Welcome Back and Hello Newbies: Flourishing Friendships in the Garden

In the gardening world, we all have our favorites – our favorite flowers, our favorite vegetables, our favorite fruiting bushes or trees. We tend to grow them every year and usually become quite good at it, since we are familiar with their likes and dislikes. 

This year, I would like to encourage you to try a new plant, perhaps something you have never grown or perhaps even heard of. There are so many wonderful surprises in the plant world, and we have the option to never be bored if we choose to try new things every year. 

I would like to offer some suggestions of things I have personally tried and been pleasantly surprised by.

Let us start in my favorite world: flowers.

Favorite flowers

Canterbury Bells | Vego Garden
Canterbury Bells

  Canterbury bells bloom larger than you may think!

In past years, I have been guilty of starting far too many seed trays at once and not being able to keep up, but these varieties soldiered on through my neglect.  They were at least reasonably hardy, and some self-sow (of which I am a fan).  

Borage: If you haven’t tried this sapphire-hued beauty, you are missing out on a fantastic pollinator plant. Borage is an annual herb that has great health benefits due to its high gamma linolenic acid content which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These nodding blossoms draw bees and butterflies consistently and would work in an herb garden or flower garden.

Buckwheat: Yes, the buckwheat that is sold right alongside quinoa and is a high-fiber, nutrient-rich superfood can be grown easily in your home garden. It is a fast-growing annual that is typically white but can be found in lovely pinks and ruby shades as well. It is an excellent cover crop and great for feeding to livestock as well. This is a true superfood that will draw pollinators and bring ornamental value to your garden.

Agastache: These tender perennials are also known as hyssop and come in a multitude of colors including purples, pinks, oranges, and raspberry reds.  Pollinators love the tall, trumpet-shaped blooms, and that includes hummingbirds! These flowers have a minty smell and will last all summer into fall.  They thrive in poor soil and can self-sow beautifully.

Canterbury bells: Now, you might be familiar with these, as they are an old-time cottage flower, but I have noticed that I rarely see anyone grow them, which is such a shame. These huge beauties (larger than I expected) do typically require a bit of support because of their height and the size of their blooms, but they are so worth it. I typically grow the mix that has various shades of pink, purple, and white. They are so lovely and make such a beautiful cut flower. Place out of high-wind areas, especially if foregoing staking.

Favorite flavors

Ground cherries | Vego Garden
Ground cherries

Ground cherries can be sweet or savory

Now that I have mentioned just a few of my favorite lesser-known flowers, we move on to the world of vegetables.

I assure you that I have my favorites we grow every year, but occasionally I will come across a recommendation or a packet of free seed that I am so grateful to have gotten and tried. 

Ground cherries: I don’t believe I know a gardener who does not grow tomatoes at least sometimes. If you know tomatoes, you will immediately see the similarities in ground cherries. They look like small cherry tomatoes, wrapped in a papery skin. They love the heat like tomatoes and are a tender perennial (meaning if you can successfully overwinter them somewhere or live in a more tropical climate, you can keep the same plant indefinitely). Sometimes savory, there are also sweeter varieties (New Hanover is so wonderful). I highly recommend these as they are very tasty and very prolific.

Radishes: Now I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest radish fan in the world.  I have found, however, that my daughter loves them. In growing them for her, I have found that they are a phenomenal trap plant.

If you don’t know what a trap plant is, it is exactly what it sounds like. You can plant them next to more valuable, possibly more delicate plants nearby, and they will tend to draw the pests that may attack your other crops. They are part of a holistic system that I use along with other companion plants (marigolds included), netting, Neem oil, and just hand-picking.  

Although they seem to draw the pests, they do not seem to suffer from it in their harvest. I heartily suggest you try growing them next to your cabbage and see if they give you the same good results that I have had with mine.

Multiplier onions: Saving the best for last, we have multiplier onions. Oh, how we love onions here. We put them in almost everything. Of the perennial-type onions, we have chives, leeks, ramps, Egyptian walking onions, and my personal favorite – potato onions. Potato onions are typically bigger than walking onions.

There are different varieties, but there is not as much information online about potato onions compared to other types. They can also be hard to find. I’ve never seen them in a brick-and-mortar store, but you can find them online if you can get to them before they sell out.

Once bought, you won’t have to buy them again, and could possibly even begin selling them as demand seems to often outweigh supply. They can be planted in spring or fall, and you will hear different outcomes from different gardeners on the exact best time, so it’s a good idea to do some experimenting of your own. Like potatoes, if you accidentally leave some in the ground when harvesting, they will continue on, sprouting up for next year’s harvest.

These are just a few of my favorite surprises in the garden. Hopefully you will find something new to love as well, perhaps even sharing your new knowledge with others. 

Here’s to a wonderful new gardening season!

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