by Matt Gibson
Looking for a high yield garden with the most prolific plants? Do you love vegetable gardening efficiency? Plant lovers turn to gardening for many reasons. Cultivating plants is a meditative, relaxing hobby, and it gives those who pursue gardening a set of jobs and responsibilities they know they’ll need to complete in order to be successful. Some turn to gardening for the chance to get outside and get their hands dirty.
Some love nature and simply enjoy providing and the perfect environment for the plants they choose to grow and spending some time in the great outdoors. Whether you got into gardening to save some money at the grocery store or to try to outshine your neighbors, the 12 plants on this list offer big bang for your time and energy buck. Besides, everyone loves giving gifts and sharing their bountiful harvest with friends and family.
So what crops should you plant if you want to eat plenty of homegrown produce as well as see enough of a sizeable yield to spread the wealth?
Tomatoes grow in bunches, and the right tomato garden setup could easily have you producing a bunch more tomatoes more than you can possibly eat yourself. Cherry and grape varieties in particular, will result in the greatest quantity of tomatoes but not the largest yield by weight. The mammoth beefsteak type of tomatoes produce plenty of fruit, but not nearly as many fruits as some of the smaller varieties.
Medium-sized tomatoes tend to be the best overall producers. Varieties such as ace, lemon, early girl, champion, and celebrity produce their fruits early in the season and keep on flourishing them throughout, supplying a higher yield when all’s said and done than any other plant in your garden.
Expect to see anywhere between 10 to 15 pounds of fruit per plant from these cultivars of tomatoes each season. On especially good seasons, you could see as much as 20 pounds of fruit per tomato plant. Even if you make a lot of salsa and spaghetti sauce to use year-round, just a few plants should give you more tomatoes than you can possibly eat yourself.
Cucumbers, especially the vining varieties, are known for producing fruit in abundance. If you are pickling your cucumbers or growing them in ample amounts to give away as gifts or to donate, then the vining varieties are the way to go. If you don’t need a ton of cucumbers from your plants, you may try the bush varieties, which produce much less fruit per growing season.
You can grow quite a few cucumbers in a small space, as long as you have a vertical trellis or structure for them to climb. Just three or four vines should produce 10 pounds of cucumbers per season. As cucumber plants are known to suffer from a mid-season decline, it’s best to seed a second crop in midsummer to ensure that your plants will keep pumping out plenty of cucumbers deep into autumn. Remember to pick your cucumbers when they are immature for the best flavor.
Bush beans are much more prolific than the average vegetable crop, typically yielding up to five pounds from every 10-foot row you’ve planted. Pole beans only need to be sown once and will create edible seed pods again and again throughout October. Like bush beans, pole beans can also yield 10 pounds or more from a 10 foot row. Either variety you choose, you are going to have a lot of beans on your hands—plenty for gifting or donating.
Plant your bush beans and pole beans at the same time in the spring. The bush beans will start sprouting and developing pods within just a few short weeks while the pole beans are developing vines and growing upward. By the time the bush beans are done with their harvest, the pole beans will be ready to keep your bean stock overflowing for the rest of the growing season.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
If given the proper growing conditions, potatoes and sweet potatoes can grow underground in droves. Plant potatoes after the last spring thaw, between March and April. Position plants in 10-foot rows, placing seeds or seedlings 12 to 18 inches apart. Each row will net you about 30 pounds of potatoes per season, depending on the variety you’re tending and the conditions you provide.
Nestle your potatoes into a loose, fluffy soil mixture that makes it easy for the plant’s roots to reach through and form a path through the light soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and provide regular watering by hand when plants have gone to flower to ensure they’ll have what they need to produce the next round of potatoes.
There are a lot of storage ideas for homegrown potatoes (aside from leaving them directly in the ground) that could be a great solution for gardeners who have small garden areas but need large yields. Potatoes can be grown in bulk between the layers of a stack of old pallets or even inside an old trash can.
Squash and Zucchini
Yellow summer squash and green zucchini are varieties of vegetable plant with simple care requirements and big produce payoff. If you have the room in your garden, even winter squash crops can supply a high yield. It is far safer to plant these veggies with a vertical support so that they will have something to lean on as they vine. The extra support will allow them the space and security to grow a hefty harvest without taking up too much valuable garden area.
A certain variety of zucchini has been known to feed entire neighborhoods during its peak growing season. Plant zucchini three or four times during the season so that a fresh crop will be ready to step up production when the old crop starts to decline.
Having plenty of zucchini and squash plants will also help your garden’s overall pollination. New zucchini plants start producing a lot of male flowers first, but eventually, the plants will start to produce male and female flowers, both of which must be open simultaneously for plants to produce fruit.
Plant okra in the heat of the summer months, from late May throughout June, and you should receive more okra in return than you know what to do with. Harvest your haul early and often, as doing so will help increase the crop
Okra is one of the heaviest producers you can choose to grow, meaning your plants may very well require harvesting more than once a week. More testing is needed, but early studies have shown that okra production increases in long, hot periods, and plants grow even faster during the monsoon rains of July, so you will want to harvest as often as possible. Gardeners can plan for a 10-pound okra harvest from each 10-foot row of okra plants they tend. That’s more than enough to throw around.
If you are growing for food, you probably have a pretty big space. If you have lots of extra garden room to work with, why not devote some space to onions —specifically Welsh onions. Cut down the green tops and use these alliums as you would scallions in the kitchen, then watch how quickly the shoots grow back ready for harvest. Welsh onions also require almost no effort, other than the harvesting process itself.
It takes a mere 45 days to grow a radish plant until it is ready for harvest. After harvesting, you have the choice of whether or you’ll to grow more radishes again, or plant something different.
These easy-to-root and easy-to-grow vegetables can be planted multiple times per season in a sunny location, and the radish plant is hardy in just about every growing region, including USDA hardiness zones two through 10. The only thing radishes won’t stand up to is too much heat, so stop planting radish plants when the summer starts to warm up in earnest.
Blackberries take up a small garden space and produce a very large harvest. Plus, they are way too expensive at the grocery store when you can have a few bushes growing at home. Blackberries are healthy and snack-friendly, and of course, the flavor when you grow blackberries yourself—well, it’s priceless.
All kinds of hot peppers, including jalapeno, Tabasco, serrano, and more, are plentiful producers. Pair them with a lot of tomato plants and other ingredients for a salsa garden if you plan to jar your own salsa for gifts.
Hot peppers grow very well in both hot and cold climates, so as long as your pepper plants are given raised beds and full sunlight exposure, you should be swimming in spice in no time. Just watch the heat level. You don’t want to hurt your friends or family (too badly).
As long as the weather is relatively mild, lettuce and other salad greens, especially leaf lettuce, will keep on supplying your crisper until you have a stockpile that you can’t possibly consume before it goes bad on you. Be sure not to cut down the crown of the plant when harvesting, but feel free to harvest individual leaves anytime you like, and more will sprout up in their place.
If you and your family eat a lot of salad, you may want to keep all your lettuce crops for your own kitchen table. But if you eat salad once per week or less, lettuce plants are perfect for spreading the wealth a bit and giving away or donating some of your yield. One of the healthiest and highest producing lettuce plants that you can grow is romaine.
Some plants may be beautiful or have other strengths but produce very little fruit. There are even fruit trees that won’t produce anything worthy of eating for several years. However, for every species that puts out a unimpressive harvest, there is another one you can grow that will give you an abundance of fresh produce in return. You can freeze some, dry some, and try your best to eat a truckload while your garden bounty is still ripe and fresh. At some point, you will realize that there is more than enough to go around. You’ll call up your friends, family, neighbors, local food pantries, and your coworkers, bestowing them with baskets overflowing with your garden’s healthy goodness. (This explains how the solitary hobby of gardening has the social payoff of making you everyone’s new best friend.)