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My top five veges for beginner gardeners in the sub-tropics

I wrote this post when I had only been gardening for about 3 years, but these are still my favourite vegetables to grow.  They are easy to grow and produce a good crop.  This is a list of my top 5 favourites for beginners in a sub-tropical climate:




1. Silverbeet
This is a surprising one, as I never ate it before I had a garden, but it was the thing I missed the most when we first moved house and I had no garden for a few months.  Once established, silverbeet keeps going for months (in this climate anyway).  We usually have about six mature plants in the garden at a time, which provides a couple of leaves for our dinner each night and extra as a treat for the chickens.  Even when veges in the supermarket are between seasons and expensive, we can always top up a meal with a few leaves of silverbeet.

This cherry tomato is growing
out of my compost bin

2. Cherry Tomatoes
While the large tomatoes have proven to be delicate, disease-prone and attacked by fruit fly, the little cherry tomatoes have had no such trouble.  They just keep going no matter what!  In the last garden we had one large rambling plant that I tried to contain in a circle of mesh, but it was always escaping.  Now I have a small, well-controlled plant in a pot and get heaps of tiny tomatoes from it all year.  The extras go into the freezer whole and get thrown into stews and pasta sauces.  In the last garden I had cherry tomatoes coming up all around the garden from the rotten fruit that I didn't get a chance to pick, so they are very easy to cultivate.


Poor Man's Beans can grow up to 10cm long if you don't find them in time!
Poor Man's Beans are easy to grow and produce lots of beans.
3. Poor Man's Beans (Dolichos Lablab)
I don't think you can even buy this one in the shops.  Its a large climbing bean that seems to keep growing for years, dying back in winter and returning in spring.  Mine is currently covered in beans.  The string beans growing next to the Poor Man's are in poor condition this year, destroyed by slugs, but the Poor Man's seems more hardy.  The current plant was grown from seeds saved from the last garden, so its easy to cultivate too.  Between the beans and the sliver beet, we always have something green for dinner!


Spring onions are planted between other veges,
the lettuce is the in background (starting to seed)
4. Spring Onions
I have tried and failed to grow normal onions, however I have never had any trouble with spring onions.  We have them in the garden all year and pick as needed.  When they get big they grow seed heads, which I just cut off when they are ready and the onion is still ok to eat later.  The next crop is then easily grown from this seed, so you have onions forever!

5 Cos-type Lettuce
My mother-in-law gave me some lettuce seeds for our first garden, so I don't even know exactly what type they are, but they are perfectly suited to hot and humid conditions.  They are a non-hearting Cos-type lettuce. The best part is that the seedlings some up within a couple of days of planting and you literally get hundreds in a pot, so they are very easy to cultivate and there's plenty for the chickens too, this is very encouraging for the beginner!  They go to seed after a while, but that's just more seed for the next crop.

Any suggestions for other fail-save crops for beginners?  The ones I have chosen are disease resistant, easy to cultivate and cheap as you can save seeds from each crop (except my silver beet has never gone to seed!).

eight acres: top five vegetables for beginner gardeners in the sub-tropics


2016 update: I have to add kale to the list.  It is about the only vegetable that will grow through heat-waves and frost conditions.  I have several plants that have been in the garden for years.  I sometimes flowers and seeds, but always regrows more leaves.  Its great cooked and can be used raw in salad as well.

More on seed-saving and my garden.

Comments

  1. Hi Liz, your top three would be in my top five too, along with spinach and zucchini. I grow regular beans, but haven't heard of poor man beans. They sound fantastic. I wonder where you could get them from in New Zealand.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Emma, The botanical name for the Poor Man's Beans is 'dolichos lablab'. It looks like you can get the seeds from http://www.kingsseeds.co.nz/shop/Flowers/By+Location/Trellis+Climber/Hyacinth+Bean+Vine.html, among other places. Maybe its more popular as an ornamental than an edible plant, but I love it as it doesn't die! We have zucchinis growing, but I never get much out of them as they get mildew in the humidity here and it takes so much work to keep them going for long. I like any vege where I don't have to do much work! Cheers, Liz

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Liz, Do you eat the pods of the Poor Man's bean or the seeds inside? I have never been able to decide whether this is a particular cultivar of Lablab or just the usual version that is used for green manure and forage. I'm interested in this because older gardeners talk about a bean that used to grow over the back fences in Brisbane when they were children but when I send them images of lablab for comparison they say it looks different?
    My favourite bean for the subtropics is Madagascar bean, but I grow it as a dried bean http://earthwisegardening.com/?p=268

    ReplyDelete
  4. Definitely Tuscan Kale and zucchini on my list of easy grow veg. And I reckon silverbeet definitely deserving of the number 1 spot. So easy and so versatile. Meg

    ReplyDelete
  5. I would say Purple King Beans would make my list as well as Silverbeet, Kale, Garlic (even if you only get small bulbs they pack a punch), asparagus and Dill and Holy Basil.

    ReplyDelete

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