The Veggie Garden

I confess, it's my main love. Something about growing a plant and getting a useful thing out of that appeals to me, and it's even better when you get fantastic food out of it.

The heirloom tomato bug got me, then garlic, then dry beans, now I'm looking at melons. So many varieties to try, so many different flavors... Tomatoes are a halfway-practical crop, as my own canned tomatoes (though soft) have tremendous flavor, and even just a little juice added to a stew really stands out. So my family has started to join in the enthusiasm.

The other half of the equation is variety: collect them all. With most heirloom varieties, it's downright impossible; there are an estimated 2,000 tomato varieties commonly grown, and that's not getting into melons or squash. It means that you can grow a different set of plants every year for the rest of your life and never see all of the kinds out there.

I'm trying to catch the highlights, though, and getting some good food along the way.


The winter garden is down to leeks (I'm letting them go dormant, now, they're not really edible anymore), onions (finally falling over), flowering gai-lan, and isolation pots of carrots, beets, popbeans, and cilantro. The carrots and beets are ready to pull any time, and the cilantro is happily bolting and reseeding.

Only a couple of earwigs anywhere, now, so I guess they've gone to sleep for the summer. They didn't last year, to my infinite frustration.

I harvested the beets and now I have more beet seed than I could use in five years. The idea of sowing huge numbers and actually getting lots to harvest is really really attractive.... I'll be sowing a bunch as soon as the weather starts to cool in autumn, and I may be able to get a jump on the winter pests.

I now have 44 tomato plants and two standbys. Half the tomato plants are remaining two feet tall or less, though they're fruiting.... I've been applying nitrogen and even gave them a shot of Superthrive, and a couple are starting to grow now. I'm not sure my Black Krim will ever pull out, though, and Picardy is stalled at a foot tall. Sungold just won't grow at more than a crawl, quite a contrast to Suz's monster. Earl's Faux is putting on growth, along with Yellow Persimmon (finally, it should be a monster like Sungold). So we'll have to see. Frankly, only half being stunted is still a big improvement over last year.

I have a tiny Crimson Sweet watermelon, let's see whether it gets a chance to develop.

The onions won't stop (though I noted with some relief today that one of the biggest Walla Wallas seems to have fallen over). They're over four inches across. I gotta plant more onions this fall; I seem to have my best luck with alliums, and while I don't like eating onions much, it's a shame not to plant them for the rest of the family when all they want is space, water, and neglect. The taste is superior as well.

The peanuts are duds -- after sowing thirty-something in a tray and having one come up, I'm convinced it was a seed problem. So I've got two out there and we'll see how they do. Peter's capsicum failed, too; I need to talk to him about that. Most of the new potatoes are in pots to sprout before being transplanted; the pillbugs were having far too much fun with the direct-planted pieces. Herbs are in their places, and the dill seems to have mostly survived the transplant... the nasturtiums are frying before they can establish, so I may give up on them. I put another Yellow WI55 in the ground with a fourth in reserve, and planted the reds after an all-clear from Bob Raabe.

The black raspberry is finishing up, my herb pot is overgrown, the potted currants are hanging in there while the planted ones are fine, and my kaffir lime is thinking about setting out another batch of new leaves.

Plants currently out there are:

In pots: Carrots (Danvers Half Long)
Beets (Early Wonder)
Popbeans (four colors)

In the ground:
Onions (Walla Walla, Red Burgundy, and small Australian Brown)
Sweet corn (Golden Bantam Improved)
Tepary Beans (Sonoran Gold), a few in the corn patch
Tomatoes (list below)
Potatoes (Rose Finn Apple)
Scarlet Runner Beans
Sunflowers (Red Sun and Sunseed)
Peanuts, the two that survived
Long Beans (black seeded)
Cukes (Cool Breeze), really taking off
Peppers (Anaheim, De Arbol, and Quadratti d'Asti Giallo), three total; the Birds all died
Melons (Crimson Sweet watermelon, Moon and Stars watermelon, Charentais, Ha'Ogen, and Boule d'Or), all starting to vine and set
Three Sisters - first quartet has Cherokee Long Ear popcorn with McCaslan, Hidatsa Shield, and Cherokee Cornfield beans, accompanied by Jack Be Little, Kabocha, Carnival Acorn, and Waltham Butternut squash. Second quartet has Strawberry popcorn just starting.
Calypso Beans, doing well in their little block
Summer squash (Horn of Plenty, Costata Romanesca, Egyptian White, and Zucchetta Rampicante Tromboncino)... no, I don't know which of the two the last one is, that's just what the seedpack reads.
Okra (Burgundy and Clemson Spineless), for the first time. Four plants: wish me luck and fast reflexes.
Sweet potatoes, from the Farmer's Market; a dark one with purple new leaves. Probably Garnet.
Herbs: Basil (sweet, Siam Queen, and Salad Leaf), dill, parsley
Flowers: one hollyhock, struggling nasturtiums

Waiting for planting out: Hollyhocks, leeks, cukes to fill in, another De Arbol chile

Waiting for a sprout: potatoes

Tomato list:

Dr. Raabe's set: I know nothing about these except Yellow WI55, which is a very very rare yellow mutation of the popular canning variety. I have people screaming for seed.

Future Plans

Beans: nine dry beans -- Christmas Lima, Cornfield, Cherokee Cornfield, McCaslan, Rattlesnake, Hidatsu Shield Figure, and True Red Cranberry are in Three Sisters to see how they do.
Winter squash, grown in a Three Sisters planting: Eight. Buttercup, Carnival Acorn, Jack Be Little, Kabocha, Queensland Blue, Rouge Vif d'Etampes (Cinderella pumpkin), Waltham Butternut, and a gourd from Sand Hill Preservation I couldn't resist.

I've already started on next year's tomato list, as a true tomatophile has to... *grin* I already have a huge assortment of seed, and it should make for an interesting collection.

Winter planting is set for October (for the garlic, peas, sweet peas, and other non-biennial things which don't mind heat) and Thanksgiving weekend for onions, broccoli, beets, chard, carrots, leeks, kohlrabi, kale, and gai-lan. I may sow beets and carrots before then, figuring I'll pull them before spring.... No plan yet, but I should probably break out the diagrams.

The Barefoot Gardener