To some extent, the best choices for a vegetable garden in Minnesota are guided by the grower's preferences. But the gardener with little to moderate gardening experience can also set herself up for success by considering what vegetables tend to grow well in the state. Select a variety of easy-to-grow vegetables, provide them with adequate attention during the growing season, and come harvest time, enjoy the fruits of your labor.
An early spring crop, radishes often provide the first taste of fresh garden produce for Minnesota gardeners. Radishes may be sown outdoors as early as April 10 in Minnesota. The plants tend to grow better and produce milder-tasting radishes when started before mid May.
Peas are another cool-season vegetable that may be planted in Minnesota gardens as soon as the soil can be worked. Peas, easy and quick-growing, will tolerate a bit of frost, and far prefer that to hot weather. For a longer pea harvest, plant early, mid-season and late varieties.
Among the most popular of all home-grown vegetables, tomatoes offer a versatile, nutritious and tasty addition to the garden. Tomatoes must be started indoors in Minnesota in order for them to have a long enough growing season. Start seedlings in late March to give them about six weeks growing time before transplanting outdoors. Be sure to harden off the seedlings and then get them in the garden by June 1.
Summer squash varieties, including zucchini and yellow squash, seem to thrive in Minnesota gardens with practically no attention. These warm-season vegetables may be planted between May 10 and June 1. With their vining nature, squash need enough room to spread out. Plant them so they can extend onto grass or between corn plants, for example.
With so many varieties of beans, just about anyone can find some type of beans to plant in the garden. Choose from pole beans, wax beans, bush beans, edamame (edible soybeans), lima beans, or dry beans. Beans are usually planted in mid May in Minnesota because they need warm soil (above 60 degrees F) for germinating.
Leaf lettuce grows quickly and is the easiest type of lettuce to grow in Minnesota. A cool-weather crop, leaf lettuce may be sown in the spring or fall. University of Minnesota Extension recommends planting on about April 20 for a spring crop or July 1 for a fall leaf lettuce crop.
Cucumbers, a warm weather crop, are wonderful eaten in fresh salads, but many gardeners also pickle some cucumbers for use throughout the year. Minnesotans usually plant cucumbers during the month of May and begin harvesting them in July. Pick them often to keep the plants producing.