Herbs and vegies so easy to grow they'll take over your yard
I have spent many years experimenting growing a variety of vegetables, fruit and herbs. What I have learnt, largely about myself, is that I have little tolerance for failure and I'm a fairly lazy gardener.
So nowadays I limit myself to edible plants that I consume a lot of, are dead easy to grow and produce for long periods. They also have to be economical to grow i.e. I don't have to buy megalitres of fertiliser, herbicides and insecticides to ward off insect attack and disease. That is why I no longer grow tomatoes. By the time I bought magic tomato soil, fed it with super fertilizer, sprayed it with a range of chemicals, dusted it with who knows what, watered them and bought stakes and ties, my tomatoes were costing me $50.00 a kilo! As for fruit trees, they are magnets for every pest and disease imaginable. Save your self the stress and just head to the markets.
Now, just like yourself, your plants will need water, the occasional feed and a bit of sun although with enough rain, all these plants will thrive and require virtually no input from you.
So here are what I have found to be the easiest, most useful and stress free (almost) herbs and vegies to grow. Warning! These are so easy to grow, they can become invasive i.e. weed like. If this should happen, share them with your neighbours, friends and family. If that doesn't do the job, open up a stall at your local farmers market like I did!
Flat leaf parsley is one of the most useful and culinary diverse plants you can grow. It thrives in a large pot or in the ground and you will be able to harvest its leaves all year. You can use parsley in salads (it is the main ingredient in tabouli), sandwiches, pesto, omelettes, soups, sauces, seasoning, pasta, pizza, and as a garnish.
There are a variety of aromatic mints you can grow. They all prefer moist and partly shady conditions and all will grow well in pots. Popular types include peppermint, spearmint and Vietnamese mint. The perennial mint adds a summery touch to any salad. Infusing mint makes a wonderful cold drink with soda water or use it in an Arab style mint tea. Add it to a smoothie, cocktail or sorbet. Sauté it with some lamb chops.
Unless you want mint taking over your garden, it is best grown in a large pot. Place your pot in full sun during winter to get the most out of your mint.
Warrigal greens are a revelation. It's not easy to find the plant to buy, but once you have one you will never need another. Warrigal greens is a native plant and is also known as Australian spinach. One healthy plant will spread an amazing three to four metres across and keep a family in spinach for up to six months. Picking only the leaves you need, it is a plant that just keeps on growing and giving. It is a rabid self sower and you will soon find plants coming up all over your yard. Use it as you would spinach or bok choy - add it to stir fries, quiches, pesto, omelettes, curries or as a side green leafy vegetable.
If you have had a Vietnamese salad, you've probably had perilla. It has a unique basil/mint like flavour. Like warrigal greens it's not easy to buy but dead simple to grow and self sows like mad all around your garden. Perilla comes in green and purple forms and will perk up any salad but is especially suitable in an Asian salad. Perilla is an annual herb that will die back in autumn. If you let it set seed, come next spring, you will have hundreds of baby perilla plants springing up all over the place.
I am continually amazed at the speed that mizuna grows. I use it as I would lettuce, only picking the leaves I need. New leaves keep on sprouting from the base. I find it is less peppery than rocket and tastier than boring iceberg lettuce. It's great in salads but can also be used in stir fries. It grows well in pots or tubs and like all the above, Mizuna grows best in moist and partly shady conditions.
Hi N, your impovished sandy soils you have in WA would need a lot of improvement (ie work) and watering in summer so I guess these would not come under the Easy Grow list for you there. They'd be better in pots in shade but that would still require some intense work which these examples are supposed to avoid! We seem to growing/buying the complete opposite edibles. Horses for courses!
I'm in Perth and I find greens like these (apart from easy parsley) never easy to grow come our dry summer, and I've grown them all. The cost of water to keep these alive has led me to the decision to reduce my garden for summer and only water what I need to maintain. Unlike you however, I have amazing success with tomatoes. I haven't planted a bought tomato in several years now as my favorite cherry tomato came up as seedlings in odd spots the following year after first seeding and then again and again for me to transplant into enriched spots and leave alone. Up early they weather the last of our winter and need little watering till our weather starts to warm and dry up and by that time are full of fruit. I have a lot of success with pumpkins, corn, beans and root vegetables. I have grown amazing straight carrots in our sandy soils.
There is so much out there that influences success I don't think anyone can claim to a top 5 best/easiest etc.. that would work for everyone.
I have also given up on many spinach varieties, not because they are hard to grow, but (including Aus and NZ spinach) in keeping a lot of my own seeds I no longer want anything that grows damn awful prickles. Would gladly eat yours though :)