If you are new to gardening, or perhaps frustrated with plants that seem suicidal, you might want to try growing some of the following. This list is composed of those vegetables that I have had little or no trouble growing. It’s based entirely on my actual experience over more than a decade of gardening (and keeping records). These vegetables germinate readily, grow well, have no serious disease or insect problems, and produce lots of food — year after year.
- Beans grow well, produce heavily, and have given me little trouble with disease or insects. I do need to put a fence around them, or else rabbits will eat the young bean plants. I grow pole beans, which need a trellis or similar structure to climb, but bush beans don’t need support and should be just as easy to grow. Be sure to plant beans when the weather is warm and there is no more threat from frost.
- Carrots, like most root crops, are pretty easy to grow. The only difficult part is planting them, as the seeds are tiny. You need to barely cover the seeds and keep them moist so they will germinate. It’s hard to space the tiny seeds correctly, so you’ll probably have to thin your carrots after they come up.
- Kale is the easiest leafy vegetable to grow in my garden. I like to start the seeds indoors in the spring, transplant the seedlings to the garden and let them grow all summer, then harvest the big, crinkly leaves after we get frost in the fall. Some years, we still can harvest the previous year’s kale in the spring.
- Mustard is another leafy vegetable from the cabbage family that’s easy to grow. In fact, you may not have to plant it more than once as “volunteer” mustard plants will grow throughout your garden if you allow it to bloom and produce seed. They will continue to come up all summer, so you can harvest mustard in the fall as well as the spring and early summer.
- Peppers, unlike their relatives tomatoes (disease) and eggplant (insects), are mostly trouble-free in my garden. I have seen holes eaten in the fruit, but that was rare. Both spicy (chili) and sweet peppers are easy to grow. You should start pepper seeds indoors and transplant them to the garden after the danger of frost has passed, or buy plants from a garden center. Another great thing about peppers is that you can leave the fruit on the plants for a long time, picking them only as you need them.
- Radishes are not only easy to grow, they are fast. My favorite variety, ‘cherry belle,’ can be ready to eat just four weeks after I plant them. In the spring, I like to plant radishes between rows of other plants; I’ll have pulled the radishes before the cabbages or kale need the space. Sometimes I plant radishes in the fall in the spaces where the summer crops have been harvested.
Keep in mind that I live in central Pennsylvania, where we have heavy, acidic clay soil and moderately cold winters. If conditions are different where you live, some of these plants might not work for you. If you have your own reliable favorites, feel free to suggest them in the comments section.