10 Ridiculously Easy Vegetables to Grow This Spring (Promise!)
Nothing is as amazing as a fresh, crisp cucumber right off the vine or snap beans picked minutes before you steam them for dinner. And why pay for produce that always seems to get icky in your crisper drawer before you remember to use it? Growing your own veggies is easier than you think—and surprisingly satisfying. (“Sweetgreen? Nah, I grew this salad myself.”)
New varieties have been developed to thrive in containers, so you can garden in even the tiniest of spaces on a deck, patio or balcony. To give your plants a good start in life, remember that almost all vegetables need full sun, which is about eight hours of direct sunlight per day; otherwise, plants won’t produce well. And if you’re new at this, start small with a few pots or a single raised bed. It’s better to learn a little before making a huge investment of money (and time), because that garden won’t weed itself!
Here are ten easy vegetables to grow, whether you have a green thumb or are totally green yourself.
1. Gourmet greens
Baby greens such as arugula and mesclun, a mix of lettuce types, are incredibly expensive at the grocery store but a cinch to grow. Greens grow well in planters or window boxes, and you can mix them in with ornamental plants such as marigolds and violas (also edible!).
Planting tip: Sow seeds directly in soil and keep it moist. Greens don’t like the heat, so early spring is the best time to plant.
Harvest: Pick greens when the leaves are a few inches long, in as little as 30 days. Snip off leaves rather than pulling so you don’t inadvertently yank up the whole plant. That way, you’ll have weeks and weeks of harvest.
Pole beans, which need something to climb, and bush beans, which grow in a more compact form, are super easy and super prolific! They’re pretty, too, especially if you train them to grow up a trellis. (Bonus: Pollinators, like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, love them.)
Planting tip: Sow bean seeds directly in the ground or in containers, as transplants don’t do well.
Harvest: Read the seed label to learn when they’re ready, because each variety takes a different amount of time to mature and you don’t want to wait until they become tough. Also, the more you pick, the more they produce, so check your garden every day once the beans are ready to keep ’em coming.
Most peppers grow well in containers, so they’re a good option for a sunny patio, deck or balcony. Opt for transplants from a local nursery; you won’t have enough time for plants to mature from seed unless you start them indoors eight weeks before the last frost in your area.
Planting tip: Most peppers need staking and steady moisture.
Harvest: It’s fine to pick them when they’re green (and the plants will keep producing better), but they’re sweeter when they’ve ripened to red, yellow or whatever color they’re meant to be. Use a knife or scissors to cut fruit from the stem so you don’t damage the plant.
4. Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomato plants come in many different sizes and shapes these days—some vining types grow up to six feet tall—so check the label before you buy seeds. (Psst, city dwellers: New varieties grow in compact, bushy shapes for containers.) Stick with transplants, which are easier for beginners. Tomatoes love, love, love the heat, so don’t put them in the ground until after the last frost date in your area.
Planting tip: Dig a hole deep enough that two-thirds of the plant’s stem is buried. Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but new roots will grow out of the buried stem to develop a strong root structure.
Harvest: Depending on the variety, pick your tomatoes when they’re red, orange, yellow or whatever color they’re supposed to be—some are even striped! They’ll also feel a little soft to the touch.
If you only have room to grow one type of edible, make it herbs! Herbs are ridiculously expensive in those plastic packages at the store, but growing your own will yield a bountiful harvest all season long. Seeds or plants are both good options.
Planting tip: Grow a combination in a container with annuals such as sweet alyssum. As well as being handy for seasoning food, sage, dill, parsley and rosemary are lovely and fragrant additions to cut bouquets.
Harvest: Snip off leaves as needed, taking from the outer edges of the plant. With careful clipping, your plant will last all summer long. Some herbs, such as chives, sage and thyme, are perennial and will return again next year.
Most types of cucumbers grow on long vines, so they’ll need a cage or trellis to climb; otherwise, they’ll take up most of your garden. Vertical gardening also keeps the fruit off the ground to reduce risk of disease. Look for fun round, miniature or yellow varieties!
Planting tips: Plant directly in the ground after the last frost date in late spring. Seeds are best, as transplants can be finicky.
Harvest: Snip cukes off the vine with scissors; pick anytime they are big enough to use, and don’t wait too long. Little ones are more tender. Yellowing at the blossom end means the fruit is past its prime.
This super hardy green doesn’t mind the cold; some varieties will survive over the winter and green up again next spring. Seeds or transplants are fine, though they prefer cool weather. Plant in late spring (for summer harvest) and again in late summer (for fall harvest).
Planting tip: Some types of kale will last all season long if you give it shade from the heat of summer.
Harvest: Pinch off leaves when small for tender baby kale to eat raw in salads, or let it mature for sautéing or adding to smoothies. The flowers that form also are edible. Kale freezes well, so if you have an abundance, place it in the freezer in a ziplock plastic bag and use it in soups all winter.
8. Bunching onions/scallions
Scallions are some of the easiest veggies of all to grow. Plant from seeds or bulbs, called “sets” (which mature faster), in early spring for a summer harvest. These tend to grow better in the ground than in containers.
Planting tip: Plant them about three inches apart to give them room to form small bulbs.
Harvest: Dig them up with a small garden fork when they’re about a foot tall. Use immediately, as they’re best when ultra fresh.
9. Summer squash
Most squashes are so easy to grow that you’ll probably find yourself with plenty to give away. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, including common types such as zucchini, crookneck and pattypan. They do well grown either from seeds or as transplants, though be careful not to disturb the plants’ roots when setting them in the ground.
Planting tip: Give them plenty of space to creep along the ground or opt for any type with bush or compact in its name.
Harvest: In this case, good things come in small packages: All types are more tender and less “seedy” when harvested on the small side.
Spinach is pricey in stores, so grow a successive crop by planting rows about ten days apart for a few weeks. Spinach prefers cool weather and will withstand light frosts; it will “bolt” or go to seed when the days heat up. Look for varieties that are more heat-resistant if you live in a warmer climate.
Planting tips: Direct sow seeds in mid-spring for spring and early summer harvests; plant again in late summer for a late fall or winter crop.
Harvest: Pinch off baby spinach when it’s a few inches long, or let it mature for sautéing or salads. Remove the other leaves so the plant will keep growing.