Growing Your Food

By BeccaLeigh on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 - 9:08am

With the planting season quickly approaching, what are some suggestions on types of fruits, vegetables and herbs do you recommend growing??  Which foods can be preserved best and keep for a longer amount of time??  I understand that this answer can vary by region and climate but I was curious to hear suggestions from others who have more experience in growing food than I do (I'm 30 but have kept a garden every year for as long as I can remember).  All suggestions are greatly appreciated!! Thank You!!

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jasonw's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 17 2011
Posts: 1029
Grow what you like to eat

My best suggestion for this big question is to grow what you like to eat and know how to prepare as a starting point.  As your skills at growing and cooking become more tuned, you can branch out into new crops that might be outside of your typical zone or experience. 

So we grow lots of greens that are good as chopped sateed greens,  Kales, chards, choys, beet greens, mustards, and lots of other quick cooking items.  Potatoes and sweet potatoes are also easy to grow and add bulk to the plate. 

Really we like to grow just about anything but always seem to have a hard time dealing with eggplant.  We just don't have the experience of cooking with it well.  So they always seem to become compost. 

Good luck with your garden.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
a Southern perspective

Jason's absolutely right about growing what you know you and your family will eat, and taking it from there. The difference is based on what your family and you like. And Jason, we just tried kale this year. It's great in minestrone.

I used to garden on Long Isalnd, in NY, and up there I had very sandy soil on its South Shore. We grew a lot of potatoes, basil, tomatoes and bell peppers. Here in the Carolina Midlands, I also deal with sandy soil but a different climate. Okra is a mainstay here, in soups, and I now grow sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas. My raised beds have more compost than I ever had in NY so we are growing a lot of lettuce, carrots, onions, garlic, green beans, snow peas and herbs too. I heartily recommend Jerhicho cos (Romaine) lettuce. It is very heat, bolt and drought resisant, having been developed for kibutzes in the Israeli desert. It's a leaf lettuce, not one that forms heads, but it is cut-and-cut-again. Put in a trellis or two, or use a fence for peas and pole beans.

Dwarf fruit trees are the best bet in smaller places. Be careful to discover if they need a pollinator sister tree nearby, like our apples do. We have red and gold apple tree saplings, and were very carefutl to plant varieties that were able to stand our hot climate and resist our local tree diseases, most notably fireblight. We also planted a second peach tree, but that was because the original tree is over 30 years old an reachng the end of its natural life (and it lost limbs in a storm). Mulberries are fast-rgowing and prolific fruit bearers, if messy, an they keep birds from eating your fruit. Our olive and cold-hardy orange trees are not really bearing yet, but you can even grow citrus in Maine if you get vatieties that die back in the winter. One tip: aluminum pie pans hanging from the branches during harvest keeps squirrels off, but only for a couple of weeks.

No room for fruit trees? How about berry bushes, or perennial strawberries?

As to what preserves best, it depends on the manner of preservation. We are not set up with a root cellar yet, but plan on one. We sun-dry our figs and tomatoes; we also can our own tomato sauce and make jam from the figs and our grapes. We can a lot of pears (neighbor's tree), jalapenos, pickles and peaches. When canning I always in mind how much money it saves me compared to the supermarket, and what size will we use? I started canning pie filling by the quart since that size jar fills a pie shell. I can jams and jellies by the half-pint since we use them so slowly and a small jam is still a nice gift. Spaghetti sauce we use by the pint. It seems we save the most money making our own jams, spaghetti sauce, salsa, pie filling and pickles.

I highly recommend you set up a perrenial herb bed. Mine has lavender, rosemary, bee balm (borage), thyme. Dill, however, proved to be invasive in this climate - with woody roots it literally took an axe to get rid of! (it grows wild, and up to 6' tall here.) I grow cilantro (also makes corriander seed for pickling - same plant); plus annuals parsley. catnip, and of course basil. Note: onions and garlic and leeks have their own, separate raised bed.

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