What’s going into Erica’s garden this year?

I have ordered (and received) my seeds! I may end up with more, at seed swaps and from friends, but I’ve made the basic purchases to fill in needs. For the first time in ages, I didn’t order any tomato seeds–I know, shock, horror–but I still have plenty and I’m going to cut back on the number of tomato plants this year in favor of peppers and other summer crops. Will everything I’m thinking of planting actually fit, either in my community garden plot or in containers at home? Only time will tell.

Anyway, I thought I’d give you all a glimpse into the reasons I chose a few of the plants I plan to grow. Below I will profile Amara Ethiopian Kale, Yellow Cabbage Collards, Dario Cocozelle Zucchini, Zipper Cream Cowpeas, and Nadapeño Peppers. I’ll link to the companies I ordered them from so you can read more, but doing so is not an endorsement by University of Maryland Extension.

Amara Ethiopian Kale, photo by Territorial Seeds

Amara Ethiopian Kale. I’ll be presenting a talk about brassicas at our annual Spring Conference in a couple of weeks, and while I’m familiar with the more commonly-grown varieties of Brassica oleracea, Brassica rapa, and others, I didn’t know anything about Brassica carinata, a.k.a. Ethiopian kale. So, in line with my philosophy of trying at least one new thing every year, I’m going to give this one a shot. More greens, more life!

Yellow Cabbage Collards. Since discovering the Heirloom Collards Project (see my post here) I have been eager to grow some of these newly-available heirlooms, and this one sounded appealing: mild and tender and a pretty color. If you prefer collards in darker green or shades of purple, you can find those too. These are from North Carolina so I hope they grow well into the summer here.

Dario Cocozelle Zucchini (F1). I believe I’ve written here before about the endemic watermelon mosaic virus at my community garden. We can’t seem to get rid of it, so we grow resistant varieties of cucurbits where available. There are actually plenty of zucchini with this resistance, and I’ve grown many of those with success, but I hadn’t seen one of these striped Italian types in that list before. Cocozelles are usually very tasty, so I have good hopes. It also has some resistance to powdery mildew, which always helps. Now please develop some mosaic virus-resistant winter squash (and watermelons)!

Zipper Cream Southern Pea or Cowpea. Jon Traunfeld’s recent post on planting for a changing climate got us all thinking about crops that work better in our summer heat, and cowpeas are definitely one of those! They are also a good choice for a community garden setting because they’re less preyed upon by Mexican bean beetles than the Phaseolus vulgaris common beans that I’m now growing at home instead. I chose Zipper Cream because the taste profile sounds interesting (halfway between cowpeas and English peas) and because they have a bushy habit that hopefully won’t sprawl all over everything. (Cowpeas usually want a bit of support in any case.)

Nadapeño Peppers. I am a wimp when it comes to hot peppers, I admit–and if I am, my husband is even more so. Personally, I can tolerate some slices of jalapeño pepper in my nachos, but he piles them neatly on the side of the plate. So this year I’m growing one of the “heatless” jalapeños so we can get that zesty flavor without the burn. I expect there will still be a little heat, especially when the weather turns dry and scorching, but we can manage that.

Aside from that, I had to fill in some gaps (what do you mean, I have no golden beet seed left and the radish seeds are ancient?) and I still have to decide whether I have room for potatoes, but mostly my garden is planned. Well, “planned” in the sense of vaguely knowing where and when everything will go and hoping that I have room for it all. But it’s a step in the right direction, and guess what, spring is almost here!

By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener. Read more posts by Erica.

One Comment on “What’s going into Erica’s garden this year?

  1. For anyone who’s considering clicking on the Spring Conference link above, I need to let you know that I will not be presenting my talk due to a family emergency. But there will be a terrific talk on peppers instead, so still sign up!

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