Top 10 best crops for vegetable gardens
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There are many, many compelling reasons to grow more of your own food, but saving money tops the list for many of us. When cash is tight, growing your own nutritious fruits and vegetables is an empowering and rewarding way to make precious budgets go that little bit further.
But what are the highest value crops you can grow to save you the most money? We’ve whittled down the list to 10 must-grow favorites – and here they are. Packets of leafy herbs cost a small fortune in the shops because they are hard to store and don’t travel well. But gardeners don’t have to worry about any of that. We can grow the likes of basil, parsley and cilantro(coriander) to harvest fresh as needed. Leafy herbs take up very little room, grow profusely and,with more herbs on hand to liven up mealtimes, they go a long way to ramping up the tastiness of your cooking.
Cut-and-come-again salad leaves, including all types of loose leaf lettuce, are incredibly compact and, when harvested little and often, a single sowing should continue to produce fresh leaves for months. Expect an abundance of high-value leaves from even just a few containers. For best results grow salad leaves as individual plants with clear space around them so they have all the sunlight and air flow ,they need to thrive for longer.
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Quick-growing salad addition
Quick-growing salad toppers such as radishes,baby beets and scallions (spring onions) offer prized pickings for the cost-conscious gardener, reaching harvest point in as little as four weeks. Make repeat showings as you harvest throughout the growing season and a single patch of land can yield a surprising weight of fresh produce. You can even grow them in gaps between slower-maturing crops so they don’t take up extra space.
Beans are the epitome of plenty, and once they start cropping will continue to produce their pods in abundance all summer long, so long as you keep on picking. Beans are healthy, filling, and high in plant protein,making them a very valuable crop. Train them up trellising or against a traditional A-frame support . For the most striking effect however, it’s hard to beat a handsome tee pee made from bamboo canes. Plan now for a stunning display. Start seedlings off under cover in late spring,then plant one or two per cane . Picking commences just a few weeks later.
Like beans, fruiting vegetables that climb or that can be trained to grow vertically will produce a lot from a relatively small area. Tomatoes and cucumbers fit into this category, promising heavy harvests offlavor some fruits from just a few plants. Give them the sunniest spot you can find, and feed plants regularly to boost both yield and taste. Pick varieties suited to your climate, and be prepared to keep plants well-watered in hot weather.
Whereas onions are cheap to buy and take up quite a lot of space, garlic is relatively costly, yet efficient on space. Soft neck varieties of garlic store really well too, making this crop ideal for spacing out the usefulness of a single harvest. In most climates garlic is done by midsummer,leaving plenty of time to grow a follow-on crop that will bring further homegrown value to the dinner plate later on in the season.
Celery’s a base ingredient to many soups, stews and salads, but it makes our list thanks to its compact shape and the fact you can harvest it one stem at a time, meaning none of the waste associated with purchasing whole heads of celery. Self-blanching varieties are the easiest to grow. Start plants off in plug trays then transplant them,leaving about 8 in (20 cm) between plants each way. Water well in dry weather, and get ready for a superbly intense flavor . Zucchini (courgette) is infamous for its heavy-cropping habit.
Its versatility in the kitchen – used in everything from stir fries to cakes – makes this one vegetable worth making room for. Grow it in soil that’s been enriched with lots of well-rotted organic matter and you should enjoy avsteady stream of fruits all summer long. Try growing companion plants such as marigolds nearby to attract more pollinators to ensure better pollination, and even more fruits.
Soft fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries require careful handling and packaging to keep them blemish free, which makes them pretty pricey. Grow these fuss-free fruits yourself though,and you can save the pennies while enjoying some of the tastiest fruits you’ll ever experience. Pick fruits fresh, gently warmed by the sun, and enjoy immediately for a heavenly, indulgent experience. Freeze any excess,or turn them into jams or jellies.
Leafy greens such as chard and kale can give a steady supply of leaves for many months, making them very hard working vegetables. While we’re always being told to eat our greens, sourcing field-fresh greens, without the wilt, isn’t easy. But grow them yourself and you’ll always be sure of fresh leaves to twist off and enjoy. steamed, stewed or blitzed up into your morning smoothie.
This is by no means a definitive list, and it goes without saying you should concentrate on those fruits and vegetables that you enjoy eating. But get smart and start swapping out expensive buys with delicious garden-grown replacements. Look for crops that make the most of the space you have, that crop prolifically, or that have a superior taste you simply can’t find in the stores without paying over the odds for.