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Grow Something New

Dreaming of this year's delivery

We are only halfway through January so I think we are still in new resolution season.  Now that I am a garden blogger, as well as a garden columnist, I read other garden blogs. One of my favorite bloggers, Carol at  May Dreams Gardens in Indiana has challenged gardeners to grow something new this year. Actually, Carol challenges us all to grow something new every year.

It is fun to try something new, even if we never plant it again. I planted stevia in the herb garden a couple of years ago. Stevia has amazingly sweet leaves, 30 times as sweet as sugar. At the same time it does not raise blood sugar levels and has almost no calories. You can buy stevia powder or liquid and use it as a sweetener, or a medicinal mouthwash to retard plaque, but I never figured out how to use my stevia leaves in any practical way. I never grew it again, even though I did have a lot of fun getting people to chew a leaf and being really surprised.

I’m not sure whether Carol means I should grow something I have never grown, or something I haven’t grown for a long time, or at least not last year. Gardeners let some plants fall by the wayside for a host of reasons, sometimes because not enough people in the family like a particular vegetable that was tried, sometimes because it took up too much room for too little payoff in a small garden, sometimes because that plant has failed more than once before. I know some people don’t give up on a plant until they have killed it three times as a general principal. If I fail three times, I am not ever likely to give it another try.

I’ve decided I can choose a plant I have grown in the past, but not last year.  For instance, last year I didn’t plant cucumbers. I like cucumbers so I don’t know why I don’t plant them more often. They are perfect as a new choice, especially since another resolution I have made is to grow UP. Daniel Botkin at Laughing Dog Farm has inspired me with all the trellises in his garden.

Having chosen cucumbers the question is which one. Renee’s Garden offers some relatively familiar varieties like Endeavor pickling cucumbers. Renee also has another small cuke, a baby Persian variety named Green Fingers, as well a small bush cucumber named Bush Slicer that has regular cukes six to eight inches long.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds has Diamant cukes that can be used for slicing or pickling, the standard Marketmore, Tasty Jade  a burpless long Japanese cuke that likes to be trellised and Striped Armenian cukes.  Armenian cukes seem to be one of the fashionable cukes these days. Johnny’s has 22 cucumber varieties.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds offer 34 varieties of old cucumber varieties, many from other countries. Beit Alpha is a small burpless variety from the Mediterranean, De Bourbonne, a tiny pickling cuke, is from France, Telegraph Improved is an English heirloom that produces 18 inch long fruits, and Uzbekski from Uzbekistan has fat fruits that are good keepers. Who could have imagined a cucumber being billed as a good keeper?  I guess I still have time to choose my cucumber.

Castor bean

When I was wandering the aisles of the Greenfield Farmer’s Cooperative on High Street before Christmas, I admired the Botanical Interests seed display. The packages are so pretty, and there was a packet of castor bean seeds, Ricinus communis.  I had never seen castor bean plants before last year and I found them stunning.  Lilian Jackman of Wilder Hill had a couple of imposing plants that took my breath away.

During a garden tour I also saw a handsome pot filled with a castor bean plant, hung about with signs saying, “Poison. Do Not Touch.” The poisonous beans are definitely not for eating, but the “do not touch” part of the sign had to do with the owners not wanting the plant to be damaged. Castor beans are not poisonous to the touch. This amazing plant grows to a majestic size in one season. The large palmate leaves are dark green with a reddish tinge; the fuzzy bean pods are red. This needs to be started indoors to get its full growth.

Knockout double red on 10-1-09

Of course, I grow  roses, and add a couple every year. This year I learned about the EarthKind designation for roses. This is not a new variety name, but a stamp of hardiness by Texas A&M University. They have been testing roses for a number of years to find those that thrive without resorting to chemical fertilizers, and poison sprays to handle insects and disease.

The Fairy on 11-2-09

Although I did not know it, I already have EarthKind roses: The Fairy, Knockout, Carefree Beauty and New Dawn. They are carefree!  This year I will add Belinda’s Dream, which I first saw in Texas and which my daughter says loves her garden near Houston. However, Belinda’s Dream is hardy in Zone 5, which is to say it will tolerate temperatures of minus 20 degrees. This is less iffy on my Heath hill than it used to be.

What new plant will you grow?

Between the Rows   January 16, 2010

6 comments to Grow Something New

  • JP

    you know – I never figured out the stevia either! seemed so important to have it at the time… I grow many new things every year, and it seems to me that each year we are inundated with more of a selection. This is interesting since I keep reading about how lost seed varieties total in the hundreds of thousands. While that is a horrible notion to conceive of, somehow I feel overwhelmed (as a gardener, not a conservationist) by the 5,000 or so that are left.

  • Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the varieties of vegetables available and wind up buying the same variety every year. I’m definitely going to buy the same type of green bean seeds since they did so well in my garden last year. I did order a new kind of squash this year called “Kabocha.” It’s a small winter squash that looks like a pumpkin; I thought it looked interesting, so we’ll see how it turns out. I tend to experiment more with different flowers each year. I’m always enticed by all the new varieties–the problem is finding a place to put them!

    Thanks for the info on EarthKind roses; I’ve never heard of this term before, but I’m hoping to plant some Carefree Beauties this year—again, provided I make some room for them:)

  • Lisa at Greenbow

    I am going to get some salad greens in the garden. I am also going to grow some Iron Weed. It is so exciting just thinking about such activity.

  • Pat

    JP – Like you I am overwhelmed by all the seed varieties – and tend to stick to many favorites.
    Rose – It is definitely a problem figuring out where to put all these new plants – especially when I’m supposed to be cutting back.
    Lisa – I need to find out about Iron Weed myself.

  • Jen

    Good luck with the new projects! I ordered stevia seeds this year, and also the japanese long cukes. I tried the bush cukes in the past, but they didn’t yield well for me. I’ve also decided I’m done with beans. I never liked them much, even though they’re fun to grow. Last year I chose a theme to help narrow it down.

    Love that castor bean! Does it need full sun? I saw them behind a gas station once and thought it such a waste. I really hope someone besides me saw them!

  • Pat

    Jen – The obvious question is – what theme? This is an intriguing idea. I love beans, and I’m really excited about the castor bean. Yes, it prefers a lot of sun.

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