The weather has finally turned for the better here in the Midwest. For those unaware, it snowed one week ago. On May 1st. Insanity.
So with that, the time has come to finally get the vegetable and herb garden going–whether using seeds started inside, or direct seeding right in your garden.
As for what we grow? It’s an ongoing (and slow) process, seeing as how we only have a few months out of each year to see what works and what doesn’t. But every year, we build our repertoire a little more. Some work right away. Some we give up on quickly. And some, I keep trying year after year, hoping for different results. I think that’s actually insanity, isn’t it?
Herbs are pretty easy, and you can count on a lot of them coming back each year. And there is no substitute for them when cooking, trust me. We plant all of ours in different pots, sized appropriately as to which ones we use more than others. We also try to be purists with our garden, but when it comes to herbs in the summer, we usually just buy small plants and transfer them outside because we’re too impatient.
Basil is our favorite and always gets the largest pot. Unfortunately, it’s an annual so it has to be replanted each year. We use the Genovese-type, but this year we’re going to add a “Dolce Vita” blend to the pot and see what happens.
Tarragon is one that we don’t use as often, but came back on its own this year for a pleasant surprise. We had thyme in the same pot with it last summer, but we use more of it now, so it’ll get its own this time around.
Rosemary is a necessity if you like Mediterranean dishes, or, like us, make hummus all the time. It’s nearly impossible to grow from seed, though, so I’d recommend just buying a plant.
Lavender, mint, and sage are three that we use less of, but are handy to have around.
Our garlic chives are back for the third! straight year, and require nearly no upkeep, so they’re a must-have.
We’re planting dill for the first time, so hopefully that goes well, because I love it in almost everything.
Now. As for the garden itself. One thing to remember if you’re planting in the same spots or beds each year is to rotate your crops. The same tomato plant put in the same place, year after year, will leach the nutrients it needs from the soil away until there aren’t any left for next year. The chances of disease are also much greater if you don’t move things around. There are some good tips here on how to properly rotate.
S: strawberries. P: Padron peppers B: bell peppers. J: jalapeño peppers. C: cucumber. R: radish. L: lettuce/greens. T: tomatoes.
We love salads, so we dedicate two beds’ worth of space to greens.
I’m trying Romaine lettuce (Ridgeline variety) again this year, even though I haven’t had much luck with head lettuce. The same goes for Bibb, or butter lettuce.
My parents brought several packets of Mâche back from Europe recently (with all the instructions in French and German) so we’ll be trying that out for the first time this year.
Next to that will be plenty of arugula, because I can’t get enough of that peppery flavor. And it grows like a weed.
We’ll also be trying spinach, and my personal favorite, a mesclun of the variety–and this is for real–“Sassy Salad”. How could I resist that? It’s just so sassy.
We planted strawberries in one of the beds last summer, so it gets one all to itself again this year.
The remaining three, where the real rotating is done, are our regular vegetables.
Sun Gold cherry tomatoes are a must-plant again, and every year for the rest of my life, probably. Five Star Grape and Yellow Mini will also be coming back this year. All three are amazing in salads and bring some great color to dishes. After trying and failing with several full-size heirlooms over the last two years, this time around, I’ve settled on San Marzano, supposedly the best sauce/Roma-type tomato on the planet. Official San Marzano pasta sauce is ten bucks a jar, so here’s hoping they take.
We’re planting a basic pickling cucumber, for, well, pickling (as long as Lisey doesn’t eat them all). Scallions are the only root vegetable we’ll be planting this year, as we just rarely have success growing them in the beds. Cherry Belle Radish will get put in as well (which is a 24-day to ripe plant, so do it).
For peppers, the same jalapeño we’ve grown for the last three years is getting planted again. It’s Ferry-Morse, which is somewhat surprising, but the flavor is incredible and the heat level is just right. We’re also going to try bell peppers for the first time. Once we decide if we want red, yellow, or orange. Maybe all three. Possibly the thing I’m most excited to plant this year are Padron peppers, the Spanish heirloom.
We had them while in Barcelona last summer, coated in olive oil, roasted on a plancha and sprinkled with sea salt and paprika. They were amazing. Can’t wait to be able to do that at home.
We’ll keep you informed throughout the summer how everything’s going.