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What kind of things do you grow?

It seems to me that it isn't worth growing something that is inexpensive and readily available at the store. But it does seem worth growing things you can't get good quality at the store or is too expensive at the store.

For example:

Fennel should be easy to grow but is expensive at the store.
Herbs are easy to grow and are expensive at the store
Tomatoes easy to grow but you can't hardly get ripe tomatoes at the store.
Peaches and nectarines not so easy to grow but you can't get them ripe unless a farmer near you grows them.
shallots easy to grow ridiculously expensive at the store

Things that don't seem worth the effort because this type good quality, cheap produce is available:

peppers, potatoes, onions, carrots, broccoli.

What do you think?

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  1. I agree with your point in theory, especially about the herbs. When I buy a bunch of cilantro, some of it usually spoils before I get a chance to eat it. So growing it and picking just what I need makes even more sense, economically. However, I do have to point out that fresh, newly dug potatoes taste better than store bought and also cook more quickly. They're fun to grow, though not essential. Also, I'd add strawberries to your list. Strawberries at the store usually have been picked too early and are crunchy. Snow peas are supposed to be crunchy and they are often limp. So they're good to grow, too. On my not-worth-it list I reluctantly put peaches and nectarines. I simply can't avoid leaf curl. I've tried.

    1. I too, thought fennel was easy to grow, and this year, upon picking my fennel, I realized it was just a fennel core.
      But I agree with you on the other points, tomatoes are easy but cost alot at the farmers market and are poor quality at the store. And herbs are so much more convenient coming from a garden, no wasting 2$ for 1oz that will you'll probably only use 1/4 of.

      1 Reply
      1. re: AndrewK512

        I wasn't sure how easy fennel is to grow. maybe that is why it is so expensive.

        I thought I had listed strawberries.....definitely strawberries. It isn't worth buying those things with white shoulders.

      2. We grow asparagus (dig once, eat the sweetest stalks you can imagine for 20 yrs); jerusalem artichokes, aka sunchokes. This is a member of the sunflower family and produces a delicious little tuber that you dig in the fall, that is wonderful raw in salads or roasted like potatoes. You dig them before the ground freezes and they will keep in the fridge until you run out in the spring. Because some tubers stay in the ground, they come up every year so it is more a case of thinning out than replanting.

        Moving down the garden, about as soon as the ground starts to warm, we plant a big variety of lettuces both plants and from seed, lots of mesclun mixes, radicchio, rocket (arugula), etc. so we've had salads from the garden just about daily since April. Then sugar snap peas and snow peas along the fences. Also cucumbers on the fences.

        Fennel and cilantro come up as volunteers. (I did get a new cilantro for by the back door near where I've got the parsley).

        12 tomato plants, 4 of which are plums, 4 beefsteak types, maybe 2 early, and 2 grape. I buy All America winners if at all possible. The tomatoes are planted with aged compost, then covered with black landscape material, and then covered with a thick layer of hay like the rest of the garden.

        Also 1 hill of zucchini -- gold rush or related. This was an AA variety that I love. It is straight, golden yellow with a green tip, and virtually seedless, even when it grows larger making it great for roasting or grilling. It is one of my favorite.

        Broccoli, great, you cut it and it gows back. Garlic, if you haven't tried it is fun. You plant the cloves in the fall just before the ground freezes and cover them with a thick layer of compost. In early summer you cut off the flower stem and use them in cooking, and then later when the leaves start to die, you dig the bulbs (about a month ago) and hang them to dry. Voila, from 100 cloves to 100 heads, enough to last you for the coming year, and they do last.

        Almost forgot green beans, very prolific. Swiss chard, flavor like beet greens. I use them in our favorite veg dish, sauteed with garlic, with white beans over penne topped with cheese.

        I've done potatoes in the past, but now that we've see the tomato late blight and learned how it will winter over in potatoes, am inclined not to bother. Also, I don't think corn is worth the work unless you've got quite a bit of land and really high fences.

        Herbs are another matter. They're in gardens around the house.

        Mint, anybody need mint? Spearmint, peppermint, you start with one, and before you know it you've got 200 sq feet.

        We do supplement all of our gardens with 2 to 3 year-old compost.

        4 Replies
        1. re: junescook

          Oh wow. Wish we were your neighbor. I think lettuce especially is so perfect from the home garden. The "mixes" in the store always seem pretty blah to me and they seem to spoil so fast.

          1. re: c oliver

            That's why we pick by the leaf rather than the head. Also fprgot to mention stuff like mustard greens, and cresses that add bite to salads, and tot soi that we use either raw or cooked.

            We also keep two big jars of mixed sprouts going in the kitchen. We love our salads.

            1. re: junescook

              I used to garden, tho' not at your level, but now we live in the mountains with short, cool summers and our property is also quite shady. I'd intended to plant lettuces in a wheelbarrow and "chase" the sun around the deck. But life interfered. Next year.
              PS: Good arugula is one of my favorite things. I can eat it right out of the bag coming home from the farmers market. Sigh :)

              1. re: c oliver

                At this point we're still planting our meslun mixes and arugula from seed, but all in the shade of other things in the garden. Otherwise the sun is so strong, everything would either dry out or bolt too quickly. Last year in the NE was very cool and wet, and we had the best year for lettuces and greens ever. If you have dirt and bright shade, and can keep seeds watered, go for it.

        2. I have two priorities. Grow things I don't buy in the store because they are expensive or ugly. Grow what I love and will keep. Grow something new. OK that is three. Basically that boils down to growing what I can for my area. We have a short grow season in the coastal PNW. But when it is sunny...

          We have an orchard - so always fruit. I planted piles of berries on the orchard fence this year. So berries. Lots of'em. I grow kiwi - which goes against all my rules since nobody at Casa Sal eats them. But others do and it allows me to lure them into my wine sipping area.

          I grow fennel, but it bolts. So not many. I end up using it in broth or feeding it to the chickens. We grow TONS of greens because we love them and they are silly expensive here. Beans and tomatoes because I like to watch them grow and eat them. We grew sugar snap peas this year. OH. They were so freaking good. Flavor bombs! I grow asparagus, potatoes and horseradish because they are there - or have become invasive and I am tired of fighting it.

          Although they do grow here (and very well) I do not grow - never ever - brusselsprouts or artichokes. Former attracts all the aphids within a 20 sq. mile area and latter because I get my back up about cleaning them.

          1. I like your question but I think your answers are too general. I agree with growing things that are easy and inexpensive compared to lesser quality and higher prices in the stores. Sugar Snap peas are a great example. We had a tremendous crop this year. Here in NH I'm still picking but maybe for the last time on Aug 1. I was able to get in an early spinach crop that did very well.
            Tomatoes and Peppers: I buy heirloom varieties from a local grower. I'm pleased with the tomatoes but the first year with her peppers was an education. Varieties that we never see in the stores. I have the plants in a new location this year after 2 years in a perfect location and they aren't doing quite as well. Since I buy one plant each of about a dozen varieties and the original id markers faded, I don't even know the names of my favorites. If you think peppers from the store are good enough, you haven't been growing the right kind of peppers. Also, so easy to freeze.

            Zucchini - now you might be thinking who in their right mind would grow zucchini when they can probably get it for free from their neighbors but it's easy to grow and, frankly, the bounty of big ones drove me to find some great recipes that I wouldn't have made otherwise. Our DIL is making tons of zucchini relish that's so good our first pint jar was eaten up quickly. My husband said if she doesn't give us another jar I have to get the recipe and make some. Also, the costata romanesque variety I'm growing is much better tasting than what's at the store.

            Beans: fresh from the garden is still better than store bought. My husband particularly likes a good yellow bean, picked young. You can't buy them that way.
            Beets: ditto plus we love golden beets that are rarely in the stores.

            Oriental Greens: I discovered choy sum at the Asian grocery which is an hour's drive from home. I don't know why this great vegetable isn't more readily available so I'm trying it for the first time in our garden.

            Garlic: After paying $2.50/bulb I am pleased with this year's harvest and will save some to re-plant and have even more next year. We use a lot of garlic.

            Onions I probably shouldn't bother with but I got crazy each spring planting things.

            Corn: easier to buy from the local farmer. At our last house we had a couple of years of great corn until the racoons moved in and outwitted us.

            Agree with herbs. Can't buy Thai basil in my local store.

            Cucumbers: Once the Bakers Creek catalog was in my hands I had to try some unusual varieties. I wanted cornichons for pickle making (flavored with tarragon). Also decided I needed to try poona kheara (sp?) which just started producing. At first I thought, what's the big deal then realized I had to pick them at a smaller size than the catalog picture. Rub the spines off and you have the perfect treat. Very delicate skin, nice flavor, small seed cavity.

            We don't eat potatoes very often but I've been leaning towards trying a small variety for summer/fall eating.

            We are fortunate to have great local orchards and berry farms but I'm probably going to put in some blueberry bushes. Easy to pick, easy to freeze, etc. but $3.99/pint at the farm store.

            Winter squash wasn't mentioned. I started growing Confection from Johnny's. We love the taste (after it has cured several weeks) and it's a terrific keeper. We used to like Buttercup but that didn't keep as well and we like the flavor of Confection better. I'm also trying another unusual variety this year that the catalog raved about.

            Carrots: I couldn't resist and our granddaughters had so much fun pulling carrots for dinner.

            After not gardening for many years, I put in a good size garden in 2008 and I'm re-learning everything and finding better ways. I eat salads for almost every lunch yet I haven't grown a decent lettuce crop. If I was naive, I would say lettuce isn't worth the bother (too bitter, bolts too soon) but I know I just haven't found the right variety, planted at the right time, etc. My garlic bulbs are much larger this year because I read they were heavy feeders and made sure they got good compost, extra organic fertlizer and no competition. I noticed that the end of the row had smaller bulbs probably because they were too close to the zucchini hills.

            3 Replies
            1. re: dfrostnh

              dfrostnh, just a tip on the blueberries: make sure that before you plant them to get your soil pH down to about 4.5. They do not need much fertilization, but do need very acid soil. I did not do this, and now 3 years after planting them still have very small bushes and am trying to catch up by adding garden sulphur twice a year.

              junescook

              1. re: junescook

                Try mulching them with pine needles or pine bark or chips as well. We acidified the bed when we dug it, now we rake up the needles from the trees behind the house for mulch.

                1. re: morwen

                  thanks for the tips. I need to get the soil tested.

            2. In our garden, peppers, onions, carrots, green beans - and especially broccoli, potatoes, and cabbage - are very much worth the effort. Just-picked, they are delicious, much better tasting than supermarket stuff. The skin on a fresh potato is so soft, you just scrub it with the rough-textured plastic thingy, and it's peeled - and a totally different taste than the store-bought tater. The overage gets blanched and frozen (except potatoes and winter squash, which winter in the basement), and we have relatively fresh-tasting veggies through a good part of the winter.

              We also do cukes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, chard, kale, beets, butternut squash and pumpkins - largely because it's fun, but also because we get delicious produce that wasn't saturated in pesticides by a mass producer.

              And I keep a couple flower pots with fresh herbs (and lettuce) on the front porch; if I need something, I go out and cut it. Super-fresh taste, and no need to dig through the fridge for purchased herbs. Even if I spent $10 on herb seeds, that's still way less than I would pay over the summer at the store; and rosemary can last through Christmas in a mild enough winter. Some years I put lights on it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: harrie

                Haha, I actually recall one Christmas where I ran out to my garden and dug under the snow to pick out a few sprigs of rosemary that were a little brown but still had wonderful fragrance and flavor.

              2. I think anything you grow with your own two hands is going to taste better because you have your sweat invested in it. not to mention it is going to be better for and fresher. Probably the best way to get children to eat veggies.

                Growing your own blueberries, blackberries and raspberries would definitely be worth it. Those things are expensive. Garlic is fairly expensive.

                1. We have a small backyard garden with tomato plants and chile plants. Tomato plants because we can control the ripeness before harvesting. That control gives us tasty tomatoes for Insalata Caprese, beefburgers, and other dishes. The chiles because I grow varieties from seed that are not readily available at local supermarkets or even ethnic grocery stores. We also grow basil of the Genovese variety to the Italian tomato salad because it is available from our backyard at any moment.

                  Buon appetito tutti e mangiate bene!

                  1. We like to plant what we like to eat... regardless of price and availability at the grocery.
                    Sometimes the variety of the vegetable is just not available at your local store . Nothing like stepping out to the vegetable garden for a couple of fresh handfuls of produce to add to whatever dish:
                    This year's Roster includes:
                    French Filet green beans
                    Tatsoi
                    Red Onions, white onions, shallots, garlic. Leeks
                    Sugar snap peas
                    Spaghetti squash
                    Japanese cucumbers, cool breeze cucs
                    Swiss chard. beets
                    Tomato
                    Dill
                    Butter and romaine lettuce
                    Carrots...seeded in the Fall (dormant over the deep freeze winter) First up in the Spring.

                    1. This thread's been running since March: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/691934
                      It will give you a broad look at what a lot of CH'ers are growing

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: morwen

                        I don't mind reading two threads but thank you for reminding me of the original. I had stopped looking at it.

                        I started vegetable gardening in 2008 after a long lapse. I might as well be a beginner. I'm trying to correct problems, note mistakes and ideas for next year. I'm growing more heirloom varieties but I haven't kept good track of which tomatoes and peppers we liked the best and which had problems. I can buy single plants from a local grower and the first year all her markers faded so I didn't know what was what. Planted too closely this year. Evidence of disease in a few, with lower branches dying.
                        Striped cucumber beetles decimated plantings of yellow summer squash yet adjacent zucchini costata romanesque and an Amish variety weren't bothered.
                        Squash beetles are now attacking Confection, a winter squash from Johnnies and our favorite. A new heirloom winter squash I am trying isn't bothered. Got some organic bug spray at the farm store which seems to be working.
                        I have a lot to learn about growing greens. Early planting bolted. It's too hot this year but I've been trying to keep the veg garden watered. Was happy that I got spinach in early enough for a great crop but noticed much better harvest and larger plants in the bed that got some fresh compost this year. Note to self, cannot plant before spring compost application. Not happy with lettuce this year. Tends to be bitter at any stage.
                        Very happy with both Sugar Ann and Sugar Snap peas. Not thrilled with some seed a friend gave me nor the yellow peapods, an heirloom variety but both were planted late and it's been hot. Probably would have produced better at cooler temps.
                        First year with decent cucumbers but need to pick Poona Khear while small. Catalog show what I think is overgrown. Searched for cornichon seed. But maybe I don't have enough plants for even a small batch of pickles.

                        I would be happy to hear what particular varieties people are happy with esp if they are in zones 4-6, and why they like them. I like the flavor of Confection and it's a great keeper. Used to grow Buttercups but they didn't keep much past Thanksgiving. Lucky to have some for Christmas.

                        1. re: dfrostnh

                          Squash beetles and borers seem to be rampant this year. We lost all our squash and pumpkins practically overnight to the buggers. The patty pans seem to be resistant but we are picking egg cases off the underside of the leaves daily. What heirloom winter squash did you plant that's resisting the bugs? I've made a note of the Confection variety in our garden journal for next year. Tasty and long keeping are #1 qualities for me. You might like Delicatas. We love them and they keep forever too. Even when the outsides are no longer very pretty.

                          Right before the spring greens are due to be done we plant swiss chard as our summer green. It's thriving in the heat. I like all the applications I get out of it too: salad, lettuce wraps, dolmas, "cabbage" rolls, cooked greens, plus it's prolific enough that I've pressure canned several pints for addition to soups and stews this winter.

                          I grew Alibi cucumbers this year for cornichons and gherkins. I loved them and they were very prolific. Grew 12 plants in two standard size window box planters on the railing of my front porch. Very decorative, didn't have to trellis and it made picking easy. Those 12 plants produced so many pint jars of cornichons and gherkins that there will be lots going out in Christmas gift baskets.

                          Mmmm... sugar snaps. Can never have enough. In the green bean category we planted Kentucky Wonders this year and while they were tasty, we only got about 4 good harvests out of them before they were exhausted. Last year we had Kentucky Blues and they produced until the frost bit them. Going back to the Blues next year (I think there's a song title in that).

                          1. re: morwen

                            Morwen, sorry for the delay in answering. The summer squash variety that seems to be resistant to striped cucumber beetles is Squash Lemon from Baker Creek. The winter squash is Pennsylvania Dutch, also from Baker Creek. I have two hills of the Penn Dutch next to two hills of Confection. There's been a recent outbreak of squash bugs on the Confection but they don't seem to be bothering the Penn Dutch and the vines are almost intermingled. Another patch of late planted Confection has had squash bugs. I've smooshed bugs when I see them, looked for egg cases and used an organic spray that seems to be a help. The outbreaks seem to be confined to a couple of areas and aren't spreading.

                            I'll have to check out Alibi cucumbers. I'm growing a cornichon variety because I wanted to make some tarragon pickles. Lots of flowers but not many cukes.

                            A late planting of a filet green bean has finally started producing. DH is thrilled because he hates beans that get too big and these are long and skinny. Seem to be a great producer but we'll see how soon they get exhausted.

                            I think I like the unusual Poona Kheara cucumber. When young, it's white and spiny. The skin is very tender. There is a large seed cavity but the seeds don't seem to get hard as fast as they do in other varieties. It's also strange because the skin turns brown when they get bigger. Of course, I just have to keep them picked.

                            1. re: dfrostnh

                              Check out for squash boreres too. They invade the stems at the base of the plants and are difficult to spot. We found them when we pulled up the dead squash. Ultimately I think they're the real culprit in our squash decimation.

                              Thanks for the info. We get the Baker catalog and I circled your varieties.

                              We just put in a load (140) of bush beans for a final crop and they're all up and growing now.

                      2. Fruit trees, I have Santa Rosa plum, Babcock Peach, Hachiya Persimmon, Turkey Fig, dwarf Valencia, and a Pineapple Guava. They are all worthwhile except I am not crazy about the Babcock Peach (too perishable even for a home gardener). The Hachiya produces way too much but I've taken to drying them and trading them for granadilla (passionfruit).

                        I also have a Kaffir lime, lemon grass, garlic chives, thyme, oregano, and have volunteer cilantro. Now and then I will stick one of those potted basil plants in the ground but they rarely last for long.

                        I put in tomatoes but my soil has nematodes so they aren't all that successful.

                        Not good enough with watering (and it doesn't rain in summer) so I don't grow most veggies other than tomatoes but sometimes I'll do beets, chard, arugula in fall winter when I don't have to water (as) much. We get the cheap Mexican produce and the effort of defending berries from bugs isn't worth it, although I had a boysenberry vine for a while which produced about a cup's worth.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: mlgb

                          Persimmons grow wild here but it's always a toss-up beating the wildlife to them. We've been considering planting a Hachiya on the property. Do you need more than one for pollination?

                          We plant lots of marigolds in and around the garden, especially with the tomatoes. The roots give off a compound in the soil that helps to keep down nematodes and grubs and supposedly over time will eliminate them. In addition they help attract pollinators. So far we've been seeing fewer grubs and this year we had a tomato bonanza.

                          Drip/soaker hoses work very well for us, especially when we have droughts. A timer at your water source is helpful but I usually just set my kitchen timer to remind me to turn the water off.

                          We also have Autumn Olives growing wild. They're a small red berry speckled with silver containing a single oval seed. They will pucker your mouth like a persimmon when not quite ripe but when dead ripe have a flavor like a cross between a plum and a cranberry. They're an invasive plant that years ago were planted by the forest service or some other governmental agency to prevent erosion and got way out of hand. Checked them today and they're very close to ready so expect to be making a ruby red sweet-tart jelly by Wednesday!

                          1. re: morwen

                            I only have the one tree (which is a beautiful garden tree and virtually trouble free). The nice thing about them is that you can beat the birds and squirrels since they don't especially like the unripe fruit. (A quick Google says all persimmons are self-fertile).

                            I get WAAAY more fruit than I can handle. Drying and freezing use up some, and they hold for a while in the refrigerator (but who has enough room?) A lot are just traded or gifted.

                            1. re: mlgb

                              Do you have a dehydrator? I bet persimmon leather would be mighty fine as well as a good way to use up a good pile of them. I also come across jam and jelly recipes for them on a regular basis and even found one for ice cream.

                              We're in the process of adding more "native" fruits to our garden because they are so pest and disease resistant and relatively care-free.