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COVID-19: start growing fast, and top ten plants for gifting to the neighbors...

 
Ebo David
Posts: 90
Location: Washington DC area
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While we are pretty well set with a personal garden (that has been productive for at least the past 10 years), many people around us are starting to try to set up gardens in a hurried panic.  Of course it does not help that the Governor has shut down the State for all non-essentials...

What I would like to do here is is to brainstorm up a list of the top 10 list of the plants that are easy to care for, quick to grow, nutritious, etc., to sprout and give to the neighbors.  I found this list here: How to Compare Vegetables to Decide What's Worth It to Grow  and Gardening Harvest Times.

I would like to open a discussion on what we can do to help this late in the game.  Please share your thoughts, feelings, etc.

ps: our current location -- central Louisiana

pps: yes we will need to find ways to respect social distancing practices while buying/selling/gifting plants.  I'm hoping to keep the discussion on plant choices, helpful techniques, nutrition, and the like.
 
Ebo David
Posts: 90
Location: Washington DC area
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I also found this:

Produce Cheat Sheet

with useful information on storage times and the like.
 
Catie George
pollinator
Posts: 193
Location: Ontario - zone 6b!
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Where I am... planting season is 2 months away. I am planning on sharing any excess tomato starts and cucumber starts (or other starts) with our elderly neighbors, both of whom generally keep a small garden but won't be able to get out to buy nursery plants, and also my cousin, who is NOT a gardener. I may also offer them their choice of my excess seeds.

Excess produce we can't eat or preserve will definitely land on their doorsteps as well, like it did last summer (likely beans, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet corn).

Plants shared with non gardeners should be: productive, easy to grow, nutritious,  and things they like eating . So I wont give my cousin squash seeds though squash meets 3/4 requirements.  

Good plants to me would be my "easy" crops.
-squash, winter and summer
- peas
- beans
- tomatos
- lettuce

If you are in a warmer zone, you may be able to root cuttings of your tomatos fo share with neighbors and give them a head start.

And in my opinion, anything saved from your local seed will give a few years head start over grocery store seed or plant starts!
 
Ebo David
Posts: 90
Location: Washington DC area
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Oooo... Just found this:  Yes, you may

Nice...
 
Jay Angler
gardener
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Ebo, this is a trickier question that you might think because there are sooo... many variables.

First I would try to follow the old expression: Eat what you grow and grow what you eat! If you know what your neighbor's like to eat, that would be a good start. When people are stressed they want "comfort food" not something new and different, as a general rule.

Second, generally people are normally encouraged to grow the more valuable crops either nutritionally or cost wise, but now we're being faced with a different issue - what will be on the store shelves in two weeks, two months or next Feb. Those may differ if plants that take 6 months to grow don't go in the ground on schedule.  Normally, cabbage, potatoes and onions are really cheap to buy, so many people won't waste garden space on them. But if supply lines are damaged, those basics may be needed.

Third, when people are just learning to garden, starting too big often results in less produce than if they start small and don't get overwhelmed. Getting each neighbor to focus on 2-3 types of plants they really like and asking them to share extra may be more practical that getting them started on 10 different veggies that all have different water and nutrient needs.

Forth, consider the physical abilities of the people involved. Some may need to just grow in containers - as my mom aged, she would grow her lettuce in a good-sized pot that sat up on a patio side-table. It gave her enough lettuce to have a bit every couple of days.

Fifth, if people have to grow things they are less familiar with, are you prepared to send recipes with the plants? It might help them see the end point!

Unless they dislike them, I would certainly put beans on my list, preferably a bean that can be eaten fresh, freezes Ok, and dries well. You'd have to choose based on your region. Even then, you still have to chose between pole beans which require infrastructure to climb, or bush beans.
 
Ebo David
Posts: 90
Location: Washington DC area
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All very good points.  I will address a couple of things up front.  

I was not talking about giving all 10 to each neighbor, but sprouting some selection of the seeds I have in rootrainers, or seeds that I can get locally.  We probably have 30 or so different species I have seed for. Once things get growing, the question will be  "this is what I have, what would you like?  

I also posted my current location -- central Louisiana.  You are right.  Local, climate, soils, are all important.  I was just looking to think out of the box to prepare.

I also do not know all the folks around here, or what all they have experience with, or what they are comfortable growing.

All that said, thank you for the reality check on the discussion.  This is exactly what we need.

 
James Landreth
gardener
Posts: 800
Location: Western Washington
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I would maybe consider some calorie crops. Here that means winter squash (though a space hog) and potatoes. Beans and corn are great but need more space.  

 
F Agricola
Posts: 664
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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I reckon a big bunch of herbs given to neighbours is probably the most useful.

Easy to grow, most don't need continuous replanting, very nutritious, nice perfume, and adds natural flavour to what could otherwise be quite boring flavoured foods.

 
Anne Miller
master steward
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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My suggestion would be tomato, bell pepper, onion, garlic and lettuce because these are thing that almost everyone loves and can be used in many recipes, especially soup.

I would suggest growing zucchini to give away the fruit as it is the most productive plant I ever grew. Tons of it.

I would also suggest helping your neighbors with their gardens.  Ask them what they are having problems with and how can you help.
 
John F Dean
Posts: 463
Location: Southern Illinois
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Walk through a grocery store and see what is not in stock.  In my area it is potatoes and onions.
 
Ed Waters
pollinator
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Lebanese White Mallow Squash are a bush variety summer squash that are fast and because they are bush you can grow them in pots very easily.  

Also I would suggest growing micro greens.  From start to harvest is 10-11 days.  Growing them on cafeteria size trays yield about .3 to .4 pounds per tray.  Anyone wants full instructions and recommended places to get seed shout.  We used to grow up to 15 pounds a week in 2' x 6' area.
 
Eric Hanson
gardener
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Hmmmm,

If people are establishing gardens RIGHT NOW, I would want to plant crops with the following qualities:

1) easy to grow
2) produce quickly
3) nutritious

To include all three qualities I am thinking of the following:

Romain Lettuce
Peas
Spinach
Broccoli
Onions
Potatoes (not terribly fast, but still worthwhile)
Radish (not terribly nutritious, but at least something to munch on)


Once things warm up a bit I would add:

Tomatoes (cherry, and larger varieties)
Sweet potatoes (very healthy)
Summer squash/zucchini
Winter squash
Beans

All this assumes that I have at least 1month from planting to harvest.  Less than that and I think we would be getting hungry quickly.

Overall I would plan to have some quick crops early (Spinach, Romaine Lettuce, Peas, etc), then transition over towards more substantial and easily stored crops (Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Squash).

Hopefully, no one is going to have to abruptly rely on their garden that they just made and having no experience.

Eric
 
Mike Barkley
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 1610
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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A quick thought for Ebo or others in Louisiana. Okra & black eyed peas are easy to grow around there. Both are very productive & I'd guess most of the neighbors already have recipes:)

Oh, and don't panic. That won't help anything.
 
Ebo David
Posts: 90
Location: Washington DC area
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@anne,  thanks for the suggestions.  The nice thing with the onions and garlic is that we have a LOT more planted than we can use -- planted to ward off pests.  Much of those are ready to eat, so when we start thinning they will be ready for either transplant or table...

@eric, one interesting thing about sweet potatoes.  There are some local varieties you can find in farms markets, but none of the nursery's sell plants or seed.  We're trying to (what's the word I have heard on the net -- thank you YouTube ;-).  Anyway, we are trying to start some local sweet potatoes as well, but I easily agree with everything else.

Also, I have to be careful with helping the neighbors with their gardens.  More than half of my neighbors are either near or past retirement age, and my wife and I have very good reasons to believe that we have been exposed -- and we have been hunkered down at home for a week or more now.  While we have had mild symptoms, they are symptoms all the same...
 
Ebo David
Posts: 90
Location: Washington DC area
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@mike...  My wife and I joke about both the eggplant and okra gods, and how the LOVE her garden.  Unfortunately, she found out that she is really allergic to okra, so that is something she paid someone else to rip out years ago, and we do not keep it anywhere near the house since.  Seriously sucks, but ending up with contact dermatitus covering your arms in boils that look like a second degree burn is a no go.  That said, others in the region, this is a good stable food you can grow...
 
Skandi Rogers
pollinator
Posts: 850
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Something to think about is what is likely to be in short supply?


In Europe labour is the issue, the UK alone is missing 80000 seasonal workers to harvest everything from Asparagus and Strawberries to  lettuce and cabbages. Sure some of these positions will be filled with unemployed hospitality workers, but they won't be as fast and many of them will not be able to travel across the country and live in a caravan/block house since they have kids or other dependents.

So high labour crops are in my opinion the most likely to rise in price, anything that is harvested by hand, so the 4 above, plus broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, all berries, mushrooms etc etc. Root crops, peas, french beans, sweetcorn are all mechanically harvested so will not really be affected as the drivers are normally locals. However the packing facilities for some may have labour issues.

For people who have never gardened I would suggest tomatoes and cucumbers IF your climate allows for them to be grown outdoors in a sheltered spot. a courgette plant as those are both high labour to harvest and very easy to grow.
Staff note (Jay Angler):

Courgette is a European word for zucchini.

 
Jen Fulkerson
pollinator
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I would go with zucchini, and or yellow squash, because they are super easy to grow and very productive. One plant can feed a family, and it's versatile, you can eat it raw, cooked, make into bread and cake.  You can even freeze it.  Next I would go with bush beans. Easy to grow the more you pick the more you get, bush kind don't need that much space, or anything to grow on.  Most people love tomato's and they aren't that hard to grow  with the tomato's I would send carrots, and some basil.  They grow well together.  If it's someone totally new to gardening I would recommend radish.  I know lots of people don't like it, but its beneficial to other plants and it is the easiest and fastest thing I have ever grown.  I always tell people with young kids to grow radishes because they are so fast to mature, so this may give the beginner some confidence. I might also throw in some marigolds.  Most people don't want to eat them, you can, but most don't.  They are a great beneficial they keep some pests away, draw pollinators, again they are easy to grow and they are pretty.  I always think flowers brighten my day, and in times like these we need that more then ever.  There are others of course, but a lot depends on where you live.  If I gave people in my area lettuces it would be discouraging because it's to hot here to plant lettuces now, plus I don't know about you but my lettuces is always bitter, I wouldn't rate that at least here a simple veggie to grow.  I would go with easy to grow in your area, bountiful harvest, something that doesn't have a lot of pest issues, doesn't require a lot of special care, and something the individuals like to eat.
 
Ebo David
Posts: 90
Location: Washington DC area
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@Skandi, interesting point.  I wonder if any of the local growers can re-purpose as a U-Pick-It.  There are legal, practical, and safety reasons why that might not be doable, but it would be good to find out in places where there are shortages if people who are willing to pit-it would be allowed to.

Any idea how to make that happen on a wider scale?  Anyone buddies with their State Ag Agents?

BTW, I was working on getting certified as a Master Gardner in Maryland when the proverbial fertilizer hit the rotary oscillator.  Instructing and helping local gardeners is part of the MG charter.

For those who are from the USA, the Master Gardner's program is run through the State Ag Extension programs.  Nationally, and some international programs, can be found here:

 https://mastergardener.extension.org/

but each state has theirs.  Here are two you might want to  browse:

Louisiana: https://www.lsuagcenter.com/topics/lawn_garden/master%20gardener
Maryland: https://extension.umd.edu/mg

Look around for programs in your area.  They are a wonder resource to sort out local conditions, and advise that is more suited to your exact situation.

 Hope this helps...
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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Strawberries! Everyone likes them, and, at least in my area, they're pretty low-maintence. Even if the person just sticks them in the ground, they should live and make runners and make even more strawberries.

Raspberries are another good idea, especially if you have a patch that needs to be divided.

I've also had multiple people interested in my sorrel, which I actually got as a division from someone else.
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
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Location: northern northern california
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well, for the parameters given, i would stick mostly with basic foods that people recognize and appreciate a lot, stuff to get them most excited about growing, tomatoes are obviously high on the list for newbies.  

onions, garlic (although these are more fall time plants), berries of all types and especially strawberries, arugula (super fast, long harvests), the cole crops - broccoli and kales, etc, mustard too perhaps...different kinds of peas...would probably be what i would most focus on for this aim. and cukes and squash are popular among smaller new growers,

plus i would throw in some unusuals, perennials too...just a bit for others who may want to be more adventurous, and may have longer term focus, for instance, sorrels, lamb's quarters, asparagus, maypop, grapes or other perennial fruits, peach and plum trees
 
Ebo David
Posts: 90
Location: Washington DC area
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@leila, the arugula is a nice touch.  I would also potentially add to the list watercress, spinach (mentioned before), and non-iceberg lettuces.

For this project, I will stay away from trees and things that would require a long term focus.  That said, this would make for some interesting topics of conversation for those that own their own houses or have more enterprising landlords...  

I will stay away from micro-greens.  That takes a LOT of seed, and once you cut them, you have a meal.  I may look into getting seed to grow micro-greens and telling my neighbors, and maybe even giving them to them, but we do not have many #'s of seed for growing greens in that way.  That said, I will talk to my wife and look at if we can actually get stuff to do this.  I've never done it and it would make a nice addition to our own table, as well as for the neighbors.  I do also need to think how we would go this practically since the current recommendations are to receive packages outside the home, leave them for 1 to 5 days before bring them in.  A potted plant will last a day or three without watering, but micro-greens.

Also please remember that I am currently sheltering-in-place 1,200 miles from the farm, and anything I cannot give to my neighbors in Louisiana will be a serious waste.  Also, I am still renovating the structure for the farm which has not been active since 1999 and has had no maintenance since.  When I get back, all 7 of the greenhouses are still on the ground in pieces, the water pipes to them are still all rotted out, and I am still hurting from having to appease FHA (on the 203K loan -- the place was in such bad shape that no-one would loan on the property and FHA was so myopically focused on the house that I dumped everything into meeting their requirements).  If I would have had my druthers, I would have preferred to: a) move in and live there a year, b) fix only what you must to be safe and sane while starting to work on the land, c) make a list of what you cannot live with, a list of what you need to make the farm work, and a list of where you see the place being in 20 years.  That is when I would have started renovating -- after I got the farm back into minimal ops...  As a side note, the farm will probably never really make a lot of money, or even pay for itself.  I work a regular job a couple of miles away, and you know some land is just to special to have some developer bulldoze the 1,000's of azaleas, magnolias, a dozens of native plant species, as well as the mature second growth forest and the bog.  Yes, about 100' of one of the edges is part of a real honest to god bog (queue up the jokes about having some swamp land you have to sell, and I purchased it knowingly). OK, enough of my diatribe.  Back to gardening growing!
 
Ed Waters
pollinator
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Ebo if you stay away from some of the more popular seed companies the seeds aren't too expensive.  We have always used kitazawa for radish seeds.  Ignore the all purple stuff because it is too expensive.  A pound goes a long way.  
 
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