Written by Matthew Romans, Program & Education Specialist – Garden Project
The selection criteria for the 10 best vegetables for new gardeners is simple:
First, grow things that they like to eat. One of the joys of gardening is that as you begin eating fresh vegetables, you discover you like foods that you previously disliked. A freshly harvested spinach leaf on a cool fall morning is vastly superior to any spinach you’ll ever find in a store.
Second, it is important to pick things that are easy to grow. You need to have some immediate success so that you don’t get discouraged.
And lastly, you also want to have a high yield for the space you use. Corn is fairly easy to grow and it tastes good, but you don’t get much from a small garden… so it didn’t make this list. The list below are vegetables that give you the most from a small garden.
- Tomato – considered by many to be the king of garden vegetables, tomatoes require a good bit of maintenance, and they take up a fair amount of space. But there is nothing as good as a warm tomato right from vine. If you have only eaten grocery store tomatoes, you have no idea what you’re missing
- Garlic – the only common, annual vegetable planted in the late fall. Plant cloves in the ground early November, cover with a thick layer of mulch and do virtually nothing (besides snapping the curly seedhead off in early summer) and harvest when plants dry out. Growing garlic is so easy that it’s almost boring… which is fantastic.
- Beans – they come in a variety of types and some are even ornamental and can beautify a garden. Once they start making beans you will have more than you can eat. But that won’t be so bad since freshly picked beans are a delight to munch on.
- Squash – there are two main categories of squash; “summer” and “winter”. Summer squash fits the criteria for ease and high yielding (which is a massive understatement). Winter squashes yield less & can take up a fair amount of space, but are still delicious in their diverse varieties from pumpkins to spaghetti squash.
- Kale – this leafy green may not be the sweetest of vegetables, but kale is impressively easy to grow and pumps out nutritious leaves for months on end. If you don’t like the taste of kale, then it’s time you made some salty kale chips.
- Herbs – most herbs are easy to grow and are virtually pest free. Though herbs may not yield pounds of food for your pantry, it’s still extremely satisfying to grow & dry these nutrient dense foods. Some to start with could be; basil, chives, dill, lavender, parsley, oregano, and thyme.
- Cucumbers – cuc’s can take a bit more space but if grown vertically on a trellis you can reduce their space needs. Plus, one or two plants will provide a cucumber every couple days giving you a very high yield.
- Lettuce – grows quickly and germinates easily and you can tuck them into any small space (or under your cucumber trellis. Lettuce can also grow well in containers. Be sure to select varieties for the right season as there are varieties for hotter and colder weather.
- Radish – one of the fastest growing veggies and easy to plant next to many other crops. Fresh radishes add some great zip to a salad.
- Onions – take little space and have very few pests. And of course, onions are a mainstay within the kitchen, so there are plenty of uses for them in dishes!\
For further information and details on how to grow these veggies, see Robert Pavlis’ Garden Fundamentals channel.