4 Easiest Plants to Grow in Your Backyard

I’ve never been great with house plants. For whatever reason, they always seem to die. But I will say that gardening seems to be more of my jam. If this is your first time planting a garden, I hope this is helpful. I don’t tend to intensely research before starting something. I learn by doing, and I will share what has and hasn’t worked for us.

This is the third year we’re planting a garden in zone 6b. We started small and then decided to really invest in our gardens. There’s nothing like homegrown tomatoes, for instance, and the knowledge that what we’re eating is free of chemicals. Our toddler has also loved helping to plant seeds and goes out with her basket to collect tomatoes off the vine. She also loves picking flowers to make a bouquet for the table or observing changes in the plants day-to-day.

Without further adieu, we’ll start at the most relevant piece of information.

Check What Zone You’re In

Check out this United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which offers information on what plants thrive in each zone. There are also sub zones in certain areas due to difference in low and high temperatures for that climate.

Crops in zone 6 enjoy a frost-free period between mid-May to late September. We are in zone 6b. When we first moved here, our neighbors told us not to plant a garden until after Mother’s Day.

In 2021, we transferred our seedlings to our garden beds in March and, sure enough, there was a frost so we had to bring them back inside for a week or so which was a bit of a pain. In 2022, we transplanted our seedlings the weekend of Mother’s Day and they did extremely well. I have found it easy to grow various things in our zone.

My husband usually gets a couple truck loads of horse manure from a local farm. In 2022, he got some dirt delivered and it was essentially clay (not uncommon for KY but not good for gardening). Since the soil was not draining properly, some of our plants got waterlogged and really did not do well. Lesson learned! We should not have used that soil. We also had to weed the beds frequently.

This year, we plan on mixing a few bags of top soil in with the manure, which worked great in 2021. I would recommend getting manure a few months before you plan to plant seedlings (February) to allow time for the manure to compost.

Here are the seed starter bags we are using this year.

Best Plants for Zone 6

If you buy seed packets from your local nursery or Lowe’s, you can find the zone information on the back for extra reassurance.

Here are some of the best plants to plant in this zone (according to the USDA):

  • lettuce
  • radishes
  • peas
  • tomatoes
  • squash
  • peppers
  • potatoes
  • cucumbers

What We Planted in 2021

We mainly planted strawberries, basil, onions and about six celebrity tomato plants. We had a stressful amount of massive tomatoes. I gave away a lot and canned some pretty flavorless salsa. It’s all a learning experience. Our basil did really well too but neither the onions nor the strawberries ever took off. I’m not sure what happened to the onions honestly, but we planted the strawberries right next to the tomatoes and those two plants are not the best companion plants.

What We Planted in 2022

We made four raised garden boxes and planted kale, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, string beans, various types of peppers, sage, thyme, basil, cilantro, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, rhubarb, wild flowers, marigolds, and sunflowers (that ended up being taller than my 6’3″ husband!).

Rhubarb can’t be harvested the first year, so that was an investment (it’s starting to sprout in February!). Plus the wild flowers next to the rhubarb really took over that garden bed. We got some really beautiful zinnias last year, but probably will not plant so many wild flowers in a bed again. They did attract a lot of butterflies though, which was fun. The strawberries never took off, the cilantro died, the peppers took quite a while to produce anything.

We also ended up transplanting some sprouts we found in our chicken coop compost corner. We thought they were zucchini plants but they ended up being butternut squash and pumpkins! So fun. I don’t think either of us had ever intentionally eaten butternut squash until our sister-in-law made butternut squash soup. The squash and kale did extremely well, but the cucumbers never really took off.

We loved harvesting cherry tomatoes and basil. We made lots of caprese salad and pesto. I found cherry tomatoes MUCH more useful than celebrity tomatoes. I’m not a huge fan of tomato sauce or tomato slices on my sandwich though, so it’s all personal preference. We topped our kale salads with cherry tomatoes all summer long though. And you can make sun-dried tomatoes with cherry tomatoes too.

What We’re Planting in 2023

Hopefully you can read this. We currently have four garden beds, which is a lot of space to work with. We planned each box carefully, looking into best companion plants for certain crops.

The first garden bed will have kale, marigolds, mint and butternut squash. The mint is an aromatic herb that will repel bugs and be used in mint juleps (obviously). Marigolds are an all-around great option as a companion plant for multiple crops, helping to keep those crops healthy and bug-free.

The second bed will be cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers, habaneros, sage, and “basil for days.” These are all companion plants and we have found that planting basil with tomatoes makes them so flavorful.

The third bed will be rhubarb (already planted, already sprouting), strawberries, marigolds, and thyme. Really hoping the ridiculous amount of wildflowers from last year don’t grow back over the strawberries. Since we’ve had pretty terrible luck with strawberries in the past, we plan on buying a few seedlings from our local nursery. I might also try planting strawberries in pots.

The fourth and final garden bed will be beans, peas, and Brussels sprouts. Beans did really well last year but the Brussels sprouts were pretty disappointing. We are trying again to see if the soil was the main issue there. First time trying peas!

Easiest Plants to Grow

Over the course of several years, I suggest you start with with these at least:

  • basil
  • lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • squash

The top three are super easy to grow and can be used in many dishes. You can make homemade salsa, pesto sauce, fresh salads with a side of roasted squash, etc. Throw in a few other favorites for fun and to see how they do. I planted rhubarb because I love strawberry rhubarb pie (all-time favorite recipe) and I’m so excited to see how it goes this year.

Hope this was a fun read and good luck with your gardens this year! Feel free to drop any questions or share what you’re planting this year.

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