Tuesday, March 22, 2016

High-Value Veggies

With vegetable gardening returning as a hot trend over the last few years I am hard pressed to find the space to plant my own. The adorable little patch I did have that was enclosed by a pretty lavender picket fence was removed to build three large compost bins. After all, we only have a small strip of grass on the north side between us and the neighbour, the rest is trees, shrubs and flowers that create a natural habitat to replace that which was removed when our pocket subdivision was built.
One day I realized there was room for a long vegetable patch between the compost bins and the path, almost two feet wide by twenty or so feet long. So, this south facing patch is where I've been planting yellow bush beans, carrots, beets and the odd herb using the square foot method developed by author Mel Bartholomew. That was until this year, because 'the patch' is full of garlic, the old standby 'Music' variety and a couple of new bulbs I picked up in the fall from an amazing garlic grower.
I can likely poke a few carrots amongst the garlic but there isn't room for much else. A predicament for sure but we had a Farmers' Market start up a few years ago and the vendors sell carrots, beets and green/yellow beans at a good price. Well why not just buy these veggies from them and I'll plant big pots of herbs by the kitchen door again!
I received a complimentary copy of Mel Bartholomew's latest book called 'High-Value Veggies' to review and it has opened my mind to think about what I am planting, and you should too.
Bartholomew says to ask yourself if the vegetables you plant are your favourites and if you can save grocery money by growing them. How do we determine the value in what we plant and grow?
As with his first book 'Square Foot Gardening' the answer is all about numbers. 
Many gardeners pick the easiest vegetables to grow but they will also be easy for farmers too and offered at a low price.  
Aha, this speaks to me about growing my usual beans, carrots and beets!
The answers of what to grow are in the book but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you but will say that Bartholomew has developed an equation for return on investment. A few tidbits of interest are in order though:
Tip - the best drought tolerant veggies are hot peppers, rosemary, okra, garlic, pole and bush beans.
#1 at the top of the best to grow are herbs, the least profitable to grow are potatoes. 
When growing herbs it's important to assess how much will be used in one season and if the excess can be dried or frozen - grow the right amount. Tip - freeze chives in ziplock bags.
Dill is susceptible to the caterpillar of the eastern black swallowtail butterfly. Tip - grow some for you and some for them!
Herbs and vegetables are list in the book with growing conditions, pests and whether they're more economical to be grown from plugs (starters) or seed. Each has a chart on the page showing the ROI - return on investment. 
The book contains chapters on other kinds of values too such as best vegetables for containers, for soil type, ornamental beauty and lots more. Tip - the Mexican sour gherkin cucumber ranks as #1 for a fascination garden.
Do you know what the fastest growing vegetables are? This list could make a difference for gardeners with a short growing season, at home or the cottage. Tip - #10 (the slowest) are carrots.
Bartholomew's book Square Foot Gardening made me realize he knows what he's talking about and I practise and promote this concept whenever possible. I wasn't sure I'd be into numbers for which vegetables to plant though but I like this book with the eye opening questions he poses. Don't worry about getting a calculator out with your seed packets, the work is done for us - the lists and numbers are provided for profitable, productive vegetable gardens. 
Many thanks to Lola at Cool Springs Press for sending me this book to review.


  1. Wonderful post . We have a few bloggers sisters who plant their favorite veggies in containers and grow them that was as they don't want the big garden to tend with I think that is a good idea I might just give that a go this year ! Thanks for sharing , have a good day !

  2. I just love cooking and eating vegetables ...
    The amazing thing is even if you don't have a lot of space you can still grow a few, and herbs too.

    All the best Jan

  3. Interesting stuff Judith. It is nice to grow a few things as they do taste so much better plucked straight from the plant or dug up! :-)

  4. We plant a lot of herbs, which we buy the starter plants from the Farmer's Market. I also do Heirloom Tomatoes - Love them! I don't have room or much luck with anything else, and I LOVE our twice weekly trips to the Farmer's Market.

  5. I have a ton of space to grow my own veggies, and I frequently go way overboard. I end up supplying friends, family and neighbors with the extras. No one complains! Because it was such a good year for potatoes, we entered March with around 400 pounds of potatoes left over. I will be checking out the local soup kitchen again to see if they require any before they start to go bad.
    I cannot wait to get started with my planting, and have all my seeds ready to go. We just got another huge snowfall last night, and it feels like Spring is never going to come. But it will probably melt quickly and the weather will do what it always does. Happy growing to you!

  6. Hi Judith, Sounds like a very good book. I have been spading the raised beds, preparing to plant the cool weather crops. I discovered LOTS of earthworms which is a good sign. I'm really looking forward to my having veggies fresh from the garden to eat.
    Hugs, Beth

  7. I don't have a spot for vegetables, and have thought of doing the square foot idea in a container or two on my deck. I've only done herbs and a few tomatoes in the past. But I'm amazed at how much you can get out of those 4 x 4 boxes if you follow instructions.
    I'm sure you're looking forward to gardening season Judith!
    Have a Happy Easter. xo Deborah

  8. Good and interesting post, Judith. We do fight with our garden a bit as the trees keep growing and increase the shade there. It's hard for me to believe it would be cheaper to purchase veggies at the farmer's market than to grow them --- our farmer markets here are pricey … but maybe it's worth investigating. The bonus side no matter the cost is its such a good hobby for my husband and good for his health to be out there working on it.

  9. Hello Judith, sounds like a very useful and interesting book. Thank you for these helpful tips! We try gradually to introduce more species in our veg plot.
    I of course adore your dividers, especially the carrot. ;)

  10. Great post with lots of great information! I have been tossing the idea around about getting some old pallets and using them as raised beds. Since our true gardener (our son) is away this year and unable to help us, it may have to wait another year but I'd love to try it. I will plant my usual tomatoes in pots...or maybe I will get real brave and try something else!

  11. That is so interesting, Judith. It's not something I'd thought too much about but it makes such sense.

  12. I don't have a lot of room for growing veggies in my yard, Judith, but my late hubby's friend, who he used to help in his big garden, always shares extras with me, which is so nice. The book sounds very interesting, though, and I will tell my youngest son about it, who likes to garden, and who also has chickens.
    Happy Easter, Judith!

  13. I love his books and I have been doing square foot gardening for years.

  14. This all sounds like very sensible growing advice and information. I also think that it is only worth growing things that you really like to eat, no point in growing things that you don't like or can buy very cheaply when you could grow things that are more expensive. Hope that you enjoy your growing and the eating part too! xx

  15. Very interesting. I have often wondered why we go to so much work to keep a garden when we can go to the farmer's markets? However, they are are not close by and we love to garden. The potatoes, onions, and peas are in. Garlic and rhubarb growing. At least when we plant our own food we know how it was grown. Here, amongst the weeds and wormy pests since we don't use pesticides. Dill weed goes wild, so while it is great in recipes, it does take up a lot of real estate unless it is controlled. Great post, Judith. May have to find the book.

  16. My husband and I were just talking about what I wanted to grow this year. We have a wonderful produce stand less than a minute from our home and they grow all the things we love to eat. But they don't do herbs. I may have to just grow herbs this year and by the rest from them. I'll check with my library to see if I can check this book out!

  17. Sounds like a good read, I'll check to see if the library has a copy. I can't wait to get out and get my veggies growing. Have a lovely weekend.

  18. What a great book review with plenty of things to think about. Our space is limited, although we do have three 12 foot x 3 foot raised beds. I grow lots and lots of tomatoes, pole beans (one trellis), zucchini, lettuce, and lots of herbs. Many of them are perennial here, so I have space close to the patio for them.
    Potatoes we purchase, although the few times I've grown them, we did notice the taste of fresh potatoes was amazing.
    Happy Easter, Judith.

  19. Sounds like a book my "live-in gardener" would like. Our veggie garden is just a strip along our driveway, probably about the same size as yours. We do plant some fruit in amongst the flowers though.

  20. Hello Judith, sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing. I am looking forward to our home grown tomatoes. Happy Friday, enjoy your weekend! Happy Easter to you and your family.

  21. That sounds like a book I would enjoy! I'm especially interested in drought-tolerant veggies, as we seem to battle the heat and lack of rain every summer!

  22. Interesting idea...I grow what we love to eat fresh...it is hard to find fresh organic veggies here so I grow them.


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