Growing your own fruit and vegetables can be so rewarding, especially if you have kids and can get them involved with the process. Now, I am not writing this because I am super awesome at growing my own vegetables. If I'm honest, I still sometimes kill whatever I am trying to grow. But I hope that some of the tips I have picked up along the way will help other aspiring vegetable growers!
Best Fruit And Vegetables To Plant (For Beginners)
Just to be clear, these are not gardening expert approved suggestions - they are just my own opinion. These recommendations are based on facts like:
- I haven't killed them through my own gardening ineptitude.
- They've produced a good crop, despite my neglect.
- Growing them is cost effective (i.e, you get plenty of yield for your financial outlay, versus what you would be paying in the stores).
So these are my personal favorites to grow:
Basically you should look for anything which is expensive to buy in store, difficult to find (i.e, tomatillos), doesn't take up too much space or which produces an ongoing harvest.
Fruit And Vegetables To Avoid
I wouldn't rule out these vegetables entirely, but if you do want to grow them you need to do your research. Basically, they will take over your whole garden if they are left to ramble. Be wary of:
Planning A Vegetable Garden
Now that I've shared some ideas for what you should - and shouldn't - try growing, here are some tips for planning a vegetable garden. If you have any more tips, please share in the comments - I'd love to hear from readers who are knowledgeable about gardening!
Plant what you love. I know this sounds dumb and obvious, but actually lots of people make the mistake of planting stuff they don't really like. It can be tempting to try lots of unfamiliar fruit and veggies, but if you don't have a ton of growing room it can be a waste if you discover you prefer plain old peas and carrots. The first year I made the mistake of growing tomatoes - despite the fact I am the only one in the household who loves them. Since then I've grown french beans in the spot, which we all enjoy.
Scrutinize your grocery bill. If you want to replace almost all of your summer fruit and vegetable purchases with homegrown fare, you need to know exactly how much you use in a typical week and then plant enough to produce the right yield. To some extent, it is trial and error and may take you a few years to perfect it. But this guide from the US Department of Agriculture tells you how big a vegetable garden you need to plant, based on how many people you need to feed.
Consider your attitude to preserving. If you like to make jams, or you love the idea of preserving or canning leftover fruit and vegetables, work it into your plan so that you end up with more crops then you need. Conversely, if you can't be bothered with preserving (like me) then don't grow so much that it goes to waste.
Have a strategy. Some vegetables need a long growing season, for example peppers. Others need to be planted once you've had the last frost. Some can be harvested within a few weeks and will keep producing crops. Others won't produce a harvest until September. My point is, all vegetables are different and that can be tricky if you are new to growing your own.
My 'When To Sow' guide can help you get started.
If you have a small plot of ground to work with, you can maximize how much you grow by combining early planting/short yielding crops with late planting vegetables. For example, peas tend to peak early, so you can replace the plants with radishes once the harvest is done.
Picking The Perfect Spot
The last thing I want to cover is picking the perfect spot, because I find it makes such a difference. For instance, I put my salad in a shady spot because it doesn't thrive in the full sun like many vegetables do. What makes a great spot for a vegetable garden depends on the following factors:
Amount of sunshine. Plants need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight if they are to grow well, and be healthy enough to fight off disease and pests.
Moist soil. All vegetables need well watered ground if they are going to thrive. Pick an area which isn't prone to drought and dryness, or where it will be convenient for you to water.
Good soil quality. Nutrient rich soil will produce the healthiest plants and the most crops. Either grow your vegetables in raised beds with plenty of compost, or pick an area of your garden with good soil quality.
My last tip for feeding a family with a garden is to accept that you can't control Mother Nature. Sometimes you will neglect your vegetable patch and you still get a bountiful crop. Other times, you will do everything right but the weather means that you get a poor yield. Don't let yourself be put off - just go for it!
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