In April, I made a plan for a raised bed garden (four by eight feet) where I intended to grow vegetables from seed (rhodeislandismyoyster.blogspot.com/2011/03/thinking-ahead-to-summer-garden.html). The garden would be tomato-less since the venture was to be relatively carefree and tomatoes are never carefree. Anyway, glorious tomatoes are sold at stands and farmers' markets all over Rhode Island so my thinking was, why bother. The idea was to experiment with some less ordinary varieties of ordinary vegetables. My plan was tweaked to fit the space and seeds (all from Scheepers, www.kitchengardenseeds.com/) were purchased and planted in late May.
garden arugula is a dream plant for a salad-loving urban farmer. Thirty days after these teeny seeds are sown you have an amazing salad. Seeds were planted in a row and grown in the haircut method: young seedlings are not thinned, resulting in smaller plants which you cut and cut again. The arugula is peppery, delicious and not bitter.
gros graines mache was a bust. Described, probably correctly, as vigorous, it was no match for July's steady heat. Planting in early May might have worked but I won't bother finding out because, lesson learned, mache is a tiny plant and you can't grow enough of it in a small space to make it worth the effort. It has been yanked in favor of a second run of arugula for late August.
tintin baby romaine is fabulous and fast. The envelope says 55 days to harvest but 45 is more accurate. You can grow baby romaine in the haircut method like arugula or, if you have more space, plant a new row every other week. You'll be set through the fall.
cubanelle sweet peppers should have been started indoors because germination in the cool late May ground is too slow. It's unlikely these pepper plants will produce before frost (if at all since they don't look happy).
parmex baby carrots is another case of poor choice on my part. The carrots, a bright orange French variety, will be lovely I'm sure (we're about two weeks from ready) but using the space/yield ratio carrots aren't good performers.
chioggia beets (also at least two weeks from ready) are an Italian striped beets which chefs love and their light greens are advertised to be superlative. We'll see - though the seed packet says 45 - 55 days, my plants are off the pace.
I thought it would be a nice touch to have nasturtiums cascading from the four corners of the raised bed. Easy enough since nasturtiums are a snap to grow - even supermarket seeds produce a dazzling display. But Scheepers Old-fashioned Tawny Mixture narsturtiums were/are a flower failure. Puny seeds grew to be weak, puny plants. I think "old-fashioned" is some kind of code, maybe means "not much to look at" in gardening parlance. Not much to look at.
white wonder cucumbers are the stars of the garden. Running up the wire supports and down both sides of the raised bed, they are a spirit booster. White wonders are an heirloom variety, vigorous and heat tolerant. White on the outside, they have a surprising brightness when sliced. Best of all, 60 days after planting you are picking ripe cucumbers. This is the best ego hit for a gardener, makes up for the bad decisions and the grim nasturtiums.
Next year? More arugula, more baby romaine, endive, for sure, and a speedier beet. And big, fat modern nasturtiums.