This year, for the second time, I plan to have two separate garden plots. The rear plot, which I have planted for several years, will contain the larger plants. The front garden, which my grandmother used for a few years and which last year was my "salad garden," still presents a weed problem. Another season or two of cultivation and the problem should be more manageable.
Garden size: rear plot 288 sq. ft. (12 x 24 ft.), front plot 187 sq. ft. (11 x 17 ft.).
Location: Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Approx. 42 deg. N latitude, approx. 40 miles inland, elevation approx. 1000 ft. above sea level.
Sunlight: Most of the rear garden gets full sun from mid-morning until mid-afternoon. Front garden gets full sun from noon through the afternoon.
Season: Summer vegetables are usually safe to plant from mid-May, but I often wait until a couple days before Memorial Day weekend. End of June through beginning of August can bring stressful heat.
Soil: Dense. Organic matter worked into the soil can improve the chances of success with root vegetables, though I've never had much luck, even with radishes. Perhaps my luck will change when I start planting a winter cover crop.
How pretentious do I feel calling my plants "crops?" Very, but that obviously hasn't stopped me!
What I grow (that sounds better) are vegetables I or members of my family like. I grow a few herbs, no fruits, and an occasional flower for visual effect. Apartment living hinders the early starting of seeds indoors, though I have tried it on a limited basis and with mixed results. The only plants I generally grow from seed are those which mature quickly and can be sown directly in the garden. For the rest, I purchase flats of plants at my local nurseries.
I am now perusing the first seed catalogs and will probably grow the following:
Tomatoes - Jet Star and one other variety, plus cherry tomatoes and either plum tomatoes or a novelty like yellow tomatoes. In the past I have grown Jet Star, Early Girl, Beefsteak, Roma, and a couple varieties of cherry. I've never found a tomato variety which can satisfactorily resist the wilts I have in my soil.
Peppers - some variety of green bell, chilis or another variety of hot pepper, and probably one other sweet variety. The green bells will probably be Midway. Last year I tried Gypsy (yellow-green) and they were wonderful!
Broccoli - undetermined variety. Last year I tried Premium Crop and it did alright. I think I'll also try a fall crop this year, something I had intended to do last year but never got around to.
Eggplant - Dusky. I am very loyal to this variety. They grow to an adequate size for stuffing or parmegiana, do quite well in my soil, mature quickly, and seem to last awhile on the plant without getting too seedy.
Squash - probably Early Prolific Straightneck and Dark Green Zucchini, sown directly. I sometimes have trouble with bugs destroying these plants at the soil line, though last year my biggest problem was that I just didn't get alot of fruit.
Cucumbers - undetermined variety, sown directly. I try a different variety every year, and this year will probably be another experiment.
Carrots - Royal Chantenay, sown directly. These are what the garden shop recommended for my dense soil. I don't expect them to develop well - they never do - but I'm stubborn and will try again. I need to make sure to keep them well-watered.
Lettuce - Romaine, Black-seeded Simpson, and probably one more variety, sown directly. Besides Romaine, I grow only loose-leaf lettuce. I need to be more diligent about sowing continuously through the season for ongoing harvest.
Spinach - New Zealand, sown directly. This isn't a true spinach, but it's similar and makes a great salad. It does very well in heat and grows almost like a mini-vine, so you can pick all season and more keeps growing. For some reason, none of this came up last year. Might have been a bad batch of seed.
Radish - I haven't decided if I will waste my time with radishes this year. They seldom do well, and my father is the only one in the family who eats them.
Swiss Chard - a big bust last year, but due to my own negligence. I am determined to try again.
Herbs - Sweet Basil, Italian Parsley (flat-leaf), and possibly Fern Leaf Dill. I love the scent of the herbs when I'm working in the garden, and they're great to cook with.
The rear garden. At the far end of the plot are the tomatoes. In the middle of the plot are broccoli in back and peppers in front. At the near end are eggplant in back and squash in front.
Tomatoes (at left and staked) and chili peppers. My single cherry tomato plant is the taller one in the back. It provides me with snack food while I weed.
Two varieties of sweet peppers. Many people in my area have trouble growing peppers to a good size, but mine always do OK. The key is frequent watering.
Broccoli. Every year I am surprised by how fast these plants grow, and by how tall they get.
Eggplant. These have done pretty well, except the one on the far right which suffered a little transplant shock and is just catching up.
The front garden. Lettuce is in the foreground, with swiss chard to its right. Cucumber, radish, and carrots in the far corner. Herbs are in the front right corner. Spinach area off to the left is not visible.
Herbs. Basil is at left, italian parsley at right. Notice that the second row of basil is stunted, apparently shocked in transplant. They are doing better now.
Lettuce! This has really taken off nicely. There are a total of 18 heads here.