The garden and balcony are very suitable for growing useful greenery there. Read what crops are and why they are called so. In addition, we will explain to you what specific benefits the various crops in the garden and on the balcony bring to you and how you can get the most benefit from growing them.
What are crop plants?
The term useful plants is a generic term for all plants that humans make use of. These are plants that can be used as food, stimulants, medicines or fodder plants for animals. However, useful plants are also all those that are processed in a technically useful manner as vegetable raw materials, for example to paper, textiles or fuels to generate heating and process heat. The so-called ornamental plants are to be distinguished from the useful plants.
The useful plants can be divided into wild and cultivated plants. These are also called wild plants or cultivated plants. The British report “State of the Worlds Plants” continuously provides data on the state of the global flora. In its current version from 2017, it counted almost 400,000 known vascular plants, i.e. plants that consist of the three organs root, stem axis and leaf. Hundreds of new discoveries are added every year.
Humans only use about 20,000 of these plants, a large part of which is used to obtain medicines. Humans have cultivated around 500 different types of plants.
What are the benefits of useful plants in the garden?
A look back at the history of the garden shows that people have been using gardens, that is, creating, nurturing and maintaining them, since they have settled down. The Egyptians of the Pharaonic Period and also the Ancient Greeks already supplied their kitchens with plants from their garden: useful plants were then fruits, vegetables and wine. In the Orient, onions and lettuce as well as spices were used quite early. The ancient Romans are known to have cultivated useful plants such as medicinal plants and herbs in their gardens. All of this shows that a garden is primarily used to supply food and its benefits can be assessed via the yield in terms of weight per unit area. The following applies: the more productive a garden with crops is, the greater its benefits.
In the course of cultivating plants, humans increased the yield of plants: To do this, they always selected the seeds of the most productive and healthiest plants for the following year. He increasingly combined this selection with agricultural measures such as targeted weed control and fertilization. It is now the case that crops cultivated by humans would have little chance of surviving in wild nature without the care and maintenance of human hands.
The current benefit of a garden by growing crops is clearly self-sufficiency in food, the path to which you can determine yourself. In contrast to what is possible with commercially available fruit and vegetables, you decide on the cultivation conditions in your garden: You choose certain cultivation methods, the use or waiver of pesticides and fertilizers at your own discretion. You determine the crop rotation. You determine the time of sowing as well as the time of harvest. The gardener himself, in this sense, not only ensures full plates, but also brings a substantial portion of joie de vivre with financial benefits: According to studies, growing, nurturing and harvesting useful plants in the garden brings health and happiness.
What crops are there?
Wikipedia shows a list of useful plants with a lot of information on the specific benefits of the individual plants. To reproduce these here would go beyond the scope of our guide. That is why we have created our own lists of popular garden crops for you, divided into fruit and vegetable plants:
Top 7 popular fruit plants
Apple: Apples are by far the most popular fruits. Everyone eats more than 20 kilograms a year. Around 1,000 apple varieties are grown here, from sweet to sour in taste. Apples are on the menu as raw food, as an ingredient in cakes, as dried fruit and as a side dish in hearty dishes.
Strawberry: Everyone eats more than three kilograms of strawberries a year.
Pear: With a little more than two kilograms, the consumes significantly fewer pears than apples a year, but the pear is very popular here.
Blueberry / blueberry: The blue berries land on the plates of a consumers to the same extent as pears.
Cherry: Everyone consumes a good two kilos of cherries a year.
Berries: such as gooseberries, currants, raspberries and blackberries rank sixth in the top ten with a total of about one and a half kilograms consumed per head and year.
Plum: A little more than a kilogram of plums end up in the stomach of the average consumer every year.
Top 14 popular vegetable plants
Potatoes: Apples also rank in the ranking of the most popular vegetable crops in the garden: potatoes. That’s what the potato is commonly called. Each of them consumes almost 60 kilograms a year.
Tomato: With around 25 kilograms of annual consumption per head, the tomato occupies second place.
Carrot: Everyone eats 8 kilograms of carrots a year – this amount brings the root vegetables 3rd place on this list.
Beetroot: Would you have thought that beetroot would land on the popularity scale of vegetable lovers before onions and cucumbers? We neither!
Spinach: The last place in the favor of vegetable consumers goes to spinach – every kilo consumes one kilo of it.
What should be considered when growing crops in the garden?
The garden crops listed above, both fruits and vegetables, are all suitable for growing in home gardens. This means that they thrive very well to well in our weather conditions, provided you take care of them and optimize the growing conditions on site if necessary.
You may not be able to grow tomatoes in winter – but you can cultivate a variety of winter vegetables in the greenhouse!
In particular, you can grow the mentioned vegetables long before the start of the season if you do this in a suitable greenhouse. This extends the overall cultivation time and has something fresh on your plate for longer. It is even possible to heat the greenhouse. Then you can grow crops all year round and are at most independent of the seasons when harvesting.
If you want to populate your balcony with useful plants, you can do this well in so-called raised beds. They offer sufficient soil mass in a small space with good planting depth, so that your useful plants feel comfortable in it.
The best tips & tricks for growing crops in the garden and on the balcony
So that you can grow crops in the garden and on the balcony as well as possible, we have put together some important tips for you:
Tip 1: variety selection
When buying seeds and young plants, use varieties that the retailer sells as robust. Also pay attention to the susceptibility to diseases and pest infestation typical of the variety. We advise you to buy old varieties that suit the home climate particularly well.
Tip 2: multicultural in the garden bed
Combine useful plants in the garden and balcony bed that complement each other and have a positive influence on each other. For example, beetroot goes well with zucchini and onions, while carrots and parsley should not grow side by side.
Tip 3: crop rotation
Every plant claims the soil in which it grows differently. In order not to exhaust the soil too much, you should definitely pay attention to a soil-friendly crop rotation. We recommend dividing the bed area for the planned multicultural crop family into four sections, planting them according to type and changing the planting of the subareas annually.
Tip 4: Sowing dates
Find out about the dates of sowing a wide variety of useful plants in the garden to create the best possible growth conditions. As a rule of thumb for our home climate: Many vegetables are sensitive to frost and should therefore only come into the earth after the so-called ice saints, which is five days in mid-May.