PPCG is an organic garden, but you do not need to grow seeds and seedlings labelled “organic” for your plots. Choose organic plants if you want to support sustainable agricultural practices and don’t mind paying a little extra for them. You will likely find more choices of non-organic plants.
As you are deciding what to grow, also consider…
What do you like? What will you enjoy harvesting from your garden?
Is the plant or seed labelled heirloom/open-pollinated or hybrid?
Heirloom varieties can be tastier and are a must if you want to grow to save seeds. Hybrids can offer greater ease because they are often bred to overcome problems, such as common diseases. Check out this article from the L.A. Times on heirloom vs. hybrid tomatoes.
What’s the level of difficulty for a particular plant?
Here are a few challenges we’ve had at PPCG. (Consider this list a “heads up,” not a “no-go zone.”)
- Cabbage is tricky to “head up.” (Exception: Rosemary in plot 14 has grown some beautiful red cabbage.)
- Broccoli bolts to seed readily in warm weather, before anything is harvested and takes up a lot of space.
- Corn is another space hog that yields little.
- Celery requires very specific growing conditions.
- Squash is prone to powdery mildew and vine borers. This is one plant that some people have succeeded with while others haven’t. Stay tuned for a post on this subject. In the meantime, if you really like squash and want to give it a go, try finding a variety that is resistant to powdery mildew. And see our Getting Started (Part 6) post on garden maintenance.
How quickly will your plant mature?
There is a wide range in time until harvest among varieties of the same type of plant. Especially if you are planning to try to fit in successive plantings, you may want to choose a variety that matures quickly.
For tomatoes in particular, consider whether your plants are determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomato plants tend to produce tomatoes all at once, which means you’ll have a lot of tomatoes to eat and process in a big batch. For a steadier flow, read estimated maturation dates carefully. A mix of varieties can spread out your tomato harvest.
Seeds or Seedlings?
A number of crops can or must be directly sown by seed in early spring and summer. These include: carrots, radishes, peas, beans, turnips, beets, and zucchini.
Other crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers require a long growing season and must be started indoors before being planted out in the garden when warmer weather arrives.
Where to buy? Our gardeners have a few favorites…
For organic products and tips, try Gardens Alive.
For plants, watch for excellent plant sales at Holly Hill Farm (especially their wide selection of tomatoes, organically grown!), Brookwood Farm, City Natives in Boston, Southside Community Land Trust in Providence, and Marshfield Agricultural Commission (I couldn’t find their online link; it’s on May 19, 2018 at the Marshfield Fairgrounds).
Or check out garden centers such as Christopher’s (across from BJ’s in Weymouth on Rte. 53), the plant stand on Southern Artery in Quincy (in the Goodwill parking lot), Almquist in Quincy, Kennedy’s in Scituate, or for further afield, try Peckham’s in Little Compton, RI. Do you have other favorites? Let us know!