Becoming self-sufficient is one of the many good reasons to want to grow your own vegetables. Nothing beats homegrown food and for many people, there’s a great appeal to growing efficient food crops. The food you grow is cheaper, fresher and often better tasting than the one you get from the supermarket.
Starting your own garden may be challenging and most people give up after the first try. To boost your confidence, you should start by growing efficient food crops. After you acquire the proper experience, you can try growing more challenging crops.
“What’s an efficient vegetable?” you may ask. To put it simply, one that can grow in any variety of circumstances. Regardless if you live in the high desert or on the rocky coast of Maine. The type of vegetable that has many uses, raw or cooked. One that doesn’t require too much care work and can still provide lots of food per plant.
The eight efficient food crops described in this article are perhaps the most efficient food crops to grow. They are reliable in most situations, tolerate poor soil and drought and stand up to various plant diseases. All the crops are recommended for a first-time gardener to grow. You can’t go wrong with these crops and you will have reasonable amounts of food per plant.
Efficient food crops: #1 Black-seeded Simpson Lettuce
A loose-heading variety with pale green, crisp, frilly leaves, this an old-fashioned lettuce. It holds up to dry summers better than any other lettuce. Plant it in a spot that will be shady during the hottest part of the day. Although it can tolerate heat, too much of it will make lettuce bitter. Sow thinly in rows 8 inches apart in well-worked soil. Water the soil and keep it moist until the seedlings emerge. This takes about seven days. Thin out the rows for your earliest salads and water them once or twice per week. Watering is necessary if it doesn’t rain. You will get lettuce in 30 days or less. Sow a new crop every few weeks and you will have lettuce until frost. You can plant any leftover seeds in pots and keep them inside. Seeds are available on Amazon.
Efficient food crops: #2 Black Beauty zucchini
This is considered a foolproof vegetable by many gardeners due to its multiple uses. You can use it raw in salads, baked, steamed, make into bread and so on. This is an older hybrid that stands up to bugs and powdery mildew. The compact vines bear early and harvest begins about 50 days from setting out and continues till frost. You can pick the fruits when small or let them grow to a larger size. The plant will keep bearing as long as it is kept picked. Start seeds indoors in a warm, sunny window or a cool frame about two weeks before warm weather. Plant seeds half an inch deep in moist soil and keep it moist until seedlings emerge. When the second set of leaves emerge, expose the flats outside for an hour or two. Extend the time spent each day outdoors. Set the plants in a sunny spot about two feet apart. Water at least once a week and occasionally apply liquid fertilizer. Seeds are available on Amazon.
Efficient food crops: #3 Midnight Black turtle beans
This bean variety is a good protein source that can be dried for winter storage. It is a vigorous grower that can be successfully grown in colder climates. Instead of vines, the plants grow as bushes about two feet high. Sow seeds two inches deep and three inches apart when weather is warm. Sow rows at least a foot apart. Water the seeds with a sprinkler till seedlings emerge. Then water at least once a week and occasionally feed with liquid fertilizer. When the pods are young, they can be eaten like green beans. They are best dried and then shelled to be stored as dry beans. Midnight beans can be used in any dried bean recipe or to make soup. Seeds are available on Amazon.
Related reading: Pioneer gardening – How to start a backyard garden
Efficient food crops: #4 Extra select garlic
Garlic is easy to grow and it is recommended for the self-sufficient gardener. This garlic variety is planted in spring up North and in the fall in South and West regions. It is easier to grow and maintain than onion plants. Pull a garlic bulb apart and plat the individual cloves pointy side up. Sow one inch deep and eight inches apart in rich soil in spring. Water occasionally as the green stalks emerge. Trim off some of the green tops to add scallion-like flavor to meals all summer. Dig up mature bulbs when the tops have dried. Cure the bulbs in a dry, sunny spot for a few days, then bring indoors to store. Always save some cloves to plant next year for a perpetual crop. Bulbs are available here.
Efficient food crops: #5 Perpetual Swiss chard
This crop is easier to grow than carrots or spinach. It is a variety of smooth dark green leaves and white rib. It grows vigorously in nearly any climate or type of soil. Plant this Swiss chard variety in spring, summer or early fall in rows a foot apart. Cover lightly with fine soil and water using a sprinkler. Keep the ground moist till seedlings emerge. Let the plants grow and thin the rows so eventually plants are six inches apart. Water the crop at least once a week when it doesn’t rain. You will have heads about one to three feet tall in less than a month. To harvest, pick the outer leaves or cut the entire plant 3 or 4 inches from the soil. New leaves will continue to grow providing you with a perpetual supply of chard. Seeds are available on Amazon.
Efficient food crops: #6 Early girl tomato
This tomato variety is probably the most tolerable tomato plant one can grow. It can thrive in the Deep South, but you can also find it in flower pots in New York. This variety stands up to heat and cold, and most tomato diseases. Early girl tomato fruits earlier even if you neglect it. Start the plants indoors from seeds following the indications on the package. During May, set the plants about two feet apart in well-fertilized soil. For optimum crops, chose an area that gets sun all day. Water deeply every other day till established. In colder climates use plastic lining around the plants to retain the sun’s heat. Water at least once a week if it doesn’t rain. Every two weeks feed the plants with liquid fertilizer. Sixty days or less are required to obtain medium size tomatoes. The plants will continue to vine out and produce until frost. Seeds are available on Amazon.
Suggested article: Understanding garden seeds for Self-sufficiency
Efficient food crops: #7 Detroit dark red beet
This is a good variety of beet that anyone can grow. It produces tender tops you can use like spinach and three-inch red globes. This beet variety resists cracking, doesn’t’ get woody and is reliable in most soils. Sow thinly in rows 8 inches apart in well-worked soil, in spring. For a second crop, plant it again in early fall. Thin out the rows for your earliest beets and throw the thinnings in the soup pot. Below ground beets will be ready to harvest in sixty days or less. Pull as you need and make sure you store them in a cool cellar. This variety of beet is ideal for freezing or pickling. Seeds are available on Amazon.
Efficient food crops: #8 Celtuce
This is another versatile plant that doesn’t get enough credit. Celtuce will provide you with the stalks of celery and the leaves of a lettuce. It is straightforward to grow and it is packed with vitamin C. Sow thinly in rows 8 inches apart in well-worked soil, in spring. For a second crop, plant it again in early fall. Thin out the rows for your earliest celtuce. Water your crop once or twice a week if it doesn’t rain. Use the pale green young leaves for salads and the older leaves like spinach. Seeds are available on Amazon.
The efficient food crops listed in this article are recommended for the beginner gardener. They are reliable in most situations and farmers have relied on them for decades. These efficient food crops will provide you with vegetables for months and you can preserve the produce for later use.
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