Learning what foods are the easiest ones to grow can help you plan a low-maintenance vegetable and herb garden. Some plants will produce food even if you neglect them.
Easiest Vegetables to Grow in Your Home Garden
You can grow different vegetables during spring, summer and fall to maintain a healthy supply of foods. Seasonal eating has regained popularity and makes homegrown vegetables more fun to plant and harvest.
The root crop, beets thrive in spring and early summer and the fall. You'll most likely harvest your last crop in mid-June and begin harvesting again in late September or early October. Maturation is usually between 55 to 70 days, depending on the variety. Plant succession crops every week to ensure you have all the beets you want. When you harvest, don't throw away the leaves, which are delicious and very nutritious.
Carrots are simple to grow. Make sure the soil is loose enough to allow this root crop to grow freely. You'll want to grow in the spring and early summer since carrots don't tolerate summer heat very well. Your last harvest will most likely be mid-June. You can plant your fall harvest toward the end of July for an October harvest. Check your seed package for maturation dates and plan accordingly.
Cucumbers can be grown vining on the ground, but for best results try growing vertically. Cucumbers don't like wet soil, so water regularly but just to keep the soil slightly damp. Harvest daily to keep the cucumbers producing. Cucumber production begins to slow midway through the growing season. You can breathe new life into your plants by sprinkling 2-3 tablespoons of Epsom salt on the ground around the plant.
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) is perfect for anyone who wants the taste of garlic in a convenient clump-forming plant that won't overtake your garden. This plant is part of the onion family, although you can't eat the bulb like an onion. Instead, you'll harvest the grass-like long shoots. Just cut what you want, and this perennial will keep producing all summer and year after year. It may just become one of your favorite plants.
Bush or pole green beans are an easy food to grow. Bush green beans tend to continue producing through summer heat better than pole beans. Most beans stop growing when temperatures reach 98°F and higher. As soon as the temperatures drop to the mid-90s, the plants began growing/producing again. Make sure you check beans daily for harvesting since they grow very quickly and the more you harvest, the more they produce.
If you love salads, you are in for a treat. There are all kinds of leaf lettuce varieties that are an easy food to grow. You can harvest by cutting the outer leaves and leaving the plant intact. You can plant in a partially shaded area. Be sure you plant varieties that won't bolt the hot summer heat. Just water regularly and you can enjoy fresh salads every day!
Okra is a very easy food to grow. You need to plant them two feet apart, so they have plenty of room to spread out. These are big plants and prolific producers. Plant lettuce between the plants so the okra leaves form a protective canopy over lettuce plants. Harvest okra pods every two-three days or more often to keep the plant producing.
Potatoes are an easy crop to grow. You need a large field or garden spot for creating the hills needed. Some gardeners use tubs or barrels to grow a limited amount of potatoes, but you'd need a container with good air ventilation. The biggest pest threat is the potato beetle. Deer will eat the leaves of sweet potatoes but no other variety since those leaves are toxic to deer.
Radishes is another root crop that is easy to grow. You'll plant succession crops every two weeks to ensure you have a continuous crop during the spring and early summer as well as the fall. Like carrots, summer heat isn't very friendly to radishes.
Spinach is best grown in spring and early summer and again in the fall. New Zealand spinach is one variety that can tolerate mid-summer heat. Succession planting will ensure a constant harvest. You can harvest individual spinach leaves or cut the stem about two inches from the soil line to encourage new growth.
Swiss chard thrives in full or partial sunlight. In the north, you'll plant in the spring or early summer to have a fall harvest. Southerner gardeners can grow swiss chard from early fall to late spring. You can harvest the entire plant, or the more preferred way is to harvest the outer leaves, allowing the plant to continue to produce.
Tomatoes are easy to grow. You want to make sure you have nutrient rich soil for your tomato transplants. Once the first fruit sets, you can side dress every three weeks using a tomato specific fertilizer for best results. The biggest pest threat is the hornworm. Control by removing the hornworms, being careful not to touch the stinging horn.
Zucchini and Summer Squash
Zucchini squash and summer squash are very easy foods to grow. You want to keep up with the harvest by checking for squash every day. The biggest threat are squash and stink bugs. You can tell if you have an infestation when the huge leaves begin to droop. Extreme summer heat can also cause the leaves to droop.
Easiest to Grow Mediterranean Herbs
Most Mediterranean herbs are practically carefree growing. Since these delightful tasting herbs are drought resistant, they don't need to be coddled. They will thrive even with the least amount of care. You can grow all of these herbs inside your home for easy culinary use. None of them like wet feet, so water every 2-4 weeks.
Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is very easy to grow once it takes root and establishes itself in your garden. You may need to give it extra care until it is firmly established. After it's happily settled in, it can tolerate neglect and infrequent watering. You can plant rosemary as a companion plant to carrots, beans, and cabbage. You can plant with sage to support better growth for sage.
Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare) is the most popular variety. Oregano is prolific and easy to grow. You want to keep it in a contained area, or it will quickly overrun your herb garden. You should regularly cut it back.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is often used in cooking along with sage and rosemary. Like oregano, it is a prolific growing herb. Plant with other Mediterranean herbs.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a pungent aromatic and culinary herb. It is quick to establish in a garden. Harvest the leaves regularly to stimulate growth.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is easy to grow. Sweet basil offers a great aromatic and culinary choice. It requires more water than rosemary but is low maintenance. Plant as a companion for tomatoes to lend a better tomato flavor and to keep pest like tomato hornworms, white flies and mosquitoes away.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a popular choice for cuisine. Italian (Flat-Leaf) parsley is the most commonly planted, although curly parsley is often used as a garnish. The biggest pest threat is the parsley worm, which is actually the caterpillar stage of the Eastern black swallowtail butterfly. Parsley worms can strip a parsley plant of all its leaves in a matter of hours.
Easy to Grow Fruits
A Meyer lemon tree is easy to grow. Biologically, berries are listed as a fruit and the easiest of these to grow are strawberries, blackberries and raspberries.
Meyer Lemon Tree
Meyer lemon trees can grow up to 10' high when planted in a sunny location in your yard and have up to a 12' spread. However, if you're looking for a patio fruit tree, the Meyer lemon tree is an ideal choice since the container/pot will stunt the trees growth, keeping it manageable in size. You can take the tree inside your home for the winter months. Depending on the size/age of the tree you purchase, you may have fruit the first season. Rootstock trees will take 2 years to produce fruit. Fertilize monthly during the growth period when the first fruits appear. The lemon tree will continue to bloom and fruit until fall when you'll stop fertilizing.
Strawberries are a very easy fruit to grow. You'll need well-drained soil. These are planted in hill rows so the berries can trail downward. Slugs are the biggest pest, but can be controlled easily. Just pour beer into a shallow jar lid or dish and set ground level near the plants. That's all you need to deter the slugs from eating your strawberries. You should only fertilize strawberries after the harvest season, never in the spring. You don't want your strawberries to produce the first year, so pinch off any blooms. This will ensure a bumper crop each season afterwards.
Raspberries and Blackberries
Know as brambles, raspberries and blackberries produce the second year, unless you buy 1-year-old plants. The berries grow on the canes, so you'll cut the old canes each year after they've produced. The new canes that came up this year will then produce the berries next year. You will feed your plants every 2 weeks during the growing season, but should stop mid-summer around the end of June. You should follow the fertilizer manufacturer's directions for best results. Powdery mildew is the biggest threat to these berries and is caused by an overly damp/wet environment. The sawfly and fruitworm are the worst pests. If untreated, the leaves will wilt and you'll have few berries.
Planning Your Garden Around the Easiest Foods to Grow
Once you understand what the easiest foods are to grow, you can plan your garden. For the best results, you'll want to create a garden layout complete with planting dates.