It’s my favorite time of the year! Christmas is a close second, but my absolute favorite is after the last frost is over (a true guessing game in Tennessee) and it’s time to plan, purchase, and plant my veggie and herb garden for the year. This year, I’ve had a couple of surprises pop up that I am excited to see flourish. I’ve already had a couple of disappointments, but overall I am ready to baby my garden and harvest some deliciousness come July.
This year, I started certain things earlier than others, mainly due to the fact that we didn’t do our annual Amish Country pilgrimage until mid-May. We normally go in April and buy all our plants from the Amish, so I hit up Lowes in April and got a few items started until we could go on our adventure and buy the rest of our plants in May. Right now, the garden looks a little funny. We have some plants that are already getting big since they were planted in April, and others that are teeny tiny with a long way to go since they were planted in May. We should have a steady flow of harvest throughout the summer instead of getting bombarded with everything at the same time though, so maybe this will work out for the best. The cherry tomatoes have the longest distance to go. In about a month, I’ll have an update on how everything is doing, and will have more pictures to share then.
Our first surprise of the year came in my lavender growing back! I did not expect this but I was pleasantly surprised to see it. Not only did it come back, but it’s larger and bushier than last year, so maybe over the years it will keep growing. I love the smell of lavender and that is really the main reason I grow it. It smells heavenly. I’d like to try to bake with it though, so if you have any suggestions, let me know!
I have several other herbs this year. Some are my tried and true favorites, some I seem to fail at every year and yet keep trying, and some are new:
- 2 Basil
- Sweet Mint
- Dill (for our pickles!)
I’m hoping one of these years I can get my mint to grow back so I don’t have to keep starting over with it. We tried a larger container this year. The dill is for our homemade pickles so I don’t have to buy it each time I want to make them. I only have 1 dill plant and wonder if I should get another one.
Ya’ll are going to laugh at me when it comes to rosemary, but I always kill it and it’s supposed to be so easy to grow. I think in the past I watered it too much… I’ll try a little neglect this time and see what happens. It’s one that is supposed to grow back year after year and yet I can’t even keep it alive all summer. What’s up with that?! Besides over-watering, my second guess is my container size. It’s possible it’s too small, but we’ll see what happens this year.
Sage is new for me. I like to cook with it, but I also keep seeing on camping websites that if you burn a bundle of sage in your campfire, it’ll keep mosquitoes away. I’m going to try it this year since we’re camping 4 times. I read that sage doesn’t like a lot of water so I’ll treat it like the rosemary and see what happens.
This year, I was surprised to see a tomato plant growing on the outside of my raised bed! I have absolutely no idea what kind of tomato to expect off of this plant. Since I buy so many varieties each year, it could be anything. Based on the location, I’m going to guess it might be a German Pink tomato, but who knows. I transplanted it into the raised bed and we’ll see what happens in the next month or so. Hopefully it survives! I love surprises! Last year, I had a surprise plant as well and it turned out to be beautiful campari tomatoes that I have never planted in the first place so I have no idea where it even came from. It was a lovely bonus!
I have 8 tomato plants this year:
- The Surprise
- Mr. Stripey Heirloom
- Lemon Boys
- Golden Jubilee Heirloom
- Celebrity Hybrid
- Red Cherry
- 2 Yellow Cherry (Zoey eats these like candy straight off the vine)
I prefer to grow the tomatoes that are usually expensive at the grocery and not so much the ones that I can get for $0.99/lb all summer, but 1-2 of the cheapies are good to have around for convenience sake. The selection I have will produce a rainbow of beautiful tomatoes and I can’t wait to dig in!
I was disappointed to not find my Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomatoes this year. I probably didn’t look hard enough, but that was a tomato I grew a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. They are large, deep purple, and wonderful with basil and mozzarella for caprese salad. They were also incredibly juicy, so they were wonderful for salsa and tomato sauce.
Jalapenos: Last year, I had the best jalapeno crop I’ve ever had and I think it’s due to the raised bed! We ate the fire out of those things (no pun intended), and I can’t wait to get them going again. Jalapeno poppers, homemade hot sauce, relish, pickled jalapenos, salsa… I can’t wait. Last year I grew 6 plants and 4 survived (lost 2 in storms), and those 4 produced more than I could keep up with. I was giving away jalapenos left and right! This year, I started with 4 in case some don’t survive, and now that I know how to pickle and can them for the winter, I’ll make more than I did last year. I made 6 jars last year, gave 2 away, and the 4 that were left we ate on all winter. We just finished our last jar and we’re itching for more.
Shishito: Last year, we also grew shishito peppers for the first time and they were SO GOOD! I only had 1 plant last year, so this year we have 2. These little peppers are just sauteed whole in a hot pan with a little olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper. You eat them warm and blistered, right off the stem. Delicious!
Sweet Banana: The last pepper plant we have is a sweet banana pepper. We like these in salads and pickled, so I’m going to attempt to pickle them this year. I only have 1 plant since we don’t eat these as frequently as some others.
Last year we grew pickling cumbers for the first time and just had 1 plant, so this year we bought 2! Just like the surprise tomato plant, we had a cucumber plant pop up on the outside of the raised bed! Unfortunately, it met its doom to the weed eater, so unless it comes back, we’ll just keep our two. If it does grow back, I’ll transplant it somewhere safe. 😉
The only other misc plant we have this year is an edamame bush. This one is a first for me, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect. I read online that gardeners generally plant edamame every 2 weeks for a continuous harvest because unlike tomato and pepper plants, they grow their crop all at once and then they are done. So we’ll see what happens this year, and if I enjoy growing it, I’ll make a plan for next year to have more space for additional plants. I have a love/hate relationship with edamame. I love how it tastes and could eat it every day… but I can’t eat it everyday because it is a soy bean and soy mimics estrogen in the body. Boo to that.
So there you have it! That is what I am growing this year (so far) and I look forward to our first harvest in July! I’m not growing zucchini (2nd year in a row skipping it) because we have family who are growing quite a bit, so I’m sure we will take some off their hands this year. However, I am toying around with the idea of getting a butternut squash going for a fall harvest! I haven’t completely decided yet. If I do, I’ll want to find a starter plant and not start from seeds. I will also want to get it planted in June for a September/October harvest.
Are any of you gardening this year? If so, what are you growing? I’d love to know!