Deciding what to grow

At the end of February, the vegetable garden is still in a state of planning. Because for many of us space and time are limited and complete self-sufficiency is a distant dream, we have to somehow limit what we grow. Obviously, it’s best to grow the vegetables you enjoy eating. But beyond that there are other things you might want to consider before ordering your seeds, for example which vegetables give the highest yield? Which are easiest to grow?
Bellow I have explored vegetables from different points-of-view.

Please note: our garden is in the eastern part of the Netherlands, hardiness zone 7, and while some of my advice is universal, some may be mostly relevant to gardeners growing vegetables under similar conditions. For example, tomatoes are a very productive vegetable under favourable conditions, but are plagued by blight in our rainy summers and are therefore not included.

1. Easy to grow
These vegetables will almost always do well and are not too picky about growing conditions. They have few pest or disease problems. They are great for the beginning gardener who needs to gain some self confidence first, or for gardeners who have very little time to spend on their plot.

Zucchini, beets, chard, lettuce, winter purslane, beans, peas, endive

2. High yielding
These vegetables give the highest yield considering the amount of space they take up and the time they will be in the ground. For example, cut-and-come-again leaves can usually be harvested about three times, the first harvest only about four weeks from sowing. Vegetables that can be grown vertically and thus don’t take up much space on the ground, score well, too.

Cut-and-come-again mixed leaves, broccoli rabe, pole beans, snow peas (mangetout), early potatoes, early beets (sown thickly and harvested small, fas growing Oriental brassicas (such as tatsoi and paksoi), rocket, leaf mustard, early carrots

3. Expensive
The high price of vegetables is often caused by the cost of harvesting – if something needs to be harvested manually, or extra carefully, it’s expensive. It does not necessarily mean that the vegetable is difficult to grow. Sometimes the price is caused by scarceness – vegetables that are little grown and not much of them is sold.

Snow peas (mangetout), sugarsnaps, shalots, mixed leaves, corn salad (lamb’s lettuce), asparagus

4. Unbuyables
In a way, everything you grow falls into this category – the freshness of homegrown produce is something that you cannot buy. But many varieties are simply not sold at all.

Fresh borlotti beans, yellow snow peas, summer purslane, colourful kale, edible flowers, many Oriental greens (tatsoi)

5. Better fresh
Very fresh vegetables are usually sweeter than vegetables that have been harvested days ago (i. e. just about everything you buy in a shop), because after the harvest the sugars start being converted to starch. The most striking example of this is probably sweet corn, which you should only harvest after you’ve got your water boiling. But I find that most homegrown vegetables are sweeter.

Asparagus, sweet corn, peas, early carrot, green beans, lettuce

 

 

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