I have been told that wheat, rice, and corn is better to buy rather than grow in regards of cost, space, ect. And it makes me wonder... Is there food you think is better off being bought rather than grown?
That is situational. Some people looking for complete independence from the grid and food distribution systems would grow, raise, forage, hunt, or barter all their food. Some, like me, live in the middle of a city where it is an unreasonable goal to grow the majority of my own food. So from that perspective I grow things that don't get commercialized because they spoil too easily (mostly tomatoes, malabar spinach, delicate herbs.) Or things that are to expensive. (herbs again.) Basically things I can't get without some trouble.
As for things not to grow? I don't grow carrots. They are just way too finicky for me. If they do happen to grow, I get these gorgeous fronds. When I pull them early, I get an inch long, pale, scrawny root. When I pull them late, I get an inch long, dirt-colored, scraggly root. A pound of carrots costs 99 cents.
I don't grow bell peppers. I mean, I've tried, for decades. Just last night, in fact, after nurturing a pot that takes up 5% of my available gazebo space, irrigating it since April, I harvested my second bell pepper of the year. It is the size of a racquetball. So doing the math that's one tiny bell pepper every three months. I love it when people tell me I'm growing them wrong because I have grown them in pots, ground, upside down planters, compost rich, clay, potting soil, amended dirt, and hydroponic beads with and without irrigation for 20 years across three states and 8 unique locations. So I may be doing it wrong but then again I'd argue they aren't simple to produce.
Potatoes seem like hit or miss. If you hit (which is easy to do) you have more than you can eat. If you miss, you have no potatoes. Potatoes cost about 60 cents a pound.
I'm really good at growing the green part of onions that rises all spindly from the ground, and then three months later you can snip some to garnish chili. Not so good at growing the part under the ground that I want to actually eat.
Really going to depend on what's important to you. I love growing sweet corn, but yeah, probably not worth it for flour corn (50 pounds is a few bucks).
Probably not worth growing your standard russet potato, but there are some cool potatoes out there that are either unavailable, or much more expensive from the store. Grew "Huckleberry Gold" potatoes this year and really enjoyed them.
Like Rob, I've had abysmal luck with bell peppers (not great luck with any pepper in general really, other than one MASSIVE Hungarian Wax pepper), and I straight up don't even try growing cucumbers anymore. Swear, I always get like a half dozen decent cucumbers, and then ten thousand miserably bitter cucumbers. I just buy them instead. Can get big sacks of pickling cucumbers for like 10 bucks at the farmers market here when I'm putting up pickles, and just buy the odd slicer at the grocery store...
I dont cross anything off my grow list until I have tried it several times and it has failed each time. Much has to do with your time and space. I have 11 acres, and I am looking into putting 1/4 acre into corn to advance my own independence. Like Rob, I used to have problems with root crops. Then I discovered straw and raised beds. I now get all the potatoes, carrots, and beets that I can handle. So, to answer your question, while I would prioritize what I want to try, I would not automatically cross anything off my list. Your time and space might dictate a different approach.
Oh yes, welcome to the site!
Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions. Mark Twain
That’s a tough decision....what to put the effort into, and what not to. For beginners, it’s quickly answered. Due to lack of experience and knowledge, you’ll quickly learn which crops are too difficult for you. But as others indicated, as you experiment and gain skill, you will expand into those more difficult varieties.
Personally I don’t bother growing difficult veggies that we either don’t eat or aren’t popular for trading/selling. So in my region that rules out growing eggplant, zucchini, most squashes, most pumpkins, turmeric, plus many others. I also accept the fact that some things simply won’t grow in my region —- things that require a chill, things that require higher temperatures, things that want it drier than where I am, things that want lower elevation, etc.
And you hit the nail on the head about the grains. Unless you have lots of room to devote to them, plus the ability to harvest & thresh, plus the time to devote to it, grains are better off being purchased. I grow corn, but don’t bother with much in the way of other grains,
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to grow as close to 100% of their food as PRACTICAL. Not necessarily possible, as it is financially foolish to spend 10 times as much to grow something that is lesser quality as can be bought reliably. Grow nutrition and buy calories. At least to start.
The stuff that has to be picked green and "ripens" in the truck on the way to the store may even taste like the fruit or veggie it is supposed to be, but has about 1/4 the nutrition as a vine/tree ripened version that spent a few minutes from plant to mouth.
What those plants are depends on your space, climate, and diet preferences.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Things that you don't like.
Things that won't grow in your climate.
The first one is very important, I can grow amazing cabbages, but I hate cabbage so that's a total waste of time and space. (I do grow some to sell but that was not the question)
My list of what I will always grow is almost the opposite of Rob's all the root crops are plant and forget here and so long as the voles don't get them they crop very well. It just shows that what not to grow really depends on where you are and what your local conditions are. I do agree on the bell peppers though, I have managed to get one pepper per plant for three years. whereas chili peppers do well but have no heat, apparently that's a warmth issue. So I do not grow peppers or chili or any real heat-lovers. I cannot grow maize as it's to cold here and I cannot grow sweetcorn as the neighboring field is 30 hectares of fodder maize.
What not to grow depends on what are your specific restrictions. are you short on space? Time? Experience? Potatoes for example are a very easy and low effort crop, but they do take a lot of space, so if space is an issue it would be silly to grow many potatoes. Whereas blanching celery takes a lot of work but not much space. If you are just starting off then write down what vegetables you really like. then look where they grow what conditions they like etc etc, come on here and ask peoples experience of them. make a list of 10 or so you really want to try and go with that.
I found out the hard way that some things are very hard to impossible to harvest without the proper equipment and labor when I planted buckwheat as a cover crop but then when it went to seed I started thinking harvest time till I actually tried to gather the seeds and separate them from the husks. turns out the local seed supply place where I got the seed only sells sacks of organic open pollinated buckwheat seed and its as good to grind up for groats and flour as it is for planting.
I think about my time/money balance (my garden is not my only responsibility). I live in a region with lots of local agricultural production and if I can get good, organic food in season for cheap I don't grow it- not worth my time.
I grow things I can't get, or can't get organic. I also avoid things with too much pest pressure, that are too finicky. I don't need to be everything to everyone. I also have the luxury of all my food coming from the country here, nothing we eat is imported except the occasional luxury convenience food.
Unfortunately there is no one size fits all answer for this, or any garden question really. There are so many variables. Space, weather likes ect. ect.
Nothing is better than picking fresh veggies from your garden. Most likely not only will it taste better, it will be more nutritious. I suggest making a list of what you want to eat, then do a little research. See if it will grow in your area, when and how to grow in your zone. What is the difficulty ? Then plant lots of the "easy" veggies. Save some space for more difficult veggies, and give it a shot. My reason is if you start with difficult veggies, you may become discouraged, and I don't want that to happen. But. I tend to learn more from my failures then success. And one of the best things about gardening is you never know what will happen. I too have failed again and again with bell peppers. Being a stubborn sort I keep planting them. I have learned for me the lunchbox peppers grow very well and taste just as good as the bell, and they are so prolific it doesn't matter they are small. Also my daughter ask me to plant as many purple veggies as I could find. A purple bell was one. They were small, maybe half the size of a regular bell, but they did very well. Tasted like a green bell. If I had quite with my failures I never would have discovered what works.
Have fun with it. It won't take long to figure out what you don't want to waist your time on. Good luck. Happy gardening
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” — Abraham Lincoln
Squash isn’t worthwhile for me. I had about 3 summer squash plants. I got one small squash. I had about 3 winter squash plants and harvested 8. I can buy them for about 1.50. Fighting the squash bugs just isn’t worth it. The squash bugs attacked my watermelon after killing the squash. This cost me about 5 watermelons that didn’t get a chance to ripen.
Seed potatoes of interesting varieties cost more than a good crop is worth. Our weather is too wet at planting time and too dry while theY are growing. Potatoes are cheap.
Sweet potatoes are cheap too, but I like growing them. They usually grow well here too.
I have some carrot seeds I was given. Since I have limited space, I wouldn't normally grow them because I can get massive bags of organic for cheap.
I've never grown potatoes but since I had some sprout a little over a month ago, I'm going to give them a shot as I hate to waste the sprouts. I dearly want to grow squash but squash bugs set upon them by the THOUSANDS here. 18 miles away at my folks' house, you can plant them and walk away and come back a month or more in to harvests for the rest of the year. I've yet to figure out how to kill or dissuade them.
I finally tried numerous cuke varieties last year and just as they started to produce, squash vine borers (SVB) killed them all. Cucamelons saved the season for us there. I am going to try various cukes again but may use one of the IPM pheromone traps for SVB.
We have been skunked on kohlrabi, beets, parsnips, and salsify. I will be giving them all another go. Turnips have thus far eluded us as well. It might be that the top couple of inches on the beds dry out quickly. Quite possibly the problem with the rest.
I snatched the peppers from the ground and have them in tubs in the cellar and hoped they have survived enough to be replanted. If not, I have seeds.
I LOVE rhubarb but prices here shot up years ago and I rarely buy any. I hope to try them out but have some major upheaval planned for about half of the veg beds so that may have to wait.
I really like the idea of radishes...quick and prolific. But I can't stand them. Alas, I still have a lot of seed I was given. My efforts to give the radishes away last year were for naught.
I have grown various green beans at my folks' house but not here. That will change this year if I have enough space.
Eggplants were a failure twice. Between flea beetles and other pests, and general yellowing and not flowering, I never got a single eggplant. I probably won't grow them again.
Sugar peas will grow but they take up too much space and take too long to come in to justify holding up other crops. If I had more space, I might give them another go. Maybe I'll sow some on the compost piles.
Okra. Love it. But would probably not grow it again simply due to the space involved and the necessity for a fair number of plants.
Cabbage, broccoli and other brassicas. I'm on the fence. I love them. But cabbage white butterflies are the bane of my existence when I grow them. Even actively purging larvae and adults they set upon them. Add harlequin beetles and well...not sure I want the hassle. That's not to mention how hot and humid it gets here so bolting is always an issue. OK, well...I mentioned it.
"Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, nihil deerit." [If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need] Marcus Tullius Cicero in Ad Familiares IX, 4, to Varro.
Never grow what you don't like.
I use to grow a 20 ft row of eggplant. We eat like 10 egg-plants a year.
Same with basil, malibar spinach even cabbage. Even with making sourkrout and lots of cole-slaw, how many can you eat?
We dont eat many beets or radish but i do love to eat the greens.
Never had too many tomatoes, garlic, pole beans,corn etc. We can them to last at least a year.
I must grow corn. All corn grown commercially here is GMO. maybe good, may be bad..I don't eat it.
Rice...A 20 lb bag is under 20.00. I can not buy the seed for that.
We don't like cabbage. I stopped growing it. I might grow one or two plants tops for a summer salad/spring rolls but that's it.
I am looking to try carrots again but i'm still not 100% sure about it. Same with potatos. I let my partner replant potatoes....haha we'll see how that goes. I personally gave up.
I don't grow food i don't like i.e brussel sprouts.
I do grow: fruits can't wait for raspberries, blueberries, hardy kiwi, apple, cherry etc to come into their own. strawberries.
I do grow: tomatoes (oh my god it's just so good), pumpkin and squashes because they store so well, leafy greens, eggplant, hot peppers, beans, I'm hoping for corn and okra this year just because I want to know if I could do it in this climate. Amaranth, Asparagus.
I like to urban forage : Oregon Grape, Blackberries and figs
And flowers. I just love flowers I know they're not food but they're morale.
MUST HAVE: Snap beans - bush do best here, but in long years I can get lots of pole beans also other years they are just starting when snow shuts them down.
Squash even if it is only one patty pan plant. Preferred is at one patty pan, one yellow (straight neck or crookneck) and a round zuc but will plant straight some years.
Tomatoes - trying many of the new dwarf varieties this year plus some older heirlooms.
Greens- spinach, collard, mustard, beet, chard, etc most of my garden is beans and greens
Salad stuff - lettuce, etc for this category
Things DH likes I try to find room for cabbage - not much luck with these so I plant a couple and call it good
sweet peppers - had my first success last year with an ornamental hybrid sweet pepper that makes finger tip size bells, they get very limited space
Eggplants - I like them DH doesn't so we only do a couple of plants for me.
Beets - like most roots these are iffy but we got some 2 years ago and the flavor will keep them in my try list.
Carrots - normally total failures if I can even get them to sprout so I never do more then 2 squares
Veggies I am adding/trying this year Shell Peas - both fresh and dry - grew my first last year and loved them but only had 3 or 4 plants...
Dry Beans - bush as they did work a bit last year but we had an early snow.. There are more varieties and space devoted to them this year
Kale - got a lot of seeds in a swap also some Kallards (natural cross between Kale and Collards) planting a few of each to see what I think
Potatoes - last year mine got started late then our early snow wiped them out but we did get a handful of fresh one OMG the difference from store bought! They are back this year and we will start earlier.
Notice my must haves are things I have eaten most of my life and that bring back good memories. They aren't always the smartest choice for my climate but I make them work. I tend to pick my veggies younger then you can find in the stores. I like the flavor and texture better, plus you get more. When the boys were younger we used to pick out odd colored, shaped, etc versions of the veggies we grew. When you could only get red tomatoes in the stores my sons were eating yellow, black, and green ones. Main rule is only grow what you like to eat.
In the south when the wind gets to 75 mph they give it a name and call it a hurricane. Here we call it a mite windy...
When I started my wife on a garden, it was just sugar snap peas and onions. Easy low maintenance and success was encouraging. Each area is vastly different, how and what and when is all local. There are no foods you shouldn't grow, just unsuccessful ones. But is it person, climate, region, or variety.
Potato. We tried many ways to grow them some utter fails. Others lackluster, but we found first how to grow in the climate then the right varieties. Purple potatoes were early and worked well, reds were big with great crops. My wife loves german butterball, they don't give great crops but it's worth planting.
Grain. You need extra space!!! We started with 1.5acre, 1/4 acre garden area, 2 beds to start off. Turned into a market garden and csa 5 years later. So we had space, I grew hulless barley 5'x20' bed so worth it. Key to grain is the type of grain and what you want. Hulless varieties are easy to thresh, don't plant a variety that requires alot of work to process if you can't get it done. But what about sprouts hulls don't matter. We also now grow grain for our chickens. 1 seed can yield over 100 seeds even a small patch can be worth growing. We have used the whole grain from the feed store to plant too for animal use.
We have grown many crops over the years 75% of all fails was human, or methodology caused. We have been told so many ways that always works. Just to see it fail utterly, try many ways and varieties but some things just are not worth the yield.
I have tried cauliflower alot, never good then we planted cheddar cauliflower and it worked great. Same method different variety and it all clicks. Just goes to show varieties count alot to location. We lived in western washington, tomatoes are alot of work but all the cool weather crops flourish. Now we are in eastern washington, I can grow tomatoes that are 7+ foot tall with almost no care. But struggle with cool weather crops. We are now working through what grows well and what varieties we need. I have been gardening and small scale farming for 30 years, and every day I learn more it is part of what drives my love of nurturing plants.
We also have struggles with squash bugs. My sister lives 15 min away and can grow huge amounts. They can’t get blue berries to thrive and I got 42 pounds last year so some things we have given up on and just trade.
Radishes - I enjoy but can only eat so many. We grow them mostly for the greens.
Usually beans do well for me, but last year we had one hour of rain in six weeks which killed most of my gardening. The rain barrels I have were quickly used up. Being on a well, I don’t want to use up our water on gardening and cause other issues. This year we added two totes hooked to the downspout and now have 700 gallons in reserve.
All lettuce except mesclun refuses to grow for me. I tried nine different types last year. Only mesclun grew. This year even bought new seeds. Only mesclun...
Last year I tried planting squash late in season after we got bees in September. I got 4 zucchini which is the most in years! Maybe the squash bugs had moved on by then but going to try it again this year.
Three months ago I decided to sign up with misfits market (no affiliation, I just like them). I figure I can keep organic vegetables from going to the waste stream and save myself some frustration. Actually I’m still annoyed but eating well.
Trying some new varieties this year and hoping for the best. At least my healthy weeds are feeding us and the chickens! I’ll take that as a win👍
My take on this is that most farming takes the form of the most destructive activities humans undergo to the biological world. Industrial farming seems to be by far the worst and so I don't think I should buy their stuff as I'd just be feeding the monster. My main push is to grow my food in food forests as a mix of perennials and annuals, starting more heavily as annuals and graduating to perennials. If I can buy the stuff I don't grow from a food forest model then that would be my choice....example, shade grown coffee. Regarding staples like grains I'm still buying mine from the store while I wait for all my chestnut and hazelnut seedlings to come into full bearing. I can't wait to be converted over.
I do buy grass raised beef as well as milk, butter and cheese from local small farm grass raised cows as my current life isn't set up for cows and I prefer to live in a forest setting. I do like that grass raised cows are living off perennial polycultures. I don't care if I produce all the foods I eat or not, I just don't want to fund the folks who are driving soil and wildlife losses. I wish that everything I did purchase came from permaculturists.
I've finally realized why we had green beans and potatoes for nearly every meal when I was a kid--they're easy to grow! I grow both along with tomatoes and peppers, thought the latter were crowded by what we're supposed to be dwarf marigolds last year and didn't produce well. Squash, onions and beets were pretty much a loss last year too.
This year I started early with cool season crops and have harvested several salads worth of lettuce and spinach already. I do know that I will at least double the amount of lettuce next year and probably quadruple the amount of spinach as our demand is way higher than what I'm currently producing.
I don't grow hot peppers as we don't care for them but will be starting a few plants next year for my mom and aunt as they love them. I also don't grow cilantro as the taste of it makes me nauseous.
Basically grow what you will eat. If space is an issue, concentrate on what gives you the most bang for your buck.
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