Veggie Garden Tip #2

My friend and neighbor, Julie, has one of the best vegetable gardens I've seen. She says most of the veggies her family eats ALL YEAR come from her garden. That's impressive.

A few years ago she shared with me a garden tip that has become one of my favorites. When her children were young, in order to keep them enthusiastic about helping with the garden, she allowed them to pick out something new to try growing each year. It might be a totally new vegetable or simply a new variety of an old favorite. She said her kids loved looking through seed racks to choose their new "adventure" plant, and anticipating the harvest kept them happy about helping in the garden all summer.

I have found this trick also works for grown-up children like me. Ever since Julie told me about this, I have been choosing an "adventure" plant each year to grow in my own garden. There have been some failures--chard grew just fine, but I didn't like eating it--but there have been some great discoveries as well. Here are a few of my successes.

Kohlrabi
     If you like root veggies, you need to try kohlrabi. It's similar to turnips, but milder in flavor. The ball, which is the part you peel and eat, grows above ground, which makes it look really interesting growing in the garden. The ball is actually the plant's stem--notice how the leaves come right off it.
     My husband and I like the flavor of kohlrabi. My kids, not so much. Last year as we were planning a family trip to our cabin, I was discussing what snacks we wanted to take along. I told my son we could take all the kohlrabi we wanted. He assured me one would be more than enough. So kohlrabi isn't for everyone, but try it. You might like it.

Cabbage
     I know, cabbage isn't that unusual, but until a few years ago I had never grown it in my garden. All it took was one time doing so, and I was hooked. Even if I didn't like eating cabbage, which I do, I would still grow it just because it looks so darn cute growing in the garden. Like a giant flower with a round cabbage head as its center. I can't look at them without thinking about Peter Rabbit and Farmer McGregor.
     The first time I grew cabbage I purchased starts from the nursery. Since then I have grown it from seed. It has worked both ways. And being a cruciferous vegetable (as is kohlrabi) it can be planted very early. In fact both my kohlrabi and cabbage are already coming up in my garden.


Cantaloupe
     Cantaloupe is another "not so unusual" plant I've tried. The adventure isn't that I'm growing it, but that I am growing it in southeast Idaho. Cantaloupe requires a fairly long growing season, which we don't have. I've tried varieties with the shortest growing season requirements and ones that have longer one. I've purchased starts and tried it from seed. I've sheltered the plants and babied them along. The results? Some years I get cantaloupes and some I don't. But vine ripened cantaloupes from your own garden are so delicious and satisfying that I keep planting them year after year.
     On a similar note, I have also tried growing watermelon. And while I do believe that eating a vine ripened watermelon from your own garden would be satisfying, I can't say that for sure because I have never actually been able to do so. Watermelons are one of my "adventure" failures.

Mini Peppers
     I haven't had a lot of luck growing regular peppers. My plants never get very big, and I usually only get a few peppers. I'm not sure what the problem is--it might be that my garden is right on the edge of an open field, so things tend to get beaten by the wind. Whatever, the problem I have had better luck growing mini pepper varieties. Smaller plants don't seem to be such a big deal when you are intending to get smaller peppers. I love that they come in a variety of colors--that's just fun.
     I haven't tried growing mini peppers from seed, just starts I purchase from the nursery. I figure with the bad luck I've had with peppers in general, I need to give them all the advantages I can.

This year my "adventure" plant is a carrot variety called purple haze, which, as its name implies, is purple. I am already looking forward to eating a carrot salad made from orange AND purple carrots. It will look so cool! That is if this "adventure" is a success. If not, no big loss--just a couple of dollars for seed and the small space I gave it in my garden. But if it is a success, I will post pictures of my salad.

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