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When you are just starting out as a vegetable gardener I think it’s really important to set yourself up for success. You need easy to grow vegetables that will provide you with both produce and the drive to continue gardening. It totally sucks to plant a bunch of exotic plants then battle insects, weeds, and the weather to get little to no reward. It’s frustrating and leads to people just deciding that gardening isn’t for them, which is sad because gardening can be for everyone, whether they live in an apartment or on a giant homestead. In an effort to set you up for a good experience I’ve listed out 10 easy to grow vegetables for your garden. If I can grow them you can grow them!
It is very important with each of these choices to check that it will grow in your gardening zone. I’m in Zone 8a in Texas and while zone number does affect which plants grow best it’s usually more a difference of when to best plant them. These 10 choices though should grow well for most areas if the correct variety is selected and you pay attention to when to plant them.
1. Cherry Tomatoes
Sure, it’s a fruit, but come on we all pretend it’s a veggie. Tomatoes in general are fairly easy to grow but I listed the cherry tomatoes as a super easy version as these guys have always weathered the heat of Texas and produced lots of tomatoes when some of my larger tomatoes were having trouble. There are also more tomatoes on each plant that you pick more frequently so the chance that you will have a bird or something mess up the tomato before you pick it is much less than the larger varieties.
Tomatoes of any size need cooler temps in the evening to ‘set’ where they get the little flowers that will turn into tomatoes. I’ve had some of my cherry tomatoes setting in the high heat of summer but lots of the other tomatoes said no thanks I’ll wait for cooler weather. Getting these guys in the ground earlier in the season means more tomatoes for you because they will have more time to chill.
I would recommend buying transplants for these guys until you are a little more established with gardening. Starting plants from seeds, hardening off to adapt them to the outdoors then transplanting is a skill in and of itself and you don’t want to put too many topics to learn on your plate. I have a personal problem with skill overload and consistently try to learn multiple tasks at once so I understand the temptation but if you want real success in your first year just buy the plants. Get good at managing your plants in the ground then branch out to seeds for this one. You want short compact starts not tall and leggy. You also want to plant the first 2 little branches with leaves under the soil when planting. It feels very weird to put them underground but this will help it form roots.
Easy peasy, like super easy. These plants produce very well, but take note they are a vining plant. You can grow on the ground but they will start to invade. I had them climbing onto my tomato cages and into my squash. Provide them with one of the trellises from this post and you’ll be on your way to cucumber paradise. Cukes can be eaten fresh, made into pickles, or used to flavor water! Fresh cucumber mint water totally ups your hydration game. FYI before growing them I didn’t realize the outside skin can have little prickly areas when fresh so harvest with a little caution or gloves.
3. Malabar Spinach
I see spinach mentioned frequently as easy to grow but if you live somewhere hot it has a much more limited season. Malabar Spinach isn’t really a spinach but you can eat it like one. It has a slightly different taste often described as a citrus and pepper combo. It can be sauted with other veggies to provide easy greens even in the heat of the summer. You will need some type of trellis for it to grow on as it vines like crazy. It is actually a very pretty vine and can be used in areas as a decorative plant you can also eat. Double Bonus!
Radishes grow very fast and they are fun to pick. Anything you get to pull out of the ground to harvest has a little added fun factor I think. Maybe it’s the surprise aspect of not knowing what it will look like before it’s picked. Radishes are a little polarizing though as a veggie, people love them or the hate them. I’m not a huge fan of them in salads but did you know you know you can roast radishes and make kind of a ‘smashed potato’ substitute with rosemary and a little olive oil? This combined with a little garlic mayo aioli is seriously delicious and a lower carb version.
Most herbs are fairly easy but I’ve picked two for you that are almost no effort.
Basil is really an herb but it’s ridiculously easy to grow it should just be considered a tasty weed. Yet, fresh basil thrown on a pizza, in lasagna or homemade pesto really ups your gourmet game and there is something gratifying about using ingredients you grew yourself! You can also mix it with strawberries for basil strawberry water, super yummy!
If you let them flower these little babies will be bee magnets for your garden.
Another herb, mint will take over your garden if you let it. I don’t really care too much if it’s spreading a little bit since it’s just areas where grass or weeds aren’t growing so I call that a win. A weed I can throw in my iced tea? Yes, please! Homemade mojito? Don’t mind if I do! Experiment with regular mint, spearmint, and there is even a chocolate mint that is yummy added to hot chocolate or chocolate baked goods!
6. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are easier to grow than their Idaho potato type cousin. They are also more closely related to morning glories than they are to the average potato. While the orange underground tuber portion is a good to eat the bonus with sweet potatoes is you can eat the greens all season long as a cut and come again harvest. You can then harvest the tuber at the end of the season but they provide another wonderful greens source in the heat of the summer. I wouldn’t necessarily throw them raw into a salad at least as the main portion since they can be slightly bitter unless cooked. This can be mitigated slightly by using other varieties as the main salad portion and using this one in moderation. Or just throw into stir-fry or cooked dishes.
Zucchini is like a motivational speaker for the garden. When it is producing the darn things practically grow right before your eyes! You may feel like a mediocre gardener or even a bad one but the vigorous zucchini says “You are UH-mazing!!! Look at you growing real food!” They are delicious and can be used in everything from spiralized noodles to zucchini bread. I’ve also been known to throw them in a Vitamix blend to a pulp and put in chili. Shhhhh… don’t tell the kids.
These green goddesses can be planted from seeds and you want to pay attention to spacing with these guys. The plants get huge. You can also try varieties such as Cousa which have a slightly different taste, a little sweeter, but are just as prolific.
The only downsides to zucchini are that often, at some point in the season, you may be attacked by squash bugs or squash vine bores aka the devil’s insect that will kill your plants. You can enjoy the ride while they are producing and then trash the plants if they get hit or battle the little buggers. You can even inject BT, a type of beneficial bacteria right into the vine to kill the bores and try to save your plant. Either way you need these guys in your garden.
8. Yellow Summer Squash
Some of the same rules apply to summer squash as to the zucchini. They will grow like crazy and you can eat by themselves or hide in other recipes with ease. I prefer them roasted. I suspect many people that don’t like the taste of squash just haven’t had it cooked properly so you don’t get any type of slimy taste to it. These also bulk up smoothies without adding any strange taste if you are trying to get extra veggies for yourself or the kids.
Again, planting from seeds works well.
Pick your pepper then pick your peppers! There is an amazing assortment of peppers to try and most will grow well. Jalapenos and banana peppers don’t take much effort. Homegrown bell peppers taste great but I will warn that if you try this type they may not produce as well. Last year I finally got some bells but it was way more weather dependent and still not as prolific as the little jalapenos that seem to just keep popping up.
The two main types of beans are bush beans and pole beans. Pole beans are going to need a trellis to climb and bush beans are just what they sound like, a bush with beans on it. You can have green beans a plenty for your summer. Fair warning, bunnies LOVE beans. The little buggers kept getting into mine last year so consider a garden fence if you know you have a problem with Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail!
This one isn’t a veggie but I wanted to include it because it’s not that hard to grow. They are also delicious, so sweet, and smell divine. You do need space, though. They try to take over and if you can have straw or other mulch underneath the plant. You will be much happier with the result and not have to battle grass coming up in between the vines. You can trellis them but you may have to support them if the fruit is getting big.
Have fun planting these easy to grow veggies and don’t forget to check out my post on 10 Simple Steps You Can Do Now to Have an Awesome Vegetable Garden!