How to Grow Your Own Vegetables: A Very Short Guide for Distracted Gardeners

A photograph of the author, Austin Bailey.

By Austin Bailey

May 10, 2019

How to Grow Your Own Vegetables: A Very Short Guide for Distracted Gardeners

Spring is shiny and fresh! So much possibility! Time to plant! If you’re an experienced gardener with your plot already turned and tilled, piles of compost at the ready, then by all means, dive right in.

For everyone else, it’s a good idea to manage expectations. Growing food can be really hard work, and some failure is inevitable. We are all at the whim of sunshine, rain, slugs and disgusting, ravenous hornworms. The good news is that there are some tricks to grow food with minimal time, space and attention. You just have to have a plan. Here are a few ideas for gardening novices, apartment dwellers and the weeding-averse.

Thinking about a garden? Start small! Windowsills are great places to start out. Image via Unsplash.

Think Small

Ease into gardening by trying your hand at growing sprouts or salad greens on your windowsill. Keep “seed” capital to a minimum by planting in paper cups or plastic jars with drainage holes poked in the bottom. You’ll need only a small bag of potting soil and a scoop of compost. For your first try, plant a handful of dry peas or broccoli seeds and wait a couple of weeks. Harvest the shoots when they’re a few inches high for a brag-worthy stir fry. Success!

Don't ditch the pots before you're ready! Raised beds are cool but a potted vegetable garden is easier to care for. Image via Unsplash.

Don’t Put Down Roots

Maybe you’re not ready to dig up your lawn, or maybe you live in a condo and don’t have a lawn to dig. Either way, you can become a pot grower easily and legally in all 50 states. This low-commitment, low-maintenance endeavor can yield tomatoes, herbs, chilis, salad greens and pretty much anything else you want to tackle. You’re limited only by the size of the container you choose.

You can go low-budget or opulent with container gardening. Plants love growing in big plastic tubs and buckets, which actually retain moisture much better than more expensive clay pots. Of course, if you have $300 for an elevated cedar planter, you can do that, too. An extra bonus with container gardening is that you can move smaller plants around your porch or patio to capture maximum sunshine.


The key to a low-key garden? Mulch, drought-resistant plants and giving yourself grace when you forget to water. Image via Unsplash.

Plan to Fail

If you decide to go big and build a sweet garden plot in your yard, pace yourself. You know you’re going to forget to water sometimes, so plan for your future failures by planting drought-tolerant vegetables and burying them in a healthy layer of moisture-retaining mulch. Arugula is underrated, so develop your palate for it and sow some seeds. They’ll weather a few forgotten waterings just fine. Other crops to consider for dry conditions include beans, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, artichokes, okra and peppers.