This vegetable garden planner will help you find & filter vegetable gardening ideas based on planting and harvesting month, sun tolerance, growing difficulty and more. Select your hardiness zone below to view sowing & harvest periods tailored to your area. Click to open the United States or Europe map to find your local growing zone.
USDA hardiness zone map for the United States.
USDA plant hardiness zone map applied to Europe.
Did you know that “fruit” doesn’t just mean sweet treats like apples and mangos? It also refers to the fleshy, often round, seed-filled parts of trees and bushes, like cucumbers and tomato plants. Most of these are sun-loving summer plants that are simple to harvest, but squash—a fall vegetable—also qualifies.
The wonderful thing about fruiting vegetables is that most can be grown just about anywhere. Pots, greenhouses, straw bales, or garden plots—all are fair game for these versatile plants. They’re an excellent choice for the creative gardener, as well as those with limited space.
Watering fruiting plants is best accomplished through drip irrigation systems (you can make one yourself) or by watering directly at the soil instead of onto the plant. This is especially true for delicate fruits like tomatoes. For these plants, too much moisture can cause pesky problems like mold and other crop-ruining infections.
Fruiting vegetables are among the easiest to harvest. Fruits like tomatoes can be twisted straight from the vine, while others should be cut from the stalk with shears.
Generally, the fruits of your labor are ready to harvest when the fruits reach your desired size and color. For example, greenish-red tomatoes are not yet ripe enough for picking, but deep red ones may be past their prime.
Some fruiting vegetables show their harvest-readiness in their texture or consistency. Bell peppers are best when smooth and shiny. Mottled, wrinkled skin is a sign that they’re on their way out.
Bulb and stem vegetables are easy to identify: they’re so named because of the part of the plant you eat. It’s a bulb vegetable if the bulbous underground base—think onions, garlic, and shallots—is the part you use for cooking. And it’s a stem veggie if you eat the long stalk that protrudes from the ground—looking at you, asparagus and celery.
Of course, growing bulb veggies and stem veggies requires slightly different techniques, but they’re often grouped together because of their common “ground”.
The most important thing to remember is that bulbous plants, like onions, need plenty of room to grow underground. That means loose, well-drained soil—if it’s too tightly packed, it can stunt the growth of the bulbs.
Why well-drained soil? Remember that the part of the plant you eat is sitting underground in the case of bulb vegetables. If they sits in undrained moisture for too long, they will be more susceptible than aboveground growers to rot issues and moisture-triggered diseases.
Bulbous and stem vegetables are excessively heavy feeders, so prep your soil with plenty of fertilizer or high-quality compost. Be prepared to add extra fertilizer (particularly nitrogen supplements) throughout the season.
Stem veggies also like to be protected by a layer of mulch, which helps regulate temperature and retain moisture.
The main distinction between bulb and stem vegetables is the time they take to mature. Bulb veggies can be ready to pick—and you do pick the whole plant—in as little as 60 days.
Stem veggies, on the other hand, often take an entire season to mature. And, in the case of asparagus, you may wait two whole years before the tender stalks are ready for cooking, but the unique flavor of stem veggies is well worth the wait.
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Flowering plants are more common on your plate than you might think. Plants like artichokes, capers, and cauliflower are all flowering plants, and the part that you eat is the flower bud itself.
The most important thing to remember about all flowering plants is that, once they flower, you can’t eat them. That means you want the hard, immature bud, or collection of buds (in the case of broccoli). Once the flower opens, it will be bitter or otherwise unappetizing.
Flowering plants are generally intolerant of weeds. For those with shallow root systems, like broccoli and cauliflower, weed before planting and then lay down plastic or mulch to stifle weed growth.
For those with stronger root systems, like capers, you can weed thoroughly throughout the season.
For all edible flower buds, harvest them when the buds are firm and tight. If they’re open, discard them.
Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the buds cleanly from the plant.
Remember that many—but not all—flowering vegetables are native to warm environments, including the Mediterranean, India, and Africa. That means that they won’t grow well outside in extreme cold.
It also means that they need loose, and ideally sandy or loamy, soil to thrive.
Forgotten vegetables are vegetables with “roots” tracing far back in history, often hundreds or even thousands of years. You probably haven’t heard of salsify or the Good-King-Henry of ancient times, but you can still grow them today—and learn about their fascinating histories in the process. Expand your gardening and cooking routine with these rare culinary legends for a unique, exciting gardening and cooking experience.
Tall vegetables, like tomatoes, corn and many types of beans, add an attractive and interesting element to your garden. Many of them require supports to help them grow upward. Supports also serve to protect the fruit from pests and diseases. Options range from simple stakes to attractive trellises and creative teepee designs that spice up your garden’s style.
Herbs are one of the easiest types of plants to grow and can be used for a myriad of pursuits—including medicinal, culinary, and decorative uses. They’re great for spicing up your favorite dishes and adding interest to gardens, and they’re relatively low-maintenance garden guests.
The beautiful thing about herbs is that they, like fruiting vegetable plants, can be grown just about anywhere. They’re the ideal choice for people who live in apartments and have no “ground space” to speak of. Grow them on your balcony or even your windowsill with ease. They’ll thrive indoors in small containers as long as they get 4-8 hours of sunlight per day.
Growing herbs indoors provides a few benefits: namely, they’re easy to harvest as-needed (just reach over for a clipping instead of pulling out the garden gloves). Additionally, they can be grown indoors even in the dead of winter, providing a year-round harvest.
Growing outdoors the old-fashioned way has its benefits, too, of course. Growing outdoors gives plants more space to grow, which means more productive harvests for you. Outdoor plants also tend to be more flavorful and richer in nutrients than indoor plants.
Most herbs do best in full sunlight not just because it helps them grow, but also because it makes them more enjoyable for you. Sunlight helps herbs produce oils—what most call “essential oils”—that give each herb its unique taste and smell.
Unlike vegetables like onions and carrots, you absolutely don’t want to harvest the whole herb plant. Clip off stems or pinch off leaves as you need them for cooking—the plant will continue to produce healthy harvests.
Leafy vegetables are an attractive and versatile staple to any garden. There’s a variety to suit every taste and climate, and most can be grown indoors or out, from transplant or from seed, making them one of the more creativity-friendly plant types out there.
Leafy greens can be grown in individual pots (one pot per plant) either indoors or out. However, indoor plants should still get at least 4 hours of sun per day.
They can also be grown in rows outdoors, although climate is an important factor here—some plants, like spinach, are frost-tolerant, while others (such as lettuce) will have nothing to do with either temperature extreme and do better in greenhouses.
The most important thing to know about leafy greens is that once they’ve bolted—or gone to seed prematurely—they will do you no good in the kitchen.
Of course, you can prevent this in the first place by:
Bolting causes those delicious leaves to become bitter and unappetizing, so they must be picked before this happens. If you have a frost coming up or the seasons start shifting, it’s probably time to pick.
There are three primary ways of harvesting leafy greens depending on the type of plant.
Pod vegetables include “sheathed”, pea-shaped veggies, such as edamame, green beans, and—of course—peas. These vine-y or bushy plants produce flavorful, versatile yields with very little work on the gardener’s part.
Most podded vegetables will tolerate any type of soil you give them, but avoid soil with poor drainage. The same cannot be said, however, for sunlight—if you’re growing in a hot climate, keep your plants safe by providing at least partial shade. Podded vegetables, particularly peas, prefer a cooler or mild climate.
The wonderful thing about podded vegetables is that most can be picked whenever you want them, within reason. When they reach your desired size, just pinch them off with your fingers and leave the other pods for the next time you need them.
Unlike most vegetables, podded varieties don’t usually take well to transplanting. Disturbing their roots in this way can limit your yield at harvest time. If your soil is less-than-ideal or if you need to grow off-season, grow the plants to maturity in large pots or raised beds instead of transplanting.
Many podded veggies, including peas, can help maintain nitrogen levels in the soil. So, for those plants that require a constant supply of nitrogen—think lettuce and tomatoes—consider growing peas or legumes by their side for a healthier harvest.
Heirloom vegetables are old, rare varieties of the plants we know and love. Creative opportunity abounds with heirlooms—you can grow plum purple radish and the colorful aurora pepper. They are open-pollinated, which means they’re naturally pollinated without human intervention. Heirloom enthusiasts say that heirloom veggies provide a better flavor experience than their hybrid or GMO counterparts. Try out a unique spin on your favorite veggie to add color, flavor, and variety to your gardening repertoire and your dinner plate.
Root vegetables and tubers—looking at you, potatoes and carrots—are delicious, nutritious staples to diets across the globe. They’re also relatively easy and forgiving to grow, making them an excellent choice for beginning gardeners and culinary connoisseurs alike.
Because root and tuberous vegetables do their growing underground, the conditions that you can’t see (soil) are just as important as the ones you can (sun).
All root and tuberous vegetables must check the same growing requirement off their list. That’s loose soil. Extremely compact or clay-heavy soil simply won’t do. Why? Well, the part you harvest for cooking grows under the soil. If it can’t expand because the soil is pressing on it too tightly, then it can’t grow—or it will grow into an unattractive shape.
For many roots and tubers, you also want to choose the smoothest garden bed possible. You may have seen carrots that grew in a potato shape or suddenly turned at a near-90-degree angle. Either the soil was too compact or there were rocks in those poor carrots’ ways. They may not ruin your crop, but they sure will make it look funny.
Giving each plant room to grow is important for much the same reasons as avoiding rocky soil and providing loose soil are. Each seed should have several inches on either side to grow. Alternately, crops can be thinned as soon as the bulbs or roots are large enough that they can be pulled from the ground. This gives the remaining plants room enough to expand to maturity.
If thinning isn’t done or space isn’t provided from the get-go, you’ll likely get plants that are all greens and no roots (in the case of plants like beets and carrots). You can still eat these parts—they’re often cooked or added to salads—but that’s rarely why you’re growing the plants, so make sure to give those roots ample room to grow.
The wonderful thing about tubers and root vegetables is that they can usually be harvested whenever they reach a usable size. Just loosen them from the soil with your fingers and pull them up gently.