Here are the 11 vegetables you can grow on your backyard!
1 in 3 US households is now growing their own food garden, according to a special report from the National Gardening Association (NGA). This equates to about 42 million households with a food garden in 2013, which is a 17% increase from 2008.
Keeping a garden can improve your health in many ways. It provides you with fresher, uncontaminated food, and cuts your grocery bill. The NGA estimates that the average US family spends $70 per year to plant a vegetable garden, but grows about $600 worth of produce. That’s a $530 return on your investment!
Many new gardeners are drawn in by the promise of garden-fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, and carrots. In addition, many sticks with it due to the rewarding feeling of growing your own food.
You might be surprised at how much food you can grow from just a few packets of seeds. Even if you’re new to gardening, many of the foods that follow are relatively foolproof options. The following also deliver a pretty robust harvest, sometimes in as little as a few weeks from planting.
Keep in mind that there are many options for growing food in or around your home. Even without space in your backyard, you can still grow vegetables in containers on your patio, balcony, or rooftop. Community gardens are also growing in popularity where you can rent a plot of soil to grow food for your family.
If this is your first garden, you might want to start out with just a few options from this list. You’ll probably need to experiment with different methods of planting, watering, building soil health, and controlling pests naturally. As you gain confidence and harvest the fruits of your labor, your garden, and your passion for gardening will likely continue to grow.
Growing your own sprouts is quite easy, and you don’t need a whole lot of space either. They can even be grown indoors. Sprouts may be small, but they are packed with nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that help protect against free radical damage.
Two favorites: sunflower seed and pea shoots—both of which are typically about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables. They’re also among the highest in protein. In addition, sunflower seeds contain healthy fats, essential fatty acids, and fiber—all of which are important for optimal health.
They’re perfect for adding to salads, either in addition to or in lieu of salad greens, and sandwiches and are especially tasty in combination with fresh avocado. You can also add them to your vegetable juice or smoothies.
2. Spinach and Loose-Leaf Lettuce
Early spring is a good time to plant spinach and other loose-leaf greens. The harvest is ready in just three to five weeks; simply cut off leaves here and there with scissors (don’t worry, they’ll grow back). Up to half of the nutrients in lettuce may be lost within two days of harvest, so growing your owns leads to a much more nutritious salad.
One cup of kale contains just around 30 calories but will provide you with seven times the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, twice the amount of vitamin A and a day’s worth of vitamin C, plus antioxidants, minerals, and much more.
This leafy green also has anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent arthritis, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases – plant-based omega-3 fats for building cell membranes, cancer-fighting sulforaphane, and indole-3-carbinol, and an impressive number of beneficial flavonoids.
Kale grows all season long, but its flavor gets sweeter after a frost. Impressively, kale can survive temperatures as low as 10° Fahrenheit, so be sure to keep it growing into the fall and winter. Kale is ready to harvest about a month after planting.
4. Rainbow Chard
Chard belongs to the chenopod food family, along with beets and spinach. It’s an excellent source of vitamins C, E, and A (in the form of beta-carotene) along with the minerals manganese and zinc. It’s a hearty plant that grows easily, and it makes a striking addition to your garden with its bright red stems.
Plus, chard degrades quickly during shipping, making it ideal to grow at home. Plant chard in early spring, and you’ll be able to harvest it all season long.
5. Bok Choy
Bok choy is a vegetable, also referred to as Chinese white cabbage, that you can grow early spring. It contains vitamins C and K and has a higher concentration of beta-carotene and vitamin A than any other variety of cabbage. It also contains important nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Its leaves can be harvested when they’re about three inches tall. You can also wait until head forms and harvest the whole plant at once.
Even fresh herbs can make your meals pop, although they’re expensive to purchase in the store. Fortunately, it takes very little space or skill to grow your own. You can even grow them on a windowsill. Some basic herbs to start with include basil, chives, cilantro, parsley, thyme, and dill.
7. Cherry Tomatoes
While regular tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, they can be sensitive to different temperatures. Cherry tomatoes are even easier. You’ll be rewarded with pints of the fruits that taste far superior to store-bought versions. They’ll be free of pesticides and fertilizers.
Cherry tomatoes like a sunny spot to grow, and you’ll need to tie them to a supportive stick or tomato cage as they grow.
Cucumbers grow quickly and easily. once you taste your homegrown version, you won’t want to go back to store-bought. These vines like to climb, so be sure to plant them near a trellis or fence. Most gardeners will plant these seeds only after the soil is warm.
Snap peas are another “vertical” grower, making them ideal when space is tight. Plant peas in early spring and plan to tie them to a small trellis. They will need support when they start to get tall.
Don’t let carrots intimidate you just because they grow below ground – they’re quite hearty and easy to grow for beginners. The seeds may take a few weeks to sprout and the carrots are usually ready to harvest in 46 to 65 days.
11. Edible Flowers
Finally, edible flowers, like nasturtium, add color to your garden and can add intense flavor to your meals. Plus, nasturtium is known to naturally repel pests. It takes about 1-2 weeks from planting for flowers to develop (simply snip the petals off for eating). These can even be grown indoors in pots.