Spring is here! My team begins our season this week, by assessing the vegetable gardens that we make and tend. At the end of the season last year, as we cleaned the beds, we left plant material on top of the soil, removing what might contain disease: tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and beans plants. Then we added chicken bedding from a farm where no hormones or antibiotics are used and planted a cover crop of rye. I don’t usually turn over the soil in vegetable beds, but I think this rye might need to be turned over. Hence the assessment!
I ordered seeds and plants last month and the seeds have begun to arrive…so exciting. I encourage my clients to grow things in their vegetable gardens that are not readily available at our farmers markets or things that are their favorites. These are a few of their choices: yellow and purple beans, beans for drying, purple carrots, yellow and striped beets, leeks, potatoes (there’s nothing like potatoes right from the garden!), various cucumbers, assorted greens (of which there are MANY), assorted hot peppers and specialty herbs.
The main catalogue I use is Johnny’s Seeds. It has a very large selection of organic and non-organic seeds with descriptions and growing directions for each vegetable. It has the largest selection of various greens of any catalogue that I use. Anything that’s not a seed—leeks, onions, potatoes, etc.—is sent at the correct planting time.
I buy some Italian greens seeds from Seeds of Italy for those genuine Italian plants. I also buy seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, Select Seeds and Baker Creek Seeds. I like to support these companies and they have some hard-to-find seeds.
Each year I like to plant some unusual plants for which I find suppliers online. Both of these are new to me: Growers Exchange has basils and an unusual cilantro, and Accents for Home and Garden has Jamaican mint, which I have not heard of but am eager to try. I need a lot of heirloom tomatoes and a lot of varieties so I buy them online as plants. I think I need a greenhouse!
Before I order, I make a list of the vegetables I need and then go to the catalogues to keep myself from ordering things I really don’t need (which I can then rationalize by telling myself that I NEED to try this newly found item). I must admit that when I look for those unusual things that my clients have requested, like Jamaican mint, I always find a few things in which I indulge myself. I do need to learn, right?
All the catalogues I’ve mentioned are online and in print—my choice for most orders. But our local garden centers have a good selection of seeds and will soon have starters for onions, potatoes, even rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries. You could buy your garden basics there and treat yourself to something unusual from the internet.
It’s a good idea to plan your vegetable garden now. I would suggest the same considerations I give my clients: What does your family like and what is available locally? Your garden can serve as a supplier of hard-to find or more expensive varieties that you like. When you peruse the catalogues or online sites, you will probably find things you would like to try and this will be easier if you have made the list of basics first.
Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067. jeanellemyersfinegardening.com