One of my favorite things about summer is growing and harvesting homegrown fruits and vegetables. We have less than a quarter acre of land, but it yields a bounty of fresh produce – raspberries, blueberries, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, radishes, kale, swiss chard, several varieties of squash, and cucumbers. Last season’s winter squash harvest was large enough to last us through February! (And that doesn’t include eggs from our three chickens!) Alas, we don’t grow tomatoes or beans since I have sensitivities to both.
I’m not a brilliant gardener, just a happy one! I have certainly had my failings, like bolting bok choy and cauliflower (where the plant flowers before it produces it’s fruit) and cabbage teeming with enough aphids to attract all the spiders in our neighborhood! But I continue to learn from mistakes and my garden gets bigger and better each year. Our vegetables even won five first place ribbons at the county fair last year. It doesn’t matter that our entries were the only ones a couple categories, does it? My husband and I were pleasantly surprised and proud.
In my humble experience, I’ve found these five vegetables the easiest to grow in our Northwest climate. There’s really not much to it. Sun, water, and good soil and you are good to go. Read my previous post titled Better Than Organic – Growing Your Own Vegetable Garden, for more gardening insights. In my photos, I’ve attempted to show you the vegetables maturing in the ground, except the radishes. We harvested our first crop in May and just planted more seed starts. I hope this post gives you inspiration to grow your own food!
#1 – Turnips
We have had the most success with turnips by far. They grow anywhere, in soft moist soil or rocky clay. Within 60 days, you can harvest these purple-topped root veggies. They are delicious steamed or stir fried, with generous amounts of butter or coconut oil. You can even eat the greens! For more ideas on how to eat turnips, see my post 15 Tasty Vegetables You Haven’t Tried.
Turnip tip – Plant the seeds far enough apart (2 to 3 inches) for the root to grow to full size and taste. If cramped too close together, they will be small and more difficult to prepare in the kitchen.
#2 – Kale
Kale has two wonderful qualities. It grows almost year round, even in cooler weather during late fall and early spring AND you can harvest leaves from the same plant continuously. Kale is tasty raw in salads or smoothies or cooked with other greens.
Kale tip – When the weather is cold, start the seeds indoors until the plant is well established and then transplant outside.
#3 – Radishes
This was our first season growing radishes – easy, peasy! They are fast-growing and ready to harvest in about 60 days. Radishes are good raw in salads or cooked with other vegetables. You can also eat the greens!
Radish tip – Once they get to their full but small size of 1.5 to 2 inches round, harvest them right away. If you leave them in the ground too long, they will become woody and inedible. (Another one of our “newbie” mistakes.)
#4 – Summer squash
Zucchini, yellow crookneck, patty pan, and mexican squash are all part of the summer squash family. Once the plant reaches it’s full spread of 3 feet, it will continue to produce well into the fall months, as long as the weather stays warm. In this photo, a lovely yellow flower announces the first fruit of this zucchini plant.
Squash tip – Squash plants need lots of SUN!
#5 – Carrots
Carrots are loved by everyone. I don’t know anyone who dislikes carrots, do you? Sow the seeds generously in a row and then thin to 1 to 2 inches apart when you see the green tips. Enjoy raw or cooked in a variety of dishes. Carrots come in many colors, including white, red, purple and yellow!
Carrot tip – Carrots need soft soil to grow deep and reach their full height. They won’t grow successfully in hard clay. Turn over and mix your soil several times before planting the seeds.
Bonus – Sunflowers!
Alright, I know sunflowers are not a vegetable but I wanted to share one more photo. You can harvest the seeds! I include them because the are super easy to grow and beautiful to display in your garden or indoors as cut flowers. These blooms will appear soon!
What do you think are the easiest vegetables to grow?