How to choose best vegetables to grow in your garden

basket of vegetables in Western New York by Stofko
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Many beginning gardeners wonder what vegetables are the best to plant.

That’s a difficult question to answer. What I like to plant may not be what you should plant. Here are some ideas on how you can choose what vegetables are best for you to plant.

Right plant for the right spot

The first thing you always have to think of are your growing conditions.

Many of the vegetable plants that gardeners like to grow need full sun. Some plants such as peas can grow in partial shade, but do best in full sun. See this growing guide from Cornell Cooperative Extension to understand the growing conditions you need for various vegetables.

Plant what you like to eat

If most of the recipes you use are on the spicy side, plant hot peppers. If you usually cook with sweet peppers, plant those.

If you plant vegetables that you really care about, you will probably be willing to put in any extra effort that might be needed, such as watering frequently during a prolonged dry spell.

Do gardening with your kids and grow what they like. You can also try expanding their tastes by planting vegetables they’re not very familiar with. They will be more likely to taste the food they grow themselves.

Grow vegetables that are expensive to buy

I love this tip from Lori Gattie, Master Gardener volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Genesee County: Choose plants that are easy to grow and provide produce that would be expensive to buy.

She shared it during an online presentation on “Common Gardening Mistakes” in their Garden Talk series. (The presentation will be posted online in the future; check their website for updates.)

So what plants are easy to grow and provide expensive produce?

Gattie, with help from Jan Beglinger, Agricultural Outreach Coordinator/Master Gardener Coordinator, suggested these plants:

  • Eggplant
  • Mesclun lettuce mixes
  • Bell peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Beans
  • Beets

Check out this growing guide from Cornell Cooperative Extension, which rates each vegetable on how easy it is to grow.

If you have a suggestion for plants you grow that are expensive to buy, please leave a comment below.

Grow produce to share

If you want to share produce with food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and group homes, what should you plant?

FeedMore WNY and our partner agencies welcome donations of all varieties of fresh produce,” said Catherine Shick, communications director at FeedMore WNY, which distributes food to hungry people throughout Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties.

While they are happy to get anything you grow, produce that is easiest for them are vegetables that aren’t too delicate.

“We have found that heartier produce, such as eggplant, peppers and root vegetables, are easier to handle and transport to agencies,” Shick said, “whereas fragile produce like tomatoes and leaf lettuce can be more challenging to maneuver.”

One of the best ways that gardeners can share their produce is by donating produce directly to partner agencies, she said. They partner with 300 agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and group homes.

If you take your vegetables directly to soup kitchens and food pantries, the folks there are better able to make use of delicate vegetables since there is less transporting and handling involved. You may be handing your vegetables to the person who is going to cook with them.

A list of food pantries and soup kitchens can be found on the FeedMore WNY website here. You can also call FeedMore WNY at (716) 822-2002 to be connected with a nearby agency.

Of course, you should make sure that the food you donate is high quality. If you’re not willing to eat it yourself, it may not be a good choice for donation.

“Hunger exists in every corner of our community, and we greatly appreciate when Western New York growers donate healthy, fresh produce to help feed those in need,” Shick said.

4 Comments on “How to choose best vegetables to grow in your garden

  1. What are the laws for planting vegetables in the front of you home near the front side walls in Kenmore Village or Town of Tonawanda?

  2. Maxine, I haven’t been able to grow zucchini. I never had enough sun. I may give it one more try this year.

  3. What a timely and useful article. We have 4 tomato plants which will hopefully yield many, many tomatoes. I left canning behind me years ago so it’s good to know there are places that welcome extras. Zucchini anyone?

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