Grow your own flavor.
by Charlie Thigpen
Every year, some people who would never grow an entire vegetable garden will buy a tomato plant to set in a pot just to experience the unbelievable flavor of a homegrown tomato. Nothing beats the taste and satisfaction you get from produce that you plant and harvest with your own hands. If you don’t have room to plant a tomato vine or other vegetable, you can set out a few herbs that can be used while cooking. Flowers in the garden are beautiful and do make your landscape look better, but many herbs and vegetable are just as attractive, can add interest, and will help put food on the table.
What You Need
All herbs and vegetables need five to six hours of sunlight. A fertile, well-drained soil will also help produce healthy plants. I have started many gardens in very marginal soil, and each year I would add organic matter such as leaf mold, finely shredded pine bark, mushroom compost, or peat moss, as well as a little manure, and turn these ingredients into the bed. After only a couple of years, the marginal soil became loose, rich, and productive. Raised beds have also become popular. They are easy to work in, and you can bring in good soil to fill them. Large planters are also a good choice to plant a few herbs and veggies.
Tomatoes are always our top-selling vegetable, but other easy and productive vegetables include eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, and okra. There are so many different types of tomatoes to choose from, but most people only want the heirloom selections. I tell them to plant a few heirlooms, but not to forget to plant some of the new and improved selections such as “Parks Whopper.” The heirlooms are delicious, but the plants aren’t as disease-resistant as the improved selections. Grow eggplant selections such as “Ghost Buster” or “Ichiban.” Both of these produce smaller eggplants that are more productive and easier to stake than the big heavyweight selections such as “Black Beauty.” Peppers are fun to grow because they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. A sweet banana is mild-tasting and sweet, but a habanera can be as hot as a blowtorch.
Our top-selling herb is always basil. Sweet Italian basil is a popular, large-leafed selection that’s great for herb gardens, but for containers, you might want to try a compact growing selection such as “Spicy Globe.” Upright growing varieties of rosemary, such as “Arp” and “Tuscan Blue,” can be used in the landscape as large rounded shrubs. Thymes come in different flavors such as lemon and orange and can look great flowing out of a container or covering the ground. Find an herb or veggie for your landscape, and you’ll enjoy a garden you can really sink your teeth into.
Originally posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2014 at b-metro.com