21 Easy Crops for New Food Gardeners

Websites for growing food can sometimes make the task seem even more daunting with tedious details of maximum yield for even the easiest of crops. Whether you are new to food production or want to include some low-maintenance crops to your garden, these easy edibles will continue to produce for you and your family even when neglected.

This cold-season leafy green can be harvested as soon as four weeks after seeding! Although arugula is often used as a flavorful salad lettuce, its white flowers can also jazz up a dish. This plant is also versatile to grow, with the ability to grow in both full sun and mid-shade. Arugula has an annual life cycle, with the flowers blooming in the spring and summer and leafy green production as the temperature drops. Arugula can reappear year after year without your assistance by simply allowing the seeds to self-sow.

Another quickly-grown lettuce is kale. Like arugula, it flourishes in colder seasons and grows best in full sun or mid-shade. Kale can emerge from the seed within four to seven days and is ready to eat in two or three months. This durable crop can be harvested even as the snow begins to fall, providing your family with nutritious salads, soups and kale chips for the winter.

Beets can be started inside or in cold frames and then transferred outside. If you plant these in the right season, you won’t have to deal with bolting, which is when a plant begins to produce flowers or seeds instead of edible greens. Although the term “beet” usually refers to the bulb, the leaves are also edible and are very nutritious. You can actually grow more beet greens using the same roots from another beet! First, chop off the beet greens. Then cut off the top of the beet bulb, leaving half an inch of the beet root intact. Add to a small bowl with some water and watch it grow on your windowsill!

Asparagus is considered a herbaceous perennial, which means it doesn’t require yearly planting. In fact, asparagus is so durable, it can last several years — and even decades — without replanting! With its large roots and tall body, it can hold its own against pesky weeds.

This fast-growing vegetable is ready to reap within a few months after sowing. It also takes only four to seven days for the seeds to sprout. Due to its compact size, broccoli is perfect for small plots. It grows during spring and fall seasons in direct sunlight.

Carrots are easy to grow due to their versatility. They can be enjoyed at any stage of development as baby carrots or fully-matured carrots. As with beets, you can eat the leaves on top of the carrots to add more greens to your diet.

Winter squash can be left unattended until it’s time for them to be harvested. Tatume, an heirloom summer squash, can also remain unattended until harvest. Zucchini can provide a lot of yield with little effort. In fact, you may need to plant the zucchinis separately so they do not overtake your garden. Summer squash, in general, takes only two months to mature.

As the name suggests, pole beans grow well on wire mesh or can be held with twine along a large fence or pole. These tall bean plants last longer than their short, bushy counterparts. Two of the easiest beans to grow are fava beans and dry beans. Just stick fava or dry bean seeds into the ground and wait until they mature. To harvest, shake the tops of the plants to drop them into your bag or bucket.

If you live in warmer climates, pumpkins can be an easy, fun crop to grow with your family. Kids can show off their crops at county fairs or in front of their homes with spooky or funny faces carved into them. Pumpkins are fairly easy to maintain, requiring only space in nutrient-rich soil, sunlight and water. The smaller pumpkins take as little as 90 days to mature, while the jumbo variety can take up to 160 days. If you want to harvest large pumpkins, plant them once the risk of frost has diminished.

Sweet corn
Whether your batch of sweet corn is yellow, white or both, maintenance will be the same. Plant your corn seeds one or one-and-a-half inch deep in block rows for adequate cross-pollination. Water and hoe regularly to prevent weed overgrowth. When they reach one foot in height, fertilize. Purchase organic seeds without genetic modification for this simple crop.

Strawberries and blueberries
Both of these berries can be found in the wild. Forage the seeds and “runners,” or offshoots, for replanting. Both strawberries and blueberries require very little maintenance; they typically grow wild and will continue providing more berries if the runners are removed. Blueberries might require a little more maintenance to maintain acidity if the soil is alkaline. A rule of thumb for harvesting strawberries is to pick them a day after they appear to be ready.

Raspberries and blackberries
Like strawberries and blueberries, both blackberries and raspberries can be found naturally in the wild and sometimes even on your property. Some farmers spray pesticides on these to kill them because they grow plentifully and choke neighboring plants. Instead, replant them elsewhere and watch as you provide an effortless array of red and purple berries from your family garden.

Heirloom tomatoes can provide a surprising variety of flavors, colors, and textures to your dishes. Cherry tomatoes are perhaps the easiest to grow due to their size and quick rise to maturity. Tomato plants can be grown indoors and outdoors, and even hanging upside down! There are many do-it-yourself tomato planters that can suit your space and time needs. If your tomato plant produces more than you can handle, wash and freeze them to enjoy later.

Peppers require drainage and a steady supply of water. You can use these plants as outdoor decorative plants by placing them in pots and planters near your entrance. Keep in mind that this crop needs full sunlight. These plants are easy to maintain if you live in warmer climates. Like tomatoes, they may overproduce from time to time. If this happens, you can also freeze them. Freezing will actually enhance the flavor — so the more peppers, the merrier!

Perennial onions and garlic
Onions and garlic do not require special treatment or a specific soil type. Once they are planted, they will grow naturally. They can even be found growing in nature, providing you with a free plant starter! You can take a scrap directly from nature — or from your grocery store — and cultivate more onions and garlic for your garden. Green onions are especially easy to grow. Their compact size is great for small gardens and they are quick to mature. Onions and garlic can also be used to repel bugs from your garden!

Other than the initial time investment, potatoes are a breeze to grow. First, allow the seeds to sprout in light, cool conditions. In early spring, plant them and mound up loose, fertile soil with organic matter to help them grow. After that, just wait until they mature, just as you would with onions or garlic. You can even steal a few baby potatoes while you wait.

Rhubarb is a herbaceous perennial that can handle a lot of abuse. This sturdy plant can withstand sea spray, salt and weeds. Rhubarb has deep, durable roots and can grow to be tall with massive leaves. Don’t be dissuaded when the plant eventually dies. As with other perennials, it will be back next year.

Wild grass
Most people plant grass as yard decoration or turf for their kids to play. Did you know that all wild grasses are edible? With over 400 types of wild grass, it can be found almost anywhere and grows effortlessly. Not only do some of them provide beauty, but these provide a powerful nutritional punch. Wheatgrass is especially potent, with 70 percent chlorophyll, 30 amino acids and plenty of vitamins and minerals.

Mint has a variety of uses in the kitchen and in the medicine cabinet. Grow your own with a cutting or seed and watch as it multiplies. If mint begins to overtake your garden, remove and plant in a container or in the soil separately.

Although dandelions are known as a common, pesky weed, they can provide you with a lot of nutrition for free. Great in salads and soups, they contain iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C. You can eat the unopened buds, flowers and leaves raw, or cook them into your dishes. Dandelions leaves are often found in herbal teas.

Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. You can grow them indoors or outdoors, in the ground or in pots or planters. It’s easy to beautify and simplify your garden with vertical planters or spiral above-ground herb plots. It may be difficult for some new gardeners to sprout the seeds, but if you have an issue, use cuttings or a small plant to get started. You may also have a problem containing your herbs once they have become established. If this happens, uproot them and separate them from the bunch. With excess herbs, dry them by hanging them upside down in a paper bag, or simply freeze them with olive oil in ice trays for individual use.

Starting your own food garden can be an exciting experience. Growing your own bounty provides you and your family financial freedom and liberty from pesticides, genetic. In other words, you have control over what you feed your family. If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t be dissuaded. Learning experiences take time. Befriend a local farmer, read free online guides and don’t give up. You can do it!

-The Alternative Daily


The best low-maintenance edibles: food growing for the time crunched


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