Growing Low-Maintenance Vegetables

Vegetable gardening requires a commitment of time and effort, but growing your own fresh vegetables doesn't have to take over your life. If you start with a few easy to grow vegetables that don't require daily care, you will be eating fresh all summer. You don't even need a full garden: Most of these vegetables can be grown in containers and kept at a hand's reach. So no excuses—you can be a vegetable gardener, no matter your climate.

  • 01 of 06

    Beans

    Runner bean

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    Beans are one of the most prolific vegetables you can have in your garden. Pole beans, in particular, keep going from mid-summer until frost. All you need is a packet of seeds and something for them to grow on.

    Don't let the idea of a trellis put you off. You can grow pole beans along a fence or railing or up some string or twine. The only caveat for having a continual harvest of beans is that you actually have to harvest them. If you leave them on the plant, it will stop setting more pods.

  • 02 of 06

    Cherry Tomatoes

    Reisentraube Tomatoes

    Marie Iannotti.

    It's easy to grow tomatoes but more difficult to keep them healthy. Tomatoes are prone to a miscellany of fungal diseases that set in as soon as the weather heats up and becomes humid. The low-maintenance choice for tomatoes would be hybrid cherry tomatoes. Hybrids generally have better disease resistance than open-pollinated plants, and many varieties have been bred to grow more vigorously and yield more fruits.

    The smaller tomatoes—cherry, grape, and pear, for example—are some of the hardiest varieties. They can be grown in the garden or in containers, staked or allowed to sprawl or hang. There's no wrong way to grow cherry tomatoes. Plus you don't even need to slice them—a low-maintenance bonus.

  • 03 of 06

    Garlic

    Garlic bulbs

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    It doesn't get much easier than this. Dig a hole. Plop in a garlic clove (regular-sized or elephant). Cover. Come back next summer. Dig. Enjoy.

    OK, you do need to make sure your garlic gets watered and a little food, but seriously—that's it. Animals don't bother it. You don't have to stake or prune. You can even save a few bulbs from your harvest to plant again in the fall so that you don't even have to order more. Cutting off the garlic scapes to encourage bulb growth also gives you the bonus of a flavorful stalk to add to your cooking, used like a green onion.

  • 04 of 06

    Leafy Greens (Cooking and Salad)

    Spinach growing in vegetable garden

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    Members of this group of vegetables are a bit ragtag. They aren't all green. Some are eaten fresh, others cooked, and some can be used either way. Some, like beet greens, do double duty. All of this versatility—and the only real care they need is regular water.

    Salad greens such as lettuce, arugula, mizuna, and spinach can all be grown in the garden or in containers. Harvesting just a few leaves from each plant, known as the "cut and come again" method, will extend your harvest for several weeks. (You'll get a much longer season if you succession plant.) Some salad greens will bolt in hot weather, but lettuce, mizuna, and arugula can be grown throughout the summer, especially in containers, if you provide some shade.

    The cooking greens—kale, chard, collards, and the like—just keep chugging along. Harvest the outer leaves, and the plants will fill right back in. Like fresh-eating greens, all they require is regular water and occasional fertilizer.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Hot Peppers

    High Angle Close-Up Of Chili Plant

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    Tiny hot peppers are much easier to grow than their larger sweet cousins. Each plant will set a sizable harvest. You can harvest at any stage, from green to screaming orange, so even if you forget to harvest for a month or so, your peppers will only get better (and hotter). In fact, a top recommendation for growing hot peppers is to neglect them. Be stingy with the water but generous with the heat and sunshine.

    This is another vegetable that is rarely bothered by pests or diseases. Hot peppers do well in containers, although they can get heavy when they are loaded with fruits and may need staking.

  • 06 of 06

    Herbs

    Balcony with potted herbs

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    Many herb plants are ridiculously easy to grow, and the more you snip and eat them, the fuller they grow. Plus, the oils that give them their flavor and aroma are more concentrated if you go easy on the water. Who can't do that, right?

    Herbs do well in containers but can be tricky to grow indoors because they need a lot of sunshine and a container large enough for their roots to spread out. (And mint will spread like crazy, so you want to keep that in a container anyway.) You may have better luck indoors with perennial herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. Tender basil, dill, and cilantro are easy to start from seed or seedlings but will require more water than hardy perennials. 

    Chives will be fine indoors or out. You can grow parsley as an annual in a pot or in its own garden patch and let it reseed itself, as it's a biennial. You will still get some leaves during its seed-setting year, but they'll be more spiky than full and less numerous.

    Bay is most often grown in a container, started from seedlings rather than seed, as it's a slow-growing tree.