I have met people that could kill a plant just by looking at it, and yet they are the same people that would love to have a nice garden with fresh produce for their families to enjoy through the entire growing season. For them, modifying what they plant can mean the difference between success and failure. I have compiled a list of the top ten crops that anyone can grow, regardless of skill level.
Garlic is a crop that can easily become a lifetime obsession. Plant in the spring or in the fall, the root should face down and the point facing up. Cover with soil, water and wait. You will know when the garlic is ready to harvest as the top leaves will start to turn brown. The number of green leaves at the bottom will tell you how many layers of covering are still left over your clove, so do not wait too long.
Chives can freshen up any omelet or you can substitute them into any recipe that would use onions. Salads will also benefit from the addition of the flowers. They are easily grown from seed after danger of frost has passed. They like full sun to partial shade. When harvesting cut the stalks about two inches from the ground, this will provide a continuous growth as chives are quite hardy.
Dandelions are a perennial food source across most of the European countryside. How we ever considered them a weed, I am not sure. Every part of the plant is edible and extremely nutritious. The flowers can make a wonderful syrup, jelly, jam, or added directly to a salad. The leaves are tastiest when young, but the older leaves can still be savored when sauteed or boiled. The root can be dried, roasted, or brewed for tea. Harvest in the fall for the best taste as a coffee substitute.
Green beans come in many shapes and sizes, pick the one you want for the available area. Bush varieties can fill a small area between landscape plants, or vine varieties can grace a porch pillar or railing by adding color and beauty. An additional benefit is that beans are a nitrogen fixer; they fertilize the soil as they grow. Pick a colorful variety; you have green, purple, and yellow varieties.
Peas are also a nitrogen fixing plant which likes the cold weather. You can plant them in the ground as soon as you can stick a shovel into it. Peas like to climb, so use any type of structure as a trellis. Peas like loose soil, part shade, but sun can be tolerated if planted early. This is one crop that I think you should plant plenty of; this is what we consider a grazing food. Every time we walk through the garden we pick a handful to each as we walk around, children also entertained eating the sweet delights while the parents tend to the garden.
Mustard greens are spicy addition to salads and stir fries. Easily grown in the spring or fall, it is suggested that you pinch the heads to prevent bolting unless you would like volunteer plants in your garden next year. Some welcome the self seeding, preventing them from this task every year. They enjoy fertile soil and water, but will grow just about anywhere. The leaves can also be dehydrated or frozen for use in the winter.
Cilantro is like the road runner cartoon character, very quick to grow and equally quick to bolt. The taste of cilantro is quite strong, use small amounts to see how much you family likes of the flavor. When planting cilantro it is suggested that you stagger the planting dates to have a continual harvest over the entire season. Cilantro is also a suitable container plant for your patio, provide full sun and water and your plants will be quite happy.
Nasturtiums are a flower that can be planted in the worst of soils, providing better blooms than when they are planted in fertile soil. Every part of the plant is edible; some people find the spicy flowers somewhat peppery. The flowers can also be used to produce wonderful vinaigrette, while the seeds have been used as a pepper substitute. Nasturtiums can grow quite quickly in sun to part shade, but they are a very forgiving, so you can plant them and forget them.
Potatoes are staple crop for many families; I have seen them grown in garden beds, under landscaping, in boxes and even in bags. You can grow good potatoes with little effort after the soil can be worked. They do not like to be soggy, so plant is a well drained are or wait until after a wet spring has passed. Many varieties exist from fingerlings, to golden and even purple varieties. Make sure you use non treated seed potatoes; they are not recommended for human consumption or for animal fodder. Plant a foot apart in rows or closer in hills will give the best results.
Mint is a social plant; it likes interaction with everything around it. Your problem is not if you can grow mint, but how do you contain it. Here are a few tricks I learned in growing mint the past 20 years. Plant mint near a water source such as a downspout, small pound, or similar water feature. The mint will draw toward the water. When picking mint, pick from the middle of the plant. The plant will grow inward closing up the area picked while maintaining to outer perimeter. You can also surround your mint with other plants that will keep the mint from spreading. Although the mint likes to move outward, it can be controlled very easily by just pulling a handful and removing it. Mint placed close to a doorway will keep insects from entering your house, deer and mice are also repelled by the scent of mint. When walking by the plant, just rub a few sprigs between your hands to release the fresh scent, it is a wonderful pick me up. Easily grown from seed or starter plant, you have many variations to pick from. The standard peppermint, and spearmint are the most well known, but chocolate mint, orange mint, and many others varieties are available for your choosing.
While no one can predict certain success in the growing world, you can make selections that give you the best guarantee of success.
With personal and professional regards – Vince