I have to admit, I struggle with the so-called “easy” to grow vegetables. Talk about a brown thumb. I mean, if you can’t grow even the simplest vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini and beans, then what can you grow? Is it a lost cause? I am here to tell you that all is not hopeless and there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables that you can grow that may perform better for you.
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First, I should explain why I am struggling. I have an urban homestead, about 1/8 of an acre right in the middle of a city, just off of a golf course. I do not face pressure from deer, voles, hawks, etc. The occasional squirrel and plenty of small birds like to feast on the strawberries and blueberries. My main enemy is pests of the insect kind. I regularly battle leaf-footed beetles, tomato hornworms, squash vine borers and aphids.
Second, we should cover the easy-to-grow vegetables. This list includes tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, spinach, green beans, cucumbers, bell peppers, and roots such as radishes and carrots. I will confess, radishes are pretty easy. I manage to grow a good bit and even make radish leaf pesto! Its a bit tangier than traditional basil pesto, but very tasty.
The others on the list, I have definitely struggled with. In particular the leaf-footed beetles will suck the juice from the tomatoes leaving bruises and pock-marks while potentially introducing bacteria (YUCK!). The squash vine borer has taken down enormous squash plants and has prevented me from growing a single zucchini! Finally, I live in the south and often the lettuce and spinach will bolt quickly as soon as the warmth starts because it heats up fast here.
This list is to provide you with some alternatives to grow in your garden in order to still get a nice harvest without pulling out your hair. Perennials are a good choice, if you live somewhere more permanent or you invest in large, solid pots for dwarf fruit trees.
These trees are disease resistant and require very little upkeep. For our fig tree, I watered regularly the first year (it was a two-year old sapling) and put down dried leaves/compost around it in the spring. Otherwise, I do nothing. I haven’t had any issues and always get some figs (the birds and squirrels get some too). Some years I even get two crops of figs.
While I fail miserable at the summer squashes, yellow squash and zucchini, the winter squash do much better. Either they are more resistant to the squash vine borer by having thicker stems or they proliferate so quickly that I’ll get some harvest before they are taken down by the SVB. In my area, zone 8B, the cushaw and luffa squash do particularly well.
Similarly to winter squash, these fruits are in the cucurbit family (with cucumbers). They vine along my fence line well and LOVE the hot weather we have here in the south. My first year gardening at this house, we bought cantaloupe seedlings from a local nursery and it produced 9 full cantaloupe! I have also had luck with watermelon, which is extremely common here. We tried the Blacktail Mountain watermelon from Seed Saver’s Exchange and it did great.
Depending on what variety you choose, these are generally a safe bet. Because I am in the south, I generally grow mine very early in the year. I can start planting in February and they need to be out of the ground by May or they bolt. I like French Breakfast but a lot of people have also said good things about Daikon radishes which can help loosen impacted soil. Daikon is also good for animal feed.
I have had pretty good luck with peas, I have tried a few different varieties such as Blue Podded and Sugar Snap. I have lots of fencing on my urban lot and they love to grow up these. One year they covered an area making a very pretty green wall. The flowers are adorable and bright.
Over the past two years, I have let some sweet potatoes that I bought from the store (organic) sprout. One on the counter and one in the compost. In both cases, they produced large vines and lots of potatoes. The vines are a pretty, usually dark green and purple and will cover an area. You can split the original potato up into slips but I am a bit of procrastinator and just let them go. Several pounds of delicious health sweet potatoes were harvest in the fall.
What fruits and veggies do you find easy to grow?
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