This is a particularly busy time for me. I have a seasonal job doing taxes and I am very busy from mid-January to the end of February, and again the first two weeks of April as the filing deadline looms. At the same time, the seed catalogs have arrived and I have to do the planning and seed ordering for the upcoming gardening season. I did get my seeds ordered and they are starting to arrive. Given the winter we have had so far, it is nice to be able to think about warmer weather and gardening.
Each year I go through the same process, deciding what to grow next season. I have my own experience growing vegetables in my own garden, but the catalogs are very enticing with their color photos and descriptions. I’m also influenced by bloggers who are enthusiastic about a particular variety, and by the kitchen garden at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens, where I can see the variety actually growing in similar conditions to mine. So here is an annotated list of what I am planting in 2014, with an acknowledgement of what/who influenced the choice .
- Bean Bush – Provider and Jade are my reliable standards and I will be planting them again. The good news on Jade is a new grower has decided to continue to provide seed for the original, so seed vendors can still offer Jade rather than the replacement Jade II, which no one liked.
- Bean Pole – I will probably still grow some Fortex and Trionfo Violetto, which did well for me last year and are terrific beans. I am going to have to find some room and construct another trellis because I decided to also try some Romano beans, Musica and Gold Marie. These are grown by bloggers I follow and I was envious of their harvests of these beautiful beans.
- Beet – I’m growing the red beet Boro again, but will substitute a new variety, Boldor, for Touchstone Gold beet. Here I was influenced by catalog descriptions of Boldor’s better germination rate and vigor.
- Broccoli – Last year was a tough year for broccoli in our area. We had a hard freeze after I set out the starts, which damaged the leaves and attracted a flea beetle assault. That was followed by weeks of heavy rains, followed by weeks of temperatures in the high 90s and drought. Not ideal weather for broccoli. This year I will try growing Bay Meadows, which is supposed to tolerate some extremes in weather, according to the Fedco catalog.
- Cabbage Chinese - Haven’t grown cabbage before because it takes too much room, but have admired some of the Napa cabbages grown by various bloggers. Soloist is a miniature type Napa cabbage that hopefully will fit nicely in a square and even better in a dumpling.
- Carrots – I had poor results last year with carrots for lots of reasons. I will try again this year and will be adding Yaya to my choices, based on blogger reviews.
- Cucumber – I will grow Summer Dance and Jackson Classic pickling cucumbers again, based on my own experience with them. I will also grow Crystal Apple again, which did pretty well last year despite horrid conditions. I am adding Richmond Green Apple and Poona Kheera heirlooms to the mix, both impulse buys after reading catalog descriptions. Just have to find some room.
- Kale – I will be planting Beedy’s Camden again, a great Siberian-type kale that is robust and hardy. Nothing bothers it. I decided to try Nero di Toscana, a kale everyone except me seems to grow, just to see what it is all about.
- Kohlrabi – I tried kohlrabi last year and it was a failure, just like every other time I tried in the past. Going to try again this year growing Winner, a Fedco recommendation. I was blown away by the Azur Star kohlrabies growing at Tower Hill, but seed is apparently limited by crop failures, so maybe next year if I actually succeed in growing Winner. And this year I will start seeds in soil blocks and transplant to avoid the germination problems I had last year.
- Mustard – Green Wave will be in the garden again. New this year is Dragon Tongue, a purple mustard from Territorial.
- Onion – My Copra and Red Bull onions were pretty successful last year and the few remaining in the basement are still in good condition. This year I am going to try Patterson, a yellow storage onion from Johnnys, and Red Wing (which was unavailable last year after a crop failure). Add to that the Saffron shallots, which I will try to grow from seed after last year’s expensive failure with fall-planted shallot bulbs. And I am trying Pride bunching onions from High Mowing, another impulse catalog purchase.
- Pea Snow and Snap – The Oregon Sugar Pod II snow peas will be in the garden again. This year I am trying Sugar Daddy snap peas, which have short vines and good flavor, according to the catalogs. I prefer to grow the peas in self-supporting blocks rather than trellis them, saving precious trellis space for pole beans and cucumbers.
- Peppers – Did I mention that last year’s weather conditions were horrid? A late Spring, cold weather including some freezes delaying planting, torrential rain storms and flooding, disease and pests, and weeks of weather near 100F made gardening here a challenge and affected my peppers. Still I had a fairly successful pepper season. I think some of the success had to do with my new pepper protocol. Peppers I will surely grow again this year include Jimmy Nardello, Pimiento di Padron, Tiburon Ancho, Lipstick and Red Cherry. Two new ones I am trying are described as “spice” peppers, Aji Dulce and Trinidad, from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. These are supposed to have the aroma and flavor of hot peppers like Habanero without the heat. Trying the first one should be interesting, who’s volunteering?.
- Radish – With the crappy weather, radishes didn't do well for me last year. I will probably try some again this year. New to the list is a radish I saw growing at Tower Hill, called Bora King. It is an elongated radish with a beautiful purple color and purple flushes on its foliage. I also bought on impulse some seed for Zlata. a Polish heirloom with a brown skin.
- Squash Summer – The PM was horrid last year and the strain we had was resistant to most methods of controlling it. Even resistant varieties like Dunja were challenged. Hope this year is better. I still think Dunja is an excellent variety, but this year I convinced myself to try Desert, an exclusive from High Mowing. It is similar to Dunja but can still produce during extremely hot weather like last year. I was put off by the price of $7.50US for 10 seeds but decided that was just the price of supporting local seed companies who develop new varieties that suit my climate. Another experiment this year is substituting Y-Star for Sunburst as my yellow patty pan. I’m still a big fan of Sunburst but wanted to try Y-Star. Costata Romanesco and Tromboncino will still be in the garden.
- Swiss chard – I’m trying Magenta Sunset this year, which I admired in the garden at Tower Hill. I will still be growing Orange Fantasia with it.
- Tomatoes – Tomatoes are a big topic. In my SFG, I am growing indeterminate varieties 1 per square, a single leader trained up a trellis. This works but I have had limited results, a topic that will be covered in Part 2 of my What Works, What Doesn’t blog, if I ever get around to writing it. Meanwhile, I have plans to grow 7 varieties of tomatoes this year: 1) Juliet is a favorite that did very well last year in horrid weather. I considered trying Verona, a Johnny’s variety that claims to be Juliet-like with larger size and better flavor, but decided against it this year. 2) Sungold is another favorite but prone to cracking. This year I will try Esterina instead, a yellow cherry from High Mowing that claims to be sweeter and more crack resistant than Sungold. 3) Jaune Flamme, a French heirloom grown by Michelle and other bloggers, will be given a chance. Another impulse decision, 4) Sunkist, an orange medium-sized slicer from High Mowing that was bred In New Hampshire, will hopefully produce some tasty tomatoes. 5) I saw Opalka growing at Tower Hill and was very impressed with the plant and the fruit. This is a Polish-origin heirloom paste tomato that will replace Gilbertie and Striped Roman in my garden. Hopefully it does better than those two, from which I failed to get more than a single tomato last year. 6) I love the flavor of Black Cherry, but the last two seasons have produced a meager harvest from plants that struggled with weather and disease. This year I am trying Black Pear, an impulse buy from Baker Creek Seeds. 7) Finally, I am going to plant Big Beef again for a main slicer tomato. I hope to buy plants locally so I don’t have to start these myself.
- Turnips – I had some luck with Golden Ball last year but this year I will be growing Jaune Boule d’Or, a French heirloom from Baker Creek. Add to that the Japanese white turnip, Hakurei, from Johnny’s, in place of Tokyo Cross, which didn’t even germinate last year.