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I've been gardening for fun over the last 20 years or so, but have always grown things I liked or wanted never thinking about the practical side. What plants yield the most food like tomatoes or lettuces (as long as they dont go to seed)? What plants have the quickest growing span like radishes? What plants are the most dense like cabbage, thus giving more than one meal? Basically my question is what are the smartest things to grow that will give you the most food without taking all season to grow and take up a lot of garden space? I plant watermelons and cantaloupe, but the take much space and a long season to grow for very little food. Any suggestions for the right plants to grow that will give us more food?
 

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radishes are the fastest growing vegetable can be harvested within 30 days of sowing. Also potatoes are awesome as they are relatively easy to grow and you get a lot of bang for your buck. You also get a lot out of okra too. Brocolli, carrots, peas, climbing beans and tomatoes are all good too. (EDIT)Oh and amaranth is GREAT too.
 

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I think Theres a balanced approach is best but going along your lines I like all different kinds of winter squashes. The reason I can get them to store for over a year and get major production off them. I can fill up a garage with winter squash with only 30x30 plot of land and it keeps for long times. But I would not want to live on just that. Nor would I want to wait the 80 to 135 days depending on the type. Its best to figure out what does best in your area and grow everything you need so you can enjoy it and thrive not just live.
 

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Vegetables that can be stored in a root cellar like winter squash and potatoes.
Vegetables that can be dehydrated or canned, there are many to choose from.
Grains if you have the room to grow them.
 

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Anything that will grow vertical will save on space. I'm an inexperienced vegie gardener of only a couple of years, btu I think you need to look at your climate and growing season first then your available land and the amount of sunlight it gets - then you can narrow down what vegetables will suit your situation, then narrow it down further to the vegies that you actually eat. From there, make your decisions based at varieties of each type that have the highest yields. I have a fair bit of space, so I am trialing about 5 different types of tomatoes this spring, and will put in 3-4 varieties of potatoes. By using more than one variety, I can determine which one is better suited to the micro-climate of my garden.

The principles of square foot gardening is an intensive form works well in smaller spaces so it maximizes the produce you can get out of the available space.

For taste, hardiness, ability to save your own seeds and good old fashioned quality I would highly recommend open-pollinated, heirloom varieties of vegetables rather than hybrid versions.
 

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If you live in a area where Okra grows well, I think this is a really hard one to pass up. Two 50 foot rows of this can keep you up to your eye balls in okra. Here I can get a 5 gallon bucket of it every few days easily. It can be frozen and it can be dried and sealed and used later. Some people even can it as pickled, Im just not one of them.

I think Potato's are another great crop thats a lot of bang for the money/space. They store well as is when in a cool dark place, they can be dried easily and used later as well. There are about a gazillion ways to prepare them too making them a pretty flexible veggie for a variety of serving methods.

One of my personal Favorites are onions. They dont provide so much in the way of nutrition but they can add a lot of flavor to a meal and bulk an otherwise skimpy meal into something hardy and more filling. They store well and they are especially good for drying and storing in air tight containers. Again you can get a good load of them in a small amount of space.

Tomatoes like the Roma style tomato are great producers in many areas and these can be made into sauces and canned, Pico De Gallo (sp?) and sun dried and used in a variety of dishes later for flavor and nutrition.

Any of the Squashes that grow well in you area can be heavy producers too as well.
 

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I am very much a novice gardener, but in two years I have already made some useful observations:

1. Uninvited guests: If I have to begin an emergency garden, I will have to choose plants that are not attractive to rodents and birds. Nothing has bothered turnips and sweet potatos for two years. Cantaloupes did well, but susceptible to the squirrels when getting ripe. I was constantly fighting birds for my tomatoes. The radishes were eaten as soon as they sprouted. I do intend to try okra next spring.

2. Heat and drought: The sweet potatos seem to handle the heat and the dry well if they are in the ground.

My Grandmother, who went through the depression, always grew beans, peas, carrots, corn, okra, onions, potatos, turnips and mustard greens, and a few other items that were well adapted for the heat and dry of Central Texas.
 

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If you're unsure what grows best in your area, go to a local farmer's market. Seek out a farmer and see what he has for sale. Buy some for good measure, and start talking to him. Ask what kinds they are, and who knows, he might even give you some tips? But whatever he is growing well should do well in your area.
 

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I would have potatoes and beans, who are great food, but also fertilizes/improves your land. Aslo turnips, and other root vegetabels that can be storaged, onions absolutly. Mangold and/or spinach (that stuff popeye eats) for the vitamines, Tomatoes absolutly.

But you should experimente a lot, to find out what grows best on your land. Just because your neighbour grows it, it isn't sure that you can grow it yourself.
Also think about what you can do to improve your garden. Bring in dirt that is better suitet for the kind of crops you need, drenate your land if needed. Chop down trees that gives shadow, and think if you need more water than your climate gives naturally.
 

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I probably sound like a broken record by now but ....

Native edible perennials. Check your area to see what grows best. They will come back every season and produce food with little or no care, dependable, healthy, and require no storage space for seeds. They grow in the existing soil/landscape without any amendments or other special preparations and are most likely to be resistant to pests and resilient.

Then find out which ones have the most edible, nutritional, filling qualities, longest growing season, proliferacy and ability to be preserved safely.

Then look into semi-perennial edibles and abundant annuals.

For me the abundant and quick growing annuals for our place are potatoes, tomatoes, peas, beans, green onions, radishes, beets
 

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I've been growing for 25 years, and the first 10 and the last 4 have been with survival in mind. One thing I have learned is that if a vegetable has a great shelf life, lots of vitamins etc, and your family doesn't like it, you shouldn't grow it!
That said, I think I get the most out of tomatoes, cabbage & brocolli, and green beans. I'd also like to get a couple of good potato spaces going that I can alternate/rotate with pumpkins (we like pumpkin bread,fries, soup, baed, pies etc, but don't care for most winter squash). I'll do peas, but not because of needing them as much as because I like them. A strictly "survival" garden, I wouldn't bother. Carrots and spinach are high vitamin, but spinach has limited storage. Onions are important, but I need to dry them since they don't store well for me...you really have to go by prefrence for many things.
 

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There are a lot of ways to look at it. The varieties that grow best in your region is a good place to start. Then nutrition. Then possibly yield, etc. No sense growing a ton of something that has little nutrition like iceberg lettuce or eggplant.

Just a healthy variety of foods you enjoy eating, and possibly the ones that store the best. Also, some specialty plants such as amaranth can have an important place in the survival garden, along with culinary and medicinal herbs.

If you're growing for 100% subsistance, then beans and grains are important too. Beans is no big deal, but processing grains by hand is a real hassle.
 

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I've been gardening for fun over the last 20 years or so, but have always grown things I liked or wanted never thinking about the practical side. What plants yield the most food like tomatoes or lettuces (as long as they dont go to seed)? What plants have the quickest growing span like radishes? What plants are the most dense like cabbage, thus giving more than one meal? Basically my question is what are the smartest things to grow that will give you the most food without taking all season to grow and take up a lot of garden space? I plant watermelons and cantaloupe, but the take much space and a long season to grow for very little food. Any suggestions for the right plants to grow that will give us more food?
If you maximize your production volume, you will die of malnutrition. It is not about growing the most food; it is about growing the right food.

One of the most important factors is the intake of essential amino acids. You can have all the protein in the world, but the "essential" amino acids are the ones that your body will not make for itself, no matter how many building blocks you give it.

This is why it is essential to grow a LOT of tomatoes and a LOT of garlic. Along with beans, for general proteins, you will have the necessary mix of essential amino acids, as well as a steady supply of other amino acids that your body can recombine as it sees fit.

Also, remember that beans and other legumes are essential for fixing nitrogen in the soil for other plants. They should be intercropped continually. That is to say, there should be legumes throughout as soon as early peas can be planted, and there should be a continuous and overlapping "time-sharing" of the legumes throughout the season to ensure that the nitrogen-fixing bacteria have adequate housing in perpetuity.Even leaving the frozen-to-death last planting of peas in the ground until the spring planting is well underway will provide them a secure and continuous residence. Even if there is no chance of some of the legumes producing in time, it is still essential to have them growing ALL THE TIME. Be sure to cast their remains into the portion of the compost with the most cellulose waste, as nitrogen is essential to fungal decomposition.

On top of that, remember that the balance of other essential nutrients is at least as important as calorie count. You can easily store up grains while they are cheap enough, but it is the more temporal nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that will be the true value of your garden. Truth be told, when SHTF, I plan on not having to work as much. I am more concerned with receiving adequate vitamins and minerals, moreso than packing calories.

This is why it is urgent to grow as broad a variety of veggies as possible. If you have a massive variety, it is unlikely that you will go without essential nutrients.

Bear in mind also that you will only get to eat what you can pluck fresh or preserve. If you don't focus on what you can take safely through the winter, then you will starve. I have a LOT of squashes. I don't like them, but they keep for months at room temp.

Also remember that there are plants that can be left under hay or straw until needed, all winter long, like roots veggies. These are less of a labor burden to grow and store.

You may also find it helpful to naturalize edibles into the landscape/terrain/ecosystem. This allows you to eat from other areas than just the garden, meaning that you can maximize production by thinking laterally, and not by making your garden produce more.

Beyond that, proper soil amendments and mulching (look up "xerogardening") will make your garden bust at the seams. I live on a rock, and after they blasted a hole in the rock for my house, they backfilled with sand. Yet I still grow an abundance by layering amendments seasonally, all of which build a moisture barrier mulch and feed the soil, all while deterring weeds (manure in spring, grass clippings in summer, leaves and leaf mould [acidic] in fall, and compost and ashes [alkaline] in wlnter). I REFUSE TO WATER MY GARDEN (though I live in a wet climate). :thumb:

These will help you to maximize your yield. Gardening well is more important than finding a combination of miracle plants.
 

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I planted everything on the same day, and my first fruit was in the form of a zucchini. followed by Lincoln peas. I didn't plant any raddish
 

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If you want good nutrition all winter plant Siberian curly kale in September as you take out other vegetables. It will grow all winter right through the snow. If snow lasts more than a few days brush off the snow so they can get some sun. They grow slower in the winter (less hours of sun) but they taste sweeter when the cold weather comes.
 

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OK, so your question is

1. A plant that grows fast - a fast turnaround

2. You want the most calories for the labor expended

Most of the stuff above is about general nutrition/gardening


My guess

Grow a 70 day dry bean or a dry bean in that approximate timeframe

For a little more labor (ok a lot more labor) grow potatoes and harvest at ten or eleven weeks

Could also grow turnip, about sixty days but I don't have a feel for calories

Grow winter squash but they take longer to mature, however labor is a lot less that taters.
 

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For a large yield, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Green (snap) Beans plant every 2 weeks and have beans all summer. Pickle what you can't use for winter.

Peas and beans, spring and fall crops, fresh, or dried for later

I would always consider Tomatoes easy to can or freeze, and used in many different recipes

Potatoes, good long term storage, most root vegetables depending on your area you could over winter them.

don't forget berries, fruit,or nut trees if you have the room.

start small, a few plants or a short row, get good at them before you put in 100 plants or a 50 foot row, plus you will have more room to try a bunch new things.
 

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Those in drier and hottter areas would probably benefit growing sweet potatoes over potatoes. Potatoes need a lot of water, and sweet potatoes need less and also work well under stress. They're similar in use and nutritional content, and they store well too.

For people with smaller space, growing veggies that are vines/climbers (peas and all varieties, zucchini, cucumbers) is pretty beneficial, as you can train them to grow up, utilizing ground space for other veggies. Grapes are also good, cause they can just grow along a fence, and you can also eat the leaves.
 
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