A Crop-by-Crop Guide to
Growing Organic Vegetables and Fruits:
Our Complete Crops at a Glance Guide
Our comprehensive crop guides take you crop-by-crop through common vegetables and fruits for backyard gardeners. Each guide explains how to plant, when to plant, best harvest practices, how to save seeds, and how to deal with common pests and diseases naturally, setting you on your way to growing organic vegetables and fruits in your home garden successfully.
In each crop guide, you’ll also find a list of the different crop types to consider growing, plus a list of recommended varieties for each type. (Use our custom Seed and Plant Finder to locate seed companies that sell varieties you want to try.) If you’re curious about how to put a particular vegetable or fruit to good use in your cooking, check out the “In the Kitchen” section of each guide.
Written by expert gardener Barbara Pleasant, our “Crop at a Glance” collection teaches you how to grow everything from garden classics such as tomatoes and squash to lesser-known crops such as Jerusalem artichokes. Our growing guides are arranged alphabetically here, giving you easy, quick access to these succinct articles on home vegetable gardening.
There’s a sweet satisfaction in growing your own food and filling your table with delicious, healthy produce. We hope these guides help you in your gardening journey, introduce you to new crops and growing techniques, assist when you have to troubleshoot a problem, and ultimately lead you to bigger, more successful harvests.
Growing artichokes as annuals that bear edible buds their first season requires an early start, but properly handled artichoke plants will prosper in a wide range of climates. This guide includes descriptions of the types of globe artichokes and tips for growing them in your backyard garden.
Depending on which part of the plants you use, fast-growing Asian greens can slip into several culinary roles, and all plants are excellent sources of calcium and vitamins A, C and K. Learn how to grow Chinese cabbage, mizuna, bok choy and many other delicious Asian greens, plus get tips for harvesting, storage and seed saving.
Plant once, harvest for years: A well-maintained bed of this sweet, slender veggie will stay productive for up to 15 years, and, with its vibrant, ferny foliage, asparagus makes an excellent ornamental. Learn how to plant, grow and harvest asparagus.
Dependable and easy to grow, beans produce rewarding crops in a wide range of climates. Learn how to grow many different types of beans, including green snap, dry, soup, lima, scarlet runner and tepary beans.
Red table beets are only the tip of the beet iceberg: Mangel beets can be used as livestock fodder, storage beets can be eaten all winter, and white or golden beets make a stunning edible display when mixed in a beet salad.
Blackberry plants are dependable producers of tangy, nutritious fruit, and growing blackberries is easy if you choose good blackberry varieties for your climate. This guide includes descriptions of the types of blackberries, how to plant blackberries, and tips for pruning your canes to grow more big, juicy berries.
Growing blueberries isn’t as difficult as you might think. Read how to grow blueberry bushes suited to your climate and how to properly prepare your soil’s pH to harvest homegrown, antioxidant-rich berries all summer long.
Tasty in each of its many varieties, broccoli is easier to grow than its relatives cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and can produce bountiful crops for even novice gardeners. Get tips on how to plant, how to harvest and more.
One of the last veggies to be harvested in early winter, Brussels sprouts bring the gardening year to a delicious close. Growing Brussels sprouts is easy if you plant at the right time and work with vigorous varieties. This guide includes descriptions of Brussels sprout varieties and tips for growing this cabbage-family crop in your organic garden.
Think cabbage is boring? Think again! Try growing cabbage in your garden to enjoy its sweet flavors raw or cooked. This cold-hardy crop is great in spring and fall gardens. Green, Asian, pointed, savoy and red cabbages all make beautiful additions to your garden as well as nutritious options at your table.
Sweet, delicate carrots that can’t be found in supermarkets are among a home gardener’s greatest culinary rewards. By growing varieties suited to your soil, you can grow carrots in spring and fall, and the fall carrots can be left in the ground for harvesting in early winter.
Growing cauliflower requires excellent soil and close attention to planting dates, so that the plants mature in cool weather. But when vigorous cauliflower varieties are planted at the right time, robust cauliflower plants produce excellent crops. This guide includes descriptions of the types of cauliflower and tips for getting a great cauliflower harvest.
Learn how to grow your own stalk celery, cutting celery and celeriac for a crunchy, flavorful addition to your organic garden. By growing celery, you can cut back on or eliminate chemical residues found on nonorganic celery sold at the supermarket.
Cucumber varieties come in different sizes, shapes, colors and even flavors. You’ll need to pick often, because cucumbers can double in size in just one day! Learn how to plant cucumbers, which cucumber types grow best in your region, and get great pickle and gazpacho recipes.
Dry Beans and Peas
Learn the ins and outs of growing dry beans and peas, including lima beans, runner beans, tepary beans, field peas and more. You’ll be surprised to learn that growing beans is a real snap.
Growing eggplant is easy where summers are long and warm: If you grow peppers, you can grow eggplant. Learn all about growing this often-beautiful food, including the best eggplant varieties, how to prevent pests, container cultivation, and simple tips for cooking baba ghanouj and caponata.
Fennel is both a vegetable and an herb, depending on which variety you grow. Growing crunchy bulb fennel (also called finocchio) is easy in spring and fall, or you can keep a feathery mound of perennial fennel as a steady source of fennel fronds. This guide includes descriptions of the types of fennel as well as tips for growing fennel in your garden.
One of the most ancient fruits on earth, figs are at home in mild winter climates. Growing figs is easy in Zones 7 to 9 provided you grow types of figs suited to your climate. This guide includes descriptions of the types of figs, pruning fig plants and more.
Growing fruit trees organically is possible with the proper amount of care and attention. To bite into a fresh peach, or spread homemade apple butter on warm bread, is the epitome of a sweet, sweet reward.
A world of flavors awaits in every bulb! Garlic’s taste has several dimensions that come alive depending on how the plant is cooked. Learn how to plant, grow and harvest garlic, plus get pest prevention tips and discover great garlic types to try.
Learn how to grow, trellis and prune the best grape varieties for your region so you can enjoy delicious, heart-healthy grapes in homemade jellies, jams, juice and wine.
Growing horseradish is possible in a wide range of climates because they are such tough, persistent plants. Horseradish roots are harvested from fall through winter, providing plenty of warmth to winter meals. This guide includes descriptions of the types of horseradish and tips for growing this flavor-packed root crop in your organic garden.
Potatoes aren’t the only terrific tuber out there! Learn how to cultivate Jerusalem artichokes, which are knobby, nutty-flavored tubers. This is an easy-to-grow, productive crop that sometimes goes by the name of “sunchokes.”
Kale and Collards
Growing kale and collard greens in your garden will yield an abundant harvest of super-nutritious greens in spring, fall and often well into winter. This guide includes descriptions of the types of kale and collards, and tips for growing these great greens in your organic garden.
Growing kohlrabi quickly becomes habit-forming among organic gardeners, because this crunchy treat is so good to eat. Fast-maturing kohlrabi plants can be grown in spring and in fall, while the weather is cool. Storage varieties take longer to grow, but produce excellent crops. This guide includes recommended kohlrabi varieties and tips for growing, harvesting, storing and more.
Almost any time of year is good for growing leeks, the most upright members of the onion family. Summer leeks are fast to grow from seed started indoors in late winter, or you can start leek seedlings in late summer to grow from fall to spring. This guide also includes descriptions of the types of leeks to try.
Learn to grow lots of lettuce, including loose-leaf, butterhead, romaine and crisphead types. Lettuce loves cool weather, so plan to add it to your garden in spring or fall — and consider growing it under a cold frame or low tunnel in winter.
From watermelons and muskmelons to honeydew and Asian melons, you’ll be stunned by the variety of colors and shapes melons can bring to your garden.
Growing okra is easy in warm climates, but even Northern gardeners can plant okra in sun-warmed containers. This guide includes descriptions of the types of okra, how to plant okra, and how to harvest okra pods in their prime.
The robust, exceptional flavor onions add to meals is worth the few teardrops that may end up on your cutting board. Learn how to grow onions, leeks, scallions and shallots, plus get information on onion harvesting, storage and seed saving.
Any gardener can be successful growing parsnips, a delicious root crop that tastes best when harvested in early winter, after the soil has turned cold. Get organic growing tips plus recommendations for parsnip varieties.
Growing peanuts is easy in warm climates, but even Northern gardeners can try growing this snackable, protein-rich storage crop. This guide includes descriptions of the types of peanuts, how to plant peanuts, harvesting, and the curious reproductive behavior of the peanut plant.
You can grow many types of crunchy, quick-to-mature peas in your garden, including snap peas, shell peas and snow peas. Learn when to plant peas, how to grow them up a trellis, how to harvest and store shell peas, and more. This classic spring crop is often the first to mature in a garden season.
Spice up your garden (and cuisine) with heat-loving peppers! Learn how to plant, grow, harvest and store these striking, flavorful fruits, and discover some eye-catching varieties to grow.
Native to the mountains of South America, potatoes should be planted first thing in spring, when the soil is still cool. Gardeners can tap into a deliciously diverse selection of varieties, and it’s easy to save and replant your favorite varieties from one year to the next. Potatoes are also an excellent storage crop.
Growing your own pumpkins is as easy as pie! Learn when to plant pumpkins and how to harvest, cure and cook incredibly diverse pumpkin varieties. From fairy tales to the Thanksgiving table, the pumpkin has played an important role in our cultural and gastronomical past.
Fast, crisp, easy-to-grow spring and fall radishes sown directly in the garden are ready to eat in less than a month! For best quality, grow them in cool weather, keep the soil constantly moist and harvest them as soon as the roots become plump. Learn about salad radishes, rat-tail radishes and Oriental types.
Add flavorful, healthful color to your organic garden by growing raspberries. Learn how to plant raspberries and propagate several types and varieties — complete with instructions for properly pruning raspberries.
Growing rhubarb is easy in climates with cold winters, where grow into huge specimens that produce for a decade. This guide includes descriptions of rhubarb varieties with tips for growing rhubarb in your garden.
Fine-flavored shallots can keep in storage for months, and growing shallots is easy. Whether you plant shallot cloves in fall or shallot seedlings in spring, by late summer you will be harvesting shallots. This guide includes descriptions of several types of shallots you can grow in your garden.
Growing sorghum is as simple as growing corn, and you can choose between growing grain sorghum (milo), sorghum varieties known as broom corn, or sweet sorghum for making into sorghum syrup.
Growing sorrel yields great benefits, in part because the cold-hardy plants return year after year. Both garden sorrel and French sorrel have a unique lemony flavor much prized in spring salads and sorrel soup. This guide includes descriptions of the types of sorrel with tips for growing sorrel in your garden.
The most nutritious leafy green grown in most gardens — super-cold-hardy spinach — is a top crop for fall, winter and spring. From savoyed to smooth-leaved, spinach varieties vary greatly in texture and shade. Color ranges from dark to light green.
Growing stevia is easy in well-drained beds or containers, and the stevia leaves can be dried or crushed to replace sugar in teas, sorbets and more.
Perennial strawberries come in many types, from ever-bearing to Alpine. Learn how to grow strawberries — even in containers and small spaces — to enjoy ripe berries at the very start of summer. A bed of 25 strawberry plants can produce 30 pounds of tangy, delightful berries each year!
Summer Grain Crops
Summer grain crops, including buckwheat, corn, pearl millet, hulless oats and sunflowers can be grown in most regions and yield nutritious whole grains for your kitchen and your coop. This guide includes descriptions of different summer grains, how to grow them, and simple ways to harvest and store these warm-season, homegrown grains.
Branch out from only growing zucchini! Growing summer squash is an easy and productive way to incorporate a variety of shapes, colors and sizes into your vegetable garden as well as your kitchen. Choose from the types of summer squash detailed here, including pattypan, tromboncino and yellow squash varieties, to fit your space and tastes.
Take the time to make mouthwatering sweet corn one of your hit crops this summer. Sow sweet corn seeds in warm, fertile, well-worked soil that contains plenty of nitrogen. Learn some great varieties to try, when to harvest, how to save seeds and more.
From creamy white sweet potatoes to nutritious purple tubers, there are sweet potato varieties tailored to every gardener’s region and palate. Learn how to grow, harvest, cook and store the variety of your choice.
The forerunner of beets and a close cousin to spinach, Swiss chard has brought color, flavor and nutrition to gardens since the time of Aristotle. Adaptable and productive, chard tolerates light frost as well as summer heat. Think of this easy-to-care-for crop as tall, heat-tolerant spinach.
The exquisite flavor and irresistible juiciness of homegrown tomatoes put them at or near the top of most gardeners’ planting lists. Learn how to plant, grow and harvest tomatoes, plus peruse our recommended tomato varieties, such as ‘Green Zebra,’ ‘San Marzano,’ ‘Brandywine,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Mr. Stripey,’ ‘Juliet,’ ‘Yellow Pear’ and ‘Black Cherry.’
Turnips and Rutabagas
Grow turnips and rutabagas to bring rich, earthy flavors to your kitchen. This guide includes information on types of turnips and rutabagas and how to plant these versatile fall vegetables, plus recipes for scrumptious turnip greens.
Learn how to grow wheat, rye, oats and barley to build soil fertility and provide forage for your animals as well as whole grains and flour for your kitchen.
Enjoy scrumptious winter squash, an excellent storage crop, in its many diverse types. Learn how to plant, grow, harvest and store a range of winter squash, including butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash.
Our gardening resources extend far beyond these crop guides. Check our Organic Gardening page for season-appropriate growing advice. For even more help growing organic vegetables and fruits — including help with knowing when to plant based on your ZIP code, how many plants will fit in a given space, and more — try our popular Vegetable Garden Planner program (also available in an iPad app version called the Grow Planner). Happy growing!
Illustrations By Keith Ward