31 Easy-to-Grow Vegetables For Beginners

Are you planning a garden for the first time? We were all beginners at some point, so have no fear! Join small-scale farming expert Jenna Rich as she goes through 31 easy-to-grow vegetables for beginners or those who want to brush up on some basics.

A wood raised bed holds a variety of leafy greens and a trellis system for vining vegetables.


Starting a new garden can be so exciting. You may have a new home and are starting from scratch, or this is simply the year you dive into backyard gardening. Whatever your experience level is, sometimes starting with the basics is best. There are several vegetables suited for beginner gardeners.

Before you start digging, find out what hardiness zone you live in. This will help you choose the right vegetables that will grow best in your garden. Also, consider what you like to eat, how much space you have, and how much time you can commit to your veggies.

As I go through 31 easy-to-grow vegetables for beginners, I hope you find something that piques your interest and excites you for the upcoming gardening season. Let’s get started!

Head Lettuce 

Close up of a head of iceberg lettuce growing in a garden in the light of the early morning. The bright green  lettuce leaves have frilly edges and open up on the exterior but form a ball or head in the middle.
There are several varieties of head lettuce you can plant in your garden as a beginner.
botanical-name botanical name Lactuca sativa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade, variety dependent 
height height 9-40 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Head lettuce is a great, easy vegetable for beginners because there’s a huge range of options. You can companion plant it with lots of other crops, and you can grow many successions of it per growing season. Wherever you grow, there is something suitable for your region, as lettuces range from cold-hardy to heat-loving, and some can even withstand drought conditions. 

Check the packet of whatever variety you choose for germination tips, planting out temperatures needed, and overall care. Plant them alongside tomatoes, a fence full of sugar snap peas, or surrounded by green onions, wherever you have extra space. Lettuce tends to be a moderate to heavy feeder, so be sure your soil is properly amended. 

A great feature about frilly, oak leaf, or butterhead head lettuce varieties is that you can choose to remove the outer leaves for a sandwich now and then or wait until the whole head is ready to harvest. I suggest trying several different types in your garden and deciding which ones work best for you in your space. 


Row of freshly harvested orange carrots with some dirt still left on them as well as long green stems with frilly leaves. The carrots rest on a bed of straw mulch.
These root vegetables are easy for beginners and have many uses in the kitchen.
botanical-name botanical name Daucus carota subsp. sativus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1-2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

If you have well-draining and composted soil, you should try growing carrots. This fun and easy vegetable has early, mid-season, and storage varieties available to growers in every hardiness zone. Since carrots can take up to three weeks to germinate, your garden plot should be weed-free so there is no competition when they start to sprout.

Continue to cultivate between the rows of carrots while they are small. Carrots take about 70 days to maturity, but they’re worth the wait!

Common carrot pests include the wireworm and carrot rust fly, which can be avoided by crop rotation and delayed planting. The first generation of the carrot rust fly typically hatches out in May and June, so if you sow seeds after that, it’s likely the first generation has died due to lack of food.

Wireworm populations can be decreased by adding beneficial nematodes to your soil or trapping and removing them. If you have a particularly bad infestation, you could try inverting your soil to expose the worms, leaving them vulnerable to natural pests such as birds. If you have deer in the fall, cover your carrots to protect the greens from being munched on by the deer. 

Pro Tip: Grow tomatoes in an area that previously had carrots planted there. They love the deep aeration carrots provide.

Cherry Tomatoes 

Close-up of a thin dark green stem with several round red shiny fruits growing on it. Some of the fruits are unripe and green toward the top. Lush dark green foliage is in the background.
These tiny vegetables are flavorful and can be grown in almost any hardiness zone.
botanical-name botanical name Solanum lycopersicum L.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 4-8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

There is nothing better than harvesting the first cherry tomato of the season and eating it ripe off the vine, still warm from the sun. A few foolproof varieties for beginners are ‘Sungold,’ ‘Sakura”, and ‘White Cherry.’ 

Cherry tomatoes are extremely cold-sensitive, so start them indoors and don’t transplant them into your garden until there is no risk of extended periods of 50° or below. This could stunt their growth and affect productivity for the whole season.

Keep a row cover handy for chilly nights. They will require trellising for support, so be prepared to have a high tunnel trellis system, space to install t-posts and implement the “Florida weave” method, or strong tomato cages. 

Cherry tomatoes will begin to ripen on lower trusses first, moving their way up the main stem. As you harvest, clip off empty trusses and unnecessary leaves to provide more airflow and reduce disease risk.

This type of tomato can become unruly if regular pruning doesn’t occur. Any new growth between a leaf and the stem that grows up diagonally is called a sucker. The tomato is trying to produce more fruit with these suckers, but it will only inhibit the main stem growth and take energy away from already-ripening fruit. Snip these right off when you see them. 

Pro Tip: Watch for Septoria Leaf Spot and Late Blight and treat accordingly if spotted. 


Close up of a single green cucumber with a highly textured surface and a withering yellow flower growing out of the end of it. Other flowers, cucumbers, and vines grow in the blurred background. The sun shines on the plants.
Several tasty varieties of cucumbers are available to plant in your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Cucumis sativus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3-12 feet, depending on trellis system 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-12

Cucumbers come in slicing, pickling, English, Asian, and bush varieties. Today, some of them have extensive disease-resistance packages, making them a great easy vegetable to grow. If you prefer standing while harvesting, put up a strong fence and grab a vining variety.

We always start our cucumbers indoors so when the spring weather breaks, they’re ready to be transplanted and protected with row cover. This will protect them from strong winds and lingering snowfall in the Midwest and Northeast. They can withstand a light frost when young with little to no damage. 

The biggest problem you’ll likely have when growing cucumbers is the dreaded cucumber beetle, which can easily defoliate your crop overnight. The best defense, studies show, is delayed spring planting. Ideally, the first generation of beetles that hatch from overwintered eggs die without an ample food source, decreasing future generations. By the second generation, your more established plants will be able to defend themselves more easily. 

Covering cucumbers with insect netting can help. However, since the adult beetles can overwinter in the soil where last year’s crop was, they may be under the netting without you knowing.

Scouting daily and hand-picking is your best defense if you spot them, which is most effective in the early morning when they are least active. If you are growing in a small space, try diverting the beetles to a trap crop or a different plant they like to feed on, like a ‘Blue Hubbard’ squash plant. 


Row of dark green leafy vegetables grows in a row along a bamboo fence. The leaves are extremely frilly or curled with white veins down the center of each leaf.
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that packs a nutritional punch.
botanical-name botanical name Brassica oleracea var. sabellica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 12-36 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-10 spring plantings, 8-10 will continuously grow new leaves throughout the winter 

Cold-hardy kale remains prolific through the heat and sun of summer. This makes it the perfect all-around crop for beginners in all growing regions.

In the spring, you’ll want to protect them from flea beetles and grasshoppers. In the fall, you should look out for cabbage loopers and slugs. Spraying both sides of the leaves with Bt should take care of any caterpillars. 

There are flat Russian, ‘Lacinato Dinosaur,’ and curly kales to choose from, differing in flavor and texture. If you’re on the fence about this earthy green, try massaging it with olive oil and lemon juice for a tender salad or making spicy kale chips. 

Bush Green Beans

Close up of a vining plant with a few vegetables that are not quite ripe. These vegetables are yellowish green in color and very long, tubular in shape, with a tiny spike at the end. The leaves are large and green with a glossy texture and come to a point at the end.
If you have the space in your garden for them, green beans are an easy and rewarding choice for beginners.
botanical-name botanical name Phaseolus vulgaris
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height About 2 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Green beans perform well all summer and into fall. They are wildly productive in both drought and rainy conditions, and you just can’t beat the crunch and flavor of fresh, homegrown beans. I’ve been growing ‘Provider’ for years and can honestly say it lives up to its name! These practically stringless beans are great for canning, freezing, and eating fresh. 

If you have indoor space, start these seeds indoors after the possibility of spring frost passes and the soil has begun to warm up. Sow these large seeds in a 50 or 72-cell tray or whatever container you prefer to use. In about three weeks, transplant them into your garden bed, giving them 6-9 inches between each plant, placing them three across in a 30-inch bed.

Note: Bean seedlings don’t love their root ball to be disturbed, so take extra care when transplanting. You can also direct sow beans. Just watch out for hungry mice and be ready to fill in any gaps where seeds didn’t germinate. 

Cover your beans with insect netting if you experience Japanese beetle or grasshopper damage in the spring, and remove it when flowers start to appear. Water them consistently until they are established, especially during hot spells, and cover them with 30% shade cloth if it’s extremely hot and sunny to help them settle into their new home.

In about 50 days, gently flip over the plants to see you’ve hit the bean jackpot. Bend a bean, and if it snaps cleanly in half, it’s ready to harvest. 


Close up of dark green leafy vegetables growing in a row on a sunny day.
Another nutritionally packed vegetable easy for beginners, spinach grows best during cold winter months.
botanical-name botanical name Spinacia oleracea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 8-12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-9

Many spinach varieties, like ‘Matador,’ only take 21-25 days for tender baby greens. It’s often one of the first greens available and just screams spring. Spinach is a great source of vitamins A, C, and folate. 

Direct sow spinach when the soil can be worked in the spring. Research shows that spinach tastes sweeter when grown in cold weather due to the lower water content inside the spinach. 

If you sow it in the summer, use a shade cloth. Germination decreases drastically in the heat. During hot spells, water spinach well. 


Close up of several round light brown-golden potatoes covered in dirt that have been freshly harvested. The pile rests on a dirt surface.
One of the easiest root vegetables for beginners to grow is the simple potato.
botanical-name botanical name Solanum tuberosum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 30-40 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10b

Potatoes are typically sown in April, May, or June and harvested in late August through October, depending on the growing region. New potato plants come from, well, potatoes. A piece of potato with an eye serves as a “seed potato,” although an eye is not required to grow a potato plant successfully. ‘Clancy’ is a red-to-gold, creamy-textured potato that can actually be grown from seed like other veggies!

Place the pieces in the ground about six inches deep, eye side facing up, buried with soil, and hilled at the time of sowing and throughout the growing season. This keeps the potatoes from getting too much solanine. High solanine contents in “green potatoes” can be unsafe for consumption. 

Space potatoes twelve apart from one another in a trench. Alternatively, you can dig a hole for each seed potato in the ground or in a fabric grow bag. Potatoes are prone to rotting with too much moisture, so your soil should be well-draining and composted. Add straw to the paths to keep weeds down and to keep sun off any potatoes that start to pop out of the ground. 

You should get five to six potatoes per plant if the plant is healthy, depending on weather conditions and variety. 

YouTube video

Sugar Snap Peas

Vining sugar snap pea plants growing on a sunny day. The leaves are green and ovate with light green veins. The vegetables are green, elongated, and flat.
This vining vegetable needs a highly supported fence to grow across in the garden.
botanical-name botanical name Pisum sativum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-11

Sugar snap peas are a breeze to sow, germinate, and enjoy. The trickiest part about growing them is providing a strong enough fence to support the weight of the foliage and the abundant fruit. 

Sugar snap peas are exactly what their name suggests: sweet, crunchy, and full of peas. You can directly sow seeds outside as soon as you can work the soil. It is often the first thing in the ground in places like the Northeast.

Add a fence down the center of the garden bed and make two shallow trenches on either side, just about an inch or two apart. Plant peas in the trenches about an inch from one another and then cover them back up with soil, tamping them down.

If you live in an area with winter snowfall, there may be enough moisture in the soil left over from snowmelt for the seeds to germinate. Thin as needed after germination and corral the stalks up the fence with tomato twine as they grow. Your plants should have mature pea pods in 50-70 days. Remove the string from each side of the pod before eating. 

Swiss Chard

Highly textured leafy green vegetables growing in the garden. The soil is brown and covered in straw mulch. The stems of the vegetables are bright red, and so are the veins throughout the leaves.
This beautiful and nutrient-dense leafy green vegetable is another easy choice for beginner gardeners.
botanical-name botanical name Beta vulgaris L.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 10-20 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Swiss chard is a crop that’s a little tougher to germinate than some others, but once you get it started and established, it’s easy to care for. Starting seeds indoors in a controlled environment should increase germination rates and decrease disease. Plus, you can select the best-looking plants when it comes time to transplant. If you want a quick and tasty shortcut, try growing Swiss chard microgreens!

Damping off can happen easily to young chard, so the first few days and weeks of life are crucial. Don’t overwater. You can almost let the soil dry out before watering, especially before germination, which can take up to two weeks.

Use a heat mat if you can access one, and set it somewhere between 55-75°. Keep the ambient temperature as consistent as possible and provide ample airflow. Multiple plants will pop up in each cell because chard seeds are multi-germ seeds. Pick the strongest-looking one and thin the rest by snipping the stems above the soil surface.

After about a month of maturing and being properly hardened off outside, transplant them on an overcast day early in the morning. Do this once temperatures are well above 50° during the day and there is no fear of frost.

Space them at about 18 inches and cover them with insect netting to protect them from hungry spring caterpillars and grasshoppers. You can start harvesting outside leaves when they’re about nine inches tall. New growth will continue to appear from the center of the plant as you harvest all season long. 


Close-up of the tops of two bright red smooth root vegetables. The stems coming from the round roots are thick and sturdy, deep red in color. Several bright green textured leaves grow at the end of the stems with deep red veins.
These bright-stemmed veggies are good for cool-season gardening.
botanical-name botanical name Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 1-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-10

Beets are closely related to Swiss chard and offer a similar earthy flavor. Swiss chard is a type of beet whose energy is sent above ground, whereas a beet has been bred to produce a big, juicy bulb below the soil surface. Their seeds are multi-germ, just like Swiss chard, so you should thin them to one per cell after becoming established. 

I have more success when transplanting them, but beets are typically directly sown. This way, I can pick the strongest seedlings and space them out how I want them. I plant one every three inches or one cell with multiple beets every six inches, three to four across, in a 30-inch bed.

After about a week after transplant, I shallow cultivate any little seeds between the rows and hill up the beets to keep as much below ground as possible. I might do this again before maturity, but otherwise, I just leave them alone. 

If you notice black spots on your beet leaves or cankers on the roots, the soil lacks boron. Three weeks after transplanting your next succession of beets, dissolve about one tablespoon of powder Borax into 4L of water until it’s dissolved. This spray will cover 100 square feet of garden space. Make more or less as needed. Discard any unused solution. 

Beets can be harvested at any size. However, if you want to store them, let them grow to be very large, remove the tops, and then store them, unwashed, in a dark, cool root cellar or the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to three months. You can also wash and freeze them for future use. 

Pro Tip: Although beets are pretty cold tolerant, if there is an extreme drop in the future forecast, throw a layer of row cover or some mulch around your bed for added protection. 


Close-up of a few green firm and slightly elongated peppers growing along vines in a greenhouse. Black support hoops are seen among the vines.
Typically, peppers grow best in warm and sunny environments.
botanical-name botanical name Capsicum annuum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1-4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Peppers are best started from seed indoors. As long as they have enough nutrients and space in a container to grow, they’re happy to grow quite big before being transplanted. Just snip off any early flowers so the plant will continue to focus energy on growing up and out rather than on producing fruit. Try the ‘Megatron’ jalapeño variety that’s “mega” in size and flavor! 

Jalepeños are heat-loving tropical plants that are heavy feeders, so they need a sunny place with fertile soil. If you have any protected space in a high tunnel, peppers will thrive here with the added heat.

They should be spaced out at 18-24 inches with just one to two plants across in a 30-inch bed. Be sure the soil temperature is above 65° before transplanting your peppers out, as they are very sensitive to cold. Jalepeños also perform well in fabric grow bags. Just be sure to feed and provide support as needed. 

Around the Fourth of July, you should scout for small tomato or tobacco hornworms because the only thing they love more than tomatoes is peppers. If you are known to have a hornworm problem each year, you can preemptively spray Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) on all surfaces of your pepper plants, repeating in three weeks. Bt is a naturally occurring bacteria approved in organic gardening that will kill caterpillars, cabbage loopers, and other pests upon consumption. Avoid this if you want to see Sphynx moths, however. Tomato hornworms are their larval form.


Close up of the top of a white root vegetable emerging from highly textured dark brown soil. Bright green stems emerge from the top of the vegetable growing among other leaves and foliage.
These root vegetables are excellent for beginner gardeners who are tight on space and need something easy to grow.
botanical-name botanical name Raphanus sativus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-8 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Radishes are the perfect vegetable for beginners because, at the fast rate of maturity, you can sow lots of successions in one season. If you don’t get it just right the first time, you can try again in 2-4 weeks! You can also squeeze a lot of radishes into a small space or plant them alongside longer-term vegetables such as zucchini or tomatoes without depleting the soil of many nutrients. 

Globe radishes require lots of water to form a nice, full, and round shape, whereas French Breakfast radishes prefer to be watered sparingly. The ‘Easter Egger blend‘ is my favorite globe variety because the bright colors are fun to harvest, even for kids, and remain fairly mild even in the heat. 

Radishes do best in the spring and fall, so you can sow them as soon as the soil can be worked. Sow them in rows about ½ inch deep at least one inch apart, ensuring the soil is well-draining.

Water regularly and cover with insect netting to protect against flea beetles, grasshoppers, and slugs. Thin as needed. Check daily once they start to mature and harvest regularly. Otherwise, they will split or become pithy. 

Green Onions

Row of tall grass-like green tubular blades emerging from a small garden that is lined by gray rocks.
If you are looking for a low-maintenance, easy, and flavorful vegetable to grow, green onions are a good choice.
botanical-name botanical name Allium fistulosum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 15-20 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-10

I sneak green onions all around my garden beds wherever I can, and you can, too. They are light feeders, don’t take up much vertical space, and are the perfect vegetable to intercrop with full-size kale, head lettuce, and Swiss chard, potentially deterring rabbits and deer. The flavor isn’t negatively affected when left in the ground longer, so you can leave them in until you need them. 

If you use cell trays to start seeds indoors, green onions are a cinch. Fill up a cell tray with soil, dibble small holes with your finger or the end of a pencil, and sprinkle 3-5 green onion seeds per hole. Cover the holes up with soil and keep them moist until emergence. Transplant the clumps of 3-5 onions out wherever you have extra space, as mentioned above, or in single rows about 6 inches apart.

Green onions are resilient, so shove them in the ground and move right along. Harvest them in about 50 days or leave them longer for a thicker stalked onion. 

You could also space out your plantings to provide a more staggered harvest. Sow a half tray once a month for a continuous supply throughout the season. 

Summer Squash 

Close up of a round yellow squash with deep green stripes growing vertically resting on moist dark brown soil with weeds emerging from the surface.
If you have the space, several varieties of summer squash grow well in just about any hardiness zone.
botanical-name botanical name Cucurbita pepo
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 1-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Summer squash typically have high germination rates and are ready to transplant out about three weeks after sowing. There are lots of varieties to choose from, from patty pan to crookneck to the classic buttery smooth, nutty golden summer squash. 

Most summer squash plants will grow about two feet tall and even wider, so give them at least two feet of space between plants so they can bush out and have ample nutrients. Harvest the fruit small for a tender, nearly seedless, early summer treat, or let them get large and slice them up into quarter-sized coins to sauté. 

Delaying the first plantings until after the first generation of cucumber beetles have found a different garden to terrorize can decrease damage. Sprinkling kaolin clay powder or diatomaceous earth on the foliage may deter pests from landing on the leaves. 

Pro Tip: Try sowing quick-maturing radishes along the outside of your summer squash plants to double the use of the space. The radishes will be out of the ground before the squash plants would start to shade them out. 


Several long green fruits emerging from the center of a plant that has thick, sturdy, curving stems with large ruffled leaves on the ends of them. Large, yellow, and slightly wilting flowers emerge from the ends of about half of these green fruits.
Another tasty and easy-to-grow vegetable for beginner gardeners is zucchini.
botanical-name botanical name Cucurbita pepo
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 1-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Zucchini is an excellent beginner vegetable. Many modern varieties have resistance to powdery mildew, a common squash disease. Opt for drip irrigation rather than overhead, use fans if you’re growing in protected space, and give each plant ample space to decrease disease risk. 

Follow the spacing recommendations for summer squash when transplanting your zucchini. This will allow for easier harvesting and reduce the risk of fungal diseases. 

Unfortunately, cucumber beetles prefer zucchini plants over summer squash varieties, so keep that in mind when transplanting them out. Because they have the same pests and the growing time is similar, it’s best to rotate these two crops together. 

Pie Pumpkins

Close up of a single small round orange gourd with a grayish brown stem resting on the ground that is covered in straw mulch.
There are several uses for small pie pumpkins once harvested from the garden.
botanical-name botanical name Cucurbita pepo
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 12-24 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

If you have the space to grow pie pumpkins, it’s a lot of fun and quite easy. The ‘Sugar Pie Pumpkin,’ also called the ‘New England pumpkin,’ has the perfect flavor, size, and texture for pies, casseroles, and muffins. They’re also great for carving and fall decor!

While the vines do grow to be eight to twelve feet long, the pumpkin itself is just 6-7 inches in diameter with a classic dark orange hue. Pumpkins aren’t recommended for growers with short seasons as they’re not frost tolerant and should not be planted outside until the soil temperature is at least 70°. 

As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, pumpkins do not like their root ball disturbed. So when transplanting, open up a hole with a trowel or your hand, gently plop the pumpkin seedling inside, surround it with soil, and gently tamp the soil down around it.

Alternatively, you can directly sow seeds into the soil. Water well until established. Pumpkins should be ready to harvest before your first frost date. The vines and stems should be dried out. Cure and store for up to three months. 

Lettuce Mix 

Close up of a small box garden with several different varieties of leafy green vegetables. The leaves in the front are dark red to purple in color with ruffled edges. The others are bright green in color and have various textures from very freely to slightly ruffled.
If you like eating salad and need an easy vegetable to grow as a beginner, a flavorful lettuce mix is the way to go.
botanical-name botanical name Lactuca sativa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2-6 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

There are several consistently highly productive and easy-to-grow cut-and-come-again lettuce mixes on the market. Although most lettuces can tolerate some cold weather and frost, wait to plant it out until after the fear of frost has passed, especially if you are direct sowing. Soil temperatures should be above 60°. 

Make two-inch bands or trenches and lightly sprinkle the mixed seeds into them, cover lightly back up with soil, and tamp down. Water evenly until germination and thin as needed if the lettuce seems crowded. 

Most mixes take 20-50 days to mature. The range is so broad because you can harvest at any stage, taking individual leaves or a whole lot of them for a big salad. If you’d like to cut and come again, harvest about two inches above the soil surface so it will regrow. 


Close up of a plant with sturdy green stems and frilly leaves growing from the stems growing in a garden among several other plants of the same variety. A single black striped irrigation hose runs through the plants.
Homegrown celery tends to have more flavor than the ones you find in your local grocery store.
botanical-name botanical name Apium graveolens
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 3-4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-11

Homegrown celery is such a treat because it’s quite different from what you’re used to getting at the grocery store. It may not be as stringy; it’s crisp and bright, and the flavor is never lacking. 

Celery is extremely high in water content, so as you can imagine, it requires lots of moisture throughout all growing stages. Germinate indoors on a heat mat set to 70°, keeping them moist for the two to three weeks it may take to emerge. Transplant them out in May or June when the weather has warmed to pleasant about eight inches apart. 

Young celery plants will begin to bolt under stress when exposed to extended periods of temperatures 55° or below. Take care when hardening off by lowering water amounts, but not by lowering temperatures. 


Close up of a head of broccoli with dark green leaves that have ruffled edges and light green veins. The background is blurry with more foliage growing.
Several specialized varieties of broccoli grow well in each hardiness zone.
botanical-name botanical name Brassica oleracea var. italica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 18-36 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Some broccoli varieties produce a full head in addition to side shoots, while others produce tender stalks with small florets like ‘Rapini Broccoli Raab,’ perfect for stir-fries, steaming, and early-season raw salads. 

Taking 45-65 days to mature, broccoli prefers cooler weather, so plant them out in spring for a summer harvest or in late summer or early fall for a late fall or winter harvest. Be sure to give them at least 18” of space between plants and protect them with insect netting against flea beetles, aphids, and caterpillars. 

YouTube video


Several leeks growing in a garden on a sunny day. The leaves on each plant are so long they droop on the ends toward the ground.
Be sure to amend the soil with compost when planting, as leeks need the extra nutrients to thrive.
botanical-name botanical name Allium porrum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2-3 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-10

Leeks are another easy-to-grow veggie. They need well-draining and aerated soil and shouldn’t be planted somewhere onions were the year prior as they’re in the same family. Start seedlings indoors when you start your bulbing onions in the spring. In mild climates, you can start them in the summer, plant them in the fall, and overwinter them for a spring harvest. 

Compost your soil moderately to heavily and dibble holes with a pencil or your fingertip 3-6 inches apart. After properly hardening off your seedlings, toss one in each hole and gently surround it with soil. 

If you want a lot of white shaft on your leeks, hill them up every week. The more of the shaft hidden from the sun, the more white you’ll have. Water regularly, and they’ll be ready in 120-150 days when the top growth or “flag” is a nice dark green. 

‘Hakurei’ Salad Turnips

Close up of three smooth round white turnips with very small thin stringy roots coming from the end. Sturdy light green stems emerge from the tops of these turnips. They are resting on the surface of a wooden table.
These unique root vegetables can be enjoyed raw in a salad or roasted.
botanical-name botanical name Brassica rapa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 10-15 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-9

‘Hakurei’ salad turnips are not your grandma’s turnips. They are a Japanese variety that’s typically eaten raw for their crisp, sweet, and juicy nature or roasted or cooked. 

It takes just about 50 days for them to mature, just a little later than radishes. Sow them in rows about an inch apart to suppress weeds. To produce a nice round bulb, water them extremely well, especially in drought conditions, and cover them with insect netting to protect against pests. Thin as needed if they’re overcrowded. 

‘Hakurei’ turnips are high in vitamins C, B6, and E, and they’re also a great source of fiber and potassium. The greens are edible, too!

Pea Shoots

Close up of a vining plant with elongated green pods growing among lush green foliage and several curled, Vining suckers.
This easy beginner vegetable can be grown all year long under the right conditions.
botanical-name botanical name Pisum sativum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4-5 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones All

Pea shoots are something you can grow all year long with the right setup, both indoors and out. All you need is a tray, seed-starting mix, some grow lights, and access to fresh water.

Before sowing, be sure to wash the pea seeds thoroughly. They’re quite dirty when they arrive from the seed company, and if they aren’t washed, you won’t have great germination or yields. 

After they’re washed, soak them for 8-24 hours, then let them sit overnight to sprout. This will happen more quickly in warm temperatures. Then, fill your tray with soil and spread it out into a smooth surface.

Sprinkle about 1.5 cups of sprouted pea shoot seeds over the top so they’re not overlapping and evenly spread out. Then, tamp them down, water lightly, put an empty tray on top, and weigh it down with something heavy like a rock. 

Remove the weight and tray after 2-3 days, put them under light or in direct sunlight, and keep them moist as they grow. Cut the shoots when they’re about four inches tall before they form tendrils and become thick. Chop them up and add them to salads, stir-fries, or smoothies. This is an easy and quick way to get nutritious greens at home. 


Several rows of bulb root vegetables growing in a garden. The bulbs are light brown to golden and color and have long dark green blade-like leaves emerging from the tops. The soil has rocks, bark, and sticks throughout. The day is sunny and bright.
Onions generally mature in 90 to 100 days.
botanical-name botanical name Allium cepa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 12-18 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8, will do best in 5 and 6

If you don’t have an indoor setup to start onions indoors, befriend a local farmer or find a garden supply store that may sell sets in the spring. Be sure to select the best type for your area: short-day, long-day, or day-neutral. Depending on the variety, you should have onions in 90-100 days. 

The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension has overwintered onions with much success. So, if you grow in a colder region, give it a shot! 


Four light brown bulbs with stringy white roots emerging from the bottom resting on a black seed tray. Each seed pod has light brown to reddish dirt and coconut coir in it.
These tiny bulb vegetables provide lots of flavor to dishes and are easy to grow in the garden.
botanical-name botanical name Allium cepa gr.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade 
height height 8-10 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-10

Shallots are like if garlic and onion had a baby. Plant them the way you would long-day onions. They take about 100+ days to maturity and have incredible storage abilities. 

Shallots are shallow-rooted, so they’ll do best in raised beds with well-draining soil. Water them at least an inch per week if no rain has fallen. 

Similar to garlic, the tops will dry up and fall over when they’re ready to be harvested. Cure for two to seven days and store in a cool, dry place with low relative humidity. 


Two elongated deep purple fruits growing from a sturdy light green branch surrounded by large green leaves.
If you live in a warm area, eggplants are perfect for beginner gardeners.
botanical-name botanical name Solanum melongena
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 18-36 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-12

Both classic globe and slender, Asian-style eggplant are a joy to grow. Asian-style eggplant will take slightly less time to mature, simply due to their size. If you are growing full-size globe eggplant, the plants will require support as some fruits weigh between 1 ¼ to 2 pounds each. 

Eggplants are tropical, so they won’t tolerate frost and will perform best in the warmest, sunniest place in your garden. Protect them with insect netting to protect against Japanese beetles and cabbage loopers. 

Research suggests purple foods like eggplant contain high levels of phytonutrients and fight cancer-causing free radicals. It’s also high in vitamins and minerals and is a great source of fiber and potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure. 


Close up of a plant that has a white ball at the bottom and several sturdy thick green stems protruding from it in about every direction. The leaves are very thin and elongated, giving it a lacy appearance. The plant grows among several others of the same variety on crumbly brown soil.
If you like the flavor of fennel, it is an easy vegetable to grow for beginner gardeners.
botanical-name botanical name Foeniculum vulgare
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height About 3 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Fennel is a vegetable I didn’t know I loved until I grew some in my backyard. It’s great in soups, raw in a salad, and easily frozen for fall or winter meals. Fennel is low-maintenance and fairly resistant to pests due to its strong aroma. It will easily self-seed but can become invasive, so keep your eye on it.

Some fennel varieties can be grown as a tender perennial, but most often, it’s grown as an annual plant. Depending on the variety, fennel may need some light staking for wind support. 

Most varieties of fennel are ready to harvest in 60-90 days but can be used at any stage, including the fronds. The fronds are the feather-like green tops that can be used as an herb or garnish. The flavor of both the bulbs and the fronds is of a light licorice or anise. The bulb is known to sweeten up if cooked with onions. Try ‘Dragon’ fennel, which produces a sweet bulb good enough to eat raw!  

Pro Tip: Use fennel in place of celery in a pasta salad or soup for a refreshing switchup of flavor profiles. 


Close up of a female hand holding a bulb of garlic. The garlic is white with splashes of red and is slightly open. Bright green grass grows in the blurred background.
If you use a lot of garlic in the kitchen, it is an easy vegetable to grow in your backyard.
botanical-name botanical name Allium sativum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 12-36 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

I don’t know about you, but most of my cooked meals start with a hot pan with fresh sauteéd garlic in olive oil. Nothing beats homegrown garlic, so if you’ve never grown your own, let this be the year. 

The key to growing garlic is properly preparing garden beds and amending the soil. Garlic is a heavy feeder, and it’s in the ground for a long time, so you want to set it up for success. That said, once it’s in the ground and mulched for winter, you can forget about it until the spring. This makes it a really easy and fun crop to start with if you are a beginner gardener.

Pull back the mulch in the spring, weed around the garlic, and add amendments if needed. Start a watering schedule. And don’t forget to snap the scapes off sometime in June or July to send that energy back into bulb formation.  

If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of garlic variety options, try more than one and pick your favorite!


Close up of a slightly open head of cabbage with very large textured leaves with white veins. The sun shines brightly on the plant.
This cold-tolerant vegetable can be grown in just about any hardiness zone.
botanical-name botanical name Brassica oleracea var. capitata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 1-10

Growing cabbage can be virtually hands-off if you control weeds and heavily compost your beds. Cabbage can take up to 100 days to mature, so make sure it has all the nutrients it needs. Use a fish emulsion fertilizer at the time of transplant or when the plants have three to four true leaves. You can repeat this feeding schedule every two to three weeks. 

Cabbage is cold-hardy and will perform well in the spring and fall. Depending on your growing zone, you can plant it out from February through May for summer cabbages, April to May for fall and winter cabbages, and in warmer growing regions, in the summer for a spring harvest after overwintering. 

Cabbage packs quite the punch; it’s high in potassium and vitamins A, K, and C. Eat it raw in coleslaw or try a savoy variety and ferment it into kimchi to extend its shelf life. Properly rotate cabbage with other brassicas like broccoli and kale to avoid having a continuous pest problem. Cover with insect netting to keep flea beetles, cabbage loopers, and cutworms out. 


Two large round ripe fruits with deep green vertical stripes grow from thick vines and rest on moist soil in a garden. They are surrounded by lush foliage from various plants.
Melons require quite a bit of space but are so rewarding for new gardeners.
botanical-name botanical name Citrullus lanatus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 1-3 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Watermelons need a lot of space, so plan accordingly. There are “icebox” varieties like ‘Sugar Baby’ for growers with limited space. Fruits will be ready in 60-90 days. 

Watermelons are extremely sensitive to cold, so start them no sooner than late April in most regions. Transplant them when summer has settled in. Use a row cover or plant them in a tunnel for added heat. 

Stop all watering about a week before harvesting. Excess water can cause the flavor to become bland. Fruits are ready to harvest when the tendril near the stem has died back, and there is a yellow spot where the weight of the fruit is on the ground. 

Winter Squash 

Close up of a single butternut squash laying horizontally on the ground. A heart shaped leaf that is dark green is to the left of the squash. The squash is thinner at the top and wider at the bottom and creamy orange in color.
Butternut squash is a good variety to start with if you are a beginner gardener.
botanical-name botanical name Cucurbita maxima
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height up to 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

If you love having storage vegetables on hand and cooking with them in the fall and winter, then winter squash is for you. There are many varieties to choose from, ranging in flavor from sweet to nutty to pumpkiny, which can be used for soups, roasted, and even made into desserts. Some can be stored for up to 6 months under ideal conditions.

If you’re growing in a small space, ‘Butternut’ is a great choice. It matures into a beautiful terracotta color, is just 4-5 inches in size, and is practically seedless. Plus, it’s resistant to powdery mildew and squash vine borers, too!

Winter squash takes a long time to mature, so start them indoors and wait until the soil temperatures have warmed to at least 60°. They’ll have no tolerance for even a light frost, so be sure the chance of that has passed in your area.

When growing vining varieties, give them 2-3 feet of space and only plant one across in a garden bed. Use insect netting upon transplanting to keep pests away. Just remove it when pollination begins. Plants should receive one inch of water per week.

Fruits are ready to harvest when the vines have died back almost entirely, the stem is brown, and the skins are tough. Harvest during a sunny, dry week in late August, September, or October, and allow them to cure outdoors for 5-7 days. Store them in a dark, cool place. Shelf life will depend on the variety. 

Final Thoughts

Growing your own food is so rewarding. Whether you’ve never gardened before or are just getting back to basics, I hope you found something here that got you excited about the upcoming growing season.

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