A statement I often here from people is, “I want to start growing my food, but I don’t know what to plant.” This is a common struggle. There are so many herbs, vegetables, and fruit choices. Here are some guidelines.
The first and most important consideration is – What do you like to eat? Gardening is a commitment. If you grow what you really like, it will be more fun and exciting (especially for the children) than work. You won’t mind putting the effort into something you like to eat.
What do you spend most of your money on? Items you buy frequently would be good choices. We eat quite a bit of salad. So I grow lettuce, chard and spinach. I did attempt to grow a salad garden once. You can’t do it, everything matures at a different time.
Oh, and btw- once you start growing and eating your own fresh lettuce, the grocery store lettuce just won’t be the same. Which brings up another point, what do you buy that doesn’t look that great anymore by the time it gets to the grocery store? Wilted lettuce, moldy strawberries, unripe/tasteless tomatoes, unripe melons…
What do you like that is hard to find in the grocery store? These foods would be excellent choices to grow. The unusual varieties are the foods I like to grow best. You have a much greater variety to choose from when you grow your own. I grow yellow raspberries, which I haven’t seen in the grocery store. I also grow a wide variety of lettuce- red romaine, oak leaf, merlot leaf, etc. I also found some fabulous sounding potato varieties for this year. You get the idea.
What do you buy at the store that has a high pesticide level? Check out what pesticides are on the food you’re eating here: What’s on my food? Even organic farms use “approved” pesticides and herbicides. I know what’s on my food. Nothing. Grow your own. Grow organic. Then you can be in control of what goes on your food. Strawberries are one of the worst foods as far as chemical use. That’s one reason I grow my own. The other is because they are never all quite ripe at the grocery store (only the ones they put at the top). They are always ripe from the garden. I bought 25 organic strawberry plants for the cost of one large container of organic strawberries.
Of the items on your list so far, which will give you the most bang for your buck? I’ve grown carrots. They take up quite a bit of space. They are relatively cheap in the grocery store. I didn’t feel they were worth growing on my own because of the growing time and space. If you have kids though, you may want to grow a few for the experience. Other foods take relatively little space and provide a large return like tomatoes, lettuce, chard, etc.
Start easy. Start simple and build up. It can be overwhelming because, let’s face it, gardening will require regular work. If you do too much you will get frustrated and give up. Add a little more each year according to your comfort level.
Consider your growing area, meaning your growing zone (I’m zone 6) and your area of the country. Choose what is well adapted to your area. In my area blueberries and cranberries will do great, but it would be a struggle to plant an orange tree. Although it’s always fun to push the envelope a little farther each year.
Consider your where your garden is. What is the sun exposure? Full, part, shade? What is your soil like? (Although soil can be fixed). How much space do you have? If you don’t have enough space in the ground, can you grow it in a container? The answer is yes. Almost anything can be grown in containers, but some items may not be worth it because you need many plants, such as peas.
How much time do you have? Some plants require more attention than others. Don’t plant it if you won’t have time to take care of it. Plant less needy choices. Herbs require very little work, squash needs much more attention (but definitely worth it!)
Try something new. I try to plant at least one new item every year.
Don’t stress over it. It’s one season. Whatever doesn’t work out, don’t do next year. If it’s an utter failure, yank it out and stick in something else. I like to make notes in a notebook, because I know I won’t remember next year. It’s a learning experience every year.
So what did you decide on?
“But the seed falling on the good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:23