Growing your own vegetables is rewarding, healthy and fun. But it can be daunting knowing how and where to start. Should you start with beans or onions? Courgettes or asparagus? While it’s a good idea to grow what you like to eat, it’s also worth paying attention to how easy a crop is to grow. So, if aubergines are your favourite vegetable, why not try growing them in your second veg-growing year, as they can be tricky to grow?
Instead, it’s best to grow crops that require little maintenance, are ready to harvest within a short time, and suffer few pests and diseases. These include crops like courgettes, beans, beetroot, rocket, radish, chillies and potatoes.
How to grow vegetables
Choose a sheltered, sunny spot for growing veg. Exceptions to this rule include salad leaves and some herbs, which can bolt (run to seed) in full sun, and therefore do better in partial shade. Prepare the soil by removing weeds and adding well-rotted compost or manure, and rake level.
Only grow what you have space for. If you don’t have a large garden you can grow salad crops in window boxes, pots or growing bags. Don’t grow plants too closely together and prick out if necessary – always follow the spacing suggestions on the seed packet.
Deter slugs and snails using physical barriers such as copper tape. If possible, start off vulnerable plants, such as salad leaves and courgettes, indoors, and plant them out when they’re big enough to withstand attack. Use wildlife-friendly slug pellets (made using iron phosphate) as a last resort.
Water plants thoroughly and stake if necessary, to stop them flopping over.
More on growing vegetables:
Browse our list of the best beginner vegetables to grow, below.
Beetroot can be sown direct into shallow drills in the soil, and are ready to harvest within a few weeks. ‘Boltardy’ is a popular and reliable globe-shaped beetroot. It has good resistance to bolting (running to seed), making it a perfect choice for beginner growers. It produces medium-sized roots, with smooth skin and deep red flesh.
Find out all you need to know about growing beetroot in our beetroot Grow Guide.
Salad leaves like rocket and oak-leaf lettuce can be sown in pots and harvested on a cut-and-come-again basis, so you don’t need to tend the plants for long. You can buy several salad leaf varieties to sow together to make a colourful salad.
Find out all you need to know in our salad leaves Grow Guide.
Bush tomatoes are easier to grow than cordon varieties, as they don’t need supporting and their side shoots do not require pricking out. Bush tomatoes grow well in a hanging basket or pot, both in a greenhouse and outdoors.
Find out all you need to know about growing tomatoes in our tomato Grow Guide.
Potatoes are easy to grow – simply plant them in the ground or an old compost bag, cover the leaves with soil when they first appear (known as ‘earthing up’), and harvest a few weeks later. Early potatoes (planted in early April) can be harvested in July, before hot, humid weather increases the threat of potato blight. ‘Red Duke of York’ is an attractive red-skinned variety and ‘Anya’ has long tubers with a nutty taste.
Find out more about growing potatoes in our potato Grow Guide.
Peas can be easy to grow. Choose a compact variety, such as ‘Half Pint’, that doesn’t require staking. They can even be grown in a container. The young tips can be trimmed and added to salads for a delicious spring treat, and are followed by flowers and pods.
Learn more about growing peas in our pea Grow Guide.
Radish seeds are fairly large, so they are easy to sow and don’t need thinning out. They’re ready to harvest within just a few weeks. Radish ‘French Breakfast’ has crisp, oval, red and white roots while ‘Scarlet Globe’ is bright scarlet with white flesh.
Miners’ lettuce/winter purslane
Miners’ lettuce is so easy to grow it has naturalised in some areas of the UK. It provides a steady salad crop from October until March, and tastes similar to spinach.
Find out how to grow winter salad.
Japanese and Chinese salad leaves
Japanese leafy crops such as mizuna and mibuna and Chinese mustard can be grown as cut-and-come-again leaves. They require little attention and will provide you with a variety of flavours, colours and textures to enjoy in stir fries and salads. They may be grown in containers or in the ground.
Watch Monty Don sow Japanese and Chinese leaves for winter.
Chillies grow well in containers on a window sill or in a warm, sunny position outside. They have similar growing requirements to bush tomatoes and will continue to crop until the first frosts in autumn.
Find out more in our chillies Grow Guide.
Courgettes are renowned for producing an abundant crop from just a few plants. For the best results, grow your courgettes in fertile ground and water regularly, picking the courgettes when they’re no longer than 10cm. ‘Defender’ F1 is a British variety, ideal for small spaces, and is resistant to cucumber mosaic virus.
Read more in our courgette Grow Guide.