Even though gardening season is still several months away, our family has started preparing for the upcoming growing season. We’ve set up the greenhouse, roto-tilled our garden plots, turned over the compost heap, and bought enough seeds to generate thousands of pounds of fresh produce for our family to enjoy this summer.
Choosing what vegetables to grow can be the toughest part of vegetable gardening. Here’s some simple tips to help you choose the best vegetable varieties for your garden space.
Pay attention to yield. Even though I have a huge yard, my garden space is pretty limited. Instead of wasting valuable garden space on low yield, cheap veggies such as winter squashes or potatoes, I concentrate on planting high yield, high cost vegetables and herbs that will save our family the most money at the grocery store. Examples of high yield veggies include tomatoes, leeks and onions, pole beans, pole peas, peppers, herbs, carrots, spinach, beets, and salad greens. Inexpensive, low yield vegetables and fruits that take up a lot of space include potatoes, corn, carving pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupe, and winter squashes. While there’s no arguing that home grown corn, potatoes, and winter squashes are superior to store bought, I’ll only plant these low yield vegetables if I have extra space available.
Watch the growing time. For those of us who live in the North, our growing seasons are quite short. Another way to boost productivity is by planting vegetables that are ready to harvest in under 80 days. Summer veggies with a short growing time can be planted behind developing spring vegetables which is an easy way to double food production. Summer vegetable varieties with a shorter growing time also means that the food will be ready to harvest before an October freeze.
Include easy to preserve items. While a vegetable garden can save us hundreds of dollars during the growing season, it’s in the late fall and winter when we can use a little extra help with our grocery bills. My vegetable garden always includes a variety of produce that can be home canned or fresh frozen for winter meal planning. Easy to freeze vegetables that are regular staples in my garden include beans, corn, peas, spinach, carrots, and peppers.
Visit your county extension office to learn recommended varieties. The Cooperative Extension System is a national education network with offices found in every county of every state. Local county extension offices can provide gardeners with the help needed to grow a productive garden, along with recommendations of vegetable varieties that were tested for performance in your region. Your local extension office can be found by visiting the SCREES website at screes.usda.gov/Extension.
More by this contributor:
How to warm the soil in your vegetable garden
How to read the back of a seed packet
How my backyard is saving me money.