A dear friend is moving south of the border to live on the shores of Lake Chapala, said to have the second best climate on earth, behind only Atenas, Costa Rica. She wants to start a small garden there and was looking for suggestions.
All of these suggestions do very well in both containers (both patio and raised bed) and in rich garden soil, making them versatile, low maintenance choices for a first time gardener.
If you are only going to grow one thing, I think basil is a great place to start. It is easy to grow, abundantly productive and can be added to almost every meal you make or have for takeout. I prefer the sweet genovese varieties.
If you are only going to grow two things, then basil and cilantro are my choices. Again, easy, abundant and can add a bright taste to any dish, homemade or otherwise. For warmer climates (mine included) try a slo bolt variety.
Oregano and rosemary are also low maintenance but useful and abundant herbs for a first time gardener and experienced cook.
If she wants to expand beyond herbs, spinach is a great choice for novices. Leaves can be taken as needed allowing the plant to continue growing, many fresh or cooked uses and easy to grow. Again, with warmer climates, a slo bolt variety would be best.
After spinach, the chili pepper of your preferred spiciness range. I favor serranos. They are very abundant producers, impart a great flavor in addition to the heat they add to dishes and can be picked green or red depending on your heat preferences. Roasting ripe ones each time you grill and freezing them means delicious roasted peppers on hand year round.
And then every gardener’s pride and joy, tomatoes. For many of the same reasons, I would recommend cherry type tomatoes for the small scale gardener. They produce much more abundantly than slicing tomato varieties and due to their size can be dried or roasted and frozen for year round additions to meals.
With just these 7 items, incorporating bounty fresh from the garden (or preserved from the garden) year round is easy and will work into everyone’s favorite dishes.