I like to change things up a bit and try new varieties in my garden. I figure I’ve got a solid 40 or more gardens left in me so I ought to broaden my horizons and try growing new varieties of plants each year. 2015 turned out to be a big year for new plants around our place with 9 new crops that I tried! Here’s a look at what was new this year and which new plants we will keep and which didn’t make the cut!
Tom Thumb Lettuce
Let’s start out with one of my favorite new plants,Heirloom Tom Thumb Butterhead Lettuce. It was advertised as a fast growing, salad sized lettuce perfect for a dinner salad.
This one really lived up to its advertising! The plant grows a nice mini head of butter crunch lettuce. The heads turn out to be about the size of a large grapefruit and are perfect for a salad for one or two people. This is a very quick growing lettuce, the heads were ready for harvest in about 30-35 days. The heads held up well in the heat of early summer and also did well in the fall. We liked the taste and texture of this lettuce as well.
The one thing I did find is this one doesn’t hold up well in the field. We lost a few heads from both plantings because once they reached mature size the quality quickly dropped off and the plants bolted or died off quickly. So in the future we will deal with this by planting few heads and staggering the planting times so they don’t all come to maturity at the same time.
Over all this is a great little head of lettuce that we will use often in the years to come, especially in the spring when we want a few quick heads of lettuce. Because these are so quick growing I’ve also thought they might do well on a window seal inside, I will keep you informed on how that works out!
Bush Pickle Cucumbers
These seeds also came from Territorial Seed. I got this one in hopes of having a pickling cucumber that didn’t take up as much space. We are fairly limited on trellis space for our cucumbers so I thought I’d try these guys. I wasn’t very impress with this one. The seeds germinated and we ended up with some fairly small bush like plants. But the plants seemed to struggle all summer, never looking very healthy and never producing much fruit. In fact the two hills I planted (with 3 final vines per hill) only produced a dozen cucumbers all summer. While the regular cucumbers only 18 inches away produced over 40 pounds.
In the photo above the 3 pale green cukes on the top left and the 1 on the bottom right are from these plants. I still have some seeds left so I may try putting these plants up front in a flower bed next year, just to see how they look and do up there, but I don’t think this one will ever find a space in the main garden again.
California Wonder 300 – Bell peppers
We have grown Yolo Bell peppers for years and always liked them. But sometimes they have a bit of a bitter taste to them when they are frozen. So we thought we would try a different variety this year. California Wonder 300 was the wrong choice!! These seed just never seemed to do well in our area. Even the seedlings grown indoors looked like they were struggling.
The plants never really seemed to get established and as a result we had very little production. Where 8 Yolo pepper plants usually give us around 20 pounds of peppers in a season the CA Wonder 300’s only produces 3 pounds for the whole year! So these won’t find a place in our garden EVER again!
I decided to try Umpqua because it is a open pollinated variety. I figured I should get a variety of broccoli into my rotation that I could save seeds from if I ever needed to!
My seed order didn’t arrived in time for me to grow Umpqua in the spring, but I did put in 6 plants this fall and I liked them. They grew decent sized heads for a fall crop and they were very quick to mature. They ended up being my earliest fall broccoli heads this year. And on top of being early maturing they were also quick to set side shoots. In fact this was the first year I have ever gotten a decent amount of side shoots from my broccoli before the cold weather killed the plants. So Umpqua will be a broccoli I continue to grow. I’m excited to see how they do next spring.
I received a half package of Arcadia Broccoli from a blogging friend of mine. She didn’t have great success in her climate with them, but we live in very different parts of the country so she though I might like to give them a try. I was looking for a broccoli that grew a nice big main head and Arcadia came through on that front! These were the largest heads I got this spring. On all 4 plants main heads weighed in at 1 pound, and one of them was nearly 1.5 pounds which is pretty good for my garden.
But Arcadia fell on it’s face when it came to side shoot production. These plants produced very few side shoots. Many other variteies of broccoli end up producing more side shoots than what you get from the main head. Not so with Arcadia. Each plant only gave me a few side shoots which cut the total production for the season below that of my other plants, despite the large main heads. So the lack of side shoot production will keep me from growing this one again.
Growing any kind of medicinal herb was new to us this year. We thought we would start out simple by growing an easy one. Chamomile turned out to be a good choice. We got this variety from our local seed company, Mountain Valley Seed. I started 8 plants indoors in the seed starter at the same time I started my summer veggies and planted them out in mid May.
All of the plants did well. Some better than others (the ones I planted in a flower bed close to the front side walk didn’t produce as well). This variety produces 100’s of dime sized flowers that were easy to harvest. We dried some for winter use and also used quite a few fresh to make a tasty warm drink, perfect for getting you all relaxed and ready for sleep! These guys fit well in any flower bed and I will continue to make them a part of our herb garden!
Soloist Hybrid Chinese Cabbage
This one ended up being a disappointment. I don’t know if the seeds were just not suited to our climate or what. We planted these in both the spring and fall and they never developed heads, just a bunch of out of control leaves. I may give them one more try this coming spring, but I think I’m going to look for some other type of Napa head cabbage.
Black Coco Bush Bean
I have always wanted to try a dry bean in our garden. I found this bush bean that was supposed to grow a nice black bean. I planted these at both the home garden and the borrowed garden.
From the 20 or so plants that I put in, we ended up with only this small amount of eatable beans. It was a pretty big disappointment. I think in 2016 I will try a pole bean instead!
Royal Burgundy Bush Bean
I’ve always wanted to try a different colored bean. This plant worked out pretty well in our garden. The plant itself really doesn’t take up a ton of space, but they were fairly productive despite their small size.
They produce this beautiful dark purple bean that was quite tasty to eat. Keep in mind that any dark colored bean like this doesn’t keep its color when cooked. Instead they turn a dark green when cooked (which the younger kids got a kick out of when they saw it happen). These plants weren’t nearly as productive as our normal green pole bean. But they added some nice variety to our harvest and they sure make a picture of beans much more beautiful! I have enough seeds left to plant for one or two more seasons, so I think I will use them up and then reevaluate when they are all gone. But over all I was pretty happy with this new comer.
Well that’s it for 2015. I picked up a few new varieties that will stick around and also had some failures, but that’s just part of gardening.
Next year I’m looking for a couple new tomatoes and maybe a new lettuce. Any suggestions??