What’s Growing, Part 2: Jalapenos and Cucurbits

In my previous post, I wrote about the seven varieties of tomatoes currently growing in my garden.  Like many other gardeners, I give tomatoes top priority when deciding what to plant each year.  There are several reasons for that decision, and flavor is certainly among them.  There is simply no comparison between a ripe, juicy fresh-from the vine tomato and its store-bought counterpart.  If I was forced to choose only one fruit or vegetable to grow, I would choose tomatoes, without giving the matter a second thought.

Fortunately, however, I do not have to make any such choice, so there are several other veggies that end up in my garden year after year.  Among them are:

Jalapeno Peppers –  In late winter, I started 10 plants using seeds from a packet bought the previous year at a locally owned farm supply store.  They were strong, healthy plants and were growing quickly.   Then it happened.  Despite the many and varied precautions that I have learned to take over the past nine years, despite housing my baby veggie plants on tall wire shelving units, despite shielding them under plastic domes, it happened.  Kepler, a.k.a. Plant Killer, the Feline Destroyer of All Green Things, managed to get his furry little paws on them.  By the time I intervened, five of the plants were beyond hope, and the rest were tattered and bruised.  It took time, but the five survivors did recover and are now in the garden.  I bought a pack of six more plants from a local nursery, to replace the ones that were destroyed.  The label on the pack just said that they were jalapeno; it didn’t specify a variety.

Kepler aka Plant Killer
Kepler, looking innocent…

Cucumbers – There are currently four plants of a dual-use variety called Early Morden, which is good for both pickling and for slicing, growing in a raised bed.  The plants were started from seeds purchased through an organic seed company.  The vines are short and bushy, making them great for growing where space is limited.   Two more seedlings will join the four bigger plants in a week or so.

Zucchini – For the past several years I have grown a summer squash called Tromboncino.  I have found the seeds for this unique squash in only one company’s catalog.  I have raised it every year for several reasons.  The flesh of the long, trumpet-shaped fruit is firmer and richer tasting than a typical zucchini.  The plants are consistently prolific, each yielding many pounds of food, in part because the squashes can grow quite large without losing their flavor or becoming tough.   Also, the vines are almost completely resistant to squash borers, which is a big advantage if, like me, you are squeamish about digging those grubby little things out of your squash vines and stabbing them to death.  But there is a drawback to this otherwise wonderful summer squash; the vines are huge and sprawling, usually growing a good 10-12 feet long, and sometimes more.  So, in the interest of saving space, I am trying a more common, compact variety of zucchini called Grey Griller.  I bought the seeds through a catalog, which described the fruit of this variety as having a firmer texture than most others.  There are four plants growing rapidly in the garden.  Time will tell whether the advantage of their smaller size outweighs the Tromboncino.

Butternut squash – Another variety that is new to the garden this year, JWS is a hybrid variety.  Again, I chose to try it out because, as described in the seed catalog, it offers the benefit of compact pace saving vines.  There are six plants, all growing well.  I love the flavor of a good butternut squash, so I am looking forward to finding out how these will taste.

Blue Hubbard squash – This is definitely not a space saver, and over the years I have had more failure than success with this huge variety, so I have only one plant.  I like the dry nutty flavor of roasted and mashed hubbard, but mostly I grow them just because it’s fun and interesting to raise such a giant squash.

Do you grow squash?



small butternut squash used 6-14-18

What’s Growing, Part One: Tomatoes

I started this blog last year, with excitement and enthusiasm, for a new gardening-related endeavor.

My hope, at that time, was to connect with others who share my passion for organic vegetable gardening, in order to both learn from them, and share with them, information about the gardening techniques and tools that have – and have not – worked for me.

Over the past year, I have had many ideas regarding potential topics, including an explanation of why I chose ‘the crazy garden lady’ as the name of the blog.  Although I fully intended to post new material on a regular basis, for multiple reasons, that hasn’t yet happened.  Suffice it to say that the past year has been, well, eventful.

So now, it is early June and, with this year’s garden off to a decent start, I’m returning to this blog with renewed intentions of posting something on at least a semi-regular basis. As I wrote in my first brief post, it feels really strange to be writing this, hoping that someone will read it, but having no idea of whether or not anyone really will.

While I still intend to explain ‘the crazy garden lady’ title, for now I will start – or perhaps I should say restart – with a list of the vegetables I will be growing this season, beginning with:


Green Zebra – These are my absolute favorite for fresh eating. The flavor of this green gem of a tomato is bright and tart with just a touch of sweetness, exactly what, to my mind, the taste of a tomato should be. The vines are fairly large and are of the indeterminate type, with mid-sized fruit. I started the plants from seeds purchased last year through a seed catalog company.

Box Car Willie – Last year, I found a seed packet of this mid-sized, red heirloom variety that I must have misplaced and forgotten. The packet was dated for 2010 and had about a dozen seeds inside. I tossed them in with some potting soil, curious to see how many of the seven-year old seeds would germinate. Eight of them did, and they grew into healthy productive plants. I saved some of their seeds, which I used to start this year’s plants.

Opalka – This is the first year I’ve tried raising this red heirloom paste tomato. Only six out of ten seeds germinated. Those six seedlings were pitifully weak little things and, despite being raised side-by-side with the other varieties, four of them failed to thrive; they died for reasons I still can’t identify. The two plants that survived are about half the size of the Green Zebras and Box Car Willies. I’m hoping their growth rate will improve now that they have been transplanted into the garden.

Health Kick – The name of this variety originates from the fact that it was specifically bred to contain more of the health-boosting anti-oxidant, lycopene, than other tomatoes. The hybrid determinate plants produce medium-sized, red, plum-shaped fruit. I purchased six plants from a local nursery to replace the defunct Opalkas.

Sungold – A hybrid, these are large, sprawling and prolific vines yielding small, orange, cherry-type fruit. The initially tart flavor is immediately followed by a burst of sweetness. These bite sized little tomatoes can be tossed whole into a salad and they make a wonderful summer afternoon snack.

Goliath – As the name implies, this red, beefsteak variety is noted for its exceptionally large fruit. I have not grown any of these before, so I am looking forward to seeing how big the tomatoes will actually be. I have only one of these plants, which was started and given to by my mother, who is growing several of them in her own garden.

Pretty in Pink – This one also came to me courtesy of mom. It’s a hybrid indeterminate that is said to have medium-sized fruit. I haven’t previously grown this variety either, and I’m curious about the flavor, which is generally described as mild in various seed catalogs.

Altogether, there are 20 plants. I was able to fit 18 vines in the main garden before running out of the space allocated to tomatoes  this year. That left two plants still needing a home, so they went into a small raised bed separate from the rest. As for supporting the vines, I plant them next to individual stakes and tie them up as they grow. I know gardeners who use fences or trellises to support their tomatoes, which are techniques I might try in a future year. I’ve always resorted to the staking method, primarily because it’s the way my mother and my grandparents always did things, so it feels like a tradition.

Do you grow tomatoes? What are your favorite varieties?