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 Stretching Your Food Dollars: What to Plant


Story:
When it comes time to plant your garden, you have to make some decisions about what you’re going to plant. You’ll need to know how you can maximize that space and maximize your investment to get the most return for that investment. 
 
So, if you have a small garden, a few hundred square feet, I would suggest to first zero in on the things you really like to eat. Those are the things you may want in your garden. Then, sort things out as far as which plants are more productive than others. Some plants tend to be space hogs. They take up a lot of space and may produce one flush of produce, and then they’re done. For example, sweet corn produces one crop. When it’s done, that’s it. So, you’ve used that space for several months trying to grow corn.
 
But, tomatoes will continue to bloom and set, and bloom and set. Once they start producing, you’re going to have tomatoes all through the summer and well into the fall. So, focus on crops that are more productive such as squash, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. Those kinds of crops are very productive and you’ll get a good return on your investment.
 
If you have a bigger space, you’ll have more luxury, and you can add more crops that you like. You can still maintain all those vegetables that you know are very productive. You’ll know that every week of the month, you’ll have good produce on that table. Then, you can have the liberty of adding other things such as herbs that you like. They can add some interest to your meals and would very expensive if you purchased them fresh at the farmer’s market or grocery store.
 
You can also consider adding some perennials such as asparagus or rhubarb – things that you crave in the spring. Most people love fresh asparagus. It’s expensive when purchased at the store, but you can grow your own asparagus. You may also want some strawberries, brambles, or perhaps some grape vines.
 
When you have a little more space, you’ll have more leeway with what you can do. If you have a big garden, over 1,000 square feet, then your options are wide open. Remember to stay focused on the crops that you’ll want to have a good supply of for the season. And then add the kinds of things that you’ll want to preserve such as canning or freezing. You may want to make salsa. So make sure that you have plenty. By doing that, you’re not only having fresh produce during the spring, summer, and fall that help to stretch your food dollar, but you’ve continued it on through the winter when you have your frozen or canned food that can carry you through until the next gardening season.
 
So, consider the types of food that your family likes, what you like to eat, how much space you have, and what your ultimate goal is from your garden. That will help you as you’re prioritizing and making your gardening decisions.
 
This feature story prepared with Evelyn Neier, Kansas State University Research and Extension 4-H Youth Development. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.