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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.

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!