Growing vegetables at home may seem daunting for new gardeners, but some vegetables are quite easy to grow and maintain. With a little know-how, you can be tilling up amazing veggies and creating your own homegrown salads.
The easiest vegetables to grow at home will thrive as long as you follow some simple guidelines for keeping them healthy.
Tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow directly from the seed. But tomatoes are also prone to developing problems. Starting your seeds out the right way and taking good care of your tomato plants can help stop problems before they start.
Starting tomatoes directly from a seed is easy. Cut a ripe tomato with a clean, sharp knife until you reach the seeds. Gently squeeze out the seeds directly into your potting mix. Spread the seeds out so they are not overlapping, and cover your seeds with a thin layer of the potting soil. Once covered, water thoroughly.
You will want to keep your tomato seedlings moist but not drenched.
Tomato seedlings require plenty of direct sunlight. When starting indoors, you may want to consider using an artificial plant light. These lights are inexpensive and work to keep your seedlings properly sunned for the 12-14 hours a day that tomatoes require direct light.
You may also want to place your tomato plants near an open window or a fan indoors. This keeps them swaying in the breeze and helps the stocks grow healthy and strong.
Once ready to plant your tomatoes in the garden, begin by preparing the soil. Tomatoes like warm soil and plenty of light, so pick a spot where the sun will shine on them directly. It is wise to mulch over your tomato plants as well to keep the soil warm and moist.
Pluck bottom leaves off your tomato plants as they will be the oldest and most prone to problems. Pluck any small leaves that pop up on v joints. They will use energy but will not produce fruit. Tomatoes need plenty of water, so never miss a daily watering.
Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and it’s grown more by home gardeners than any other vegetable. Lettuce likes the cooler weather, and it grows well in both full sun and partial shade.
Plant lettuce once the soil in your area reaches a temperature of 40°F. Loose soil is recommended for your garden bed. Make sure it is also high in organic matter and moist with good draining and no obstructions.
Plant lettuce seeds a half-inch deep. Spacing for your lettuce plants depends on variety, so be sure to check your seed packet for instructions. Don’t forget to leave some space between rows to step and pick your lettuce when it’s grown. After the seeds have been planted, be sure to water thoroughly. Lettuce does best in soil with lots of nutrients. Fertilize it every two or three weeks with compost or manure tea, or spread a slow-release fertilizer about three weeks after planting. You’ll also want to keep your lettuce patch protected, moist and cool, so it would be wise to surround your plants with mulch.
Lettuce plants need lots of water. In fact, they drink more water than most common homegrown plants. Thirsty lettuce will begin to wilt, so keep them moist all the time. You will also not want to allow your lettuce to get too hot. Lettuce plants enjoy cooler weather, but not cold weather. If temperatures drop at night, place row covers over your lettuce.
Keep pests away by planting garlic or chives nearby. Keep bunnies away with fencing or raised garden beds.
Related: How to Grow Lettuce
If you’re a fan of pickles, you will want to grow your own cucumbers. Growing and caring for cucumbers is easier than it may seem.
Unlike lettuce, cucumbers thrive in a warmer environment. When starting cucumbers from seeds, it’s recommended to begin them for at least 3 weeks indoors before planting outside. You can plant your cucumbers outside once the soil has warmed to 70°, at least two weeks after the last frost of the season.
Some varieties of cucumbers may need to grow up a trellis. A trellis is also a good idea if you want the vine to climb or if your garden space is limited. Trellising can also help protect your cucumbers from common pests. If you don’t have a trellis, you can still grow some varieties of cucumbers. Ground-friendly varieties can be planted in mounds that are spaced 1 to 2 feet apart. If you’re starting your cucumbers outdoors, plant 3-4 seeds per mound, then thin to one plant per mound after they’ve grown to 4 inches. If you’re beginning your cucumbers indoors, plant one per mound.
After planting, mulch around the area with straw or organic mulch to keep pests away. Cucumbers need at least 1 inch of water per week, so water your plants consistently.
Cucumber plants can be planted successively, and they ripen after six weeks. Always pick your cucumbers before they get too big, because big cucumbers tend to be more bitter.
Carrots are wonderful for novice gardeners because they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and can even survive a light frost. It’s best to plant your carrots in early spring, about two weeks before the expected last frost date.
Make sure to choose a sunny area to plant your carrots because they grow best under full sun. Carrots must be planted in soft, permeable, loose, and sandy soil that is not too acidic. Planting radish seeds along with your carrots is a great way to give your carrots proper space to grow. Radishes ripen earlier than carrots and their roots work to break up hard clumps of soil to allow the carrot roots enough space.
Plant carrot seeds about a quarter of an inch deep with about an inch and a half of space between them. Carrot seeds are very small, making it difficult to perfect the spacing. If carrot sprouts are within an inch and a half of each other, thin out some of the seedlings to give your carrots adequate space.
Carrots need around one inch of water per week. Over watering can cause the carrots to grow forked roots, so try not to overdo it. It’s also a great idea to place mulch around your carrot plants. This can help retain ground moisture, proper temperature, and can help keep pests away.
Don’t worry if you don’t see seedlings right away. Carrots germinate slowly. You may not see sprouts until after a few weeks of planting or longer. They also take anywhere from 50 to 75 days to reach full maturity. The best way to test if your carrots are ready is to pull one or two out and taste them.
If you’re planting carrots, you might as well plant radishes as well. These roots are packed with antioxidants and minerals like calcium and potassium, and they make a zesty additive to salads.
You’ll need to sow radish seeds about 4–6 weeks before the average date of last frost. It’s not recommended to start radishes indoors. It’s best to plant radish seeds directly in the garden because their roots do not like to be disturbed. Plant your radish seeds ½ to 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart.
You can plant radishes successively, every 10 days or so during early spring for a continuous harvest of radishes in late spring and early summer. You can also plant radishes later than any other root crop. They do well if you sow your seeds 4–6 weeks before the first fall frost.
Like their other root companions, they enjoy loose soil, mulch, and adequate water. Companion plants like garlic or chives can be planted nearby to keep pests away.
Green beans are a great starter plant for novice gardeners. Check the label on your seeds to see if your beans are bush or pole style. Pole beans will need to climb, where bush beans will not. Both enjoy similar growing conditions, but bush beans are easier for beginners.
Like your root vegetables, don’t start your green beans indoors. Sow your seeds directly into your soil because bean plants have fragile roots, making them difficult to transplant. Before planting, be sure that your soil is at least 50-60°F. Green beans love warm weather and produce the highest yields between 65-80°F.
When planting bush beans, sow them 1-1½ inches deep and 3 inches apart, keeping rows 18 inches apart. Beans need well-drained soil to keep from rotting or mildewing. Give your bean plants about 2 inches of water per week, applying the water directly to the soil.
Green bean plants enjoy 6-8 hours of full sun every day.Temperatures above 80°F can cause blossoms to fall from your green bean plants, so use row covers to protect them. Keep the ground around them properly mulched to keep the temperatures steady, keep moisture in, and to keep pests away.
For a continuous harvest, sow bean seeds every 2 weeks during planting season, while the weather is warm but not hot.
Bell peppers grow best if you start seeds indoors first. Fill a planting tray with rich soil that’s sandy or loamy, and plant your bell pepper seeds ¼ inch deep. Water your planting tray through. Make sure to keep your peppers in the sun at least 6 hours per day. Keep your pepper seedlings in temperatures of at least 70°F
Around 1-3 weeks after planting, your bell pepper seedlings should sprout, and will be ready to plant outside. Pick a sunny spot for planting. Since bell pepper plants are susceptible to transplant shock, they’ll need to adjust to their new environment. About 10 days before planting, gently introduce your seedlings to exterior conditions for small amounts of time per day, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend outdoors, which will help them to acclimate to their new home. You can transplant your seedlings once the garden soil temperature has reached at least 65°F. Place your seedlings 18-24 inches apart in soil deep enough so their root ball is covered, but that the seedling leaves can still rest on the top layer.
Bell peppers need plenty of water, about 1-2 inches per week. They also need dark mulch to keep the soil warm. Fertilize your peppers about 2 weeks after planting, and continue to fertilize every 2 weeks of growth. Use a compound that’s low in nitrogen to help your bell peppers grow without affecting the rate of fruit production.
To keep away aphids and flea beetles, use organic insecticides and tend to your plant often to keep pest invasions under control.
Peas can be started indoors 2-3 weeks before planting outside. Soak seeds in water overnight before planting. But be sure to use peat pots or biodegradable plant starting pots as peas have delicate roots that don’t like to be disturbed. When you’re ready to plant outside, select a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Sow seeds 1 inch deep and about 2 to 2 inches apart with rows 7 inches apart. Pea plants do not need to be thinned, but they may need to be supported with a trellis or with poles.
Peas can be a little picky about their environment. They don’t like to be planted in the same spot year after year. It’s recommended to turn over your plant bed in the fall: mix in manure or compost, then mulch the spot well. Rotate your pea crops, and don’t plant in the same location more than once every 4 years.
As with other legumes, pea roots will fix nitrogen in the soil, making it available for other plants.
Peas do not always need to be fertilized, as long as the soil is healthy and you’re using organic mulch or grass clippings over your plants. Peas will need fertilizer with phosphorus and potassium if the soil is lacking, but excess nitrogen will encourage foliage growth instead of flowers or pods.
Peas require less than 1 inch of water per week. Overwatering can cause your pea plants to rot. Excess heat can cause peas to yellow, so covering them during hotter days is recommended.
Gently remove invasive weeds by hand, and do so gently as not to disturb the shallow, delicate roots of your peas. Pea aphids are the most common pest, and they can be controlled easily. You can control pea aphids with insecticidal soap or even just soapy water rinsed with cold water.
Beets are difficult to transplant, so it’s not recommended to start them indoors. Plant your beets directly into garden soil that’s at least 50°F. Sow seeds ½-inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart in rows that are about 1 foot apart. After sowing, cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Germination will take place in 5 to 8 days. Start your first round of beets in early spring, as soon as the soil is workable. Make successive plantings every 2-3 weeks until early to mid summer, and stop planting when daytime temperatures exceed 75°F. Beet seeds are actually made up of a cluster of 2 to 4 seeds, so you will need to thin the young plants to 3 to 4 inches apart once the greens get to be about 4 inches tall. This allows their roots to grow to their proper size.
Beets enjoy full sun and should ideally receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. While beets prefer fertile soil, they will also tolerate average to low soil fertility. Make sure their environment is free of rocks and debris. If your soil needs to be balanced, a fertilizer rich in nitrogen is recommended.
Mulching around your beets is highly recommended. It keeps the soil at adequate temperatures, keeps weeds away, and helps keep their environment moist. Beets require around 1 inch of water per week for best growth. Most beet pests can be kept at bay with soap and water and a gentle mist of Neem oil.
Spinach can be planted up to 5 weeks before the last frost, directly into healthy garden soil. Plant your spinach seeds ½ inch deep and about 4 inches apart for best growth. Spinach can be planted successively, each week until the last frost. Spinach does best in soil temperatures from 50-75°F.
Before planting spinach, make sure your soil is turned over and full of nutrients. A balanced fertilizer that is nitrogen rich is recommended for spinach to thrive. Spinach does best in partial shade, and it only needs about 3-4 hours of sunlight per day.
Spinach plants need plenty of water and good drainage. In cooler weather, spinach requires about 1 inch of water per week. As the weather warms over 75°F, you may want to bump the water up to 1 ½ inches per week. Spraying your spinach plants directly with a garden hose also keeps aphids away. Since spinach does so well in cooler weather, it’s not susceptible to many pests.
Spinach is also a plant that does well when planted in the early fall. Spinach is commonly a winter plant in warmer areas. Spinach does not do well in full heat or full sun.