Gardening Smart: The Most Cost-Effective Produce to Grow In Your Garden

Not all of us have the time or space to grow a full garden—but that doesn’t mean we have to give up the taste, freshness, and nutritional benefits of organic home-grown produce. If all you’ve got are a few pots, planters, or a tiny patch of yard space available to you, you can still enjoy the fruit of the season without much effort, so long as you choose the right things to grow.

Some plants are more cost-, space-, and time-effective to grow than others. A sprawling cucumber vine won’t get you much yield compared to the amount of space it takes to grow it—and considering the dirt-cheap cost of cucumbers in the summer, it might make more sense to just buy them at the store. With these considerations in mind, we’ve narrowed down a world of varieties to bring you the 3 smartest things to put in your pots.


Spinach, arugula, and lettuce mixes tend to be pricey at the grocery store—especially if they are organic. But one packet of these tiny seeds can last for months of staggered planting. Plant a quick row or two every week and fertilize with organic compost to keep your household in healthy greens from early spring to fall. Cut-and-come varieties such as buttercrunch lettuce will keep producing new leaves even as you cut the old ones off, so you don’t have to wait months for a full head to form. And spinach, arugula, and other microgreens require very little space, making them ideal for a planter or a pot.


A small bundle of herbs costs a couple dollars at the grocery store, but this is usually more than most home cooks need and won’t keep well in the fridge. Buying a small herb plant from a greenhouse is usually cheaper than buying a single bundle of cut herbs, and it will produce for you all season long—or indefinitely, if you grow it inside. Plus, having herbs growing within easy reach on a windowsill or on a porch means you’ll always have it when you need it—and you can take just the amount required for your specific dish.


Though tomato plants can get large, a $2 starter plant can eventually create about 8–20 lbs of tomatoes, making them pretty cost-effective. A single row on a sunny side of your house is easy to maintain: just plant, stake, and mulch heavily to eliminate the task of weeding. If your space is more limited than that, try keeping a potted cherry tomato plant on your porch—your taste buds will thank you!

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