Many new gardeners fantasize about harvesting basket upon basket of beautiful produce from their garden, some even before they’ve ever planted their first seed. Such a fantasy is possible, but it’s more likely to become a reality if you choose the right plants for your inexperienced gardening efforts.
Some veggies are pickier than others. Eggplant, for example, needs regular fertilizing and pruning while it’s taking its sweet, sweet time producing any actual fruit. Trying to grow eggplants right out of the gardening gate is a great way for a first-time gardener to end up with nothing to show for their efforts.
No surprise then that our top recs for your first vegetable garden don’t include eggplants. Instead, we’re highlighting plants that are more forgiving of soil type, infrequent watering, pest pressure, and even a bit of neglect. These veggies also have a proven track record of success in Central Texas, so you can be certain that with a little care, you’ll soon be harvesting lots of delicious things you grew yourself.
A list of the easiest vegetables to grow:
2. Leafy greens
3. Beans and peas
4. Roots (beets, radishes) and fruit (cucumbers, tomatoes)
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
HERBS ARE EASY VEGETABLES TO GROW IN CONTAINERS
Herbs make great starter plants before you branch out to more difficult vegetables. Herbs are easy to plant and grow, and they can thrive in partial shade. They have shallow roots and grow more upright than out, which means they don’t need a lot of space. These are the ideal plants to grow in pots or containers on your balcony or even on a sunny windowsill.
The best way to get started is to buy herb plants from the store and harvest leaves right away. You can cut from mature herbs again and again, and they’ll just grow more leaves for you—they’re the plants that keep on giving!
Some of our favorite herbs that grow well here in Central Texas are basil, mint, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, and green onions. With the exception of basil, many of these herbs can stay evergreen all winter long if you give them a little protection from frost. That means the herb harvest can keep on coming year round.
(Learn more about how fast herbs can grow.)
Tips to find success with herbs:
Herbs and container gardens are made for each other. Find a container that’s at least 6 inches deep and that has a drainage hole. Fill it with sandy soil and compost, and plant your herbs every 3 to 4 inches.
The fastest way to feel like a gardener is to get to skip past the overpriced herb leaves at the grocery store because you have your own growing at home.
LEAFY GREENS ARE THE PERFECT VEGETABLES TO GROW FOR BEGINNERS
Even garden newbies can grow their own salad crops right in their backyard. Here in Austin, we can grow a cool-weather crop like lettuce or spinach over our winter months, and when our cool growing season is over, arugula, mizuna, and New Zealand spinach will push into even our hottest months.
These plants grow quickly, and there are tons of different varieties you can explore, with some ready to harvest just 30 days from planting. Grab a seed packet of your favorite type of lettuce or shake it up with a mesclun mix for salad leaves you literally can’t buy at the store.
Tips to find success with leafy greens:
These plants like growing in rich soil, so fill a container or raised bed with potting soil mixed with organic matter, or even just straight compost. Find more tips for growing leafy greens here.
If you have space to grow larger leafy greens, Swiss chard is the ideal veggie for busy or inexperienced gardeners. Native to the Mediterranean, it can tolerate poor soil, water, and even sun conditions, though it flourishes in full sun.
With proper care, Swiss chard can live for two years in your garden and give you so many delicious, nutrient-packed leaves.
BEANS AND PEAS ARE EASY VEGETABLES TO GROW
Beans are fast growers that not only grow well in poor soil, they actually improve your soil by fixing nitrogen. Choose between growing bush varieties or, if you have a trellis to support them, pole beans.
We love growing lima beans, black-eyed peas, and asparagus beans in warmer months, while peas are great to grow in the cooler months. Our favorite type of pea is sugar snap peas.
If you grow a pole variety up a trellis and keep it picked when it’s producing pods, you’ll be amazed at how much you can harvest from even a small garden.
ROOT VEGETABLES AND FRUITING PLANTS ARE EASY VEGETABLES TO GROW IN TEXAS
Radishes are one of the fastest veggies you can grow, reaching maturity in just 30 to 50 days, which is great when you need an early garden win. Beets and carrots can take a bit longer to grow. You might need a bit more patience as you wait on them, but they are so worth it.
Once you’ve gotten some garden experience under your belt, it’s time to try fruiting plants like cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Unlike rooting crops, these plants do better in our warmer months.
Here in Austin, we actually get two seasons to grow tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, so you’ve got double the chances each year to give these fun veggies a try. We recommend beginner gardeners start with cherry tomatoes and hot or sweet peppers (not bell peppers) since larger fruits take longer to grow and tend to have more issues.
Tips to find success with these crops:
Make sure you’ve got some kind of support structure like a trellis if you’re planning on growing tomato plants or cucumbers. You’ll need to make sure you’re giving roots and fruiting plants at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
FLOWERS ARE EASY TO GROW IN SUNNY CENTRAL TEXAS
We know you came here for veggies, but flowers are actually an essential part of a healthy garden (plus, some are edible!). The right flowers in your garden can increase your veggie harvests, discourage weeds and pests, and help the ecosystem. (Discover more reasons to add flowers to your veggie garden here.)
Some of our favorite flowers to grow here in Central Texas are alyssum, blue salvia, calendula, cosmos, globe amaranth, marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, petunias, sunflowers, and zinnias. Why limit yourself to a green thumb when you can grow flowers in every color of the rainbow?
TIPS TO GROW VEGETABLES FOR BEGINNERS
Here are some tips to give even the most inexpert of gardeners success in their veggie garden.
Pay attention to light
Ideally, your vegetable garden will be in a sunny spot, meaning it receives at least 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight every day. If your garden gets less than that (like 4 to 6 hours), you can still grow lots of delicious plants—just stick with herbs and leafy greens since fruiting plants typically require the most light to form their flowers and then fruits.
Plants love regular water delivered right to their roots. Getting the watering right for your garden can mean the difference between stressed-out plants that invite pests to your garden and fail to produce, and healthy, flourishing plants.
We install drip irrigation systems in all of our gardens to help beginner gardeners nail this critical component of veggie gardening.
Grow what you like to eat
It’s best to keep your first growing experiences simple. Make a list of your favorite herbs, leaves, and veggies to eat, and prioritize growing them instead of trying to fit everything in your garden. This way, you won’t become overwhelmed with trying to track the growing preferences and time to maturity for 20 different plants.
Grow in a raised bed
Raised beds increase the convenience of tending your garden, maximize your productivity, and protect your plants from pests. They’re also key to providing the good drainage that’s so important to plant health. You’re way more likely to find beginner gardener success in a raised bed than in an in-ground garden or a bunch of different pots.
(Learn more about why raised beds are important to your growing success here.)
Start with good soil
Garden soil is second only to sunlight when it comes to success in your veggie garden, but unfortunately, Central Texas does not provide us with naturally fantastic soil. Most of what you’ll find in your backyard is filled with clay or too many rocks. While that may be good enough for some flowers and shrubs, veggies need something a bit better to thrive and give you lots of tasty produce.
If you let Lettuce Grow Something help you with your raised bed installation, we’ll fill your garden with our special blend of soil that’s proven to nourish plants in this climate.
(Read more about why soil is so important for growing veggies here.)
Don’t freak out if you notice bugs in your garden, even if they’re chewing holes in your leaves. Pests are a natural part of even the healthiest of gardens. The best way to keep pests from becoming a major issue is by checking on your garden daily and keeping your plants as healthy as possible. Healthy plants are much better able to defend themselves from attack than stressed-out, thirsty ones. (Learn more about how you can deter pests here.)
LETTUCE HELP YOU GROW
Don’t forget to check out the Central Texas Monthly Planting Guide
The Central Texas Monthly Planting Guide will help show you what to plant each month along with some helpful tips. Each month includes planting times every two weeks and will help guide you whether to start by seed or plant seedlings you have grown yourself or purchased from your local nursery. Having this guide at your fingertips will help you each year as you are learning and growing in Central Texas.
At Lettuce Grow Something, we love helping gardeners of all levels find success in their kitchen gardens. From planning to designing, maintaining to harvesting, we’ll be by your side with insider advice and some useful tips and tricks for Austin’s weather. Find more tips to increase your success in your garden.
If you’re ready to get started, CLICK HERE TO GROW WITH US.