Why I’m Trying these New (to me) Plants This Spring
As gardeners, don’t we all love the thrill of trying new-to-us plant varieties? Maybe it’s just me, but I have such fun growing something I’ve never grown before and seeing what happens.
As Janet Kilburn Phillips said, “There are no gardening failures, only experiments.” I’m a scientist at heart, so experiment I will!
You may not be sure what to do to plan your garden before you even decide on varieties. I have a post here on Planning your Spring Garden, and if you’re not sure what all that stuff on the seed packet actually means, check out this post on how to read a seed packet.
Tennessee Red Peanut
You Southerners might be laughing at me right now for saying I’m trying a new variety and it’s a peanut. I know, you grow peanuts all over the place! Here’s the thing, we Zone 6’ers don’t typically grow these little beauties because they have such a long growing season.
However, I grew a single peanut plant last year that I bought at a nursery because I just couldn’t resist, and *drum roll please*, I actually got peanuts! Of course, then I burnt them when I tried to roast them, but we won’t talk about that (I was really disappointed though).
According to Baker Creek, this particular variety has been grown since before 1930. They need very warm temps, so I’ll be starting the seeds on a heat mat set at about 80F.
Due to their long growing season, I’ll be starting them indoors around March 20 here in Zone 6b.
UPDATE: It’s now the end of April and they’re growing like weeds! They’re almost 5 inches tall under my grow lights.
Yup, that luffa (or loofah). The kind you can use as a sponge or a scrubbie! I’m soooo excited to try these!
They’re apparently grown just like squash and can be trellised, which I will probably do to save space in my garden. (If you don’t have my easy DIY garden trellis plan, sign up to grab your free copy here). Again, they need to be started indoors here in the North, but not until the end of April. They don’t get picked until after the first fall frost, and then get dried.
Apparently once they’re dry, the skin comes off fairly easily, then they need to be cleaned thoroughly and allowed to dry again and voila! You’ve got a luffa sponge!
Tzimbalo Melon Pear
This is a South American plant in the same genus as tomato (Solanum). Baker Creek describes the fruit as grape-sized and striped. The flavor is supposedly subtly reminiscent of cucumber, melon and other fruits. Hmmmm….that’s kinda general, yet intriguing!
They have a long growing season, as would be expected of a South American plant, so must be started indoors here around the beginning of April. I’ll be using my other heat mat for these guys as they require 85F temps to germinate! YIKES! They look like fun though.
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The Tamarillo is native to Ecuador, Chile and Peru, among other countries in that region. The fruit is described as sweet and tropical-flavored, with overtones of pineapple. The foliage is fragrant and apparently very attractive.
Again, being a warm region native, Tamarillo must be started indoors. Here in CT, I’ll be starting them the beginning of April. According to Baker Creek, they’re very easy to grow. I’m excited to see how they do.
Chinese Red Noodle Bean
A native of China (Duh! Really?), the Chinese red noodle bean sounds really intriguing. The pods are deep red and can get to 18″ long. The fun thing with these guys is that they keep most of their color when sauteed. It is recommended that you saute, not boil, them for eating.
The red noodle bean is supposed to be very heat-tolerant and somewhat drought-tolerant, so may be a good choice for my Southern friends. This is one plant I won’t be starting indoors, as, just like more common beans, they will be better off started where they’re going to grow.
Again, just like more common pole beans and peas, trellising is recommended, so be sure to hop up and get my trellis plan, if you need it or you can sign up for it and my other FREE goodies here.
Chinese Python Snake Bean
Another Chinese variety, although this is technically a gourd relative, not a bean. It can, however, be eaten like a green bean or summer squash when harvested at 12-30″ long. Much like my Cucuzza squash (you can read that post here, if you’d like), this amazing plant can grow “beans” up to 60″ long!
Warning, it’s called a Python Snake Bean for a reason. Click here to see a picture of one. If you’re really snake-averse or have a family member who is, this may not be the ideal crop for you!
My Chinese Python Beans will also be planted outside as soon as the danger of frost is past, and require a sturdy trellis, from the looks of them!
Update (06/19): I’ve run out of room in my garden, so I think my Chinese Python beans will have to wait one more year.
This is a type of lettuce, but one that grows long stalks or stems. The stems and the greens are both edible, although the greens apparently get bitter as the plant gets larger. It is a slow to bolt variety, which is nice.
TIP: In case you don’t know, “bolting” is when a lettuce or spinach plant’s exposure to warm weather above a certain threshold causes it to send up a flower stalk. Although this is obviously desirable from the plant’s perspective, it’s not so desirable for us because the formation of the flower causes the leaves to get bitter.
Having never had this crop before, I read reviews on the Baker Creek website. Many people suggested eating the larger leaves in stir fries to cut the bitterness. Many of them also described the flavor of the stalks and the leaves as nutty. Interesting.
I can’t wait to add this to my repertoire of salad crops! Our salads in the summer are epic creations worthy of the Louvre. You would not BELIEVE the amount of veggies we manage to cram into one salad! Now there will be one more. YAY!
One reviewer from PA (also Zone 6, I believe) noted that a few of their plants overwintered so they had a nice head start in the spring. Something to hope for anyway!
Update (06/19): For some odd reason, my celtuce didn’t germinate at all. I may try it as a fall crop this year instead.
Beni Houshi Mizuna
I’ll actually have TWO new additions to my salads come spring, because this Mizuna is a variety of mustard plant that can be eaten raw in salads. As a bonus, it’s bright reddish-purple, which means that not only is it pretty, but it’s also loaded with anthocyanins, the antioxidant you can also find in blueberries.
This plant is apparently tolerant to both heat and cold, as reviewers from Zone 5 right through Zone 9 were pleased with it. They were also impressed with its flavor, so I’m really excited to try this new (to me) variety!
Amaranth or Chinese Multicolor Spinach
Ooops, make that 3 new salad varieties! I love raw spinach in my salads (although I can’t stand it cooked, ICK, slimy!) and this one is really pretty, to boot! As you may have guessed by now, I’m a total sucker for unusual-looking varieties, especially if they also taste good.
I love growing spinach in my garden, but it can be really persnickety (yes, that’s a word, at least according to my grandmother), bolting as soon as the weather heats up at all. Trust me, you don’t want to eat bolted spinach!
This type, however, tolerates heat without bolting, so it’s good when other spinach has gone by the wayside. Being able to have fresh spinach all summer is going to make me a very happy camper!
As with other cool weather plants, these seeds can be planted directly outdoors 2-3 weeks before the last frost, so won’t take up valuable space in my indoor growing room.
Dara Wild Carrot
I’m sure you’ve heard of Queen Anne’s Lace. Did you ever pick it as a kid and put it into a glass of water colored with a bit of food coloring? No? Really?! I bet you did.
If not, and you’d like to embrace your inner child, check out my Kids in the Garden post here and sign up for my FREE bonus list of things to do with your kids in the garden (one of which just happens to be dyeing Queen Anne’s Lace with food coloring).
This particular Queen Anne’s Lace variety, Dara, has PINK flowers that mature to deep red. SQUEEEE! I’m so excited! I LOVE the delicate look of Queen Anne’s Lace, but it’s just, well, white. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with white, but if I have the choice between white and pink….Let’s just say I bought the pink ones!
It can be started indoors, and I probably will (assuming I have the room), as it blooms more reliably in the first year if it’s started earlier. If I don’t happen to have the room, I’ll follow Baker Creek’s instructions and sow the seeds outdoors 2-3 weeks before our last expected spring frost. I’m REALLY looking forward to these flowers (and I imagine the butterflies are too)!
Although I probably won’t get seed from my safflowers (they require a 120 day season to set seed), I’m still looking forward to growing them. The flowers are very pretty and thistle-like, and range from off-white through yellow to orange.
If they do happen to set seed, the seeds are favorites of birds, so if you live in the South where your growing season is longer, you might want to give this a try.
Although the directions say to sow the seed outdoors 2-3 weeks before last frost, if I have room, I may start some earlier indoors and see how they do in hopes of getting them mature enough to set seed before first frost in the fall.
A Few Bonus Plant Varieties to Try
So, that’s my list of 12 new varieties I’m trying this year, but, well, I wasn’t quite truthful. You see, I’m actually trying a few new varieties of more familiar plants as well. Two of these are tomatoes, Brad’s Atomic Grape and Striped Roma.
When I saw Brad’s Atomic Grape in the Baker Creek catalog, I just HAD to grow it. Check the picture out here to see why! Tell me that’s not THE MOST AMAZING TOMATO YOU’VE EVER SEEN!! OK, maybe it’s just me, but they are KEWL! I can’t wait to see them in person!
The Striped Roma tomato seeds were gifted to me by Jessie Redden over at https://thiscountryhome.com/. She’s got a great website and, as an added bonus, is a really nice lady (although we live across the country from each other so haven’t met, at least not yet!) Be sure to visit her website and give her some love too! We’ll each be doing posts later in the summer talking about the seeds we swapped and how they did for us, so stay tuned.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of new varieties I’m trying this spring, and that it’s inspired you to try a few, too.
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I’d love to hear what you’re planning to grow this year! Please let me know in the comments. I answer every one personally and love to read them all!
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