The 11 Easiest Foods to Grow at Home During Quarantine
Don't let by those picked-over supermarket shelves stress you. It's easier than you might think to grow fresh veggies and herbs for yourself and your family.
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First, don’t panic
As alarming as it is to see bare shelves in the supermarket, food producers and reports from the USDA say there’s plenty of food to go around. Unfortunately, news of the coronavirus has scared us into panic-buying and hoarding. Sometimes we can’t find the basic foods we want, like lettuce, tomatoes and pantry staples like beans and spices. The good news is that many fruits and veggies are easy to grow, even for beginners, and they’ll thrive whether you’re gardening in a backyard plot or in containers on your patio, porch or apartment balcony.
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You might be surprised to know you don’t need a big garden to grow green beans. Bush beans are space-savers, but you can also grow beans vertically, by choosing pole varieties and training their vines onto a trellis, fence or other support. Full sun, regular waterings and moderately rich soil will pay off in a plentiful harvest, and beans don’t need much fertilizer. Although they’ll benefit from a side-dressing of compost in mid-season if you didn’t work a lot of compost into the soil before you planted. Read your seed packet to know approximately when your variety will be ready to harvest, and keep the plants picked so they’ll keep producing. Check out 50 amazing ways to use up green beans.
Zucchinis have a reputation for being so easy to grow, and are so prolific gardeners joke about having to leave their extras on a neighbor’s doorstep. Just one plant can yield six to 10 pounds of zucchinis in a single growing season. Plant their seeds directly in your garden or a large container once the soil warms up to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They need full sun and moist, easily-draining soil amended with compost. Give them an inch of water each week, if there’s no rain, and harvest when the fruits are small and the skins are tender.
You can freeze zucchinis or bake them into breads, slice them for pasta, grate them for fritters or chop them into vegetable chilis. They’re also delicious in any of these recipes.
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Many gardeners love fresh radishes for that crunch that you get when you bite into them—but these simple root veggies are good for more than eating. Because the seeds sprout quickly—often within a week—you can use them in the garden to mark the rows of other crops that don’t come up as fast. Simply sow the seeds outdoors about 1/2 to one inch deep while the weather is still cool. Wait ten days and plant again for a continuous crop until the summer heat arrives or sow more radishes when the temperatures drop in fall.
They’ll thrive in a sunny spot that has loose soil amended with organic matter. Thin the seedlings to two inches apart, so their roots won’t be crowded and keep the plants evenly moist. Some varieties are ready to harvest just three weeks after planting.
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Like zucchini, cucumbers are prolific and easy to grow. Just give them a spot with moist, fertile soil and lots of sunshine. Start the seeds when the soil warms up to at least 60 degrees, tucking them an inch deep into the ground. They’ll sprout in a few days. Keep them happy with regular waterings and, if you didn’t work a lot of organic matter into the soil before you planted, side-dress them with a balanced, soluble fertilizer when the fruits set. The cucumbers are ready to harvest when they’re still small and the skins are tender. Here are some popular cucumber varieties and how to use them.
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Some seeds take longer than others to germinate, and if your growing season is short, you’ll want to sow them indoors to get a head start on the season. Sweet peppers, for example, aren’t hard to grow, but they can’t take the cold and should be started eight-ten weeks before your last spring frost. With this seed-starting system, you provide the seeds and tuck them into biodegradable sponges made from sphagnum peat. The reusable tray holds 50 sponges and comes with a bottle of liquid plant food and a guide to get you growing. Transplant the seedlings into your garden or outdoor containers when the weather warms up. You can also use this seed system to grow herbs on a sunny windowsill.
The hardest thing about growing tomatoes might be choosing your favorite kind. There are cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, heirlooms with rich flavors, Romas for stews, pasta, and sauces and hearty beefsteaks. Gardeners in cool regions may want to start with transplants to save time over growing tomatoes from seeds. The plants need full sun and soil that drains easily. For best results, your soil should contain lots of compost and be slightly acidic, with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. As the plants grow, apply a fertilizer recommended for tomatoes as directed on the label. This raised garden bed with an automatic watering system makes it easy to grow compact or patio-type tomatoes, even in a small space. Now that you know how to grow them, it’s time for the ultimate question: Are tomatoes a fruit or a veggie?
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Lettuces are great for beginning gardeners. They grow fast, take full sun but tolerate some shade and can be tucked between other fruits and veggies or into containers. If you don’t have an ideal garden spot, use a raised bed instead. Add good quality planting soil; the loose soil will also make it easy to pluck any weeds that pop up. Sow your lettuce seeds in early spring or fall and keep the plants watered regularly. Lettuce started in spring will last until the summer heat arrives and fall-sown lettuce will grow until a killing frost. Harvest the outermost leaves first but don’t pull up the plants, so they can keep producing.
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Make a little hole in the ground, tuck in a bare-root onion seedling, and stand back. In two or three weeks, the small plants will be ready to pull and use as green onions, or you can wait until the bulbs are bigger and then harvest them. Mature onions will let you know they’re ready when their tops turn yellow and bend over. Just brush off the soil and put the onions, with the tops still attached, in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place to cure for a week to 10 days. Then remove the top foliage and roots and store the onions in a cool, airy place until you’re ready to use them. Learn the best ways to use common onion types.
There are lots of delightful types of peas. Choose disease-resistant varieties, and you won’t need to do much more than plant them, water regularly and harvest them. Start your peas in cool, spring temperatures, before the hot weather arrives. They don’t usually need fertilizer, but they do need a deep, weekly watering if rain is scarce. For best results, grow your peas, including dwarf varieties, on a trellis or other support. Read your seed packet to know when to harvest, and pick often so the plants will keep producing. Fresh peas have the best taste, but you can freeze or dry them to use later.
During a quarantine, an herb garden makes an easy growing project without leaving home. This garden ($72) comes with a reusable, seven-gallon grow bag, compost, soil, plant nutrients and a “Grow Pro” membership that includes support from gardening experts, weather alerts, watering and harvesting tips and more. You’ll also get an email code you can use to have four to six well-rooted plants selected for your growing region shipped to you. Although the types of herbs will vary, you might receive basil to make into pesto, mint to steep for tea or dill to add flavor to homemade pickles. So many herbs are easy to grow, you may not want to stop. These are the best herbs to grow indoors.
Nutritious potatoes are a great choice for beginning gardeners, especially when you use grow bags ($16) filled with good potting soil and compost. Start with seed potatoes that haven’t been treated to resist sprouting. Cut them into chunks with two eyes per chunk and let them dry overnight before planting them. Then give them full sun and regular water. Add more soil to the bag when the plants are about 8 inches tall, leaving the top set of leaves uncovered.
Add more soil when the plants grow another 8 inches tall and repeat this process until the bag is full. When the foliage turns yellow, stop watering and wait about a week before you dig up the potatoes with your gloved hands. Many grow bags are reusable and available in different sizes. Use your new spuds to try out some of the best potato recipes from every state.