It’s hard to believe that the official start to winter has only just arrived. We’ve had snow on the ground consistently since the beginning of November (although I managed to sneak in some bonus gardening anyway) and the days are so short that it feels like it’s been winter for quite some time.
My first seed catalog arrived weeks ago. It seems that they never used to arrive until January, seed companies seem to be using the same strategy as the big box stores in advancing the shopping season as early as possible. So now we can buy 2019 seeds while its still 2018, and shop for a Halloween costume on July 5th. Also, my local grocery store is selling a Baker Creek Seeds has a $10 catalog that lists every single plant they offer. A tempting purchase, but I’ll stick with their free catalog.
The reason that I don’t need the encyclopedic catalog is because I tend to stick with a few varieties of veggies every year, rather than going nuts and trying a million things. So far I have a small list of my favorites, but I thought that I would share them here in the hopes that you’d reciprocate and tell me yours. Here’s the (very) short list:
Some Veggie Varieties that I’m Digging
I love green beans. So much so that I’m going to plant one half of one of my gardens next year to green beans: I have some extra space and want to take advantage of the nitrogen-fixing benefits of beans while growing my favorite veggie. For years I grew the Blue Lake S-7 Pole Bean from Jung’s Seeds and had great success. The plants grow to well over 6-feet tall on bamboo tripods (teepees) and are easy to pick. I didn’t need to purchase anything else from Jung’s last year, so I took the opportunity to try out some heirloom varieties. The Seed Saver’s Exchange Lazy Housewife variety was a good alternative for a pole bean; it was productive and tender overall. If left too long, it would develop a reddish tinge and become a tough, but this was avoidable with regular picking.
I also tried out two bush bean varieties from Seed Saver’s: the green Ideal Market Bean and the Royalty Purple Pod Bean.
The Ideal Market Bean is a solid pick. I enjoyed the novelty of the purple bean, although these beans do turn green (and a kind of drab, less appetizing shade of green) when cooked. Overall, I enjoyed the bush beans because they matured earlier than the pole beans (I’ll continue to grow both to maximize the harvest season) and because they created a continuous “canopy” that shaded out most weeds.
But enough about beans. Let’s talk other legumes. I am in love love love with the Swenson Swedish Pea from Seed Saver’s Exchange. This snow pea was a change from the Jung’s Oregon Giant that I’ve grown for the past 10 years, and it was 100% worth it. I trellis my peas by cutting a piece of welded wire fence into a 3-foot section and staking it to stand vertically. This worked well for the Oregon Giant, which grows about 4-feet tall. But it did not work as well for the Swenson pea variety that grew to be more than 6-feet tall, which grew up the fence, and then flopped back all the way to the ground. Even more amazing was that the Swenson pea plants continued to produce into August despite our hot summer weather.
My last notable pick from Seed Saver’s Exchange was Grandma Hadley’s Lettuce. Usually I’m indifferent to lettuce varieties and just select whatever mesclun mix or green leaf variety that’s handy. But I will definitely be growing more of this head lettuce. I planted this lettuce late, but it persisted in spite of our very lettuce-unfriendly hot weather. It was also able to get a reasonable second cutting off of some of the plants, which was a delightful bonus.
I’ve found myself recommending the Chioggia beet to several people this year. My packet of seeds is several years old and I don’t know where it came from, but this variety is available from many places. I love it because it is—prepare to be amazed!—a beet that doesn’t taste like dirt. Or stain your hands. The Chioggia beet has pretty concentric white and purple rings, as well as a sweet taste that delicious when roasted.
Another vegetable that I grew last year that I will definitely grow again is the Lancelot Leek from Dixondale Farms. I decided to grow leeks on a bit of a whim (A bit of #yolo?) and can’t imagine ever not-growing them again. They easily meet my two major requirements for garden vegetables, which are (1) easy and (2) edible. Even when my garden was flooded twice this year, these plants waited (er… waded?) it out and kept on growing.
What Else to Grow?
The seed catalogs are already here, and there’s only about 20 more weeks until the garden season really gets going. It’s time to start making a list of seeds and plants to buy for the next growing season! 🙂
Looking for ideas for what seeds to buy? I’ve written about where I buy my gardening seeds, and Kathy Purdy at Cold Climate Gardening has a great list of merchants related to gardening in colder locations.
What about you? I’d love your recommendations on veggie or plant varieties to try out this coming year. Please leave a comment below.