This story was originally published in May 2021.
Everyone seems to know that one gardener who every year grows so many massive vegetables for their family that they can’t help but share.
But maybe that’s not you. Maybe you feel like everything you try to plant inevitably shrivels and dies. Is there anything you could successfully grow?
With the right vegetable selections and a little knowledge about how to plant, you too can grow these super easy veggies.
As far as Kate Garland, horticulturist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, is concerned, anyone can garden. As proof she points to her 3-year-old daughter, who assisted her in putting in crops this spring.
“There are so many ways you can be successful with a garden,” Garland said. “Folks tend to get intimidated too easily.”
According to Garland, the first step is to pay close attention to where the garden is being planted.
“Look at your site and see what conditions you have to work with,” Garland said. “Yes, you can grow a variety of vegetables in a variety of conditions,” she said. “But the ideal conditions for many of our crops here in Maine is full sun with well-drained soil.”
Full sun means an area where your vegetables can get eight hours of sunlight a day, Garland said.
“Choosing the right spot is the difference between what plants will thrive and what will just survive,” Garland said.
What to plant
There are several vegetables that Garland said even the blackest of thumbs can grow successfully here in Maine with proper tending and care.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes can be grown very successfully in container gardens, Garland said. Better yet, starting them is easy if you buy seedlings, which are an already sprouted plant. Once you have the tomato seedlings, you can even use a bag of potting soil as the container. Lay the bag flat and poke small holes in it. Then flip it over, make a small cut and plant a single tomato plant directly into the soil in the bag.
Bush beans: Garland said bush beans are a fun and easy vegetable to grow because there are so many different varieties.
“I like bush-type beans over pole beans because they are just easier to plant,” Garland said. “It frees you from having to put up any support to trellis them and I like to keep things simple.”
Bush beans also tend to be resistant to pest problems, Garland said, which also makes them a great choice for those unsure of their growing skills.
Bush peas: Bush peas are good options for the same reason as the bush beans. They are an easily grown vegetable that does not require support like vine peas. They also do not require a great deal of space so they can be planted fairly densely. That means you could even plant them in containers.
Potatoes: Out in your garden, potatoes are planted in rows or hills. But you can use just about any container — a planter, a barrel or even a reusable grocery bag — to plant and grow them, as long as the container has holes in the bottom to drain water. Garland recommends planting one seed potato per container and adding soil as the green leaves grow.
Onions: Onions are a crop that does well in heavier, less well-drained soils. According to Garland, they are an easy and low-maintenance plant to grow. They do well planted in containers or in rows out in your garden. Onions are most often sold in sets — small bulbs — that you simply poke into the soil either in your garden or in a container.
Greens: Green leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach or swiss chard grow well in Maine, but it’s important to know when to plant them for the best results, and they can be a bit more of a challenge. Because greens like cooler weather, your best bet at this time of year is to wait until August to plant them, Garland said. Greens can attract worms and bugs, so Garland recommends covering those crops with fabric or plastic garden row covers to keep pests out.
The bottom line
Garland recommends starting small. Though it might be tempting to plant every square inch of space available, it can become overwhelming to a novice gardener. She also suggests purchasing seeds from a local vendor, as they will carry varieties that do well in Maine.
“Anyone can garden if they have some space and sun,” Garland said. “Don’t hesitate to reach out to Extension for help, and we have so many gardeners eager to share their knowledge.”