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2017 Garden Plans: Accessible Gardens

Last year, we planted a lot of tomatoes, cucumbers, and other warm season veggies in the accessible beds. This year, we swung the other way and have planted (and already planted) a wide variety of cool season vegetables.

accessibleIn the tiered garden, we removed the raspberry that really hadn’t done much. I think it needed more sun that in that location. We opted for swiss chard and a kale mix for spring planting in the two lower tiers, intending for those crops to grow through most of the summer. Then the kale will be replaced with a red veined spinach in the fall. We will replant the chard if needed.

The center tier will have two tomatoes and two basils. The ‘Little Napoli’ was a variety that did well last year and we wanted to try it again. ‘Patio Princess’ is a new compact dwarf that is supposed to have up to 4 oz. fruit.

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The two barrel planters and the salad table are also featuring cool season vegetables this year. The larger barrel planter is planted to spinach and a green, Italian sprouting broccoli for the spring. It will have purple kohlrabi and orange carrots for the fall.

The smaller barrel planter is planted to a variety of pea called ‘peas-in-a-pot’ that is supposed to work well in containers. In the fall, we are trying “Kalettes,” which are a cross between brussels sprouts and kale. ¬†They have shoots/sprouts along the stem like brussels sprouts, but they are open florets rather than mini-cabbages.

In the salad table, we have radishes, green onions, and mixed lettuce for the spring. The cutting celery and parsley will grow through the summer (we hope!), and then the other veggies will be replanted for the fall.

Just because you are growing in smaller planters doesn’t mean you need to skip trying out the weird stuff!

2017 Garden Plans: Beds 5 & 6 – Tomatoes

Several years ago, when tomato grafting was a relatively new technique, we did try out the grafting method in the demo garden. However, that turned out to be 2011, when it got hot so early and stayed hot for so long that pretty much no one had any tomatoes to speak of for the whole year. Needless to say, all we really learned was that the grafted plants were healthier.

This year, because of our rotations, we needed to put the tomatoes in the shorter beds, beds 5 and 6. Since we have the two smaller beds, we thought it would be a good opportunity to try a comparison of Grafted vs Non-Grafted tomatoes again.

What is tomato grafting? This is a process where the variety you want is grafted (fused) to a root system of a variety that has other characteristics you may want, such as disease resistance. This is one way to be able to grow heirloom tomatoes without the necessity of lots of rotation. Grafting has also been shown to increase the vigor and yield potential of most varieties.

We are trying 3 different varieties – ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Momotaro,’ and ‘Legend.’ We will have 2 grafted plants of each variety in one bed and 2 non-grafted plants of each variety in the other bed. In one bed, we had a little bit more space, so we opted to try a plant that is grafted to have 2 varieties on the same plant. This plan will be half ‘San Marzano’ and half ‘Cuore di Bue.’

‘Cherokee Purple’ is probably one of the most common and popular heirloom varieties. It is a purple skinned and fleshed variety with excellent flavor and decent yield.

‘Momotaro’ is a Japanese variety with dark pink skin and flesh. It is a hybrid slicer variety that has a reputation for excellent flavor.

‘Legend’ is a determinate red slicer that has late blight resistance. Not that we ever have an issue with late blight. It is also early producing and is also reputed to have great flavor.

‘San Marzano’ and ‘Cuore di Bue’ are both heirloom paste tomatoes. The ‘San Marzano’ is a more traditional Roma and the ‘Cuore di Bue’ is a no heart type.

2017 Garden Plans: Bed 4 – Peruvian Garden

We had the Peruvian Aji Limon pepper in the Pepper Garden last year, so I had the idea to do a whole garden growing traditional Peruvian vegetables. A couple of our Master Gardeners have really gotten into the theme and even went to a local Peruvian restaurant to learn from the owner about what they eat.

We haven’t done corn at all in the garden because it’s difficult to have enough space to ensure good pollination. But we really wanted to try growing this giant Peruvian corn, so we decided to risk it. This garden is in our largest raised bed, and we have allotted about half of the bed to this corn. It has much larger than normal kernels, and I’ve seen some information that says it can get up to 14′ tall! Yikes!

The “normal” things in this garden – the purple fingerling potatoes and red onions are things that we’re relatively familiar with. ¬†Same with the cilantro.

The peppers. Aji Limon, Aji Red Rocoto, and Aji Amarillo. The Aji Limon we had last year. It’s small, yellow, and hot. It made an awesome salsa. The Aji Amarillo is the most popular Peruvian pepper that they make a sauce from and use in many dishes. It is a golden orange color at maturity. The Red Rocoto is a hot/sweet red bell-type pepper.

Then….the weird stuff. The Andes mountains are home to a lot of less common roots and tubers. Many of them are marginal for us in the U.S., so these may or may not work for us.

Yuca or Cassava is a starchy tuber that is an important food source in tropical climates. It is very tolerant of less than ideal conditions, so it should do okay for us.

Mashua is related to nasturtiums, but has edible tubers. Yacon is related to dahlia and also has an edible root. As both nasturtiums and dahlias prefer cooler temps, it will be interesting to see if these edible versions can grow well here. They will need to grow throughout the hot part of the season to produce, so it could be a challenge depending on our weather this summer.

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.