The 8 easiest vegetables to grow
Set your garden up for success by planting vegetables that grow quickly without a lot of fuss. Salad, anyone?
Novice gardeners will do best by choosing the plants -- most of them salad ingredients -- that grow quickly, produce lots of food and do it without a lot of fuss.
Make it your goal this summer to learn the basics by getting a garden of manageable size from seed to harvest. Once you've put your garden to bed in the fall, you can spend the winter planning your second garden, with corn, cucumbers, eggplants, melons and other plants that need more attention.
Here are plants most likely to thrive and produce satisfying results on your first attempt:
Peas are planted six to eight weeks before the last frost. (In some parts of the country, it's already too late to plant peas.)
Radishes are the easiest vegetable to grow, taking just about 20 days.
Lettuce is a good crop for novices. Lance Frazon, a seed specialist at John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds in Bantam, Conn., suggests Scheepers varieties Little Gem Baby Romaine, Rubens Baby (red), Romaine (red) and a French heirloom lettuce, Merveille des Quatre Saisons Lettuce. To harvest young, clip leaves with scissors. Harvest heads or pull leaves off heads as they mature. Read seed packets for directions on starting a second crop for autumn. Treat yourself to mesclun mixes, Asian mixes and other exotics.
Carrots are easy, but full-size varieties don't thrive in rocky soil. Frazon suggests Scheepers' Parmex Baby Ball Carrots, especially for rocky soil. Carrot seeds germinate (sprout) easily, producing a zillion teeny plants which must be thinned. Wait for the tops to reach 2 inches, then pull out enough of the smallest ones to leave each remaining carrot space for maturity. (For more, read this article on thinning vegetables by horticulture specialist Jerry Parsons of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at PlantAnswers.com.)
Spinach grows easily but bolts at the first warm weather. Plant seeds early and harvest some leaves as babies and at 30 days, and leave others to grow for about 40 days. Plant a fall crop in late summer.
Green bush beans are a sure-fire crop, Frazon says. Enlist children to help sow these big seeds. Bush beans grow quickest, require no support, take up relatively little space and offer an extended harvest. Frazon recommends gourmet varieties such as Jade Green Bush Beans and thin Vernandon Filet Bush Beans. Pick beans tender, before seed pods form.
Zucchini is easy and awesomely productive. One or two plants will feed most families. Transplant young zucchini you've purchased from a garden center or sow seeds directly into the soil.
Tomatoes aren't difficult provided you choose faster, nonfussy hybrids and grow them in a nice warm spot. To boost your chances of success, plant young tomato starts you've purchased from a garden center. Cherry tomatoes are intensely flavorful -- Frazon recommends Sungold and Sunsugar (here's an iVillage discussion about the two varieties), plus the big, disease-resistant Carmello hybrid tomato and a plum tomato called Enchantment.