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The Best Crops for Your Garden


The Best Crops for Your Garden 


April/May 2009

Plan your most successful garden ever by using crops that naturally thrive where you live. 

By Barbara Pleasant


Last fall, we hatched what has turned out to be a terrific idea: a national survey to rate North America’s most productive garden crops. We invited thousands of our readers who grow food gardens to rate a list of 70 crops, and with more help from members of Seed Savers Exchange, we amassed groundbreaking, firsthand regional advice from hundreds of gardeners from British Columbia to Boca Raton.

The online survey covered a lot of ground by asking four questions about everything from asparagus to sweet corn to watermelon:

  • How easy is it to grow?
  • How much do you like to eat it?
  • Does it make good use of the time and space it requires?
  • How easy is it to store?

The following regional “Top 10 Crops” revealed by the survey (based on all four criteria) will give beginners a great start. However, they won’t fill up most gardens, so our report also covers “pet” crops: veggies that people want with such passion that they’re willing to take extra measures to help them grow. The survey also identified minor-league veggies like arugula that are not widely grown, but get uniformly high ratings from those who grow them.

We hope you find fresh, helpful guidance in these initial results from the first Mother Earth News National Garden Crops Survey. May your 2009 garden be your most efficient, bountiful and delicious ever!



The National Top 25 Crops

  1. Garlic
  2. Bush snap bean
  3. Pole snap bean
  4. Slicing tomato
  5. Cherry tomato
  6. Paste tomato
  7. Potato
  8. Snow/snap pea
  9. Shallot
  10. Shell pea
  11. Scallion
  12. Chard
  13. Dry soup bean
  14. Sweet pepper
  15. Rhubarb
  16. Summer squash
  17. Spinach
  18. Hot pepper
  19. Carrot
  20. Winter squash
  21. Beet
  22. Kale
  23. Sweet corn
  24. Collards
  25. Radish


Easiest to Grow

  1. Radish
  2. Chard
  3. Bush snap bean
  4. Rhubarb
  5. Cherry tomato



Most Wanted

  1. Slicing tomato
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Cherry tomato
  4. Garlic
  5. Asparagus


Best Use of Time and Space

  1. Scallion
  2. Lettuce
  3. Chard
  4. Cherry tomato
  5. Radish


Easiest to Store

  1. Garlic
  2. Onion
  3. Potato
  4. Shallot
  5. Dry soup bean


Gardening regions 


Regional Top Crops

For a full report on the best crops where you live,
click on your region below:

North Central & Rockies
Maritime Canada & New England
Pacific Northwest
Southern Interior
Gulf Coast








Join Our Gardening Advisory Group

Our online survey will stay open on our website all summer, so please chime in. We especially need input from gardeners who grow grains or minor crops such as celeriac and amaranth. We are also planning more gardening surveys and have set up a special Gardening Advisory Group, where you can participate in the current survey and/or sign up for future surveys.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to grow, the next challenge is to keep everything on schedule. To help you double-check planting dates and pick up tips from fellow gardeners in your area, we’ve set up regional What to Plant Now guides.

— Barbara Pleasant and Cheryl Long 

Post a comment below.


5/22/2009 1:52:41 PM
In making "manure tea" type fertilizer there is no need to bag the manure before putting it in water. All parts of cow manure are good for fertilizer and you don't need to filter it through any sort of bag or cloth. You can dump your cow poo in the bin with some water and let it age, stirring occasionally. I presume the pillow case idea stems from the notion of an actual tea bag, which is used to allow the tea leaves to steap in water while not polluting the finished beverage. In the case of moo poo, the "tea leaves" are a desirable part of the finished product.

Steve Thyng
5/3/2009 10:18:31 AM
To KCMike. . .it sounds like you have a high concentration of clay in your soil. It will be good gardening soil once you fluff it up. If you can shred leaves, shred lots of them and roto til them into the soil to about 10" deep. Make it about 5 parts leaves, old grass clippings, etc to dirt. Then sprinkle manure tea on it. Make manure tea by putting about 5 pounds of manure in an old pillow case tied at the top with a polyester or nylon string, extending one end about 4 ft. Fill a 35 gal trash can with water, put the tea bag in with the string hanging over the side, and put the cover on. Every once in awhile take the cover off and lift the tea bag up and down a few times. Tea will be ready for use in about 3 weeks. If you have some low areas where water settles after a rain, make 3' high piles of leaves, twigs etc, stepping on them to settle them, and shovel on a layer of your best top soil about 5" deep. Piles should be a little springy when you walk on them. Water with manure tea and some of the dirt will follow the liquid down into the pile, ensuring the composting process occurs. When you plant on top of it you will in effect be planting on top of an active compost pile, which is always a great idea. This is also a good way to use brush and stuff when you are clearing your land. Chop it up a bit and utilize it. Spend alot of time in your garden observing and extracting the principles that you need to invent solutions to your difficulties. The more you observe the more great ideas you will come up with.

5/1/2009 8:13:58 AM
I'm in the loess hills of KC. The topsoil is good grass, 3-4 inches deep. It incorporates into loess from there on down. It appears impervious to water, but we are in the area where trees grow in the loess, unlike north of here. Rototilled topsoil but it will not dry out now after one week without rain, the soil was still muddy under top inch. I'm ready to add compost from winter collections. I mudded in my plants, but now what. I've got 3000'sq feet tilled. I gotta make this work for my family and neighbors :>)

4/24/2009 5:57:53 PM
Books are great but there's nothing better than growers' personal experiences! And we all have favorites for a variety of reasons. I grow 2 or 3 types of tomatoes yearly and Stupice (a cluster, ping pong ball size)from Seedsavers is an annual favorite - hardy, bears in about 55 days, lasts in the south until Thanksgiving, good for salads or sandwiches. Set mine out mid April with lots of peat mixed into the soil and a wheat straw tent to protect plants from eastern NC winds. Have never had blossom end rot, disease or insect problems I could not handle with epsom salts or crushed egg shells or tweezers!

John Brown_6
3/30/2009 8:34:06 AM
Would like to learn more about growing tomatoes.

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