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"The Joys of Growing Your Own Veggies," by the Whistling Gardener

Whether you are a cool season gardener and love to have fresh broccoli and peas for dinner, or prefer to wait and dine on tomatoes, zucchini and peppers in the summer, there is something special about growing our own veggies. For starters, the taste is incomparable.
Cool season veggies. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Last week I mentioned that it was time to plant your “cool season” vegetables. In the northwest especially, we have two distinct seasons to plant veggies. Right now, is the cool season, when the soils are still cold, and an occasional frost can be expected to coat our roofs and lawns. Crops like peas, broccoli, spinach, chard, onions, potatoes and carrots - to name a few - love these cooler temps and also don’t mind these frosty mornings. Once we move into late April and May it is time to plant our tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers for the summer.

Whether you are a cool season gardener and love to have fresh broccoli and peas for dinner, or prefer to wait and dine on tomatoes, zucchini and peppers in the summer, there is something special about growing our own veggies. For starters, the taste is incomparable. There is absolutely nothing in the market that can compare to the freshness of home picked veggies. Even “farm to market” is slower than “garden to kitchen.” Truth be known, a lot of homegrown veggies are eaten in the garden and never even make it to the kitchen.

The other truly “fun” thing about home grown veggies is that you can plant varieties that you simply cannot find at the grocery store. Many veggies that are grown commercially have been selected for their shelf life or ease of growing. As home gardeners, we get to grow the unusual ones that are unique and will add some pizazz to the dining room table. Here are some examples that might pique your interest…

Miz America hybrid mustard: This mild tasting mustard has exceptional bronze foliage that is attractive, sturdy, and durable in our wet northwest climate. I planted some in my garden last week!

Grand Duke Kohlrabi: I have always enjoyed kohlrabi. It is in the cabbage family, but instead of leaves, the stem enlarges into a bulb-like form and when peeled and sliced is a crisp and tasty addition to a salad - much like jicama but not as sweet.

Lancinato Rainbow Kale: Also known as Dinosaur or Tuscan Kale, this Italian heirloom dates back to the 18th century. It is sweet and mild and has heavily crinkled leaves that are as flavorful as they are decorative.

Spinach Monstreux de Viroflay: Good luck pronouncing this one. This is a mid-1800’s heirloom variety with very large 10-inch-long leaves that will mature in under two months. We sell it under the Botanical Interest Seed line. Spinach is an easy crop to grow this time of year.

Sugar Magnolia snap pea: According to the Botanical Interest website, this is a “purple snap pea that is not just a famous Grateful Dead song, it is also a beautiful, fine-flavored, edible-pod pea with purple flowers and hypertendrils (which are edible as well).”

Carrot Calliope Blend: How often can you find carrots in a collection of rainbow colors. These colorful carrots will bring out the kid in all of us.

While growing veggies at home can be work, it also can bring a tremendous amount of pleasure. There is something magical about growing plants, whether you start with young transplants or from seed. To watch the miracle of growth never ceases to amaze me and when the reward at the end of the day is a tasty morsel it’s even better. Whether you have lots of room or are restricted to a few containers, there are vegetables out there that you can grow and enjoy this season. Now is the time to get started! Bon appetite.

Sunnyside will be hosting two free classes, “Weed Control” Saturday, March 21st, 2020 at 10:00 am, and “Edible Landscapes” Saturday, March 21st at 2:00 pm. For more information, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and you can send your gardening questions to him at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

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