If you’re new to gardening it can be a little overwhelming trying to decide what to grow. There are so many plants to choose from and you may want to try them all.
Unfortunately, jumping into growing all the plants you want can set you up for failure. Some plants are just harder to grow than others and if you’re new you want to start with something easy.
Best Plants to Start With
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After several years of gardening, I’ve found that these plants are the easiest to grow, especially if you’re new to gardening.
Each tomato plant can produce many tomatoes with minimal care. For beginners, you only need 2 or 3 plants unless you are planning on canning or freezing (or give away) the extra.
There are quite a few tomato varieties, but they are split into three main categories that you can choose from. One main type is the small tomatoes, like grape tomatoes, which are good for eating plain or adding to a salad.
The second main type is the paste tomatoes, like Romas, which are great for making sauces. And the third type is the large slicer tomato, like the beefsteak tomato. These are great for slicing to put on hamburgers.
I personally prefer Roma tomatoes as I mostly make pizza sauce with my tomatoes but it can be used for other things. Romas are big enough to use on a burger but small enough to eat plain as well. Sometimes I will plant a couple of Roma tomato plants and one or two grape tomato plants as well.
Though tomatoes are an easier plant to grow they do have a couple of needs. The first is that they will need some type of support, like a tomato cage. You just have to put the cage around the tomato plant while the plant is still little. I usually do this the day I plant them.
The other thing tomatoes need is a consistent watering schedule. This doesn’t have to be daily, just regular.
Carrots are easily started from seed. You just lay the seeds out in a row and cover it lightly with soil.
They then need thinning once they reach 2 to 3 inches tall. The carrot seed package will say how much space is needed between each plant as some carrots may need more space than others.
Other than thinning the carrot seedlings all carrots need is watering but they aren’t as picky on watering as tomatoes.
Summer squash includes both yellow squash and zucchini. Both are very easy to grow and will be very prolific.
Unless you love to eat squash and zucchini or know a lot of people that do, you will only need 1 or 2 plants of each.
Both of these can be picked fairly little for better eating. If you let them get too large the seeds are much more noticeable. Just be sure to check daily once the plants start producing otherwise you may find yourself with a very large zucchini that you didn’t know was there.
The large zucchinis can be used for baking, but aren’t as good for eating. To use it for baking just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and shred the rest. Any extra can be frozen for later.
Strawberries are the only perennial plant on this list. Once planted they will come back every year and continue to produce strawberries every year.
There are 2 main types of strawberries, June-bearing and Ever-bearing. I’ve tried both and found that I prefer the June-bearing varieties.
The Ever-bearing variety seemed to always produce tiny strawberries for me, and just a few at a time. The June-bearing only produces during June (hence the name) and they tended to be larger for me.
These also spread easily by runners, though by cutting the runners off they are supposed to produce more strawberries. I haven’t personally seen a difference with cutting off the runners, but I do tend to miss quite a few.
This is another easy plant to grow that can produce a lot per plant. For a single family 1 to 2 plants is all that is needed for fresh eating. If you plan on making pickles you may want more.
Since cucumbers are a vine you can grow them on a trellis or on the ground.
Growing them on the ground is the easiest but they do take up a lot of space that way. It is also very easy to miss ripe cucumbers when they are grown on the ground as the leaves tend to hide them.
Growing them on a trellis is supposed to make it easier to see the cucumbers. It’s also supposed to help prevent the discoloration of the side of the cucumber that is laying on the dirt.
I haven’t noticed any difference in taste for those cucumbers that have had the discoloration on them but I have noticed that the cucumbers I miss get a bitter taste when they are left on the vine too long.
It’s enough to make me want to try growing them on a trellis this year. Trellis growing also gives you more space as the cucumbers will grow up instead of out in the garden.
Peas are a cool-season crop and are easily grown from seed.
Once they start to produce you can get them to continue producing by picking them and getting the blossom end as well.
They will continue to produce this way until it gets too hot for too long, or you miss one pod. If a pod is left on the vine too long it will grow large peas that become hard and not good to eat. At this point, the plant has reached its potential (to grow new seeds) and will die.
Even if I manage to not miss a single pod I usually have to pull my pea plants by August. The plant just doesn’t seem able to stand the heat and will start browning and dying.
Peas do need a trellis to grow on otherwise they will try to grow on anything that is near. I’ve grown them in pots without a trellis but the stems end up wrapping around each other and just fall to the ground. It makes them extremely difficult to pick.
The trellis can be anything that is sturdy but thin. Garden fencing that is supported with stakes would work. Or you could try a tomato cage.
I don’t recommend using lattice as the peas have a difficult time grabbing on to it. When I tried lattice in my garden the peas didn’t use it and many ended up grabbing onto the chicken wire I had around the garden to keep rabbits (and my dogs) out of the garden.
Radishes are very easy to grow from seed and have minimal requirements to grow. They just need to be planted where they will get sun and water.
They are also one of the shortest season crops I know of. From planting to picking they only need about 30 days. This allows you to see your results early and you can plant a second and possibly third crop each year.
Lettuce is another crop that is easy to grow from seed. Lettuce comes in two main varieties, head lettuce, like iceberg lettuce, and leaf lettuce, like romaine.
The benefit of leaf lettuce is that you can pick just some of the leaves and it will continue to grow and produce more all summer.
The one thing to remember with lettuce is to wash it carefully when you bring it in before you eat it. Lettuce tends to attract little green bugs that are very hard to see but will come off with good washing.
Peppers are most easily grown when you start with a seedling from the store. They are very slow growers from seed but do really well once they are a little bigger.
There are many types of peppers, but they can be split into two groups, sweet peppers, and hot peppers.
Both types of peppers do seem to grow a little slower than many of the other plants listed here so you will want to make sure they aren’t too close to the faster, larger growing plants to get the best results.
With enough water and sun you should be able to get plenty of peppers to grow.
Bush beans are another easy to grow plant that you start by seed. Just plant them and water them and they will start producing for you.
The hardest part about growing bush beans is finding all the beans to pick. The beans are the same color as the plant which makes it difficult to see them.
You can either look through the plants very carefully and hope not to miss any beans or plant the purple variety of bush beans.
Purple beans come in a couple of varieties. One type turns green when you cook it and the other stays purple.
Potatoes are also easy to grow both in-ground and in containers. Just buy some seed potatoes or try planting a potato that has started to sprout.
Just cut the seed potato into a few pieces, making sure each piece has at least one eye. Let the cut dry for a day (though I skipped this step last year and they seemed to grow just fine). If it’s a small potato you can skip cutting it.
Plant each piece in its own spot and it will grow.
Once or twice during the summer, you may need to add dirt (hill the potatoes) to prevent the growing potatoes from turning green.
The only other thing potatoes need is to get enough water without being overwatered. If the potato plants sit in wet soil too long they could start to rot.
They can handle being wet for a few days from a rainy system, but they don’t like weeks on end of being wet.
Other tips for beginners
You don’t want to become overwhelmed with a large garden right away. You can always expand it next year.
It’s much easier to keep up with weeding and watering a small garden than a large one.
Start with a plant, not a seed
Unless the plant is best started by seed outside, I recommend starting with a plant from the store. Starting with a seedling is easier as you avoid the uncertainty of whether the seeds will sprout or not.
And seeds often get planted closer together than they should be grown due to the fact that not all will sprout. This means you have to thin out the extra seedlings which could lead to damaging the plants you want.
Protect your plants
Gardens tend to attract garden pests, particularly rabbits. Rabbits love to eat your freshly grown vegetables and can decimate a small garden in just a few days. The best way to stop this is prevention.
The advantage to the cover, if you have a raised bed, is that it is easy to remove when you need in the garden.
Have you had a garden before? What do you like to grow in your garden?