If you are just getting started as a new gardener, you should choose crops that are easy to grow. There is nothing worse than a beginner gardener giving up after their new plants didn’t grow as well as expected.
Thankfully, there are many different easy-to-grow vegetables for beginners. In this article, I’ll share 11 of the easiest vegetables to grow in the garden. They also happen to be some of my personal favorites to eat.
A note on choosing seeds…
Seed selection is one of the most important factors that will determine the success or failure of your garden. Consider each plant’s growing requirements (sun, shade, temperature, spacing), how long they take to harvest, disease resistance, and whether they need to be planted early indoors (like tomatoes and peppers).
Also, don’t forget that the whole point of growing veggies is to eat the end result! I can’t tell you how many times I have seen fresh produce go to waste from poor planning. Choose vegetables that you like to eat, or that you can share with friends and family.
For many, tomatoes are a primary reason for starting a new garden. The sweet, delicious, and juicy fruits are so useful in the kitchen. Thankfully, tomatoes are also quite easy to grow.
Since they are so popular, young tomato plants are easy to find for sale in early spring at garden centers. There is also a wide selection of different tomato types, from the small, snackable cherry tomatoes to the large beefsteak tomatoes, perfect for sandwiches.
Tip: Buy plants that are small and do not have flowers or fruits on them. It may be tempting to buy a huge tomato plant from the nursery, but for quicker acclimation to your garden, a smaller plant is best.
Tomatoes are also easy to grow from seed, but it does require some extra work. Namely, you’ll need a place to start them indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost.
If you don’t have an in-ground garden, tomatoes make for excellent potted plants. However, make sure you have the space for them, as many tomatoes can grow to 6 feet or taller in a single season.
In my opinion, growing tomatoes from seed is easy enough, and is far more rewarding than buying store bought plants. There is also a much wider selection of unique varieties to choose from. But either way, tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in a new garden, and you should choose some tasty varieties asap!
- Fertilizer (for potted plants)
- Pest control
I use a lot of garlic in the kitchen. I love it in spicy stir fry, Indian cuisine, roasted and smeared on bread, and so much more. And let me tell you, it tastes even better when you grew it in your own backyard.
Every clove of garlic will grow into an entire bulb of new cloves in a single year. Regardless of where you live, you can probably grow garlic. There are two main categories of garlic: Softneck and hardneck.
Softneck garlic is easier to grow in warmer climates. The bulbs tend to have a larger number of cloves which are smaller in size. Softnecks are named for the softer central stalk that grows from the center of each bulb. If you live in a warm climate without very cold winters, softneck will likely grow best for you.
Hardneck garlic is known for having a ‘scape,’ which is a flower stalk that grows from the center of the bulb. It is much more stiff than softneck garlic, hence the name. Hardneck cloves tend to be much bigger, with many bulbs containing just 5 or 6 large cloves. Generally, hardneck garlic grows best in colder climates with freezing winters.
Garlic is a master at adaptation, so when you save your own cloves year after year, the plants will become better suited to your climate. In your first year, depending on the variety, you may end up with smaller bulbs.
Garlic is planted in late Autumn (October here in zone 6), and is ready to harvest the following year in mid-summer (July for us). The only real maintenance is watering and pruning the scapes (for hardnecks only).
You can try to grow garlic from store bought cloves, but know that they may be treated with chemicals that inhibit growth. It is always best to buy ‘seed garlic’ that is specifically grown to be sold to gardeners. Check out some amazing garlic varieties here.
- Pruning scapes (hardneck only)
- Planting in fall
9. Chili Peppers (Or Sweet Peppers)
It should be no surprise that I would suggest growing peppers to new gardeners. We have grown well over 100 different varieties of hot and sweet chili peppers, and counting!
Peppers are one of the most forgiving plants to grow in the garden. They are also very exciting to watch grow, with some varieties growing into huge plants. Then, you have the unique perk of spiciness.
Some of the hottest peppers on Earth are just as easy to grow as your standard jalapeno. Peppers make excellent potted plants, but will also grow well in a raised bed or an in-ground garden bed.
Like tomatoes, peppers require early seed starting indoors, as most varieties take 3-4 months to fully ripen. But, if you live in a cold climate, there are many hybrids that mature earlier in the season.
When buying started plants, try to find smaller plants that are not root bound. If you see flowers or small peppers growing, the plant is already in the fruiting stage, which may inhibit further growth.
Some pepper types can grow to be quite large, over 5 feet tall, especially the hot varieties (like ghost peppers). Others, like jalapenos, will typically grow to about 2-3 feet tall when mature.
- Staking (some varieties)
- Pest management
- Fertilizer (for potted plants)
Garden-fresh string beans are one of my favorite side dishes. The flavor of a perfectly ripe bean is underrated, and the plants are incredibly easy to grow.
Bean seeds are best planted directly in the soil, which makes it super simple to get started. As a bonus, beans can be succession planted (planting new seeds every week or two) to keep fresh bean harvests coming all season long.
When you grow beans from seed, you have a much greater selection than at the grocery store. You can try purple, yellow, red, or even ultra-long string beans.
Pole beans grow as a vine and can be well over 10 feet tall when mature. Bush beans are much more compact and are planted about 2-3 inches from each other in tight rows. I prefer bush beans for a neat and tidy garden with dense fruiting.
- Trellising or training (for pole beans)
- Succession planting (for continual harvests)
Peas and beans are commonly confused with each other. Peas tend to have a round seed with shorter pods, while beans are usually oblong and can have very long fruits.
Peas also have a very different flavor from beans, with the famous ‘sugar snap’ variety offering amazing flavor and sweetness. While beans can be eaten raw, I usually cook them. With peas, I prefer to eat them raw in salad or as a simple, quick snack in the garden.
There are three major types of peas: Shelling, snow, and sugar snap. Shelling peas require removal of the outer shell, and the seeds are the only part that is eaten. Snow peas are harvested early before the seeds develop and have a flat shape.
The king of pea types, sugar snap, are harvested as the seeds are reaching a mature size, and the entire pod can be eaten. This makes sugar snap my favorite to grow, as you get the most out of your plants.
Peas can be planted early, and can even tolerate some light frost. Sow seeds directly outdoors a couple weeks before the last frost about 1-2″ apart. There is no need to thin the peas, but they will need something to climb (a simple trellis works great).
Depending on the type, peas can range from 2 feet to 6 feet tall when fully grown. Either way, it is ideal to grow these plants vertically to save space in the garden. Always position a trellis on the North side of your garden beds to avoid shading other plants.
Peas are usually one of the first crops to harvest, as most varieties are ready within 2 months of planting. The best way to enjoy them is fresh, right after picking!
Pea Plant Maintenance:
- Succession planting
Want to make your own pickles? Or how about slice up the perfect salad topper? Cucumbers are some of the most impressive plants you can put in your garden, and are almost 100% maintenance free.
Cucumbers are vines, and the plants can grow very large. If you have a lot of open space, they can be left to crawl along the ground. In smaller spaces, vertical growing is ideal.
Unlike beans and peas, you should only have one plant every 2 feet or so to avoid root competition among plants. But don’t worry, each cucumber plant can produce dozens of fruits.
Once the plants begin producing, you should harvest the cucumbers early. If they become bloated and large, the seeds will be hard and the taste won’t be as good. Always harvest cucumbers early when they are still slim.
One common issue with cucumber plants is a susceptibility to powdery mildew. Mildew is a fungal disease that often hits cucumbers, squash, and other broad leaf plants. Affected plants will have white, powdery substance on the leaves that spreads.
The best way to deal with mildew is to slow it down with a simple home spray. Mix about 3 tsp of baking soda in 1 gallon of water and spray the leaves weekly. Otherwise, cucumbers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and they produce incredibly well!
- Powdery mildew prevention
- Trellising (optional but recommended)
If you’ve only ever had an orange carrot, you are missing out! There are purple, white, yellow, and red carrots, and they all have different flavors. To top it off, they are very easy to grow.
Carrots are frost tolerant, and can be planted quite early. In fact, the seeds prefer cool soil to germinate, so start planting carrots 2-3 weeks before the last frost date in your climate.
Carrots are a root vegetable, meaning that what you eat is the actual root of the plant, not the leaves. For ideally shaped carrots, plant in loose, deep soil. Rocky soil or dense clay will result in bizarrely shaped carrots.
Germination is the only tricky part to growing carrots. The seeds are small, so they must be planted shallow and must be kept moist until they sprout.
Plant carrot seeds 3 weeks before the last frost about 1/4″ deep in loose soil. To keep the seeds moist, cover the soil (I use a 2×6 piece of wood). This will prevent the surface water from evaporating.
Check for sprouts every day, and water gently if the surface soil dries out. Once the seeds sprout, remove the covering and allow the carrots to grow. Once again, you can succession plant evert 2-3 weeks for continual carrot harvests.
- Slow germination
- Requires loose soil
This is one of those love it or hate it vegetables. In my opinion, kale is delicious when steamed or fried with other veggies. On top of that, it is full of nutrients.
If you do enjoy eating kale, it is easy to grow yourself. It makes a great cool weather crop in early spring or late fall and winter. It can also be grown in containers and some varieties are even decorative.
While kale grows fairly large, it can be harvested as needed, and leaves will regrow. Also, most types are very hardy, often surviving right through winter if it is not extremely cold.
Kale can be grown from seed and transplanted outdoors in early spring. There are broad leaf varieties that are great for steaming, or curly leaf varieties that are perfect for soaking up salad dressing or sauces.
- Pest prevention
3. Pumpkins and Squash
In my opinion, there is no fall flavor quite as iconic as pumpkin. Pumpkins are squashes, so I’m putting them along with other types, like butternut or acorn squash.
Thankfully, all of these plants are fairly easy to grow, though they do require a longer growing season. The long wait will pay off though, because there is nothing like harvesting your own, huge squashes and making a delicious fall soup.
Like cucumbers, squashes commonly get powdery mildew, so treat the plants with a baking soda spray weekly. This will slow down the growth and allow any affected plants to produce a harvest.
Plant squash in rich, loose soil as they are heavy feeding plants. Some squashes grow as vines (most winter squashes), while others will grow as a bush (summer squash). The plants appear quite different, but like to grow in similar soil.
Give squash plants plenty of space between each other, and keep the soil moist but not overly moist. Summer squashes should be harvested early to avoid hard and bitter seeds. Winter squashes are typically harvested in mid fall a few weeks before the first frost.
- Powdery mildew prevention
Swiss chard is probably my favorite leafy vegetable to grow in the garden. It is colorful, beautiful, and delicious. If you aren’t a big fan of kale or spinach, try some chard for a change of pace.
Chard is also packed with nutrients, including potassium, calcium, vitamins C, A, E and K, iron, and more. And of course, chard is one of the easiest vegetables to grow in the garden.
I recommend getting a rainbow variety pack and planting them at random. The colors will blow you away, and the many uses of this veggie will keep you coming back for more. Some gardeners even plant chard alongside flowers because the plants are so vibrant.
Sow chard outdoors in fall about 2-4 weeks before the last frost. One interesting thing about chard is that each seed can actually contain 2-3 seeds (they sort of clump together). They also germinate best in cool soil (55-65°F).
After the plants are established, they should be ready to begin harvesting in about 60 days, depending on the weather and soil. Once ready for harvest, both the leaves and stems of chard can be eaten.
- Fertilizer (for container plants)
- Germination in cool soil
1. Leaf Lettuce
Undoubtedly the king of the easiest to grow vegetables, lettuce. If you don’t like the strong flavors of kale, spinach, or chard, you’ll probably prefer to grow lettuce. There are three main types to choose from: leaf, romaine, and head lettuce. In my opinion, leaf lettuce is the simplest to grow.
Leaf lettuce is a cool weather crop, meaning it will do best in early spring or in fall when temperatures are mild. Seeds can be sowed indoors and transplanted out, or can be directly sowed in the garden once the soil is workable.
As with many other vegetables on this list, lettuce can be succession planted for regular harvests during the early and late season. You can also plant different varieties as you go so that your harvests are different each time.
Most lettuces are extremely fast to produce, usually within 30 days of transplanting outdoors. To harvest leaf lettuce, pick off the outer leaves as needed, or simply cut back the entire head to about 1″ tall. Either way, the leaves will grow back as long as the temperatures stay relatively cool.
Once temperatures start getting hot, most lettuces will ‘bolt,’ or start trying to produce seeds. At this point, lettuce becomes bitter and less desirable, so it can be removed from the garden to make room for heat-tolerant plants.
One trick I recommend is planting lettuce behind a trellis (on the North side of the trellis). Once the climbing plants are tall enough, they will provide some shade for your lettuce, keeping them cool in the hotter months. This can extend your lettuce season a few weeks and postpone bolting.
I recommend experimenting with many different types of leaf lettuces. There are red, light green, and even speckled varieties. There are also many different shapes of leaf lettuce, from smooth and large leaves, to smaller, wrinkly leaves that naturally soak up salad dressing.
I hope you’ll give lettuce a try, as it is our #1 easiest vegetable to grow in the garden. We all should probably eat more salad anyway, and growing lettuce makes it much more appealing than store bought.
- Pest management (especially rabbits, mice, deer, etc.)
- Regular harvesting
Other Easy Starter Vegetables
While the veggies I mentioned above are our favorites, there are still many other easy-to-grow plants for beginner gardeners. Here is a quick list of some other vegetables that may be appealing to you.
- Basil. While it isn’t a bulk vegetable, basil is makes a delicious companion to tomatoes and other fresh garden foods. We always have a few basil plants growing, even through the winter. If you grow enough, you can use your garlic to make homemade pesto – yum!
- Beets. Another root vegetable, beets are highly nutritious and very easy to grow. They also take up very little space in the garden. As a bonus, the leaves are edible as well, and are known to be sweeter than chard.
- Herbs. If you plan to cook with your garden harvests, herbs will add tremendous flavor. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, dill, cilantro, and sage – all are quite easy to grow from seed. In addition, most of these plants are not very large, so you can dedicate a small area for an herb-focused garden.
- Melons. If you have a long enough growing season, you can grow your own watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew. They behave similarly to cucumbers, growing as a vine. Just be sure the soil is packed with nutrients, as melons are heavy feeders.
- Onions. Onions belong to the allium family, just like garlic. You can buy ‘onion sets’ as they are much easier to grow than from actual seed. When buying, look for smaller sets, and plant them in a full sun location in early spring or as soon as the soil thaws.
- Radishes. Radishes are cool growing, and can be sown as soon as the soil is workable. Radishes need very little attention, but must be started early so that they are not exposed to hot weather. After harvesting, you can remove the radish plant to make room for tomatoes or peppers.
- Spinach. Leaf spinach is just as easy as lettuce, and can be planted alongside it in the garden. If you want a better variety, intermix spinach and lettuce plants and treat them the same through the growing season.
- Strawberries. While they are not as simple as the other plants this list, growing strawberries is worth a try for any new gardener. The delicious, sweet berries are early to harvest, but must be planted early indoors. Look for ‘day-neutral’ strawberry varieties for continuously fruiting plants that also provide a harvest on year 1.
Gardening is a wonderful hobby that I believe everyone can enjoy. There is nothing more satisfying than harvesting your own, homegrown vegetables and having them for a meal. I hope this article helps you choose some of the easiest vegetables to grow at home. Good luck, and happy gardening!