Homegrown food can be easy to grow
When starting your first garden, keep it simple with these easy to grow fruit, herbs, and vegetables. All of them produce with minimal effort and produce a lot for the space they take up.
Are you interested in growing your own produce but don’t know where to begin? Some fruits and vegetables are easier to grow than others so are perfect for those just starting out. Avoid getting overwhelmed by keeping it simple and sticking to tasty varieties that give a lot for the least amount of effort. Many of them are perennial, which mean that they come back year after year without having to be re-sown.
I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t love strawberries! These juicy red (and sometimes white) fruits grow from small plants that need very little in the way of care before they begin producing fruit. One of my favourite ways to have strawberries is in Pavlova but Strawberry & Rhubarb pie is high on the list too. If there’s one easy to grow fruit that should be on your gardening plan, it’s strawberries!
Buy plants in spring and plant them in rich soil and a sunny location either in the garden or this Strawberry Pallet Planter. Mulch around the plant with straw, compost, or fabric to keep weeds down. Alternatively, here are instructions on how to best plant a strawberry pot.
Strawberries are perennial. Each strawberry plant will survive indefinitely but is most productive in the first three years. After three years have passed, replace plants with new ones.
Bird and slugs will be your worst enemy so make sure to protect ripening fruit with netting and to keep the fruit from touching the ground. Use straw, cardboard, or old egg cartons to keep the fruit elevated. Berries from most plants will ripen in June but you can also purchase Everbearing varieties that produce berries throughout the summer.
If you have a bit of outdoor space and you like raspberries, GO NOW and plant a row. They grow in shade, sun, or a combination of the two and require hardly any work. Eating the sun-warmed berries off the plant is the best way to have them followed second by fresh berry Pavlova.
You can plant potted-plants anytime of the year but the most common way to begin growing raspberries is with bareroot canes. They’ll look like rooted sticks and will need to be soaked in water and then planted out in early spring. Plant them a couple of feet apart in well manured ground and make sure to give them a support to grow against. A layer of composted manure every year in spring will give them the nutrients the plant needs to be a big producer.
Raspberries are perennial. Raspberries will faithfully come back year after year but you need to prune them. Also, they can be a little invasive and it’s not uncommon to see a new raspberry plant shoot up where it’s not supposed to.
There are two main types: Summer fruiting and Autumn fruiting. Beginners should stick with Autumn fruiting since it makes pruning easy – all you need to do is cut all the withered canes off of the plant in February. Pruning summer fruiting canes is a little bit more involved.
3. Baby Lettuce & Salad Greens
Salad greens are so easy to grow that you’ll wince every time you need to buy it from the shop. For the same cost of a bag or two of greens you can get a packet of ‘Cut-and-Come Again’ seeds that will give you crop after crop of fresh salad.
Baby lettuce & greens grow well in containers and I wrote a more detailed piece on it here. Lettuce seeds are small and are best sprinkled on the top of soil and then just barely covered with more soil – think less than a millimeter. Sow after the last frost if doing so outdoors, keep well watered, and cut the leaves with scissors when they are three or four inches tall. They’ll regrow again after about a month. Lettuce will grow in partially shady places as well as sunnier ones but in the heat of summer it does have a tendency to ‘bolt’, or produce flowers.
Lettuces are annuals. Once the lettuce plants aren’t producing, compost them and sow more seeds. They’ll last a few months before being spent.
You can create your own customized blend of baby greens by purchasing different varieties such a beet greens, mizuna, rocket, and different lettuce mixes.
I feel like a kid every time I dig up potatoes – it’s like being on a treasure hunt! Potatoes come in hundreds of varieties under these three main categories: ‘Early’, ‘Second Early’, and ‘Maincrop’. The category just lets you know when they’re ready for harvest. The most easy to grow are Early potatoes and youu dig them up in May or June. Maincrops are harvested towards the end of summer.
Potatoes come in a wide range of colour, flavour, shape, and purpose but I recommend you stick with those in the early potato group (such as Yukon Gold) for your first try – they harvest quickly and are the most tender.
Potato ‘seed’ are just small potatoes that are bred for planting. You can grow them in the ground or in containers but spuds are heavy feeders and will need plenty of rich compost or manure and plenty of water.
Plant each seed potato about 2-3″ under the soil after the last frost. Within weeks you’ll see leaves starting to grow and you’ll let them continue to grow until they’re about 4″ tall. Then you cover the plant completely with soil and compost. As the leaves grow up again, repeat and do this a in total about two to three times to encourage the plant to grow more potatoes – this is called ‘Earthing up’. Early potatoes are ready to harvest when the plant starts to flower. There’s detailed information on how to know when they’re ready to harvest over here.
Potatoes are technically Perennial. Potatoes grow from tubers and if you leave them in the ground they’ll come up again time after time. However, potatoes can attract disease so it’s best to plant new seed potatoes every year.
Keep the ground/soil under your plants mulched with straw or grass clippings. Potato plants will produce tubers very shallowly and any that are exposed to the sun will turn green. Once they’re green they should not be eaten since they can make people sick.
These may be the easiest to grow on the list! Once sown, the seeds take only about 4-8 weeks to transform into crunchy globes of goodness which means that you can grow them in the same space as plants that take longer to harvest. You could even grow them on the tops of potato rows as long as you’ve finished ‘earthing’ the spuds up.
Sow the seeds (such as these organic Cherry radishes) in either a block or in a row, spacing them out about 1/4″ apart. They should only have the lightest sprinkling of soil covering them. Keep well watered and thin the plants out to an inch apart as they grow. Harvest when the root is swollen, and of the size you’d see at the supermarket.
Radishes are annual. Each plant will bolt and produce loads of seeds if it’s left in the ground. If you wait too long before harvesting and you notice a stalk and potential flower starting to grow then you should compost the whole plant as the root will toughen up and not be pleasant to eat.
There are two categories of radish – spring and winter. Spring radishes take a lot less time to grow and are the ones you’ll probably be most familiar with. Winter types can be huge more flavoursome but need a longer growing time.
I grow my chives in a blue pot about three steps from my kitchen door. Whenever I need a handful I walk out with scissors and snip what I need. I then use the same scissors to cut the chives into small pieces to sprinkle in salads, pasta, or on baked potatoes. They’re an absolute must for a foodie’s first garden.
You can grow chives from seed but it’s easier to just get a small plant. Plant it in the ground or in a pot that has plenty of rich compost and composted manure in the soil. Keep well watered and you’ll have tender oniony greens all spring and summer long!
Chives are perennial. Once you plant it, Chives will regrow year after year. They’ll die down in the late Autumn but don’t fear, they’ll be ready to shoot up again in late spring.
The plant will look so pretty with its purple flowers but take a deep breath and cut! It will grow back again and the whole point of growing edibles is to eat them. If you’d like an ornamental chive plant, grow one specifically for this purpose.
I once saw a tv show about abandoned 19th century villages in Scotland – the only thing that remained was the rhubarb that they planted all those years ago! So you shouldn’t be surprised to know that once you have it in the ground it’s virtually indestructible and requires very little care. Use the first pink stalks in spring crumbles and desserts but early in the summer make sure to make Rhubarb Wine.
Plant your rhubarb in an area that gets at least partial sun – they will grow in the shade but prefer a bit of light. They don’t need much to survive but if you want a good strong plant then mulch them with compost or manure every spring. Rhubarb seeds do grow true (I know because I’ve grown them this way) but the easiest way to get a plant started is with a ‘crown’ or small plant. If you have a friend who grows rhubarb, it’s likely that they’ll give you a piece of theirs for free since the plant needs dividing up every couple of years anyway. Otherwise get one from a garden center or order online. My favourite variety is Victoria.
Rhubarb is perennial. The stalks and leaves will die down every year but will re-grow in early spring.
This is one plant that probably won’t do well in a pot so plan to grow it somewhere in the garden. Also, please beware that Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and should not be eaten. They’re fine for the compost heap though.