Least efficient crops

Each one has their reasons for growing vegetables. Some grow things for fun, others for therapeutics. But, this post addresses those whose purpose is to feed their families off of the garden.

The following is a list of nine crops that are not worth the hassle despite their popularity.

For a crop to be efficient, it has to produce a decent harvest to make a few meals without taking up too much space.

Why have a small garden, even if it’s small?

Deciding what to grow in a home garden relies on the purpose of having it in the first place. People start a kitchen garden either to entertain themselves or to save money on organic food.

In my situation, I decided to have a vegetable garden to provide my family of six with cleaner food. For this reason, I had to find crops that were easy to grow and produced enough for us to make several meals.

After years of trial and error, I was able to determine what was or was not worth growing.

growing calendar
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What makes a garden efficient?

The main challenge to overcome in a home garden is the limited space. The crops that had to make the list of being efficient had to fulfill the following criteria:

  • Easy to start from seed to save on transplant cost.
  • Compact size, so it does not take too much space to mature.
  • Fewer issues related to weather, disease, or pest, saving time trying to keep them alive.
  • Prolific production, to cover the family’s needs.

The following list of crops turned out to be the least efficient, despite their popularity.

9 crops not worth growing in a small garden
Photo by Louis Hansel

#1 Brussel sprouts

Brussel sprouts are cool-season crops that need a long growing period. You get to plant them in early fall, and the harvest is in early spring. The problem is not on the length of time but rather the space it takes to grow.

They also don’t withstand temperature fluctuations which are common in central Texas. Another reason is they are susceptible to aphids and mildew as soon as spring arrives.

9 crops not worth growing in a small garden

#2 Cabbage

The common cabbage plant occupies too much garden space with a long maturity time. Like Brussel sprouts, it is also susceptible to aphids and mildew.

Choosing compact varieties with shorter growing periods is a better solution. Mini Napa, sweet Choi, and Caraflax cabbage are great choices for home gardens.

9 crops not worth growing in a small garden

#3 Carrots

You might be why would carrots be on the “Not to Grow” list since they are the most popular crops after tomatoes.
In small home gardens, space is precious, so we have to make the most out of it. To feed a family of four, we have to plant 144 carrots. Following the square-foot-garden spacing chart, that is nine square feet, which is a little over a two-by-four raised bed.

The problem is carrot’s germination rate is unpredictable. So, having the space dedicated with uncertainty could end up being wasteful.

Photo by Milada Vigerova. No place for corn in my small garden. But driving by cornfields on a summer afternoon is divine.

#4 Corn

Most families like to grow corn in their gardens since it is the most kid-approved vegetable. However, corn is the least efficient crop. Each corn plant produces only one ear, defeating the purpose of growing food. Moreover, squirrels and mice are most likely the first to get to the harvest, leaving you with nothing.

9 vegetables not efficient in a small garden

#5 Tomatoes (indeterminate)

Growing tomatoes in Texas is very challenging. A seasoned Texas gardener once told me: ” In Texas, tomato plants start dying as soon as we put them in the ground.” Implying that it takes a lot of effort to keep them alive.

Tomatoes have a sweet spot when it comes to temperature. If it’s too cold, it won’t make it. And if it’s too hot, it won’t set fruit.

Indeterminate and big size tomatoes need about 100 days to mature. By the time they start blooming, temperatures are already in the high 90s.

On the other hand, determinate tomatoes grow faster and bloom much sooner. When summer arrives, the harvest is already at its peak. They are also easier to manage in a small garden.

9 crops that are not worth growing in a small garden

#6 Radishes

Radishes are the fastest growing vegetable, and everyone advises to grow them in the home garden. Don’t get me wrong, I did give them a try, but they turned out to be too spicy for our taste. And since they are not a crop that would make us a meal, I had to get them out.

If you enjoy snacking on them, look for varieties that would thrive in your area. Keep in mind that they are cool-season crops and require temperatures below 75F (25C).

9 crops not worth growing in a small garden
Photo by Louis Hansel

#7 Spinach

Though spinach is one of my favorite greens, sadly, I had to give it up after years of trial. It was hard to find a variety that didn’t bolt under the fluctuating temperatures. Also, I had to dedicate a large part of the garden for it to grow enough.

Kale and chard are good substitutes with similar nutritional value and better tolerance to Texas weather.

Check out this link to learn more on how to Grow Greens In Central Texas.

crops not worth growing in a small garden
Photo by Jeeray TANG

#8 Strawberries

Giving up on strawberries was a difficult decision. Sadly, strawberries are another crop that is hard to keep alive in a Texas garden. The torrential spring rains cause them to rot, and the blazing summer sun causes them to bun.

Instead, planting raspberries and blackberries is very rewarding. They are hardy and drought-tolerant and require very little maintenance.

crops not worth growing in a small garden
Photo by Louis Hansel

#9 Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a warm-season crop that grows summer through fall. The foliage is a beautiful vine that is also edible. It grows fast and thick and can get out of control in a small space. Even worse, it becomes a refuge for mosquitoes during the day. So, we had to give it up.

You might be interested in reading more about growing sweet potatoes from a homesteader. Click

least efficient crops

The following list of vegetables does not meet the efficiency criteria but could give them up due to their unique taste. For this reason, I will keep growing even if they won’t meet the family’s needs.


crops not worth growing in a small garden
Photo by Louis Hansel

Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that you plant once and survives for many years to come. If you decide to grow asparagus, dedicate a permanent bed for it, and expect to keep it there for at least 15 years.

The drawback of growing asparagus is that you need to plant ten plants per person to get several meals worth of harvest. In my garden, I have a small bed of asparagus. The harvest is not huge, but it is enough for a snack or to add to an omelet.

potatoes
Yukon Gold Potatoes

Potatoes

Growing potatoes in the home garden won’t spare you from buying them from the store. To become somewhat self-sufficient, you will have to plant ten plants per person. But, the flavor of homegrown potatoes is just incomparable. So, growing some as a delicacy is somewhat rewarding.

Here is a link to learn more about potato growing in Central Texas.

2 thoughts on “9 Crops Not Worth Growing in a Small Garden

  1. Try crawford lettuce, butternut squash they thrive on neglect

    1. Thank you for the suggestions.

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