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5×5 Challenge: What to Grow?

February 19th, 2014

Last year my choices for the 5×5 Challenge were easy, I was using the Rainbow Kitchen Garden Collection from Renee’s Garden. This year I plan on trying different vegetables. As a beginner, you may wonder how to choose which vegetables to grow when you only have a small space?
garden planning
First, you have to look at what you like to eat. If you hate zucchini, don’t grow it. If you love using fresh herbs, fill your garden with fresh herbs.  If you hate salad, don’t grow lettuce, plant basil instead.
Second, grow vegetables that mature quickly so you can make the most of your space. As a beginner, you’ll enjoy the garden much more if you’re harvesting vegetables often. Lettuces can be a great beginning vegetable, though they can be susceptible to slugs and other pests. Growing something like potatoes that are planted in spring and aren’t harvested until late summer isn’t the best option for your garden space.
catalina_spinach 1
Third, grow vegetables that maximize your space. For example, even if you love broccoli, it’s not really the best choice when you only have a small space. It takes a few months to reach harvest and only provides one head. Garden peas are the same, they mature in about 60 days, but it takes a lot of pods to make a bowl of peas.  You’re better off growing something like lettuce and herbs that reach maturity faster and will provide more harvest from the same space. Some vegetables and herbs will also grow back after being harvesting, thus allowing two or three harvests from the same space.
fresh cilantro
Fourth, grow what will save you the most money. If you can buy a head of local broccoli for a few dollars there’s no point in growing it when you can grow a few pounds of lettuce or herbs that would cost you much more to buy. Zucchini is very inexpensive to buy when it’s in season, spinach is much more expensive to purchase.  I grow a lot of cilantro because we really enjoy it and it’s expensive to buy. Growing it allows me to save lots of money, I also love that it grows back after cutting and will seed itself down from year to year.

Which vegetables would you recommend to a newbie as quick to mature? 


6 Comments to “5×5 Challenge: What to Grow?”
  1. Nebraska Dave on February 19, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Susy, it’s so true about growing what you like to eat from a garden. Ha, I would say even grow what the family likes to eat. Over my gardening career, I’ve grown many different things that I liked to eat but no one else in the family liked so ate it or gave it away. I’m really interested in seeing how the 5X5 garden turns out this year.

    I’m getting ready to plant cabbages and chives under the grow lights. We had two 60 degree days in a row. I pulled out my tomato cages and repaired the ones that needed attention yesterday. The ground is still frozen solid yet but the warmer days gives me hope that Spring is indeed on the way.

    Have a great 5X5 garden planning day.

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  2. Amy on February 19, 2014 at 10:18 am

    I love to grow peas. Planting day – March 17th here in NJ – is one of my favorite days of the year. I am now counting down the days. I am also looking forward to uncovering the kale and spinach that I planted in the fall. From peaking in I think some might have made it through the winter under plastic. Once these crops are done, in my small garden, I want to put in green bean seeds and cucumbers plants.

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  3. foyupdate on February 19, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Our annual veggie garden is just under 300 square feet so I’m always thinking of ways to maximize harvest. Succession planting has been important for us. I put quick maturing lettuce around vining winter squash plants because as the squash takes off in the heat the lettuce will be petering out.

    Also like to chose more compact viners like cucumber and winter squash. We had really good luck with a spaghetti squash called ‘Tivoli’. This year I am trying a cucumber that is supposed to have the trifecta of early, productive and short vines called ‘Northern Pickling’.

    I have yet to test this theory, but I’m guessing pound for pound cherry tomatoes are more productive than paste or cutting tomatoes. If nothing else I’m sure I get more savings out of the cherry because I dehydrate them as sun-dried tomatoes.

    Look forward to hearing how your garden goes this year.

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  4. Caroline on February 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    I was a newbie last year, so my suggestions for a first time Gardner is to grow things that are EASY to grow!

    Grow what you eat, but also, if you have extra space, try growing something new. For example, cucumbers are far from the top of my favorite veggies list, but I found a couple of really interesting looking heirlooms (Mexican Gherkin and Crystal Apple) so I’m excited to potentially find a new veggie that I enjoy.

    Oh, and I recommend that if they’re going to grow tomatoes and can only have one plant, go for some type of cherry tomato so you’ll get a large harvest.

    The snow is starting to melt in my neck of the woods (Minnesota) but we’re expecting more snow tomorrow :(
    I’m still trying to convince myself that spring is on the way though! LOL

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  5. Colleen on February 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    For a newbie….I would recommend herbs of all knids. Even if you aren’t sure what you would do with said herb, I think its a good place to start. Herbs can be grown in the ground or in pots so no matter what the space restriction herbs can be grown. They usually grow quickly and you can begin to harvest in a short amount of time. I agree, grow what you like, however, even if you don’t like grocery store vegetables you may love home grown. I think lettuce and chard could be two to try. I am amazed at how many varieties of lettuce there are, maybe try two different kinds. I am not a newbie, but I am not an expert gardener either, most of all if you are a newbie be encouraged. Every year is a little different and for me gardening is a constant learning experience. What grew perfectly one year may not the next, but keep trying. Gardening is a lot of fun and healthy too.

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  6. DebbieB on February 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I’m growing more stuff this year, but being smarter about it. There are things we need less of, things we don’t need at all, and things we need more of.

    I started seedlings on Sunday, they’re already sprouting like crazy. Question: Can you eat the seedlings that you thin out as “microgreens”, rather than just tossing them out?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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