Easy Veggie Wins For New Gardeners

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    Being a new gardener can be frustrating. Visions of brightly colored tomatoes, handsome squash, and crisp lettuce are often met with the harsh reality of weeding, dead seedlings, scrawny plants, and frustration.

    Getting a few wins right away is important to boost your confidence and, more importantly, to enjoy gardening! While some veggies are problematic, others are easy and cooperative. For new gardeners, crops that sprout quickly, grow without fuss, and produce heavily are a good starting point when choosing garden staples.

    With this in mind, here are some recommendations for getting those first few wins in the veggie garden. They’re reliable performers, allowing you to enjoy fresh ingredients from your garden. At the end, we’ve included three flowers to add for easy color in the veggie patch.

    Leafy Lettuces

    While a head lettuce can sometimes be bothersome, growing most lettuce is as easy as sprinkling some seeds and watching. Well, almost. To keep a continuous stream of leafy leaves marching into your kitchen, plant a new batch of lettuce every 10-14 days. Just set a reminder on the calendar app of your phone. Planting lettuce seeds takes about two minutes:

    • Use a dibber to draw a shallow trench about ¼” deep.
    • Sprinkle lettuce seeds spacing about 1-2 inches between.
    • Gently cover them back up.
    • Water them in, and wait.

    Lettuce is a great crop for patio gardeners, too. A large container can support several lettuce plants, and you can move the container around to take advantage of the sun in spring and fall or give it a bit of afternoon shade in the summer heat.

    Zucchini and Summer Squash

    The old jokes about locking your car doors and closing your curtains during zucchini season (so your neighbors stop trying to give you their extras) aren’t far from wrong. With fertile soil and a sunny spot, you’ll find it hard-pressed to keep up with a few zucchini plants.

    Summer squash plants, like crookneck, pattypan, and tromboncino, are also prolific and easy to grow, just like zucchini. They thrive in the same conditions as zucchini, and become big, lush, dark green plants perfect for showing off your new hobby. Directly sow zucchini and summer squash seeds into your garden bed after the soil has warmed and the danger of frost has passed. A little water between the rains will keep them happy.

    Always Grow Radishes

    Usually, I advise people only to grow what they like to eat, but with radishes, I say grow them anyway. Radishes will get you smiling with success in only a few days. They sprout very quickly, sometimes in as little as 3-4 days. These vigorous root crops pop up so fast that they’re often used as row markers for slower-to-germinate crops like carrots.

    Many radish varieties are ready to harvest in about 25 days, so you won’t have to wait long to sample success. If you aren’t sold on the flavor of raw radishes, try oven-roasting them. Roasting brings out their sweet flavor and tones down the spiciness.

    Garlic

    Besides keeping vampires away, garlic is an easy win for the home gardener. It provides a little something from the garden in your kitchen long after the days of sun-ripened tomatoes have passed. The garlic you grow at home is much more flavorful than boring store-bought stuff. You’ve gotta grow garlic.

    Garlic is often planted in the fall and allowed to chill out in the soil over winter. It will pop up in early spring while nights are still cold and be ready to harvest by early to mid-summer. Choose a variety that stores well; you’ll have garlic to use in recipes all year long and some to plant again in the fall.

    Garlic isn’t picky, and I plant mine in an out-of-the-way spot where I typically forget about it. Mulch it heavily in autumn when you plant it (straw works great) and pull off some of the mulch in spring, leaving 2-3 inches to keep weeds down. That’s about it.

    Cool Cucumbers

    Cukes can be large slicers or smaller picklers, but either way, they’re easy to grow and heavy producers. Cucumbers are available in two growth habits: vine and bush. Bush cucumbers work well for small gardens or containers. For vining types, be sure to give them something to climb. It can be as simple as a tripod made from tree branches or scrap lumber.

    Plant cukes after the frosts have passed. They can be transplanted as young plants but are also quite willing to pop up when directly sown in the garden. These plants like heat, so give them a sunny spot and plenty of water and watch them go.

    Pick them when still green and on the smaller side. If you leave them on the vine too long, they’ll get massive and turn yellow, and their flavor will suffer.

    Potatoes or Po-Tay-Toes

    As Samwise Gamgee says, you can boil ’em, mash ’em, or stick ’em in a stew. Potatoes are an easy-to-grow crop for new gardeners if you have a deep bed with loose loamy soil. While some insects love to munch on potato plants, you’ll usually still end up with a pile of taters if you give them a sunny, fertile spot and provide an inch of water per week.

    Planting seed potatoes is as easy as making a trench, dropping a piece of spud in every foot, and covering it up. Hilling potatoes will increase yield, but they’ll still make a crop if you forget. A 10’x3’ bed of potatoes can easily yield 30-40 pounds.

    Nothing much beats pulling up a potato plant in late summer and seeing all those tasty potatoes. Just be careful when digging them or you’ll damage them. Work gently.

    Onions

    Keep the weeds down with mulch, and onions are one of the easiest garden crops to grow. While they can be started from seed, the easiest way to go is to purchase onion sets (baby onion plants). They often come in bags of 100 for less than ten bucks.

    Plant them in rows about 3-4” apart and mulch immediately after. When the tops start to flop over, the onions are ready, but you can sneak a few early as soon as they’ve reached a usable size.

    Easy Veggies for Novice Gardeners Summarized

    Starting your gardening journey with the right plants can greatly enhance your experience and success. Opt for easy-grow varieties like leafy lettuces, zucchini, and radishes for quick rewards. Embrace garlic and cucumbers for their rich flavors and hearty yields. Potatoes and onions are low-maintenance and offer substantial harvests. By focusing on these beginner-friendly plants, you’ll quickly gain confidence and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Dive into gardening with enthusiasm and watch your green space flourish!

     

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