Questions on growing potatoes, tomatoes, etc

I have grown vegetables on/off in the past, Am planning for a small vegetable garden next year but am quite ignorant when it comes to growing veggies… I’ll mostly be growing - potatoes, tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, herbs, greens, etc. Have a few questions -

  • Space is limited - can I plant the same crop in the same spot each year? I can improve soil by adding compost/pant cover crops/circulate crops/etc etc but given space is a premium, can I use the same spot to grow veggies year after year?

  • Is it true that even in the long term… in terms of cost it will be lot more expensive to grow than to buy? (we buy organic) I guess where I am going with this is that I don’t want to be growing 100$ tomatoes forever…

  • How long can you store fresh potatoes/onions/tomatoes/peppers without canning/freezing/etc?

  • what veggies are easy to grow and which ones are hardest?

  • Any other recommendations/tips?


They Say you should alternate crops but in a small garden that’s really notpractical

Potatoes can keep thru the winter under the right conditions, as can onions, but the conditions are different and you need storage onions. Sweets will go bad earlier but will still keep a few months


I am in the same boat, trying to setup some raised beds this year. I am interested in the answers to your questions as well. I have one recommendation though - Malabar spinach.

It grows as a vine and we made a small mesh for it by tying up twines between two blackberry trellis. We planted it a bit late, but the seeds had a good germination rate, the vine was vigorous and produced a ton of spinach every week that we stopped buying any from the market. Once cooked, it has almost the same taste as regular spinach. I am hoping some of these will go to seeds before winter kills them. If that happens and you are interested, I can share some with you.


@ltilton - Thank you! That’s very helpful! Will lookout for right type of onions… Whats your favorite onion/potato variety to grow?

@californicus - Your malabar spinach sounds awesome (I think I saw pics on another thread), I am going to give it a try next year!

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Tomatoes do not do well for me, if I do not move them around. Sometimes, I get good crops 2 years in a row. At other times, 1 year is all. That is not to say it does not work well for others. Varying conditions and practices make considerable differences. One family I know never moves tomatoes. Rather, they replace the dirt under the plant each year. For them this seems to work quite well. Personally, I am going to try that approach next year. If it works, it would simplify the garden. Experimentation is fun as well.

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For veggies, I would say that for some things I fairly easily do better cost-wise than I would paying for the same items at an organic grocery store or farmers market. Of course they charge something like $3.99/lb at the farmers markets here for heirloom tomatoes. Garlic, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and some root vegetables like radishes, beets and carrots all do well for me, but they are usually so cheap at the store, I’m not sure I’m saving much money on those. But I grow varieties I like better and I may be saving a few cents. If you like red onions, I had a great crop of Cabernet F1 tomatoes this year. Here are a few I entered in our county fair. Don’t be too impressed by the blue ribbon, since I live in an urban/suburban area and there are very few entries for most categories, lol. So far they’ve been keeping really well.

I like things that give me two crops like garlic (scapes and heads), sweet potatoes (greens throughout the summer and the potatoes in fall) and beets (greens and roots) and I also consider the timing of each to try to get multiple crops per bed. So when the peas are done in spring for instance, they’re replaced by beans. I actually plant the peas at least a foot in front of the trellis and train them back to the trellis, so when they’re done, I cut them off at the ground to leave their nitrogen-rich roots in place and plant peppers about 18" in front of the trellis to use the nitrogen and plant the beans back at the trellis so there isn’t so much root interference. The trellis runs east west, so there isn’t much shading to worry about, but even if there was peppers are happy to have a bit of shade in our summer heat.

I think Malabar spinach is a great suggestion and I see a lot of people growing that in our community gardens here and it is vigorous and seems to love the summer heat. You could grow a colder season crop like lettuce, kale or chard in the cooler months and then go to the Malabar spinach when it gets hot. I use the sweet potato greens in the same way, so haven’t bothered to try it.

Overall, greens are far and away the best return. If you grow from seed, and use good soil management practices so you don’t have to constantly add expensive fertilizers, you’re basically getting a head of lettuce for a few pennies. Same with kale, etc. And since most can be grown as cut and come again, you can have a long and predictable harvest window.

If you serious about saving money, I would highly recommend starting your own seedlings. I find that even with lettuce and other greens, I get better spacing and production from starting them inside. Then you can get a weekly crop of microgreens from your seed starting setup when it isn’t needed for seedlings. These are just starting to open their leaves so need another 2-3 days before harvesting. Since they are living, you just clip what you need when you need it and if they’re getting too big, cut them all off and put them in a ziplock in the fridge. They’ll keep at least a week.


My favorite onion is Candy. They can get pretty big, and they keep well for a sweet. They’re also an intermediate day onion, which can do well in both north and south [if not too far north or south] I think you could grow them

Beets grow easy enough for me that they beat the $0.99 per pound you can get the “cheapest” beets for. I don’t use the greens as much as I should, but I do throw them in stir fries sometimes.

Decent carrots are not cheap at the store. The cheap carrots that come in the bags taste like soap. That makes carrots worth trying to grow in order to save money.


Just to add: This stuff is why having a garden is so great. I just got done with a quick lunch. I took an onion, some garlic (store-bought, I’m out already!) and a hungarian wax pepper. I fried them with some leftover meatloaf and then ate it with my daughter’s leftover spaghetti from last night. I put a generous amount of scape pesto on top. Oh boy, you can’t get a meal like this anywhere but from your own garden!

I’d like to eventually get up to a couple hundred garlic planted every year. This year was small. Luckily, my neighbor grows 800 garlic every year and had way more scapes than he could use. The scape pesto keeps so well in the freezer, and it’s tastier than basil pesto anyways.

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Hi Joe. I grow my onions from seed. I used a 200-cell tray and started them inside around Feb. 1 (I’m 7A in Virginia). I planted half of the tray with the red cabernet onions and half with Alisa Craig Exhibition onion (yellow, sort of sweet) in the other half. I planted 50 of each type and gave away the rest. I think they went in the ground at the end of March maybe early April. I was much more successful growing my onions from seed than I’ve ever been with the sets (the little packs of plants, not the bulbs) and of course it is a cheap way to go. The Alisa Craig onions were delicious, especially on the grill if I let them get a little carmelized, but they haven’t kept as well so I might grow Candy next year as suggested by @ltilton.

When I think of it, I agree with you on the general cost of beets and carrots, but I’m fairly limited in space so while I grow them it isn’t the same yield from the limited area that I get from greens, etc. that I keep harvesting over a longer period of time. So it is probably more about the return on the space for me.

And yes, that garlic scape pesto is great. Even the scapes keep for around a month or more in a zip lock in the fridge. I think avoiding waste from spoilage is another good reason to grow your own veggies. I recently bought some romaine lettuce and when I got it home realized from the date on the package that it was harvested 2 weeks earlier. No wonder it doesn’t keep as well as what you grow yourself.

Johnny’s says that those Red Cabernet onions should be good even at my latitude. Maybe I’ll have to give them a shot. I used sets or bulbs this year. Stuttgarter and “red” (mostly Stuttgarter). I’d be willing to just buy the started plants from a nursery but they all put theirs out in May which is too late.

When it comes to grocery store lettuce, these days the only one I like is the Boston Bibb that comes with the roots still on them.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever recoup the cost of vegetable gardening. Between initial costs to build two raised beds (lumber is expensive!) and annually replenishing the soil with new media and manure, things get expensive. I’ve only just start to raised veggies from seed (and then the dogs dug them up, necessitating buying seedlings), which should help long term. Things also depend on how well the veggies produce. I got my money out of the tomato seedling variety pack - lots of fresh tomatoes, sauce, etc. The tomatoes taste so much better freshly grown. With the snow peas I probably broke about even before mildew killed the plants. Same for cucumbers. I’m definitely ahead with respect to the zucchinis… Banana peppers, not so much. Snails ate almost all the leaves the day after I planted it. It’s bounced back but has only produced two peppers so far…

So a mixed bag this year, but the enjoyment and sense of achievement makes it worthwhile. Now if I can just convince my wife to let me dig up more of the backyard and put in more raised beds (more fruit and veggies!) The dogs won’t mind a little smaller space…


@zendog - Great suggestion on Micro greens!!! I could even do that indoors!

That is soooooooooooo cool!!! congratulations! :slight_smile:

But they are going to love digging into your veg beds :slight_smile:

@robjohn - Yes, so many variables in farming! Glad we don’t do this for a living!

@ltilton Thank you!!

@Joe your lunch makes me hungry! sounds delicious!

I made the mistake of using organic bone meal with the seedlings. The smell drove them nuts. I found one of the pups laid stretched out in the middle of the veggie bed, still slowly pawing at the dirt. She got a good scolding…but you can’t stay mad at them too long.

Otherwise they know to stay out and only break the rule when chasing a lizard or mouse (or if I use really good smelling fertilizer.)

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If you are spending more than you save by growing vegetables you are doing it wrong.

Vegetables are expensive, I can’t afford to buy high quality and certainly can’t afford organic. I grow and eat a lot of things that I could never afford to buy.

I grow everything organically, which lowers the costs significantly. I make compost from lawn clippings etc and fertilise using that as well as manure from our chickens. I never use pesticide or herbicide, not even the organic ones, if insects damage a plant badly I won’t grow it again.

While a packet of seed may cost $5 I grow many plants from it and I save seed each year so this cost gets spread over years. To put this in perspective, low quality tomatoes cost around $5 per kg at the moment. Organic tomatoes cost a whole lot more, and most ‘fresh’ tomatoes I can buy from the markets are very bland. One of my tomato varieties only covers about a square foot of soil and produces around 12 kg (worth about $60) of fruit in an average year. I have saved seed from this variety and grown it for years.

While the initial cost of raised beds and soil is high it should not take more than a few years to break even. We bought expensive raised beds and had soil delivered when we moved here, we broke even in under three years.


It only costs more in the short term and even then things like peppers tomatoes etc can really add up. Here organic tomatoes are 3.99lb and taste meh and organic peppers can be crazy expensive. Its easy to get a sustained harvest of a few hundred pounds of tomatoes over the season and probably more in california. You just need to get into the swing of things and like everyone is saying most of your costs this year will cover 3-5 years worth of supplies and if you keep your seed purchases to $20 of new things you want to try each year you can still keep things fun and exciting while harvesting the best seeds you grew each year that you want to replant.

Personally i don’t have enough space to do tomatoes and potatoes since with blight you want some space away from each other and because of this and cross pollination issues i choose to buy potatoes and corn

  • In my humble opinion, don’t grow veggies that you can purchase, unless the quality in the market is inferior (e.g. tomatoes); your space and time are limited and you better use them for fruit trees.
  • I have been advised not to plant potatoes in the ground because of potato beetle (I don’t know much about this topic, so I’ll leave it for you to research). I can find excellent potatoes in farmer’s market, so I don’t need to grow it.
  • I have grown tomatoes in the same spot for seven years and they have done fine, but I fertilize with synthetics (that have trace nutrients) regularly.
  • My favorite tomato varieties: Beef Steak, Super Steak, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Sun Sugar and Sungold-- others may be superior in your climate.
  • I am a scientist (organic chemist) and am comfortable using non-organic pesticides. I use only what’s necessary and avoid stuff that’s highly toxic to human beings and bad for the environment (persistent and bee-harmful stuff). I have almost never sprayed my veggies (this year I experimented with a fungicide on my tomatoes). In my opinion, farm workers/communities are the ones in biggest danger of bad pesticides, and unfortunately the EPA is not doing its job protecting them.
  • My cost of keeping a veggie garden is nothing compared to fruit trees (~$30 for small plants, $10-15 for fertilizer, $30-40 for soil if I need to amend and cost of water)

Depends on what you value. If you enjoy gardening, it’s worthwhile. Certain things are just too expensive if you want quality. The difference between good asparagus and what they sell in grocery stores is IMO just as great as it is for tomatoes. Some things are just so prolific and easy, so why not grow them?

I grew up having to occasionally pick off potato beetles from my grandfather’s potato patch and put them in a pail with some kerosene in it. My grandfather was not afraid to spray so I assume spray wouldn’t take care of them. That’s the problem with potato beetles. They’re a huge pain if you get them.

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We are not in disagreement here, I just used tomatoes as an example. Obviously, different people will have different judgments on what veggies they prefer and what is good from the market vs what is mediocre.


You can do alright growing stuff in the same area, if you don’t have disease issues. I’ve been growing tomatoes in the same spot for years, just amending the soil to replace lost nutrients.

Its usually more “cost efficient” to grow specialty items that you can’t buy at a grocery store. Things like ultra-hot peppers that are more of a niche, or fancy basil varieties, etc. There are even some very expensive, hard to find potatoes that you can’t normally buy in stores.

You’re supposed to cure potatoes and onions for storage. If you’ve got the right conditions and variety, they can last months. Tomatoes seem to be dependent on “type” but maybe also water content - I’ve been able to keep cherries and paste tomatoes out on the counter for over a month, but ripe beefsteaks will turn to mush in a few days. Peppers… can sit out for a while, maybe a few weeks, but I’d dry, or freeze them eventually.

Tomatoes are easy to grow… if you get a variety that is suited for your climate and plant them at the right time. Carrots are great if you’re lazy, just plant, thin, water occasionally.
Basil and cilantro grow like weeds (basil self seeds like crazy).
If you have some space for a trellis, maybe try beans or legumes. They fix nitrogen and there are way more varieties that never make it into grocery stores.

If you do grow indeterminate tomatoes, make sure to use tomato cages for support. It really depends on what you want to eat - do you eat a lot of tomatoes?