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Most Profitable Backyard Garden Crops

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My husband and I started our first raised garden in April.  We already have a couple of flower beds in the front yard, but we wanted a garden that could produce something we would actually be able to eat.  The idea of getting an edible benefit from maintaining a small spot of soil sounded fun.  In short, we wanted to grow plants with some extra value to us.  Here are some ideas for plants you may want to add to your garden to get that extra benefit too.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes were the first plant I thought about for our new garden.  I love them and they consistently are sold at our grocery store for more than $2 a pound, which annoys the snot out of me.  A couple of $5 tomato plants have the ability to produce more than 20 tomatoes each throughout the season.  Since that sounded about right for my husband and me, we planted two of them in our garden. 

Remember when planting tomatoes to space the plants at least 2 feet apart to give them room to grow.  Also keep in mind some system to keep away pests.  Squirrels or other rodents have been chomping away at my green tomatoes and moth balls are not working for me.  I believe we will have to try wire mesh next.

Basil

Basil was our next choice since we do use so much of it.  Basil plants are also very hardy which is necessary for beginner gardeners like us.  Our two plants have grown to be about 2 ½ feet tall in a matter of a couple of months and produce more than enough basil leaves for our marinara sauces and olive oil rubs.  They only cost about $2 each as seedlings and we’ve already saved $5 since we have not needed to buy a new package of dried basil leaves.  My next step will be to dry some leaves out for our pantry during the winter.

Cilantro

My husband’s choice for the garden was cilantro.  A couple of plants cost us $5 total and he likes adding it to all sorts of things including his rice.  He was able to cut some off multiple times, but we did not know that cilantro blooms into coriander if you don’t cut off the buds.  So now we have 2 huge coriander plants, but we don’t use coriander in our cooking much.  Oops.  Next year we will know better and will keep the cilantro maintained properly.  Thanks to our mild Houston, Texas winters, we have a shot at not losing our herbs permanently over December and January.

Chives

Our last raised garden plant is chives.  I personally do not like them much since I do not like raw onion flavors of any sort, but my husband uses chives almost as much as basil.  We bought three chive seedlings for $5 total and have already harvested and used more than $10 worth in 2 months.  It goes on baked potatoes, salads, soups, and even has been gifted to others.  This will definitely be a plant we keep around in years to come.

What other valuable plants would you suggest?  I have heard that mint is a great option – any others?

{ 29 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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29 Responses to “Most Profitable Backyard Garden Crops”

  1. Michelle says:

    I’m in Houston, Texas and I would urge you to try the following:
    Eggplant-If you like it, that is. One plant will provide a lot of eggplant through the hot season, and it has pretty purple flowers to boot. It grows mainly upright to two feet high at most (more like one foot in my yard), so it doesn’t take up a lot of room.

    Melon-If you have an unused spot of yard, plant watermelon or cantaloupe. This plant will spread all over the darned place, but it will keep weeds down, and bear many melons. I’ve had the most luck with cantaloupe, planted from seed. One plant will produce several melons but luckily not all at once, so you can enjoy them for a few weeks. It’s a big space hog, but I just let it go in an unused corner and reap the benefits.

    Gardening in Houston can be tough. The summer heat, she is a hard taskmistress. Good luck.

    • “Gardening in Houston can be tough. The summer heat, she is a hard taskmistress.” This comment made me actually laugh out loud in my very quiet kitchen!!! Thanks for the advice. I am not into eggplant, but cantaloupe is like crack to me…

  2. cennis says:

    Some favorites at my house (South Florida):

    Asparagus <– this is a perennial that will keep coming back for many years, but will take some time to produce initially

    Parsley <– annual, but really easy to grow and, if you grow 2 and let one keep going to seed, you can grow them in perpetuity. Parsley goes well in so many dishes and is very nutritious

    Dill <– I like Dill for all the same reasons as Parsley, and you can use some of the seeds for pickles. If you are hesitant to try this plant, I recommend cooking up some sauteed potatoes, with dill leaves added at the end, for a subtle and unique flavor. My wife was skeptical of Dill, but tried it this way once and we have never looked back.

    Horseradish <– If you like Horseradish, think about growing it yourself. It will pretty much take over a plot, if left to fend for itself.

    Rosemary <– Again, only if you like Rosemary. But, this plant may actually outlive you. Put one in the dirt and never buy Rosemary again.

    Chaya <– I know I have gone off of the beaten path on this suggestion, but since you live in Texas and, like Florida, probably have a shortage of greens over the hottest parts of the summer, I really recommend this plant. Wiki it. We have a version that has no stinging hairs and we eat it all summer long.

    Our quest to grow all of our own food eventually led us also to foraging. That is another article in itself, but worth mentioning here.

  3. zapeta says:

    Thanks for the run down. We don’t have a garden now, but in the past we’ve grown tomatoes and green peppers. We use a lot of green peppers and they’re usually $1.00 each at the grocery store. It doesn’t take long for the plants to pay for themselves.

  4. No Debt MBA says:

    My family has had some success growing cucumbers, but they do take up more space than the other plants you’ve mentioned. We’ve also had a lot of success with basil in a container inside as apartment dwellers without a yard.

    • Marina says:

      Try growing your cucumbers up! Get some fencing or make a “wall” of chicken wire and let the cukes climb up it.

    • Shirley says:

      You can limit the space that cucumbers take by surrounding them with “tomato wire” and vining the branches upward in the screen. The wire fencing comes in rolls of 24′ by 4′ high (4×4 screening) and costs $13 per roll. It is very easy to use and ours has been moved and re-used every year for four years now. We grow three cucumber plants (3 different kinds) in a 4 foot square area and have cukes to share.

  5. Jim says:

    Tomatoes are the best because one plant can produce a ton of tomatoes once you get good at it.

    • Robin says:

      Jim, regarding tomatoes, I have some wonderful tomato plants growing this year, but I am a little disappointed with the yield. We have a raised bed with good soil and intense afternoon sun. What would you suggest to increase the yield of the plants?

      • Jim says:

        Unfortunately I’m not a tomato expert, I just do what comes naturally and it seems to work out for me. I know that good soil is the most important thing (we compost, maybe that’s the key?) but otherwise I’d consult an expert in your geographic area.

        • Shirley says:

          Water at ground level, not ON the plants… just let the hose run laying flat on the ground. Tomatoes like lots of water, especially with intense afternoon sun and haeat.

          We are in zone 8-9 and ours are loaded with fruit that will be ripe within two weeks from now.

  6. This is a great idea. However, I don’t know if I would have the courage to plant a garden because I loathe weeding. This is definitely not a task for the faint of heart! Thankfully, that is not a decision I need to make right now since I am only renting my living accommodations! But I wish you guys the best of luck in your gardening endeavors!

    • We actually did a raised garden, which means we have 6 inches of soil directly on top of some of our backyard held in by planks of wood and we put newspaper down initially. Apparently that was enough to prevent most weeds. :-)

  7. These are definitely great options. We have zucchini and squash growing in our backyard. Our zucchini was huge!

  8. Marina says:

    To save even more money, try planting from seeds next time. Plant things like carrots, radishes, cilantro, parsley every two to three weeks and you’ll enjoy a longer growing season. Here in sunny AZ we cover our garden cage with shade cloth for the summer months. We’re still harvesting tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, basil, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, eggplant, peppers (several varieties), strawberries, grapes, carrots, chives and are enjoying onions and garlic we harvested and hanged to dry. If you have a mild enough winter, try broccoli, cabbage, beans, fennel bulb,snow peas, beets and other yummy winter veggies.

    • Our big mistake was planting seeds AND seedlings. Yeah, the seedlings took over before the seeds had time to sprout…we won’t make that mistake again…

  9. Kasey says:

    I second the cucumber suggestion.

    All you really need is one plant and you’ll get a ton of them. Cukes cost around 69-cents a piece at grocery stores where I live. But one plant will cost you a couple bucks tops – and you’ll have plenty for salads, sandwiches or just eating with some salt.

    Sugar snap peas are another good one. Fresh peas in the pod are pretty pricey. But they’re easy to grow. You can plant them in early spring because they like cool weather – then swap them out with beans or cucumbers.

  10. Shirley says:

    Crystal,
    Tomatoes do seem to take a long time to ripen but it probably has more to do with wanting to eat them as soon as you see them there than it does with anything else. ;-)

    But ground watering WILL produce healthier plants and more abundant harvests.

  11. thunderthighs says:

    Excellent article! I save a ton of money by growing sprouts on the kitchen counter–and rinsing them thoroughly, of course.


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