Eating garden fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest tasks of the summer—but what about growing them? We argue it’s easy, too, even for first-time gardeners. But in case you have any doubts, we made a list of the top ten easiest fruits and vegetables to grow. Many don’t even need a garden and are just as happy in pots on the patio!
You wouldn’t want to start your first season aiming for a bumper crop of tropical melons, but most common fruits and vegetables are easy and within reach of beginners.
Any salad lovers out there? All garden greens, especially lettuce, are among the easiest veggies for beginners. Sow the seeds, give them enough water as they germinate, and in four weeks, you’ll already have baby lettuce to eat. Looking for iceberg lettuce or romaine? Try your hand at one of the dozens of other tasty, multicolored varieties out there!
Radishes are so easy to grow that even if you mess them up, you can plant again and have another crop ready in 30 days. In fact, the trickiest part is to remember to harvest them so soon. And if you leave them in the ground too long, they turn woody. So mark the harvest date in your calendar, and be prepared to enjoy these spicy, crunchy, and sweet tubers when they’re about 1 inch in diameter!
They may not be the most common vegetable in your kitchen, but peas are a classic treat of any garden. When ripe, they’re like a pantry of ready snacks for you and the kids. The only trick is that pea vines need a trellis to climb, which is easy to set up with netting and stakes. Like radishes and lettuce, you can plant new crops every few weeks to enjoy successive harvests throughout the season!
The most common issue of growing zucchini is having too many to eat—an easy problem to solve. Once this summer squash is full size, you’ll keep finding zucchinis every time you’re in the garden. That’s because this vegetable spreads two feet wide and grows big leaves, which are quick to convert sun, air, and soil into savory fruit. Zucchini thrive as long as you give them soil enriched with compost, plenty of moisture, and 6-8 hours of sunshine. We also recommend watering the soil, not the leaves, to cut down the risk of powdery mildew—but that goes for all garden plants!
This fruiting vegetable needs a trellis to thrive, moisture, and warm temperatures, but that doesn’t mean it’s not easy to grow. Along with tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers are the easiest fruits for beginner vegetable gardeners. In fact, bush cucumber varieties don’t need a trellis at all, making them ideal for growing in pots. No matter the variety, cucumbers need frequent pollination to keep producing. So remember to mix fast-growing flowers, like zinnias and marigolds, into your landscape to attract lots of bees.
This warm-season crop is another easy staple for beginners. You can grow green, yellow, purple, and multicolored beans that you’ve never seen or imagined in the grocery store. Varieties are either pole beans, which need a trellis, or bush beans, which grow into a bush without climbing. Besides being one of the most nutritious and filling vegetable crops around, they have a special quality: the more you pick them, the more beans they produce!
Here’s another easy favorite that’s sweeter, more tender, and more flavorful than any of its cousins in the grocery store. If you’re not a fan yet, your first taste of homegrown baby kale will convert you. And, as it’s as straightforward to grow as lettuce! As with all greens, you have a choice to start harvesting them early, keeping them young and tender at the baby stages. Or you can let the kale plant mature into full size, giving you a harvest of big leaves right through the first frost and beyond.
When we think of a vegetable garden, the smell of fresh carrots pulled from the earth is often the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe you have memories from grandma’s garden or your uncle’s farm. Fortunately, you don’t need years of experience to grow garden carrots, but a few tips can help in your first season:
- Carrots seeds need to stay moist for 2-3 weeks as they germinate. Water them daily.
- Make sure you have loose soil so they can easily form roots.
- Plant them close together and thin them a few times so that the carrots have room to grow to their full size.
Are you starting to get hungry yet? With all of these fruits and vegetables, your garden will be ready to feed the family all summer. Growing raspberries is a simple way to round out your offerings. They bear tasty snacks to pop straight into your mouth or to toss into a salad or dessert. Any spot with well-drained, rich soil and full sun is ideal for raspberries. Just be warned; raspberry bushes love to spread out, and you may soon have more raspberries than you bargained for!
For many of us, homegrown tomatoes are the pinnacle of our gardening dreams. You’ve probably heard other green thumbs chatting about tomato pruning, the types of fertilizer they use, tomato varieties, and staking methods—if you’re a beginner, it can all be quite intimidating. But many first-timers have found success with tomatoes. Plus, if you eventually want to become an expert, why not start growing them now? Cherry tomatoes are an easy variety for beginners. Here are few extra tips to know:
- Bush varieties, also called “determinate” tomatoes, grow just as well in pots as in the garden. Vining species, or “indeterminate” tomatoes,” need to be staked or grown with a cage.
- Because tomatoes are heavy feeders, they like a boost of fertilizer or compost during the season. Treat them to full sun and lots of moisture, and they’ll produce juicy fruit in your first year of vegetable gardening!
There aren’t too many garden vegetables that are truly difficult to grow. You wouldn’t want to start your first season aiming for a bumper crop of tropical melons, but most common fruits and vegetables are easy and within reach of beginners. Even if you don’t have garden space, many crops do just fine in pots, as long as they have enough room to grow. For any more questions on vegetable gardening or to discover more plants we can grow in Chicagoland, visit our garden centers in Bloomingdale and Carpentersville! Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.