If you’re just starting your self-sufficiency journey, plants are a great place to start. Here are the top 10 plants to start your homestead with.
Plants are a great entry into homesteading because if you mess us, you’re only out a .99 packet of seeds and some time. Whereas raising animals has much more serious consequences.
Plus, you can grow herbs and vegetables in containers, so even if you’re just apartment homesteading, plants are doable!
Buy open-pollinated heirloom seeds and you can save the seeds from your vegetables, or propagate herbs and have free plants forever!
Even better, start seedlings from saved seeds, propagate herbs and sell them for some homestead money, or give them away in your own food revolution!
If you’re a new homesteader, check out my top plants to grow!
Top 10 Plants to Start Your Homestead With
I love tomatoes because of the hundreds of ways you can use them in different kitchen recipes!
You can can them, sun-dry them, or freeze them. As for me, I like to make pastes, soups, and sauces out of them.
Not only are tomatoes relatively simple to grow, the sheer amount of fruit they produce makes them a winner in my book.
Each plant will give you roughly 20 lbs of tomato throughout the course of the season. And one plant only takes up maybe 4 square feet, so they produce a lot of food in a small area.
Grow extra tomato plants and can some for home-grown tomato soup, ketchups, spaghetti sauce and marinara year-round!
Check out my Complete List of Canning Recipes for more tomato canning recipes.
To get started growing your own tomatoes, check out my post: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Tomatoes.
Radishes are perfect for beginners because they grow fast in any garden size. You can harvest them after four weeks of maturity to either cook or eat them raw.
And they are VERY easy to grow, simply throw down some seed, cover, water and wait a little while.
And they tolerate very cold weather, so they’ll be your very first crop in the Spring and very last one into the Fall or Winter.
Plus they give you two crops: the radish root bulb and radish greens, which are incredibly nutritious!
One important consideration when growing radish is to avoid soil, fertilizers, or organic materials with high nitrogen content.
Too much nitrogen may cause the plant to suffer because of over-fertilization. Before you start planting radish, begin by working on an all-purpose fertilizer for the soil.
Make sure to keep the soil moist but not drenched.
And check out my recipe for pickled radishes that are sweet, but tangy and the perfect topping for any salad!
Who doesn’t love cabbage? This cold hardy plant is rich in nutrients, which is why it’s on the list!
Shredded for coleslaw or a salad, or fermented for sauerkraut or kimchi.
Some consideration needs to go into growing cabbage, however.
For example, cabbages prefer cool temperatures because extreme weather conditions could cause their head to either split or bolt.
Moreover, they prefer to grow in areas that have direct sunlight.
Unlike some plants, cabbages like well-drenched soil with organic materials or fertilizers with high nitrogen content.
The biggest issue I have with cabbages is the slugs, but there are tons of organic ways to deter slugs.
Since cabbages come in different types, it is best to research beforehand to ensure you have everything they need.
Nothing beats the taste of homegrown carrots! Freshly-picked carrots are more flavorful than grocery store carrots, which is why they are worth growing in the backyard nursery.
Play around and buy seeds for the multi-colored carrots! If you like, you may choose different shapes and sizes too!
Last year we gave the carrot growing responsibility to our 4 year old. He has several raised beds that he grows the carrots in and the surprise of pulling up a green to see how big the carrot’s gotten is a thrill for him.
And just like radishes and beets, the greens are edible as well – they make a great pesto!
They prefer clean, sandy, well-drained, rich soil, while rocky and heavy soil may only inhibit their growth and lead to low-quality roots. And they do need a longer growing season then, say, radishes.
Because of our clay soil, we grow them in raised beds which works really well and is also prefect for the small-holding homesteader.
5. plants to start your homestead – Heirloom Corn
Another delicious plant to start your homestead is corn!
Growing corn can be a rewarding experience because these plants are healthy and delicious.
Homesteaders grow them because of their many uses. One may eat them fresh, while others may prefer them dried for further use.
Homesteaders recommend planting heirloom corns for beginners because they are not difficult to cultivate. And can serve many purposes.
(One of the keys to successful homesteading and permaculture is to make sure everything you do has layers of utility.)
Our neighbor, for example, grows some beautiful glass gem corn, right next to his sweet varietals. He will save the best looking ears for his own popcorn and corn meal, and the ears that didn’t do well will be used for livestock and wildlife feed.
When growing heirloom corns, consider the kind of soil to use. Corn is a heavy feeder and will require fertilizer throughout it’s growing period.
They also take up a lot of room, but if you have space, corn is a great crop.
The keys to producing quality heirloom corns are consistent moisture and excellent soil.
Native Americans used to drop fish in the bottom of the holes they dug for the corn to add additional nutrients to the soil.
In Virginia, where the weather is unpredictable, we make sure to have a convenient source of water like drip line irrigation or sprinklers.
Peanuts are very easy to grow, which is why first-time homesteaders love them!
Did you know that peanuts are not nuts but rather a vegetable belonging to the legume family?
Yes, they are brothers and sisters of beans and peas. Although they like thriving in tropical areas, they still grow pretty well in fall and light spring.
Here in Virginia, known for it’s peanuts, we harvest them around the same time as the apples.
One factor to consider when growing peanuts is sunlight. For them to grow well, they need to be in an area that provides enough sunlight.
They also don’t prefer nitrogen-rich soil because they can supply it on their own. Maybe rotate your corn and peanut crop so that the peanuts can add the nitrogen to the soil that the corn needs.
Also, about 1 inch of water weekly is enough for them.
7. Winter Squash
If you’re looking for an easy-to-grow plant packed with vitamins and nutrients, then winter squash is what you need!
Growing winter squash in your backyard gives you fresh produce of Vitamin C, not to mention the edible, protein-rich seeds you can roast during snack time.
Winter squash matures after 80-110 days. They have a rich color with thick skin to protect them during long storage.
They do, however, require quite a lot of room, as one stringer on a pumpkin vine can go up to 20 feet.
However, only the roots need soil, so if you’re homesteading on an apartment balcony you may be able to get away with one in a container.
I say Winter squash with a smile on my face because after one particularly successful summer squash and zucchini year my family has BEGGED me not to grow as much.
However, Winter squashes such as butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and delicata have such unique flavors, my family doesn’t get board.
And they store much better than Summer Squashes.
Peas are another favorite of our homestead.
Growing peas is easy. They only need partial shade to grow healthy. Make not to use organic materials or fertilizers rich in nitrogen. They can thrive best in light, sandy, rich soil with ph 6.
They are so sweet, freshly plucked off the vine, that we rarely have enough to can. We either eat them fresh while doing chores in the garden, or pick enough to add to a salad or as a side for dinner.
To plant peas, it helps to soak them overnight to start the germination process – but this is totally not necessary.
Plant them as soon as the soil can be worked in the Spring. They can be planted up to 4-6 weeks BEFORE your last frost date.
Also be prepared to provide a trellis for your peas to grow up, depending on the varietal you choose. We simply use cattle fencing with adequate access on both sides.
Parsley is famously known as a food garnish that is rich in Vitamin A. They can thrive in any size of land and can tolerate hot and cold weather conditions.
Not only is parsley easy to grow it is incredibly nutritious. Parsley contains antioxidants, vitamins to support bone and heart health and has been reported to have cancer-fighting benefits.
It can also be used in and around your vegetable garden as a companion plant.
Parsley needs moist, rich soil. When planting them, it is best to choose a location that is clean and free of weeds. Around three weeks, you can easily spot them sprouting on the ground.
10. Red Raspberries
The delicious berries are what makes red raspberries famous! But did you know that this plant has a lot more to offer?
Red raspberries have leaves with nutritional and medicinal benefit. Red raspberry tea can be taken for menstrual ailments as well as to build bone strength.
Red Raspberries are incredibly easy to grow. For beginners, this plant doesn’t require a lot of care.
They are one of those plants that you plant once, forget about, and they grow and spread for years to come.
One tip when planting red raspberries is to soak the roots first for about an hour or two before planting. After that, start digging until the room is big enough for the roots to grow.
Red raspberry canes can also be trained into a living hedge and used as an edible fence with a little bit of care.
These are the top 10 plants that I would recommend to any budding homesteader to get started with, master, and then grow from there.