What are the best vegetable plants to grow in the city?

As many of you know, my goal of turning my suburban yard into a self-sustainable garden is in year three.  Needless to say, I have learned a lot of things along the way.  The most important of these things is learning which vegetable plants are the best to grow in the city.

Having a garden in a sub-division or an urban setting is definitely more challenging than having one in the country.  In the country, you can simply clear a 50 x 50 square section and go to town planting things.  In the city, you have to work with a much smaller space.  This is why it is critical to pick the correct vegetable plants.

However, picking the right plants can be a challenge.  When I think of a garden from when I was growing up in the country, I think of pumpkins, corn, winter squash, tomatoes, green beans.  You can still grow all of that stuff in the city if you want but picking things like winter squash or corn will take up valuable space very quick.

So what types of plants are the best to grow?  Here is a list of my favorite plants to grow.

Tomatoes- Every good garden needs tomatoes.  Luckily for the urban or suburban gardener, the plant come in all sizes.  You can buy a tomato plant that fits in a container alone or you can do the full-size versions.  I have a quarter acre and a pretty good set-up so I do not limit the type of tomatoes I grow to the container variety.  The key however is to make sure you stake your tomatoes properly so they do not get out of control.

Green beans- You can still have green beans in a suburban garden if you can control rabbits.  The first year of gardening, I had a hard time with this one but eventually went to pole beans.  Pole beans are awesome for a gardener in the city.  Instead of planting a row of bush crop beans, you can plant pole beans that can be trained to climb up.  Try pole beans next year, you will be amazed at how many beans you will get from one plant.

Yellow summer squash- yellow summer squash is more of a challenging plant to grow in the city but as long as you have a 4 x 4 area you will be good.  Yellow summer squash does not spread out as much as winter squash or even pickling or slicing cucumbers.  

Red Beets and carrots-  Red beets and carrots are awesome in a city setting using raised gardens.  When using raised gardens, put the seeds closer together than what you would in the country.  A raised bed or two will provide enough beets/carrots for a family of four for the whole winter.  Another awesome thing about red beets is you can eat the leaves as well!  Talk about a vitamin packed treat!

Slicing cucumbers- Slicing cucumbers spread out more than summer squash but the good thing about the plant is that it can be trained to climb up a trellis or fence.  This is nice in a city setting.  This summer, I was able to raise upwards of 100 pounds of cucumbers using two 2 x 8 raised gardens.  Not a bad haul!

Peppers-  Planting peppers in a city lot is an easy one because the pepper plants do not take up much space.  Try container pepper plants if you live in a city apartment.

Asparagus - Asparagus is great in the city (or anywhere for that matter) because the spears come back each year and do not take up much space.  I have a section that is 8 feet by 2 feet and by next year (it takes three years for asparagus to produce when planting from seed) that will feed my family of four in the spring.

Herbs-  I have had luck growing dill, oregano, basil, thyme in a city setting.  An added benefit is that when the plants mature and flower the bees love them!

Lettuce- Lettuce is a no brainer in an urban setting.  I had 8 lettuce plants this year that took up two 8 x 2 feet beds that produced so much lettuce that my family, mother-in law and co-workers could not keep up with.  Lettuce also looks cool when it goes to seed.

That concludes my list of vegetable plants that are good for growing in the city but the list is definitely not complete.  I have also had luck with horseradish, rhubarb, potatoes, pickling cucumbers but my yard is set-up different than most weekend gardeners.

Please let me know if you have had any luck with other types of plants.  I would love to hear from you.

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