Vegetable Gardening: 10 Must-Grow Plants
Make space for at least one of each of these edible 10 must-grow plants in your garden plot. Easy to grow and reliable producers of scrumptious produce from spring until fall, our top 10 edible plants will fill your plate with garden-fresh flavor.
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Also known as beefsteak tomatoes, this group of tomatoes produces medium to large fruits that are often sliced for topping burgers and sandwiches, and is one of the top 10 must-grow plants. Often red but also available in yellow and green varieties, slicers tend to be disease-resistant and easy to grow. Some of the most popular slicers include 'Better Boy' and 'Celebrity'. Several heirloom tomatoes are also excellent slicers. 'Brandywine' is a pink-skin heirloom with soft flesh and full flavor. Get started with transplants from your local nursery or a mail-order source.
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These bite-size tomatoes are packed with flavor and sweet tomato juice, making them a great top 10 must-grow plant. Available in shades of red and yellow, small-fruited tomatoes are often very prolific. One plant can produce several pounds of fruit from midsummer until frost. Try 'Yellow Pear,' 'Super Sweet 100,' and 'Juliet.' Get started with transplants from your local nursery or a mail-order source.
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Sweet peppers come in all shapes and sizes. Bell peppers are the most popular garden variety of sweet peppers, and are an easy, top 10 must-grow plant. Left to ripen, they turn red, purple, orange, or yellow and contain various amounts of sugar depending on the variety. Green bell peppers are the most common. Try 'California Wonder' or 'Purple Beauty.'
Paler green and yellow elongated sweet pepper varieties often have a more intense flavor. Because peppers require a long, hot growing season, in cool regions or areas with short growing seasons, they may never develop their ripe color. Try 'Sweet Banana'.
Get started with transplants from your local nursery or a mail-order source.
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The heat of hot peppers intensifies as the peppers ripen. Chili peppers include Anaheims, anchos, jalapenos, cayenne, and habanero peppers, among others. They ripen through a wide range of colors from yellow, orange, purple, and even brown. Some chili peppers turn bright red, which is more often an indication of ripeness than hotness. One plant will produce many peppers during a growing season, making them a great top 10 must-grow plant. Try ‘Early Jalapeno’ or ‘Kung Pao’. Get started with transplants from your local nursery or a mail-order source.
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A couple of cucumber plants will easily produce enough fruit for a family of four—you might even have some extra bounty to share with friends and neighbors, making them a great top 10 must-grow plant. Easy to grow and vigorous, cucumbers thrive in the heat of summer. Their trailing vines can sprawl across the garden, or they can be trained onto a sturdy trellis. Bush types are excellent for small-space gardens and containers. Try 'Marketmore 76' or 'Salad Bush'. Cucumbers are easy to grow from seed planted in late spring after the last frost.
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Garden-fresh peas are the ultimate springtime treat, and so sweet it's hard to pass them up as a top 10 must-grow plant. This cool-season crop thrives in cool, moist weather and can be planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Best eaten fresh, some peas convert as much as 40 percent of their sugar to starch in just a few hours in the refrigerator. Snow peas, and their close relative snap peas, are eaten whole—no time-consuming shelling required. Try ‘Dwarf Gray Sugar’. Snow peas are easy to grow from seed.
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The word "mesclun" is French and originally referred to a mixture of tender salad greens that were wild-harvested in early spring. Today mesclun is cultivated in gardens and containers to make harvesting perfectly tender baby looseleaf as easy as stepping out the door. Many flavor-rich mixes are available, making them a tasty addition to the top 10 must-grow plant list. Try a couple, and enjoy the variety of flavors. Mesclun is easy to grow from seed planted in early spring.
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Scrumptious in a fresh salad and lovely in the garden, spinach is a top 10 must-grow plant for the edible landscape. Plant ribbons of spinach through a perennial border, or use it as a tiny, tidy hedge around a plot of early-season vegetables. Plant a late summer crop for harvest in fall. Try ‘Olympia’. Spinach is easy to grow from seed.
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Tomato’s perfect partner, basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow, making it a great top 10 must-grow plant. Add it to sauces, soups, and salads for a spicy, tangy flavor. The many varieties, from lime basil to Thai basil, have flavors ranging form citrusy to spicy with a touch of anise. Grow a few and explore the different tastes. Basil grows equally well in the garden and in containers, and its clean, long-lasting foliage makes it a great plant for the edible landscape, too. Try ‘Genovese’. It has spicy flavor. Basil is easy to grow from seed or transplants.
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Beans are some of the easiest vegetables to grow, and a wonderful addition to the top 10 must-grow plant list. Perfect for a first-time gardener or a child's vegetable garden, beans quickly germinate and produce copious amounts of tasty treats. They are available in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes; some plants produce colorful flowers, pods, and seeds. From snap beans to edamame—you can grow them all. Try 'Provider': It is known for its fast growth. Beans are easy to grow from seed.