing you’re going to have to come to grips with as a short season gardener is where you live. Yes, we gardeners love to push the envelope, but you’re just not going to grow good watermelons in Zone 3b. Sorry.
In order to determine what vegetables grow well in your zone, we need to know the length of your growing season. When do you typically get your last spring frost and your first frost of autumn? Count the days between, and that’s how long you have to grow your frost sensitive plants such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, string beans, cucumbers, squash, and pumpkin. We can extend the season a bit with row covers and transplants but we still need to be realistic. If you are new to the area ask a local experienced gardener or someone at your local greenhouse when to expect the last spring frost and the first fall frost.
Your printed seed catalog (yes, some of us are old fashioned enough to prefer a physical catalog) or a quick search on your local seed supplier’s website will tell you the “days to maturity” of each variety of seeds or plants they sell.
Cold loving plants such as peas, onions, beets, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, and carrots are much more forgiving of frost and can be planted somewhat earlier in the spring, or later in the summer for a fall crop.
What do you like to eat?
Almost as important as "where do you live?" is the question “what do you like to eat?” No matter how easy to grow vegetables are, what's the point if you can’t stand the taste of them? Unless you’re a market gardener or your neighbor really loves Brussels sprouts, don't grow them if you can't stand them.
What is the type and condition of your soil?
Are you planting in a nicely worked raised bed with no rocks and lots of organic matter, or are you planting directly into the soil? If so, is that soil rocky? Does it have a lot of sand, or a lot of clay?
Obviously you will want to improve your soil over time but you have to start with what you have.
If your soil is sandy and rock free, it is excellent for long Imperator type carrots. If you have a lot of clay and rocks, you will want to consider a medium length Nantes variety of carrots, or perhaps even a short and stubby Chantenay variety or maybe baby carrots. Your shallow soil will work fine however, for shallow rooted plants like lettuce, chard, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, or broccoli.
How much space do you have?
If space is an issue, you won’t want sprawling winter squash, or corn that needs multiple rows for proper wind pollination. Lettuce or string beans, however, can produce a good harvest in a small space. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and peas can also be trained to grow vertically if you have them properly trellised.
As important as it is for a new gardener to start with easy to grow vegetables, you will also want to know whether to start with seeds or plants, where to buy, how much to buy, and what varieties to buy. You may want to consider starting some of your own seeds indoors.It is also important not to stress too much. Relax and have fun. If you’ve never experienced the joy of seeing the miracle of germination, you’re in for a treat!