There is a great trend with Heirloom vegetables that we
totally embrace here at Vintage Hill. Kind of like chickens, the old
home grown kind are the best in flavor. Not unlike chickens that have
been bred to become a boneless breast in a frozen package, many modern
vegetables have been bred for a trait or group of traits- usually
disease resistance or keeping qualities. Depending on who had the idea,
and what they were trying to accomplish, taste may or may not have been
the priority in breeding. The surge in popularity of heirloom tomatoes
for instance is mostly
about taste and of course variety.
It’s important to remember the
reason the hybrids became popular was disease resistance. In my own
trial garden of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes last year it was pretty
obvious that those with the
best flavor were not necessarily the best producers and since it was a
wet summer here in MO, those tomatoes with disease resistance bred in
were the best producers,
not necessarily the heirlooms. My favorite tomato of last season though
was without a doubt, Pineapple. It's an heirloom, yellow with a tinge
of red in the center and sweet with a firm
flesh. It produced well all summer and the taste was the best! Black
Krim was a close second. Funny story about that. One of my customers
shared with me how they took a plate of Black Krim to a carry-in supper.
No one would touch it. Black Krim is a dark red; almost purple in
color, but on a plate by itself looks like they may have been left over
for a week or so! Lesson
of the story, mix them with a yellow tomato on a plate!
f you want to collect your own seeds, which is how
heirlooms have been preserved for years, remember that a hybrid
sometimes does not come "true" from seed, it often reverts to either of
its parents or some distant relative. If you have a relatively remote
location, your heirlooms can remain true, however pollen from adjacent
plants can give you a little surprise in next years crop.
I’ve spent the better part of a
week pouring over seed catalogs and websites! What fun. I now
understand the obsession many gardeners have with these annual
publications. I want to grow everything in them, with the exception of
Brussels Sprouts, Rhubarb and Kale. I have no need for those anywhere
near me at any time.
I live in the west where the
mountain/desert area has a relatively short growing season. I’ve grown
myself a seed now and again, but never on a grand scale and frankly I’m
not certain, with a cat and two Jack Russell’s, that an abundance of
dirt inside the house is a good idea. Besides the fact I don’t have lots
of room for grow lights. I may try one or two seeding kits in a
windowsill and see what happens, but my
research and good sense tells me
that with a growing season
that is relatively short I’d better buy some already established plants.
I did discover that it’s best
to select as many plants from a local nursery rather than order
varieties that may not be suitable to your particular growing
zone. Local nurseries stock those plants that are tried and true for
your area. If you do decide
to order from a nursery be certain you speak to an expert before you
order plants that won’t thrive and will disappoint.
There was very little
information via the web that pertained to articles about plants vs.
seeds. I was surprised, although I Googled in the best way I knew how,
that most of the information was about growing marijuana seeds. I found
that rather amusing. We will need to have our garden Jeff Oberhaus weigh in with his opinion plants vs. seed in a region
with limited time to grow.
Speaking of Jeff, who is buried
under snow with truckloads of plants being delivered to his nursery, Vintage Hill Farm,
here is what he had to say this week:
“So here are three books that I
think all plant people would appreciate. None of these is really about
growing veggies but could be easily adapted to include edibles. They are about stuff that feeds
the soul through the eyes.”
Hot Plants for Cool Climates
by Dennis Shrader
Time Tested Plants by Pamela Harper
The Complete Container Garden by David Joyce Readers Digest publisher
ok a fourth
Research has me convinced that
raised beds are the smart way for me to plan The Author’s Garden. Of the
many articles I’ve read the pros outweigh the cons significantly.
Raised beds have many
advantages. First they greatly reduce soil compaction. Plant roots need
air and with a raised bed you do all your gardening from the path
between beds eliminating tromping down the soil as you weed, etc.
Plants can be spaced more closely together in a raised be because you don’t need places
to step. This increases the productivity per square foot. It also
reduces weeding. The risk you run is to crowd your plants. Raised beds tend to grow much larger
plants so overcome the urge to really pack them in.
Drainage is easier in a bed
built above the ground. The contrary to this is if you live in a very
dry climate you may have to water more frequently.
Soil conditions can be controlled with great efficiency in a raised bed and can vary
from bed to bed. If the soil in your area of the country is less than
desirable it’s an easy problem to overcome when you control the sort of
dirt that goes into the bed. This holds true with mulch, compost or
fertilizer. You can use these products without much waste as they are
only being applied where directly needed.
Raised beds are closer to you
so there is less bending and gardening can be done on a garden seat or
wagon seat. This has great advantage to the elderly or those with
The growing season can be significantly lengthened with beds
that are above ground level because they warm up sooner than the ground
beneath them. You can also cover them effectively to prevent frost or
damage from hail and high winds.
It’s also easier to keep pests and weeds out of a raised
bed, so if you live in an area with lots of rabbits or voles or gophers
you may want to consider this option very carefully.
I’ve seen lots of raised
beds. Some are constructed of pressure treated lumber, rocks, landscape
blocks, logs, watering troughs, even kiddie plastic swimming pools. So I
guess I’d better decide which medium will achieve the look I’d like for
Finally, studies have shown
that raised beds produce up to 1.5 to 2 times more vegetables and
flowers per square foot over ordinary beds. You can have a smaller and
more manageable garden that produces more for your table. Since
my space is relatively small I find this appealing.
The disadvantages are few. As
mentioned above you may have to water with more frequency in a dry
climate. And raised beds take more money initially to establish as they
must be built as opposed to plowing up a piece of your yard and sticking
seeds in the ground.
So, after all is said and done,
not much has yet been done. But the decision has been made that raised
beds are the way to proceed. Now to plan the layout and design of the
landscape. Looks like I’d better start observing how many hours of sun
different areas of the property receive.