A few weeks ago a gardening buddy of mine who solely grows flowers stated that growing vegetables is boring. Oh, I disagree wholeheartedly! The variety, even the flowers and beautiful crops, and especially the promise of great eats to come make growing veggies one of my favorite things.
It’s hard to believe this is already my 5th year growing vegetables at Coppertop. Each year I’ve rotated crops in raised beds and the small fields. Each year has had its setbacks from voles to rotting potatoes. Each year has had many successes from bountiful broccoli to my first ever pumpkins. I would like to think I’m getting wiser each year with selecting and growing, but mistakes remain a big part of learning. The timed drip system installed last year keeps all hydrated and happy. Our Pacific Northwest summers are dry, and our first frost date is mid-November.
This year I’m growing tons of flavor. I decided to dedicate four beds to flavor and have two types of garlic (Duganski and German Red) , three long-day onion varieties (Walla Walla, Copra, and Red Zeppelin) and a whole bed of Giant Musselburgh leeks which I intend to keep as a permanent, perennial leek bed. So far the only issue I’ve had is rotting of some onion seedlings when I planted too early and the soil was way too cold and wet. It’s a mistake I’m embarrassed to admit I make repeatedly in my overenthusiasm.
Now in early June, the asparagus, spinach, lettuce, and young watermelon radish beds are the only ones I’ve harvested from.
Oh, and of course I’ve eaten a few crunchy pea pods while standing by the pea trellis. I’m relieved the peas are a success this year after having a couple of bummer years with peas. Varieties this year are Tall Telephone and Alaska. Also trellised, the beans are slow to take off in our very cool spring. Varieties are Scarlet Runner and Purple Podded Pole.
Since we eat an amazing amount of broccoli during the year from the freezer, I have almost two full beds of it this year. Some years the broccoli has been superb; others, it’s been a flop crop with underdeveloped heads. There’s nothing wrong with broccolini or sprouting broccoli, but it’s disappointing when unexpected! I’m now pretty dedicated to two varieties which produce well here for me: Waltham 29 and Packman.
Another crop we eat throughout the year is kale, which I freeze in various portion sizes to add to soups and stews. One field this year is all Red Russian and Blue Curled Scotch kale seedlings, with a side of Baby Boo pumpkins soon to be planted. The other small field contains cucurbit hills this year, from cucumbers to zucchini, with lots of other squashes included. I’ve yet to grow winter squash.
I’ve learned to protect very young cabbages with pieces of stocking/nylons/hosiery which expand as the cabbages expand. Cabbages become salads, slaw, and sauerkraut, carrots get stored in sand in the basement, and beets get eaten or pickled. I’ve also learned to leave space in beds or even entire empty beds for later sowings and transplants. Those spots will probably hold cauliflower and more lettuce before long. I’m skipping Brussels sprouts this year because they’re such a magnet for cabbage worms.
Today’s project is the re-weeding of an 8×3′ very weedy corner patch of the veggie garden, then covering with black landscape fabric. I’ll cut holes in the fabric and plant corn seedlings. The variety I started from seed is Yukon Chief. We’ll see if the black provides enough heat for this iffy crop in out northern climate. Last year’s corn was short and inedible to us, but the chickens loved it!