Best produce to grow at home

Categories: Advice

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The recent spike in food prices, nationwide food safety scares, and popularity in the locavore movement have created a perfect storm of incentives to bring out all kinds of first-time gardeners this year.

The Strib recently ran a couple of articles for newbie gardeners, Starting a Garden From Scratch? and Five No-Fail Veggies that offer some good advice. A couple of my thoughts on the subject:

Starting a Garden from Scratch?
I'd highly recommend testing your soil, as many neighborhoods in Minneapolis, at least, seem to be full of lead and other contaminants (the city is currently remediating windborne arsenic that came from a former pesticide plant at 28th and Hiawatha, for one). I did it last year--you collect a soil sample and mail or drop it to a U of M lab--and found our garden had borderline-unsafe lead levels. This, supposedly, isn't much of a problem unless you're eating the part of the plant that touches the soil (carrots, beets, etc.), but, still...we had better luck with container gardening in organic potting soil on our backyard deck. Also, I can't say I'd recommend creating a garden plot by removing grass with Round-Up, as the author suggests--try the less-toxic methods, instead.

5 No-Fail Veggies
The author's big 5 must-plant veggies are tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, swiss chard, and beets. I'd alter the list a bit to focus on produce that's not only easy to grow, but most useful to have at home due to their perishability. Tomatoes (experiment with heirloom varieties, cherry and grape tomatoes) are great to grow at home in terms of flavor and cost-savings, but I'd sub summer squash and beets (both are cheap and abundant at the farmers markets) for the convenience of having salad greens and/or spinach and several types of fresh herbs regularly on hand.



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