photo credit: Patrick
When I was a newbie gardener, I was really more of a seed collector. I wanted to grow everything, and seeds are relatively cheap, so I would buy every packet that looked nice. I owned a lot of seeds, but that didn’t translate into a lot of food for my family. I am a wiser gardener now. I know what to plant, and I want to help you decide what you should plant in your garden!
1. Grow foods that you can’t readily find at your local farmer’s market.
I love supporting my farmer’s market. One year, I grew so much in my own garden that my trips to the farmer’s market were disappointing. My basket was barely full, and I did not feel like I was doing my part to help support other farmers. This might not be an issue for you. Maybe you want to grow everything and be totally self-sufficient. (Don’t try this if you’re a newbie. Ease into it…trust me!). I believe that if all of the good folks who have a homesteading mindset decide to grow everything on their own, there will be few people left to support the small farms who are trying to make a living at growing food. Because of this, I purposely do not grow every single plant that my family needs to eat. It is an incredible amount of work, anyways! Unless you have several hours per day to spend in your garden, planting everything you need is really an unrealistic goal. So, plant what you can’t find easily. For me, it is:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Green Beans
- Brussels Sprouts
2. Grow foods that you’ll use a lot of.
Think about your family’s eating habits. Do you make a salad every night? If so, lettuce is easy to grow and fun to pick fresh from the garden before dinner. Think about the foods you might buy a lot of at the farmer’s market, and grow those. You may still need to buy some from local farmers, because your family uses so much of this particular plant. Do you use a lot of onions? Potatoes? Squash? Grow these foods. For my family, this is:
- Winter squash
If you are a newbie, I do not recommend “experimenting” with new foods that you’ve never tried before in your garden. Grow what you know you’ll like. You will feel successful if you grow something you enjoy, and you may just want to grow a garden again next year!
3. Grow foods that you have time to process and work with.
If you grow a ton of green beans, you’re going to need to freeze them, or can them. If you grow a lot of peas, you’ll need to spend time shelling them. If you grow a lot of corn, you’ll need to deal with the husk, and possibly the worms (if you grow them organically). If you grow a lot of tomatoes and you don’t eat them all right away, you’ll want to turn them into tomato sauce, or paste, or ketchup, or salsa. Be realistic here. Think about your time, and look at your summer schedule. Are you going to be gone a lot? Processing foods takes time and attention. Book it on your calendar. If you aren’t going to have time to process something, don’t grow it. Just buy the small amount you will need at the farmer’s market.
4. Grow foods that are expensive to purchase.
Some veggies just cost more, plain and simple. Winter squash, at .80/lb (for a 6 lb spaghetti squash, for example!), can add up!! If you will use them, and they are expensive to purchase, GROW THEM! 🙂 For my family, the plants that I prioritize because of the expense are:
- Winter Squash
- Snap Peas
5. Grow foods that you have space to grow.
Don’t forget this! Think about your garden beds. Can you grow many vertical crops? Many large, vining plants, like squash, pumpkins and watermelon? You know the phrase: “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? When it comes to buying seeds, don’t let your eyes be bigger than your garden space. Read the book Square Foot Gardening to attain a better understanding about how much space plants really take to grow.
I hope this helps you decide what to plant! Do you have any other ideas to share? What are you growing in your garden this year?