I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity in the garden. As I wander around, observing everything that is growing, the beautiful diversity within each family and genus, and even within the same plant amazes me. I don’t have anything super profound to say about this right now, it’s just something that I am appreciating in new ways and I think that my understanding of diversity within plants is maturing with time.
I will say this: lately, the diversity I observe on even a superficial level (I am after-all merely a gardener and an observer and not a botanist) leaves me wondering whether a photo of one flower, leaf, etc from one plant growing within a single garden can represent a specific variety.
Over the last few years I haven’t been growing enough cucurbits (namely squashes and cucumbers) to meet our eating demands, so last winter I resolved to dedicate more garden space to a range of types in the 2013 growing season. This meant cutting back a bit on my beloved tomatoes, but alas… While I was at it, I decided to expand my horizons with a few varieties that I have never grown before. The above photo represents a few of the most productive varieties of the many that are currently growing in either raised beds or large containers.
I bought the seed for ‘Pilar’ aka ‘Zapallito Redondo de Tronco,’ an unusual squash variety two years back from New World Seeds and Tubers. I tried to direct-sow the seed outdoors twice in that first year, but was unable to coax a single seed to germinate. This spring I over-sowed indoors underneath light to be safe, and was successful with one plant. One single, glorious, phenomenal, plant!
It’s become a tradition and now that I live in an Italian neighbourhood it’s pretty much a requirement. When my local Italian greengrocer set out the seed rack I did a little happy dance, and it was then that I knew I was doomed to buy more seed than I will ever have room to grow.
Cucumber ‘Spuredda Leccese’ – While not technically a cucumber (Cucumis sativa), this Italian melon (Cucumis melo) from the Puglia region (Southern Italy) is eaten like one. I have seed for several Italian cucumber/melon varieties and am quite taken with them. The poorly translated product description was also a selling point. “It has to be harveste the unripe fruit and consumpted in salad.” It’s either going to be awesome in a salad or bring about the consumption — I like the promise of a little risk.
Arugula ‘Selvetica’ aka rucola selvatica (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) – This is my favourite arugula, hands down, and even though I have several packets from other companies, I can’t seem to stop buying it. Just in case! If The Apocalypse comes in 2012 I will not be without.
Onion ‘Tropea Rossa Tonda’ – I am partial to red onion varieties and am more likely to plant them than white. It’s the colour! This one has an interesting shape and matures to red. I’ve long since started my onion seed — these will go in the second sowing. I believe these may be a short day variety so I don’t know what kind of luck I will have with them; however, we have no shortage for scallion usage so I’d be okay if they never reach bulb size.
I know. Cheese-y. I couldn’t help myself, although I think it aptly reflects the gleeful delight I feel each morning when I go out to collect the day’s garden offerings.
The top two squashes are Benning’s Green Tint Patty Pan from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. This is my first time growing it. The middle zucchini is ‘Nice de Rond’, a French heirloom that I have grown on and off for years. The pea pod is ‘Dwarf Grey Sugar’, a short-ish variety with pretty flowers. I tried that one in one of the raised beds this year, after years growing it in pots. To be honest I didn’t notice a difference. The sign of a truly good container plant.
The Hudson Valley Seed Library website describes ‘Benning’s Green Tint’ as a “compact bush”, but that hasn’t been my experience. Mine is absolutely mammoth — possibly the largest bushing zucchini I have ever grown both in size and productivity! I did not provide well for its aggressive expansion and it is beginning to take over the space that was meant to be shared with two other zucchini plants. It has also spilled well over into the walking path. The plant keeps growing and has taken on what is close to a trailing habit!
Meanwhile, the ‘Nice de Rond’ remains as compact in the ground as it has been in pots. I love this one in small spaces and the round, cue ball fruits are tender and unique.