Planting your very first garden can be both exciting and scary. You can’t wait to eat fresh vegetables you’ve grown yourself, but you soon realize that there’s so much about gardening you just don’t know. Add in a few incidents with killing houseplants and it’s enough to make a beginner gardener throw in the trowel.
Don’t give up before you get started. You can grow vegetables as a beginner and be successful at it too. As long as you have a location with 6 or more hours of light a day, are willing to add some compost to your soil, and you water regularly, you can grow a vegetable garden this year.
I’ll show you the 10 easiest vegetables to grow, plus 3 I think you should avoid your first year.
P.S. All the vegetables you see in this post are ones I have personally grown in my own garden.
Before we get into the vegetables, a few disclaimers. I garden in zone 3 in Saskatchewan, where the soil tends to be pretty good quality right out the gate. If you live in a region other than the Canadian Prairies, your results will likely differ from mine. However, I still stand by my selections and I try to make notes about different regions where applicable.
If you live elsewhere and have notes to add, please add them in the comments. Your comments are quite helpful for my readers!!
Okay, on to the vegetables!
10 Easy to Grow Vegetables for Beginner Gardeners
Anyone can grow lettuce. It tolerates shade better than other vegetables and will keep growing after you cut it, meaning you can plant once and enjoy fresh lettuce all summer long. There are plenty of varieties to choose from. I personally like Buttercrunch because I feel it holds up well in salads. If you don’t know what you like, start with a mixture of leaf lettuces and figure it out from there.
2. Swiss Chard
Spinach bolts easily and Kale tends to get eaten by pests. Enter. . . Swiss chard, the leafy green vegetable that keeps on giving. Use it cooked or raw, just as you would any other leafy green. The Rainbow variety is the prettiest, but the white variety is the most productive.
One caution: if you have lots of birds near your garden, cover your tender Swiss Chard plants. I didn’t get any one year because the birds kept eating the tender shoots.
I love growing beans because they give nutrients back to the soil and a small patch can yield an impressive amount of produce. Our family loves the yellow varieties the best, but I recommend growing green and purple ones as well. I prefer the bush varieties, but I am a sucker for a beautiful scarlet runner bean on a trellis.
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Do you have some old potatoes you bought that are growing shoots? Perfect. You have everything you need to grow potatoes this year. (Side note: If the potatoes are from the grocery store, they may not work as well.)
Cut your potato in half or thirds, depending on size and how many eyes (the growing parts) there are. Dig a deep hole, put the cutting in, and cover. Hill your potatoes once in July and again in August so they don’t turn green.Think you have a brown thumb? Here are 10 easy vegetables to plant, and 5 you should probably avoid.Click To Tweet
If you have the space, plant a few just for harvesting early. Eating baby potatoes are one of the best simple garden joys.
Zucchini is easy to start from seed, needs almost no upkeep, and will give you more produce than you’ll know what to do with. Don’t plant more than 1 or 2 plants, unless you have a family of 10, or like giving away zucchini to everyone you know.
I have a practical love affair with zucchini and use it in a lot of my baking. Here’s three recipes I think you’ll enjoy:
Need some help processing your harvest? Here’s how to do it.
Tomatoes are actually not the easiest vegetable to plant, but I feel that no garden should be without them. Cherry tomato varieties are the easiest to grow, but you can have success with any tomato as long as you water it consistently and give it 8 or more hours of sun a day.
Need help choosing a tomato variety? Click to read about my favourites!
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If there was a prize for the most low-maintenance vegetable, carrots would probably win. Plant them, weed them, and harvest late July for baby carrots, or wait until after the first frost for larger and sweeter tasting ones.
You can, in theory, leave them in the ground all winter and dig them up as you need them. I personally don’t want to be digging up carrots in -40 weather, so I harvest them after the first hard frost and store them in the basement all winter long.
Also, even though I’ve pictured a bunch of different coloured varieties, I recommend sticking with an orange variety your first year. You’ll have a better and more reliable harvest.
Onions should be purchased in sets (small bulbs) instead of seeds. The growing season is too long in most areas, so you’ll need to plant from a set to get a decent sized onion. Wait to harvest once the tops have fallen and dried up. You can learn everything you need to know about harvesting your onions in this post.
Pumpkins are easy to start from seed, grow really large, and kids love having a special one of their own for Halloween. While all pumpkins are edible, choose a variety that is good for pies if you plan on processing them for pumpkin puree. The skin is much thinner than those bred for jack-o-lanterns, which means it’s a lot easier to cut.
Related: The best pumpkin cupcake recipe, a cool pumpkin and succulent DIY, plus decadent-but-healthy pumpkin pancakes.
Beets are easy to grow and you can eat both the leafy green part and the beet itself. I prefer the conical varieties, only because they are easier to harvest without ripping off the greens and getting stuck in the dirt.
Are you reading this list thinking you might be in over your head? Enroll in my beginner gardening course and get everything you need to garden with confidence, plus a 40 page garden journal and 17 page backyard planner.
Bonus Vegetable: Turnips!
In 2018 I tried growing turnips for the first time and I was so impressed with how easy they were to grow, that I had to add them to the list. The turnips still thrived when I neglected them and continued to produce all summer. This year, I will thin them out to get a few larger ones.
5 Vegetables Beginner Gardeners Will Want to Avoid
If you have your heart set on planting these vegetables this year, plant them anyway. I’ll tell you why I think they’re hard to grow, but it doesn’t mean that they’re impossible or should never be planted.
I would love to grow spinach, but I still haven’t had any luck. I find that it doesn’t germinate for me, and the few plants that make it seem to bolt before I can get to them.
I’m sure I’ll get comments from people who don’t agree, but radishes are harder to grow than you would think! Sure, they are ready in around 30 days, but they don’t do well in the heat and can get woody quickly. If you have too much nitrogen in your soil, you’ll get lots of greens, but teeny tiny radishes.
It took me 4 years of trying to grow peppers to get a successful, grocery-store-sized bell pepper like this one. Unless you live in the Southern United States, wait to grow peppers until you’ve had a few gardens under your belt.
The years before, my pepper plants grew, but I got peppers that were a 1/3 of the size of what they should have been. Pepper plants need the hottest spot in the yard, and in a Northern climate like mine that can be tricky to find.
The one exception to this rule in zone 3? Hungarian wax peppers. Even when I got sick half way through the summer and had to give up on my garden, the Hungarian wax peppers still produced. They do well in containers and are easy to start from seed.
Last year was also the first year I grew a successful head of broccoli, but I forgot to take a picture of it!! I got greedy with the rest, wanting them to be bigger, and they ended up bolting before I could get to them. Broccoli is also very susceptible to butterflies and worms and should be grown with a netting over it. Too much fuss for your first year.
Peas are easy to grow, but I always find that I never get enough to make a meal out of, much less process them. Grow a few for fresh picking, but unless you have space for 3 or 4 giant rows, don’t expect much.
Peas are also not forgiving if you forget to harvest them. They will get hard and taste awful.
What vegetables will you grow in your garden this Spring?
Let me know in the comments what you’ll be growing.
Need to stay organized in the garden? I know how easy it is to think you’ll remember what you planted when, only to be super confused a month later when you’re not sure if that plant is a vegetable or a weed. If this is you, you need my free printable garden planner. It’s 27 pages of checklists, trackers, grids, and more! Get yours here.
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Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots. She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden. She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.