One day I was buying some tomatoes at the grocery store and I looked at the label and it said ‘Product of Israel’. How can that even make sense. Lettuce is shipped in from California, a cucumber from Spain, who would have thought I was eating a global salad. Being immersed in plants everyday and having not tried my hand at growing vegetables myself, it hit me. Why am I not growing this stuff at home. For the last couple of years I’ve been dabbling but this season is looking to be the best thus far. It will be a long time coming before I can grow all the vegetables I need but it wouldn’t hurt to subsidize the family vegetable appetite with a little home growing.
I’ve got a nice established patch of ever-bearing raspberries, lettuce, kale, snap peas, broccoli, green onions and herbs a plenty. In a world where it makes sense to have one’s greens shipped in fresh from 3000 kms away why not try to grow some at home. Starting from seed is easy, and if you don’t have the patience vegetable starters are available at most garden centers around town. Growing exotics is a feast for the senses but growing food might feed the family. Let’s give it a go, it’s not hard, trial and error leads to some great results and so far with moderate effort I’ve created a nice little buffet of tasty, locally grown organic produce. No big deal.
I don’t think it’s a big secret that after using most of the green onions you buy at the grocery store you can place them in water and get a few extra rounds of greens for extra servings . Furthermore as they peter out on your windowsill, plop them in the soil for truly miraculous results. Sometimes slow growing at the start (1-2 months) all of a sudden they swell up and grow vigorously. To plant it takes 3 minutes, to grow 2 months and from there free green onions all year round. Plant multiple bunches and you’ll never buy another green onion again.
If I buy one bundle a week for baked potatoes and nachoes @ $1.25 a week x 4 weeks = $5.00/month saved on green onions. Multiply that yearly and that’s $60 in the pocket for good times, gasoline or new sneakers. Yes please.
In Victoria you can grow lettuce outdoors almost all year round (We were eating fresh arugula all winter long). Lettuce is easy to start from seed and even easier to plant and grow from starter plants. You’ll need to have some patience at the start but once established you can go outside and harvest fresh greens almost everyday for weeks. Plant a few rounds at varying stages of growth to ensure fresh greens as the season progresses.
Here is the key factoid about lettuce I once read in a vegetable growing handbook. Never let lettuce dry out, that’s why your lettuce tastes like poison. Lettuce gets a bitter acrid taste if neglected, constant irrigation is key, IE water when dry. As the plant matures you can harvest leaves as you need without killing the plant. Ever heard of a food machine?
Our global food system is awesome in its variety and vast availability but deprives us of knowing how these plants grow and produce food. Not only are homegrown vegetables healthier and cheaper, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing. “I grew this”. Munch munch munch!
When first transplanting starter plants be wary of looking at the garden bed and thinking everything is well watered. The bed might look watered but until the transplants are rooted in, their transplants root ball might be very dry. For the first few weeks it’s worth an extra gander to ensure everything is well irrigated.
Another fun thing about growing your own lettuce is you can choose the varieties. Did you know the lettuce you buy in stores is not exactly the BEST variety of lettuce, but the lettuce that ships the best. There are so many different kinds to choose from. Some might not look great in a grocery store but grow awesome in the garden. Variety. Is. The. Spice. Of. Life. Pictured above Lettuce Red Sails.
I tend not to buy too many snap peas at the grocery store because they never seem fresh enough. With the exception of a little foresight for staking these plants practically grow themselves. Fresh & full of vitamins. Wish they would accumulate more but my better half usually snacks them to non-existence before I get a chance to have one. Snap Pea ‘Sugar Snap pictured above.
I first acquired this raspberry many many years ago. Probably when I first started at the nursery some seven years back. I was at a friend’s house party raving about her 7 foot tall raspberry bushes covered in big delicious raspberries. I was sold. She gave me a runner (which raspberries have no shortage of) and the rest is history. I’ve moved this patch a couple times over the years and it’s always produced. The first raspberries started a few weeks ago, new ones everyday, and pretty much go until frost (with a small break in the hottest part of summer). I rake all the horse chestnut & maple leaves onto this bed every winter and the raspberry bushes devour it remarkably quick.
I love going outside and eating fresh raspberries with my son. It’s great to make the connection from plant to snacking at such a young age. I have similar memories as a kid myself. He loves them. I mean LOVES THEM!
Not everyone knows this but they should, all parts of a Nasturtium are edible. The leaves, the seeds & the colorful flowers. From early spring until mid summer these plants flower off the hook. They have a light horse radish heat to them and taste extra fresh. A charming addition to any salad, who knew we were eating fine dining but really it’s just from the garden.
If you wanted to try your hand at growing nasturtiums from seed you shouldn’t be intimidated. They have a 95% germination rate, sprout quickly and can be transplanted shortly after. In mid spring they start to burst into life with hundreds of edible flowers. If you leave the flowers alone they form a small seed which is also edible. A poor mans caper they’re a great hit of spice to fresh vegetable dishes. Beautiful too!
My real accomplishment this year is a mighty successful crop of broccoli. Pictured above is Broccoli Premium Crop, a high yield cultivar we grow at the greenhouses. Planted as a starter in early spring these didn’t take very long to become serious behemoths.
These are some of the biggest broccoli heads I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t be happier with the results. For some reason I thought it would be more difficult. Out of the 6 plants I put in the ground, 1 underperformed and the rest grew like gangbuster. You have to keep an eye out for cabbage moths but overall these were not difficult to grow. Next year I’m going plant twice as many.
For someone who has dedicated the last many years of his life to flowering annuals and rare & unusual exotics it’s really cool to grow something I can feed my family with. With growing fresh vegetables at home you get to know the whole story. No chemicals, just mushroom manure & pure simple sunshine. Delicious. And… Munch munch munch. I grew that. Doesn’t that feel good.
More plant news to follow.
I work at a bedding and annuals nursery where we produce & finish millions of little plants. Petunias, marigolds, lobelia, impatiens, repeat. It’s a colorful experience. We grow flowers in almost every color; yellow, blue, purple, red, chartreuse, fuchsia, magenta, mauve and all the silly in between shades you can imagine. A few years ago they released a black petunia which as a novelty seemed pretty neat (actually a very dark purple, but still interesting.) As for 2016, the growers at Selecta have come up with something really amazing.
Petunia Night Sky is unlike any other petunia, or flower for that matter I have ever seen. I don’t know how you’d go about breeding such a strange looking flower but the plant nerd that stumbled upon this must have been pretty pleased with themselves. A white petunia that’s been dipped in blue ink. Reminds me of a nebula or an unraveling galaxy. Think a summer night sky after a full moon. The sky a dark blue with a cosmos of sparkling stars up above.
Each flower is unique and worthy of further observation. An interesting specimen for summer borders. I know you thought you’d never find a petunia your plant geek friends would like but here it is.
Easy to grow, good habit, incredible flowers.
Look out for these cool plants appearing at garden centers everywhere in the very near future. So neat.