A couple weeks ago, Erich and I headed to the University of Rhode Island’s East Farm for its fantastic spring fair. It’s a big day of celebrating plants, organic living, and all things Spring. This year was also one of the few that had beautiful weather (it’s usually as rainy and muddy as the weather we’re seeing this week in New England), so the place was a madhouse. By the time we arrived at 10:30 in the morning, a lot of the plants for sale from the master growers program at the university were well-picked over. I had to supplement my purchases with those from the 3rd party farms and growers that also attend the event. For less than $100, I bought all you see in the wheelie truck here, plus some that we had to carry in flats because the wheelie’s full.
The URI Spring Fair is a great event. The university has an agricultural program, and the master growers program starts seedlings in the greenhouses in February. Come early May (usually Mother’s Day Weekend), they sell everything off for program funding. A good portion of the plants are vegetable seedlings – and they specialize in heirloom varieties and ones specifically grown for our New England gardens.
The amount I’ll save on fresh produce this summer, if all goes well, will be astounding. And – AND – it’s fresh from my own backyard. So I’ll know what chemicals will be in them (um… none). We have a large growing bed style garden, supplemented by some rows this year and my beloved Earth Boxes, which can turn any patio into a garden.
I’ve been meaning to get a picture of the garden that’s planted, but our weather over the past several days has been downright miserable. Soggy and foggy and cold. I’m running out of dry shoes for work, so TGIF tomorrow will be for many reasons. I’m looking forward to going barefoot in the house all weekend!
For this week’s Thursday Thirteen, here are Thirteen Things I’ve Planted in the Garden This Spring.
1. Tomatoes – Easy to grow, so cost effective if you have good soil and good light. We have ten separate vines this year and a mix of types. Three are complete mysteries – they had no labels on them. I make sauce from scratch every year, which requires a TON of tomatoes. I also love just picking and eating them right from the vine.
2. Peppers – Again, super easy to grow. I grow both bells and hot peppers. This year we’ll be swimming in hots, as a six-pack of seedlings I thought were bells are actually hot peppers (whoops!).
3. Cabbage - Last year I grew only green cabbage, as it was a new crop to me. This year I have both red and green varieties. I’m hoping to learn how to make sauerkraut this summer. We’re also huge corned beef & cabbage fans.
4. Corn – I’ve never grown corn before, although I remember my parents growing it in our backyard garden when I was little. It’s one of my experimental crops this year. You can see the baby corn plants in the second photo – about centered on the page. Funny to think they’ll get taller than me by the end of summer!
5. Butternut Squash – Another new crop for me, but we did large vining plants last year with watermelon, so I’m prepared. We’ve bought an A-Frame to grow them up rather than across the ground. I love squash, especially as the leaves start turning in the autumn, and I can’t wait to play around with cooking with them this year.
6. Lettuce – Last year was our first with lettuce, and we marveled at how stupid easy it is to grow… and how incredibly productive it is. We literally couldn’t keep up with it! There’s nothing like popping out to the garden to get enough leaves to make the salad of the day. No bitter tastes, no brown edges. Just fresh lettuce for late spring through mid summer.
7. Cucumbers – the cukes grow on a lean-to trellis over the lettuce in our garden. Between sliced in salads, dill-cuke salad like my mom used to make, or making insta-pickles (take one recently finished jar of pickes from the store, slice your own and put into the leftover brine, then refrigerate for a couple days), they’re a staple of the garden every year. I’m hoping to make my own pickles from scratch later this summer. Not insta-ones. Actual long-storing ones.
8. Beans – I have pole beans in the garden this year. I’ve never grown them, but remember them from my mom’s garden. Looking forward to side dishes – the one I recall from my youth was a simple steam and blend with almonds and a very light butter sauce. Yum.
9. Peas – Last year, my peas were fried early by a weird heat wave in May that sent temps soaring into the upper 90s. I’m hoping this year I have better luck with them. I love picking and eating peas as a snack right from the garden. Honestly, that’s how I eat them – no cooking required.
10. Onions – I have a couple of basic yellows, some Walla Wallas, and an Egyptian Walking Onion (for the novelty on that last one, really) in my garden this year. Just add tomatoes, the hot peppers, and some of the herbs – and I have salsa. I confess that most of my onions just come from the store, though. Onions are one of my play-plantings to indulge in my inner “ooh, what can I grow?!?” child who needs a science experiment.
11. Carrots – They’re not particularly cost-effective to grow, but I love seeing carrot tops in the garden. There’s something about the frilly, fringey leaves I just adore seeing in a vegetable garden. Again – it’s a play planting more than anything. But we do get some useable carrots. (and some that are a bit…ahem… pornographic in shape to giggle about as we dig them up).
12. Tomatillo – This is a new one for me. I bought one of them out of curiosity this year, and to use for different salsas or to just grill for side dishes in the summer BBQs. Very excited to see how it turns out.
13. Herbs – I have tons of herbs. I love growing them, just for the fun of having a plant box of them. My perennial herb garden has spearmint, lemon balm, oregano, English thyme, common thyme, sage, and lavender growing in it. I’m naturalizing garlic chives in the grass this year to fill in the bare spots (taking after my grandmother). I’m also adding normal chives – the ones that get those fun purple poms on top when they bloom – into my side beds as a part-decorative, part-useable plant. And as I do every year, I fill in the herbs that don’t survive our New England winters – basil, dill, and rosemary. I’ve also bought one labelled “curry” this year (which smells exactly as it’s labelled… yum!) and seeds for chamomile, which I’m honestly buying for the flowers’ visual appeal more than the use for tea.
I cannot wait to start harvesting this summer!