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Gardening food

Anybody got some ideas on what to grow to have food that saves money? Me and my girlfriend are somewhat picky eaters and often eat unhealthy but delicious things so maybe if I have a lot of ideas to look at I can find something I actually will eat.

Most of our yard is shade but a small side area that could be the target garden. Midwest USA lattitude around 42.

Ideas so far:

Fruit (we like): strawberries (we've grown before), blueberries?, raspberries?, blackberries?, rhubarb?, ?
note: '?' may indicate don't know if possible.

Herbs (again we like): basil, chives, parsley, rosemary, oregano, ?

Vegetables: tomato, carrot, potatoes, egg plants, green beans, squash, cucumbers, ?

From what I've read advice is to start small and pick things you like to eat and research measures needed to get a crop. Herbs seem a good target because they are expensive whereas, for example, potatoes are cheap.


  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran
    edited February 2016

    Great idea. Here's a website that gives you ideas on growing things in a vertical fashion to save space. Plus there's a forum you can join.


    p.s. You forgot the onions. ;)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited February 2016

    Be successful. What an adventure. <3

    Herbs are a great choice.
    Rosemary and chives need sun (also consider other onion family, garlic and spring onions)
    once established few pests. Sage is another good one and thyme.

    Parsley - grows in shade, yeah, treat as slow growing vegetable. Grow loads. Growing from seed is cheapest but can be hard for beginners. Worth growing. Liked by pests.

    Another good trick is growing 'speciality vegetable varieties', basically stuff you can not buy. For example I grew my own beetroot, very quick, easy and you can eat the tops. When young so sweet.

    Buy seed mixes for kids - cheap, designed to be easy to grow for the impatient.

    Get advice from local growers.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    raspberries are easy, and prolific after a couple years. I can't believe how fast they grow! Root veggies (carrots of all sorts, beets, parsnips, kohlrabi) in this part of the world (I am latitude 47N) are very easy. Dark leafy greens. Cruciferous veggies. potatoes and sweet potatoes. Garlic, onions. Apples if you have space. Containers are easy, tomatoes, peppers, herbs,

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Definitely try and grow herbs as a start.

    Not sure about other countries but they're expensive to buy in Australia and you normally end up throwing most of them away.

    They are also excellent to use in cooking (along with spices) to flavour dishes without adding sauces that can be umhealthy.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Don't bother with potatoes. You need an ample and productive amount of ground to reap a good steady constant crop: Otherwise you'll just grow enough for a single crop, of maybe New ('salad') potatoes to have on a special occasion. It's not a cost-effective idea to grow potatoes unless you have a spare acre....If however, a special unique variety seems an attractive idea, you can buy a bag of compost, stand it on its end and grow a special portion in that...

  • So many great things to grow. Legumes (beans and peas), put nitrogen back into the soil. Making it richer. Cool. I personally like french beans and mange tout. Both are expensive and I grew a black french bean variety that looked great, nice flowers, tasty etc.

    If you like chinese food try growing chinese veg or you can grow swiss chard and have a spinach like top and stir fry veg in one. Beautiful plants too.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    We grow enough potatoes to have baby potatoes early in summer (which is mostly the entire reason I grow them at all) and enough to store for several months into winter. Not enough to live on all year, no. But that is because we can't grow them in the winter, and Jeffrey lives in the same general climate I do (but we are slightly colder and in a lower hardiness zone). But we only have 3 raised beds and have enough potatoes that we have them for probably 6-7 months a year. We usually do one bed of potatoes. Obviously if you are looking to grow in containers or indoors they don't work very well, lol. But I disagree that you need a whole acre to make growing potatoes worth it. Even if we didn't save and store them, I'd still plant them just for new potatoes in butter. Mmmmm.

    Jeffrey, if you like it, one thing you might want to look into, and I should think would work where you are, is asparagus. It only sprouts in the spring-early summer, and it takes a few years to get it really going. But it's super expensive to buy (It's $8 a pound here right now) and is a really nice treat. Green beans and peas are really good, too. I have not had much luck growing blueberries. They grow wild like crazy here so it hasn't really been worth it to keep trying when we can pick them by the gallon in the woods. Tomatoes can be good but they can be tricky unless you like a whole lot of them, or like to can or make salsa. Sunflowers are another option, but I love sunflower seeds.

    Herbs I do year round, indoors in the winter and outdoors the rest of the time. What I am hoping to try in containers this year is ginger and turmeric. We'll see, haven't read up on it much.

  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing Veteran
    edited February 2016

    I know you're asking about actual varieties. Here in the US there are Seed Catalogs like seedsavers.org where you can get a free magazine and you can see tons and tons of different kinds of veggies and fruits you can get.

    I think it is worth mentioning that there are very magical ways of growing fruits/veggies vertically...


  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    I think you could research local seed companies as they would have a catalog of seeds that suit your area's climate. Aside from the advice others have already given, make sure you compost. I read that 90% of becoming a great gardener is getting plenty of organic material into the soil.

    @lobster Great tip on growing legumes! Do you make your own compost too?

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited February 2016

    I am only growing herbs at the moment but I have two large composting bins. Amazing how much goes in there and then reduces to compost. I alternate between them.

  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing Veteran

    @lobster, @Kale4Dayz ... composting is the way! =D

  • @federica said:
    Don't bother with potatoes. You need an ample and productive amount of ground to reap a good steady constant crop: Otherwise you'll just grow enough for a single crop, of maybe New ('salad') potatoes to have on a special occasion. It's not a cost-effective idea to grow potatoes unless you have a spare acre....If however, a special unique variety seems an attractive idea, you can buy a bag of compost, stand it on its end and grow a special portion in that...

    I will have to politely disagree. My grand father grew potatoes in his garden on a 10x15m area. He had potatoes from that lot most of the year (northern hemisphere).
    He also grew carrots and parsley and other things I've forgotten.

  • newlotusnewlotus Australia Explorer

    @Jeffrey - have you tried snow peas? They dont need full sun and provide heaps of tasty morsels.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited April 2016

    I have a small lot with a house in the middle who's shade only offers less than1/2 a day of sun to either garden so I do a lot of vertical gardening to make it all work.
    Check out Silvers posting on vertical gardening!

    Example...I grow tomatoes or strawberries upside down, suspended from my eves where they can get more sun and are away from pests. I use big diameter drain pipe, cap the bottom, drill 2 inch holes where ever I want a plant to go and suspend it all on a swivel hook. It rotates in the wind and nothing needs to be staked or supported.
    Gravity does all the trellis work.
    Or get a tall industrial plastic barrel (that hasn't contained anything poisonous) and cut a bunch of 2 inch holes around the side of it to grow veggies out of. I have one that sits on the ground and only takes up a 22inch circle and has room for 36 plants on the side and 6 cauliflower plants on top. I actually have it sitting in a slightly bigger tray filled with water that creates a water moat that keeps out any pest that doesn't fly.

    You can also train all kinds of veggy plants that will normally take up a lot of ground space, (like squash) to instead grow up vertically with a support system and pruning.

    Check out the net for your options for veggy's growing for your particular area.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    Research how to deal with bugs/pests in a non-violent manner. For example, planting marigolds around the edge of the garden will keep away aphids. Garlic keeps some types of pests away. And I've become a fan of heirloom varieties of vegetables, because it turns out they're higher in nutrient content. Like purple carrots. Literally off the chart with vitamin A, compared to regular carrots, plus the dark color holds more lutein.

  • howhow Veteran

    @sova said:
    @lobster, @Kale4Dayz ... composting is the way! =D

    Yeah, I know folks who talk about compost the way wine tasters talk about fine wines.
    I only recently realized that my leaf blower has a vacuum capacity that will suck up leaves, shred them into fine pieces and exit them into a bag. As they were the slowest part of my compost to break down I am guessing that I've now halved my waiting time for producing compost.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited April 2016

    Despite some other negative comments about potatoes, where you can certainly argue whether they are a cost effective crop to produce in a small plot by conventional means, they can also be produced vertically in barrels, taking up little space.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited April 2016

    And finally, being north of the 49th, I've increased my yields in a small gardens with little sun time by backing them with large free mylar mirrors donated from a movie set.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited May 2016

    Finally got my camera working.

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