As most of us are probably anxiously awaiting spring and the start of the growing season, we may be pondering what to include in our gardens this year. We might get stumped, leaving it at tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and some herbs. But take a look at the grocery store, and note that there may be some untapped potential for your garden!
Here are some tried and true reliable plants to incorporate in your garden this year that you may have overlooked in the past or have never even thought of. As a bonus, the bulk of this list is perennial plants that can add structure to your garden year-round and can reduce some of the work of having to plant new plants each season. Keep in mind, this list is compiled from the perspective of Zone 7 in the Southeast, and not all of them may be suitable for your area. Check-in with your local garden center to learn more about what is best for your area and to get even more ideas beyond this list.
- Blueberries – An often overlooked native plant, this is THE option to plant it and forget it! While most do take up a moderate amount of room, about six feet tall and wide, that can be trimmed into a beautiful hedge if desired. There are also smaller “porch” varieties that can be grown in containers if your space is really limited. You will need at least two different varieties to ensure proper pollination, but who would want to stop at one anyway? Blueberries are super tolerant of clay soil, and really require little maintenance besides shaping if you so desire. I’m stumped for any reason to say “no” to having a blueberry bush of your own!
- Figs – While dried figs might come to mind as a holiday favorite, figs are a terrific choice if you have extra space to fill in in your garden. They can get relatively large at over ten feet tall and wide, but this just means you’ll be enjoying more fruit than you know what to do with, with nearly no labor! These plants also have large, coarse foliage which makes them ornamental and a unique texture in the landscape.
- Kiwi – You heard me right, kiwi. And we’re not talking about kiwi in tropical areas either! There actually are hardy kiwi fruit that can be grown in a variety of climates. Just note that you do need a male and a female plant to produce kiwis right in your own backyard. The necessity of needing two plants to have these little gems on hand is completely worth it, even if you might need to find them some extra space to climb.
- Brussels Sprouts – While they may be the only plant on this list that isn’t a perennial, I just don’t think they’re given enough credit. While Brussels sprouts can take some time to mature, they really are effortless. They can also be a great plant to utilize to extend the growing season, as they are tolerant of frost and temperatures below freezing; this can even enhance their flavor! If you’re in a colder area, be sure to give this one a try and go ahead and put Brussel sprouts seeds on your shopping list.
- Grapes – While growing grapes at home has gained popularity in recent years, some may still be hesitant about having grapes in their own landscapes. It might seem too difficult, too large, or too time intensive. While yes, grapes are a vine, this also means that they have the potential to take up relatively little space! Try growing them on a fence or trellis as an accent. Look for grapes that do well in your area or are native to your part of the world. These are often great options for snacking and aren’t just limited to wine production!
As the weather starts to warm up and you get ready to dig your hands into freshly turned soil, opt for one of these plants that give back. You won’t regret it!
Let us know what new plant you’re trying out in your garden this year in the comments below.
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Jennifer has always had a love of being active in nature and has brought that together by studying English and Horticulture at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina and by later obtaining an AFAA Personal Training Certification.