Growing food should be easier than it is. People have been growing their own fruits and vegetables for thousands of years. So how can it be so difficult for some of us to make food come out of our garden beds?
I’ve mentioned before how gung-ho I was in my early gardening days. Convinced that I’d soon be reaping more food than I could eat, I quickly invested in a Ball canner…you know, to preserve the harvests I didn’t even have yet.
Do you see where this is going?
I barely grew enough food to provide side dishes for a couple meals that first season, let alone needing to preserve any of it.
So What Are the Easiest Fruits and Veggies to Grow?
I had repeatedly read that lettuce was a foolproof, fast-growing crop to grow from seed. Well it outsmarted this fool. I found that lettuce had fussy food and water demands, and it often drowned in my Pacific NW spring rain.
With time I learned to give lettuce lots of fertilizer and fresh compost, and keep a closer eye on water levels. I still wouldn’t say it’s the easiest vegetable to grow. But there are some foods that are less needy and more foolproof, even for beginners.
I asked my fellow garden bloggers and Instagrammers to join me in sharing our favorite fruits, veggies and herbs that are actually easy to grow. Here are our recommendations!
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“By far my favorite easy to grow vegetable is shelling peas. Peas are a cool-weather crop with a short maturity rate, usually between 55 and 70 days, which is especially great for where I live as our growing season is relatively short.
“There are two varieties that I like to grow, Alaska and Green Arrow. The Alaska variety has a shorter maturity rate and is better suited for canning or freezing. Green Arrow, my go-to variety, has a longer maturity rate, however, these peas are good for fresh eating, canning or freezing. It’s rare that any Green Arrow peas make it into the house, as snacking on them in the garden is our favorite way to eat them.
Peas are an excellent crop because they don’t require a ton of maintenance.
“Regular weeding is necessary to ensure that unwanted plants don’t choke out the peas. Once the plants have grown a few inches tall, they will need support. A couple of bamboo sticks and twine is enough to keep them supported. Place a line of twine up the posts every couple of inches to ensure the tendrils can grab hold of them before they fall over due to wind or weight. Plants tend to grow between 1 and 3 feet tall, so you will need to ensure that the support is high enough and strong enough.
“Regular watering is important once the plants begin to flower, as this will help to increase yield and allow the peas to grow within their pods. Check the plants daily, as the pods can mature quickly and the peas will become less edible if they grow too large. To extend your harvest, sow successive rows about 14 days apart.”
Note from Hammer & a Headband: Sarah also has an article about growing radishes. After reading it last summer, I planted a few rows of radishes to fill the empty spots in my garden. Radishes proved to be a super easy crop that I was able to grow first try with no troubles at all. They popped up in time for my in-laws’ annual visit, and my father-in-law loved snacking on them!
“The easiest grow on your lot food I’ve ever tried are fruits and blackberries! But, we had a suburban lot and most fruit trees need 2+ varieties in order to pollinate and set fruit! I wanted fruit but not an orchard full!
“So I googled my local county master gardener group and stalked their Facebook page for upcoming plant sales so I could score this grafted apple tree that has 3 different varieties! The offerings aren’t cheaper than your box store but you won’t find more knowledgeable staff (who are all volunteer!) to help decide what your space needs and they also only sell what grows well in your area!
“Here is my apple tree’s growth 2 years from pot to ground with tiny apples the second year.
“Varieties included: Anna, Einshemer and Doresett Golden. Even better that their fruit times overlap so it’s a longer season of harvest!”
“I have a section on my yard that I’ll be turning into a squash garden. Once I made my garden boxes I know I would need more space to do spaghetti squash and zucchini. I did spaghetti squash the year before and they thrived in my garden. We loved experimenting with some great recipes with this veggie. Plus my family loved it. I actually shared the harvest I had so much.”
Potatoes and More
“Because I usually garden with my granddaughter, Bean, my choice of vegetable seeds and bedding plants is made with her in mind. When she was little, she mostly liked dropping seeds into the troughs I made for them, or helping me settle bedding plants into the soil.
I chose vegetables that would germinate quickly, like radishes, carrots, lettuce, green onions and kale.
“We pulled weeds and thinned the seedlings as they appeared. Before planting, we prepared the soil in my raised beds with lots of compost and mulch so that it was easy to work. I raise earthworms, so we sprinkled mineral-rich worm castings over the top of the seeds. Because these vegetables grow quickly, and we harvest them as soon as they are ready, we succession plant several times between March and July.
“When Bean was a little older, between five and seven, she expressed an interest in growing tomatoes, bok choi, sunflowers and potatoes. We decided to purchase tomato plants by their variety, and a six pack of bok choi for fast results. Sunflowers are very forgiving, and will grow just about anywhere there is sun. Children like the big ones, which in my container garden benefit from staking.
Potatoes were the most fun.
“We layered three colors of seed potatoes in burlap bags, using a mixture of planting mix, compost, and worm castings. Bean, even at the grownup age of nine, loves to sink her hands into the soft soil and bring up handfuls of red, purple and white potatoes. We only harvest enough of the larger tubers for a meal, and leave the smaller ones to mature.”
“My favourite thing to grow at the moment has to be over winter garlic. We eat a lot of garlic, but also use it in the Summer months to make a chemical free pesticide to prevent aphid build up. They are easy to grow and although we chose to buy bulbs which are specific for planting, you can use leftover garlic that has started to bolt.
“You will need to prepare the soil as you want it to allow for easy water drainage. As we planted out in October we were very prepared for lots of rain and perhaps a frost or two. It is more the rat is the worry. Plant each clove around two bulbs distance apart. You can see that I lay them on top of the prepared soil first. This allows me to maximise the space. Then use a dibber and pop them in to twice the depth of the actual clove.
It is so easy and really rewarding.
“We are seeing long green stems already and are waiting until around May time to test the first bulb. Then we can lift them all out and store them in our shed until they are dried off a bit.
“So minimum effort after they are in and maximum freshness and taste once they are harvested! Also garlic can be quite pricey in the shops, far better to grow your own!”
Note from Hammer & a Headband: Alex recently started a second blog all about herbs, so she kindly shared the additional recommendation below for growing fresh herbs at home. Thanks Alex!
Basil and Other Herbs
“I love my windowsill herb garden and I think you will do too! They are perfect for any time of year, you don’t have to wait for frost to end. You can eat them straight from the pot and they don’t need to be processed at all. If you buy from supermarkets the ready potted stuff it is always disappointing but fresh herbs from seeds are plentiful and you can cut and come again.
I also think that no matter how gloomy the view from your window is in winter, you will have beautiful greenery to look at first.
“The next best thing about your own herbs, grown on the windowsill is that you don’t forget about them. They are in your kitchen and when you need to perk up a pasta dish or a few boiled potatoes you can just snip some ready to sprinkle. I’m not saying you would forget about the herbs you grow outside but when they are right there in front of you it can inspire a new culinary idea! Also they take very little skill or experience.
All you will need is one or two small pots and a handful of seeds.
“I use basil seeds sprinkled on top of the soil with a fine layer to cover them. Water with a spritzer and ensure the soil is not water logged or dry. Wait around three weeks and you have shoots sprouting up. This means that you can plant new seeds every 2-3 weeks for year round fresh herbs. This is perfect for any foodie who cares about freshness.
“To find out more about getting the most from your windowsill garden check out Homegrown Herb Garden.”
Tomatoes and Tomatillos
Picked by Me, Tara at Hammer & a Headband (Oregon)
If you have enough sunshine, then tomatoes and tomatillos are incredibly easy to grow. In fact, most years I don’t even plant tomatoes—they just reseed or blow in as volunteers from my neighbor’s yard and I let them grow where they land.
When your tomato and tomatillo plants are a few inches tall, add a tomato cage around each one to give them support as they grow. It also helps to clip off the unnecessary foliage to give them extra sun, air and energy, as shown here, but it’s optional. Water them consistently and they will grow into perfect little red and green super foods.
The problem is, I hate raw tomatoes, and I’m not a fan of tomatillos either.
Have you run into this problem as a gardener? A lot of the easiest foods to grow might not be your top choice to eat. But with the right recipe, you can turn an undesirable fruit or veggie into a tasty treat.
Other Easy Foods to Grow
These are the honorable mentions that have been happy in my garden.
- Carrots: Just loosen your dirt when planting so the carrots can grow evenly into the ground, and you’ll find that carrots are a very easy crop. I like the Romance carrot variety.
- Onions: Really anything from the allium family has always thrived for me (garlic, onions, chives, shallots and leeks). I usually plant over winter onion seeds, ignore them all winter long, and harvest in the spring. It couldn’t be easier, and I love my onions!
- Strawberries: At first I had a few problems warding off strawberry pests, but with a few tricks it became fairly easy to grow strawberries. See my strawberry growing tips for help.