Looking to grow your own hyperlocal veggies to improve your foods’ nutrition and save some money this year? Although large, complex gardens do require a fairly hefty time investment, many veggies are so easy to grow that they practically care for themselves. If you’re hoping for a highly productive but low-maintenance veggie garden, try these 10 easy-growing veggies, perfect for beginner gardeners.
You can learn about different varieties by studying seed catalogs, which most companies send for free. One of my favorites, with a bounty of advice and beautiful color photos, is Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Visit the website or order a catalog, and start planning!
1. Salad Greens (arugula, lettuce, spinach and corn salad). Pick your favorite, or try a mix—many seed companies sell mixed packets for summer and winter gardening. Plant seeds in spring and fall, and you can pick salads almost year-round. Read more about all sorts of greens in our Field Guide to Salad Greens.
2. Potatoes. Potatoes store well when kept cool. A simple and low-maintenance approach is to plant potatoes directly in straw (with just a little dirt added) rather than soil. “Seeds” are whole or cut sections of potatoes. Only plant organic potatoes or those sold in nurseries as seed potatoes. Conventional grocery-store potatoes are sprayed with an antisprouting agent. Try this recipe for Roasted Red Potatoes.
3. Green Beans. Easy to grow and highly productive, green beans freeze well, and they’re delicious pickled as dilly beans. Start with seeds after danger of frost has passed. Green beans grow very well vertically on fences or trellises. Read more about vertical gardening techniques.
4. Radishes. Radishes do well even in not-so-great soil, and they’re ready to harvest in only a few weeks. Plant seeds in spring and fall. Enjoy a baby greens and radish salad with garlic-mustard vinaigrette.
Start with small plants. If they do well, you can harvest bulb onions. If not, you can eat the greens. Read a guide to growing onions.
6. Strawberries. Perfectly ripe strawberries are luscious, and the plants are surprisingly hardy. Buy bare-root plants from your local garden center in early spring. Put this perennial in a sunny spot and weed often. Strawberries grow wonderfully in an old-fashioned strawberry barrel. Learn how to make one.
7. Peppers. Hot and bell peppers are both easy to grow. Start with seedlings and let peppers ripen for different lengths of time to get a range of colors and flavors—most peppers turn from green to red or purple over time, becoming sweeter along the way. Learn to dry, freeze, pickle, smoke and preserve peppers in oil.
8. Bush Zucchini. This squash won’t take up as much garden space as many other types, and it’s very prolific. Start from seeds or transplants. You won’t need more than a few plants for a bumper crop. Learn to make dried zucchini chips for snacking or rehydrating in soups and stews.
9. Tomatoes. There’s just no substitute for a perfectly ripe homegrown tomato, and it’s hard to go wrong when you start with strong plants (look for thick stems and healthy leaves). If you get a big crop, consider canning or freezing. Read a guide to growing amazing tomatoes.
10. Basil. Many herbs are easy to grow, but basil is among the easiest. It complements tomatoes in both the garden and the kitchen and grows well from seeds or transplants. Learn about nine other easy-to-grow kitchen herbs.