6 easy vegetables to grow for beginner gardeners

6 easy vegetables to grow for beginner gardeners

Find out all about easy vegetables to grow in your garden for a harvest of fresh and healthy produce.

If you are new to gardening, what are some easy vegetables to grow?

Growing your own vegetables can be incredibly satisfying and rewarding. Freshly picked vegetables taste delicious, they have such great flavours and textures compared to veggies bought in stores or supermarkets.

And growing vegetables at home saves on packaging, the impacts of transporting and multiple people in the supply chain handling them, compared to when you buy them from stores.

It’s often cheaper to grow vegetables at home, when you factor in the cost of seeds or seedlings compared to how much produce you get from one or two plants. Vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini and capsicums usually provide a large harvest of vegetables from one or two plants, all going well with the growing process.

Related article: Top ten reasons to grow vegetables at home

Some tips for gardeners:

  • Grow vegetables that you love to eat! You’ll be more into taking care of your plants if you are looking forward to actually eating your harvest, at least when you are a beginner gardener.
  • Water your plants regularly, at the soil level rather than the leaves. Water on the leaves can damage them in bright sunshine, and can also encourage diseases.
  • Add a layer of mulch to the beds, to suppress weed, and keep moisture in the soil.
  • Keep the vegetable beds, pots or containers weed free, so they don’t fight the plants for nutrients.
  • Vegetables are ready to harvest when they are around the same size as you see them in supermarkets. Leaving them on the plant to grow bigger is not always better! They can go to seed (like lettuces can), become too heavy (in the case of tomatoes), or lose flavour (like zucchini does if it gets too big).
  • When your vegetable plants are growing well, fertilise them very four weeks or so, for the growing season. This could be commercially made fertilisers from a garden store, or homemade fertilisers like ‘worm wee’ from a worm farm.

Vegetable gardens that are well watered and well fed will have a better chance of growing a decent harvest of your favourite veggies.

Easy vegetables to grow in your garden

6 Easy vegetables to grow in your home garden

Tomatoes

Tomatoes may seem like a vegetable that’s for the more experienced gardener, but they can be quite easy to grow. They can be incredibly prolific too, so you can get a lot of tomatoes from just a few plants. This is very rewarding for people who are new to gardening.

What types of tomato should I grow?

Cherry tomatoes

Some varieties of tomato grow on smaller plants, such as cherry tomatoes or bush tomatoes. This makes them suitable for growing in pots or even in hanging baskets – great for small gardens or balconies. They are easy vegetables to grow when you are a beginner. Cherry tomatoes make great lunchbox snacks, and are an excellent type of vegetable to get children to eat their five a day veggies!

Regular and larger sized tomatoes

Larger varieties of tomatoes grow much bigger, and need to be trained to grow up stakes. You can tie them to supporting stakes with garden twine, or recycled materials such as strips of old cotton t-shirts or tights.

It is best to keep the plant to a single stem, by pinching out the side shoots. These shoots are called laterals, and will all grow into long branches if you let them – ending up in a heap of tangled branches! I usually miss a few laterals when I am growing tomatoes, and end up with a few leafy, messy plants each year.

Tomatoes need lots of sun and regular watering. You can also feed the plants with commercial tomato feed, or apply Epsom salts.

Tomato varieties to try

Like many gardeners, I have varieties of vegetables that I have more success with time.

With tomatoes, these include:

  • Roma – a paste tomato, great for making pasta sauce
  • Cocktail – small cherry tomatoes, full of flavour
  • Big Rainbow – medium size tomatoes which are great for salads and sandwiches
  • Black Krim – a big, beefy, dark fleshed tomato
  • Moonglow – an heirloom orange tomato, with a fantastic flavour and colour
  • Tigrella – interesting red tomato with green and orange stripes – very distinctive.

Easy vegetables to grow for beginner gardeners - tomatoes

Lettuce

Lettuce leaves picked straight from the garden are delicious, convenient, and packaging free! Plus you can pick as many as you need for a meal, cutting them from the plant and leaving it in place to carry on growing.

They are a quick and easy vegetable to grow, either from seed or from seedlings. Lettuces grow well in a container or pot, which is handy if you have limited space in your garden.

Loose leafed varieties are particularly easy to grow.

Sow a few lettuce seeds every 2-3 weeks, to give yourself a continuous supply of new plants. This also helps you avoid having a glut of too many lettuces ready at once, as they are best eaten fresh and hard to store or preserve for a long time.

Make sure you keep the soil watered in warm weather, as they can go to seed easily.

Harvest lettuce leaves with scissors, or tear them off the plant carefully, and the plant stumps will regrow.

Slugs and snails love to eat lettuces, so you might want to use deterrents such as broken eggshells around the plants, or slug pellets.

Some lettuce varieties that I recommend growing from seed or seedlings:

  • Drunken Woman Fringed Head (best name ever!)
  • Green Salad Bowl
  • Lollo Rossa or Coral
  • Nero
  • Little Gem
  • Oak Leaf

Easy vegetables to grow - drunken woman lettuce
The fabulously named lettuce ‘Drunken Woman, fringed head’ from www.kingsseeds.co.nz

Zucchini / Courgette

Zucchini or courgettes are a staple of summer cooking, and are a versatile ingredient for many dishes. I add them to chilli, curry, stir fry, ratatouille, and pasta sauce.

A few plants will provide a huge harvest – you do need to remember to pick them regularly though, as they can easily transform into giant marrows practically overnight!

These plants grow well in warmer weather, so they are best grown in late spring / early summer. They need full sun and regular watering, to produce a decent harvest.

Zucchini can be grown from seeds sown directly in the soil, or from seedlings. I usually grow them from seed indoors, and transplant them when they have been growing for about a month.

Zucchini plants can be vulnerable to diseases and pests – the problem I sometimes have with them is powdery mildew. This is a common fungus on plants in humid areas, and can be easily treated by spraying the affected leaves with a solution of water and baking soda, or even water and milk!

To harvest zucchini, cut then off the plant with a knife or pruners, when they are around 10-20 cm long. If you leave them too long, they become too full of seeds and a bit mushy.

My favourite types of zucchini to grow include:

  • Black Beauty
  • Gold Rush
  • Zephyr
  • Black Coral

Spinach / Silverbeet or Chard / Kale

Silverbeet (also called Chard), and Kale are all part of the Spinach family. They are very easy to grow, have very few diseases or pests, and don’t go to seed in warmer weather like other leafy vegetables seem to do.

Silverbeet or Chard / Swiss Chard

Silverbeet or chard is easy to grow and looks beautiful in the garden. The varieties with coloured stems are particularly pretty. Silverbeet / chard is rich in vitamins too.

Similar to some lettuces, they are cut-and-come-again, so you can just pick the leaves you need and leave the plant in the vegetable bed to carry on growing.

The plants make fantastic cut-and-come-again leaves, and will be ready to harvest within 12 weeks.

Sow seeds either in seed trays in a greenhouse or indoors, or directly in the garden in spring or autumn. When the seedlings have started to grow, thin them out to about 25 centimetres apart.

Varieties I like to grow include:

  • Bright Lights
  • Ruby Chard
  • Perpetual Green

Kale

Another of the easy vegetables to grow, kale is also extremely nutritious. It is considered a ‘superfood’, and provides us with protein, calcium, potassium, vitamins A, C and K, and fibre.

Kale can be grown well in pots, as it is quite a compact plant.

As kale is a fairly compact crop, it can grow well in pots. It grows in the same way as silverbeet, so follow those instructions for growing it at home.

Varieties to try in your garden include:

  • Common curly kale (the type you find in supermarkets)
  • Cavolo Nero
  • Lacinato or dinosaur kale

Squash / Pumpkins

Squash and pumpkins are easy to grow, if you plant them in a fertile soil, and water them regularly. They do need room to grow and spread out, as they produce long vines – although you can prune them if they are getting out of control!

There are two categories of squash; summer and winter types. Summer types are grown for harvesting in summer, and include patty pan and spaghetti squash. Winter types are grown for harvesting and eating in autumn and winter. These include butternut squash and pumpkins.

To grow squash, either start the seeds indoors in early spring, or sow directly into the ground in later spring.

Herbs (not a vegetable, but easy for the new gardener)

Herbs are good for new gardeners to try out, as they grow in a variety of conditions. The key to growing herbs well is to match them to the conditions they prefer; some herbs like full sun, others prefer shade, some need more watering than others.

Easy herbs to grow in the garden include:

  • Parsley
  • Coriander
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Basil

Some herbs can take over your garden as they grow so well. If you want to keep herbs like mint contained, and stop them growing rampantly, plant them in tubs or pots.

Clip herbs regularly to get a continuous supply of fresh leaves. Chives and mint can be cut back to within 3-5cms from the ground, and will still grow back well.

And clip off the flower heads, as the plant will put more energy into growing flowers, and you won’t get as many new leaves.

See How to Grow Herbs from Gardeners World for more details.

Easy vegetables to grow - image with watering can, wheelbarrow, compost bin

Other easy vegetables to grow

There are plenty of other vegetables that are relatively easy to grow, and are usually favourite ingredients in recipes.

Some ideas for other easy vegetables to grow in your garden include:

  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Peas

They deserve a post of their own for each type of veggie. I’ll get on to writing those posts as soon as possible!

More questions and answers about growing vegetables in your garden

What are easy vegetables to grow from seed?

The easiest vegetables to grow from seed are those that germinate quickly, and don’t need much extra care. beyond planting and watering.

The easiest vegetables to grow from seed include:

  • Lettuce
  • Squash / pumpkins
  • Cucumber
  • Peas
  • Beans

Related article: How to grow vegetables from seeds in New Zealand

What are easy vegetables to grow in pots or containers?

The best vegetables to grow in pots are ones with shallow root systems, and that are compact plants that won’t outgrow their containers.

Examples of vegetables and herbs that do well grown in pots include thyme, basil, coriander and spring onions.

You can also grow tomatoes, potatoes and beans in pots, with supporting stakes to grow them up against.

Advantages of growing in pots or containers

If you grow plants in pots or containers, and use fresh potting mix and compost, you can avoid having to deal with weeds and many pests or diseases.

The container can be moved around (if it isn’t too big and heavy), to make the most of sunshine or to provide more shade when needed.

Disadvantages of container growing

Plants grown in containers need very frequent watering, as the soil can dry out very quickly in hot weather. You might need to set up automatic sprinkler systems, or get a neighbour to water your pots if you are away from home for more than a day or two.

Easy vegetables to grow - image of raised garden vegetable beds

Growing vegetables in raised beds

Raised beds

If you are new to growing vegetables, a raised bed is a good way to start your veggie garden. There are a few advantages to growing in this way:

  • Raised beds are ‘no dig’ beds – meaning you don’t need to dig down into the ground to break up old or compacted soil. You do have to add in quality soil or compost initially, so there is some work involved.
  • A raised bed provides better drainage, so the soil will be less likely to get waterlogged – especially if you have heavy clay soil in your garden.
  • The soil temperature in raised beds tends to warm up more quickly than the soil at ground level, which helps encourage plants to grow at the begining of the summer.
  • You can buy a raised bed kit, or make one yourself from new or recycled materials, and create a design that makes your plants easy to reach.
  • Raised beds like vegepods that are containers on legs, make gardening more easy physically – you don’t need to bend over as much, so they are suitable for many people.

Similar to growing in pots or containers, you may have to water raised beds more often, so a watering system could be useful.

Although, part of the joy of gardening is spending time outside, wandering around tending to your plants, and harvesting vegetables that you have grown. Watering the old fashioned way, with a watering can, slows you down and makes you focus more on being out in your garden.

What are your favourite easy vegetables to grow?

Do you have favourites that you grow successfuly time and again? Or are you new to growing vegetables at home, and are looking for advice from other gardeners?

Post your comment below.



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