2013 Garden Planning


Bidwell Casaba Melon

I’ve spent the last few weeks carefully going through all of our seed catalogs to figure out what we’ll be growing this coming year. Surprisingly, we’re making quite a few changes even though I’m always saying that I need to stick with varieties that we know work. This past year was a success for some things and a total failure for others which is probably where this desire to mix things up is coming from. We’re also expanding the growing of some crops while eliminating others. The primary crops we’re expanding are beans, corn, potatoes and squash – crops that can store well. I’ll link the varieties we’ll be using so if they sound interesting you won’t have to go searching for them.

Most of the beans will be dry beans but we’ll also be adding in Romano beans, which I’ve heard nothing but great things about. The variety of Romano we’ll be growing is Supermarconi. I’m excited to add Tepary beans to our garden. Tepary beans are native to the Southwest and Mexico making them very drought and heat tolerant. I’m hoping to successfully grow these without any summer irrigation. In addition we’re bringing back runner beans, which are a perennial in our area and prefer cooler temperatures. Not technically a bean, we’ll be trying out cowpeas, Blackeye Peas being the most commonly known variety. We’ll be continuing with Cherokee Trail of Tears, Speckled Cranberry, Anasazi (a variety shared with us but difficult to find commercially) and Purple Podded Pole.

We’re not going to be growing Bloody Butcher corn this year. It’s a nice dent corn that works well for fresh eating and gets HUGE – over 12′ tall – but we want to expand our corn varieties this year. Instead of dent corn, which is a rather difficult corn to work with, we’re going to do a flour corn, Mandan Bride, which is better for making flour rather than meal, which tends to be courser. We’re also going to do a fun popcorn called Bear Paw that has split cobs and a dwarf sweet corn called Blue Jade. It’s one of the few corn varieties that can actually be grown successfully in pots.

squeek pumpkin

Squeak and her Howden Pumpkin

Our potato varieties will be some of the same but some new ones. We’ll still be growing All Blue, Russet Rio Grande, and German Butterball as these usually do really well for us. New varieties for us will be Yukon Gem, Kennebec White and Desiree which are all said to be high yielding varieties.

The pumpkin is coming back! We’ll be growing Howden pumpkins again but I’m also going to be adding Winter Luxury Pie pumpkins, which I’m very excited to have finally found space for as these are considered the BEST pie pumpkin around. We’re still going to grow Marina di Chioggia, which, in my humble opinion, is the best tasting squash out there. I want to also grow smaller winter squash including Delicata, Triamble, Butternut rogosa violina ‘Gioia,’ and Vegetable Spaghetti. In the summer squash variety we’ll be doing Trombetta di Albinga, also known as Trombocino. We’re not going to do our usual Golden Zuchhini because…and this may come as a surprise…it doesn’t do very well for us. Four plants couldn’t give us enough summer squash for our needs. What I like about the Trombocino – which we have grown before – is that it’s a vertical climber freeing up space for other plants. I also find it exceptionally flavorful compared to traditional summer squash. The seeds are all contained in the bulb of the squash so you can pick it any time without worrying whether it’s gotten too seedy and pithy. It’s also tasty as a winter squash.

We won’t be doing fennel again this year as we just don’t use it enough to give it space in the yard. I’ve also been kind of on the fence about parsnips for the same reason so this year I’ll be skipping them.

Some of our favorite varieties will be staying. Orangeglo watermelons, Bidwell Casaba melons, Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard, Gigante di’ Inverno Spinach, Yellow of Parma onions, arugula, Cimmaron and Tango lettuces, Golden beet, Berlicum 2 carrots, Tendercrisp celery, Oregon Sugar Pod II peas, Verde tomatillos, White Icicle and Pink Beauty radishes, Giant of Naples Cauliflower, Calabrese Broccoli and Perfection Drumhead Savoy Cabbage.

Dr. Wychee's Yellow Tomato

Dr. Wychee’s Yellow Tomato

Of all the tomatoes we normally grow, we’ll only be changing out two varieties and adding in a new one. We did Pineapple Pig last year but it was too late of a variety for us to really get any useful fruit off of it. We’ll be replacing it with Pineapple Heirloom, which a friend in town had really good luck with. That same friend also had really good luck with Cherokee Green so we’ll be adding that one as well. We’ll also be eliminating the Isis Candy, which did fine but cherry tomatoes are just too much work for us to harvest when we have some much other things to harvest as well. Instead, we’ll be doing Stupice, which is a 2″ earlier tomato that is said to outperform San Francisco Fog in cooler climates. The varieties that will be sticking around will be Wapsipinicon Peach, Mortgage Lifter, Hillbilly, Black Krim, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Indigo Apple, and Dr. Wychee’s Yellow.

We’re keeping hot pepper varieties Anaheim, Habanero, Cayenne, Serrano Tampequino, Sante Fe Grande; and sweet pepper varieties Orange Bell, Red Marconi, Corno di Toro Rosso and California Wonder. We’re getting rid of Jalapeno and replacing it with Corne de Chevre.

The hardest part of dealing with all of these varieties was figuring out the layout of them in our planting beds. Usually I just do crop layout but I always regret being so generalized later in the season when I can’t remember which varieties are which. This year I drew up our plans in a much more concise way splitting up varieties and keeping similar varieties separate. The placement is mostly based on companion planting. You can click the image below to see what our plan looks like this year.

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  1. Very nice selection. We’re also trying the Butternut rogosa violina ‘Gioia’ this year, I’m curious to compare it flavor-wise to straight Waltham, or ‘Greek Sweet Red’ (my current favorite). However, we’re dropping Marina di Chioggia, as it simply hasn’t performed well for us here along the coast, so we can make room for something else. I’ll be curious to see what you think of the ‘All Blue’ potato. It grew very well for us, but we’ve had consistently better yields from ‘Purple Majesty’, and I felt the texture of PM was better too. The ‘Pineapple’ heirloom tomato did great for us last year, and ‘Stupice’ has been early and reliable for us too. I think you’ll love them both! Here’s to a fabulous growing season for all of us!

    • Where do you get seed potatoes for Purple Majesty? We normally have pretty good yields with the All Blue but they aren’t my favorite in regards to taste and texture.

      • During the year we save our own seed stock from the previous harvest, but if we don’t have any on hand, we can get organic stock from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds via a local vendor, but they’re available online too (although shipping is seriously pricey). If you can find them locally, I definitely recommend them. It’s my most favorite blue potato, at least of the ones I’ve grown!

  2. I have enjoyed this post even though most of the varieties mean nothing to me, here in England. However, I can’t get over your comment that runner beans are PERENNIAL for you. Wish they were perennial here – then I wouldn’t have to keep putting the canes up and down, sow the seeds so the mice can nibble them, sow some more and then plant out the seedlings so the slugs can have a feast, sow some more etc etc etc. Mind you, they are probably my most favourite vegetable – nothing can beat fresh runner beans from the garden.

  3. We planted cowpeas for the first time last year and were VERY pleased with their yield. The cowpeas produced the longest in our spring/summer garden, long after everything else was done for the season. And they really took off once the dog days of summer hit. What I learned was to harvest the pods when the beans look “crowded” in the pod – like they’re about to pop the seam. These you can split open for the peas. You can harvest the young pods when they’re green and the peas are very small to snap so you can have peas and snaps. When left on the vine, they turn a deep purplish brown color if you’d like to use them as dried peas. They produce beautiful lavender/white flowers before the pod develops that the bees and butterflies loved! Oh, and they are delicious too! :-)

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