Vegetable gardening brings you all kinds of benefits – reducing your carbon footprint and your consumption of pesticides, providing an opportunity to get healthy exercise outdoors, and supplying you with fresh, nutritious produce. Growing the right varieties of vegetables can also save you a substantial amount on your grocery bill.
When you’ve identified money saving as one of your criteria for starting – or maintaining – a backyard garden, there are some sound general rules to help you select which vegetables to plant. Consider how much you’ll need to spend as an initial investment. Will you have to till the soil and perhaps improve it by adding organic material? What tools and other supplies will you require? How much are seeds going to cost you? Do you need to build a wildlife-excluding fence? (And perhaps reinforce it against exceptionally clever rabbits, as this Ohio gardener had to do with his Cleveland-area fence.)
Characteristics You Want
Over the long haul, you’ll want plants that offer you great results for a relatively small amount of effort. That means vegetables which grow fast and give a high yield over a long harvest season, without the necessity for a lot of watering (expensive and eco-unfriendly) or weeding (backbreakingly hard work!).
They should also be a type of food that’s easy to use up quickly as part of your daily diet; for example, your household would probably go through a crop of cucumbers more readily than one of pumpkins. Consider storage possibilities, too. Green beans, for instance, freeze well, without a tremendous loss of flavor or texture, and can be expensive or impossible to buy fresh in the off season.
Above all, any vegetables you plant should be types your family enjoys and will eat happily!
Some of the Best Veggies for Home Gardens
Salad greens are an excellent money-saving garden choice. Leaf lettuce is a sustainable garden crop due to the speed at which it grows back after picking, especially when you pluck just the outer leaves (in fact, watch out you don’t end up with an overload, as overly mature lettuce tends to bolt and turn bitter) and upscale varieties like arugula will offer the steepest savings. Another reason to grow your own greens is the Environmental Working Group’s finding that popular leafy vegetables kale and collards tend to be “contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the human nervous system”; buying organic versions is recommended.
Heirloom cherry tomatoes not only cost less than their supermarket counterpart but also have far superior taste and a long growing season. They do very well in space saving vertical gardens, which allow them greater exposure to the sunlight they crave – even on a balcony or window ledge.
Garlic is simple to grow and will keep through the winter at root cellar temperature without any special care, as long as it is properly cured after harvesting.
Asparagus is a perennial, which means that once established, it becomes the gift that keeps on giving. So you can look forward to a long term supply of one of the most luscious veggies ever. Be aware that it takes four years to get established to the point where it is yielding – but buying young plants will give you a head start.
Sugar snap peas (snow peas) are the candy of veggies, which many children love to nibble, either lightly steamed or raw. They are some of the priciest produce when bought at the grocery store, and also figure among the dirty dozen of the EWG.
These Ones … Not So Much
Cauliflower is not a great candidate for home gardening, as it is quite fussy about temperature, needs to be blanched, and is vulnerable to both bug infestation and disease.
Celery is a garden water hog, not to mention the fact that it takes a long time to grow to maturity. Ditto for watermelon, which also demands a ton of space.
Potatoes or onions are not generally recommended for residential gardens because they are quite cheap to purchase. Be aware, though, that potatoes are on the infamous Dirty Dozen list. You might want to look into buying organic.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.