BuildDirect Blog: Life at Home

Organic Gardening – Easy Vegetables for Beginners

We are into April. Warmer regions are ready to wind down for the heat of summer, and cooler, temperate regions are gearing up. If you are in the latter group, I hope you are as excited as I am!

I am a local food advocate, as you all know. Now that the Monsanto Protection Act has been passed, it is more important than ever to know the source of your food!

If you buy locally at a farmer’s market, food store or restaurant, talk to the grower of your food. Find out who it is, and ask questions – is it organic, is meat humanely raised and slaughtered, what is the source of seed, how is food handled after harvest and how fresh is it? Find local farms and markets at Local Harvest.

The best way to know what you are fueling and growing your body with, though, is to grow your own. I’ve talked about this before, but it seems especially important in light of this new legislation. If you are a new gardener with no clue how to grow even a weed, here are the easiest vegetables to grow.

Green Beans and Dry Beans

I worked on a farm years ago, and the owner said, ‘If you want to feel like a farmer, grow beans.’ Beans have a high germination rate, so you lose less seed. They are vigorous and need little care. You can eat them raw or cooked. They are open-pollinated, and it is easy to save the seed for the following year. If you are short on space, you can grow pole beans on a trellis.


There are so many varieties of lettuce, it’s impossible to get bored with salad! They all germinate quickly, again making you feel like an experienced grower. You get the most food for your dollar with lettuce mix, since you cut it small, and it keeps on growing for many more harvests. Lettuce grows so quickly, you can harvest heads and replant for a second picking. Make your own salad dressings for a unique salad every night!


Like beans, peas germinate quickly and grow with little care. They need to be trellised for easy picking. Poles spaced along each row with a few rows of twine strung down the length make a simple, inexpensive trellis. You could also put up a wall of chicken wire for pea tendrils to grab on to. Peas are an early crop, and once they have been harvested, you can plant something else in its place.

Radishes and Salad Turnips

These are early crops that germinate fast and are ready for harvest in 30 days. Again, you can replant those rows once you have harvested them.


If you ever wondered why your friends are desperately giving away zucchini in late summer, it’s because it’s easy to grow and very prolific. Seed germinates quickly for almost instant gratification, and plants are ready to go in the ground in only four weeks. Once they start flowering, you will have zucchini to give away or put up for winter. You will surely be proclaiming, ‘I am a Farmer!’ during your daily harvest!


I have accidentally grown potatoes from kitchen scraps in my compost pile. They are that easy. You don’t need much space, since each plant will produce quite a bit. You can also grow them in large containers, like a whiskey barrel (that is about the size of my compost pile).

Start small

So if you want to ‘feel like a farmer’, start with these vegetables. And start small! It is easy to get excited and overplant, but then you get overwhelmed and give up. Get Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. This will be your bible. Now, more than ever, it’s time to grow our own food as a way to fight back.

Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.


  1. I never have success with brussell sprouts, whats the best method.

  2. Nan Fischer Reply to Nan

    Hi Graham! Where do you live? Brussel sprouts need a long season, and they like cool weather. They taste best after a light frost or two. In warm areas, they are planted in fall.

    They like a soil with about 6-6.5 pH and steady moisture. If the soil has been amended with compost, you may not need to fertilize. Otherwise, you fertilize (organically, of course – I like Age Old liquid fertilizers) at planting time and about a month before harvest.

    What is your situation like?


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