Tired of having to go to the grocery store for fresh produce? Get in touch with your roots and try a vegetable garden! You don’t need to start with a super green thumb to grow your own food. You can learn about vegetable gardening as you go. Starting your gardening adventure with a few of the easiest vegetables will help give you the confidence to keep growing!
This list definitely has some simple and easy options for the first time gardener that will let you (literally) taste success!. But before we get into easy to grow vegetables for beginning gardeners, let’s dig into some general great tips that every new gardener should keep in mind.
Start with just a few of the easiest plants
and plant seeds
Try not to get too overwhelmed choosing veggies–one secret to success as a beginner gardener is to start small and choose just a few plants to focus on your first year or two. Of course, the most satisfying plants for beginners are those that aren’t too challenging to grow. The easiest vegetables to grow depend somewhat on your region, as some plants do better in certain climates, so don’t be afraid to try again if one plant doesn’t work for you.
Beginner gardeners shouldn’t feel pressured to get a greenhouse or start every plant for their fist garden from seed. For some larger plants, it’s just easier to save time and grab them from the store and plant them!
Any time you buy a plant or seed packet, read the label to see if its characteristics suit your needs. Think about if you need heat tolerance, cold tolerance, smaller size for patio gardens, or a short “days to harvest” if you have a short warm growing season like I do. For beginners, it’s a helpful trick to choose varieties with close to the shortest days to maturity anyway, so you’ll get a quicker payoff even before any brown thumb mistakes throw you off.
Especially if you’re a first time gardener, keep reading to learn how to grow some of the easiest vegetables for your first garden, from beans to tomatoes and beyond. Happy vegetable gardening!
How to start a vegetable garden from scratch
Planning Your First Garden
In short, you need to think about watering, soil, and sun. Some crops like greens can handle partial shade, but many vegetables need a sunny spot with at least 6-8 hours of sun to produce. All vegetables need good soil that is rich in nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These are the three nutrients represented by the three numbers on a fertilizer label. Getting a soil test will help you know which specific nutrients need to be added most.
Amend the soil
In addition to the right plants, good soil is another of the most essential keys to a successful garden. Failing to mix compost or fertilizer into the ground before planting is one of the worst gardening mistakes beginners make. Good soil makes good plants!
For a beginner vegetable gardener, the simplest way to make the ground richer is to add lots of bagged garden soil or compost. Here is a great post on how to start composting for beginners. Especially if you have hard clay soil, your best bet is to mix in a thick layer of compost and other organic matter before planting to create well-drained soil. Even easier, you can build a raised bed and fill it with great soil from the start. Raised beds should be filled with a mixture of garden soil, compost, and some potting mix to help make well drained soil.
If you have rabbits or deer in the area, making a chicken wire frame to go over the top of your raised bed will keep them away from your precious produce. If you have gophers, use hardware cloth wire underneath the bed before you plant.
When to Plant a Vegetable Garden
Most people think of spring and summer time when they think of gardening, but you can grow fresh cool season crops and vegetables in your backyard almost any time of year and start seeds indoors . Some of the best vegetables like tomatoes and peppers will not survive cooler temps, but as you scroll through this list, you will notice there are other plants that are suitable for a fall garden and even winter gardening.
To figure out your spring planting date, you will need to find out the approximate last spring frost date for your area. You may be able to find it by searching online, but the best idea is to ask other local gardeners what dates they recommend to safely plant warm season crops. Peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, beans, etc. all need night time temperatures at least 40F or above. If it dips below that, they will need a frost cover so they don’t get frozen.
Easiest vegetables to grow: Greens
Leafy greens or power greens in general are without a doubt one of the easiest vegetables to grow for beginners. These easy to grow crops are also some of the easiest vegetables to grow in shade gardens or during the cooler months! and produce a maximize yield. Unlike other vegetables, most leafy greens grow best when planted very early in the growing season, or later as cooler weather comes.
As a general rule, feel free to use any fertilizer or plant food that contains a higher amount of nitrogen (the first of three numbers on the label) to promote leafy growth. You can also grow most vegetables and herbs indoors year round and its not that difficult to grow a green thumb.
Recommended: How to Maximize Veggie Growth & Yield
Leaf lettuce is one of the absolute easiest vegetables to plant for a beginner harvest. You can even cheat a little if you want! Just grab a 6 pack of lettuce plants at your local garden center. Trim off some of the outer lettuce leaves before planting and you’ve already got your first harvest of fresh lettuce for a salad! Then you can continue to grow lettuce by planting the rest of the plant with its inner leaves as a continuous harvest. Within a few weeks you’ll be harvesting more lettuce for your salads! Lettuce only needs a few hours of light, so it’s easy to find a spot to plant it in your garden. But keep in mind, lettuce will bolt upwards or taste bitter if it is grown in hot weather, so it’s a good idea to grow it in the cooler part of the growing season.
Here are 20 of the easiest vegetables to grow from scraps.
In addition to its many benefits for your diet, kale is easy to grow as transplants or planted directly in the garden from a seed packet. If you have problems with aphids, try neem oil or grow it during the cooler months instead. The kale plant is very cold climate hardy and has even been known to survive all winter long in some climates despite occasional freezing temperatures and snowstorms!
Swiss chard is not a very well-known vegetable, but it is definitely one of the easiest vegetables to grow and very versatile to use! Think of it like a large spinach plant. It’s super nutritious and easy to use in smoothies, soups, or salads. Its unfussiness makes it a perfect choice for beginner gardeners, whether in sun or partial shade.
I keep it growing in my garden almost all year long–it survives cold temperatures and some types turn a lovely fall burgundy color. Chard is one of the best vegetables in terms of adding nutritional value to my recipes since it’s very high in vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and a good source of copper, magnesium, iron, vitamins B6, vitamin E and others.
Bok choy, or “pak choi” is a tasty and healthy way to add texture to your stir fries or soups. It is not hard to grow, as long as day time temperatures are below 65 degrees Fahrenheit! Once it gets warmer than that, bok choi plants are very quick to bolt (grow into a tall flowering stalk instead of a low growing head). Growing them in a shady part of your garden and giving them plenty of water helps avoid this.
Snap Peas & String Beans
Believe it or not, snap peas are often a big hit with kids, and are very easy to direct sow from seed. Home grown peas, especially shelled peas, are much sweeter than the ones you’ll find in the grocery store! Peas need plenty of water and most do not like heat, so plant them in early spring, even earlier than the last spring frosts, or in light shade. Remember that peas need support to help the plant climb, so have a trellis ready or create one with stakes and string.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables to grow–packed with vitamin C, vitamin k, and also has calcium, folate, potassium, and more. Some varieties can take a long time to reach maturity (around 80-90 days to harvest) but if you can find a variety in the 50-70 day harvest range, that’s ideal for beginners. Broccoli needs plenty of balanced fertilizer or lots of compost to help it grow faster. It will also need at least 6-8 hours of sun light, and grows best when it’s not too hot. One of the nice things about broccoli is that for many varieties, even once you harvest the head, the plant will continue producing broccoli florets as side shoots. Grow it in the fall and winter if you prefer!
Easy Plants to grow in the Warm Season
Most beginner gardeners imagine spring and summer when they think of growing their own vegetables -and it is the most common season for a full garden. These easy vegetables below generally need full sun.
If you want a great value on garden seeds, grab the variety pack from NatureZedge below!
Summer Squash & Zucchini
There are a few tricks to getting your zucchini or summer squash plant growing well, but once they get well established, you’ll have plenty of zucchini all summer long! All squash plants need at least 7 hours of sunlight each day. Whether you choose seed packets or seedlings, give squash and zucchini plants a boost of fertilizer while they are young to help them grow strong enough to support lots of fruit. If production slows down, they may need fertilizing again later in the growing season.
Keep them well watered, and be sure to pick often as soon as the zucchini blossoms shrivel up–zucchini increase in size very quickly! If you end up planting more than you can eat, why not participate in “National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day” (yes, that’s real) or try my old family zucchini bread recipe. Early in the season, it’s common for the first few zucchini to look shriveled, but you can find more information on solutions for shriveled squash or zucchini here.
Pumpkins can grow so easily, many gardeners find them growing by accident! If you put Halloween pumpkin seeds in your compost pile or toss them out in the yard, don’t be surprised to find them sprouting in spring or summer. Since pumpkins are in the same family as summer squash, they do require a good amount of fertilizer, compost or manure to make sure they’re not lacking nitrogen and phosphorus.
Give them plenty of water and make sure they get at least 7 hours of sunlight per day, and they’ll do well. The long, sprawling vine might even take over your garden bed!
What garden would be complete without planting and growing tomatoes? Most tomatoes take about 75-80+ days from planting to harvest, but beginners will often have better luck if they check the label and choose a tomato plant that takes between 50-75 days to harvest. “Early Girl” tomato is one of my favorite plants. Some other good beginner options include Ace 55, Gardener’s Delight, Large Red Cherry, Jubilee and Calypso. These are included in the NatureZedge heirloom tomato seed value pack.
Tomatoes need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight, but they don’t need as much water as squash plants. If you water them too much, you may find brown spots on the bottom of your tomatoes, or you may not get any tomatoes at all (just big, bushy tomato plants). When it comes to pest control, keep an eye out for green tomato worms on the plants and consider planting marigolds nearby to prevent them. Carrots grow well under tomatoes if you’re looking to save space.
You can easily grow lots of green beans in your own garden, as long as you follow a few basic gardening tips–beans need full sun and must be watered regularly and harvested almost every day! As you may remember from grade school, green beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow from seeds, too. A patch of bush beans can be planted just a few inches apart and grown in an elevated planter bed or kid pool. Or, go vertical with pole beans for an edible arch or arbor. Green beans don’t need too much plant food since beans can make their own nitrogen. Some beginner gardeners feel that climbing beans are easier to grow and produce more than bush beans.
Cucumbers make a refreshing snack on a summer day, and are one of the favorite vegetables for beginner gardeners. You can let your cucumber plant sprawl on the ground, or use a slanted trellis to grow cucumbers vertically. Cucumbers like plenty of sun. If they get too dry or heat stress, the cucumbers may start to taste bitter, so keep them well watered. Cucumber vines may need some balanced fertilizer throughout the season, especially if they stop producing cucumbers or the leaves start to turn yellow.
Pepper plants are another popular favorite that don’t need a ton of water. For hot peppers, a little drought can make them even hotter! If you have trouble with bell peppers, try out mini bells, banana peppers or sweet snacking peppers. Peppers grow best in well-drained soil.
Many beginners have trouble starting peppers from seeds, because the seeds need very warm temperatures to germinate–at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but 80-85 degrees is even better! Use a seedling heat mat to get them started indoors, or save yourself the wait and grab a few young plants from your nursery or garden center. Or if your brave enough here are some of the best hot pepper seed kits I have found.
Beginner gardeners don’t have to be afraid of trying to grow root vegetables! Radishes and carrots in particular are among the easiest vegetables to grow as long as the ground is loose and well watered. To avoid disturbing the roots, root vegetables should not be transplanted, but they are pretty easy to grow from seeds planted directly in the garden as long as you keep the seeds damp every day.
When it comes to growing carrots, I find that the trickiest part in my dry climate is keeping the shallowly-planted seeds moist enough to germinate. Once they’re growing, though, carrots are quite easy to grow and tolerate my own winter time neglect and frost, however, they may struggle in rocky soil.
If you’d prefer to grow carrots in containers, just choose the depth of the pot accordingly based on the length of the type of carrot, or find a variety that is marked as suitable for containers and water regularly to keep them from drying out.
Do you enjoy eating little radishes with your tacos or salads? Luckily for you, radishes are considered one of the easiest vegetables to grow and are suitable for small spaces. Many varieties of radishes only take a month or two to harvest! When you scatter the seeds, try to leave enough space for each radish to form, or thin the seedlings as they start to grow. Radishes do best in partial shade so they don’t get too hot. Give them plenty of water, especially if you’re growing them in a container.
Ever found yourself wondering about planting those sprouting potatoes in your pantry? It’s better to buy potatoes that are meant for gardening–some grocery store potatoes are treated to inhibit growth during storage, but it’s still possible to have some luck growing them.
In early spring, cut the potatoes into chunks with one or two “eyes” or sprouts per chunk, and bury them. Many gardeners like to grow potatoes in containers so that they can continue to add dirt as the potato plants grow–this allows multiple layers of potatoes to form on top of each other beneath the mounded soil. Leaves are sensitive to frost, but covering them with dirt will protect them. Stop adding soil once the flowers form, and harvest once the plants start to die.
Love it or hate it, most people have a strong opinion about okra. But don’t knock it ’til you’ve tasted it freshly home grown, thin sliced into stars and pan fried with a little butter and garlic salt. My (non-southern) kids actually fought over it! Okra a heat loving plant is pretty simple to grow if you know what it likes–heat, water, and a monthly feed with a balanced nitrogen-containing fertilizer. Don’t forget to harvest the pods while they’re small and tender, and cook them while they’re fresh!
Herbs & Aromatics
Many herbs are quick and easy to grow. Basil, cilantro, parsley, and dill tend to be more quick growing and short lived, so expect to re-plant after they die. Thyme is slower growing and will live longer. Rosemary can even be grown as an evergreen bush for several years.
If you’re into baking, why not try rhubarb? It’s hard to kill, at least! Mint is also extremely easy to grow, and in fact will continue growing and spreading by roots every year. This means it can be invasive, so watch out if you plant vegetables nearby. Or if your a budding culinary master why not try a culinary herb seed kit to start.
Plant garlic cloves in well drained soil about four inches apart, with the pointed tip of the clove pointing up. As an added benefit, some gardeners say garlic helps with keeping pests away from the garden. Garlic should be planted in early spring or fall is ready to be harvested once the stalk and flower starts to dry up.
You can find onion seeds or tiny bulbs at the garden center to plant in the early spring or early fall. The bulbs are usually easier for a first time gardener and can give you a quicker harvest.
Green onions are very easy to regrow from the left over root bases in your kitchen. I don’t recommend trying to regrow larger onions from sprouted store bought white variety though, since often times you will only get onion greens instead of a new bulb.
Basil is a must-have for any small garden, perfect to eat with fresh vegetables, especially fresh tomatoes with balsamic and mozzarella. It doesn’t take much of a green thumb–just keep it well watered in a sunny part of your garden.
Recommended: How to grow basil like a green thumb
If you’re a lover of pizza, lasagna, and Italian food, oregano is an easy choice. Once established, this herb takes care of itself. It can survive frost and dry conditions, spreads on its own, and as a perennial it comes back year after year. The only thing is to be careful it doesn’t spread too far for your liking.
Thyme can be little more fragile and finicky, but is also a perennial like oregano. Regular watering should keep it happy and healthy.
Bonus: Easy Flowers For Beginners
Planting flowers just add color to your garden. Some flowers can become edible garnishes for your recipes, and others are said to help keep bugs away from your veggies.
- Marigolds are a favorite recommendation for organic pest control and are even said to help repel mosquitoes. If that sounds appealing, you can save money by buying them in bulk here.
- Wildflowers, by definition, should be hardy and require minimal care once they get established. Try to choose some that are native to your location!
- Sunflowers are a classic gardener favorite, and easy to grow from seeds too. You can even go crazy and make a sunflower fort.