Many beginner gardeners fantasize about harvesting basket upon basket of beautiful produce from their garden, some even before they’ve ever planted their first seed. Such a fantasy is possible, but it’s more likely to become a reality if you choose the right plants for your inexperienced gardening efforts.
Some veggies are pickier than others. We’re highlighting plants that are more forgiving of soil type, infrequent watering, pest pressure, and even a bit of neglect. These veggies also have a proven track record of success in Central Texas, so you can be certain that with a little care, you’ll soon be harvesting lots of delicious things you grew yourself.
A list of easy vegetables to grow
2. Leafy greens
3. Beans and peas
4. Roots (beets, radishes) and fruit (cucumbers, tomatoes)
Let's look at each of these in more detail.
Herbs are easy vegetables to grow in pots
Herbs make great starter plants before you branch out to more difficult vegetables. Herbs are easy to plant and grow, and they don’t even need a ton of sunlight. They have shallow roots and grow more upright than out, making them ideal plants to grow in pots on your balcony or even on a windowsill.
You can buy herb plants from the store and harvest from them right away, or you can grow your herbs from seed. You can cut from mature herbs again and again, and they’ll just grow more leaves for you—they’re the plants that keep on giving!
Some of our favorite herbs that grow well here in Central Texas are basil, mint, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, and green onions. Find all our tips to grow your own basil here.
Leafy greens are perfect vegetables to grow for beginners
Even garden newbies can grow their own homegrown lettuce bar right in their backyard. We recommend starting with lettuce plants, spinach, and arugula before attempting to grow larger leafy greens like kale and swiss chard.
Lettuce plants, arugula, and spinach grow quickly, and there are tons of different varieties you can explore, with some ready to harvest just 30 days from planting. Make sure to keep your lettuce plants well watered. Learn how to grow your own salad greens here.
If you have space to grow larger leafy greens, swiss chard is the ideal veggie for busy or inexperienced gardeners. Native to the Mediterranean, it can tolerate poor soil, water, and even sun conditions, though it flourishes in full sun. See all our tips for growing your own swiss chard here.
With proper care, swiss chard and kale can live for several years in your garden and give you so many delicious, nutrient-packed leaves.
Beans and peas are easy vegetables to grow
Beans are fast growers that not only grow well in poor soil, they actually improve your soil by fixing nitrogen. Choose between growing a bush variety or, if you have a trellis to support it, a pole variety. We love growing lima beans, black-eyed peas, and asparagus beans in warmer months, while peas are great to grow in the cooler months. Our favorite is snap peas.
Roots and fruiting plants are easy vegetables to grow in Texas
There’s nothing quite like pulling up a homegrown carrot or radish from your garden! Beets, carrots, and radishes all grow well in the Austin area during the winter. Radishes are one of the fastest veggies you can grow, reaching maturity in just 30 to 50 days, which is great when you need an early garden win. Beets and carrots can take a bit longer to grow, so while you might need a bit more patience as you wait on them, they are so worth it. Find our guide to growing carrots in Central Texas here.
Once you’ve gotten some garden experience under your belt, it’s time to try fruiting plants like cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Unlike rooting crops, these plants do better in our warmer months.
Here in Austin, we actually get two seasons to grow tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, so you’ve got two chances each year to give these fun veggies a try. We recommend beginner gardeners start with cherry tomatoes and hot or sweet peppers (not bell peppers) since larger fruits take longer to grow and tend to have more issues. Make sure you’ve got some kind of support structure like a trellis if you’re planning on growing tomatoes or cucumbers.
Flowers are easy to grow in sunny Central Texas
We know you came here for veggies, but flowers are actually an essential part of a healthy garden (plus, some are edible!). The right flowers in your garden can increase your veggie harvests, discourage weeds and pests, and help the ecosystem. (Discover more reasons to add flowers to your veggie garden here.)
Some of our favorite flowers to grow here in Central Texas are alyssum, blue salvia, calendula, cosmos, globe amaranth, marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, petunias, sunflowers, and zinnias.
Tips to grow vegetables for beginners
Here are some tips to give even the most inexpert of gardeners success in their veggie garden.
Pay attention to light
Ideally, your vegetable garden will be in a sunny spot, meaning it receives at least 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight every day. If your garden gets less than that (like 4 to 6 hours), you can still grow lots of delicious plants—just stick with herbs and leafy greens since fruiting plants typically require the most light to form their flowers and then fruits.
Plants love regular water delivered right to their roots. Getting the watering right for your garden can mean the difference between stressed-out plants that invite pests to your garden and fail to produce, and healthy, flourishing plants. We install drip irrigation systems in all of our gardens to help beginner gardeners nail this critical component of veggie gardening.
Grow what you like to eat
It’s best to keep your first growing experiences simple. Make a list of your favorite herbs, leaves, and veggies to eat, and prioritize growing them instead of trying to fit everything in your garden. This way, you won’t become overwhelmed with trying to track the growing preferences and time to maturity for 20 different plants.
Grow in a raised bed
Raised beds increase the convenience of tending your garden, maximize your productivity, and protect your plants from pests. They’re also key to providing the good drainage that’s so important to plant health. You’re way more likely to find beginner gardener success in a raised bed than in an in-ground garden or container garden.
(Learn more about why raised beds are important to your growing success here.)
Start with good soil
Good soil is second only to sunlight when it comes to success in your veggie garden, but unfortunately, Central Texas does not provide us with naturally fantastic soil. Most of what you'll find in your backyard is filled with clay or too many rocks. While that may be good enough for some flowers and shrubs, veggies need something a bit better to thrive and give you lots of tasty produce.
If you let Lettuce Grow Something help you with your raised bed installation, we’ll fill your garden with our special blend of soil that’s proven to nourish plants in this climate.
(Read more about why soil is so important for growing veggies here.)
There’s no shame in buying small plants from our local nurseries to fill your garden if sowing seeds intimidates you. Some plants can actually be challenging to grow from seed and are best introduced into your space as transplants anyway. That being said, many of the plants on this list are easy to grow from seed if you're feeling up to the task.
Don’t freak out if you notice bugs in your garden, even if they’re chewing holes in your leaves. Pests are a natural part of even the healthiest of gardens. The best way to keep pests from becoming a major issue is by checking on your garden daily and keeping your plants as healthy as possible. Healthy plants are much better able to defend themselves from attack than stressed-out, thirsty ones. (Learn more about how you can deter pests here.)
Don't forget to check out the Central Texas Monthly Planting Guide
The Central Texas Monthly Planting Guide will help show you what to plant each month along with some helpful tips. Each month includes planting times every two weeks and will help guide you whether to start by seed or plant seedlings you have grown yourself or purchased from your local nursery. Having this guide at your fingertips will help you each year as you are learning and growing in Central Texas.
At Lettuce Grow Something, we love helping gardeners of all levels find success in their kitchen gardens. From planning to designing, maintaining to harvesting, we'll be by your side with insider advice and some useful tips and tricks for Austin's weather. Find more tips to increase your success in your garden.
If you're ready to get started, CLICK HERE TO GROW WITH US.
Photo credit to Lettuce Grow Something and Jennifer Nesbit Holt