These 11 easy to grow vegetables should be in everyones garden this year.
If you are new to gardening it can be overwhelming when the seed catalogues start coming in the mail. They’re filled with beautiful colours, so many selections and you don’t know where to start.
But choosing the right vegetables for you and your family doesn’t need to be hard. I’ve done all the hard work for you in choosing 11 easy to grow vegetables.
When I first started gardening for myself I had a new baby and I had to keep our garden simple. He was born in May, right when I needed to be out in the garden. I had Arlen get the spot prepped, but the rest was up to me during nap times.
I picked a few of these basic vegetables that year. It was simple and even with a new baby I was able to have a few fresh veggies on our kitchen table that year. Even today I don’t vary much from these 11 vegetables.
Know your Frost Dates
It’s important to know what your frost free dates are before you start choosing seeds. It’s easy to figure this out by going to the Farmer’s Almanac website and putting in either your Postal Code or closest town.
Once you know when the last frost is in spring and the first frost is in fall you’ll know how many growing days you have. My dates are around May 30 and September 10, giving me around 102 growing days.
Since my season is short, I always try and choose seeds with the shortest days needed from seed to harvest.
When I was first gardening I thought those dates were from when I put the seed in the ground to the day that I could eat them. My dates were always off, till a seasoned gardener told me those dates are from when your vegetable first emerges from the soil.
Those dates are also good to know incase life happens and you don’t end up planting your garden as early as you wanted. You will still be able to get in a small garden with smaller harvests if you get those seeds in right away . I’ve been able to still get a decent harvest off a garden I planted in mid-June.
What to Grow?
These are the basic staple vegetables that become the base for your kitchen garden. They are hardy and should be able to give you a great kitchen full of food to feed you and your family.
Lettuce is an easy vegetable to grow. It’s simple and everyone loves having baby greens in a tossed salad. When looking at lettuce seeds there are 2 types: Full head and Baby Leaf.
I like to break down the Full Head Lettuce types into two loose categories as well: loose leafy types and romaine. Both will make nice heads if you let them grow long enough in the garden.You can get more technical and break down lettuce into lots of different categories but for now this is the easiest way to remember them.
The Baby Leaf Lettuce types are similar to the lettuce you will buy at the grocery store in those clam shell packs. Small, very tender greens with small sized leaves. Most often you will buy these seeds as mixes and cut them once they get to about 4-6” tall.
Nothing compares to the flavour of a freshly pulled garden carrot. Once you’ve eaten one it’s really hard to go back to stored carrots from the store. If your ground tends to get quite hard, leave a spade fork in the garden to loosen the soil so you don’t break the carrots off when pulling them out.
There are a couple categories for carrots as well. To keep it simple there are early, mid season and storage carrots. If you are only planning on growing carrots for fresh eating make sure you choose either the early or mid season variety.
My favourite type of carrot to grow is a Nantes type. I find they have a much smaller core and resist getting hard and woody. They also taste great as baby carrots. I don’t store any carrots unless I process them so I choose not to grow any storage carrots.
Have you ever tasted fresh garden peas? This past summer I had a very poor garden. It happens, and I know I’ll do better this year. We have been missing the taste of fresh peas. Even the kids have said to me that it’s just not the same.
There are a couple types of peas you can grow too. Sugar or Snow Peas that you eat with the pod and Shelling Peas. Make sure you label what each row is since they all look the same when they are growing.
I typically like to freeze about 200 cups of peas for our freezer through out the summer. I like to plant them in the ground early so they can be processed before the heat of summer takes over and I get too busy to process the bounty. So I choose the shortest seed to harvest day variety of shelling peas.
Peas are also a plant that does better with a trellis. This doesn’t mean you can’t grow them like a bush, they just get dirty and are more prone to mildew since air doesn’t flow through them. Pea vines can get heavy as well so make sure you have strong posts that are close together.
Corn is a fun plant to grow. You can choose the solid yellow kernel or bi-colour kernel varieties. I love to grow the Peaches and Cream Early variety. It’s super sweet, but you do need to pick it when it’s right when it’s ready instead of leaving it in the garden. There are other varieties that hold better in the garden and I’m going to mix it up this year with a couple varieties.
Just know that the corn likes heat and water. If you find yourself in a bit of a drought, you will need to supplement water to get the cobs to fill out. Corn is also wind pollinated so don’t plant in single long rows. I like to plant in double rows and have had decent results.
I grew beans for the first time two years ago. I had put them off for a long time since I thought beans were gross. Again, the flavour of garden beans won me over and we will be growing them from now on. The really are an easy to grow vegetable.
There are 2 basic types of beans: bush or pole. If you are tight on space grow the bush style as the pole beans need a trellis. I like to grow scarlet runner beans strictly for looks. They grow quickly and create a living wall that can block out unsightly things or climb a trellis to hide a downspout.
It seems like most veggies have 2 types to choose from and beets are no different. You can get round or cylindrical shaped beets. I have only grown the round red ones and we’ve been really happy with the flavour.
Pay attention to spacing on your beets. If they start coming in really close together, pull out some seedlings, otherwise they get all funky shaped. They still taste good, but are harder to peel.
If you have never ever started a seed indoors, then tomatoes are a good one to practice on. Seeds are inexpensive and really easy to start. Just follow the instructions on the back of the package. If you’re finding they are tall and leggy they need more light.
When you plant out in the garden you can plant them quite deep as the tomato will send out roots off the main stem.
There are Roma/Paste, Bush, Cherry and Greenhouse type varieties to choose from. All tomatoes are grown the same and will need some type of staking.
Cucumbers come in slicing or pickling varieties. Make sure you label which is which. They can be grown on a trellis or just let them spread on the ground.
Slicing cucumbers do better started indoors a couple seeds to a pot. Then when you plant them out leave them together in a clump.
Pickling cucumbers should be picked when they are small to keep your plant producing. If you let them get too big your plant will start to shut down and stop flowering.
Zucchini is considered a summer squash and if you can’t find seeds under ‘Z’ this is where they will be. They are also a very prolific producer so be aware when you are planting or you will be trying to sneak them into your neighbours mail box or car whenever you go to town.
Check your plants daily as they grow really fast and hide well under the leaves. They do have scratchy stems and leaves so wear gloves if your hands are sensitive.
One of the easiest ways to grow onions is from the sets you can buy at the hardware store. They are little itty bitty onions that you plant out in the spring and they wake up and start growing.
3 years ago I tried growing onions from seed that I started in February and was amazed at the results. I grew the biggest onions I have every grown that stored well into March for winter eating.
If you don’t have the time or space to dedicate to starting seeds, stick with the sets and you’ll end up with great results too!
Potatoes are my favourite thing to grow. They are really the most simple and easy to grow vegetable. Once planted and hilled you can pretty much ignore them till July. You can start harvesting at any size. The small ones are baby potatoes and if you leave them in the ground till after a hard frost, you’ll get storage potatoes.
Is hilling confusing? I’ll explain. To plant a potato you dig a small hole and drop in the potato and cover with soil. Once the potato leaves start to come up, slowly cover the spot with soil till you have made a mound. This is to make sure that as the potatoes grow the actual little potatoes are covered and not coming out above the ground.
If this list is still daunting and overwhelming then narrow it back to 5 veggies that work for you, your family and your space.
Remember that gardening isn’t all or nothing. It’s a process that you can expand on every year. As with growing perennials less is more while your’e learning.
Don’t take on more than you can handle. Work on a few easy to grow vegetables till you feel comfortable and then next season add a couple more varieties.
Remember that you’re growing your own vegetables to enjoy your food, not because someone is making you do this. If you find that gardening isn’t your thing, support your local farmers market. There are so many farmers out there doing all the hard work for you.
You’ll get all the benefits of the fresh from the farm taste without all the work. So enjoy your garden and have fun!