11

I have taken a recent interest in gardening, particularly growing herbs and vegetables. I don't know much, but I'm going to wing it and learn from trial and error. I have a few questions that I really need answered in order to advance with my new future hobby:

  1. What are the easiest and quickest vegetable plants to grow, that are self-sustaining so that I don't have to be constantly buying new seeds?

  2. What should I look for when searching for safe and quality seeds?

  3. Are micro-greens worth it? And what are some alternatives?

  • 3
    Feel free to split this into multiple questions. That can give you more detailed answers on each question, rather than a broad overview. – The Flash Oct 24 '14 at 3:52
  • I would recommend: rareseeds.com/about – Enigma Oct 24 '14 at 13:33
8

Probably the easiest and most self-sustaining plants to grow are the invasive ones, although you have to be careful, because they are invasive. You may or may not have neighbors that care about this, and there may or may not be laws you’ll need to consider for certain kinds of plants.

You might consider growing the following (not all of which are invasive):

  • Purslane is pretty nice stuff nutritionally. It’s very easy to grow and can be invasive. It has a lot of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin A and other nutrients. It should be easily self-sustaining, but it may pop up all over your yard, on occasion.
  • Wild rocket arugula (diplotaxis tenuifolia) is supposed to be very productive, tasty and can be very sustainable.
  • Arugula (eruca sativa) is said to be really easy to grow, and tasty. Here's a link to another variety.
  • Mulukhiya is supposed to be easy to grow in hot and humid climates.
  • I read somewhere that milk thistle is supposed to be edible (and it’s great for your liver and bile flow, too). It’s also very easy to grow and invasive. However, it is a thistle. It has very deep roots and can be tough to pull up. You might never get rid of it.
  • You might consider wild tomatoes (like the galapagos tomato, which has whitefly resistance) instead of domestic ones, as they're hardier and tend to grow huge from what I hear. Wild tomatoes are not in the same species as domestic tomatoes (so, calling them tomatoes is perhaps somewhat of a misnomer, but they look and taste like tomatoes, and can hybridize with them). I would recommend solanum cheesmaniae (Galapagos tomato), solanum galapagense (another kind of Galapagos tomato) or solanum pimpinellifolium (wild Florida Everglades tomato). Texas wild is another option, but it may or may not just be a feral domestic tomato (although it should have similar attributes to wild ones). Wild tomatoes tend to be more disease-resistant. They tend to be cherry or grape tomatoes in size and they may crawl all over your other plants if they want the sun. They are said to reseed themselves (although there's some controversy about whether the Galapagos tomato does without going through a certain kind of tortoise first (although they grow on islands where that tortoise doesn't exist, apparently; this discrepancy is probably due to the fact that there are two wild Galapagos tomatoes that used to be considered the same species); whatever the case, the kind they sell claiming that it's a Galapagos tomato seems to reseed, and should work fine).
  • Zucchini is very easy to grow. Some people have trouble with squash bugs killing their plants. Though we’ve had squash bugs, they’ve never killed our plants. If you can deal with the bugs, you should be able to have zucchini without problems. It grows fast and early. You can try other summer squash varieties, too, as some of them are more insect resistant. I'm guessing zucchini does pretty well in clay soils, since it has done well in our clay soils. I don't know how it works in soils generally regarded as better than clay, but probably well.
  • Mammoth sunflowers are also a good option. They reseed themselves. You may, however, want to put the seeds where you want them instead of letting them take over your yard.
  • Amaranth is edible, can look very nice, and is very easy to grow, from what I hear. The weed form of this is probably invasive, but I’m not sure about the kinds you buy for food and for show. Some of them probably are, and some probably aren’t.
  • Mint is pretty easy to grow (you can even take cuttings). You might consider unusual kinds like orange mint, lime mint, lemon mint, grapefruit mint, apple mint, pineapple mint, lavender mint and such instead of just spearmint and peppermint, too, for variety. You can root spearmint cuttings in water, and they tend to grow roots quickly, in my experience. You’ll want to know that peppermint is a hybrid of spearmint and watermint, however, and is said to be sterile (so it may not be as self-sustaining as spearmint). Mint tends to spread out and take over. So, if you plant some borders around the mint to keep it from growing out of bounds, that might help, if that concerns you. They say you can mow the mint over after it gets established and it will regrow better than ever. Mint is supposed to be good for attracting beneficial insects and for masking the smell of nearby plants from bad insects. It seems to enjoy fertilizer, but some people say it weakens the mint taste (I don’t know that this is true, however).
  • Currant bushes seem to be pretty easy to grow (from seed, too, if the fact that they're springing up in places we didn't plant them is an indicator). They also spread. There are very different kinds of bushes, though, and some of them are much easier to pick, it seems (small bushes with clusters of currants, rather than spread all over the place, spaced apart). I'm not sure how easy other varieties are to grow, but our black currants are kind of like wild ones (and currants grow wild where I'm from, too).
  • Chives are a pretty good option. They grow back every year (without needing to reseed) and they require next to nothing.
  • Hens and chicks (sempervivum) are an excellent option. They are low-maintenance, and edible, too. They have lots of good herbal properties. I usually eat them on pizza or plain. The flavor can vary (from astringent to sour). I think ours is sempervivum tectorum, but I could be wrong. It is my personal opinion that they add a mild artichoke-like flavor to pizza, but I have not had anyone second me on this, yet. You do not need to worry about saving seeds, because they send out new chicks a lot, and spread. You can save seeds, but I am not sure how difficult it is.
  • Pumpkins are pretty easy to grow. Saving seeds is easy, too. Make sure you either plant them early enough or get a kind that gets ripe in time (if you get the wrong kind for a short growing season, they won't get ripe in time unless you start them inside early or something). You will probably want an heirloom variety (if you're going to save seeds). If you plant it next to spaghetti squash (which is also pretty easy to grow) you will probably get stringy pumpkins. My advice is not to plant spaghetti squash and pumpkins in the same year. Other squashes are probably reasonably easy to grow, but I have not tried many, yet. Squash bugs can be a problem on pumpkins, sometimes.
  • Our tarragon requires no attention and grows huge every year. Tarragon is good in chicken. My sister really prefers the French tarragon, though. That's not what ours is. I read that the French kind is sterile, but it's a perennial. Root division should work, I believe, for propagation. French tarragon is probably more difficult to grow than Russian. Ours is probably the Russian kind, which is said to be hardier and not as tasty. However, it still gives chicken a nice texture, in my experience. It's interesting how a herb can seem to affect meat texture. I don't know how easy tarragon is to get started.
  • Cucumis metuliferus: AKA Jelly melon, Kiwano, African Horned Cucumber, hedged gourd, melano, blowfish fruit. If you have a long growing season, these should be really easy. If you don't, maybe start them early inside. I was fascinated by this melon, because it grows in a desert in Africa. I watched an animal documentary about elephants and other animals that relied on it for water and food, and so I searched it out to find out what kind it was. Customer reviews say it requires very little attention and grows huge. The melons are often hidden in the growth and you may not notice them until way later. For a lot of people, they may not get ripe in time. So, if you don't have a long growing season, consider planting inside early (although I've never tried it to see if it works).
  • Citron watermelon: This isn't your regular watermelon, and it doesn't taste like it either. However, it is supposed to be easy to grow. It's also a wild African melon and it's said that it might be an ancestor of modern watermelons. Seeds may grow out of the melon itself if you leave it in the pantry too long, according to one customer review I read (that's what they do in the wild). You usually eat the flesh cooked. It's not an early melon, but it's not ridiculously long, either. You may want to start it indoors. ** I don't recommend regular watermelon to you, though, unless you want to grow it (go ahead), but, I like ranting, so I'll give you some information. Just know that watermelon generally needs watering enough, and the roots can be sensitive (and up to a meter deep). Disturbing them isn't a good idea, especially, I hear, if you want large melons. Some say it's good to make sure there isn't anything in the way of the taproot on its way down (so, maybe dig a meter and make sure no rocks are in the way, and loosen up the soil). You don't want to plant watermelons in a raised bed with black plastic underneath it unless the soil is deep enough (at least a meter), or else you just might get small and potentially soft melons. Desert king looks like a great regular heirloom watermelon that withstands drought and heat. It might be a consideration if you want to try regular watermelons instead of the wild kind, but I don't know how easy it is to grow aside from that.

Here are some plants you might want to consider, but that may be more difficult to get started. Once started, you shouldn't have to worry about them.

  • Comfrey, while lightly toxic, once it gets established it’s hard to get rid of it. It may or may not be difficult to get it established. Its roots are supposed to be great for treating sprained ankles. It attracts bumblebees like no other plant I’ve seen. Grasshoppers love eating the leaves. It can be an attractive plant. It enjoys sun and if properly established, has no trouble with dry soil that is never watered. If it’s not well-established, yet, it may need more pampering.
  • When blackberries really get established, they can be pretty low maintenance (although you may or may not want to prune them). They are not the easiest plants to get established, though. Blackberries taste great and their leaves are an awesome herb. It's my personal opinion that blackberries don't require as much maintenance as raspberries, but some people may or may not argue the point.

Here are some you may want to consider, but that don't quite meet your criteria:

  • I have not tried it yet, but I think the eastern prickly pear might be pretty easy to grow, so long as you don't over-water it or plant it in the wrong kind of soil. They are supposed to be edible (the pads and the fruits). They can handle cold as far as zone 4, at least, I believe.
  • Cantaloupe, though maybe not the easiest to grow, is easy to save seed from. Choose an heirloom variety if you want the same kind of cantaloupe. Make sure you either plant them early enough or get a kind that gets ripe in time.
  • Sometimes spinach may be pretty easy, but I wouldn't count on it all the time, and some kinds of it will reseed themselves. Not all of them seem to, however. So, find someone who has some that is growing well, and reseeding, and get some from them.
  • Domestic heirloom tomatoes are not that difficult to grow and save seeds from, but sometimes pests may cause problems. The wild ones are generally supposed to be a lot easier and more pest-resistant, though. Some people have a hard time with tomatoes, but some people think they're the easiest thing they can grow. I recommend at least trying them to see how they work for you.
  • Similarly, peppers are not terribly difficult as long as you take care of them and get them started right. Some peppers are probably easier than others. A lot of what is easy depends on your climate, hardiness zone, soil and pests, though.

I don’t know a lot about microgreens, but I think some peas are supposed to be good for them. Peas are actually relatively easy to grow, and fast. You can eat the peas and the shoots.

As for looking for quality and safe seeds, I would be careful about seeds from China. I’ve read reviews for seeds of various plants shipped from China on Amazon.com, and they’re often the wrong plant, or they don’t germinate well or something. I think most of your well-known seed catalogs probably have good seeds most of the time. Check the reviews if you’re concerned.

Saving seeds yourself is often a good idea. There are different processes for different kinds of seeds. A lot of the processes might sound complicated, but if you’re only saving them for next year, you probably don’t have to go through as much to preserve them, depending on the plant.

  • Are the squash bugs eaten by ladybugs or other 'friendly insects'? – tomByrer Oct 24 '14 at 19:55
  • I think a praying mantis could eat them. They're big. – Brōtsyorfuzthrāx Oct 24 '14 at 21:21
  • You can just pick squash bugs off if you're persistent, but when they fly they smell. Food grade diatomaceous earth might help. – Brōtsyorfuzthrāx Oct 25 '14 at 2:03
  • 1
    There is a lot of good information in here, but perhaps you've forgotten what it's like to be a beginner. Some of the items in here are definitely not easy to grow. Berries and tomatoes for example. Not easy for a beginner. – RubberDuck Oct 25 '14 at 19:52
  • 1
    Very interesting list! I have to say - I've tried both purslane and molokhia in my garden here in the Upper Midwest, and couldn't get either to grow. The purslane only came up once out of half a dozen plantings, and never really thrived. The molokhia was devoured by Japanese Beetles even though the beetles weren't particularly bothering any of my other plants that year. I think it is important for the OP to know that his/her mileage will vary! – michelle Nov 4 '14 at 18:58
6

Garlic. About as fool-proof and reliable about making "seed" as they come.

Potatoes. As with garlic, if you can grow the crop, you have your "seed."

No fuss about hybrids, cross breeding intentional or not, etc. with the above as it's not an actual seed - you are growing clones. Unlike seed-producing crops, you need to save a significant portion of the harvest for next year's seed material. Use the BEST for seed and eat what's left to improve your stock, rather than eating the biggest and best.

"Lemon" cucumber. (but you can't grow other cucumbers or various type of squash nearby or you'll get hybrids.)

In general, "open-pollinated" varieties of seed are what you want if you are producing your own seed, and you have to raise the seed-producing stock (at least) in isolation from other varieties of the same vegetable or you get unintentional hybrids that may be good or bad, but in either case are not the plant you started with. Without getting into specific vendor recommendations, you'll notice that some vendors are very clear about what is and is not open pollinated, and have many open pollinated varieties in stock, and others don't. There is also the Seed Savers Exchange (not precisely a vendor) and sometimes you will find SSE varieties available from vendors if they have proved popular.

The very classic "easy to grow and quick" (but I don't know about seed production as I have not tried) would have to be radishes. 3-4 weeks to harvest in most cases. I wish I liked eating them better than I actually do, since they are so easy and generally reliable to grow.

You may also want to consider perennial crops, such as rhubarb, asparagus and (possibly crossing the line to "could be a weed") Jerusalem Artichoke (also marketed as Sunchokes - and in either case more palatable after they have had a good freeze.) Various berries, vines, shrubs and fruit trees also have the potential of long production from one purchase of "seed" material.

On the third hand, other than far-fetched scenarios that certain vendors (including some seed vendors, but none I'd purchase from) and political splinter groups like to promote, seed is not that big of an expense, and many hybrids have real advantages that outweigh the small cost of seed.

  • I hear about potatoes, when you initially get them, you want to use seed potatoes (simply because they're supposed to be guaranteed to be free from diseases or some such, and the grocery store ones aren't). I'm not sure about saving ones you've grown yourself, but it sounds like a great idea. – Brōtsyorfuzthrāx Oct 24 '14 at 2:04
  • Thanks! I'm defiantly thinking about growing garlic and maybe radish now. Your info really helped! – Lone Wolf Oct 24 '14 at 2:59
3

I know you asked about vegetables, but I see you mentioned herbs too. I've found that basil is the easiest thing to grow. It's practically a weed and you'll get plenty of seed from it.

As for vegetables, I've had a lot of success with green beans. In particular, I find Ejote Silvestre quite easy to grow. They're not real picky and you'll also get plenty of seed from them at the end of the year. Fall clean up can be a bit of work though. I also like carrots. They're fairly maintenance free as well, although, they won't seed until the second year.

I'm not sure what you mean by "safe" seed, but since you want to save the seed, stay away from anything that says "hybrid" on the package. Hybrids are crossbreed for specific traits. Often they're infertile. Other times, the child plants just don't grow or fruit like their parents. Personally, I like Burpee's organic line, but there are many "mail order" seed providers out there. I recommend doing some of your own online research to find a company you like.

  • 1
    Unfortunately, I can't really comment about the micro-greens. – RubberDuck Oct 24 '14 at 0:00
  • Be careful about green beans. Some of them are easier and more immediately edible than others. :) The climbing kinds can be pretty good, I think. – Brōtsyorfuzthrāx Oct 24 '14 at 2:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.