Recent Additions to the Vegetable Garden

June 2, 2011

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:

  • We purchased a hardy kiwi from our local garden store, and both the tag and the lady helping us promised that this variety did not need a second one to bear fruit… but every single place I’ve seen hardy kiwi mentioned online insists that 2 are needed. Do you think we should get a second? Does a self-pollinating hardy kiwi exist?

  • Kari

    Congratulations on your honeybees! You’ll be amazed at how much more fruit you’ll see in the garden and elsewhere. We started last year and had reports of fruit trees bearing for the first time a LONG way away from our yard. Squashes and loofahs are particular favorites of the girls. We tried to grow the scrubby kind for years with no success. Last year we had over a dozen grow to maturity.

    We have Langstroth hives but plan to add top bar as we get experienced enough to have more than two colonies. Looking forward to hearing how your hives do!

  • Sweet! Some more things I’ll have to try.

    Good luck with your bees!

  • Emma

    Interesting about the Bee’s my husband’s been talking about getting a small hive in our garden. Seems like a good idea with the decline in bee activity in the UK hopefully it will help with pollination of some of our flowers too!


  • I’d love to keep bees, but haven’t a clue how to go about it!

    I’m growing a variety of veg and have just spent a fortune on a huge net to keep out the pigeons and rabbits.

    Must be the warm weather here in the UK, but all the wildlife is out and after my produce!

    Ever onwards!


  • Barb Keeler

    Meredith, you will have to purchase a male plant as there are no self-fertile kiwis. Did they even sell you a female plant? Did they (do you) know what variety they had? If I went to a garden shop and they knew that little about their products, I would hesitate to go back there. Find out what you bought, then purchase the opposite sex. They will not need serious trellising for several years, but do not scrimp when you build. They are heavy, long-lived vines.
    Peace in the Garden,
    Barb K.

  • I haven’t started my vegie garden yet but am looking forward to trying tumeric and ginger and I will certainly be returning to find out what other tips you have.

    Home grown vegies do taste best I just need to get growing.

  • Scott

    The below site is my Q&A site for garden enthusiast. Have a look and if you can post a link for me that would be great!


  • Pingback: Plants for a Vegetable Garden «

  • L

    Where did you get you bees and Langstroth beehives from? Love how they look! Thank you.

  • Kenny Point

    Meredith, I agree with Barb and you will need an opposite sexed kiwi plant to pollinate the one that you have. I have a friend that grafts a branch of a male plant onto a female but you would still need to know what sex your current plant is.

    Thanks Kari, that’s good to know about the loofahs because I have a couple edible varieties in the garden this season. I’m already thinking about adding some Langstroth hives in addition to the top bars!

    Thanks Kitt, seems like there is always something new to try out in the garden!

    Emma and Alan, the bees need all the help they can get and they are fascinating to work with. A great way to start is to join a local bee club in your area.

    Thanks Barb!

    L, the hives are homemade from free top bar hive plans that you can find on the net, my bees were packages purchased from Wolf Creek Apiaries.

  • I learned something new about Wintergreen and gum.

  • Nice post about some plants like wintergreen. Wintergreen plant is an evergreen, creeping shrub grows only six inches in height. It bears bright red berries, which are used for medicinally. The wintergreen herb contains a compound composed of 90% methyl salicylate, a substance that is similar to aspirin. The oil of wintergreen is a flavoring agent for tooth powders and pastes.

  • I love the idea of growing wintergreen in the backyard. We always called them teaberry plants, and they grow like mad around my family’s cabin. I assume they love acidic shady forest floor, because that’s where we always found them. I’m just not sure I can create that environment in my little city backyard. Where should I look to find these little plants?

    I did recently buy a Mountain Mint plant, because it reminded me of the teaberry smell. It is very similar, but in a much different form.

  • These are great ideas! I have a vegetable garden and I never thought about using honeybees. I might try it some time this summer.

    Thanks again for the great tips!

  • Great post. And some good ideas for my vegetable garden.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Grace

    These are great ideas! There’s some more ideas presented on CoffeyBuzz where they talk about a very quaint home garden. Check it out!

  • Eileen

    Is anyone growing purple peacock broccoli? The promise of both broccoli and kale from the same plant is intriguing. Does a fall planting do better than a spring planting?

  • Kenny Point

    Eileen, I have tried purple peacock broccoli, I like the idea of two harvests from the same plant also. I’m still tweaking the planting and cultivation techniques to get good results with this plant. Spring vs. fall planting can make a big difference but it all depends on your location and growing conditions as to which would do best. I tend to get better results from fall grown broccoli but am able to get a decent crop in the spring as well.

  • I really enjoyed the post. I’ve been wanting to grow ginger but I’m not sure how it will fare down here in the south.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Jerry, I would give it a try since it may do even better down south in a warmer climate and longer growing season than it does here in the north.

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