Rock Stars in Your Garden

By Neil Moran

I’ve been gardening since the Rolling Stones first started touring as a headline act (1964, if you don’t remember). During that time I’ve tried growing a number of different vegetables and vegetable varieties with mixed results. Here are a few you’ve-just-got-to-try vegetables for your garden based on my many years of trial and error.

Jasper cherry tomatoes

For a prolific harvest of sweet, tasty cherry tomatoes, grow the Jasper variety. This All-American Selection winner sold by Jung’s and others is a real winner in my mind. You can probably find it sold as transplants in the larger garden centers.

I planted about six of these right up against the fence that surrounds my garden to keep the deer out. Originally I planted them from seed in my greenhouse and when I set them out they took right off. Despite the fact they grew over five feet tall, it was not necessary to tie them to the fence or offer any other type of support. I just fed them fairly regularly with Espoma’s organic fertilizer for vegetable gardens (Garden-tone) and watched them grow and grow.

Come harvest time there was a seemingly endless supply of sweet cherry tomatoes. Jasper did much better than Sweet Million, a standard cherry tomato sold in many garden retail outlets.

Canesi squash

    There are a lot of nice squash out there that you folks love to grow. Still, I was really impressed with Canesi squash, also from Jung’s. It grows a very large butternut-type squash that is simply to die for in the kitchen. We like to cut up our squash, steam it and then bake with salt and pepper and perhaps a little brown sugar, although Canesi is actually sweet enough without added sugar. The grandkids may even like this one.

It is very easy to grow as well. It requires about 85 days and will mature even during a mild Summer. However, I’m not sure how well it does in extreme heat. If you mulch around the base of the plants and keep them watered and fertilized, they should be fine. Canesi are ready when the fruit is mostly a pale tan color with very little green left on it.

A new vegetable variety

It’s not every day a new vegetable comes out on the market. In fact, I don’t remember the last time this happened! Johnny’s Selected Seeds is rolling out Kalettes, a peculiar (non-GMO) cross between Brussels sprouts and kale. It looks like a Brussels sprout with frilly leaves. I haven’t tried growing one yet, but think they are well worth trying. If nothing else they should be nutritious, knowing the nutritional content of kale. They should also be a good conversation-starter with fellow gardeners.

Like Brussels sprouts, you need patience when growing Kalettes. Autumn Star F1 is the earliest variety to harvest at 110 days, Mistletoe F1 at 124 days and Snowdrop at 138 days.

If you can’t find transplants, plant the seed indoors four to five weeks before setting them out in very early Spring. They also can be direct-seeded in early Spring in fine soil. Mulch around the plants and keep them watered throughout the season. Feed with Espoma’s Garden-tone, which provides a slow release of organic nutrients to vegetable plants. You’ll want to apply it about three times over the season to get a good harvest.

Celebrity tomatoes

    The Rolling Stones were getting a little gray when I started growing this variety of tomato. It’s been so reliable and disease-free I had to mention it. Celebrity is also a past award-winning veggie. Even if it hadn’t won an award I’d still be growing it. You should be able to find this one as a transplant in the garden centers. It only requires about 60 days to mature, giving you loads of medium-sized, delicious ‘maters.

Speaking of tomatoes, I know late blight (Phytophthera infestans) has been a problem for a lot of gardeners. Here are some late blight-resistant varieties as tested by the horticulture experts at Cornell University: Cherry Tomato Jasper, Mountain Magic Hybrid and Defiant  (VFF) hybrid tomatoes. Use Google to find these varieties from seed or ask your local garden center if they have transplants.

 Do you have some favorite vegetable varieties? I’d love to hear from you. Email me at [email protected]


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