If you're planting a garden for the first time, it's good to know what vegetables are generally easiest to grow from seed. Don't be afraid to challenge yourself with more advanced vegetables, but remember that most beginning gardeners have a steep learning curve. Also, remember that pest and disease pressures vary greatly from region to region, and that climactic differences make crops that are difficult in one place easy to grow in another. This list is based primarily on gardening in central Virginia, where we're located. One criteria we've used in making this list is that all the crops on it are suitable for sowing directly into your garden. Some are also suitable for transplanting. See our Vegetable Growing Guides for crop-specific growing instructions.
Lettuce can be sown directly in your garden bed, or started indoors for transplanting. It's one of the few crops that can be grown all year in our climate, but in hot weather it should be shaded and harvested at smaller sizes.
Snap, snow, and shelling peas are all best sown as early as the soil can be worked in spring. You can eat your pea shoots and flowers as well! Taller varieties should be supported with a trellis or by planting along a fence.
Salad radishes can be harvested in as little as 24 days after planting, and can be inter-planted with slower-growing vegetables. Winter storage radishes will keep for months in the fridge or root cellar. You can plant radishes as soon as you can work the soil in the spring.
Turnips produce abundant harvests even in small spaces.
Beans can bear well even in relatively poor soils, thanks to the nitrogen-fixing microbes they associate with. Bush varieties don't require trellising, but pole varieties provide a more extended harvest. In cool areas, snap beans are easiest. In hot areas, lima beans, southern peas, and asparagus beans are also very easy to grow.
Sweet potatoes grow vigorously in warm weather. The tubers can be stored for months at room temperature. We ship sweet potato slips in late spring, separately from other items. Be sure to plant them soon after they arrive.
Winter Squash, including Pumpkins
Fast-growing squash plants are fairly easy to keep weeded. You can harvest all your winter squash at once. Look for (C. moschata) after the variety name in our catalog or on our website, especially if you're in the South. These varieties are the most resistant to squash vine borers. Very young squash plants may need protection from cucumber beetles; garden blankets are a good protection option. You can also cook and eat the young leaves, growing tips, and flowers of your squash plants.
If your climate has enough heat, okra plants will get huge and provide you with lots of tender young pods. Harvest every day or every other day wearing long sleeves.
We've had chard plants last for a year-and-a-half on our farm when there's been a mild winter. Stems and leaves can both be cooked. Tender young leaves can be used in salads.
Kale tolerates an impressive range of temperatures and is sweetest after frost. It can be harvested at many different stages, and the buds and flowers are edible, too! Mustards and collards are closely related to kale and are also easy to grow.
Though it grows slowly in cold weather, spinach is probably the easiest vegetable to grow through the winter.