Choosing What Fruit, Vegetable or other Food Crop to Grow


There are hundreds of different food plants which can be grown at home, ranging from fruits and vegetables to herbs, nuts, berries, vines, mushrooms and even aboriginal (bush tucker) foods.  The plants chosen can be plants that grow well in a garden located in the tropics, gardens located in temperate or cool climates and they may be deciduous, evergreen or a collection of these. The challenge is to choose the right combination to suit your family.

Consider the following:

- Some plants require more attention than others (e.g. many soft fruits need pest and disease control and pruning, while nuts and citrus do not).

- Be sure that you can grow each particular crop cheaper than what you might buy the product for. BEWARE, even though it may seem ridiculous, it is sometimes possible to buy something for less than it might cost you to grow it. On the plus side though, if you have grown it yourself, you know what chemicals have been used in the production and you also know exactly how fresh it is. Though sometimes store bought produce may be cheaper, generally its ‘ shelf life’ or storage qualities may be less than half that of home grown produce, so you may even need to buy two or three lots from the store to cover the time that fresh home grown produce will last in your own storage.

- Consider what you use the most. If you eat lots of apples and potatoes, then grow those. Growing and producing the fruits and vegetables you and your family like the most can make a sizable reduction to the overall food budget. There is no point growing large amounts of what no one wants to eat, through it is exciting to try a couple of new varieties of vegetables you have never eaten purely to see if it is something you may like to include in your growing plan for the future.

- Consider the crop's keeping quality. Crops which keep for short periods only (e.g. Peaches) are more of a risk than ones which keep well (e.g. Almonds). Some varieties of fruits will actually store and keep longer that others in the same family, for example, brown onions have much longer storage life than white or spring onions.

- How long will it take for the plants to start cropping?  (e.g. Radishes can be picked 5 6 weeks after planting. To keep a good supply planting a few new plants, say every fortnight, would give you a succession of ripening times for quick growing crops. Walnuts and most of the nut tree varieties, avocados and mulberry can take up to 7 years before they produce a good crop).

- How many plants do you need? Some vegetable plants are much more productive per square centimetre (or inch) of ground space than others. Compare one tall tomato plant and its kilos of fruit with a large cabbage which can occupy the same amount of ground space through it produces only one cabbage.

- How much space do you need? (For example, one fruit tree can take up a lot of the yard. More than a hundred strawberries might fit into the same space). In a narrow space you may be able to look for plants that give you more produce in the vertical space such as growing strawberries on a wall of containers hydroponically and growing your fruit trees by espaliering them close to the fence. (Some fruit tree varieties will grow better than others in an espalier system).

- How suitable is that crop to the soil & climate of your area? Is your region frosty, windy, tropical, temperate, a combination of these? Is a low lying site with a heavy wet spoil most of the time, steep and sloping where terraces will need to be built? How good is the growing quality of the soil and the soil drainage?

This is an extract from an ebook by the principal and staff of the school.

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