The 7 Easiest Veggies to Grow in Poor Soil

easy to grow veggies

By Kent Page McGroarty

Guest writer for Wake Up World

As wonderful as growing your own food is, soil quality is often an issue. While most plants and vegetables thrive in loamy, well-draining soil, amateur and pro farmers/gardeners must still contend with compact, clay soil, acidic soil, rocky soil or other soil types that are not ideal for growing food.

Luckily there are numerous options for dealing with poor soil, including adding nutrients, utilizing raised garden beds and planting vegetables that are easy to grow.

Check a few of these veggies out!


Tomatoes do well whether planted from seed or starter plants, however if you live in a cooler climate starter plants are best. Plant tomatoes in full sun and water daily unless you live in a particularly rainy area. Dig deep to create strong root systems with starter plants. Tomatoes also do well in containers. Soil with a pH balance of 6 or 7 is ideal for tomatoes; add lime to increase a soil’s pH level and sulfur to decrease it.


Perhaps the easiest food to grow, well, ever, this squash family member is frequently the subject of jokes among gardeners for its almost weed-like ability to produce the green veggie. Two plants should provide more than enough zucchini. Their flowers are also edible! Water them heavily every other day. Zucchini also does well in soil with a pH balance of 6 or 7, and thrives in full sun or partial shade. Butternut squash is another squash option that is easy to grow.


An easy root veggie to grow in the fall or spring, radishes grow quickly and will require pulling several weeks after planting to avoid ruin. Plant them in a sunny area in soil that preferably has a pH balance of 6 or 7; water lightly every few days.


The carrot does well even in rocky soil, though keep in mind the veggie itself will look crooked when pulled if grown in rocky conditions. Soil should stay moist, but remember that carrots require less water as they reach maturity. Grow carrots in soil with a pH balance of 5 to 6 if possible, and ensure they receive about half a day’s worth of sunshine.


Another easy one to grow, corn requires space more than anything else to thrive. Plant two rows parallel to one another to allow for pollination, and avoid letting the soil become too dry. A pH balance of 6 or 6.5 is best, as is a location that features “all day” sunlight.

Green or String Beans

Green or string beans not only are easy to grow, but also return nitrogen to the soil. Grow beans during warm weather as they are not fans of the cold, and harvest them while “young” for tender and sweet-tasting peas. Peas do best in soil with a pH balance of 5.8 to 7, as well as full or partial sunlight.


Try to aerate soil as much as possible before planting beets as this root veggie does best in looser soil. Add lime if your soil is too acidic, and plant seeds at least 2 inches apart. Beets grow best with half a day’s sunshine in soil with a pH balance in the 6 range.

These are just a few of the foods that do well in poorer soil! Adding compost to poor soil is generally an ideal way to get the results you want. If your soil is simply too poor to grow anything, look into container gardening and raised bed options.

Happy planting!

About the author:

Kent Page McGroarty is a blogger for who has written extensively about health and fitness since 2006, focusing specifically on natural health and wellness. She has previously written for Livestrong, SF Gate Home and Garden, AZ Central Healthy Living (and many other online magazines and websites) and currently contributes to

Check out more of her tips on the Survivalbased Blog.


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  • Central Texas additions by Steve Van Nattan

    I garden in the Hill Country of Texas with alkaline soil and rock under about 6 inches of top soil. I use raised beds, lots of mulch, and shade cloth in the worst heat of summer. The following do NOT need the shade though, and they tolerate the alkaline. They are historic crops by pioneers in the 1800s in Texas, and they still love Texas.

    Rattle snake do great and have done so in all droughts in Texas’ history. They mulch other plants if the plants get above the watermelon before they dominate. I grew a 45 lb melon in a drought year.

    Sweet Potatoes
    They do exceptionally well, and when the wilt down, watering brings them right back. The leaves make a better greens dish then ordinary spinach. Do dig them early though because a maggot will eat them up for you if you delay. Feed the maggoted ones to donkeys of horses.

    Not as drought tolerant as watermelon, but they do well with watering and tolerate alkaline soil.

    Nothing can kill chard. Very few pests that actually destroy the plant. Top them to stop seed production, and you can keep them going for a long time. I have chard that is three years old, though a bit raggedy.

    Okra loves Texas. My best results were with red okra. lsraeli okra is bigger and more sections, but they are a bit temperamental about the Texas heat. Okra that gets tough should be dried in open air and the seeds make a great coffee substitute. Roast and grind just like coffee.

  • Saydi

    To the author of this article and anyone who is interested, Back To Eden is a wonderful film based on Gods perfect design, the forest never suffers through a drought, the forest feeds itself and thrives, the forest also never needs tilling. Paul Gautschi’s Back To Eden is well worth the 103min. I just started mine this year, it is thriving and almost no maintenance, except bringing in the FREE wood chips my city yard had been piling up for 6yrs. You can watch for free and they have step by step instructions.

    • Anne

      Back again, and greetings from the wilds of Catron Co, NM – to say that I did get around to checking out your information, on youtube, where there are many nice vids up, and this is the best thing I’ve ever seen!! No matter where the listener lives or what kind of soil and weather we’re stuck with we’re going to want to try this immediately. That’s a rare talent Mr. Gautschi has, to make today’s jaded and jaundiced casual viewers feel truly inspired about anything at all. You can believe that nothing is ‘impossible.’ Back to Eden gardening is the perfect compliment to this article on wakeup world. Thanks a million for bringing this in!

  • Ragnor

    I have attempted to grow a much survival garden this year. We have good soil. I thought I was a skilled gardener. After putting down a raiding party of ever a hundred slugs and then suffering a goat attack my garden is in very sad shape.

    The plants that have survived and are producing well are Radishes, Kale and a zucchini. Carrots may be ok. corn was eaten down to nubs and is growing back but wont get very big. Beans will likely never recover, slugs loved em.

    I have learned that the ability to plant a seed in a hollow down copperhead road and do well with it is much different than growing a vegetable garden for sustenance.

  • Dennis

    Excellent article, and quite timely as well…Thank you very much!!

  • I agree with the commenters above. Kale and swiss chard are extremely easy to grow. Leafy green veggies are the most nutrient-dense vegetables around. Kale is rated 1000/1000 for nutrients and antioxidants. Swiss chard scores 895. Both are fabulous to alkalinize the body to prevent cancer and disease. Carrots 458. Beets are amazing (not sure the #). So if you have small space, those four are MUSTS to grow and eat for high nutrition. Radishes grow extremely fast and are great for detox and are high in silica (for bone health.) Lots of fun for children to see how fast they grow.

  • John

    I find this article to be irresponsible because any food that is grown in poor soil will be of very poor nutrient value. If important nutrients are missing from the soil, they will be missing from everything grown in that soil.

    The answer is to get a comprehensive soil analysis done in a competent soil testing laboratory. When you know what is missing from your soil, you know what you need to add to the soil to make it healthy again.

    • Anne

      Does a ‘competent soil testing laboratory’ test your soil for free? Is there such a place in every rural county in America, even if one were amply supplied with extra cash? No and no again! Why go to the bother of gardening at home if the enterprise is going to end up costing you twice as much as simply driving to town and buying the more expensive organic produce?

      Whilst we take your point about missing nutrients in food grown in poor soils, most of us who’ve ever grown anything know how many nutrients can be put into soil by the crops one grows in them. So the idea is to start growing something, however we can and get that excellent natural process started. Your post, ;John,’ only discourages people from trying who are already taxed and ripped-off into the poorhouse. We really don’t need expensive ‘professionals’ to tell us how to do what people have been doing since the beginning of time and it’s a given that America wasn’t settled by the type who needed to be told how to wipe their own butts either. This article isn’t ‘irresponsible;’ you’re just a ninny.

  • Unlucky Gardener

    You’re kidding, right? Or you don’t know what poor soil is. After years of trying, the *best* of my “easy to grow” corn plants only got about two feet tall and never produced a single full ear of edible corn. Carrots? Radishes? Nope, they do poorly here also. About the only thing we can consistently grow easily is chives.

  • Arcturus

    What is wrong with this ?

    Green or String Beans
    “Green or string beans not only are easy to grow, but also return nitrogen to the soil. Grow beans during warm weather as they are not fans of the cold, and harvest them while “young” for tender and sweet-tasting peas. Peas do best in soil with a pH balance of 5.8 to 7, as well as full or partial sunlight.”