Heirloom Gardener Blogs > Food Not Bought

Which Rock Star Plants Should You Grow to Maximize Your Garden Yield?

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We all get so exited each winter when the seed catalogs start to arrive. I know not everyone grows from seeds and if you grow from starts you will be limited by what you can find locally. So, the thought of having 1000’s of types of seeds at your fingertips is quite the thrill. We value some catalogs over others but we sift through them all like we are brides planning our weddings. With each flip of a page, a new hope is born. This means there is…

• hope that we will get out of the cold winter,
• hope that our yards will turn green once again,
• hope that spring flowers are not that far away,
• hope that we will once again taste the food coming out of our own gardens.

Have you been looking for the right mix of plants to grown? With so many seeds to choose from it is hard to pick what makes the final cut and gets into your garden.  

For many years, I picked my plants considering all sorts of factors. One year I planted an international garden picking plants, with the help of my then 6-year-old son, as we went around the atlas from area of the world to area of the world. This was a lot of fun but frankly it did not produce a lot of food. These cool sounding plants, did not do well in our microclimate in Missouri. The plants missed their home soil, sun and biology. I learned a lot that year about the power of growing something locally adjusted. 

One year I picked plants by the coolness of their description and story. I looked for the plants that sounded like they came from the coolest, most adventurous background. Often the plants worked in native reserves or in war-torn countries. This method did not produce a lot of food from my backyard. 

I finally learned that I really had to find out what worked well right where I was living. I needed to know what liked our sun, soil, biology and even our pollinators. I started asking people what worked the best for them. I asked farmers, market vendors, friends, and I even went so far to call up Baker Creek and ask them which seeds did the best for them in the Ozark area. 

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The more I tried these locally, tried and true plants, the higher my yield got. Each year I started to track what worked well:

• which eggplants did better than others,
• which beans had a better yield without being stingy,
• which tomatoes put out more tomatoes without succumbing to the expected diseases,
• which herbs put out the most leaves,
• which cucumbers seemed to last the longest.

The Key was to  keep records of what worked, then make sure the ones that worked the best were my go to picks for the next year. It was kind of like locking in a puzzle piece. I knew, for sure, that Blue Lake Pole Beans would be my Pole Bean of choice. I knew that Rosa Bianca was my eggplant I could grow most successfully all around. I knew the Ivan were, by far, my strongest Tomato.  I also knew I needed some early determinates to balance off the late harvest date for the Ivan Tomatoes.

So, my suggestion to you is do your research and keep really good notes each year. Make maps of where you plant each plant in your garden beds. Make notes as they grow about yield, strength of the plant, size and other characteristics of note.  Pick your winners and stick to them year after year. Once you have your rock stars in your garden then you can experiment with new names, great stories and impulse buys. Each time you find another Rock Star add it to your next year’s lineup. Eventually you will get a core set of plants that works the best for you, produces the food your family wants to eat, and gives you a successful gardening experience.  

Now go out there and get working on identifying your Rock Stars.