21 Easy to Start Seeds for Beginner Gardeners

As you embark on your first gardening season, there is no need to be intimidated by complex growing methods. Former organic farmer Logan Hailey shares 21 seeds that are easy to plant and quick to germinate so you can enjoy fresh food and flowers ASAP.

Three white plastic trays sit on a windowsill, filled with dark, moist soil. Sprouts of various heights and thickness carpet the soil, their leaves a vibrant shade of green. A few delicate stems stretch towards the window, bathed in the soft glow of the morning sun.


With so many plant varieties, growing methods, and seeding setups, sowing garden seeds may seem intimidating to a beginner. Rest assured, nature has been germinating seeds for millennia with nothing more than soil, water, and sunshine. There are many vegetable and flower seeds that you can start as a beginner without any garden experience. As long as you understand the proper timing, depth, and moisture requirements, these plants are eager to grow with little effort.

Let’s dig into 21 easy-to-grow seeds for starting in pots or outside in the garden!

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What Are the Easiest Seeds to Grow in a Garden?

The most beginner-friendly garden seeds are quick to germinate, easy to handle, and not too picky about temperature. Crops like radishes, lettuce, spinach, sunflowers, beans, peas, pumpkins, corn, and garlic are all very easy to grow from seed. Under the right conditions, these seeds sprout readily and take off growing with ease. 

It is helpful to record your sowing date and check the “estimated days to germination” on the seed packet to track your plants’ expected germination date. If they don’t come up within the right time frame, you may have to re-seed and adjust the soil, seed depth, light, moisture, or temperature. 

The main mistake beginners make when seeding is planting the seeds too deep or too shallow, too early or too late, and giving them too much or too little water. Finding a happy medium ensures happy baby plants are ready to take off growing! Whether you’re starting seeds indoors in containers or outdoors in garden soil, the four most important considerations are timing, depth, spacing, and moisture.

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Proper Timing

A close-up of delicate cucumber seedlings emerging from rich and dark soil in small cups, reaching for the sun's warmth. The cups sit on a greenhouse shelf, with a thermometer nestled nearby to monitor the vital temperature of these young plants.
Your seeds need the right soil temperature and time of year to germinate.

There is a proper time and season for everything in life. Seeding is no different! Different plant species are accustomed to germinating and growing at specific times of year. Timing your seed sowing is crucial for success. Spinach won’t germinate in super-hot soils, and pumpkins can’t germinate in super-cold soils. Timing the planting of different types of seeds provides a rainbow of produce throughout the seasons.

The two best tools for proper timing are:

  • Soil thermometer: Determine the soil temperature before planting seeds to ensure they’ll germinate.
  • Calendar: Use past weather data in your area to estimate the best time to plant.

Almost every seed packet or grow guide includes a simple statement like, “Plant 4 to 6 weeks before your average last frost date.” The average last frost date for your region is determined by decades of weather data to estimate when your garden will experience the last spring freeze of the year. Find your frost dates here and mark them on your calendar. This will make it easy to count backward or forward to determine the best time to plant certain seeds.

Sowing Depth

A close-up of a gloved hand gently placing a newborn pumpkin plant into a shallow hole in the ground. The plant has two tiny green leaves, and the soil around it is dark and moist. It is taken from a low angle so that the focus is on the hand and the plant.
Planting depth is crucial: large seeds are deeper, and small seeds are shallow.

If you plant a seed too deep, it won’t have enough energy to reach the soil’s surface and sprout. But if you plant it too shallow, the seed may dry out or blow away. Sowing seeds at the proper depth ensures they have enough food and moisture to germinate. 

The best rule of thumb for almost all seeds is:

  • Plant a seed twice as deep as its size.

Seeds are like little packages with a baby plant and food inside. They only have a small amount of nutrients and genetic material to fuel their growth. One specific part of the seed is called the endosperm, which is the food storage for the growing baby plant. The endosperm includes starches, proteins, and other nutrients to fuel the seed through its initial stages of growth until it develops leaves that can photosynthesize. 

Large seeds like beans or pumpkins have a lot of endosperm, so they benefit from planting deeper in the soil. It’s helpful to imagine planting these seeds twice as deep as they are wide. Smaller seeds like lettuce and basil have a tiny amount of food stores, so they need to be planted shallowly to ensure they can reach up above the soil surface. It’s best to press these small seeds into the soil surface and sprinkle a fine layer of vermiculite or potting mix on top.


This close-up shows a person planting pumpkin seeds in a garden bed. The person’s right hand carefully places a single seed into a shallow furrow in the soil, while their left hand holds several more seeds ready for planting. The soil is dark and granular, and there are already a few seeds lined up neatly in the furrow.
Ensure optimal growth by following seed and row spacing recommendations from the start.

It’s difficult to thrive in an overcrowded space. Just like people squished together on a subway train, plants have difficulty reaching their full potential when they don’t have enough space. If you want to save seeds and effort, planting seeds at the proper spacing from the beginning is helpful. Otherwise, you must remove the extra seedlings (called thinning) to ensure each plant has enough space to grow to its fullest potential.

Most seed packets and growing guides include spacing recommendations for different crops. The two types of spacing are:

  • Seed/Plant Spacing: The distance between each plant
  • Row Spacing: The distance between each row

When you are first starting, it’s helpful to lay out a tape measure and mark how far apart you want to plant your seeds. Measurements don’t need to be as precise as a carpenter, but it’s helpful to visualize how much space a grown plant will need. Young pumpkin plants may look very small when first planted, but it’s important to remember that these plants can grow vines that are 12 feet long and that spread several feet in each direction.

If you accidentally sow too many seeds in one pot or space, don’t worry! You can always thin them using little shears or your fingers to pluck away the extras. Try not to disturb the main plant’s roots that you want to leave in place.


A close-up of young cucumber plants growing in dark, crumbly soil. The plants have bright green leaves with lobed edges, and some of the leaves are still curled up from emerging from the soil. Sunlight peeks through a canopy of fresh green cucumber leaves, casting dancing shadows on the dark, fertile soil below.
Seeds require consistent moisture, similar to a wrung-out sponge, for successful germination.

All seeds are dormant (asleep) until they get wet. Moisture is the key activator that encourages the seed to sprout and grow its first baby leaves. Most garden seeds require consistent moisture until they germinate. If the seed starts germinating and then dries out, it will die. But if the soil is super soggy and over-irrigated, it can suffocate or rot the seed

Testing Soil Moisture

To find the right moisture level, ensure the seed-starting soil remains moist like a wrung-out sponge. It should never fully dry out, nor should it be soggy. Check the soil moisture surrounding your seeds twice daily for at least the first week and longer if they have not germinated yet. A helpful way to gauge the moisture is with your finger. Stick your finger in the soil near the seed (without disrupting the seedling) a few inches deep:

  • If your skin comes out clean or chalky, the soil is too dry and needs water immediately.
  • The moisture level is perfect if your skin comes out with a slight crumble of soil stuck to it.
  • It’s too wet if your finger looks like it was dipped in brownie batter.

Amending with compost or worm castings helps the soil hold on to more moisture for a longer period while also ensuring proper drainage. Any time you water seeds in a container, only irrigate until water pours out of the bottom drainage hole, then stop. If watering in your garden bed, water until the soil is wet but not puddled, then check the lower few inches with your finger before watering again.

Damping Off

Damping off is a common seed disease caused by overwatering and a lack of airflow. The fungus attacks seeds from the base and causes them to flop over almost immediately after sprouting. To avoid overwatering, plant in a well-drained potting blend or amend your garden with compost and perlite, and always check the soil before watering.

21 Beginner-Friendly Seeds

Seeds evolved to sprout and grow without any help from humans. But in our gardens, things happen differently than in the wild. While all seeds require the same basic needs (soil, water, and sunshine), some seeds are easier to grow because they are more resilient to fluctuations in moisture and temperature.

Some sprout much more quickly than others, giving a quicker reward to beginner growers. Larger seeds are also easier to handle and single-sow, so you don’t have to worry about overcrowding or excessive thinning. 

If you’re new to seed starting, try these 21 beginner-friendly vegetables and flowers. You can start them indoors in pots or sow directly in your garden soil if you remember the four keys to seed success: timing, depth, spacing, and moisture!

1. Radish

A close-up of a bunch of radishes growing in the dirt. The radishes are bright pink and have tall, lush green leaves. They wait patiently, roots delving deep, for the day they'll be pulled, vibrant jewels from the garden's crown.
Radishes, ideal for beginners, germinate quickly in various conditions and mature in 20-30 days.

Timing: 4-6 weeks before the last frost, when soil temperature is 40-65°F. Avoid sowing in hot summers.
Depth: ½”
Spacing: 1-2” between plants and 6-12” between rows

Radishes are notorious as the most beginner-friendly garden plant you can grow. The seeds germinate in varied soils and temperatures as long as they don’t dry out during the first week. Most varieties of radish only take 5-10 days to sprout. They are ready to harvest and eat within 20-30 days of seeding.

If you don’t want the basic red radishes, try out a rainbow variety like ‘Easter Egg’ or the elegant oblong ‘French Radish.’ These types work best for spring sowings before the weather gets too warm. In late summer, you can sow fall radishes like ‘Purple Daikon’ and ‘Watermelon’ radishes to harvest for storage into the winter. 

2. Lettuce

A close-up view of a cluster of baby lettuces growing in a vegetable garden. The lettuces have bright green leaves, some tightly curled, some gently unfurling, reaching towards the sun. The lettuces are tightly packed together, their bases surrounded by rich, dark soil.
Grow lettuce as heads or baby greens, adapting spacing and harvesting techniques.

Timing: 2-4 weeks before the average last frost date, when soil temperature is 40-60°F. Sow every three weeks as long as soil temperatures are under 80°F.
Depth: Pressed into soil surface or below ⅛” dusting of soil
Spacing: 6-12” between head lettuces or 1-2” between mixes, in rows 6-10” apart

Lettuce is a rewarding, beginner-friendly harvest germinating in 5-10 days, and it comes in a vast diversity of rainbow colors and shapes

You can grow lettuce as baby greens or as heads of lettuce. Head lettuces require a little more space and patience. Mini heads like ‘Little Gem’ can be spaced 6” apart, while larger romaines and crispheads should be spaced 10-12” apart.

For a quicker harvest with more tender leaves, baby greens can be broadcast close together and harvested when they reach 6-8” tall. You can use a pre-blended seed packet like this ‘Gourmet Baby Greens Mesclun Mix’ or mix together any lettuce seeds you have around.

Baby lettuce plantings work well with the “cut and come again” method, which lets you enjoy several harvests from the same planting. Simply grab a bundle of leaves in your hand and cut them at the base, leaving about an inch of growth behind. The plants will regrow from the soil surface and yield more salad greens in a few weeks.

3. Microgreens

This close-up of microgreen foliage highlights the delicate details of two rounded leaves. The leaves are a vibrant green color, with veins that are barely visible to the naked eye. The leaves are glistening in the bright light, which creates a sense of freshness and vitality.
Young greens harvested at 2-3 inches are called microgreens.

Timing: Indoors any time of year
Depth: ⅛-¼”
Spacing: Broadcast ¼-½” apart

Microgreens are the quickest and easiest way for patio or indoor gardeners to grow nutrient-dense greens without much space. Microgreens are simply young sprouted greens that you harvest at around 2-3” tall. All you need is a planting tray, a potting blend, and a bright windowsill or grow light! A standard nursery tray works great, or you can reuse any shallow plastic or cardboard container. 

Technically, any edible leaf vegetable or herb can be grown as microgreens. From radishes to basil to parsley to sunflowers, these baby greens are harvested right after the cotyledon stage and just before they develop their first “true leaves.” Use scissors to cut them right above the soil line.  

4. Marigold

Sun-kissed French marigolds erupt in the foreground, their petals a riot of ruffled golden orange, cascading outwards like waves of vibrant silk. Lush, emerald leaves peek through the fiery blooms, offering a a contrasting backdrop. Each petal, a masterpiece of soft velvet, whispers of nature's delicate artistry.
Marigolds offer pest control and visual appeal in gardens, thriving as companion plants with easy growth and care.

Timing: 1-2 weeks after the average last frost, when the soil temperature is 70-80°F
Depth: ¼”
Spacing: 10-12” (African) or 6-8” (French) in rows 10-12” apart

Marigolds are among the most vibrant summer flowers that add much functionality to the garden. They are easy to grow and work well as a companion plant for most vegetables. The scent of marigolds repels many pests and attracts beneficial insect predators and pollinators. Compounds in the roots of marigolds are shown to deter root-knot nematodes. Marigolds can be used as cut flowers, edible garnishes, and deer-resistant landscaping

The two main types of marigolds are:

  • French (Tagetes patula): Compact, bushy plants yield smaller flowers about 2” across
  • Mexican (Tagetes erecta): Giant 3-4” fluffy flowers grow on plants up to 36” tall

The unique rectangular marigold seeds are fun to handle and seed. These tropical natives need warm soil and plenty of moisture to germinate but become more drought-tolerant with age. You can plant marigolds in containers, border flower beds, or interspersed amongst your vegetables to reap their companion plant benefits.

5. Sunflowers

A sunflower's golden face basks in the soft glow of sunrise, its petals like rays radiating against a backdrop of hazy blue sky. A sea of sunflowers stretches behind, their cheerful faces turned towards the sun, creating a vibrant tapestry of nature's beauty.
Sunflowers, ideal for pollinator gardens, offer decorative uses and benefits for bees and birds.

Timing: 1-2 weeks after last frost
Depth: ¼-½”
Spacing: 12-24” apart in

These iconic summer flowers bring beaming smiles, happy bees, and lots of seeds for the birds (and humans!) in the fall. Sunflowers are some of the easiest plants to grow from seed. They are very sensitive to root disturbance, so it’s best to sow them straight into the garden. If you must transplant, use biodegradable pots that can decompose in place without removing the plants from the containers.

If you want to put sunflowers in bouquets or arrangements, grow a pollenless hybrid like ‘Florist’s Sunny Bouquet,’ so the pretty blooms don’t drop a ton of messy pollen all over the place. But if you want to keep sunflowers in the garden to support bees and butterflies, grow a classic pollen-and-nectar-rich variety like ‘Mammoth.’ 

Sunflowers aren’t picky about soil, but I’ve found that planting them in soil that is too rich will yield flimsy stems that flop over once the flowers reach their full glory. Save your compost for vegetable beds and keep your sunflowers on the margins. Plant super tall varieties on the north side so they don’t cast a shadow over your vegetables.

6. Beans

This close-up captures the bounty of a 'Provider' bush bean plant. Plump, emerald green snap beans hang from the vine, their smooth surfaces glistening with morning dew.  A vibrant yellow bean flower peeks out from the foliage in the background, adding a touch of sunshine to the scene.
Beans are a kid-favorite in garden programs, easy to plant, and fascinating to watch as they quickly germinate and grow.

Timing: 1-2 weeks after last frost, when soil temperatures reach 65-80°F
Depth: 1”
Spacing: 4-6” (bush) or 1-2” (pole) between plants, in rows 24” apart

With their big seeds and nitrogen-fixing capabilities, beans are easy to sow and quick to grow. When I worked with children’s garden programs, bean planting and harvesting were among their favorite activities. Beans readily germinate in warm soils with bright light and consistent moisture. Kids love seeing the sprouts spring forth from bean seeds as they split in half.

These warm-weather legumes are native to South America and readily take root in the warm soils of spring and summer. From classic green bush beans to vibrant purple pole beans to heirloom Anasazi beans, there are over 400 varieties of beans grown globally. 

Pole beans are best for trellising in small spaces, while bush beans are best for interplanting near other vegetables. Snap beans, sometimes called green beans, are ready to harvest about two months after sowing when the pods “snap” easily in half. Shelling beans take longer to mature but can be stored for delicious stews and chilis throughout the winter.

You can direct seed beans in succession every 1-2 weeks throughout the spring and summer for a continuous supply. In extremely hot areas, skip the peak summer months because temperatures above 90°F can prevent beans from fully forming.

7. Peas

A cluster of green pea pods growing on a vine in a garden. The pods are plump and a vibrant shade of green, with a slightly fuzzy texture. The delicate green tendrils of the vine are visible around the pods, curling and reaching for support.
Snap, shelling, and field peas thrive in early spring and emerge rapidly in cold soil.

Timing: 4-6 weeks before the last frost, when soil temperatures are above 40°F
Depth: 1”
Spacing: 2” between plants, in rows

Peas are the perfect early spring treat and can germinate in cold soils before much of your garden is planted. They emerge in just 5-10 days and grow quickly, tolerating frost once established. Like beans, peas are legume family members and don’t need added fertility.

Peas come in several different categories:

  • Snap peas: Eaten fresh off the vine in spring or fall but struggle in the summer heat
  • Shelling peas: Sometimes called English peas, these peas mature in the pod and must be removed before eating
  • Field peas: Used in cover crop blends to enrich the soil, not as pleasant to eat
  • Bush peas: Stout bushy plants are compact for small spaces. No support needed
  • Vining peas: 4-7’ long vines need to be trellised or supported by a stake

Thanks to its symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, peas are another crop that keeps on giving. When the weather gets too warm and pea production slows, you can turn over the stems or put them in your compost to add a nice nitrogen boost to future plants. 

8. Garlic

Several freshly harvested garlic bulbs sitting on top of a pile of loose soil, with some dirt still clinging to their roots. Verdant garlic stalks stand tall behind the bulbs waiting their turn to be unearthed, carrying the promise of future harvests.
Winter chill helps garlic produce large bulbs.

Timing: Late fall, 4-6 weeks before your expected first frost
Depth: 2-4”
Spacing: 6” apart in rows 12-24” apart

Garlic operates on an opposite schedule than most vegetables: You plant it in the fall and harvest it the following summer. As long as you choose the right variety, plant at the right time, and mulch generously with straw, garlic won’t need any more attention until next summer. 

The two main types of garlic are:

  • Hardneck: Spicier, complex flavor, and tough stalks; best for the north because it requires 4-8 weeks of subfreezing temperatures to form heads
  • Softneck: Milder, gentle flavor and soft stalks for braiding; best for the south because it doesn’t require as much cold exposure

Garlic is technically grown from vegetative propagation rather than true seeds. The cloves are clones of the mother plant. This means that any garlic clove can be planted and grown into an entirely new head, but it’s best to use “seed garlic” rather than planting cloves from the grocery store because store-bought heads are sometimes treated with chemicals to prevent the cloves from sprouting.

Planting garlic is fun because the cloves are large and easy to handle. Create furrows about 2-4” deep and 12-24” apart. Press the flat end of the garlic clove into the soil so the pointy tip is facing up. Leave 6” of space between each plant. Cover the cloves with soil and then mulch with 2-3” thick organic straw. 

9. Spinach

A close-up of rows of spinach plants growing in a field. Each plant, a flawless echo of its neighbor, unfurls vibrant, glossy leaves, like tiny hands reaching for the sun. Rich, dark soil cradles their roots, while tiny, rebellious weeds peek out like playful imps, adding a touch of whimsy to the regimented rows.
Plant spinach in cool seasons for its nutrient-rich leaves.

Timing: 4-6 weeks before the last frost in spring and 4-6 weeks before the first frost in the fall, as long as soil temperatures are above 40°F and below 85°F
Depth: ½”
Spacing: 1” between plants, 6” between rows

Spinach is one of the first greens to take off in the spring, long before you can plant lettuce. This cold-hardy green can be planted as soon as the soil is workable. It thrives in temperatures around 50-70°F and provides a continuous supply of nutrient-rich leaves. 

Salad lovers can succession sow every two weeks throughout spring and again in the fall. You can harvest the outer leaves as needed or cut bundles of plants, leaving the bottom growing tip in place to regenerate in the next few weeks.

The two main types of spinach are:

  • Savoy: Crinkly, curly leaves are typically more cold tolerant and slightly bitter, best for cooking
  • Semi-savoy: Partially curled, succulent leaves have a great texture for salads
  • Smooth or flat-leaf: Uncurled, straight leaves with a mild flavor are more bolt-resistant and tender for fresh eating

For baby greens, broadcast the seeds over an area, leaving about ½” to 1” of space between plants. ‘Oceanside and ‘Bloomsdale’ yield deliciously tender leaves. Harvest when they are 4-6” tall. For full-size leaves, space the plants up to 6” apart.

Spinach won’t germinate in hot soils, so skip the summer planting and save your spinach seeds for the cooler seasons of the spring or fall. 

10. Basil

A cluster of fresh basil leaves fills the frame, their vibrant emerald green color illuminated by sunlight. Delicate veins snake across the leaves’ surfaces, while their edges curl gently inwards, creating a sense of movement and depth.
Basil thrives in warm weather and has diverse varieties that offer rich flavors.

Timing: 1-2 weeks after last frost, when soil temperatures are above 60°F
Depth: ¼”
Spacing: 12” between plants, in rows 12” apart

Pesto lovers don’t want to miss out on homegrown basil! You can grow an incredible amount of aromatic leaves in a small space with very little effort. Basil seeds only need warm weather, consistent moisture, and ample sunlight. For the longest growing season possible, start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before transplanting and wait until night temperatures are reliably above 50°F to move the tender plants outside. Basil cannot handle frost or chilly weather.

From Italian basil to Thai basil to lemon basil, this flavorful herb has a great diversity. Most varieties benefit from pinching or removing the upper growing tips to encourage bushier growth. This also prevents the plants from bolting (going to seed) in hot weather. 

I like to pinch basil as part of the harvest, yielding nice stem-free clusters of basil tips ready for use in the kitchen. While this can put off bolting for much of the summer, it’s OK to let your basil plants flower eventually. The blossoms are edible, beautiful, and important for beneficial bugs.

11. Potatoes

A close-up of freshly harvested sweet potatoes nestled in a pile of loose dirt. The potatoes are a golden brown color, with some still clinging to clods of dark, damp soil. The edges of the potatoes are catching a soft golden glow from the setting sun.
Early potatoes are ideal for beginners, offering quick harvest and reduced pest and disease exposure.

Timing: Around the last frost date, or when the soil temperature is 55°F
Depth: 2-3”
Spacing: 12” between plants, in rows 3-4’ apart

Growing an abundance of potatoes in pots, grow bags, raised beds, or soil mounds is surprisingly easy. These tuberous vegetables are planted from so-called “seed potatoes,” just small planting potatoes that sprout new plants from their “eyes.” 

Potatoes are fun to plant with kids because they don’t require the meticulous handling of true seeds. Create a 6” deep furrow and place the seed potatoes 2-3” deep with the sprouts facing up. Backfill and water generously. Straw mulch helps reduce weed pressure.

Potato varieties are divided into three categories based on their harvest period:

  • Early potatoes: Quickest maturity (50-80 days) and most tender texture
  • Mid-season potatoes: Mature in 80-95 days, providing tasty spuds by late summer
  • Late or long-season potatoes: Take 100 days or longer to mature, yielding the largest fall tubers for storage

Early potatoes are typically best for beginners because they provide the quickest turnaround and won’t be exposed to as much pest and disease pressure later in the season. Be sure to mound soil up around the base of the potatoes a few times throughout their growth cycle. This keeps the tubers safe underground and encourages larger spuds.

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12. Kale

Sunlight glistens on the intricate folds of a deep emerald curly kale leaf, its ruffled edges curling like tiny ocean waves. Nestled in a weathered wooden planter, the leaf takes center stage, a vibrant contrast to the softly blurred backdrop of earthy soil and leafy companions.
Direct seed or transplant kale in spring or fall; protect young plants for an extended, sweeter harvest.

Timing: 1-2 weeks before the last frost date, when the soil temperature is above 45°F
Depth: ¼”
Spacing: 18” between plants, in rows 24” apart

You can direct seed kale or start it indoors and transplant out in early spring and again in the fall. While the older plants are very cold-hardy, young plants still need some protection. It’s helpful to seed or transplant under row fabric or a cold frame to ensure consistent warmth and keep early pests like flea beetles away.

Properly spaced kale plants can yield from spring through fall. They grow up to 20” tall and continuously produce new leaves from a central rosette. Harvest from the outer leaves regularly to promote even more growth. ‘Lacinato is a great bolt-resistant kale with vigorous textured leaves. ‘Redbor’ and ‘Dwarf Blue’ are gorgeous, tasty kale varieties that can withstand extreme cold. Frosty weather causes the leaves to accumulate more sugar, sweetening the kale flavor.

13. Chard

A burst of vibrant pink and white stripes signals the presence of Peppermint Swiss chards, its crinkled leaves a lush tapestry of emerald and ruby against the dark, welcoming soil. This close-up invites a touch, a taste, and a celebration of nature's vibrant palette.
Chard can be planted once and enjoyed all season; it thrives in cool and warm weather and is easy to harvest.

Timing: 2-4 weeks before the last frost, when soil temperatures are above 40°F
Depth: ½”
Spacing: 8-12” between plants, in rows 18” apart

Whether starting seeds indoors or out, chard germinates quickly and grows without a fuss. This biennial can even overwinter in mild climates. Rainbow chard adds a burst of color to the garden and your plate. The vibrantly colored stalks and leaf veins can be pink, white, orange, yellow, or red. Chard’s glossy leaves don’t mind cool weather yet yield reliably throughout summer’s heat

Like kale, you can plant a chard patch once and harvest from it all season. Allow the plants to form bulbous beet-like roots and harvest the outer leaves for eating. Once mature, you can simply bend the leaves away from the center stalk and snap them at the base. For early harvests, use a knife to avoid uprooting the plant.

14. Corn

A sun-drenched cornfield unfolds behind a close-up of a golden corncob, its plump kernels peeking from beneath a partially peeled husk. Lush green stalks and fellow cobs blur into the distance, creating a vibrant tapestry of nature's bounty.
Success with corn requires plenty of water, sunlight, and fertile soil; select the right variety and watch for readiness.

Timing: 1-2 weeks after your last frost, when soil temperatures are above 60°F
Depth: 1- 1½”
Spacing: 12” between plants, in rows 24-36” apart

Corn is an American classic for a reason! It’s easy to eat and just as easy to grow. It only asks for lots of water, sunshine, and rich soil. Don’t let the plants dry out or get exposed to frosty weather. Plant your corn patch on the northern end of your garden so it doesn’t shade out your other plants. If your property gets a lot of wind, grow a dwarf variety or plant in a protected area. 

Be sure to choose the right corn variety for your use:

  • Sweet corn: Bred for fresh eating with sugary, delicious kernels
  • Popcorn: Matures into hardened ears for storage, cooking, or decoration
  • Flint or dent corn: Ideal for making homemade corn flour, cornmeal, or masa

Mark the seeding date in your calendar and begin checking the ears near the end of summer, about three weeks after the upper silks appear. A ready-to-harvest ear of corn should feel firm and filled out from the tip to the base. Pull back the husk and see if the kernels secrete a whitish liquid when squeezed. If the liquid is clear, the ears aren’t yet ready to be picked.

15. Arugula

Close-up of a field of arugula plants ready for harvest. The foreground shows a dense cluster of deep green, lobed leaves with some lay flat, while others stand upright, creating a textured surface. The dry soil is visible in patches, its light brown color contrasting with the vibrant green of the leaves.
Sow arugula in early spring or late fall for spicy greens; prevent bolting for extended harvests.

Timing: 2-4 weeks before the last frost, when the soil temperature is above 40°F
Depth: ¼”
Spacing: 6” between plants, in rows 6” apart

Spicy and peppery, arugula is a great early spring or late fall green. The seeds germinate in just 10-15 days and don’t require much fertility. The key to arugula success is preventing bolting. Once the plants go to seed, the leaves turn bitter and tough. As long as you plant in the cool buffer seasons and harvest regularly, you should be able to enjoy peppery salads or pizza toppings for several months of the year.

‘Astro’ is one of the easiest varieties to start with because it is slow to bolt and has a mild flavor. Broadcast arugula as baby greens and harvest like lettuce mix or space 6” apart for larger leaves to use in sautés and pizzas. 

16. Tomatoes

Juicy red tomatoes and plump green ones nestle together on a sprawling vine, their vibrant colors popping against a backdrop of deep green foliage. Rich, dark soil teeming with organic matter cradles the plant's roots. In the background, a blur of lush tomato vines hints at a larger garden brimming with life.
Tomatoes excel with warm weather, consistent water, and rich soil; starting seeds indoors is beneficial.

Timing: Start indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost and transplant 1-2 weeks after the last frost
Depth: ¼”
Spacing: 24” between plants, in rows 36” apart

Although the amount of tomato-growing information on the internet can seem overwhelming, these garden classics are very easy to cultivate. Tomatoes thrive in warm weather, bright sunshine, consistent water, and rich soil.

Start your tomato seeds indoors in cell trays with a well-drained potting mix. You can use a germination heating mat to ensure the soil is between 70 and 90°F. Keep the seedlings in bright sunlight or under a full-spectrum grow light.

If the baby plants start to look spindly or pale, move them closer to the light. When the weather has steadily warmed, and the plants have filled out their pot, transplant tomatoes into loam compost-rich soil and keep them consistently moist.

17. Peppers

A close-up of a green pepper growing on a plant in a backyard garden. The pepper is wrinkled and bumpy, and it is attached to the plant by a thick, green stem. The soil around the pepper is full of twigs, dried leaves, and small pebbles.
Peppers, including habaneros and bell peppers, all have similar growing habits.

Timing: Start inside 8-10 weeks before transplant, transplant out 2-4 weeks after last frost, when soil temperatures are above 70°F
Depth: ½”
Spacing: 18-14” between plants, in rows 24-36” apart

From spicy habaneros to sweet bell peppers, almost every variety of pepper is grown the same. Just remember not to touch your eyes after seeding the spicy ones! Peppers are long-season crops that do best with a head start indoors in a warm place. They can’t handle temperatures below 50°F and prefer a toasty 70-80°F for the best yields.

Peppers grow much more slowly than their tomato cousins but can be treated much the same as seedlings. Bright sunshine, warm soil, and plenty of nutrients are key. It’s helpful to amend with a handful of slow-release all-purpose fertilizer and lots of compost. Prioritize your warmest south-facing beds or cold frames for growing peppers.

18. Cucumbers

A close-up of a cluster of long, slender organic cucumbers hanging from a vine. They hang from a thick, green vine, their dark green skin glistening with morning dew. The background is filled with lush, emerald green vine leaves, creating a vibrant and healthy-looking scene.
Cucumbers yield juicy fruits in around 60 days when planted in warm, well-drained soil.

Timing: 1-2 weeks after the last frost, when the soil temperature is above 60°F
Depth: ½”
Spacing: 12’ apart in rows 36” apart (or closer if trellising)

This frost-sensitive annual emerges in just 5-10 days and yields juicy fruits starting around 60 days after germination. Warm, moist, well-drained soils are best! If you plant cucumbers 1-2 weeks after your last frost, you can harvest the fruits for salads, snacks, and pickling all summer.

I recommend building a simple trellis instead of letting your cucumbers vine along the ground, where they’ll be more disease-prone. A simple T-post and cattle panel works great, or you can train cucumber vines up a fence line. Their little curly q “tendrils” readily grip onto any surface to help them climb. Be sure to install the trellis before seeding.

Like many of their squash relatives, cucumbers have very sensitive roots, so it is best to direct seed in early summer or plant in biodegradable pots. Cucumber seeds can be quite popular amongst rodents, so I protect young seedlings with row cover or a layer of clear plastic over the young plants. 

19. Pumpkins

A close-up of two enormous pumpkins nestled in a bed of vibrant green vines. The pumpkins are a deep, fiery orange, their plump sides boasting smooth curves and subtle ridges. Delicate tendrils twine around the stems, anchoring the fruits to the leafy earth.
Pumpkins are easy to grow but require ample garden space for healthy growth.

Timing: 2-4 weeks after the last frost, when the soil temperature is 70-90°F
Depth: 1”
Spacing: 2-3 plants per mound, in rows 4-6’ apart

From pie pumpkins to tiny decorative white pumpkins to giant Jack-O-Lanterns, all pumpkins are easy to grow but require a lot of space. Don’t waste your prime garden beds on pumpkins. Instead, keep these giant vines on the perimeter where they can ramble freely. 

Avoid starting pumpkins indoors, as they are highly prone to transplant shock if their taproots are disturbed. Direct sow when the weather is thoroughly warmed in early summer.

If you’re growing several types of pumpkins and squash, keep them on opposite sides of the garden to prevent cross-pollination. Alternatively, stagger the plantings by a few weeks so they flower at different times. 

20. Zucchini

Sunlight glints off the curves of a plump zucchini, its speckled skin hinting at hidden sweetness. But a fading blossom clings to its stem, a poignant reminder of the inevitable passage of time. Despite the wilting bloom, the zucchini's plumpness promises a future harvest, a testament to nature's resilience.
Grow zucchini for a bounty of summer delights: roasts, salads, “zoodles,” and bread.

Timing: 1-2 weeks after the last frost, when the soil temperature is 70-85°F
Depth: ½-1”
Spacing: 24” between plants, in rows 3-4’ apart (leave plenty of space to harvest)

Once you grow zucchini in your garden, you’ll never want to pay for it again! This beginner-friendly crop yields a ridiculous amount of zucchini—often so much that you’ll have to give a bunch away! Prepare for endless summer zucchini roasts, salads, “zoodles” (spiralized zucchini), and zucchini bread.

Direct seed zucchini when the weather is warm, around the same time as cucumbers and pumpkins. Leave plenty of space between plants so you can move around and harvest without scraping up your skin. On zucchini harvest days, I used to wear “zucchini arms” made of old socks with the bottoms cut off to make it easier to sift through the spiny plants.

21. Watermelon

This close-up captures the lushness of a watermelon plantation. Two enormous watermelons, their striped rinds glistening with morning dew, rest on a bed of rough, sun-baked earth. Curling tendrils of leafy vines twine around the melons, their emerald green contrasting with the dusty brown soil.
Melons flourish in warm soil with generous watering, ample space, and pollinator-attracting flowers.

Timing: 1-2 weeks after the last frost, when the soil temperature is above 70°F
Depth: ½”
Spacing: 6-8 feet apart

Sweet and juicy melons practically grow themselves as long as they have warm soil, lots of water, and plenty of space to grow. Avoid planting watermelons anywhere they might overgrow other plants. These vines can get wild! 

Direct sowing is recommended unless you live in a far northern region with a very short season. If you must transplant, use biodegradable pots to avoid disturbing the fragile watermelon roots. It’s helpful to plant many pollinator-attracting flowers like yarrow, white alyssum, or marigolds near your melon plants to attract bees into the big yellow blossoms.

Final Thoughts

Most seeds are eager to grow if planted in soil at the proper temperature, depth, and spacing. Avoid sowing too early or too deep, and be sure to keep your young plants thoroughly moist. Don’t forget to thin out your crops to ensure they have enough space to thrive. Lastly, keep records of your seeding to remember what worked best for next year! Happy growing!

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