Gardening is a wonderful activity: Being outdoors is great for you, and the food you grow can supplement your groceries. Some of the fancy products out there may make you think growing your own garden is difficult, but you can have a healthy and abundant garden easily—no green thumb required. To get your garden started off right this year, check out a few crops that are hand-picked favorites for beginners.
Lettuce and other salad greens grow quickly and abundantly, can be grown in a container to save space, and can be harvested with ease. Plant your salad greens in spring or fall—they’ll grow as long as temperatures don’t dip below freezing. Your little salad bar will be ready to harvest in 50 days or less. Simply pinch off or trim leaves with a clean pair of scissors.
Radishes will do well even in soil that is lacking in nutrients, and they’ll be ready to harvest from seed in a few weeks. Plant the seeds in spring and fall.
Some winter radishes, like China Rose, take longer to grow but offer a more distinctive flavor than spring varieties. When left to grow too long, radishes become hot, and the texture can begin to worsen, so it’s best to pick radishes when they’re young. Pull one out of the ground and give it a taste to see if your radishes are ready. If you miss their prime and your radishes grow too long, you can allow them to bolt in the soil or add them to your compost.
Green bean seeds can be sown outdoors any time after the last frost, once the soil begins to warm up. Plant them 1 to 2 inches deep in arid climates. Digging finished compost into your green bean bed before planting will help them thrive. Once planted, keep the garden bed moist until seedlings have sprouted through the soil. After the seedlings have come through, you can allow the soil to dry between waterings.
If you’re growing pole beans, you’ll have to decide what kind of support to provide for them before they get too big. Your beans will need something to climb, such as a trellis or a tepee, as the plants mature. Bush beans are far less demanding and don’t require any special support to grow.
Green beans are too big for containers but can be grown outside without taking up much space, especially if you grow vertically.
Potatoes are beyond easy to grow—you can even grow potatoes in a container. Certified seed potatoes are disease-free and will be ready to harvest in 70 to 90 days, though some varieties can take up to 120 days.
Potatoes require a growing medium that has good drainage, so if you decide to grow in containers, remember to drill holes. Plan them in an area that receives at least six hours of full sun and an ambient temperature of 60 degrees F. After the danger of frost has passed, plant two-inch chunks of seed potatoes with several eyes on them in a free draining soil. As your plants sprout, you will need to add more soil to your container, so be sure your chosen container is plenty deep.
Dig potatoes out at harvest time, or just upend your container and go hunting for tubers. Clean the potatoes and allow them to cure in a cool and dark place for two weeks before eating.
This plant may be the most popular in a garden of any size. Nothing can compete with a fresh homegrown tomato. The ability to grow tomatoes from small plants that have already started makes this crop an easy option for even the most novice gardener.
Tomatoes can be grown from hanging planters, in containers or outdoors. As long as they have some sort of support, good drainage and plenty of sunlight, these plants will prosper. The kind of support your tomatoes will need depends on whether the tomatoes are determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes will stop growing at the point when fruit begins to set on the top bud. They require little support, making them well-suited to container planting. Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing until frost kills them and can reach anywhere from six to 12 feet. These tomatoes tend to get heavy with fruit and require stakes or another form of support to stay upright and healthy. Determinate tomatoes don’t require pruning.
However you decide to grow your garden this year, these plants will ensure your crops succeed with ease. With such easy-to-grow vegetables, there’s almost no chance your garden will be a failure. As a reminder though, it’s always important to test your soil’s health before planting, as it can help you understand which plants will have the greatest chance to grow. Head to your local nursery or order some seeds online and get planting—your beginner’s garden is sure to impress.