If you’re a beginner gardener, you might be overwhelmed at all of the things you need to learn. But it doesn’t have to be so frustrating.
Starting with common, low-maintenance vegetables is a great way to build your beginner gardening skills.
When I was a beginning gardener, I focused on just a few easy to grow vegetables. Focusing on just a few veggies to start keeps things manageable.
Once you get the hang of those, you can move on to growing a year’s worth of vegetables for your family!
Best Vegetables to Grow for Beginner Gardening
Here are my favorite, easy-to-grow vegetables for your first year gardening:
Leafy greens like spinach and lettuce are staples in our house throughout the summer and perfect for the beginner gardener. I love having fresh leafy greens to throw together a quick salad to go with our dinner.
Leafy greens love cooler temperatures. They grow well in full sun in the spring and fall garden, but they will also produce nutritious leaves throughout the summer if offered some shade.
I love growing Swiss chard because it does well all season without much fuss.
Start lettuce or spinach seeds indoors a couple of weeks before the first frost date in your area or sow seeds directly in the garden.
If you decide to transplant lettuce or spinach seedlings, do so with care. Leafy greens are fragile and don’t take well to heavy handling.
Lightly water leafy greens daily or every other day, depending on the temperatures in your area.
Greens are prone to root rot, so avoid watering too much too often. You may also want to plant greens in hills or mounds to encourage the soil to dry out faster.
I prefer to water spinach and lettuce plants in the morning. If I notice that the ground looks wet from the day before, I’ll wait another day before watering again.
Tomatoes might be the most popular garden vegetable grown today. There are so many ways to use them to liven up a salad, sandwich, or you can even let tomatoes star as the main ingredient in a nourishing bisque. They are truly a perfect beginner gardening plant.
Tomatoes love warm weather and lots of sunshine. Give them a sunny spot with lots of room to grow in the garden—about two feet apart is recommended.
Tomato seeds can be sown directly in the garden, but I prefer to start them from seed about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. This helps lengthen the growing season and increase the number of tomatoes I get.
Tomato plants enjoy a thorough watering—daily for the first weeks after transplanting and then every other day during the growing season.
If the weather is unseasonably dry, place large flat stones next to your tomato plants to prevent water from evaporating so quickly.
Place cages around tomato plants after they’ve been in the garden for a couple of weeks. This supports the plant when the fruits begin to develop. Throughout the growing season, you may need to take some yarn or string out to tie up any loose limbs.
It’s easy to grow an abundant cucumber harvest with just a few healthy plants. Having extra cucumbers isn’t a problem if you have chickens as they will devour a chilled cucumber on a hot summer day in no time.
Cucumber plants are vining and will quickly take over the garden if you let them. I grow cucumbers on a trellis to keep them up off the ground.
Cucumbers are similar to tomatoes in that they don’t like cold temperatures. Start seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before the first frost date.
Cucumber seeds sprout quickly. Make sure their garden plot is ready shortly after starting them indoors.
Cucumbers have a high water content which means they need quite a bit of water throughout the growing season. Place cucumber plants in full-sun with well-draining soil and water them every day.
As my cucumber plants grow more leaves, I simply weave their vines up a trellis. In a few short weeks, I have more cucumbers than I know what to do with.
Pumpkins and Winter Squash
Squash are perfect for beginner gardening too. Pumpkins are a type of winter squash that will vine their way through the garden, so be sure to give them lots of space. Other common varieties of winter squash that are easy to grow include:
- Butternut squash
- Spaghetti squash
- Acorn squash
These are all the types of squash that become popular in the fall because they have a longer growing season than summer squash.
There are many ways to preserve winter squash for months so that your family can enjoy the flavors of these fresh vegetables in the dead of winter when fresh and local produce is scarce.
Winter squash varieties (including pumpkins) are also easy to grow—especially in areas with longer summers.
Plant winter squash seeds in the ground following the last frost date or begin seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before that date for a quicker harvest as it can take 70-100 days for the vegetables to become fully ripe.
Grow winter squash on hills or mounds and make sure the soil drains well. Winter squash prefers slow, deep watering at the root level. A soaker hose is a good investment if you’d like to plant many varieties of winter squash in your garden.
Zucchini and Summer Squash
Zucchini is a type of summer squash that tastes excellent in stir fry, summer vegetable salads, and even baked goods.
Like cucumbers, you can quickly grow more zucchini than you need with just a couple of plants. Besides zucchini, common varieties of summer squash include:
- Yellow Squash
Zucchini and summer squash can either be vining or a bush variety. They all tend to grow best in consistently moist soil (another use for a soaker hose) and full-sun.
The bush varieties are perfect for small garden spaces and will even work in a container garden for apartment homesteaders.
Summer squash can be planted indoors before the last frost date or sown directly in the ground after that date.
These plants are less hardy than their winter counterparts and won’t tolerate frost. Space your plants about a foot apart to leave plenty of room for their broad leaves to stretch out.
Squash varieties often attract a notoriously hungry pest known as the squash bug. These pesky insects will lay eggs on the bottom side of squash leaves, and before you know it, the eggs will hatch, and the pests will devour your plants.
If you wish to grow any type of squash in your garden, prepare a natural pesticide like this neem oil spray to prevent these bugs from ruining your harvest. However, with squash bugs, I’ve found picking them off by hand is the best defense.
With so many different varieties, shapes, and colors, peppers are a joy to grow! They don’t require a large amount of space, making them perfect for growing in a small bed or container. Some common pepper varieties to grow in the garden include:
- Bell pepper
- Poblano pepper
Peppers grow best in warmer temperatures, so for an earlier harvest, it is a good idea to start seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before the last frost date. Once daytime temperatures have warmed to mid to upper-60s, it is safe to plant peppers in the garden.
Mulching around the base of your pepper plants will help the ground stay cool and moist throughout the summer. Pepper plants will do best in full sun and with about 1-2 inches of water each week.
Once your pepper plants are established, place a stake or small tomato cage over them to support the peppers once they begin to develop.
Carrots are great for beginner gardening because they are so easy to maintain. Plus, carrots do well in container gardens as long as they are deep enough.
Carrot seeds are tiny and should be sown directly into the garden for early spring and late fall harvests. Carrots prefer cooler temperatures and loose, nutrient-dense soil.
I spread carrot seeds across rows about a foot apart to give them enough space, but not too much that I’d need to worry about weeding a big area. Weeds around carrots will draw nutrients from the soil and crowd the tender roots.
Carrots need a deep watering to encourage their roots to grow. A soaker hose is useful to get water directly at the roots giving them a thorough soaking every one to two days.
To check on the size of your carrots, simply scrape a little dirt at the base of your plant away to see how fat they are. In 6-8 weeks after planting, your carrots should be ready for harvesting. Gently dig up the carrots and marvel at the different shapes and sizes you find!
I love growing peas because they are often the first vegetable ready for harvest in my garden each spring (and I’m dying for fresh, homegrown veggies by then!). Their bright green color spiraling up a trellis is a refreshing sight after a long winter. They are perfect for beginner gardening.
About 4-6 weeks before the last frost date in your area, plant pea seeds directly in the garden. For a fall harvest, sow pea seeds 6-8 weeks before the first fall frost.
Pea plants grow best in slightly drier soil. If your garden tends to collect water in the spring, you may want to grow peas in a container or raised bed. Water pea plants every other day or when you notice the soil is mostly dry.
Pea plants are fragile. Pull any weeds up by hand rather than using a tiller or weeding device that may go too deep and cut the roots (or use deep mulch as I do). The more you pick the pea pods from the plant, the more you will encourage new ones to grow.
I didn’t include beets in my garden at first because I didn’t know they were so easy to grow. Like peas, beets are a cool-season crop with nutritious roots and leafy greens.
Beets are fast growers in loose, well-draining soil. They prefer a sunny spot in the garden. Sow seeds in rows in early spring, and then again in late summer. Keep the soil moist by mulching around the plants. Avoid damaging the tender roots by pulling weeds by hand.
Beets will be ready to harvest within 50-70 days of planting. Gently pull the beetroots out of the ground and shake them free of any loose dirt.
I’ve found that fresh beets will keep longer in the refrigerator if I clip the greens off and store them separately.
Onions are another staple in our house. I add chopped and sliced onions to just about every soup or salad I make.
Onions have a long growing season and are typically harvested in the fall. Like other root vegetables, onions need loose, well-draining soil.
You can choose to start onions from seed or a starter bulb set. I start onions from a bulb set because that method has been more successful for me.
Adding compost between onion rows helps keep the ground both moist and loose around the bulbs.
When the onion tops have dried and fallen limp, you know they are ready to be harvested. Gently loosen the soil from around the bulb heads and pull them out of the ground. Late summer or early fall is best for collecting onions as colder temperatures can cause onions to rot.
There are many vegetables that a beginner gardener could start growing, but I’ve found these have been the simplest plants to include in a vegetable garden. They provide lots of nutrients and are easy to add to a variety of dishes.
How Do You Start a Garden?
You now know which vegetables to plant for beginner gardening to master the basics of organic gardening. Use these general gardening tips to get yourself started on the right foot.
When Should You Start a Garden?
Most gardeners will begin seeds indoors anywhere from 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. This gives seedlings time to establish a healthy set of roots before being planted in the garden.
It’s also a good idea to give your seedlings time to adjust to outdoor conditions like wind, rain, and direct sunlight before planting them in the garden. A few weeks before transplanting your seedlings, bring them outside for a few hours at a time to ‘harden them off.’
This is a gardening term that means you are preparing the seedlings for the outdoor conditions that they will be growing in for the remainder of the year.
Search the Farmer’s Almanac website to find out when the last frost date is predicted for your area. You can also begin a garden in the mid to late summer for a fall harvest.
What Do You Need to Start a Garden?
You don’t need a large plot of land or heavy equipment to start a simple vegetable garden. Beginners can have a successful garden with:
- A few packets of seeds
- A small plot of land
- A couple of shovels
- A hoe and rake
- A watering can or hose
If you don’t have any growing space, consider starting a container garden, or find out if there is a community garden nearby.
Start with the Basics for Beginner Gardening
When I decided to start a garden, I had big dreams to grow just about every vegetable I could think of. But I knew that if I started with a big plot, I would eventually run out of time or energy to tend to everything.
So instead, I started with five or six vegetables I knew my family would enjoy eating. I took the time to master the basics of gardening.
Now, I know exactly when to start seeds and exactly how much I will need to grow each summer (with help from my seed starting planner).
My best advice to a new gardener is to start small with what you know. There will always be new lessons to learn and vegetables to attempt to grow.
Give yourself the time and space to explore gardening without the stress of trying to do too much. I can tell you that gardening is a lot more fun that way!
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Now it’s Your Turn! What is your favorite easy vegetable to grow for beginner gardening?