Growing Vegetables A to Z

What to Grow in Your Vegetable Garden

Starting a Vegetable Garden | Container Vegetable Gardening | Early Spring Vegetables | Fall Vegetable Gardening | Vegetable Gardening in Warm Climates | Vegetables A to Z

Deciding what to grow in a vegetable garden should be easy - grow what you like to eat. But once you start reading the descriptions of the vegetables, your eyes become much bigger than your stomach. So plant a mix of vegetables to eat fresh and some to store away for later.

Here, A to Z, are growing tips and recommendations for...MORE the most popular vegetables to grow in a home vegetable garden.

  • 01 of 25
    An Asparagus Border.
    An Asparagus Border. Photo: © Marie Iannotti
    One of the first vegetables of spring and it’s a perennial too. As with any perennial plant, it takes about 3 years to get your asparagus plants to come into their own. You’ll have to be patient and not pick any for the first year. Put once they’re up and running, you’ll be enjoying fresh asparagus for years.
  • 02 of 25
    Green Bean Harvest.
    Green Bean Harvest. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Beans just keep on producing. You can plant bush beans in succession every 2-3 weeks and have a continual harvest or just put up a couple of tepees of space saving pole beans. And there’s so much more variety than what you can find at the grocers.

    Tips for Growing a Fall Crop of Green Beans.

  • 03 of 25
    How many vegetables are totally edible? You can eat the beet greens or wait and eat the root bulb. You can even eat the extra plants you thin out of the row. All this, and beets are actually a very attractive ornamental plant too.
  • 04 of 25

    Broccoli can handle a little chill in the spring, although it won't really get going until things warm up.  Still, it's nice to have the plants nestled in and ready to sprint.  Give them plenty of room and good soil.  They'll be sending out sprouts for most of the summer.

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  • 05 of 25
    Developing Brussels Sprouts.
    Developing Brussels Sprouts. Photo: Debbie Schiel / stock.xchng.
    Brussels sprouts take their time growing and then, just when you think there’s nothing left to pick in the garden, your Brussels sprouts are tinged in frost and ready to enjoy. You can start harvesting the lower sprouts earlier, but they really are sweetest after being kissed by frost.
  • 06 of 25
    Heads of 'Red Drumhead' Cabbage.
    Heads of 'Red Drumhead' Cabbage. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    As decorative as they are tasty. A field of cabbages looks too good to cut. But do. Try some of the less familiar types, like the puckered savoy, the self-blanching Chinese ‘Michihli’, or the Italian heirloom ‘Nero di Toscana’ (Black Palm Tree).

  • 07 of 25
    Ears of Sweet Corn.
    Ears of Sweet Corn. Photo: Stephanie Berghaeuser / stock.xchng.
    Corn so fresh it doesn’t need to be cooked. If you haven’t experienced that, you owe it to yourself to try growing corn. Corn is pollinated by the wind, so you need enough space to plant it in blocks. But it’s quite an attractive plant, so you won’t mind making room.
  • 08 of 25

    Cucumbers don't need a lot of encouragement to grow.  The only hard part of growing cucumbers is keeping up with the harvest.  Pick them young and they'll be less bitter and have fewer seeds.  More will follow.

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  • 09 of 25
    Eggplant 'Hansel'
    Eggplant 'Hansel'. Photo: © National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    There’s a whole world of eggplants out there, just waiting for us to learn how to cook it well. There are stripped, mottled, green and even egg-shaped white eggplants to experiment with. Eggplant absolutely loves heat and sun and the larger fruited varieties need a long summer to yield well. But the long thin eggplants, like the Asian ‘Fengyuan’ and the AAS winners ‘Hansel’ and ‘Gretel’, are great for shorter season gardens.

    A Look at Eggplant Varieties.

  • 10 of 25
    Italian Kale.
    Italian Kale. Photo: © Marie Iannotti
    Few vegetables require so little work and are so good for you. Most greens (and reds) do really well as late season crops, as replacements for the fading bean and squash plants. And some are so beautiful, like ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, they can do double duty in the flower garden. However they’ll need some protection from the ground hogs, who love them too.
  • 11 of 25
    Ornamental Gourds.
    Ornamental Gourds. Photo: © Marie Iannotti
    It may seem like a sacrifice to give up space for something you can’t eat, but what would a harvest season be without a display of ornamental gourds? Gourds can easily be grown anywhere in your yard, since they start being ornamental long before you harvest them.
  • 12 of 25
    Lettuce Field,
    Lettuce Field. Photo: © Marie Iannotti
    How many vegetables can you eat fresh, without cooking? If you think all lettuce is tasteless, try a mixed blend and surprise yourself. You can succession plant lettuce all summer. When the temperature heats up, it helps to plant lettuce in the shade of taller plants, like pole beans or tomatoes. Grow the cut and come again types and you’ll never be out of lettuce.
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  • 13 of 25
    Okra is associated with the South, but it grows quite well anywhere. Okra is in the hibiscus family and it has some of the most beautiful flowers you will see in a vegetable garden. The pods are known for thickening gumbo, but they'll do the same thing - deliciously - for curries, stir fries and pasta sauces.
  • 14 of 25
    Prize Winning Onions.
    Prize Winning Onions. Photo: © Marie Iannotti
    What a treat, being able to go outside and dig up an onion when you need it. It takes a long season to grow onions from seed, but luckily there are transplants and sets, or onion bulbs, that speed up the process.
  • 15 of 25
    Pea Pod 'Mammoth Melting Sugar'
    Pea Pod 'Mammoth Melting Sugar'. Photo: © National Gardening Bureau.
    Peas have a short season, sometimes even shorter than expected. More than one pea pod has been eaten while standing in the garden. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it heartily. Plant a lot because once you start shelling (and eating) there isn’t as much as you might expect.
  • 16 of 25
    Basket of Hot Peppers.
    Basket of Hot Peppers. Photo: © Marie Iannotti
    Hot peppers love abuse. Crowd them in. Forget to water them. They don’t care. They’ll just keep on producing. Even the milder hot peppers have zing when you eat them freshly picked. Be careful, they’re addictive.
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  • 17 of 25
    Potato Harvest.
    Potato Harvest. Photo: © Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images.
    Potatoes are a very undemanding crop. They do their thing underground for a couple of months and when they’re ready to be dug, they let you know by fading away on top. Of course, you can always do some early digging on the periphery for some new potatoes. Take a stab at growing a red, white and blue potato patch or some tender fingerlings. The best part of growing potatoes is the surprise of how much you’ll find when you dig them up.
  • 18 of 25
    Pumpkins Ready for Harvest.
    Pumpkins Ready for Harvest. Photo: © Johannes Simon / Getty Images.
    Pumpkins are a fun crop. Their big, sprawling vines take up a lot of space, but you don’t need to plant many. And there are the cute little ‘Jack-Be-Little’ or ‘Baby Boo’, pie pumpkins, competitive giant pumpkins, the ‘Rouge Vif d'Etampes’ Cinderalla pumpkin and don’t forget pie pumpkins.
  • 19 of 25

    Radishes take so little effort, it seems silly not to plant them. They're crispy, juicy and a little more pungent fresh from the garden. Plant them in small rows, every few weeks, to keep them coming. Radishes are often interplanted with carrots and beets. They loosen the soil and mark the area while the slower germinating seeds are just getting started. Then they are harvested and gone before they get in the way.

  • 20 of 25
    Rhubarb Stalks.
    Rhubarb Stalks. Photo: © Katia Grimmer-Laversanne / stock.xchng.

    Is rhubarb a vegetable? A fruit? An ornamental? However you classify it, it’s easy to grow and one of the few perennial vegetables, although in warmer climates it’s grown as an annual because it needs temperatures below 40 F. To break dormancy and stimulate bud growth. Either way, it makes a great pie!

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  • 21 of 25
    Baby Spinach.
    Baby Spinach. Photo: © Getty Images.
    Spinach is hardy enough to plant before you’re clear of frost. If you can’t wait to get your vegetable garden started, spinach is a definite. Get a couple of plantings in before the summer heat moves in. Then you’ll have space for a warm season vegetable, like eggplant and peppers.
  • 22 of 25
    Patty Pan Squash.
    Patty Pan Squash. Photo: © Marie Iannotti
    There’s more to summer squash than just zucchini. Summer squash needs no peeling and very often needs no cooking. It’s easy to grow, too. Try the wonderful single serving squashes that you can scoop out and use as an edible bowl or a star burst pattypan squash.
  • 23 of 25
    Assorted Winter Squash.
    Assorted Winter Squash. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    When those long winter days make you pine for your vegetable garden, you’ll be delighted to have a store of winter squash to remind you of warmer days. They take their time maturing, but then they keep a long time too.

    Winter Squash Varieties.

  • 24 of 25
    Sweet Potato Slices.
    Sweet Potato Slices. Photo: © Scott Bauer, Provided by USDA Ag. Research Service.
    Did you know you can also eat the leaves of sweet potatoes. Just don’t take them all, or the sweet potatoes won’t be able to finish growing. Did you know that in addition to the popular orange fleshed sweet potatoes there are white, yellow and even purple varieties?
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  • 25 of 25
    Tomato Variety.
    Tomato Variety. Photo: © The National Garden Bureau
    The test of a true vegetable gardener is the quest for the first ripe tomato of the season. We’ll never agree on the best tomato to grow, but with thousands to choose from, the contest is still on. If you grow nothing else, you should at least have a potted cherry tomato plant. (And some herbs.)