For beginning gardeners eager to get their hands dirty in the soil, it’s often best to start with plants that give abundant results. Keep in mind summer vegetables should be planted after the last frost date for your region, and usually do best when the soil temperature reaches 60F. While no vegetable is “guaranteed” to grow, there are many which are easy to raise and produce satisfying amounts of food.
Lettuce and other salad greens. These short-season vegetables can grow prolifically and heartily in a very short amount of time. Very little is more rewarding than wandering out the garden to pick a salad for lunch. Salad greens also do very well growing in containers on a sunny patio.
Tomatoes. What good is a salad without tomatoes? These versatile fruits (yes, tomatoes are fruits) have been developed to adapt to fill endless criteria: size, meatiness, soil types, and length of growing season. If you grow enough, the surplus can be puréed and frozen until winter, then cooked down slowly into tomato sauce.
Carrots. There’s something comforting about the easy dependability of carrots. There are many varieties adapted to different growing conditions, and when harvested they can be eaten raw, or roasted or steamed into a delicious side dish. Carrots are solid and hearty and are easy to preserve for winter by canning or freezing.
Corn. The taste of summer, some people say, is the taste of fresh corn-on-the-cob. This is a vegetable that enjoys rich, fertile soil, and it pays you back by producing tasty dinner treats. Keep in mind corn is wind-pollinated, so plant in blocks for best results.
Radishes. These root crops are ridiculously easy to grow – and they grow fast! Some varieties are ready to eat in just 20 days. As soon as you harvest one, plant another for a continuous crop. As a spicy, crunchy addition to salads and other summer fare, radishes are hard to beat.
Zucchini. This prolific vegetable has a reputation for overwhelming gardeners with its enthusiasm. They grow so fast, they often overshoot the tender stage and begin to resemble baseball bats (just slice them lengthwise and give them to the chickens – they will thank you!). Don’t plant more than one or two plants or you’ll be sneaking bags of zucchini onto neighbor’s porches when they’re not looking.
Beans. There are hundreds of varieties of beans to choose from, including bush beans, climbing beans, snap beans, dried beans, wax beans, lima beans, and string beans. Some green beans are ready in as little as 40 days. Be sure to offer structural support for climbing beans (bush beans don’t need support).
These are just a sampling of some delicious and productive summer vegetables. Planting these easy-to-grow crops will get you started as a gardener, and give you the satisfaction and enthusiasm to expand your efforts into larger and more varied vegetables. But watch out, or you might find yourself prey to the classic gardener’s itch: the desire to expand your garden into more challenging dimensions next year. You’ve been warned.