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.
As you are deciding what to grow, also consider…
What do you like? What will you enjoy harvesting from your garden?
You’ll get the most from your garden if you grow plants you enjoy. Myself, I have an ambivalent relationship with kale. It grows easily and early, before almost anything else. But by mid summer it’s still producing and taking up space and getting a little tough. Really, it’s okay to “edit” your plot. Avoid the “kale trap.” It’s your plot to enjoy.
Heirloom varieties are often considered tastier and are a must if you want to grow to save seeds. By growing heirloom and open-pollinated seeds, you’ll be helping to maintain genetic diversity. On the other hand, 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 and successes we’ve had at PPCG:
- Cabbage is tricky to “head up.”
- 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.
- Squash is prone to powdery mildew and vine borers.
- Peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, zinnias, bunching onions, peas, green beans, and lettuces and other salad greens are all fairly easy crops that have good yields in our gardens.
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 produce tomatoes all at once, which means you’ll have a lot of tomatoes to eat and process in a big batch. Indeterminate tomatoes grow and produce indefinitely. 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 grow much better when directly sown by seed in the garden. Root crops such as carrots, radishes, turnips, and beets are good examples. Crops such as zucchini and beans can be transplanted, but often do better or grow quickly enough that they can be sown directly in the garden. Other crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers require a long growing season and should be started indoors before being planted out in the garden when warmer weather arrives. Read your seed packets for recommended growing information.
For ease, most of our gardeners buy plants from nonprofit organizations and garden centers that are ready for the garden. See below for resources.
Where to buy? Our gardeners have a few favorites…
For seeds, our gardeners like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Fedco, Burpee, Territorial Seed, and Baker Creek, to name a few. Find more resources on seed growing here on our blog.
For organic products, try Gardens Alive or Gard.in in Braintree.
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.
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!
Part 5: Planting
Part 6: Garden Maintenance
In case you missed it…
Part 1: Organic Gardening and Soil
Part 2: Our Growing Season and Gardening Resources
Part 3: Garden Design