Preparing for the 2013 Summer Garden

For the last few weeks our dining room has been a bit of a mess. It has large south-facing windows, so this time of year it becomes a surrogate greenhouse of sorts. Seeds of our favorite garden annuals from previous years are started in these little Jiffy greenhouses.

Slide29The first plants we start are the slower growing peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. Then we will move on to the squash and melons.

Last year we really overdid it with the garden. We planted 30 types of tomatoes and a boatload of eggplant, squash, peppers and melons. A lot of what we grew was just not that great, including heirloom tomatoes susceptible to disease and with poor taste, bitter eggplants, peppers with thin walls…So I made a list of my favorites at the end of the year, and I am doing my best to stick with those this year and keep things smaller.

These are the tomatoes that “made the cut” for replanting again this year :

For the best flavor and reasonable amount of disease resistance for an heirloom I chose:

Slide90For the earliest, most productive and most disease resistant tomato I chose:

Slide87

For the most flavorful, disease resistant and easy to grow hybrid tomato I liked:

Slide85However, I found out you can only buy plants of the Bonnie Original Hybrid tomato. So I planted seeds of a variety called Bonnie’s Best and we will see how that works out.

I like some color in my tomato salads so I like to plant a yellow/orange variety. Last year I had good luck with:

Slide88 I also planted Green Zebra, which has been very productive and can be used successfully as an alternative to tomatillos in green salsa.

Slide89I like to grow a few cherry tomatoes, as they are by far the most productive of any tomato variety. They also can be incredibly sweet, sweeter than any large tomatoes.  My favorites are:

Slide86

I have had a lot of problems with blossom end rot on my paste type tomatoes. Any tips on good varieties for this area are appreciated.

Last year I planted a lot of sweet peppers and only a few made the grade to be planted again this year. These were by far the winners:

Slide91Sweet lipstick is a very productive pepper with thick walls, and when roasted they are very easy to peel. I roasted, peeled and packed zip-lock bags full of them in the freezer. They are great added to pasta dishes, or pureed as a simple sauce to perk up my cooking in the winter.

I also planted this pepper, which is great eaten raw or roasted. They are very large, and have thick, sweet crispy flesh.

Slide92I planted the standard jalapenos, as well as a moderately hot chile called Ancho Gigante, which can be used fresh and green for stuffing or can be harvested when red and used in chile sauce. I use frozen chile sauce all year-long for tacos and posole soup.

We face a lot of challenges growing eggplant in our area. It seems to get bitter and seedy. Since I do not eat a lot of eggplant anyway, I have decided to only grow one type this year. I have had excellent success with:

Slide96The only other seed I have started so far this year is my favorite summer herb:

Slide93

In our garden cucumbers tend to get very bitter. I have been quite disappointed by some of the cucumber varieties we have grown over the years. Cucumbers are also one of those vegetables that you can easily over-plant. What do you do with 50 pounds of cucumbers all at one time? Adrian likes pickle relish but how much can a person eat in a year? I am planning to stick with only two varieties, which I will plant in a month or two when the soil is a bit warmer:

Slide95

Slide94

We have not planted our squash yet, but I do not like watery, seedy summer squash. I also do not want to be picking a 5 pound squash to chuck into the compost bin every few days. Therefore, I am planning to plant the one variety of summer squash I plant every year:

Slide98Romanesco has firm, creamy flesh with minimal seeds.

I have not decided on what type of melons to grow but I will be planting them along with winter squash in a month or two. Every year we grow the old favorite winter squash:

Slide100This year I am also looking forward to growing “Sweet Meat” which is a delicious large, thick-walled, meaty winter squash our friends grew successfully this year. It was so flavorful that we loved it just simply baked, and it was excellent added to soups and curry.

We have poor luck with beans, both fresh green beans and dried beans. I may simply pass on even trying to grow those this year. However, our hot climate seems to be great for growing cowpeas (also known as black-eyed peas) so we may give those another shot this year.

Slide97I was not aware until this year that there are so many different types of cowpeas available. I found a great selection at Baker Creek Seeds which is where I purchased most of my seed. I also got a few from Seed Saver’s Exchange.

I hope you will give a few of these favorites a try. If you are planning a summer garden, now is the time to get those seeds started. Do you have any favorites that you plant every year?

© 2013. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

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