Easiest Vegetables & Fruits to Grow

If your parents didn't teach you to garden, if you've never tried (or had success) growing houseplants, if you can barely keep your lawn looking decent, starting a vegetable garden can be intimidating.

But if you've decided the benefits (more food security, more self-sufficiency,  better nutrition, fewer or zero chemicals, and lower grocery bills) outweigh your fear, start with edibles that are easy to grow. (And, hey: Although I'm a good gardener, I'm no good with houseplants, either!)

Happily, a great many edibles are easy to grow - as long as you have decent soil, have chosen seed that grows well in your area, and are giving the plant the correct amount of sun. Here are a few I recommend trying:


Kale and Collards

These are my number one choice for new gardeners because they are so forgiving. They don't even mind a little bit of shade. In fact, kale and collards grow like weeds - and if you harvest only the outer leaves (allowing the three center leaves to remain), they will produce well into the winter months. I suggest not waiting until the leaves are as huge as supermarket kale or collards; the older, bigger leaves are more bitter and tough.

Green Beans 

There's a reason school teachers often use beans for classroom lessons on seed sprouting: Plop 'em directly into the ground and they will thrive! Warning: You may have a tough time getting any green beans to the table once your family learns how fabulous they taste picked fresh off the vine. Heirloom varieties are usually pole beans, which require a trellis to climb. Bush beans are usually hybrids (which is not the same as GMO), but take up less space.


Plant these seeds in the soil in early spring and radishes can be your first crop of the year. In addition to eating them raw, you can cook them like any other root vegetable. I use them as a substitute for potatoes (as in this stew); cooked, they lose their peppery flavor. 


Whether you like them fresh in salads, want to dehydrate them to make "chips," or want to pickle them in your water bath canner, cucumbers are a vining crop that are easy to grow. Just plop those seeds directly into the soil and keep them moist, but not wet. If you want to make pickles, be sure to choose varieties noted for that use (and, for the crispiest pickles, can them the same day you harvest them).


Although tomatoes have a "difficult-to-grow" reputation in some circles, if you give them what they need, they'll produce abundant crops that make grocery store tomatoes seem like outright garbage. Start by giving them excellent soil. If you pot them, put them in a large pot - they need plenty of room for their roots. Make sure the pot has excellent drainage. Grow them in full sun. And feed them regularly with a good fertilizer. (For more details on growing tomatoes, read "How to Grow Epic Tomatoes.") Tomatoes come in two basic types: Determinate and Indeterminate. Determinate varieties are shorter and bushier. Indeterminate types vine.

Summer Squash/Winter Squash

Squash needs full sun and takes up quite a bit of room, but it produces like mad. (One way to make squash work in a small garden is to train it up a trellis, as shown in the photo to the left.) Zucchini (a type of summer squash) takes up less space than winter squash.

Carrots and Parsnips

If you don't mind carrots and parsnips that aren't perfectly shaped, you'll find these vegetables easy to grow and so much more delicious than store-bought. Perfectly shaped carrots and parsnips require soil that's completely free of rocks and debris; if you'd like try for that, get a large Rubbermaid style box, drill tons of holes in the bottom, and fill it with excellent, fine soil.


Like green beans, just plant pea seeds directly in the soil in early spring and late summer and watch them grow! They'll produce pretty flowers first, then superb food.


Garlic is best started from cloves, and requires next to no attention while it's growing. It prefers full sun but will grow in part shade.


Pretty much all herbs grow like weeds. Grow them in pots, or they may overtake your garden.


It's ridiculously easy to have fresh salad fixings available all spring, fall, and (in milder regions) winter. Lettuces don't even need full sun; in fact, they tend to prefer a little bit of shade. If you grow your own lettuce, you can experiment with a vast variety of colors, shapes, and tastes and supermarket lettuce will soon seem a bland, at best. To keep lettuces growing for the longest amount of time, remove the outer leaves first and always keep at least three inner leaves intact. One caveat: If your spring weather tends to go from cool to suddenly warm, your lettuce will tend to "bolt" - that is, start growing flowers - which will make the leaves taste bitter. If you want to avoid that, plant lettuce in late summer, when it can enjoy growing in cool fall temperatures.)

Strawberries and Blueberries

Strawberries are easy to grow from runners or plants, and while they do prefer full sun, I've had some luck growing them in part shade. Ever-bearing strawberries produce small quantities of fruit all summer and into the fall, whereas spring-bearing strawberries produce one large crop in late spring.

Blueberries are another good choice for an easy-to-grow fruit. Purchase young plants from a local nursery. They like acidic soil, so if yours is not (or you're not sure if it is), grow them in huge pots and feed them acidic fertilizer.

A version of this post first appeared on this blog in February of 2012.

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