Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
Oh, the possibilities! The choices seem endless these days. All those beautiful seed and plant catalogues. So many heirloom, hybrid and new varieties available these days. What about the grafted options? Grafting has been around for centuries. Use a really strong, robust root stock that you graft the tasty variety on top. This gives you a hardy plant that produces lots of the tasty fruit you love. How about all the dwarf varieties? All the great flavor on plants of a diminutive size that fits perfectly in your small space or container. So many choices!
How Do I Choose?
Plant what you love: I always plant what we love to eat. Pick varieties that give you the most for your space: I want to maximize the harvest in the space I have. This results in less space, less water, less care required for the same amount of food. I look for the most productive varieties. Look for key words that tell you that the variety you are looking at is a strong producer. “Prolific” is what I like to hear in descriptions.
Leverage dwarfs and bush varieties: I look at how much I need from a plant. For slicer tomatoes, a dwarf is a great option because it gives a few tomatoes each week which is all we need for burgers. I look for bush types for zucchinis and cucumbers. These bush varieties can be grown in the garden or a container. They stay compact and give us just the right amount we need.
Grow what likes your garden: As you try different varieties, you find that some do better in your garden than others. Saving seed from the best tasting, best producing is just a smart thing to do. This is what our ancestors did. It saves money and develops plants that are perfectly suited to your climate and soil. You can get a head start by using seeds from neighbors or veggies you buy from your local farmers market.
Grow the number of plants for what you eat: This can take some trial and error to figure out how many of each type meets your consumption. There are charts that can help. Just estimate how much you eat and then you can look up tables that tell you the number of plants you need. Here is a link to one: Plan How Many
Here Is What I Have Decided To Grow this Year
Herbs. I have a new garden this year so the first order of business is making sure all my perennial herbs I planted in the fall make it to spring-savory, lavender, thyme, rosemary, salad burnet, marjoram, oregano, bay. I will plant annuals too-chervil, cilantro, cilantro (a more heat tolerant type of cilantro), basil, and parsley.
Broccoli. I am going to grow sprouting, 9 Star and Sea Kale (both perennials), Apollo and Rudolph for 9 months of harvesting.
Flowers. Gem marigolds, calendula, zinnias, loves lies bleeding, dwarf sunflowers, nasturtiums, and moonflower. Flowers play an important part in garden beyond just beauty. They attract beneficial insects and pollinators. They can significantly increase your garden’s production.
Fruits. I planted strawberries last year which are perennials. This year I am going to plant goji berry vine. My hubby wants to plant some berry bushes.
Nuts. My husband is going to replace our Bradford pear trees with pecan trees. I have been supporting the Arbor Day hazelnut project and will have 5 hazelnuts bushes arriving this spring to plant.
Peppers.I love green peppers and humus. This year I am going to go with red and yellow banana peppers and a yellow heirloom pepper. For the spicier peppers, we’ll plant Pimento, Jalapeño, Cayenne, and Ancho peppers. The Pimento is for salads. The Jalapeño and Cayenne is for salsa and hot sauce. The Ancho for chili powder.
Zucchini. Since I discovered new ways to use zucchini, I think we will plant 2 zucchini plants. I really loved making zucchini into pasta. I’ll freeze it for use throughout next winter and spring. Zucchini typically wears out about the middle of summer. I’ll do two plantings to keep the harvest going through fall.
Eggplant. I am going for a white variety like Casper and Turkish Orange. Casper doesn’t get bitter during hot, dry weather. Turkish Orange had great taste all season long and looks great.
Legumes. Will go for snap peas in the spring. Romano type pole and bush beans for green beans. Will also throw in some runner beans on trellis’. They have pretty flowers and the beans can be used as green beans or dried beans.
Cucumbers. I think I will do two vining types. I will plant on decorative trellis so they will have a very small foot print in the garden. One will be for fresh cucumbers in salads and the other for pickles.
Greens. Lettuce, orach, and kale. Arugula is a perennial so it will come back year after year. Chard is also a tender perennial so if the fall planted chard did not make it through the winter, I will replant. Will do succession planting for lettuce about every 3 weeks. Starting out with cold tolerant varieties, move to heat tolerant varieties at the beginning of May, and switch back to cold tolerant varieties in July for fall harvests. Kale can be planted in spring and fall.
Cabbage. Thinking of doing Napa to use as wraps in the place of bread.
Tomatoes. My plan is 1 large fruiting variety (Cherokee Purple), 2 small fruiting varieties, (Chocolate, Chocolate Pear) 1 early variety like the 4th of July or Summer Girl, and 1 winter storage variety like Red October. This will give plenty for eating on burgers and salads, enough to make sauce, enough to freeze for salsa, and a variety that is a long keeper indoors for tomatoes through December. I am going to go for the chocolate and black varieties for the large and small fruiting types that I saved seed from last year’s crop.
Tea. Will plant a tea bush this year. It is hardy in Zone 7 which should work in our Kentucky garden with generous winter mulch. Otherwise, you can grow in a pot and bring into the garage or house for the winter.
This is my plan. Of course, I will see things I just can’t live without and buy. I’ll look through my refrigerated seed collection and run across varieties I just have to plant. There will be great successes and a few that don’t do well. It is all part of the gardening adventure!
For more tips on organic gardening in small spaces and containers, check out Melodie's blog Victory Garden on the Golf Course
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