Growing Staple Foods in Home Garden

Food staples are foods that we eat regularly. Ironically, though they make up the dominant part of our diet, they are rarely grown in home garden. For anyone interested in food self-sufficiency, growing them is a must. This article covers the most common plant-based food staples that are practical for small-scale plantings.

Potatoes

Potatoes are a food staple in Europe and parts of the Americas. They can be harvested 70 to 90 days after planting, depending on the variety. The plants are very adaptable. Many home gardeners have successfully grown potato plants in garden beds and containers. This also makes harvesting easier since all the tubers are in one place. Though they may not be the basis of your diet, potato chips and potato salad may sound good to you. You may also want to rely less on rice and grains. Though rice is easy to grow and maintain (depending on the region), an average size of backyard would not yield enough for our table.

Corn

Corn is one of the most important staple foods in the world. In North America, corn seed were planted together with beans and squash. The three plants support each other in their life cycle. Corn is not drought tolerant. It prefers soil that is nitrogen rich to grow well. The good news is you can grow lots of corn in a small space. In fact, to maximize pollination, it is recommended to plant corn in blocks close together. A 3’ x 3’ area is large enough to grow 9 stalks. It only takes 80-90 days from seed to harvest. It is just a matter of selecting the right varieties. Corn or often called maize can be used in a variety of ways. It can be boiled, fried or baked.

Wheat

This versatile staple food was first domesticated in the Middle East. Today, it serves as a primary staple crop in many countries. Wheat will yield 40-50 bushels (1 bushel = 60 pounds) per acre (43560 sq ft). A bushel of wheat is more than enough to make 50 1-pound loaves of bread. That means for less than 1000 sq ft, you can eat a loaf of bread every week for a year. Wheat is harvested once or twice a year. The dry grains can be stored for long periods of time. Warm and cool season varieties are available. Wheat may not be the easiest staple to grow in a backyard garden. That said, if you are planning to incorporate more grains into your diet, then planting your own can be a great route to take.

Cassava

Also known as yuca, tapioca and manioc, cassava is a staple crop for many people living in tropical climates. The plant is very pest resistant and tolerant of a wide range of soils. Just like potato, cassava develops underground and out of sight. It is also incredibly versatile. The tuberous root is usually harvested after eight months after planting. Harvest time is very flexible that makes it suitable to be a back up crop. Maturing leaves can also be consumed. Within two months, the leaves are ready to consume. The plants are propagated from cuttings of their branches. If you are looking for a fast growing plant that can be a hedge, then cassava is a good candidate.

Plantain

In terms shape and texture, plantain is very similar to banana. Both are members of the Musa genus. However, plantain fruit contains more starch and less sugar than banana. It has a high carbohydrate content and can be prepared in many ways. The herbaceous plant grows best in tropical climates. The largest producers are African countries. Plantain, though can be a great substitute for rice, do not provide quick yields. It takes longer than a year to produce fruit after planting. However, depending on where you live, growing plantain as a secondary staple is something worth trying. From the backyard perspective, it is still doable.

For foody gardeners who like to landscape with only edible plants, it really makes sense to raise staple foods. Though an average backyard will not produce enough foods for everyday consumption, it can help increase our household’s food security. Just keep in mind that every region has its own challenges. Consult the specialist to get the right direction.

Palm Tree Choices For Home Garden

When it comes to palm trees, there are so many to choose from. Lots of varieties are available. To pick the right one, some factors need to think about. Here are some of them:

What Palm Trees Produce Fruit?

Most palm fruits are edible. However, it does not mean that all are pleasant to consume. Also keep in mind that not all varieties of fruit can be eaten raw. The familiar ones are coconuts and dates. Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) is very popular. Coconut water makes a natural, refreshing drink. The nutmeat has many culinary uses. The tree, unfortunately, can grow up to 100 feet tall. Obviously it is not a choice for a greenhouse or a small back yard. Further, to produce fruit, coconuts need a daily temperature above 72 F. Dwarf palm varieties are available. They grow tall slowly and start bearing fruit early. For people who are into edible palm trees, another option is to grow date palms. Out of the varieties of date palms, the true date (Medjool) is the most sought after. The cold hardy palm is known for its tasty delicious fruits. Mature trees reach heights from 40 to 50 feet.

Palm Trees That Grow Indoors

The fact that palm tress can act as a natural humidifier and detoxifier make them excellent indoor plants. They can help remove carbon monoxide and replace the air with fresh oxygen. Though many palms need to be planted in a sunny location, some species are more tolerant of shade. They grow very well indoors. The kentia palm (Howea forsteriana), for instance, is considered the toughest of all indoor palm trees. The slow growing palm will thrive in low-light situations. The slender trunk and arching, feathered leaves make it a wonderful specimen to grow as ornamental. The pygmy date (phoenix roebelenii) is another gorgeous palm that does well indoors. It grows to a maximum height of only 10 feet. The fronds have sharp needle-like spikes, so it may not be a good choice for a high-trafficked area. However, it cannot be argued that it is the sharp spines that make for an astonishing view.

Palm Trees That Tolerate Cold

Most palms are tropical in origin. Some species, however, live and thrive in cold conditions. The sabal minor, for instance, has remarkable cold tolerance. The species of palmetto palm can be seen in northern regions where temperatures are not so forgiving. Dwarf palmettos reach heights under 10 feet at maturity. They grow very slow and do well in shade. The characteristics make it an excellent companion to larger palm trees. Pindo palm (Butia capitata) is another commonly grown palm in colder regions. It produces edible fruit that can be eaten fresh. The fruit can be made into jam or jelly. People have also made wine from pindo palm. Other cold weather palms that can be found in nurseries include windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) and beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata). The sago palm (Cycas revoluta) is also well known for its ability to withstand cold. It is actually not a palm, but a cycad. But with similar characteristics, it will easily create a tropical feel to any environment.

Palm Trees That Stay Short

Many palms do not grow tall. They reach heights under 20 feet at maturity. The lady palm (Rhapis excelsa), for instance, only grow to 7 to 8 feet. This makes it an excellent addition to a relatively small yard. Lady palm trees are often grown indoors or in shade. With deep green foliage, it can be a great choice for people who want to add life to a room. The jade empress (Rhapis multifida) is another variety that should be considered. It also grows in a bushy appearance and serves well as a decorative house plant. Talking about low growing palms, not all of them are shrub-like. The pygmy date, for instance, grows up from a single trunk. Other varieties that grow in the same way are bottle palm, spindle palm and parlor palm. On average, they all grow under 12 feet tall. Those shorter palms are perfect for residential gardens with height restrictions.

Natural Privacy Wall

A lot of palm tress are worthy of growing for landscape purposes. They can give a sense of the tropics with little cost. A number of palm trees can also serve well as living wall or privacy fence. The areca palm that shares similar traits as the bamboo palm is perfect to be used in this application. It is considered an easy palm to take care of. It is also very cost effective. Its fast-growing nature makes it a great choice for people who want to quickly establish a natural privacy fence for their landscape. Mature trees reach approximately 20-30 feet high. Not too short and not too tall. The dense foliage can be very useful to protect areas of a property from noise and traffic. Areca palms are often mass planted to create an even better privacy screen. Depending on what you want to achieve, the needle palm can also be a good choice. It has a similar look to the lady palm. But with a bushier growing habit, planting multiple needle palms is another easy way to create a solid wall of foliage.

10 Edible Fruits To Grow At Home – You May Have Too Many Options

The rewards of growing fruit-bearing trees are many. While many plants grow to be enormous in the wild, some are naturally small trees. Furthermore, many fruit tree varieties are now available in dwarf form, giving you more fruit growing options. They require less space than standard-size trees while still grow enough fruit for fresh eating. Clearly, there is a wide choice of suitable fruit trees for home gardeners. Just choose the ones that excel in your climate. Of course, you can try to modify the microclimate for the plants that are not naturally found in your region.

Avocado
Most varieties of avocado grow to 40 feet in height so generally are unsuitable for small gardens. In optimum conditions, avocadoes can attain heights of 80 feet tall. Despite this, the true dwarf variety, Wurtz, only grows to about 10 feet. Wurtz (Little Cado) is suitable for growing in containers. The small variety can produce abundant fruits at early age.

Banana
Banana tree can be a great choice for adding a touch of the tropics to your home. Not all varieties produce edible fruit. The best known edible variety is the cavendish. It is also one of the best for cold climates. Cultivated banana plants are typically kept at a height of 16 ft. Dwarf cavendish banana grows as much as 10 feet. Super dwarf cavendish grows only 2-3 ft., making it suitable for indoor growing.

Carambola
With attractive foliage and distinctive star shape fruit, it can be an attractive alternative for planting in the backyard. Carambola trees can grow up to 30 ft. However, they rarely reach that height. Small varieties such as Maher Dwarf are suitable for small backyard or container growing. Carambolas will also serve well as an espalier.

Grapevine
Grapevines may not be the easiest fruit to grow at home. Proper pruning is important for fruit production. However, a grapevine can be a very rewarding addition to your home garden. While it is true that grapevines can climb 80 feet or more in the wild, they need very little space if pruned carefully. The growth is also limited by the climbing structure’s height. Most varieties are self-fertile, meaning you do not need more than one plant for pollination. Vines are also known to have a very long lifespan (100 years or more).

Jackfruit
Jackfruit is one of the largest fruit in the world. The trees are huge. They can reach up to 100 feet in their home tropical climate. That said, dwarf varieties like black gold stay between 8 and 10 feet tall. The Australian variety probably has the most cold hardiness, making it a good choice for subtropical climates.

Mango
Mangoes are fast-growing, especially in a hot climate. A mango tree can reach a height of 100 feet or more. Container growing is possible with grafted dwarf varieties. Pickering is probably the top choice when space is severely limited. With compact growth habit, the tree can be kept at a height of just 6 ft. Mangoes are self-fertile. A single tree will produce fruit without cross-pollination.

Papaya
Papaya (Carica) exists in many areas throughout the world. This fast-growing shrub requires little maintenance. They are perfect for home gardeners who like to start growing fruit trees. Papayas are easy to grow from seed. Trees begin bearing after first year of growth. There are male, female and hermaphrodite papaya trees. The male will not produce fruit so you will want to sow more than one seed to ensure you will have a fruit-bearing tree. Like other fruits, there are a number of different varieties. The compact variety Waimanolo can bear fruit when only 4 feet tall, making it a great choice to grow around the home.

Pineapple
Pineapples grow to about 5 feet in height. Pineapples are easy to grow as houseplants. They grow well in sub-tropical and tropical climates. Pineapple plants do not need much water nor high quality soil. You can even keep the plants in containers and have them indoor. The roots do not need much space. Pineapple plant only fruits once. However, you can get a new fruit-producing plant easily by removing the crown of the fruit and planting it into the ground.

Sapodilla
Also called chiku or sapote, Sapodilla trees can grow to more than 30 m tall. There are dwarf cultivars, however, that are well suited for home garden. A dwarf variety that is reportedly highly productive is called Silas Woods. It can be maintained at less than 5 feet in height. The Makok cultivar is another small compact grower that is worth trying.

Watermelon
Like most fruit, a standard-size watermelon requires a lot of garden space. If lack the garden space then miniature watermelon varieties, such as Sugar Baby are probably the best choice. This variety spreads just 3 to 4 feet. Some people even grow watermelon on a trellis, saving even more space.

As you can see, many tropics and subtropical edible plants can grow very large. That said, hybrids and cultivars exist that are not too tall for most home environments. Whether you live in the big city or rural property, there is always a place to be found in the garden for at least one fruit tree.