It’s Spring, and that time again when all thoughts bend towards the outdoors and the garden, and especially for some of us, the vegetable garden. Dreams of ripe, red tomato’s and multi-colored carrots revolve like sugar plums in our winter weary minds. We have poured over seed catalogs and imagined our seedlings breaking through the fertile soil with the same love and enthusiasm that a parent has for a newborn. It’s a new life after all, and one that will bring sustenance and give us a lesson in nurturing.
Some of you are lucky enough to have the space for a few raised veggie beds on your property, and those of us who live in apartments or condo’s can rent a bed your local community garden. Here in Santa Barbara, and many other communities, the cost per year is very little. I have a 10′ x 20′ plot that is only $60.00 per year water included. A real deal! What ever you have, now is the time to get them planted if you haven’t begun already.
There is a certain amount of confusion with less experienced gardeners about what to plant and when. I would like to help clarify this so that all of your efforts don’t go to waste. There is nothing more disappointing than spending hours preparing your veggie bed and then planting a tomato plant too early only to see it languish and die before it can produce. So let’s do it right!
Basically food plants are divided into warm weather and cool weather crops. Here in southern California we start early as there is little fear of frost. Since this is where I garden, the following list of crops to plant in either cool or warm seasons is geared to southern California.
COOL SEASON CROPS (late fall/early spring)
Leafy Greens: Arugula, Kale, Mustard, Escarole, Spinach, Collards. Lettuce: Tom Thumb, Black Seeded Simpson, Butter crunch, Romaine.
Carrots: Nantes, Pamex or Planet (round shape), Carumba, Little Finger.
Broccoli: Raab, Romanesco.
Cabbage: Ruby Perfection, Polar Green, Savoy, Napa.
Garlic & Onions: All types.
Peas: Sugar Snap, Snow pea, (trellis types), Wando-shelling pea, Little Sweetie (bush type), Daddy (bush type/stringless.
Beets: Golden, Red, Chiogga.
Potatoes: All types
Radish: French Breakfast, Daikon
WARM SEASON CROPS (late spring/early summer)
Tomatos: Heirloom: Brandywine, Costoluto Genovese, Marvel Stripe, Amish paste, red & yellow current, red & yellow plum. Hybrids: Early Girl, Better Boy, Beefsteak, Husky Cherry.
Beans: Blue Lake, French Harricot Vert, Shelling beans.
Squash: Butternut, Acorn, Pattypan, Pumpkin.
Eggplant: Imperial Black Beauty, Casper (white), Vernal, Thai green.
Zuccini: Yellow & Green varieties
Melons: Charmel Charentais (sweet French cantaloupe), Garden Baby & Yellow Doll (dwarf watermelons).
Artichoke: Purple Globe and many other varieties.
Peppers: Sweet- Red, Yellow, Orange, and Green Bell Peppers, Hot- Serrano, Poblano, Jalapeno, etc.
This is just a partial list of what is available out there, but it will get you started. Don’t plant too many Zuccini plants though! One plant can produce enough for you and your neighbors. To use some of your garden bounty see our recipe for our Cast Iron Ratatouille in The Gourmet Girls Go Camping Cookbook, available here www.gourmetgirlsonfire.com.
Oh and don’t forget! Your veggie garden can be beautiful too. Plant flowers between your food plants, especially these companion plants that will ward off pests. Plant Basil with your tomatoes, Chamomile with strawberries, and chervil with lettuce.
Happy Gardening and Bon Appetit!