Gardening is an art that often seems to be shrouded in mystery – especially when we hear about the need for “green fingers,” a mysterious virtue that makes some people master-gardeners. The truth is, there’s no such thing as a green thumb. Gardening success is about knowing what plants want and giving it to them. It’s as easy (and as difficult) as that.
Having said that, a few plant varieties are best off grown by those with tons of patience and a willingness to accept errors before finding the sought-after success. However, most veggie plants, and an amazing amount of flowers, are beginner-friendly. Even children can grow them, despite the occasional lapse because something more interesting was going on when they ought to have been checking their seedlings!
But we understand the beginner gardeners hopes and fears. After all, everyone starts at the beginning, and an early failure can be so discouraging that one no longer has the courage to continue. Before going ahead with some of the trickier plants, enjoy a few easy wins and prove the truth to yourself: you CAN grow veggies!
In this blog post, we take a look at some of the easiest veg plants you can succeed with – even if you honestly believe that you only have to look at a plant to kill it!
Radishes and Turnips
Sow them where they are to grow, and scatter the seeds quite thinly. I like to soften the soil to a loose and crumbly texture. Then, I simply draw a line into it with my fingertip, and scatter a row of seeds into my mini-furrow, before gently scraping the soil from the edges over the row. Some gentle watering, and if I’m worried about not getting there in time to water, a thin layer of mulch, and it’s time for the magic to happen!
Radishes are awesome in window boxes too. My mom used to be ever so proud of her window box veg. Just to let you know: she was awful at growing plants, but those radishes just loved her.
The nice thing about radishes is how fast you get a crop. Turnips are just as easy, but because the bulbs get bigger, they need a little more time. The one mistake I still make is to sow too many at once. Luckily, I’ve discovered how to use radishes in cooked dishes too (they’re just like turnips, after all, only smaller).
Do remember that if you leave them in the soil for too long, radishes get a spongy, dry texture – so harvest them as soon as the bulbs have reached the expected size.
Just think of how farmers grow corn. They plough the fields, sow the seed (usually with a machine that opens furrows, drops seeds, and then closes the furrow), and in areas with reasonable rainfall, they don’t even worry about irrigation. I do water my corn, but I’m not overly diligent about it. Nonetheless I get the sweetest corn on the cob imaginable, and remarkably few problems with insect pests.
Interesting fact: the sugars in sweet corn break down fast – a couple of days makes a huge difference. As a result, the best corn I’ve ever eaten comes fresh-picked from my garden in summer. I even nibble the cobs raw – they taste like honey when fresh-picked.
The only “trick: I can think of is to wait till the weather is sure to be warm before sowing. And since the seeds are so big, I just press them individually into the soil with my fingertips – not too deep! Just about the diameter of the seed and maybe a little more. After that, I water them well and spread a thin layer of grass clippings to help keep the soil moist. The rest happens naturally.
Beetroot and Silverbeet
I love roasted beetroot! And I prefer silverbeet to spinach. These closely-related plants are also a pleasure to grow, although moles do give me little trouble just when my beets are ready for harvest. They’re less interested in the silverbeets, so if you have mole issues, grow Silverbeet in regular garden soil and consider trying your beets in containers or mole-proof your beds.
Once again, the seeds are nice and big. I soon discovered that seed-growers usually form them into pellets with several seeds in a pellet. It does mean some thinning out if they all come up, but it makes the pelleted seeds easy to sow individually right where they will grow.
As with sweetcorn, I just press them into the soil with my fingertip at the spacing I’d like them to be as adults. A layer of mulch (not too thick) to keep the soil moist if I’m lazy – which I often am – and more-or-less remembering to water whenever the soil begins to dry, and my harvest is assured. I feel a bit sorry pulling my beets out roots and all, but they taste so good, I’m soon over the “I’m killing my babies” moment.
Especially exciting are the wonderful colours one can get in silverbeet. I’ve even let them grow between my flowers because they look so pretty! Ok, so they taste the same as the regular green ones, but my eyes are happy, so I’m happy!
Beans and Peas
Did you germinate a bean seed as a school project when you were a child? We had to wrap ours in damp cotton wool so that we could watch the different stages of seed germination. But there’s no need to wrap beans in cotton wool. Just sow them right in the soil, and keep it moist but not constantly soggy.
Do take note of sowing seasons. There are winter beans and summer beans. There’s also a difference between climbing beans and bush beans. My garden fence makes a perfect trellis for the climbing ones, but Gran used to build one with string and garden canes. I also like bush beans because I can sow them anywhere and still get a rich harvest of crunchy green beans.
Peas are just as easy. Once again, the season matters. They don’t like hot, humid conditions much, but my pea season is a big one on my gardening calendar. Let’s just say that very few of them ever get cooked, or even make it to the kitchen door. They’re just way too nice picked and eaten right on the spot!
As with our other easy-growing veg, the seed is chunky and easy to sow. A bit of water, and up they come! By the way, the flowers are super-pretty too – so they’re not out of place among ornamental plants if you don’t have room for a dedicated veg garden.
In general, plants with bigger seeds are easier to grow than those with smaller seeds. That’s because big seeds stay where they are put instead of washing away or getting covered with too much soil with hard rainfall or heavy-handed watering. But nature is always ready to break out of any mold you try to make for it. Lettuce and carrots, for example, have finer seeds, but still exceed even a relatively experienced gardner’s expectations in terms of germination. Or maybe it’s just me? I always end up having to thin mine down to the perfect spacing.
What’s your seed-grown favourite for easy growing? I’ve shared mine, so now it’s your turn!