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Ten Easy Vegetables to Direct Sow in Your Garden

Grow These Crops from Seed for a Full Season of Garden-Fresh Vegetables


Growing your vegetables from seed is the most economical way to start a garden. Some vegetables are definitely easier than others. The plants on this list don't require grow lights or heating mats, and germinate easily in ordinary garden soil.

1. Leaf Lettuce

Colleen Vanderlinden
Leaf lettuce is easy to grow, and, if you're sure to sow a bit more seed every week or two, you'll have a constant supply for salads and sandwiches throughout the season. Simply scatter the seed, cover with fine layer of soil or compost, and keep moist. You'll be harvesting dainty, flavorful leaves in about three weeks.

2. Spinach

'Bloomsdale Long Standing' Spinach
Colleen Vanderlinden
Spinach is rich in nutrients and antioxidants, perfect raw in salads or cooked in a huge variety of dishes. As a bonus, it's also easy to grow. Plant spinach in full sun to part shade, and water regularly. Fertilizing with fish emulsion every two weeks is also a good idea. It is best to harvest spinach young, when the leaves are about two to three inches long. To keep it from bolting in summer heat, try planting a heat-tolerant variety like 'Bloomsdale Long Standing.' As with lettuce, sow a fresh crop every few weeks.

3. Zucchini

'Black Beauty' zucchini
Colleen Vanderlinden
You could start these indoors, but why? These prolific plants germinate very well once the soil has warmed a bit. Direct sow them after your last frost date. They'll germinate in approximately ten days. While often a very easy-care plant, zucchini is sometimes afflicted with a couple of issues. Squash vine borers can sometimes attack a plant, and vines will start dying for no apparent reason. Slicing into the stem will often reveal the borer. The other issue is powdery mildew,which is easier to deal with if it caught at the beginning stages.

4. Radishes

Colleen Vanderlinden
Sow these anytime after the soil can be worked to enjoy in salads and on crudite platters. Be sure to give them even moisture, since inadequate moisture causes them to be fibrous and woody. The greens are also edible, and, if harvested when they are about two inches long, provide a slightly peppery zing to salads and sandwiches. Radishes can be grown in a typical garden as well as in containers.

5. Kale

'Red Russian' kale
Colleen Vanderlinden
My favorite kale is 'Lacinato' also known as "dinosaur kale." While kale is usually considered to be a cold season crop, I grow it successfully throughout the summer, harvesting the largest leaves fairly regularly. Young leaves are delicious raw in salads, and mature leaves can be cooked like spinach or added to soups. Another great variety, especially if you are looking for ornamental value, is 'Red Russian,' which has a mild taste and pink-ribbed, bluish-gray foliage.

6. Beets

Colleen Vanderlinden
Beets can be grown for both the roots and the greens, which are edible. They're very pretty in salads, and provide a bit of sweetness when mixed with other baby greens. Grow beets in loose soil, and keep them evenly moist; beets that are allowed to dry out often develop woody roots. Beets can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in spring, and sown every two weeks or so throughout the season (especially if growing them for the greens rather than the roots.) Please note that each beet seed is actually a cluster of seeds, so you'll have to do some thinning when the greens are a couple inches long. Thin to approximately two inches apart.

7. Swiss Chard

Swiss chard
Colleen Vanderlinden
This is another green that grows well all summer in my zone 6 garden. Varieties such as 'Bright Lights' are just as beautiful as they are tasty. Chard does very well in containers as well as in traditional garden beds. It can be eaten sauteed like spinach, and the stalks can be eaten raw like celery or used as a celery substitute in many dishes. Give chard even moisture and harvest the outer stalks regularly to keep your plant producing all summer long. Chard appreciates a dose of fish emulsion every two to three weeks.

8. Beans

Pole beans
Colleen Vanderlinden
Whether you choose pole beans or bush beans, they are super-simple to grow. You often see recommendations to treat the seed with a bit of legume innoculant to increase yields, but in all honesty I seem to end up with too many beans even when I don't add the innoculant. Plant them after soil has warmed. Pole beans should be planted about six inches apart; bush beans can be planted three to four inches apart. You will need to provide a trellis if you plan to grow pole beans, which will reach six feet tall or more. Keep them evenly moist, and harvest the beans when they are thin and tender. Be sure to harvest regularly. Both bush and pole beans are prolific, and you may well end up with more than you can use. Luckily, beans freeze well!

9. Peas

Snap peas
Photo by Dan Shirley @stock.xchng
Peas need cool weather to grow well, so they're an ideal spring or fall crop. You can select snow peas, snap peas, or shell peas, but they all have the same basic requirements: cool weather, full sun, trellis or other support to climb on, and even moisture. Plant in spring as soon as the soil can be worked and in fall about eight weeks before your [link url=http://organicgardening.about.com/od/organicgardening101/a/frostdatechart.htm]last frost date.[/link]

10. Cucumbers

Colleen Vanderlinden
Plant cucumbers once your soil has warmed in the spring. You can choose bush or vining types, slicers or pickling cucumbers. You'll need to provide a trellis for vining types, and be sure to give your cucumbers plenty of moisture, because cukes that are allowed to dry out often develop bitter fruits. Certain varieties, such as 'Bushmaster' even grow well in containers. For a different change of pace, try growing heirloom 'Lemon' cucumbers, which grow to lemon-sized yellow-striped fruits. They're delicious, and look great in a salad.
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