One of the great things about the vegetable garden is that no matter how long you’ve been into it there’s always something new and interesting to try out.
Whether your interest lies in ornamental plants or edibles, heirlooms or modern varieties, fruits or veggies, you will never run out of new opportunities to test your skills and your creativity.
Here are some of the latest additions finding their way into my vegetable garden for the first time this season:
Turmeric – You may know turmeric as the bright yellow powder that sits on the spice rack, but it’s been making news lately due to recent discoveries regarding the health benefits of this plant that is also related to ginger.
I was gifted some fresh tubers, sprouted them indoors, and later transferred them into the vegetable garden as the ground warmed up. I also discovered that the fresh turmeric roots are great for cooking and I prefer them over the powdered version that is typically used in the kitchen.
Ginger – At this year’s PASA Conference one of the things that caught my attention was the East Branch Ginger exhibit where there were some plump and gigantic clusters of ginger rhizomes on display. After talking with the owner at length about cultivating ginger I decided to try some in the garden.
I ordered some of the organic Hawaiian seed stock which was pre-sprouted beginning in March and was just recently transplanted out into the vegetable garden and into containers on the patio. I’ll wait and see how ginger adapts to the climate here in Central PA but hopefully there will be a harvest of fresh homegrown ginger later this year!
Honeysuckle – Not your ordinary ornamental honeysuckle, but an Edible Honeysuckle variety that produces a dark blue fruit that is about the size of a blueberry. This shrub-like plant is reported to be pest and disease resistant and should meet the bill as an easy to grow, no-spray fruit.
Two different varieties are required for pollination purposes. I planted a pair alongside the deck; one is the “Blue Moon” cultivar and the other is a “Blue Velvet” variety. They don’t look like much now but I’ve surrounded them with a cage of vinyl clad fencing to protect them as they get started.
Honeybees – The most exciting addition to the garden this season are the two colonies of honeybees that arrived a few weeks ago. I’ve had solitary pollinating bees in the garden for years but honeybees are a totally different experience.
I’m using top bar hives rather than the common Langstroth style boxes that most people envision when they think of beehives. So far the girls are settling in nicely and have gone right to work building comb, collecting nectar and pollen, and performing the important task of providing pollination services to the neighborhood!
Weeping Mulberry – I still remember picking wild mulberries as a kid, they were never one of my favorite fruits but with all of the attention going to exotic berries like goji and acai, why not appreciate the healthful fruits that grow wild right in out own backyards.
In the past I’ve been prone to cut down the mulberry seedlings as they sprouted up but now I’m a little more tolerant and this year I even purchased a weeping variety to add interest and fruit to the landscape.
Kiwi Vines – Not the common fuzzy kiwis that you see at the grocer, but the hardy variety that is smooth skinned and smaller, but with the familiar kiwi flavor and hardy enough to raise in northern climates. This very productive fruit can produce over a hundred pounds of fruit per plant.
A unique aspect of kiwis in that for pollination purposes you must team a male plant with one or more females in order to get fruit production. In addition to a male hardy kiwi vine I have females of Anna, Arbor-eat-um, and Meyers Cordifolia. I’m still debating where to plant these and exactly what trellising system to use for support.
Asparagus Bean – I was familiar with asparagus beans but never had much interest in growing them until I encountered them on a trip to the Virgin Island’s Sustainable Farm Institute. There I noticed the tall vines that were covered with flowers and the winged beans.
My trellis is a bit space challenged with Malabar Spinach, edible loofah, cucumbers, a cardinal flower and pole beans all competing for room but I managed to squeeze in just a few seeds of asparagus beans in there as well.
Wintergreen – Camping trips to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey were where I became familiar with the tiny little wintergreen plants that cover the understory of the forest. The leaves make for a primitive chewing gum and breath freshener along the trail sides.
I tucked a couple of wintergreen plants in underneath the blueberry bushes and hope to propagate more plants to spread around the landscape. Wintergreen is a medicinal plant that will produce minty berries in addition the leaves that are fun to nibble on.
I’m working on a review of previous new additions to the garden from past seasons to bring you up to date with how they have fared. In the meantime feel free to comment on what’s new and interesting in your own vegetable garden this season.
Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts: