This is the level-headed time of year when I’m tired of garden work and the new seed catalogues haven’t yet arrived. This is the time of year when I am most capable of making sane, realistic plans for next year’s gardening.
Annual flowers: on this topic I have some experience and some advice. There are a few things that I will try to grow for sure because they’re so spectacular.
At the top of that list is ammi “Dara”, a cultivated Queen Anne’s Lace that blooms in shades of pink and purple. It is *sharp* looking, and I have gotten seeds from both Johnny’s and Plant World Seeds. Ammi is an annual in the sense that plants will flower for one season then die. The plants can, however, survive the winter if they haven’t flowered, and over the fall/winter/spring they build big strong root systems that make big strong plants. So I have started seedlings that I am planting out into the raised beds, where they will grow their taproots and stay, for cutting next summer. (fingers crossed)
A bouquet of ammi “Dara” from last year
Another must-have cutting flower is Scabiosa “Black Knight.” Like ammi these plants will overwinter and get much bigger if they don’t flower their first year. Unfortunately my seed-starting efforts have come a cropper, so I’ll have to settle for small plants next year. I order my seed from Johnny’s, and after two years of only Black Knight (and one oddball white plant), I am branching out into their other shades next year.
I always hear Hermione Granger saying “it’s sca-bi-O-sa, not sca-bi-o-SA”
Three more that were first-time from-seed flowers for me this year, but that performed beautifully, were dianthus Chabaud Benigna and china aster Tower Chamois, both from Johnny’s, and bachelor’s buttons Classic Magic mix from Swallowtail Garden Seeds. All three were easy and spectacular, and I’ll be trying a repeat performance next summer.
Now. Veg. The “serious” stuff. I am terrible about discipline in the vegetable garden. Up to this point I have mostly chosen seeds for novelty quality, and I end up growing tiny amounts of lots of different things. Next year, as usual, I am determined to mend my ways by growing only one variety apiece of only things I know we’ll actually eat. The list right now is:
Garlic: Early Italian Purple from Kitchen Garden Seeds. I’ve never grown garlic. I will plant it in a raised bed this autumn and harvest it, Og willing, roundabout July.
Shallots: French Red Shallots from Kitchen Garden Seeds. Also a first.
Radishes: either Easter Egg or Early Scarlet Globe, whichever I can buy off the shelf next spring. Both these varieties are fast and tasty, in the long cool PNW spring I can get many rounds of them in.
Beets: a color mixture for impressive salads to eat with salmon, salad, and dill blossoms. I have Jung’s Un-Beet-Able mixture seed left over and will use that.
Lettuce: something, please Og, I just want free salad. Last year I tried several varieties of seed and only had luck with Jung’s Multileaf Lettuce Blend, though I didn’t grow nearly enough. This lettuce was head-forming for me rather than cut-and-come again, the way something with a name like “French salad mix” would be. I’ll have to think about it. Cut-and-come again really is the best way to do lettuce.
Chard: this is another thing I have to make happen. We much prefer chard to spinach, kale, or collards. It is a brassica that can stand the mild winters around here, so I have seedlings planted out into the raised beds. I have both Bright Lights Mix and Ruby seed from Jung’s, and am having much better germination from the Ruby, so that’s what’s mostly out there. I will start more in the spring. This crop is cut-and-come-again.
Snow peas: I’ve grown Little Purple Snow Peas from Jung’s for two years. Experience tells me that they won’t take off unless they have something wonderful to climb. Old-fashioned pea sticks–a dead branch with lots of little branches stuck in the ground–worked better than bamboo canes.
Beans: last year I grew Rattlesnake climber beans and a three-color bush bean blend from Jung’s. The Rattlesnake beans were far superior. This year I grew Rattlesnake again alongside Blue Lake pole, which is a favorite variety. The Rattlesnake beans were far superior again. Next year I am only growing those, and I am growing a lot of them.
Tomatoes: ONE VARIETY ONLY. I am buying one packet and starting all the seed in it and that’s that. Because we have somewhat cool summers here, big beefsteaks and long-ripening varieties are no good. Whatever I grow needs to be under 80 days for sure, preferably under 70. For this reason, my single packet of tomato seed will probably be Sweet Tangerine, which comes from Burpee. It’s a yellow tomato so my sauce will be yellow (hmm), but it’s rated at 68 days and its flavor is really good. We used to grow this one in the Midwest, too.
Potatoes: I’ve grown them the last two years and they have been a triumph both times. So easy. So satisfying to dig up a bunch of potatoes. And the flavor really is superb–much superior to store bought. This year I bought a bag of yellow, red, and blue seed potatoes, and we loved the blue ones so much that I’m going to try for only blue next year.
Zucchini: we love this and eat lots of it. I’ll get a long green variety instead of a novelty one. I grew Pool Ball from Jung’s one year and they were fun, but fiddlier to prepare.
Squash: I’ll grow Sugar Dumpling just because I love its colors so much
Cabbage and broccoli: I am through trying to grow either of these. This year in the garden my Red Fire broccoli didn’t start to flower until…well, now, and the Dead On cabbage was gorgeous, but they’re both being consumed by aphids. I give up. No more cabbage or broccoli.
My cabbage is full of insect eggs, dammit.
Pumpkins: here we come to my weakness. Every year since we moved here I’ve planted a few pumpkin seeds in the least desirable corner of the garden and watched them suffer. Next year, I declare it now, I will give them good space and I will grow myself some beautiful punkins, because I’m susceptible like that. White ones. Blue ones. Pink ones. I don’t care if they’re good to eat. I just want pretty punkins.