The Growing Challenge: expanding my vegetable-growing horizons
Andrea Bellamy |

I’ve decided to join The Growing Challenge, started by Melinda of Elements in Time’s Creating Edible Landscapes blog. 

I’m not very good at these types of things, normally. Let’s blame it on my fear of commitment. Never could quite manage to do Green Thumb Sunday or Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day (although I have ordered the February selection for the Garden Blogger’s Bookclub from the library. Baby steps!). But this seems fairly easy: you just have to grow one additional type of fruit or vegetable than you did last year, and grow it from seed.

Getting stuck in a vegetable rut isn’t really my problem. I love growing unusual edibles. I’ve grown shiso and edamame, saffron crocuses and Vietnamese coriander. The issue, rather, is space.

My balcony is dedicated to veggie growing. I have two raised beds totaling just 16 sq.ft., plus a rag-tag assortment of pots and planters. Last year the balcony was home to five tomato plants, fennel, zucchini, edamame, purple bush beans, mixed lettuces — and a fig tree. While the sun isn’t as good, I grow the herbs (rosemary, parsley, basil, thyme, chives, mint, oregano, marjoram) just outside our kitchen door, for obvious reasons.

What I won’t grow again

I’m going to forgo the zucchini, because it takes up so much space, and hand-pollinating it drove me crazy. Fennel is a no-go, because, hell, how often do I actually eat fennel? I’m also going to pass on the edamame, because I don’t have room to grow enough to make a satisfying snack.

What I’ll grow again

This year, I’m growing a variety of heirloom tomatoes again, which take up half my planting space. I’m growing lettuces: last year’s “Garden Babies Butterhead” and heirloom “Merveille de Quatre Saisons” from Renee’s Garden did very well. The fig tree stays.

What’s new

Instead of bush or pole beans, I’m going to try filet beans – perhaps Maxibel from West Coast Seeds? But the newest thing for me this year will be kale. I’ve recently discovered a love for the stuff, so I’m going to try Lacinato (also known as Tuscan or black kale) as well as pretty Red Russian.

I’m also going to add a red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) to my native plant bed in my back garden. I’m also curious about those Doyle’s thornless blackberries you see advertised in the gardening mags.

I’ve always wanted to grow mushrooms, but I want to grow them outside and not using a starter log. I’ve seen garden show display gardens sink mushroom patches into the ground, which looks fantastic in a woodland garden. I’ll be looking at my options this year.

That’s all I have planned for now – but once I’m standing in front of that seed rack at the nursery, there’s no telling what might happen.

So, what do you say? Will you join me in trying a new veggie this year? Join here.

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