If you have a large garden you can indulge in growing a large variety of produce, and things that take a bit longer to become productive. Veggies such as cabbage take up quite a large amount of room, take a while to grow, and at the end you basically only get one cabbage. If you have a smaller garden, it makes a lot of sense to plant things that mature quickly and have high or continuous yields. The good news is there are plenty of plants to choose from.
Here is my list of productive plants that I think everyone should have growing…you will always have something to eat.
- Silverbeet/Swiss chard – Everybody should have this in their garden. You only need a few plants per family, and they will continue to produce for years. They are easy to grow and are very hardy. You don’t pull the whole plant out, you just pick the outer leaves. Five coloured heirloom mix is available, and look very attractive both in the garden and on your plate. Can be used in salads, as spinach, and great in juices and in green smoothies.
- Kale – We all know the health benefits of kale. Kale is part of the cabbage family, and like silverbeet, you don’t pull the whole plant up, you just continue to pick the outer leaves and it continues to produce for a long time!! Kale can be used just like silverbeet (ie in salads, cooked, juiced, blended). There are several different varieties of Kale available. Cabbage moths also love kale, so don’t forget to net them.
- Herbs – Seasonal herbs are always worthwhile. They don’t take up much space and they can add flavour to any meal. We have all followed a recipe before that has required half a cup of parsley, or a handful of chopped mint etc, and you buy a bunch of herbs, and the rest turns yellow in the back of the fridge. A small bunch of packaged herbs at the supermarket can cost more than herb seedlings, which once planted will produce for some time. If they are in the garden, you will use them and you can save a lot of money.
- Asian Greens – Such as pak-choy, bok-choy etc. From seed to table can be as little as 6 weeks. If you sow a small amount of these regularly you will never have to buy them again. They have to be one of the easiest veg to grow and seed save from. Great in Asian dishes such as stir-fries, and leaves can be used as spinach substitute, or in green juices or smoothies.
- Lettuce – The leafy green non-hearting varieties of lettuce can have the outer leaves picked and the plant will continue to produce. Sometimes all you want is two leaves for your egg and lettuce sandwich…you can always have fresh salad from the garden and it won’t cost a cent and there is no wastage. Again the key is planting a few seedlings at regular intervals to get a slow and steady supply. In temperate areas, lettuce can be grown all year.
- Snow peas/sugar snap peas – Planted at the beginning of the cooler season, they make good use of your vertical space and will continue to flower and produce pods until they reach their full height. Each seed planted can produce around 200g of pods – therefore if you plant 20 seeds, your yield could be as much as 4 kilos of pods!! The beauty of growing your own is they don’t all arrive at once, they will be given to you gradually over a month or so and nothing will go to waste. Great eaten raw, or in stir-fries.
- Cherry tomatoes/grape tomatoes – small tomato varieties are often prolific and will give you loads of fruit over the warmer seasons and again will make use of your vertical space. I’m currently less than a week out from winter and my tomatoes are still going (yes, we have had an unusually warm autumn/fall).
- Shallots/spring onions – Again, different varieties of these can virtually be grown all year long. They don’t take up much space and it is so handy to be able to dash to the garden to pick the few shallots that you need to perk up a salad or stir-fry, without having to buy a whole bunch.
- Heirloom beetroots – I’m able to grow these all year round. Dedicate a whole bed or sow a clump here or there depending on your need. Great for grating into salads, roasting, juicing (bulb and leaves), pickling, preserving or making into delicious relishes and chutneys. The young leaves can also be harvested to use in salads. Very versatile plant.
- Spinach – So useful and easy to grow. Baby leaves for salads, or leave to get bigger and use in cooking (think spinach and ricotta pie, spinach and cashew dip, pasta sauces, quiche etc). Great to use in your daily green smoothie too if your into that kind of thing.