Guide to Produce Plants
Even if you have room for only a small patch of lettuce, this guide will help you select produce that will work best in your garden.
Pick up a seed catalog, and the choices of fruits and vegetables are inspiring. There are practical considerations, such as the space and time available, but beyond that, select for taste and variety, and enjoy growing the fruits and veggies you love to eat.
Quality and Taste
Homegrown vegetables always taste better than store bought, especially crops, such as sweet corn, lettuce, and peas, which deteriorate within hours of picking. Choose heritage varieties not sold in stores, which offer more interesting tastes and qualities. Grow vegetables you enjoy, organically if you prefer, and focus on those that are expensive to buy, such as baby varieties, asparagus, new potatoes, and shallots. Also consider varieties resistant to pests and diseases, which improves yield and makes them easier to grow.
If you are concerned about using insecticides and fungicides on your crops, you may wish to grow them organically. Some crops can simply be planted early or late to avoid the worst problems, while others are available in varieties that have natural pest and disease resistance. You can also help to keep your vegetable beds healthy by growing plants that will deter pests or encourage their predators. Some of these have the bonus of being ornamental, too.
To produce a consistent harvest all season, remember that some varieties are more productive than others. For a continuous harvest of crops like apples, choose early- and late-season varieties. If some of your crops are slow growing, like rutabagas, sow “catch crops” between them to maximize the space you have.
The amount of time you have to dedicate to your garden is a crucial factor in deciding what to grow. If you only have a few hours a week, and your growing space is a distance away from home, choose crops that are largely self-sufficient once established and do not need constant feeding, watering, staking, and tying in. Equally, if you can’t get there to harvest regularly, don’t grow vegetables that need constant picking. If your plot is closer to home, and you have some time every day to give to tending your fruit and vegetables, you can grow more demanding crops.
Room to Grow
The size of your plot will determine the amount and type of crops you can grow. If space is short, don’t grow something that will only produce enough for one meal. Make the most of your space with fast-growing or high-yielding varieties, choose dwarf forms for containers, and plant trailing crops, trained vertically.