Are you a beginner wanting to start your first vegetable garden and have no idea what to grow? I've got you! Try these favorites for a beginner vegetable garden and be well on your way to success.
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You've been putting it off for years, but this is the year you are ready to take the plunge and start your very first garden. Good for you! I'm a firm believer that everyone can and should grow something edible in their home. Growing your own saves money, is more nutritious, tastes better than grocery store competition, and is just down right therapeutic. I realize that not everyone has large amounts of land or experience in gardening, but truthfully there are many plants that will grow well even on an apartment balcony or in a window.
So what should you grow? Good question. For a beginner vegetable garden, I would start small and start with plants that are low maintenance and don't typically get taken over by pests. We want your first year to have as few road blocks as possible.
My first garden fifteen years ago was anything but small though. My husband and I threw caution to the wind and instead of taking baby steps, we tossed ourselves into the gardening world full force and had a huge garden. Was everything a success? Nope! In fact, we've had many failures over the years, but it's all part of the learning experience. Every year we find out what works well in our climate and our yard, what we like and don't like. You will find your stride too and make plenty of mistakes along the way.
First, read my guide for planning your garden. You will need to know how much space you have and what plants grow best in your zone. This is an important step so don't skip it.
What to grow in a beginner vegetable garden
Here are my picks for the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden. If I was a beginner gardener, this is where I would start.
Swiss chard and collard greens are my favorites because they grow quickly and take very little upkeep. I've rarely had a problem with pests attacking them and they tend to last from spring until fall in my experience. I love that I can cut off what I need and they will continue to grow back. You can start the seeds indoors if you want, but I have also had great luck just planting them right in the dirt outside.
Once you find a variety that you enjoy, lettuce is also a great low maintenance vegetable that you can keep cutting and harvesting throughout the season. I pick my lettuce gradually while it is young and tender in the cool seasons. It bolts in the summer and turns bitter under the intense heat, so definitely give it a shot in the spring and fall. You can also grow lettuce in pots or containers if you live in an area with very little space. Lettuce does not take up much room so it's wonderful to grow if you do not have much land. Plus, who doesn't love a good salad?
The great thing about radishes are that they grow very quickly and can be harvested very soon after planting. Some varieties can be harvested in as little as 20 days! If you are looking for a near instant gratification plant to make you feel like a pro, this should be at the top of your list. Put in salads or roast them for a sweeter delicious flavor. Do not leave them in the ground too long though or they can turn bitter and taste off.
Parsley, rosemary, mint, thyme, oregano, tarragon, and basil are all excellent culinary herbs to grow not only for the wonderful flavor that they impart to dishes, but also because they grow very quickly and can even be grown in containers if you are apartment dweller. I actually prefer to grow all of my herbs in pots because many of them spread and I like to keep them contained. Fresh herbs in the store are down right expensive! Fresh herbs grown in your own home are extremely economical. A pack of 99 cent seeds can be planted and provide a culinary delight for the entire year. You can even dry herbs or freeze fresh herbs in oil and preserve them for winter cooking. Once I started growing my own herbs, I couldn't believe how easy they were and how much flavor they added to my food. I honestly don't know how I ever cooked without them. For a beginner, maybe choose two that you think you would use the most in your cooking and stop there.
Green bean seeds can be planted directly in the soil and as long as they get regular water and sunshine can be left alone until harvest. I prefer bush beans for low their low maintenance qualities, but if you choose pole beans, you will just have to remember to put a stake or trellis next to the plant for them to climb. Once they start producing beans, you will be flooded with an abundance for canning or freezing for the cold months. Take care to choose a variety that grows well in your climate and if you don't like a thick string, look for stringless pods.
I have always had great results with tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes. If you don't have a lot of room, you can grow one plant in a pot or even an upside down hanging device. I have never tried either way personally, but I know many that have done so successfully. Tomatoes will need to be started indoors in late winter so the plants will be ready to go when the weather turns warm. Since you are a beginner I would recommend purchasing a couple of tomato plants at a local nursery to avoid having to start seeds indoors. We are keeping it simple here.
Bonus beginner garden suggestions
- Summer squash and zucchini grow like weeds but they are prone to squash bugs and vine borers which can wreak havoc on your lovely plants. If you catch the eggs early, you can keep the full grown bugs at bay, but you really have to stay on top of them. Even with the squash bugs, I have always gotten great yields of the squash and zucchini before the plants die. Squash and zucchini are not ones that I would try in a container since they take up quite a bit of room. If you have limited space, I would stick to some of the others above. If you do decide to go for it, I would only plant two plants each of squash and zucchini. They are highly prolific and you just don't need more than that as a beginner.
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers in my experience always grow quickly and produce much fruit, but like squash and zucchini, I find that pests often attack this plant. Again, I still usually get plenty of cucumbers even if they are overtaken by a cucumber beetle. Cucumbers do take up quite a bit of room because they are a vine that likes to spread. They will require some type of trellis to climb and wrap around.
What about you? What have you found to be the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden?
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