With the gardening season in full-swing, many urban gardeners are beginning to plan next year’s garden. With the national economic recession still lingering, many urbanites are in their first year of gardening, or planning their first garden for next year. Below is a list of the top 10 vegetables for the urban garden, based on popularity of the vegetables and size of the plants, as most urban gardeners are looking for ways to conserve space and still produce a bountiful harvest.
10. Green Pepper (California Wonder Pepper) is easily grown in a container with similar results as one would achieve growing the plant in the ground. Whether in the ground or in a container, the green pepper plant takes about one square foot of space and is easily incorporated in many dishes, from tacos to stir fry. The green pepper is also easily frozen for garden-fresh taste in the dead of winter. Ranked number 10 because of its very low cost at the farmer’s market (typically 2 for a dollar or 3 for a dollar).
9. Kohlrabi is quite a versatile vegetable, despite popular belief. Kohlrabi can be eaten fresh, either plain or with a good Ranch dip, or added to many dishes, such as mashed potatoes or stir fry. Kohlrabi takes up about one and one half square feet per plant if grown in the ground. Ranked number 9 due to its size versus productivity- one plant produces one kohlrabi.
8. Zuchini is a relatively small plant compared to other cucubrits such as cucumbers or pumpkins. Zuchini does not vine out much and can be easily grown in a container with quite similar results as grown in ground. As its cousin the cucumber, zuchini can be eaten fresh, but the benefits of zuchini are its small size and versitility. Zuchinni can be grilled, baked in bread, or frozen for later use. For its relatively small size, zuchini is quite productive, producing so many fruits per plant, it is often said one zuchini plant is all the home gardener needs.
7. Hot pepper is a generic term for any pepper with a high concentration of capsicum, the chemical which causes spicy flavor in the pepper. Cayenne is small and easy to grow, producing a good-sized crop which can be eaten fresh in salads or tacos, frozen for later use, such as in chili, or dried to use as a spice. Most hot peppers can easily be dried for using as a spice later.
6. Beans are a staple of American dishes. Whether bush or pole beans, the plants don’t take up too much space and produce an abundance of beans if given the right conditions and placement in the garden. Bush beans can conserve space in a raised bed, while pole beans can save space by taking advantage of vertical space. Beans can be eaten fresh, used in a multitude of dishes, frozen or canned for later use.
5. Onions are quite versatile and easy to grow from onion sets available in stores or from seed catalogs in the Spring. Onions are used in many different dishes from around the world, from stir fry to soups to burgers. Onions can be grown just about anywhere, but are best suited to fertile soil in the ground in direct sun. Onions are good for freezing and drying into flakes or powder. Onions can even be canned.
4. Peas are often the first crop to ripen in the Spring. Peas are very easy to grow in containers- 9 pea plants in a five-gallon bucket trained to grow up any type of trellis, whether a balcony railing, a tomato cage stuck into the pot, or any number of other options, can produce a nice amount of peas in a very small space. Of coarse peas can also be grown in the ground with amazing results. While best suited to Spring weather, peas can also be successfully grown as a fall crop. Sugar snap peas are best eaten raw or frozen. English garden peas can be eaten fresh, frozen, or canned.
3. Carrots have always been a popular plant for saving space. Carrot seeds should be sown about 2 inches apart in the ground, or 32 per square foot in the raised bed. Carrots have also been quite successfully grown in containers. Fresh-picked carrots straight from the garden are a delicacy, with a flavor not associated with store-bought carrots. Carrots can be added to just about any dish, from soups to slaws to casseroles or baked into bread or cake. Carrots are easily canned or frozen for later use.
2. Potatoes are a hugely popular staple of many diets around the world and especially popular in America. While traditionally thought of as perhaps difficult to grow, modern developments of the potato are throwing old notions out the window. Potato seeds (which are just small potatoes called “chitting potatoes”) are now bread to withstand disease, particularly the blight that caused the Irish Potato Famine. Potatoes are easily incorporated into the home garden, whether in the ground or in a bucket. Given proper care when picking, potatoes are long-storing vegetables and can be canned or dried for later use. Fresh-picked potatoes used in mashed potatoes are no match for mashed potatoes made with store-bought potatoes.
1. The best vegetable for the urban garden is technically a fruit. The tomato is popular in many dishes around the world and used in a variety of sauces, from pizza sauce to salsa, and used in chili, soup, tacos, and even jelly-like preserves for spreading on bread. Like potatoes, most tomato plants are bread to withstand many of the diseases tomatoes used to be susceptible to. Tomatoes are easy to grow in the ground, in a raised bed, in a container, and in hanging baskets, even upside-down. Tomatoes can be frozen, dried, or canned for later use.