The last 2 days have been beautiful here in Southern Indiana. It’s been a balmy 70 degrees with bright sunny skies. I’m sure it will get chilly again. After all, the middle of March is a little early for this weather. But it does have me thinking about my garden. Well… gardens, really. I’d like to do a little more floral planting this year, because flowers are pretty – but I have to have my vegetable garden.
This year I’m planning on a few basics for the garden. We’ll have cucumbers. Matt and I don’t eat them, but we make lots of pickles. And actually… I don’t eat pickles myself. I do have a lot of friends and family that do though. So each summer, Matt and I grow cucumbers and make pickles from them. We’ve used different breeds in the past, depending on what was available at the local grower. My favorite cucumber for pickling is actually a standard garden cucumber called a Burpless. If you want to start your own seeds, Burpee makes a great one – and I think this is what our local nursery.
Of course, we’ll also have to have some tomatoes. My favorite red tomatoes for the garden are Big Boy and Early Girl. The Big Boy is a beefsteak variety, while the Early Girl is a slicer variety. I like to eat them straight out of the garden, but Matt just hates raw tomatoes. He thinks they should all be pulverized and turned into sauces and ketchup. I’ve made sauces before, from packet mixes, but never been happy with the results so most of our tomatoes (that I don’t eat) get canned in quarters for use in soups and stews. If you have any recommendations for good sauce or ketchup recipes, I’d love to try them – we’ve got plenty of canned tomato quarters.
I also like my yellow tomatoes, but I’ve not had much luck at home. The first year, I planted them next to my red tomatoes and got some strange combination of the two. Not good. Last year I put my yellows in pots and moved them to the front of the house… and it rained and rained and rained- and the pots didn’t drain. Drowned tomato plants don’t produce. So this year, I guess I’ll have to try somewhere else. I’m also thinking about planting some heirloom yellows this year called Yellow Pear tomatoes. My friend Marybeth, from Alarm Clock Wars, plants these in her garden and they are amazing.
I try to plant a few bell peppers each year. I normally plant a basic red/green bell pepper, and maybe some orange sickles, but I’ve got tons of them stored in the freezer, so I’m thinking of upgrading this year to something a bit different. Burpee packages as Carnival Mix that looks intriguing.
In our garden we always plant a loose leaf lettuce. A friend and fellow gardener, “Ozzy,” gave us a packet of Black-Seeded Simpson for our first garden, and it’s all we’ve ever used. I can walk out to the garden and cut it fresh for dinner, and it keeps coming back all summer long.
I love sweet corn, and so does Matt… the only problem? We don’t like the same kind. Matt grew up on white and I grew up on yellow. He wants to plant Silver Queen and I want Incredible or Bodacious – so last year we (and by we, I mean I) decided to split the difference and plant a bi-color corn called Peaches and Cream. It’s too bad we never got to try any. Darned racoons destroyed the entire crop! Fortunately for us, both my dad and his old boss plant their sweet corn by the field. They took care of us, and we ended up with some white from his boss and some yellow from my dad.
The only kind of beans in my garden are green… or at least they’re supposed to be. The last two years in our garden we’ve planted blue lake green beans. The first year we planted the pole variety and the last we planted the bush variety. Matt and I have decided that we prefer the pole variety because they are easier to pick. We just run ours up cattle panel – we do the same with our cucumbers and any other vine plants we have. The only issue we seemed to have was that they were a bit stringy. Though I think this was caused more by being left too long in the garden than by the variety. Someone should find a way to pause the garden during fair week. If you come up with one, let me know.
Last year we didn’t seem to have much luck at all with our beans. They grew and grew and never produced any beans. Matt said that meant there was too much nitrogen in the soil. The manure our landlord has been nice enough to spread for us from his horses seems to have over enriched the soil – so this winter, no manure. Hopefully things will be back to normal this summer.
Any other ideas?
New to our garden this year will be some old-fashioned crook neck squash. Apparently you can’t buy the seeds anywhere – so our friend that grows them saves the seeds out of his, and he will hopefully be giving us a few. And just a few would be fine. As you may remember from last summer’s canning adventures, these are large enough to process one at a time.
I’ve also thought about some simple zucchini and summer squash for frying and making breads but ours always seem to cross breed. If you have a solution to that, I’d love to know. Or maybe you just have an idea for a type of fruit or vegetable we should put in the garden that I haven’t thought of yet. I’d love to know. I will be adding some more teak furniture to our garden soon so we’re able to enjoy the outside space as well as just eat from it.