How to Choose Plants for Your First Vegetable Garden

You can't keep a plant alive, but you want to have a vegetable garden? No problem! I was definitely curious about which vegetables would be the easiest to grow, so I did a little research, and this is what I found.

  Very few of these are things are included in my article about our First Year Crops at the homestead. Yikes! - Stephanie



I've mentioned this book, time and time again, but The Backyard Homestad was once again, my first stop! So, then you ask, what vegetables does it says are easy to grow?

  • Radishes
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Garlic
  • Leaf Lettuce
  • Snap Peas
  • Swiss Chard
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes 




radishesRadishes are cool weather plants, so they should be planted just as soon as the ground can be prepared in the spring. You can use succession planting (about a week apart) to ensure a constant supply of radishes. Plant should be planted about 1/2 inch deep, and an inch apart. They like full sun, or partial shade in the afternoon. They take about 30 days to harvest. (No fertilizing required)

cucumberCucumbers are a warm-season cropn and that don't tolerate frost. Be sure to add plenty of compost to their soil. They are a vined plant, and they do wonderful on a trellis. They prefer full sun. They should be given a liquid fertilizer when they are in heavy bloom. Plant the seeds directly into their garden beds, because they are sensitive to transplanation. They should be spaced 2 feet apart. Cucumbers are ready for harvest when they are big enough to use - if you harvest a cucumber, and find that the seeds are hardened - it indicates that they were over-ripe.
summer squashSummer Squash is a warm-season crop. They'll do best if you add some compost to their soil. Their seeds will do best if planted when the soil is above 65-degree F (18-degrees C), so plant them 1-2 weeks after the last frost. Plant them 1-inch deep, and 2 feet apart. They prefer full sun, and will do best if you give them a liquid fertilizer when they start to show blossoms/fruit. A general rule for harvest, is that the summer squash can be picked when they're 3-5 inches long.
zucchiniZucchini is a warm-season crop, and it does not tolerate frost. They like their soil to have plenty of compost, and prefer to be in full sun. Plant the seeds 1-inch deep about 2-feet apart. They are ready for harvest when they are about 6-inches in length. 
garlicGarlic is another warm-season crop, but they are frost tolerant. You have a few choices when planting garlic. If you live in a place that does get a hard freeze, then you can plant your garlic 6-8 weeks before the big freeze. If you live in a place that does not get a hard freeze, then you should plant your garlic in late winter (Febuar/March). Simply take a clove off the garlic bulb (leave the husk on), wait a few days, and plant 2 inches deep, and 4 inches apart. Plant with the pointy end of the garlic clove up. They enjoy a life in the full-sun and compost is a must! Remove the flowers that come up in the spring to ensure the biggest bulbs possible. Garlic is ready to harvest when the tops turn yellow around July or August.
lettuceLeaf Lettuce is a cool-season crop, and they will tolerate a slight frost. You'll want to plant these as soon as the soil can be prepared in the spring. Be sure to use plenty of compost, and a soil that is light and moist. They'll do best with partial sun. They should be planted about 0.25-0.50 inches deep, and about 14 inches apart. You may want to plant a fresh row of lettuce every week to keep them going throughout the season. Lettuce should be harvested before is completely mature. To harvest, you can simply remove the outer leaves (which are more mature) and allow the inner leaves to continue to grow. If your lettuce is tough, and bitter - it is over-ripe.
snap peasSnap Peas are a cool season crop. They prefer full-sun or partial sun with afternoon shade. Peas should be planted in the fall with compost. You can also plant them in the spring when the ground is still cool 4-6 weeks before the last frost). Plant about 1-inch deep and 2 inches apart. Peas are ready for harvest when they are bright green, and the skin is smooth - they will feel fat and filled (but there shouldn't be lumps on the surface of the pod). Be sure to pick pods often, to encourage the growth of new pea pods.
swiss chardSwiss Chard does well in both the cool-season and warm-season. It prefers partial or full sun. You can plant the chart 2-3 weeks before the last frost of the spring. Plant the seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep, and about 12 inches apart. You can begin harvest when the plant is 6-8 inches tall. If you fall behind with harvesting, just cut the chard back when it's about 12-inches to keep a good flavor.
kaleKale is cool-season plant that is able to tolerate frost. Plant the seeds about 0.25-0.50 inches deep, and about 12 inches apart. Make sure you plant in soil that drains well. Be sure to offer plenty of water to the kale, but avoid over watering. Harvest kale when the leaves are 6-8 inches in size. Do not harvest the entire kale plant, and be sure to leave the top-most bud on the plant when you harvest. Take 6-8 leaves per harvest.

tomatoesTomatoes are a warm-season crop that does not like frost. They prefer full sun, and lots of compost in the soil. Plant seeds about 1/4 inch deep, and 2-2 feet apart. Use tomato cages or staking to support the plant as it bears fruit. When harvesting tomatoes, you want to harvest when you're ready to eat them.