When it comes to crops you will be limited to what you grow by the local climate and even of the fertility of the soil. Most people who live off the grid in homestead do grow their own crops, or they at least have a small vegetable garden. When deciding what kind of crops you grow you have to think of what the ultimate goal is, either feeding yourself or making a profit at the farmers market.
Generally speaking, there are certain types of crops that can be grown even by complete beginners, these crops tend not to so sensitive, and once you get the hang of it you will have no problem growing these crops every year. The local climate will not only dictate what kind of crops you can grow but the growing period will also be extremely important. In the southern states, the growing period is almost all year-round, in the northern parts of the country the growing period is just a couple of months.
If you are planning to grow crops then you either have to make your own compost or buy it, my personal recommendation is to give Charlie’s compost a try Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
If you live in the southern part of the country then you will have a fairly easy time growing crops, on the other hand, if you live in the northern part of the country then you have to be extra careful with what kind of crops you grow and how you grow them. Generally speaking, if you live in the northern part of the country then you should focus on growing crops that can be easily stored and have a lot of calories, especially if the winters tend to be extremely cold.
No matter if you are planning to grow crops for personal use or for selling them at the farmer’s market, you still should think of growing crops that have a long shelflife. For example, if you are growing tomatoes then after you have picked them you have a limited time to either eat them or sell them before they go bad. Trought your homesteading journey you will have some years where the yield of certain crops will be fairly high, what I tend to do in these years is to focus on canning, as this is the best way to preserve them. Some of the excess crops which are not tasting good, I tend to feed to the goats. If you are wondering which livestock are best for homesteading then check out my recent article Best livestock for small homestead ( Top 11 ).
Potatoes are one of the best crops for homesteading, generally speaking, potatoes have plenty of nutrients and they are high in calories. A lot of people will tell you that growing potatoes is easy, while this is true in some parts of the country, but in areas where there tend to be a lot of bugs, you will constantly have to keep an eye on the potato plants. Most people use pesticides to get rid of unwanted bigs on potato plants, but there are certain periods of time when you have to spray the plants.
If you spray the plants far too late then odds are that the plant will not survive, and the bugs eating your potato plants will simply move on to other plants. The best part about potatoes is that they can be grown almost anywhere, and as long as you store them correctly they have a fairly long shelflife. If you want to make a profit with your potatoes by selling them at the farmers market then check out my recent article What sells best at Farmers Market? ( Top 106 ).
PRO Tip: Do not keep your potatoes and onions in the same room, the onions give off some kind of “fumes” which kickstarts the sprouting process of the potatoes and sprouted potatoes can taste extremely bad.
Growing sweet potatoes
Generally speaking, this is a healthier alternative to potatoes. Taking care of them is more or less like with normal potatoes, they tend to have plenty of calories and a fairly long shelf life. You can grow sweet potatoes almost everywhere, although they tend to have larger yields in a warmer climate. Just as with regular potatoes you will have to keep an eye out for bugs eating the leaves of the plant and try to limit the damage as soon as possible.
You will find most homesteads growing corn, the main reason is that this is an excellent crop for homesteaders. The growing period is not that fast when you compare it to some of the other plants here, but once you harvest the corn the shelflife can be extremely long. Just be careful what kind of corn you grow, as there are some types of corn that are meant for animal feed. You can also make corn flour which has several years of shelf life.
Growing leafy greens
Leafy greens are excellent for homesteading, they tend to grow relatively fast and you can harvest them several times in a season. Cutting them off to stalk will make the plant grow the new leaves even faster, which will maximize your yield. Generally speaking, the best leafy greens to grow are kale, cabbages, and spinach. Leafy greens have plenty of vitamins, iron, and calcium, although the calcium content of the spinach is not that high as some will say. There are some plants that act as a natural pesticide, so if you have a problem with ticks then check out my recent article How to get rid of ticks in the house naturally? ( Top 16 Ways ).
Growing winter squash
There are two kinds of people, the ones who like and the ones who hate eating squash. The truth is that squash is one of the easiest plants to grow in a homestead garden. They stand to grow relatively fast, have plenty of vitamin c, vitamin a, and a lot of fiber. After harvesting the winter squash you should store it in a cool and dry place, like in a basement if you have one. If you store them correctly they can be good to eat for several months, although once you start chopping it up, its shelf life tends to drop significantly.
Although probably not the best-tasting crops which you can grow in your garden, but it is definitely one of the best crops to grow on your homestead. There are a lot of different types of beets to choose from, most of them can be grown almost anywhere but there are a couple of types of beets that favor hotter climates. Beets tend to have a lot of vitamins and fibers, growing them is not rocket science and they also have a long shelf life after you have harvested them.
Although tomatoes are not that nutritious as some other crops on this list, but they are still a good addition to your homestead garden. Tomatoes are one of the most beginner-friendly plants which you can grow. They tend to grow fairly fast and they do have a high content of vitamins and fingers. The only drawback of growing tomatoes is their limited shelf life, I usually pick a couple of tomatoes and eat them right away. If you have more tomatoes than you can eat or sell then you can either pickle or can them, or even better make tomato sauce from them.
Beans are an excellent crop to grow, they are extremely healthy, have a high protein count which most crops lack, and they also have plenty of fibers. Growing beans is fairly easy and they also tend to grow fairly fast. What I love most about beans is their long shelf life, if you dry them out and store them correctly they can be edible for several years. There are a lot of different types of beans to choose from, so pick one which is suitable for your area and climate.
Radishes are extremely fast-growing crops, as long as you keep an eye out on bugs eating the leaves you shouldn’t have a problem. Although radishes are not considered a staple food, they still provide plenty of vitamins and fibers. There are several types of radishes to choose from, some of them have a longer shelflife after being harvested while others need to be consumed before they start rotting.
Most homestead and even rural gardens have at least some kinds of berries, these are fairly easy to grow and in the first couple of years, the yield will grow. Depending on the local climate it can take around 1-2 years before you get a large enough plant to make a lot of berries. Just don’t go overboard with planting berries as some of them tend to form large bushes, and they tend to suck out a lot of nutrients from the ground which other plants would need.
In a lot of countries, onions are considered to be a staple food, although they are not that nutritious when you compare them to something like potatoes. Onions have a lot of minerals, vitamins, and a fairly high fiber count. Onions can be stored for longer periods of time, but this mainly depends on the local climate. I usually tend to pickle small onions, these taste excellent and they have a long shelf life, although figuring out how not to make the onions turn soft after being canned is an art of itself.
Garlic is mostly grown for its taste and health benefits, a lot of people consider garlic as being a superfood, which it kind of is. Growing garlic is fairly easy, and even if you do not eat them all you can still either sell them at the farmer’s market or store them for later. Garlic has a long shelflife, as long as you keep it out of the sun and away from humidity it can last for years. Some people store their garlic in the fridge, although this is not necessary in most cases.
Wheat can be grown almost anywhere, it has some health benefits but where it shines is when you combine it with other crops in the form of a dish. Wheat has to be processed before you can eat it, usually, people make flour from it, you can do this at home, or if you have large quantities of wheat then you can bring it to a wheat processing plant. If you store it correctly then it can have a fairly long shelf life, although you will have to check periodically for weevils in the flour.
Carrots can be grown in most places, they are fairly easy to grow although there are some pests for which you should watch out. Carrots have a lot of vitamin A which is excellent for healthy eyes, it also has potassium and vitamin K. There are some homesteads which grow carrots only for feeding their goats, and they say that the milk of the goats tastes a lot sweeter, I haven’t tested it out but who knows, maybe in the future, I will.
Growing sunflowers is a hit and miss adventure in some years, there are years where the yield is extremely low, only for the next year to make a massive yield. Growing sunflowers can be extremely profitable if you are planning to sell the oil at the farmer’s market. All you need is a manual press and there you go, in some areas, it is the main income for homesteaders. Even if the sunflowers get attacked by some kind of mold which makes them bad for eating, you can still feed them to your animals, especially if you have poultry.
There are a lot of legumes you can grow, most people who are new to homesteading will start with the most common types of legumes. Most legumes are fairly easy to grow, and you can grow a lot of them even if you only have a small plot of land. The best part about growing legumes is that they can be pickled, this way they can have a shelf life of several years. If you are planning to pickle your legumes then don’t forget to rotate the cans in your pantry.
If I would have to pick just one crop to grow then I would definitely pick potatoes. Pound for pound they are one of the most nutritious plants you can grow, and the best part about them is that you do not need a lot of space to grow a couple of sacks of potatoes. Although in some years you will definitely have some extremely small potatoes to harvest, this is still good for eating but if you rely on only potatoes for food then this might be problematic.