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.
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.
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.
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