The Easiest Vegetables to Direct Sow in the Garden

Self Seeding Vegetables

The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

Starting plants from seed is a great way to save money and get exactly the variety you crave. However not everyone is keen on starting seeds indoors under lights and few of us have ideal greenhouse conditions. But that doesn't mean you can't grow some vegetables from seed. These 15 vegetable garden staples can be direct sown right in the garden and will still have plenty of time to mature and bear fruit, before the season ends. So grab you trowel and a couple of seed packets and let's head outside.

  • 01 of 15

    Grow Beans by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Bean Plants
    'Kentucky Wonder' is a classic green bean. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Beans are such an easy vegetable to grow. The seeds are large enough for a child to handle. They sprout quickly and take off growing. Think Jack and the Beanstalk. I like to start the season with a couple of succession plantings of quick maturing bush beans while I wait for the pole beans to fill in. Although equally easy to grow, pole beans need time to grow tall, before they start bearing beans. Short bush beans are much faster, but don't last as long. Might as well plant both.

  • 02 of 15

    Grow Beets by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Marie Iannotti

    Any vegetable that is grown for its root is best direct sown, so that you don't disturb the root and cause it to become stunted or deformed. You could get away with starting the seeds in a peat or paper pot and transplanting the whole thing, but beets are such a quick crop, why make extra work for yourself. Beets will need to be thinned, but you can eat any young seedlings that you remove. This is another good candidate for succession planting and also nice for intercropping.

  • 03 of 15

    Grow Carrots by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Tips for Growing Carrots
    Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Carrots really do not like being disturbed, once they start growing. They don't even like it when you pull nearby plants to thin the row. Try and sown somewhat thinly, to appease them, and cut off the seedlings you thin, rather than pulling them. Pulling carrots also releases their scent and attracts the cabbage rust fly, who will lay their eggs on the broken soil and make it that much easier for their larvae to make their way to your coddled carrots.

  • 04 of 15

    Grow Corn by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Sweet Corn Recipes
    Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Although we don't grow corn for its roots, the plants have a very long tap root and, like root crops, don't like being disturbed. Luckily chunky corn seed is large and easy to handle and if you soil is friable, you can just poke the seed down a couple of inches and water it in. Corn can be succession planted, too, or you can simply choose early, mid and late season varieties, to extend your harvest.

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Grow Cucumbers by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Marie Iannotti

    Cucumbers love warm soil. You can plant them in late spring, once the soil has had a chance to heat up, and they will do the rest. The vines grow quickly and sprawl up or out. Plant several seeds, to ensure enough flowers for good pollination. If the flowers are not pollinated, the fruits will wither and die, before they mature.

  • 06 of 15

    Grow Lettuce by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Marie Iannotti

    Talk about quick; lettuce and other salad greens, like arugula, mache and spinach will sprout within a week and be ready to start snipping in a few weeks. You can usually find lettuce transplants and you can certainly start your own, but for a steady supply, your best bet is succession sowing. To get lettuce to sprout during the summer, cool the soil first by soaking it with water and then covering it with a board for 2-3 days. It will improve germination.

    • Tips for Growing Lettuce and Other Salad Greens
  • 07 of 15

    Grow Melons by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Marie Iannotti

    Melons like it hot. There's no sense rushing them, since they'll just bide their time. As with cukes, plant melon seed in what is called a hill, a small mound with 5 - 6 seeds planting in it and a circular depression around it to act as a moat. You can then the seedlings to 3 or 4 of the strongest plants, when they are a few inches tall. This will give you plenty of flowers for good pollination and well formed fruits.

  • 08 of 15

    Grow Parsnips by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    How to Grow Parsnips
    Different varieties of parsnips may be long and thin or wide at the shoulders, tapering toward the tip. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    This carrot cousin takes several months to mature. Luckily you can plant it in mid-spring and leave it in the ground until well after frost. They get sweeter with a good chill. If your ground doesn't freeze in the winter, or if you can provide them with some winter protection, you can leave your parsnips in the ground and harvest as needed until spring.

    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Grow Peas by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Growing Peas
    It's the rare March when I can plant my peas on St. Patrick's Day. Marie Iannotti

    Planting peas is a spring celebration. You know the vegetable garden is in full swing when you can plant the peas. Although they can take a little frost, they don't thrive in cold, wet soil. But you can't wait too long to plant them, because they need to be up and flowering before the air temperature turns warm. Hedge your bet by using an inoculant that will help prevent them from rotting in muddy spring soil.

  • 10 of 15

    Grow Pumpkins by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Growing and Eating Pumpkins
    'Small Sugar' pumpkin is easy to grow and delicious to eat. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    If you've ever tossed the Halloween pumpkins guts on the compost pile, you know how easily pumpkins germinate. In fact, many gardeners actually grow their pumpkins in the compost heap. These are large, sprawling vines and not having them in the vegetable garden clears a lot of space. However the plants are very tasty to groundhogs, so they may need some protection. 

  • 11 of 15

    Grow Radishes by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Growing French Breakfast Radishes
    Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Radishes like to grow quickly, in cool weather. You can direct seed these as soon as the ground can be worked and succession sow every 2 weeks until it's so warm they start to bolt. Because they grow so fast, radish seed is often planted with slower germinating seeds, like carrots and parsnips, to mark the row and to keep the soil loose for when the second crop emerges.

  • 12 of 15

    Grow Rutabagas by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Marie Iannotti

    Rutabagas are another long season root crop. They are planted in the spring and plump up during the cool, short days of fall. Unlike parsnips and turnips, they don't usually survive in cold winter soil. But if you are gardening in a warm climate, you'll have better luck planting in the fall and growing them through winter. Although we often see melon sized rutabagas in the grocery store, they are more sweet and crunchy when harvest at 3 - 4 in. in diameter.

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Grow Salsify by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    How to Grow Salsify
    Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    This old favorite poses a unique challenge as a seedling. It looks remarkable like a twig and it is all too easy to reach down and pull it up. Even though I was warned of this before I first grew it, I plucked a few anyway and thought, "Wow, it really does look like a twig!" Trust me, mark the row well. Salsify needs a long season and you don't want to have to start over.

    • Tips for Growing Salsify
  • 14 of 15

    Grow Squash by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Sweet Dumpling Squash
    An easy to grow squash, Sweet Dumplings are small enough to finish in one sitting. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Both winter and summer squash can be direct sown. They are fairly fast growers, so wait until both the soil and air have warmed. Holding out until after Memorial Day is hard to do, but you will not only get a faster growing plant, you will have thwarted some of the early season insect pests, like squash borers and bugs, who will have moved on by then looking for an alternative source of food.

  • 15 of 15

    Grow Turnips by Direct Sowing in the Garden

    Growing Turnips
    'Golden Ball' turnips are small and tender, wonderful for eating fresh or grilling whole. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Turnips - Turnips only require a month or two to grow to harvest-size. They get pithy is they grow too large, so succession planting every few weeks makes good sense. Like parsnips, a late planting of turnips can be left in the ground over winter and harvested as needed. They go dormant in winter and will not continue growing or become tough. 

    I've mentioned succession planting quite a bit here, because it is the best way to have a continual harvest, rather than a one time glut. It's easy enough to poke or scatter a few more seeds while you are in the garden picking dinner. Just be sure you purchase enough seeds in the spring, to take you through the season. Seed packets tend to disappear as garden centers make room for holiday displays.