When you’re just starting out as a newcomer to organic gardening, it’s great to get some successes on the board as soon as possible. I’ve put this list together of my top 10 easiest veggies to grow to encourage you to give it a go. Once you discover how easy it is to grow your own delicious, healthy veggies, you’ll be scratching your head wondering why you didn’t try it sooner.
So start out with these, then when you’ve had success you can research other veggies, fruits and nuts that you want to try. Always bear in mind the climate zone you live in so that you are working with Mother Nature.
Radishes are probably the easiest vegetable to start out with. They thrive in all climates, all year round in temperate zones. The other great thing about them is that they mature really quickly, from seed to eating in as little as 4 or 5 weeks.
They rarely have any pest or disease problems because they grow so quickly.
If you’ve already enriched the soil with organic compost all you need do is keep the water up to them, especially in hot, dry weather – mulch in summer, but not in winter. If you’ve used plenty of seed you may need to thin them as they get bigger. Pick them as soon as they’re a reasonable size or they become woody.
Silverbeet, Spinach or Swiss Chard
This group of vegetables are related and are also quite easy to grow. Spinach grows best in cooler climates, but silverbeet will grow all year round in temperate zones.
If you’re growing them from seed, soak them overnight. Sow seeds about 30cm (12 inches) apart by placing them on the soil surface and poking with your finger to the depth of about 1cm (half inch). Cover with soil and water in well.
Keep them well watered in hot weather and apply organic fertilizer every month, giving them an occasional feed with an organic liquid fertilizer. Mulching with compost or pea-straw will help conserve water, control weeds and feed your soil.
When the leaves are big enough to use, pick from the outside making sure you leave at least 5 or 6 stalks in the centre for the plant to continue growing.
Capsicum (peppers) and Chillies
These plants are also related to each other and enjoy the same growing conditions. They are a warm climate vegetable and will not set fruit if the overnight temperatures are too low. You can grow both capsicum and chillies in pots.
You may need to stake capsicum for wind protection if you grow them vigorously, as they can reach up to 80cm (30inches).
Sow in seed boxes in spring. When your seedlings have reached 15cm (6inches), transplant them into beds prepared with compost at about 50cm (20inches) apart.
Fertilize with organic pellets every 4 or 5 weeks when they start to flower. Make sure you don’t over do it, or you will end up with very healthy plants with lots of leaves, but very little fruit.
You can harvest capsicum at any time, but if you wait for the fruit to turn red (they all start out green) they have much higher amounts of vitamin C.
Leave chillies on the plant to mature, then they can be harvested and used fresh. If you want to dry some just leave them in a dark, dry, airy place for several weeks. They will store well in glass jars for many years. Remember never to touch your eyes after handling chillies as it is very painful. Wash your hands thoroughly.
Tomatoes will grow in most soils and all but the coldest climates. And cherry tomatoes are the easiest to grow, so they suit new gardeners perfectly. They will even grow well as tub specimens. It’s not essential to stake them, provided you don’t mind them sprawling around the place a bit.
They are frost tender, so you can start them indoors if your area has late frosts. When your seedlings get to 15 – 20cm (6-8inches), transplant them into their permanent position, whether it be tub or ground. If you are going to stake them, get your stakes in first so you don’t damage their young root system. Tomatoes (unlike most plants) actually benefit from being planted deeper than they were in the seedling box. You can even bury the bottom leaves. This actually benefits the plant as they grow roots right up to the soil surface, giving it more stability and accessibility to water and nutrients.
If growing them in the ground, give them at least 50cm (20inches) spacing.
Deep water you plants regularly and give a thick layer of mulch.
Providing you’re planting your tomatoes in a compost-rich soil, you will only need to liquid fertilize when fruiting starts. Use a good organic liquid manure such as Seasol or Maxicrop and use as a foliar spray.
Pick your tomatoes as they ripen, to encourage more fruit.
You will find zucchini one of the easiest vegetables to grow, with amazing yields. They just keep giving! Zucchini are part of the cucumber / melon / pumpkin family and enjoy a warm growing season.
Sow 2 or 3 seeds directly into a mound of richly composted soil in late spring, or after frosts are over. You can train zucchini to grow up a trellis or fence, which can help prevent powdery mildew. When the seedlings are about 10cm (4inches) tall, gently pull out all but the strongest plant.
You’ll need about 3 or 4 mounds (plants) to feed a family of 4 – 6. Give them plenty of water and add organic fertilizer every 4 weeks or so. When the zucchini reach between 15 and 20 cm (6-8inches) it’s time to pick them. They can grow really quickly – literally overnight – so keep a vigilant eye on them otherwise you’ll end up with inedible veggies. You also want to pick them as they’re ready to keep the yields high.
Pumpkins are known for being easy to grow. Belonging to the same family as zucchini, they grow in similar conditions. Again plant seeds in mounds and keep the strongest seedling. Have your mounds about a metre (yard) apart.
Mulch around the mound and keep the water up to them in really hot and dry weather. Feed every 3 weeks with well rotten manure or mature compost.
Here’s where the difference comes in. You need to leave pumpkins on the vine to fully mature. Wait until the vines have died off before harvesting (somewhere between 14 & 20 weeks). Before any chance of frost, harvest by cutting the stems at least 5cm (2inches) from the pumpkin.
Store in a dry place until needed.
Leeks and Spring Onions
Spring onions and leeks are in the Allium family and grow in very similar conditions. You can grow in seed raising mix or seed directly where they are to grow. If you grow seeds in punnets you can transplant seedlings when they are about 20cm (8inches) tall into well prepared beds (they like a little lime if your soil is acidic), about 20cm apart.
Some people like to “blanch” the stems of leeks to keep them white, but I don’t bother. All you really need to do for leeks and spring onions is give them plenty of water, mulch to keep the weeds down and the soil moist and apply organic fertilizer every few weeks.
Harvest when leeks are about 2cm (an inch) thick, and spring onions as they become big enough.
Bush or Dwarf Beans
There are many different varieties of beans to choose from. When you’re starting out, go for the bush or dwarf varieties. Grow these beans in warm weather as beans don’t like the cold (unless you’re growing broad beans – different story).
Fertilize along the row where your beans are to grow. Don’t let your bean seeds come into direct contact with your organic fertilizer. Sow your beans directly where they are to grow, into damp soil and avoid watering near them for the first few days. (Don’t soak seeds before planting).
Space rows at 60cm (24inches) and push seeds about 2cm (an inch) into the soil, 10cm (4inches) apart. A row about 3 or 4 metres (yards) long should be enough for a family of 5.
To get a continuous supply of beans, start your next sowing when the first crop has grown their first true leaves. Feed with a liquid organic fertilizer when flowering starts. Remember to harvest your beans while they’re young and tender. They taste better this way, but more importantly, they will give you much better yields.
If you want to save your own seeds, leave the healthiest pods on the bush until they have completely dried. Then pick and pod them, storing in a dry place until next season. Remember to label them.
Peas will yield heavily if you give them what they need. And they are so delicious! Most varieties love the same conditions. Plant in late summer through to late winter, providing your soil is still workable. Peas like a higher pH than most vegetables, so add some lime into the soil along with mature compost or organic fertilizer.
Provide support by giving them something to climb up. Plant seeds every 5cm (2inches) in a well-drained soil with a sunny position and provide support with small sticks or similar until they reach what you want to grow them on.
Keep down any weeds with good organic mulch. Feed with an organic liquid fertilizer every 3 or 4 weeks. Keep moist in dry weather. Pick regularly to increase yields. Save seed the same as you would beans.
I love growing beetroot. It’s so easy to grow – but let me say this up front; it’s quite different from the tinned supermarket kind.
Plant throughout spring and summer. Add lime to your soil a couple of weeks before planting if your soil is a bit acid. Take your seeds and soak them overnight. Sow directly in the soil, about 1cm (half inch) deep and 30cm (12inches) apart. Cover lightly with soil and water them in. If you want a continuous supply, plant your next crop every 2 – 3 weeks.
At about 4 or 5 weeks, give them a feed with organic liquid fertilizer. You pull your beets when they have grown to about 6 to 8 cm (2 to 3 inches) in diameter, roughly 8 to 10 weeks after planting. Don’t leave them to grow huge as they just become tough and woody.
The young leaves are great in a salad. I love to roast or boil them. They make great juice when added to apple and carrot. I’ve also pickled them and turned them into soup – very unusual, but delicious.
So there you have it – the 10 easiest veggies to grow. If you’re short on garden space you can try growing some of these in pots. You just need to remember to make sure you water when needed.
I wish you every success in getting started gardening organically. If you already garden, have a go at getting your kids (or grandkids) to try growing these veggies themselves. You’ll be surprised at how much more eager they are to eat something they’ve grown themselves.