This year in gardening was largely experimental for us. This October marks our first full year on the homestead, and so far we have only had a spring and summer garden. We decided to forgo a fall garden simply in favor of letting our ground rest and compost before spring planting.
That said, I discovered that I have some favorite veggies and plants that I can recommend to you all.
5.) Royal burgundy bush beans (MI Gardener)- these do not compare with Kentucky Wonder as far as taste and ease of growth. They’re just fantastic. The flowers are a beautiful pinkish purple and the beans ripen to a gorgeous dark purple. When you cook them, they turn a rich dark green color. If you’re looking for flavorful beans, look no further. They’re so yummy, salt and pepper is all that you need (no ham bone or boullion cubes here!) And they aren’t “stringy”. The bush variety is easier to harvest because the beans are all visible against the dark green foliage, and they’re all on the same level as opposed to pole beans. We had an incredible yield out of only a 4 foot row, and while we didn’t quite grow enough for canning this year, I tripled my amount of seeds by saving for next year and we ate them fresh from about May-July.
4.) Chocolate Mint- this herbal gem I actually got as a cutting from a friend last year. It multiplied exponentially as mint is wont to do, and I finally transplanted it this spring. I edged our back porch with it and it’s marvelous at keeping critters and bugs at bay, as well as smelling wonderful. My chocolate mint has deep green leaves with Rich chocolate brown stems and veins. I find it to be more sweet and desirable in teas than regular peppermint, so I’m happy to have it going rogue around the back porch.
3.) Crimson Sweet Watermelon (MI Gardener)- these little fellas are just tops. Perfect size, not to heavy, mature at about 8-10lbs. The flesh is a deep, bright pinkish red, and they are so darned sweet, it’s like eating candy. I don’t know if it has to do with our wet summer, but our melons were so full of juice, you almost have to eat them with a straw! My daughter absolutely adores them, and though they do have seeds, they’re easily removed, as they’re highly visible and fairly well concentrated to the center.
2.) Romaine lettuce (Heirloom Seeds) I grew this salad green for two purposes- to feed our family, and to feed our rabbit. This is the only one of the greens I planted that did really well, and I’m not sure if it was the soil or the climate that nixed my spinach and kale, but I was thankful for the romaine none the less. When ripe, it had a sweet crisp flavor, although if picked too soon, it was a little bitter. I had a continuous harvest of this stuff from about April through the end of June. Had I done some succession planting of it, I could still be eating it, but I decided to let it go to seed to save for next year. Miss Maggie our angora was quite fond of it too.
1.) Oregon Sugar Snap Peas (Heirloom Seeds)- by far my favorite veggie from this year’s garden. I saved a TON of seed from our plants this year- enough to triple our planting next year. I trellised the 6 foot row we grew, and they did marvelously in the early spring. The peas were the first veggies we harvested this spring and they were so tender, sweet, and crisp, my son and I would pick and eat them right off the vines! I actually caught him several times having mouthfuls of “peas and spinach” (which was actually peas and chocolate mint leaves…) But hey, my boy likes veggies so I have no complaints. I loved the peas raw as well as cooked in the pod as in a stir fry. They were also yummy shelled and steamed. The pods were about 4 inches long at their largest, and the peas were all good sized, I’d say larger in diameter than a pencil eraser (or, you know, pea sized.) The best part is that I ordered the seeds over 3 years ago and every single one germinated and grew. That I found impressive, as most of my 2+ year old seed came to zilch. Oh, and the chickens absolutely loved the greens after the harvest.
I’ve ordered other seed from Baker Creek Heirloom, and other reputable Heirloom seed companies, but these ones just so happened to be the ones that did the best for me in my region this year. Hopefully this helps you in your planning for next year’s garden, or inspires you to try growing something you haven’t grown before.