I have 3 basic reasons for gardening:
- To eat fresher, better tasting veggies
- As a learning experience for myself and the kids
- To save a little money (especially on the herbs)
However, while I enjoy some time gardening, I really do not enjoy spending lots of time weeding and caring for the plants. With this in mind, I've been thinking about what vegetables I want to grow next year. This year, we're growing tomatoes, broccoli, sweet peppers, lettuce, and spinach. Tomatoes do taste much better fresh, rather than off the shelf at the grocery store. My daughter picked broccoli, which has been growing wonderfully (will she eat it???). The peppers, lettuce, and spinach are a bit of an experiment. So far, they are all growing nicely, but I'm not sure how much better they will taste than store bought, or whether the effort is worth it. We should do a blind taste test with the kids and see.
Next year, I'm considering adding corn, onions, and garlic. Sweet corn is known to taste significantly better if eaten shortly after it is picked. The starches in the corn begin to change quickly after its picked, so fresh corn should have a substantial value. Onions and garlic are supposed to be super easy to grow and can be stored for long periods, giving us something to enjoy throughout the year (not just in the summer). However, onions and garlic have no advantage in taste over store bought and are mostly hidden from our eyes as they grow, limiting the learning experience and joy for my kids. We would save a little money from growing them.
I've been staying away from most vine plants because they take up a lot of area considering how little food they produce. And I always detested picking peas and green beans as kid, so I'm not all that interested in growing those veggies in our garden.
The herbs were mostly selected by my wife. Because herbs can be pretty expensive and Brenda uses them liberally in her cooking, we do save significantly. So far we have: cilantro, dill, chives, parsley, mint, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, and tarragon. Luckily, they have all been really easy to manage. The thyme, oregano, and mint have been growing so well, we might start giving it away. The rosemary does need to be dug up and brought indoors for the winter if you want to keep it alive in Michigan. But otherwise, I just plant the annuals in the spring and harvest and annuals and perennials as necessary throughout the summer.
With a few more years of this, I should hopefully have a system down to make the effort minimum, but enjoyment maximum, for a value-dense experience.