The Best Vegetables to Plant for Hard Times

During tough economic times, it makes sense to have a vegetable garden. Plenty were relied upon during the Great Depression, when the poverty-stricken and those who were land rich but otherwise cash strapped planted crops that would sustain them. To get the best bang for your buck, take some cues from Depression-era gardeners and grow vegetables that produce prolifically, pack a big nutritional punch and that you like. Learn how to preserve each bounty for year-round consumption.

Tomatoes

Grow hybrid tomato varieties that are disease and pest resistant. Keep in mind that one plant can produce up to 12 lbs. of fruit. Start the seeds indoors and plant the seedlings after all danger of frost has passed in an area that receives full sun and has well-drained soil. Cover the stems with soil up to the first set of leaves. Sink stakes near the plants or cages around them to provide support as they grow and bear fruit. Can tomatoes, which are high in Vitamin C, potassium and fiber, to enjoy after the growing season has passed. FrugalLivingFreedom.com suggests growing smaller, space-saving varieties that still produce fruit in abundance.

Beans

Cultivate beans, which are high in protein, and use them as a meat substitute. Grow them in full sun and well-drained soil after all danger of frost has passed. Install stakes, an obelisk or other structures for beans to climb up if they are a vining pole variety. Provide each plant with at least 1 inch of water per week. Can snap beans and grow "dry" varieties like kidney and pinto beans, which are easily harvested and stored. Rotate crop locations each season to help the plant avoid contracting bean-specific diseases. VegetableGardener.com states beans are good to grow because they are frequently bought in large quantities and can be pricey.

Spinach

Grow this cool-season vegetable that is rich in iron, protein and calcium in the spring and fall, before warm-weather crops are sown. Plant plain-leaved varieties that don't catch as much soil in their crinkles during rains. Plant the spinach seeds in rows as soon as the ground thaws, or after the most intense heat of the summer has passed. Plant them in a spot that receives full sun and has well-drained soil. Chill the seeds in the refrigerator for one or two weeks before fall plantings. Thin the seedlings to 2 to 4 inches apart as they emerge. GardeningAnyStyle.com states spinach is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, is cold-tolerant, stores well when canned or frozen and helps avoid tainted food scares regarding store-bought produce.

Potatoes

Sow certified, disease-free potato seeds, which are actually tubers, in the spring in well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Place the seeds 9 to 12 inches apart in shallow trenches no more than 4 ½ inches deep and cover them with up to 2 inches of soil. Start mounding soil around the plants' bases when they are 6 to 8 inches tall. Keep mounding until the plants reach 15 to 18 inches tall, creating hills that are 4 to 5 inches high. Harvest potatoes when the plant vines have naturally died down. VegetableGardener.com suggests growing potatoes for their storage capabilities. Store them in a dark, cool place that reaches no higher than 65 degrees Fahrenheit and that has high humidity to avoid rotting and sprouting.

Keywords: depression garden, easy growing vegetables, money-saving vegetables

About this Author

Joy Brown is a newspaper reporter at "The Courier" and www.thecourier.com in Findlay, Ohio. She has been writing professionally since 1995, primarily in Findlay and previously at the "Galion (Ohio) Inquirer" and "Toledo City Paper." Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and history from Miami University.