What Not to Grow in Your Garden

What Not to Grow in Your Garden

A few years ago my sister called me from Philadelphia, where she is learning to garden, and asked me, “When you plant one onion how many onions do you get?”

Wow! This one question completely re-framed things for me. I consider myself a strategic gardener who focuses on production in order to get a lot of food from my garden. But I had never quite thought about each crop in this way. When you start to examine the garden in this light there are clearly things that are more “worth it” to grow than others.

When you plant things like tomatoes you obviously get a lot of bang for your buck. You plant one seedling, wait three months, and then get to harvest pounds of tomatoes. That’s a pretty good investment for a $3 seedling.

On the other hand, when you plant a cabbage seedling you wait 70 days and then harvest one cabbage. That’s it, no more, it’s over. If you want to get anything more out of that space you’ll have to rip out the remaining cabbage carcass and plant something else.

Hmmm, which one sounds like a better investment to you? Well, it might depend on how much you love cabbage and hate tomatoes. Maybe you eat sauerkraut every day for lunch so you can’t wait to fill your garden with those lovely round green and purple globes. This way of thinking isn’t exactly cut and dry, but it’s an interesting way to frame your decisions of what to grow in the garden each season.

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In my own garden, I’ve decided that it’s not worth it to grow certain things for various reasons that might seem a little quirky. Although I love winter squash it takes up too much room and doesn’t produce enough for all the real estate it takes up. Scallions take too much invested time since I have to start the seeds and I don’t use them that often. I’d rather buy them periodically from the farmers market for a buck a bunch. I like spinach better than salad mix and the lettuce seed is expensive, so I’d rather eat a spinach salad every night out of my garden in spring and mix in some salad mix from the CSA stand. Peas take a long time to produce, take up a lot of room, and once they really get going in June it always seems to get really hot and they go downhill quickly. I’ll just buy peas from other growers for a few weeks until I eat my fill.

Most of us don’t have unlimited space in which to grow vegetables. Therefore, whether we are aware of it or not, we are making lots of decisions about what to grow and not to grow in our gardens each season. This year, I encourage you to take some time to really examine what you think is worth it to plant in your garden. You might be surprised by your own discoveries!

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If you haven’t filled out my survey yet I’d love to hear your quick thoughts about whether you think you get your money’s worth out of your garden. Thanks for filling it out here.

 

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