The 5 Worst Things to Grow in Your Garden

by Linsey Knerl on 11 August 2014 2 comments

A garden can be an amazing investment for the home cook, foodie, or family provider. Most plants can be grown and harvested for a small fraction of what it would cost to buy even a couple meals' worth of produce in the store. (See also: The Only Fruits and Vegetables Worth Growing Yourself)

There are other types of plants, however, that offer a weak return on your investment. Here are the vegetables I tend to shy away from, and why you may not want them occupying your precious garden space, either.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a fickle plant in that it has a long growing season before it matures, but also likes it cool. If your part of the country gets hot early, this vegetable may have a hard time. In addition, it needs a little "pampering" to do well. The outer leaves must be grown so that they can be brought up over the head of the cauliflower and tied into place. Assuming you do everything right, they are still prone to beetles and insect damage, which can be hard to deal with in a veggie that is literally hiding away until it is ready. And when you're done with the process, you usually have just the one head to show for all your work anyway.

Carrots

I have had luck with growing these beauties at least once in my long gardening life, but it required a ton of work.

Carrots need an almost perfect soil bed to give them the right Ph level to grow, as well as a completely unobstructed path downward; if they run into anything on their way south, they can stunt or branch off. Two-pronged carrots, while still tasty, are not the goal of the gardener, and it isn't uncommon to dig up spindly or dwarfed produce after a long season of tending to them. Fresh carrots have a flavor that some may find off, depending on the nutrients in the soil you grow them in. Considering that a bag of carrots is usually less than $1 a pound, they are a cheap commodity best purchased in the store or farmer's market. (See also: Baby Carrots: The Frugal Idea That Isn't)

Celery

What goes best with carrots? Celery, of course! And this also-affordable veggie can be equally painful to grow at home. It's notorious for requiring water and cool temps, but needs a very long time to mature. If you can keep up with the moisture demands and have a soil type that holds moisture, you will be waiting quite a while for your celery.

Head Lettuce

Leaf lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow in your garden. You simply plant the seed, water, and watch it grow. Head lettuce, on the other hand, requires a watchful wait for the lettuce to grow large enough to create the round ball we are used to seeing in the store. In the meantime, steady watering and temps are necessary to keep the plant from creating flowers — or bolting. Most gardeners we know stay away from head lettuce, as the Midwest gets so hot, and the premature flowering of the plants make them taste bitter. Going with a leaf lettuce blend isn't just easier, your salads will be more colorful, too!

Corn

If you have a large area to work with, sweet corn can be an easy crop to raise. For the average backyard gardener, however, the amount of ground needed for a substantial crop is more than available.

Since corn requires many factors to pollinate, including air movement, one single row of corn will not easily produce. Tall corn can easily blow over in the wind or bad weather, as well, making it difficult for anything less than 20 plants to stay upright. Corn usually only puts on two ears or so per plant, giving a lower yield than most garden plants. In the end, it might be easier to stop at that roadside stand and invest in their five for a dollar sale.

As with any article on gardening, your mileage will vary by your location, experience, and luck. Even the most seasoned growers have bad years — and favorite plants!

What veggie have you sworn off growing? Please share in comments!

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This is an interesting article but I am not sure whether to take it absolutely seriously or if it is intended to stir interest with a bit of a gardening contrarian perspective.

All of the points are well taken, certainly. But as a gardener who has successfully raised all of these crops I can equally see good reasons for growing all of them (although getting them from a farmer's market might suffice in some cases).

True, hard clay soil can result in small deformed carrots, but the answer is to amend the soil or use raised beds (my preferred answer) and the taste of fresh from the garden carrots is incredibly better than store bought ones.

True, cabbage worms can destroy crops like cauliflower and the plant likes cool weather, but the answer is to use bt (bacillus thuringiensis) which is an organic method to protect the plant and to put out the plants about a month or so before the last Spring frost so they can grow in cool weather.

These crops can be challenging if you are not knowledgeable about growing vegetables, but they all are a great delight to eat fresh grown.

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FrugalCat

Worst thing to gorw in your garden? Mint! It will overrun everything and spread like wildfire. Make sure to keep it in pots if you want fresh mint.