Regular checks will also tell you when harvest time is approaching. In the case of herbs such as basil, oregano, and sage, you can start picking them right after planting seedlings, with pinching stems doubling as maintenance; the more you harvest the leaves, the more the plants will grow. Most lettuces, which develop from the center, can be picked gradually, outer leaves first, when they reach the desired size. Loose-leaf varieties can be cut completely a few inches above the base, and they'll grow back for more picking. String beans can fool you; the slender new ones resemble stems, so you can miss them at their sweetest if you're not paying attention.
In fact, the productivity of your little potted farm may surprise you. Which is precisely how many gardeners, starting small, wind up with a growing habit. Shown:
Easy-to-grow peppers are a good crop for beginners. Some varieties, such as this 'Spanish Spice' type, turn red when they are ripe. 'Spanish Spice' Peppers:
This thin-walled, mildly hot, 7-inch long European pepper looks a lot like a green chili but it's spicier. The plant grows up to 2 feet tall and needs a cage or trellis for support; requires up to 65 days to mature. Zones 3-9'Chinese Giant':
First introduced by the Burpee seed company in 1900, this was the first giant bell pepper. The heirloom grows just as well today, with fruit 4 inches tall and 4 inches wide, and thick, sweet walls perfect for stuffing. Grows up to 24 inches tall and 12 inches wide; requires up to 80 days to mature. Zones 3-9