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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

My Kitchen Garden 2022: What's New, What's Tried and True

Who here will be planting a vegetable garden this spring and summer? Can we talk vegetable gardening yet? I know many of you are still under snow and ice. (Sorry about that.) Maybe a little thinking toward warmer weather will be a good thing.

Earlier today (Wednesday), I started the first seeds of the season indoors in a flat under lights. Because I wasn't sure how easy it would be at planting/seed starting time to find and get the seeds, soil, and compost I needed, I ordered early. 

In October, I added several bags of potting soil for starting seeds to my curbside grocery order. I lucked out and they were sold out of the cheap brand and substituted Miracle Grow soil at a pittance per bag (I bought 6 bags of soil for $1.99 ea, reg. $5.99 ea). I needed potting soil for growing leafy greens indoors over winter, so I went ahead and bought what I would need in spring for seed-starting as well. In December, I placed an order online for the new seeds I would need for this year. And then this week, we had a truckload of compost delivered to our driveway.

That's a lot of compost. We were needing compost for a large part of our yard and having this delivered all in one go will save me the work of buying many bags in the spring, filling the trunk of the car multiple times.

We're expanding our garden again. This time, we're adding a new pumpkin patch with room for sunflowers, corn, and peppers, all heat-lovers. This new patch is in a circle inside our u-shaped driveway, a spot that really heats up and receives the most direct sun of any of our garden spots. (Our property is surrounded by large stands of massive evergreen trees.) Despite all of the sun, this has been a poor growing spot due to rocky soil that doesn't hold water in our dry summers. We'll leave several inches up to a foot of compost on a raised mound in this circle to provide a better growing medium. I've already begun moving buckets of this compost to our regular garden beds. In addition, our previous pumpkin patch will be used for other veggies, and the soil there will be improved with several wheelbarrows of compost. In addition to food-growing locations, we plan on using whatever compost is left in ornamental rocky soil areas and to top-dress our lawns.

Back to the vegetable garden. . . what's new is I'm trying celery, onions, and hot peppers for the first time. It's always a gamble the first year I try a new veggie. It usually takes a couple of years to get the location and timing just right. But I'm hoping for a little of each. I'm also doubling our potato bed space this year. I saved twice as many seed potatoes from last year's harvest to replant in March. My hope is we will have enough potatoes that I feel we can dig some new potatoes in summer without taking too much from our fall harvest. 

What's tried and true for my garden is Early Girl tomatoes. The last 2 years I had to use other tomato seeds and was somewhat disappointed in the tomatoes. Early Girl are the most reliable tomatoes for my garden. Other gardens with more sunlight or higher summer temperatures can grow a wide variety of tomato plants. I'm pretty much stuck with this one variety. The other tried and true veggie for us is kale. I grow an abundance of kale every single spring and summer, simply because it does so well in my garden. I have 2 kinds of kale, a Russian curly kale and an Italian type of kale, lacinato. Both grow well here and provide us with tender baby leafy greens for salads, and mature greens for cooking. The bonus with kale is it survives even cold winters here and returns with some tender new leaves beginning in late February, lasting until early April before bolting. My hanging salad baskets will return as well this spring. These were so successful in the first half of the season last year, then not as well when the summer heat really began. 

My complete list of veggies for this year include: kale, tomatoes, pumpkins, winter squash, hot and sweet peppers, sunflowers (for the seeds), sweet corn, pole and bush beans, lettuce, spinach, beets, turnips, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, carrots, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, and potatoes. If most of this grows well, we'll have variety both in summer and then for next fall and winter for our needs and some to share with others.

If you're growing a garden this next season, what do you want to plant? What would you like to grow but you don't have the right conditions (this would be eggplant for us)? What do you think you'll try for the first time this season? If you don't grow a vegetable garden, have you ever thought of buying into a CSA? What's been your experience with CSAs?


  1. "If you're growing a garden this next season, what do you want to plant? What would you like to grow but you don't have the right conditions (this would be eggplant for us)? What do you think you'll try for the first time this season? If you don't grow a vegetable garden, have you ever thought of buying into a CSA? What's been your experience with CSAs?"

    Going to start with the CSA part. Love the idea, but the only one that I'm aware of that was ever in our area was a mess. A waste of our money, and the growers usually ran late, didn't have what they promised, and so on. I know there is an element of risk due to weather, but these folks seemed to be the type who thought they could make some money off it without considering how to do it properly.

    As to the garden, what I want/plan to plant: already have more than half the 35 lbs of seed potatoes in. We planted 10 lbs last year and harvested 80. Hoping for similar results this year, growing 3.5 times as many. 10 lbs rainbow mix, 10 lbs Mondak Gold (an improved Yukon Gold) and 10 lbs Norkotah Russet. Started my cool weather stuff indoors back on January 2 under the lights: cabbages, beets, nasturtiums, etc..., and tomatoes and tomatillos a couple weeks ago. Will get peppers going before too long, but we don't put those out even with our warm climate till at least May/June. Later, will plant various squashes (summer and winter), cucumbers, basil, etc... . Oh, and will start sweet potato slips in a few weeks as well. Onions starts about to be planted out, too. And I've learned here to plant my beans in late July/early August and grow them into fall for a much better crop than in the spring. Brassicas do better in fall as well, though I can get a few cabbages in early spring.

    We've been hauling loads of compost in my husband's truck, which holds 2 cubic yards. So far, we've done I believe 4 loads, though I may have lost count. Still need at least one more to finish the project. We expanded and redesigned the area outside our back door both to increase the planting area and improve the soil. I primarily plan to put herbs, flowers, and fruit in that area. There is already an apple tree which finally produced last year, a fig bush, and 3 raspberry bushes we put in this past fall. Adding a Green stalk tower to our patio to put in 42 more strawberry plants.

    As for what I'd like to grow but don't have the right conditions: cranberries, for one. I've heard the high bush ones for warmer climates aren't very good in taste. Haven't had much success with raspberries in the past but we planted again this past fall, into compost, so we'll see. Also nuts, which CAN grow here, but we just don't have the space for those large trees.

    The Russet potatoes are a first for us. Because it usually warms up quickly, we usually have stuck with shorter season types. So we'll see how that goes. Greek oregano, too. I've had great success with oregano in the past, but the previous variety didn't have much flavor.

    Love reading your garden plans! So interesting to see what others are doing to expand and grow more.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Your garden plans sound amazing! That will be a huge potato haul if everything grows as well as last year. Do you have a basement or cellar for storing potatoes? I'm hoping for 30-40 pounds of potatoes this season. We don't have a basement, so I just store them in the coolest room of the house. The last of them began to sprout in late January.

      Do you have any wildlife pests that you have to keep out of your garden? We're dealing with rabbits, squirrels and raccoons. We've talked about adding hazelnut trees, but I have a feeling even more squirrels would move into our part of the neighborhood.

      I'm so glad you can use your husband's truck to haul compost. I know it would have been cheaper if we didn't have to pay a delivery fee. But we're stuck with what we have -- a small sedan with a very small trunk. I think we got 10 yards of compost, which should be enough for all of our garden and landscape needs this year.

      Good luck to you as you continue to plant this season's garden!

    2. If we could get 10 yards of quality compost delivered at once, we would have gone that route, to be honest. I'm glad y'all have that option, especially without a good way to haul it. But I have not found anything of the quality we want in our town, so we're driving to OKC, about 90 miles one way, for each load of compost. Not the most economical, but we want this area to produce well from the get-go, rather than waiting years for the soil in this new area to improve as we have with so many previous beds. I have quite a bit of compost in the making, which should hopefully be what we use to amend in late summer and early fall (4 approx. 3' x 3' bins, initially), but it's not enough to also use for the expansion project.

      As for pests, our main ones are squirrels, who do help themselves to quite a bit of fruit, in particular. We also have possums, raccoons, and rabbits in our neighborhood, but it's been years since I've seen any of them in our back yard, which I believe is due to the fact that we let our dogs out several times a day.

      No cellar or basement--basements are rare here and I've been told it's because of the water tables. With last year's potatoes, we put them in wire baskets in the spare room closet. A rolled towel along the bottom of the door to keep light out. But, we only had 80 lbs harvested, in early June, so those were gone by fall. If this crop succeeds on that scale, I'm hoping to have enough to last through winter, so we'll see how well that method works. We do keep our house fairly cool, even in summer (low to mid-70's), but not at potato-favored temperatures.

      Would you believe I'm actually an introvert? I get wordy and nerdy when folks start talking gardens (or hiking)! One of my weird passions of recent years is seeing how much I can grow in our relatively small yard, and I love hearing about how others are as well.

    3. Hi Cat,
      I'll be interested to hear how your potato storage goes next winter. I would have thought you'd have a basement, with tornados and all, not thinking water tables would be an issue in your area. That's just how much I know.

      I would guess that your dogs help keep the small creatures to a minimum. That's fortunate for you.

      We compost everything, but still it's never enough for what we need in the garden. We just have 2 compost bins. One lifts off the pile pretty easily (has no bottom), so we can move the bin when the interior is filled and allow the heap to compost and compress over time while starting a new stack of compost. The other composter is a tumbler. This one has been a mixed bag. It does keep critters out of the compost, but it stays rather soggy and doesn't fully compost. We use this one for kitchen scraps, as they attract more critters than the yard waste bin (the bottomless one).

      Good luck with your garden this season. I hope you have a magnificent harvest!

  2. You and Cat are inspiring with all of your garden plans. I haven't done much here except think about planting a few seeds. However, we're in the middle of construction and don't have much room and I'm not sure how good the dust would be for everything. I may do some cold starts outside. The one plan I do have is to cover the cruciferous veggies this year to cut back on the cabbage worms. They devoured all of our plants last year.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I wanted to thank you for mentioning the cabbage worms. I remembered you saying something last summer about that problem, so I put it in the back of my mind to use insect cloth over the cabbage this year. I've got enough for the cabbage plants and the Brussel sprouts. The kale is easy enough to wipe the worms off, and so are the turnip leaves. I don't ever grow broccoli because of the worm issue. But thank you for mentioning this again, as I will for sure use that cloth over the cabbage.

      You can only do as much as you can. So I'd think having construction work going on inside the house would make it difficult to start seeds indoors on a large scale. Maybe this will be the year you buy your garden plants. I've still figured that with something like lettuce, it's still cost-effective to buy lettuce plants for the garden than it is to buy lettuce heads from the grocery store. And tomato plants give so many fresh tomatoes, that that one plant is definitely cost-effective compared to buying fresh tomatoes.

      Good luck with both the garden plans as well as the construction work indoors!

  3. It looks like dad may not have a garden this year (his words). Mom and dad both have had lots of issues in the last several months with mom most recently hospitalized with cardiorenal failure. She was sent home as they can do nothing for her. Hospice has been arranged but mom is so spicy that she wants to "get back to doing things herself". That means no wheelchair only a walker, no oxygen because "it gets in my way", and not so many people around "leave me alone so I can take a nap". I feel like the hospital staff jumped the gun a bit on hospice care or else I have no idea how bad this is. The reason for hospice was that she wouldn't wake up Sunday morning and they called us to come in. We tried for 2 hours to wake her up and finally she did and after taking her time waking up she was alert and listening to the arrangements being made inputting what she didn't want. No hospital bed because then "I can't watch tv and look outside. I want my recliner and my electric blanket". She made an amazing awakening and was very much in control of wanting to go home and how it was going to be done.

    1. Wow, Alice, you have a lot going on. Prayers for endurance for you. I'm sure this was explained to you, but people can go off hospice if they so choose. I'm glad to hear that your mom has a little bit of spunk.

    2. Hi Alice,
      I didn't know that you were dealing with all of this with your mom. I will keep her and your family in my prayers. What a difficult and frightening period to go through. Like Kris, prayers for endurance for you, and also serenity in this incredibly difficult time.

  4. As you well know, gardening is my husband's thing, not mine. He has had hot peppers for the past 2 years and they have done really well--better than sweet peppers. It's crazy what will grow. Sounds like you are enjoying mapping out your summer garden.

    1. Hi Kris,
      At least you get to enjoy the bounty from your husband's garden. I'm glad to hear that hot peppers grow better than sweet ones. That gives me hope for mine this year.
      Have a great evening, Kris!


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