Y’all! It was MINUS EIGHTEEN DEGREES Sunday! Yuck! So rather than focus on that, let’s get to planning out the Veg Garden for the coming season. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, am I right?
It has already felt like a rushed and frantic process- mostly due to the increased demand for seeds (meaning things have been going in and out of stock constantly- have y’all experienced this too?) and the lingering effects Covid is having on businesses and shipping. At least we weren’t caught unawares this time around!
I believe I had vowed to not order a lot of new-to-me seeds and I’ve mostly/partly/sorta complied with that (I know, you are all so shocked!), but I’ve long since learned that this is about as close as I’ll ever get to not buying something new. Honestly, this is half the fun of gardening. This year we’re going to try Celeriac, Brussel Sprouts, and Litchi Tomatoes- all of which are 100% new crops to us. I have a few new varieties of Cabbage, Tomato, and Beans- but everything else is from the vaults. (Lol. Its like 60% from the vaults.)
This year I’m planning to try three new things vis-a-vis growing said veg.
1. We are going to build two heavy-duty but portable trellises for growing our squash, cucumber, and melons. Ideally this will allow us to grow more per square foot and worry less about powdery mildew while making it easier to harvest.
2. I plan to restructure the Potager to be able to utilize some shade cloth- this plan is fully down to Niki Jabbour’s new book Growing Under Cover (post about it here). This means (ideally) that we ought to have more success with things that like to bolt in the full, blazing sun. We’re also going to try some carrots under cover to see if it impacts their sweetness at all since we have a loooong, sad history with bitter carrots.
3. Cold frames will move into the garden come August when we sow some winter crops of carrots, turnips, dwarf kale, and whatever else we think might work. This means ensuring there are early-finishing crops in the locations we intend to install those cold frames. It also means summer-sowing, something I’ve never tried! Yay New Things!
Another realization we had late last year was that our three rhubarb plants were getting a bit too cozy for comfort. Also, we really (really, really) LOVE rhubarb and three plants just isn’t enough. We plan to move the rhubarb (sadly, pre-harvest this year) into one of the 6’x9′ foot beds to a) give them more room and b) add a new variety or two to the bed. Full on rhubarb. It’ll open up a 4’x4′ foot bed that we can use for brassicas or even a zucchini plant.
The greenhouse will be home to one eggplant (Galine) in a big pot and the new addition Litchi Tomato (from Baker Creek). The Litchi tomato has some WICKED spines and thorns, so I don’t know if it will stay in the tighter confines of the greenhouse for long. Thankfully it loves the same conditions as tomatoes and pepper so I anticipate moving it outside one summer really kicks off and the sun and heat are in full swing.
FIRST: Growing winter squash on a trellis like that guy Monty Don. One of 2020’s Gardener’s World episodes featured Monty planting out his squash on rather stout and beefy squash trellises and I got to thinking that this might be a great solution for our garden. We have a lot of good sized beds, but when it comes to cucurbits they eat up the beds by the end of June and spill into walkways and climb up the fencing and surrounding plants. This new technique will allow us to grow more squash, melons, AND cucumbers while keeping walkways clear for easy weeding. Plus I love vertical structures in the Veg Garden. And if its good enough for Sir Monty, its good enough for us. (We also trimmed up a few trees last fall that should make for great supports for this project- free is best!)
And while we’re on squash, I need to (for now) give up the dream of growing anything other than moschata varieties. The maxima type (Crown Pumpkin) I tried to grow last year succumbed to the dreaded Squash Vine Borer despite planting extras AND adding protective rings around the bases of the plants. They didn’t even make it past July. However, the ‘Waltham Butternut’ 3 feet away was doing just fine, thank you. So, for now I’ll stick to this moschatas which isn’t a bad thing- they are hardy, delicious, and there are loads of varieties to try.
I’m going to grow Delicata squash (Zeppelin) as our summer-type, mostly because I’ve read you can leave the skins on, making them easier to cook. I’m all for that! Other varieties will include Canada Crookneck, Carnival Acorn, and Uncle David’s Dessert. The cucumber variety I’m trying this year is called ‘Muncher’ and is, predictably, smaller than average while not being something too tiny to do much with. I’ll also throw in one or two Blacktail Watermelons to see if we can get a harvest this year.
SECOND: The 32nd iteration of the Potager! Damnit, sooner or later we will settle on a plan that works for this space!
The plan this year is to use the shade cloth that was originally purchased to protect the Yew hedges from winterburn and string it up from the greenhouse to some supports to provide permanent shade for the potager. This ought to allow us to grow all sorts of things we’d given up on because our sun situation is just Too Much. I’ll grow on some radicchio (Castletranco), Choy (Extra Dwarf Pak Choy), lettuce (Buttercrunch, Rouge D’Hiver), carrots (Koral, Longue Rouge Sang), and radish (French Breakfast, Cherry Belle) along with some French Marigolds and Nasturtiums for color.
I want to be sure whatever structure we install is a) sturdy and b) able to keep the shade cloth taut to avoid it getting carried away (literally) in the wind. I’ve seen some freestanding structures made from PVC pipes and fittings that might work for us if we don’t want to start screwing things into the greeenhouse. With any luck this will give us more growing space, allow us to grow some things we couldn’t before, and also FINALLY make best use of the Potager area.
THIRD: The cold frames for extending our season will have to be paired up with some early-finishing crops. So, I’ve prioritized the location of the peas and WHAT IS IT HERE to make sure we’ll have open ground to get some summer sown crops in for the late season. Planning y’all!
So, that just leaves the overall plan/crop rotation for the rest of the garden:
We’re leaning heavily into beans this year, along with the regular (hopefully) glut of tomatoes and peppers. We’ve prioritized veggies that preserve easily and well, but are also the things we reach for the most come winter.
- Brussel Sprouts- Groninger
- Broccoli- Purple Peacock
- Beets- Chioggia
- Beans- Burre De Rocquencourt (bush), Dwarf French Sprite (bush) Succotash (pole), Blauhilde (pole), Haricot Tarbais (pole)
- Cabbage- Hilton Chinese, Cour Di Bue, Kalibos
- Celeriac- Large Prague
- Kale- Dazzling Blue, Dwarf Blue Curled (winter sown)
- Sugarsnap Peas- Sugarsweet, Tom Thumb
- Swiss Chard- Fordhook Giant, Bali Red Rhubarb
- Peppers- Beaver Dam (hot), Nadapeno (mild), Habanada (mild), Lipstick (mild), Jimmy Nardello (mild)
- Tomatillo- Amarylla
- Tomato- Giant Belgium, Brandywine, Carbon, Paul Robeson, Gilberte Paste, Green Zebra, Mom’s Heirloom, Cherokee Purple
Now its your turn! What new things are you growing this year, or what things are you doing differently? Have you had troubles sourcing seeds and/or supplies? Are you expanding or contracting your space this year? Tell me all about your plans- I can’t wait to hear them!