Unless you’re into plastic plants, there’s no such thing as a no-maintenance vegetable garden. But, with a little planning, you can choose crops and varieties that are easy to grow. They may be easier to grow because they go from seed to harvest quickly, they produce a reliable harvest, or they’re not often bothered by pests or diseases.
These four vegetables are ideal for those who are new to food gardening or have little time for fussing.
Yellow bush beans were the first vegetable I planted as a child and they’re still one of my favourite crops to grow. They’re also pretty much foolproof, making them perfect for novice gardeners or children. Most go from seed to harvest in 50 to 60 days and produce weeks of tender pods.
While yellow beans are still my go-to type of bush bean, there are many varieties and colours available in seed catalogues. Green snap beans are a standard but purple beans are just as easy to grow and add bold colour to garden beds and containers.
All bush beans can be directly sown after the last expected spring frost. Plant the seeds one inch deep and two inches apart. When the seedlings are several inches tall, thin them to six inches apart.
Love tomatoes? You’re not alone as tomatoes are the number one crop grown in home gardens. And while they are popular, not all types of tomatoes are easy to grow. The large-fruited varieties produce sublime tomatoes, but need months of warm weather to mature those big fruits. Plus, they’re prone to a wide variety of diseases. Instead, boost your success by planting easy-to-grow cherry or grape tomatoes.
Small fruited tomatoes, like sungold, jasper and rapunzel, produce a crop beginning two months from transplanting which means you’ll be enjoying sun-warmed cherry tomatoes by late July. If space is an issue, grow compact varieties that don’t need staking. Otherwise, expect the plants of most types of cherry or grape tomatoes to grow five to six feet tall. I use wooden stakes to keep the plants upright and making harvesting a snap.
Crisp and sweet, homegrown peas are the flavour of spring. The cold hardy seeds can be planted from mid to late spring with a crop of delicious pods ready to pick in just two months or less.
There are three main types of peas: snow peas (which have flat edible pods), shell peas (that have inedible pods filled with plump peas), and snap peas (that have edible pods and peas). While I love all types of peas, it’s sugar snap that is our family favourite. The plants grow five feet tall and bear a heavy crop of delicious pods.
When selecting varieties read the descriptions carefully as some grow just a foot tall while others can top seven feet! Varieties over eighteen inches will need a trellis, netting or other type of support to grow on.
Zucchini is one of the most productive crops to grow but it’s also early maturing and easily cultivated. Direct sow seeds in prepared garden beds after the risk of frost has passed in late spring. The harvest begins just seven to eight weeks later when the young fruits have formed.
There are many varieties to plant with some yielding traditional oblong zucchini, while others have scallop-shaped or round fruits. Whatever type you choose to grow, harvest the fruits when immature, about four to six inches for oblong varieties and two to three inches across for pattypan and round varieties.