Starting a new vegetable garden can be a daunting task. Soil preparation, seed starting, transplanting, pest control --- it's a huge undertaking. Every gardener makes mistakes. We all kill plants, no matter how much experience we have. But you can have a better chance at success by knowing which vegetables require less care and coddling.
With that in mind, here are some of the easiest, most care-free vegetables to grow in your garden.
The Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are nutritious, delicious, and easy to grow. Some are susceptible to pests, and others dislike hot weather, but because they require so little effort to grow, these setbacks are still worth it.
Swiss chard is a delicious relative to the beet. Its dark green leaves are held aloft on tasty, celery-like stalks. The seeds can be sown directly into the garden -- no transplanting required. You can usually keep harvesting Swiss chard all season long, which results in quite a lot of food for very little effort.
Mesclun is simply leaf lettuces that you sow thickly and harvest when they are small, approximately three to four inches tall. To grow mesclun, simply select a prepackaged mesclun seed mix (or make your own, if you want to!) and sprinkle the seeds evenly over a prepared garden bed or container. Then sprinkle a bit of soil on top, keep it watered, and watch it grow. You can usually get three to four good harvests before you'll have to sow fresh seeds.
Radishes are one of the easiest, quickest vegetables to grow. Their large seeds and quick germination time makes them a favorite amongst impatient gardeners everywhere. You can usually harvest radishes in about four weeks, and they'll grow well in all but the very hottest and very coldest weather -- this is a perfect spring and fall vegetable.
Beets are also very easy to grow, and you get two crops from one plant! The roots, which we usually think of when we think of beets, are one crop, but the dark leafy greens are another. Sow beets right in the garden, as soon as your soil can be worked. You can harvest baby beets four to six weeks after sowing, or wait a few weeks longer for larger beets. Just don't let them grow too big -- large beets tend to be tough and woody.
Beans are very easy to grow, especially fresh (green) beans. Whether you choose pole beans or bush beans, the seeds are very easy to sow. Aside from regular watering, bean plants need very little care and are seldom bothered by diseases or insect pests. Pole beans produce a larger crop, but bush beans are great for those gardeners who have to grow in containers or who are just trying to tuck edible plants into whatever space they have.
Summer squash, such as zucchini or pattypan squashes, are a must for any new gardener. One healthy plant will keep you in squash all summer long. Just sow the seeds right into the garden after the soil warms, and watch it grow. Regular watering, and monthly fertilizing with compost tea or fish emulsion is all that is needed to keep squash plants growing strong. Just watch out for squash vine borers, which can be a real pest for gardeners who grow both winter and summer squashes.
The vegetables above all have several things in common: they can be direct-sown, they have few pest and disease problems, and they are not overly fussy about their conditions. Just keep them watered, keep an eye out for any problems, and you'll be well on your way to a bountiful harvest.