Monday, January 12, 2009

Help me plant the farm

Okay, I’m faced with a blank canvas here. I’ve dabbled in veggie gardens in the past, but last summer I had so much fun with “the farm” that I’m prepared to go whole-hog this year--from seed-to table, as Michelle would say. ;-)

There is just one problem: the seed catalogs are in and I am overwhelmed with choices. So I’m turning to you, my good gardening friends, to help me plant this year’s farm. What do you recommend? What are your favorite, must-have, can’t-live-withouts? Can you help a fellow gardener out?

Here are the parameters:

The canvas is not large (see the photos.) The best stretch of land is right down the middle, with one large planting bed (the one surrounded by stones). There will also be two raised bed boxes—the one that is already there and full of garlic, and I’ll move the cold frame to the other side of it after I harvest my carrots.

I have room at the far end for a tripod bean structure (that Christmas tree you see in the photo is destined to be recycled into one leg of the bean pole), and I plan to build a pergola for sitting, and that can also support a climbing plant. There is a trellis in the shade (not shown, but to the right in the photo). I have space along the fence to the right, but it is in shade all day. However, the light is so strong here, and the heat so fierce, that some plants may tolerate the shade.

Another planting parameter has to do with the climate, which is hot and dry. My ornamental garden is xeric, and I’d like to be water-wise in the vegetable plot as well. All plants will be on a drip system, and I’ll use as much harvested rainwater as possible.

I don’t use pesticides on the ornamentals if I can help it, and not at all on food crops. Last season I had a squash that had a bad case of powdery mildew, and I’d like to avoid that again if possible. So disease/pest resistance is a priority.

Given all this, what would you plant? I should let you know that I’m not wild about broccoli, cauliflower, or zucchini, since they all seem pretty bland to me.

I’d also like to stick as close as I can to heirloom veggies, but I’m not a purist in this (or anythings else, for that matter).

Other than that, I think I’m open to any suggestions, wild or mild…

Oh, and of course I’ll let you know how it all turns out!


  1. Hi Susan. Glad to see that you are up and at 'em again with the garden. I really think time spent there is so great for processing negative emotions. At least it is for me. Hm, your climate is so different, and veggies do tend to be thirsty... well, my essentials are often stuff that can be picked and eaten raw straight out of the garden, since that's were I find the biggest taste difference often is between homegrown and store bought. So, arugula, mesclun, lettuces are always there. Fennel is frilly and I love the licorice taste of it. Broccoli is so much less bland when it comes from your garden! Ditto corn, but that takes up a lot of room. Scarlet runner beans could be cool on your trellis, they are beautiful although I'm not sure what they taste like! Chiogga beets are so pretty, ditto the golden kind - sometimes you can find a mix. With carrots, the mixed colors are fun too. Geez, I'm sure you will get more helpful advice than this, just listing some of my favs. Oh, don't forget about edible flowers! Lemon gem marigolds, violas, nasturtiums, calendulas, etc are pretty and fun to toss into a salad for a hit of color. Herbs like thyme and sage can take heat and drought. OK, I'll stop! Have fun narrowing it down to your first list of essentials.

  2. In our garden tomatoes are a must. The cherry kinds are great for just popping in your mouth while we love the larger ones for slicing. Cucumbers might do well if you have space for a trellis. We're also very fond of the summer squash for grilling and frying up. Bush beans might be good along your fence area.

  3. Susan, I'm going to have to think about this, so I'll be baaack (as our governator would say).

  4. Tomatoes are a definite - especially if you are interested in heirloom varieties.
    French Beans (I grow climbing ones and they come in a variety of colours, beans and flowers)
    Sweet and chilli peppers of course.
    Cucumbers taste so much better when home grown. I like the small 6 inch ones.
    I agree with Karen about Chioggia beetroot and the golden kind. They have a much more refined taste than red varieties.
    Enjoy the planning!

  5. I'm back! My heat problem is just the opposite of yours, not enough in the summer. I like Karen's idea of the scarlet runners, but my understanding is that they tend to shut down when it gets hot. I can't really vouch for that because, like I said, it doesn't get that hot here. Actually, I like everything Karen has suggested!

    Anyway, here's my list, I'll keep it short. There's 2 tomatoes that I just can't do without - Paul Robeson and Aunt Ruby's German Green. Paul Robeson tends to be the smaller of the 2. And you can't have tomatoes without basil, my favorite is Profuma di Genova from Renee's Garden. Renee's also carries one of my favorite green beans "Musica" pole bean, which produces huge flat beans that are wonderful cooked on the BBQ, or any way you like your green beans. Sugar Snap Peas are also a must, they're always the sweetest and crunchiest when home grown. I always grow Cavolo Nero, which has many aliases - Tuscan Kale, Dino Kale, Lacinato Kale, to name a few. Pimento de Padron peppers, a spanish pepper that is picked immature and pan fried for a fantastic tapa - I've had quite a few friends who don't like peppers try these and fall in love with them. And I'm entirely enamored of mild chinense peppers such as Aji Dulces and Datil Sweets - they are the mild relatives of habaneros - all the flavor without the blisters. Chinense peppers would probably love your heat - I have to wait until November to pick them because they take so long to set fruit in my climate.

    And one more item, Native Seeds/S.E.A.R.C.H specializes in seeds and resources for arid climates. They have lots of heirloom vegetables native or adapted to the southwest.

    That was fun! I wish you great success in your garden this year, can't wait to read about it.

  6. Eggplant, peppers and tomatoes for sure. If room, gourds are most fun and could grow on a trellis and shade some other plants.

  7. Tomatoes and cukes; pole beans, Swiss chard and beets -- all must haves for me. Plus lots of salad greens...and fill in the bare spots with herbs. :) Just my Must Haves, mind you. I'll be following your progress with interest!

  8. This is all good stuff, y'all! Keep it coming...

    Let's see, tomatoes, here's my potential list so far: tomatoes (Paul Robesons and Aunt Ruby's), peppers (of course!), sugar snap peas...hmmm, might have to try the chiogga beets...

    And thanks for the link to the xeric veggies site, Michelle!

  9. And Swiss chard--I have no idea what that is, but it keeps cropping up on people's garden list...have to give it a try, too!

  10. PS I can't believe I forgot about sugar snap peas! I think we even had an exchange about them last year. Glad Michelle remembered! Chard is almost more of an ornamental in my garden, Bright Lights is pretty even if you don't end up enjoying cooking with it. I do like chard but sometimes forget to harvest it before it gets tough. Also, lettuce bolting might be an issue for your hot climate - any way to shade those babies, especially in the afternoon, is going to be key. Fun to look ahead to the harvest, huh?

  11. If I were you...

    Snap pole beans of course. Also, I cannot live without peas as you have a hot, dry climate, I'd try a pea variety adapted to india like yellow/golden podded snowpea. You could try perpetual beet (available through bountiful in their perennial vegetable section) as it is also a perennial in mild climates though I'm not sure how it will love the heat. I would plant in the shade of another plant. My favourite carrot is Dragon - with purple skin. It will grow well in the light shade of trellised tomatoes. Currant tomatoes are often said to grow well in a drought and one plant will keep you going in salad snacks for much of the summer. It will likely reseed for you also. If cukes (which like it on the cool side) don't do well, you can try armenian cukes which are actually from the melon family so like heat but are used like cucumbers.

    I can't do without a member of the C. moschata or a butternut squash though they prefer a bit of moisture now and again. But, the great thing about varieties like trombocino is that this monster that needs trellising in a small space(!) will provide you with tonnes of NICE TASTING summer squash unlike boring watery zucchini and if you let the fruit ripen, will give you the main ingrediant for delicious savory or sweet pumpkin pies.

    Sweet potatoes but I think we've stuffed your garden already though you could try some cuttings in pots.

    And you should give the Principe Borghese tomato a try (I have some). It's a dry one that is hung against a sunny wall to make delicious sun dried tomatoes. It's also a small plant.

    Oak leaf lettuce and other open headed varieties will do better in heat.

    For your fall garden, after you harvest some of those other stuff, there is even more! I could go on and on and on.

  12. Karen--do you suppose the lettuce would do alright along that shady side of the fence?

    OG--I might try those carrots there, too...

  13. Susan, if you like arugula then you'll LOVE Italian or wild arugula. It looks a little different from store bought arugula in that it has very narrow leaves. For Lubbock, it would work great. I used to live in Austin and once I planted it, I did nothing else to it. It self-seeded as well. And it continues through the summer heat. Try it, you'll like it. Oh, and one more easy-peasy veggie: Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.

  14. Susan,
    My must have's for the veg garden are lots of Beetroot Burpees Golden is good and Chiogga. Cherry tomatoes (sungold). and French beans - especially the purple podded ones.
    Two of my favourite lettuce are Black seeded Simpson and Marvel of four season (Merville de Quatre Saison)
    Roll on summer I miss my veg from the garden.

  15. You've gotten great suggestions - I just want to chime in about about a cherry tomato that a previous commentor mentioned: Sungold. If you can find it - it's a wonderfully sweet yellow cherry tomato - and here in coastal South Carolina, I grow it in a huge pot in full sun and it keeps producing through September sometimes. One plant will produce all you need.


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