7 Easy First Time Gardener Vegetables to Grow
Everything you need to get started is here, so get ready to earn your green thumb!
There is nothing more soothing to the soul than the sight of bright red tomatoes growing on the vine. That is what called me to the garden so many years ago. And that feeling never gets old.
The smell of the soil.
The site of the big green leaves.
The taste of a big red juicy tomato.
The snap of freshly picked sweet peas.
I could go on and on and on.
The problem is, what starts out as excitement and good intentions can quickly turn into burn-out and overwhelm. Because not all vegetables are created equal.
What I mean by that is, some veggies are definitely easier to grow than others. And that right there
can be another problem. How to pick the best vegetables so you can grow a successful garden your first time out.
To help you out a bit I have a list of easy yet lovely veggies that will be perfect for any beginner gardener.
And to make things even easier, we are going to go over each of them so I can give you tips on how to plant, grow, and harvest everything this growing season. Follow along and get ready for a wonderful array of fresh produce that you can begin growing today.
This guide might seem a bit overwhelming so you may want to pin it to your gardening Pinterest board so you can refer to it again and again.
First Time Gardener Veggies list – How to Set Yourself up for Success
Vegetable # 1. Tomatoes
Whenever you think of a garden, tomatoes are usually what we think of first. There are so many varieties, colors and flavors they really are the staple to any summer garden.
How much to plant: This used to be so much easier to answer back when there were fewer varieties to choose from. But with so many different options comes so many different results. That means this number is going to be very broad.
The best way to measure a harvest is in pounds and that is how we are going to approach things here. An average plant can produce anywhere from 10-25 pounds of tomatoes in a growing season. With some varieties giving less and others giving much much more. To find the exact number, you will want to research the specific variety of plant to truly know what you can expect.
A good rule of thumb is to have 1-3 plants per person in your family.
But again this will depend on who is eating them and how much they love them. If you are planning to preserve your tomatoes, then you will want to plant a few more to ensure you have enough to can or freeze.
How to buy your tomato plants: If you are a brand new gardener then it is best to purchase plants that are ready to go directly into the ground. You are looking for a nice sturdy stem that is not too long. Lush deep green leaves with or without blossoms. If the plant looks healthy then it should be perfect for your garden.
SLCG PRO TIPO: You can also start seeds indoors. The key is choosing the date so they are the correct size and age when it is time to plant your garden. You can read my step by step guide to walk you through the best (and cheapest) way to do this.
READ: HOW TO START TOMATO PLANTS INDOORS
How to plant tomatoes: Tomatoes hate the cold, so be sure to plant long after the threat of frost has passed.
When planting you want to do so deep putting 2/3’s of the plant into the ground. You can “pinch” off any leaves that fall below this measurement. The reason for planting so deeply is tomatoes have the ability to sprout additional roots above the stem. You will want these extra roots to really strengthen up your plant so it can better hold the weight of the tomatoes.
SLCG PRO TIP: Do not be deterred by going so deep for your tomato plants. Large plants will look quite small once planted and this is a good thing. Remember you need the strength below the ground so you can have a healthier plant above the ground.
As the plant grows you will want to add support to keep things from getting to top heavy. Most gardeners use tomato cages and I find these work very well.
If you choose to use cages, put them around your plants from day one. This will help your plant adjust and grow around the cage rather than having to add one to an already full plant risking breakage.
How to grow: Tomatoes need to be watered regularly and there is a way to do this correctly. You will know your plant needs water if the top inch of the soil is dry. Always water very close to the ground to keep from splashing any soil up onto the leaves. This will help to prevent any soil born diseases from harming your beautiful plants.
What to watch out for: If you see the leaves of your tomato plant is turning yellow or that the tomatoes themselves are turning yellowish then there is a good chance that they are lacking Nitrogen. To correct this you can add fish meal or soybean meal to the soil around the base of the plant.
How to harvest: Most tomatoes mature around 60-75 days after planting. When your tomatoes are the color and size you are looking for, it’s time to harvest.
To do this, simply pick off the fruit or twist if they will not release easily. You may want to support the plant with your other hand so you don’t’ risk damaging the plant. If you plan to preserve your tomatoes be sure to do so right away. You want to can the freshest fruit so always pick the day you plan to can.
Vegetable # 2. Snap Beans
Beans are one of those fun plants to grow. They require little work and a single plant can yield a whole lot of beans.
How much to plant: One bean plant can produce up to 120 beans. This will vary a bit depending on the variety you plant and the conditions you are growing your beans in.
How to buy: Beans are planted by seed and can be purchased at any store that sells garden supplies. Be sure to read the back label so you are buying a variety your family will enjoy.
How to plant: Simply make a trench in your garden using a garden hoe. Plant the seeds 1-2″ deep and space 4-6″ apart. Cover lightly with soil and water. Beans can get top heavy fast and they do love to grow. You will want to have a support system like a trellis in place to help the plant from getting to top heavy.
How to grow: Water regularly and remove any weeds as you see them.
What to watch out for: If you see your plants are top heavy you will want to adjust your support as needed. If you see your plants starting to shrivel up that is your sign that you are underwatering. Always test the soil with your finger before watering so you know how much to add.
How to harvest: Pick when ready and eat as you go or save for later. Beans also preserve well in mason jars. Another great way to fill that pantry for the winter season.
Vegetable # 3. Leaf Lettuce
I think lettuce is one of the easiest things to grow even if you do not have a full garden. The perfect addition to our first time gardener vegetables list. A small planter on your back deck is enough to grow lettuce to enjoy all summer long.
How much to plant: Lettuce needs to be harvested often if you do not you risk the plant bolting. If you love salads then plant enough for a daily treat. If not, just a few plants should be plenty for your family. As you pick the lettuce it will continue to grow for as long as the weather cooperates.
How to buy: Seeds is your best option here and again you will find many different varieties. Choose the type you and your family will like or plant a mixture to try different varieties to try them out.
How to plant: Lettuce doesn’t mind the cooler weather so you can begin planting when your soil is able to be worked. Lettuce does well in full sun unless you live in a very hot climate. If you do then you will want to choose a location that has a bit of shade as well.
Plant your seeds shallow, 1/4-1/2 inches deep. Water lightly so you do not risk washing the seeds away. These seeds are very small so you might want a seed dispenser to make planting a bit easier.
How to grow: As your lettuce grows you will want to thin things do prevent overcrowding, but again this will depend on the variety you are planting. Refer to the seed envelope for advice in this area.
Watering lettuce is a bit different than other plants. since you want more leaves than roots you will want to keep your watering light and frequent.
What to watch out for: If you see your leaves are wilting then you may need to water more frequently. If the plant’s soil feels moist then you might need to watch the sun.
Like I mentioned above if your lettuce is in a very hot area and you do not continually water and harvest you run the risk of bolt. That is when the plant goes to seed and causes the lettuce leaves to turn bitter. To prevent this, watch your plants closely and water often and give them shade if possible.
How to harvest: Lettuce matures around 21-70 days after planting. Just take a pair of scissors and cut off what you need when you need it. Use immediately to get the very best flavor.
Vegetable # 4. Sugar Snap Peas
This is by far one of my very favorite plants to grow. There is nothing I love more than walking my gardening while snacking on snap peas. A wonderful treat that is easy to grow and even more fun to eat!
How much to plant: If you and your family love peas I would go all out and plant 10-15 plants per person. That will give you quite a bit of peas so be sure you love them before you go crazy.
How to buy: You will want to purchase seeds choosing a variety that your family will enjoy. Snap peas are one of those plants that taste good in just about every variety. Read the label so you know the look of the pea and how sweet it will be.
How to plant: Plant 2-4 inches apart and 1 inch deep.
Just like with your beans, sugar snap peas can get very fruit heavy. This means you will need some kind of support in place before this happens. Trellises work perfectly here and you can either purchase them or make them yourself. If you choose to make your own trellises make sure they are able to withstand the weight of hundreds of peas.
How to grow: Peas prefer cooler temps so you will want to mulch the ground to stretch out the growing season as long as possible. Once the temperatures hit 80 or more you are nearing the end of the growing season.
Get your seeds into the ground early in the season so you can enjoy your peas longer.
What to watch out for: If you think you love peas then you can be sure nature’s animals will too. Dear, rabbits and other visitors will enjoy munching down on your sweet peas. Keep this in mind when planting and have a small fence or other barriers in place. I like to hang a few tin pie plates in a small bunch to make a banging noise. Hang these high and low to scare off deer and rabbits too.
This doesn’t always work, but I find it does just enough to keep them away.
If you see leaves turning yellow or wilting you may have a disease. To prevent this, water early in the morning so leaves are dry at dusk.
How to harvest: The only way to know for sure that your peas are ready to pick is to try one. If it is not to firm and tastes the right amount of sweetness then you are good to go.
The magic of these peas is the more you pick the more peas you will have. Pick your peas before they get too fat. If you eat them and find them to be chewy or tough then you have waited too long.
Eat peas right away or can them to enjoy later.
Vegetable # 5. Radishes
Besides the fact that radishes are hardy and super easy to grow, you can plant these a few times over the spring and early summer to keep your harvest going strong.
How much to plant: You can expect to get 1 radish per plant so you will want to plant double the seeds for as many radishes you want to end up with. The reason for the heavy planting is you will need to thin as your plants grow. I like to have a dozen planted each week until I have a full crop planted of about 40+ plants in my growing area.
How to buy: Purchase radishes as seeds choosing a variety that your family will enjoy. To pick the vest variety read the description of the flavor and size to determine which seeds will work best.
How to plant: Radishes are root plants and require a healthy loose soil to grow in. Plant seeds directly into the ground at 1/2-1 inch deep and 1 inch apart. Plant more seeds weekly for as long as the ground remains cool. This will ensure you have a nice supply of radishes without getting overrun.
How to grow: Try to keep your radishes in full sun and away from larger plants that can easily shade them. Radishes grow better in the sun rather than the shade. When your plants are about a week old, thin them out to prevent overcrowding.
Be sure to water slow and steady without overwatering.
What to watch for: Radishes do not do well in extreme heat and will bolt quickly when the temperatures rise. For this reason, try to keep planting to the cooler months of spring and fall.
Weeds are another thing to watch for and if not kept under control can quickly overtake a radish crop. Get into the habit of a little light daily weeding as you water to keep things cleaned out.
How to harvest: Full maturity is approximately 3 weeks after planting. To know just when to pick your radishes, watch the base of the plant looking for around 1 inch in size. Test pick a plant or two to confirm that your radishes are the right size.
Once picked wash and remove the green part of the plant and any roots. Store in a bag in your refrigerator. Radishes do not last long, just 3 days in the refrigerator, so I suggest picking only as you need them.
Vegetable # 6. Garlic
I love to plant and grow garlic. The ease of care and hardiness of the plant is a great way to branch out a bit with your own garden. For us, we usually plant double what we can expect to use. This will give us enough seed garlic to plant for the following year and allow us to have enough to share with our family and friends.
Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested in mid-summer. You can do a spring planting but for our area, we find that fall planting works the best.
How much to plant: One head of garlic will give you about a dozen or so cloves. So if you use garlic often you may want to have a dozen or so plants. If less frequently then just a few may be enough for your family.
How to buy: Seed garlic is purchased as a head or as individual cloves. You can save a few heads from your current harvest to plant in the fall or purchase a fresh set of cloves from a seed supply store.
How to plant: Plant cloves in the fall with the base of the clove placed into the soil vertically. Plant about 1-2 inches deep and 4-5 inches apart. Cover with soil and a layer of mulch such as straw, wood shavings, or dried leaves. This will protect the plants from the cold winter weather and snow.
How to grow: Garlic is normally planted in the fall before the first frost hits. Once planted, cover with a thick layer of protective mulch and leave alone all winter long. There is no need to water until spring comes.
What to watch for: Come spring, you will want to weed to help protect your plants and encourage growth. With such a long dormant time, weeds can take hold fast, a good spring weeding will really help your garlic to flourish.
How to harvest: Harvest your garlic when the green stalks begin to turn brown. To dig up your garlic you will need a full shovel and a strong back. Since the garlic has been in place all winter long, the ground it is planted in will most likely be compacted tight. This is why a shovel is your best bet when harvesting.
Place the tip of your shovel about 5+ inches out from the base of the plant. Dig down about 8-10 inches deep and angle the shovel up, bringing the garlic head with it. If you dig too close you run the risk of “cutting” the garlic, so always go out further than you think you need to go.
Shake off the excess soil and allow to dry. This will make removing the rest of the soil easier to do. Braid together and hang to finish the curing. Once cured, you can cut the tops and the roots and store inside of a mesh bag.
READ: HOW TO GROW GARLIC IN 10 EASY STEPS for even more helpful tips.
Vegetable # 7. Onions
Another one of my favorite first time gardener vegetables and a simple addition to a first-time garden is the onion. This versatile veggie is a great item to have in a pantry and can be stored for a long period of time or chopped and frozen for longer storage options.
How much to plant: One plant will yield you one onion that can vary in size depending on the variety you plant.
How to buy: You buy onions in sets that resemble small little onions.
How to plant: Plant each in onion in a row about 1/2-1 inch deep and 4 inches apart. Cover with soil and water well. If you live in a wet area you can plant your onions in a mounded row to keep them from getting too wet risking moldy onions.
READ: HOW TO GROW HUGE ONIONS IN A WET AREA
How to grow: Onions require quite a bit of water so you will want to compensate with extra watering if you live in a dry location.
What to watch for: Weeds can quickly overtake onions especially when they are first growing. Weed frequently and use a mulch to help give your onions a weed-free location to grow.
If the weather is very hot onions may bolt. Bolt is when a flower is formed at the top of the plant and if left too long can cause your onions to become bitter. If this happens quickly cut off the flowering plant and pick the onion to use right away. Once bolt occurs it is basically done growing but it is still good to use and will taste just fine.
How to harvest: When the green part of the plant begins to turn brown that is your cue to harvest. Dig your plants up with a hand shovel or gently pull them from the ground. Allow freshly picked onions to lay in the sun to dry making the soil on them easier to remove. After they are completely dried you can remove the excess soil, trim the green of the plant to the base of the onion and trim off any roots.
You will want to give a bit more drying out time to any onions that still seem overly wet.
Once your onions are completely dry, you ca. store them in a mesh bag or chop an freeze.
If you are brand new to gardening this list will give you all you need to get growing this season. Each year add a few more plants so you can find just what you and your family love the most.
Always be sure to keep track of what you plant, how you planted it, where you planted it and how it did. These records are crucial to a successful garden year after year and a step I encourage you not to skip over.
And, of course, keep this first time gardener vegetables list close by too!