2017 Garden Plans: Bed 3 – Vertical Garden

We have a dedicated “Vertical” garden again this year, featuring the cattle panel trellises. We do try to change up what we’re growing, and this year we are featuring cantaloupe, watermelon, and cucumbers.

The cucumbers include a pickler, a slicer, and an English/European type. The ‘Arkansas Little Leaf’ is a pickler with smaller diameter leaves than a usual variety that is also heat and disease tolerant. The ‘Lime Crisp’ has bright green skin rather than darker green as is usual. ‘Tyria’ is a parthenocarpic (seedless) English variety. We had another variety selected, but it cost about $1.25 per seed, and we couldn’t buy less than 50 seeds…so that was a NO.

We have done cantaloupe in the past, but we have always stuck to the smaller fruited varieties. This year we have ‘Lilliput,’ which is a new personal size variety that is supposed to be very sweet. But then we chose two other varieties, ‘Maverick’ and ‘Sarah’s Choice’ that are larger. ‘Sarah’s Choice’ is a 3 pound melon, and ‘Maverick’ is a 4-5 pound melon. It will be fun to see how successful they are in the trellis system.

The watermelons are also a range of sizes and characteristics. We haven’t had great success with watermelons on the trellis, but we are still going to try them again! ‘Golden Crown’ is a yellow rind, red fleshed, seeded watermelon. It is an All America Selection from several years ago. It has 5-7 lb. fruit. ‘New Queen’ is an orange fleshed, seeded watermelon that is 5-6 lbs, also an All America Selection. ‘Mini Love’ is a new variety this year that is also an All America Selection. It is red fleshed, seeded, with 7-9 lb. fruit. This variety is supposed to have 3-4′ vines but still up to 6 fruit per plant. It seems like a lot of large fruit for not much vine. I’m excited to see how it performs. As an All America Selection, it should be a consistent producer.

2017 Garden Plans: Bed 2 – Grocery Garden

Several years ago, we did a garden called the Family of 4 Garden. We always weighed the produce harvested and assigned it a dollar value based on grocery store prices. It’s been a few years since we did that, and we are bringing this back in a revised form as the “Grocery Garden.”

We tried to emphasize vegetables or specific varieties of vegetables that are either difficult to find or more expensive in the grocery store.

For spring, we have both a snow and a sugar snap pea on the trellis, as well as some high quality mixed greens under the trellis. We will have lettuces, spinach, arugula, and mesclun. The spring plantings will also feature purple and yellow carrots, cylindrical and gold beets, and red cippolini onions. We have also planned for a Romano (flat podded Italian) green bean.

Of course, any grocery garden wouldn’t be complete without tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. We opted to reprise the ‘Esterina’ cherry tomato from last year, as well as the ‘Escamillo’ and ‘Red Knight’ peppers. We are also including another Oriental eggplant, a lavender long skinny variety called ‘Bride.’

Once the peas are done in the late spring or early summer, we will replace them with a spaghetti squash and a butternut squash on the trellis. Other fall vegetables will include a mixture of the leafy greens, some leeks, cauliflower, and broccoli. The cauliflower is a green romanesco variety called ‘Veronica’ and the broccoli will be a purple sprouting broccoli, ‘Santee.’

We will be tracking the yield and dollar value of these vegetables throughout the season.

2017 Garden Plans: Bed 1 – Dye & Colonial Gardens

This garden bed is very different from anything we’ve ever done before. We have split the garden into two sections, with one end featuring plants which can be used for dye (as well as eating or pollinators or ornamentals) and the other end will have heirlooms, with an emphasis on plants and varieties that would have been available during the late 1700s and early 1800s. 

We also have garlic that is already planted in the two central square tiers of the raised bed. 

In the Dye section, we have planned to have the Turmeric that we started in the garden last year and have overwintered. We will have a purple basil, rose mallow (hibiscus), and a sunflower called ‘Hopi Dye’ that is supposed to produce purple dye from the seeds! We will also be trying meadowsweet and Japanese indigo. The calendula will be in the garden for the spring, then done for the rest of the year. 

In the fall, the garlic will be replaced with onions, beets, and carrots, which can also be used for dye. 

The Colonial Garden, you will notice, is heavily focused on root vegetables, leafy greens, and vines. Our most popular garden vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, etc – were either not in vogue yet or still considered to be toxic! 

So in the spring, we are trying out two heirloom cabbages as well as three types of lettuces that there are records of Thomas Jefferson planting at Monticello. We will also have a type of salsify and a parsnip variety, as root vegetables were important food sources. On the trellis we will have a pea in the spring, and then an heirloom melon and squash for the summer. 

In the fall, we will be planting an heirloom leek, an heirloom “prickly seeded” spinach, and a less common leafy green called corn salad. 

As we have many comparable vegetables in other parts of the garden that are modern varieties, it will be very interesting to see how these older varieties compare. 

2017 Garden Planning Begins!

We held our first planning meeting for Demo Garden 2017 last week. As always, I’m excited to see what will come from this year’s garden!

2017-demo-garden-overview

This is the overall plan for 2017. In order to fit our rotations in for the tomato plants, they will be in our smaller beds 5 & 6 this year. We are also doing a garden featuring Peruvian vegetables and the vertical garden will feature melons and cucumbers.

The Grocery Garden is a retread of a garden we used to do called the Family of 4 Garden. The Grocery Garden will feature vegetables that are expensive in the grocery store. We will be weighing and calculating value throughout the season.

Bed 1 is split between two garden themes, with Dye Plants in one half and Colonial/Early American Heirlooms in the other half. We will also be demonstrating mixed flower/herb/vegetable plantings in the containers throughout the garden.

Our detailed planning meetings are already underway, so look for more on our 2017 plans soon!

Oriental Garden: What Did Well, What Did Not

I am already starting to switch gears into thinking about ideas for next year’s garden, but I wanted to wrap up a few thoughts on the vegetables we had in our Oriental Garden this year. We had a wide range of things, and some of them (literally) overshadowed the others.

Easy Winners

‘Ladyfinger’ Okra

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The okra started off to an inauspicious start with poorer germination that I would have wished for, but the plants grew so well that we didn’t want more of them. They were relatively naturally bushy and had a good yield. The variety was touted as being non-fibrous at larger sizes and this seemed to be the case.

‘Choryoku’ Eggplant

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Round Purple and Choryoku Eggplants

The long, Asian varieties of eggplant seem to always yield well, and this variety was no exception. The skin was tender and the flavor good.

‘Fushimi’ Pepper

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These plants were productive for the whole summer and into the fall. Once we actually got around to trying out the sauteing recipe that is traditional, we all regretted not using them more all year long!

Good Performers

‘Round Purple’ Eggplant

This eggplant was good and relatively productive, but it got overgrown by the nearby okra, so it wasn’t as productive as it otherwise might have been.

‘Hakurei’ Turnip

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Turnips, gold beets, and flowering Chinese broccoli

This salad turnip was a solid performer in the spring planting.

‘Summer Top’ Cucumber

Oriental cucumbers typically have good flavor and productivity. This variety was good in the early part of the season, but the plants didn’t last very long. It’s hard to say if that was due to competition with the other vines or a varietal characteristic.

‘Dark Purple’ Mizuna

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This new mizuna variety had purple veins and stems. It did what it was supposed to, but what put it above others is how long it lasted into the summer before bolting.

‘Golden & Ruby Streaks’ Mustards

These mustards have been around for awhile and we’ve grown them before. They did what they were expected to do, although they bolted a bit earlier than I would have preferred.

Worth Another Try, Sometime

‘Hybrid Fuji’ Kohlrabi

The seeds failed to germinate, which may be a fault of the seed source, not the variety.

‘Hybrid Golden Honey’ Melon

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As with any other Asian melon we have tried, they are very different from what Americans expect of a melon. The plants were fairly productive, although we did have some cracking of the fruit. The flavor of the melons was not as good as some other Asian melons I’ve tried.

‘Green Lance’ Chinese Broccoli

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The hardest thing with a Chinese broccoli is harvesting it fast enough to have good quality and yield. I would have to try some other varieties side by side with this one to judge well, but it seemed like these bolted very fast.

‘Purple Red Mart’ Long Bean

We’ve grown long beans in the past that have been highly productive, so these were a disappointment. We had hardly any harvest, compared to past experiences.

White Stemmed Chinese Celery

This celery is more of an herb than the big stalks we are used to. It never got very big, but it also didn’t die or bolt like I thought it would. If I’m honest, I kind of ignored it. It would be worth trying again sometime.

Not Worth It

Winged Bean

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We struggled with germination, then the plants just sat there for the longest time. Eventually a couple did grow (after we had given up and planted the long beans in the same spot). We had a handful of beans to pick, but that was it.

‘Dok Hybrid’ Luffa

The luffa vine took over everything, but either it was such long days to maturity or it was day length sensitive, because it didn’t bloom until late September/early October. It did set a few fruit, which would have been fine for fresh eating. (Yes, you can eat fresh luffa gourd like zucchini.) However, it had no chance of reaching sponge stage.