• Alicia Crisp

Top 10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow

As spring seems to be coming early this year, it is time for me to get on the gardening (and blogging!) bandwagon again. So, for the first post of the 2012 season, I give you the top 10 easiest plants to grow in Florida.

Not all plants require the same effort. And if you are from up North, you may be surprised to find the ones that grew easiest for you up there are the hardest to grow down here. This week I am going to start with the top 10 (in my opinion) easiest plants to grow in Florida. If you are new to gardening, or new to Florida gardening, I hope this will make planning a little easier for you.

1. Green Beans

Easy to plant, easy to grow. As long as you get some sunlight and remember to water, you will get beans. Sow the seeds directly in the ground and in a week or so you will already see your bean plant growing. Keep planting rows of beans every 2-3 weeks and you will have beans until June.

2. Pole Beans

Very similar to their green cousins, but much better suited to the heat and rain of the Florida summers. Start planting (direct sow) out in May so that once your green beans are finished, you have pole beans ready to move into their place. These will bean until September, or later, or until you get so sick of them you rip them out to plant something else.

3. Lettuce

You can direct sow or start indoors. I like to start inside to get a jump on the season, but either way is fine. Lettuce likes the cooler temperatures so plant your seeds (or baby plants) in the ground around October/November when the heat of summer has past. They will grow like weeds. If you don’t harvest the whole head and just pick off the side leaves, you will have continual lettuce harvest until March/April or so when it gets too hot. If we get a freeze warning, simply cover the whole bed with a sheet or tarp for the night. The lettuce will be just fine.

4. Kale

In my opinion, nothing is easier to grow than kale. If you are thinking of starting your first garden and wonder what to start with, try kale. Direct sow or start from transplant. They can be planted pretty much any time. Some varieties will get bitter in midsummer, but I plant it in semi-shade and grow it 12 months a year. Harvest the whole heads or pick the leaves. Only tiny seedlings need to be covered in a freeze, mature plants can take a freeze.

5. Chard

Almost as easy as the kale and it looks so pretty growing. Try the “bright lights” variety for beautiful multicolored stems. Same planting instructions as the kale. A great choice for those who do not have enough full-sun areas. It will thrive in partial shade.

5. Collards

Another good choice for easy greens. Same planting instructions as the kale. These can also be grown 12 months a year, but older plants can get tough and rubbery (in my opinion) so if you want to keep planting them, replace your older plants every so often with younger ones. There are also perennial varieties available that live for several years.

6. Broccoli

Grows easy like the greens, but broccoli will bolt and go to flower in the summer so plant anytime from October to March (if you are using seed allow another 60 days). Does not need to be covered in a freeze so it makes the perfect winter plant.

7. Cabbage

A bit more heat tolerant than the broccoli. Mine never seem to do well once it gets really hot (after June), but I have heard of other people growing them in summer. Still, a very easy plant. I put seedlings in the ground anytime from September to April.

8. Celery

Even if it wasn’t easy, everyone should grow their own celery. Celery is the most toxic vegetable you can buy so if you eat it, it should be #1 on your planting list. Doesn’t do well in the hot summer rains, but the rest of the year it grows without any special care. Keep it watered, and you will get celery. Celery is also forgiving of some shade. I don’t harvest the whole head, I just remove the stalks as I need them. I plant these from September to April.

9. Carrots

Although you can start these from seedlings, I think carrots do best if direct sown. Just sprinkle your seed in rows and leave it. You can thin the rows later and eat the baby carrots, then leave the larger ones to mature. Carrots are slooooow growing, so start in the fall (October/November) and you will harvest in the early spring. They are not a midsummer plant, so I would suggest getting your seeds in the ground by January at the absolute latest.

10. Radishes

Easy to grow and almost instant gratification. Start with a small variety like cherry belle and you will be eating radishes in a month. Direct sow right in the bed. The seedling will come up in 2-3 days. Choose more heat tolerant varieties or plant in the shade and these can be grown all year. Perfect companion to your carrots as the radishes will come up quickly and mark your rows for you so you know where to weed (and don’t pull out your carrots!) Also fun for kids.

There you go. A list of easy plants that anyone can grow and when to grow them. Stay tuned for my next post I will go into the top 5 most difficult plants, their common problems, and how to deal with them.

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