Wondering what to grow? The year is new and it’s seed catalog season. Time to sharpen your pencil and dream big.
The seeds you plant speak to cultivated living and a life of growing the things you love. It’s more than a garden, it’s life handcrafted — healthy living, community and family — fulfillment that comes with challenges and, better yet, a little dirt under your nails. And the plants you choose are your story makers, leading you on what will hopefully be a well fed journey full of fresh discoveries and time shared. All the good stuff.
So, weather you’re new to gardening or feeling daunted by that pile of catalogs, the question of what to plant is looming and now is the time to get to it.
First Things First
Right plant in the right place is an adage to live by. Climate, sun, soil, space and water all being key factors when considering what to plant. Getting to know your USDA Hardiness Zone is a good place to start. Sun patterns, soil quality and access to water are another. It’s difficult to change the amount of sun your planting area receives but soil and water can usually be negotiated or improved.
If you’re planting for the first time try to narrow your list down to five or fewer plants. Start small and grow from there. (See 10 Tips for Starting a Garden for more ideas.)
My list has some tried and true stand-by’s along with a few new faces. I like to mix things up from one year to the next, trying new varieties and combinations. Here’s my short-list:
What to Grow in 2015
Greens, greens and more greens. Green’s in general are one of the most versatile veggies to grow in any space. Plant them in nearly anything that will hold soil and provide drainage such as a recycled wood box, galvanized tub or raised bed and grow them in sun to part shade.
Most of us don’t have room to grow all the greens for our daily needs so take an epicurean approach. Choose varieties difficult to locate at your market that will make your everyday salad amazing. Gourmet mixes containing oak leaf lettuces, Rouge d’Hiver and mustards for instance. Varieties that spice up your go-to meals. Try:
- Baby Greens: kale, chard and chef mixes. All fabulous. In part because you can scatter sow them, no need for neat little rows and, as they grow, cut them and they’ll come again.
- Little Gem Lettuces: one of my favorites, truly a sweet treasure.
- Arugula: it will make you feel like a rock star gardener, it’s so easy to grow, with the benefit of grazing right outside your door.
If you have room for only 1 crop I say choose between greens or herbs or a mix of both. Either will immediately heighten your culinary efforts. Grow the herbs you use the most.
Perennial fruits and veggies are next, especially if you can afford the space. They require little maintenance, periodic fertilizing and weeding in exchange for huge returns. Consider these:
- Tree Collards
There is a variety of blueberry for nearly every climate. They thrive in containers and require little attention except protection from roving birds. If you’re to grow any of the berries, blueberries are some of the most carefree and nutritious. Considered a “super food”, they’re loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C and other micro nutrients. Reducing risk for cardiovascular disease, heart disease and cancer.
Then there’s purple tree collards (Brassica oleracea var.), they’re not common but worth investigating. I happened upon them accidentally when we made the move from zone 6b to zone 10b (cold to warm). Tree collards thrive in Mediterranean climates, zones 8 – 10. They’re wonderfully hardy and have a tall and sprawling habit when left to their own devices. However you can train them and fix them to stakes or fences if you prefer a tidy garden. Plant them in sun and enjoy healthy greens year round. They’re high in Vitamin K, C, A, B complexes and minerals like calcium and iron. Plus they’re an excellent companion to backyard chickens. You’ll always have a fresh treat for them close at hand. *Note: tree collards are grown from cuttings. Check back in a couple weeks for propagation tips.
If you’re gardening with kids or simply looking to strike down a new path put strawberry popcorn on the list. It’s absolutely beautiful and popped strawberry corn is definitely one of the top 10 cool garden-to-table experiences. Sow it in late spring to early summer and interplant it with bush beans. Gather up the beans through the season leaving the corn to dry into fall. It makes for a stunning, fall garden presentation — for the eyes and ears (I love the sound of the leaves crackling against one another as the wind moves through them). And finally harvest the whole thing, the kernels for popping and the stalks for decorating or composting.
Strawberry popcorn is more compact than sweet corn, needing less space, and worth trying even for a season. It’s too much fun to miss.
Last but not least, try growing lemon cucumbers. They can be challenging to sow from seed but a few plants produce a load of cucumbers. Grow them vertically to save space. Pick them when they’re just turning yellowy-gold. Eat them plain, sliced or quartered. Toss them in olive oil and vinegar with a crack of salt and pepper for a quick salad. And then write to me and let me know what you think. This was my grandfather’s favorite crop and because of that it’s always been one of mine. Fingers crossed it becomes one of yours too.
More From My Short List
- Snap Peas
- Pole beans
- Hot peppers
- Nantes carrots
- Moon & Stars Melons
- Brassica everything
- Roma Tomatoes
- Potatoes, fingerlings and golds
- Lemon Verbena
Grow What You Love.