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Aya
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What is a good amount of garden?

This is my first year gardening. I've recently become a stay at home mom and decided I'd like to get into gardening, both to have something to do in my off time as well as to try and help save money by growing my own produce rather than having to buy it. The issue I'm trying to figure out currently is how much of a garden do I need to provide produce for a family of 3 (soon to be 4)? I would like to freeze fresh fruits and vegetables to be able to have them when I need them as well as keep some fresh stuff on hand. I think I'm going to concentrate on: Tomatoes (Cherry and Regular Size), Carrots, Lettuce, Spinach, Potatoes, Peas, and Herbs. I'd love to have corn, melon etc..but I don't think I have the space for them. So what would you suggest? How many plants to make a difference in our grocery bill?

Thanks!

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SPierce
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I'm a newb, too... would always recommend starting out small- then growing from there. I have 4 4x4 garden boxes, and last year was my first year- i bit off WAY more than I could chew, trying to plant everything I could think of, and aside from a ton of tomatoes and a very small pepper, ended up with little to nothing.

The way I set up everything this year was thusly: when I go grocery shopping, I look at the cash register/receipt and see what my most expensive things are on my bill. It usually ends up being grapes (which I unfortunately don't have room for); so aside from that, I buy a lot of onions, potatoes, various squashes and peppers. So-- that's what I concentrated on this year. I also learned, last year, that I bought too much of each plant! I could have made do with half of what I bought, so I ended up overcrowding, too.

be aware: one tomato plant will produce a TON of tomatoes. it also grows up to 7 feet tall :shock: so, you don't need a ton of tomato plants- one or two will provide plenty all season :D It's similar with lettuce, I planted mine too late and all my lettuces bolted, but from the way things looked I could pick leaves off of it pretty much all season for salads and such!

Pretty much anything will make a difference in your grocery bill- heck, even eating at home instead of out will make a HUGE difference. Sorry I'm rambling; what I'm basically trying to say, is, supplement your meals with stuff out of your garden that seems to cost you the most at the grocery store. It makes an enormous difference!

Good luck with your garden this year :D

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Aya
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Thanks! I was thinking 1 or 2 of each tomato plant, and I have 5 potato plants going as well. I kinda got out of hand with my peas. I had bought a 4 pack of transplants and they're doing good, but then I planted about 6 different sets thinking they wouldn't all germinate, but they all did! So now I have about 9 healthy pea plants, which I think might be too much :?
I like grapes a lot too, and I've seen grape plants/vines available but I have no idea how to raise grapes..I'm a huge novice and grapes seem difficult. Well hopefully we each end up with productive, beautiful vegetable gardens this year :)

BrianIllinois
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Here are the factors I consider:
• Bang for the buck
• Space required
• What I enjoy growing
• Things that taste great fresh-from-the-garden, but lousy from the store

Considering those criteria, I plant more tomatoes than I probably should. But I really enjoy growing them (especially the less common varieties), they hands-down beat the store offerings and I freeze what I don't need right away. I just blanche them to make the skin peel right off, then quarter them and throw them in freezer bags. I use them all winter in soups and chili.

I also favor eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, lettuce, arugula.

I'm reducing this year's planting of cucumber and jalapeno.

I've added asparagus this year.

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I think its always better to plant more! You can freeze tomatoes for later in the year! Some crops take all summer so you want to prepare if some don't grow well! I found that its is better to take your time and plant them right rather than just plant them anyway! Sugar Peas I would put in at least 25 or more since you can eat them when they are small and fully grown! Potatoes can be kepin the ground so plant plenty and they are easy to grow even on bad ground!
+++
Tomatoes I would plant at least 2 of each of 6 or more varities. Lettuce plant some every other week for three weeks so you will have it most of the summer. Also with lettuce plant leaf and semi head!. Simson and butter crunch are good choices or red sailes or prize head both are similar to simson but have a red tint! One of My favorites is oak leaf! Variety is the name of the game in gardening because of taste and how well one type grows! Cabbage and broccoli are also good crops!
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Aya
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I really love tomatoes, especially cherry varieties. Since this is my first year gardening, I didn't know about catalogs so I've been looking for seeds in store. They don't have many varieties so I'm hoping to get lots of variety for next year.
I seemingly spend the most on fruit at the stores, yet I can't think of a way to grow the fruits I like best in the space I have available. I love blackberries and raspberries, but my puppy tore them up out of the containers I had them in, so they're toast. I'm wondering if I should start over or just nix the idea....they're just so expensive in the grocery store.

Bobberman
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Wild rasberries ae everywhere. I dug about 10 plants out 5 years ago and have a nice crop every year now! Tomatoes grow a early variety like Early Girl & a small tomato like sweet 100 or sweet million!. The large tomato I would pick celeberity or better boy. Plants are the way to go this year like 4 for $2 in most places. The hybrides are usually more and I like them best! Hirlooms are fine. You can even throw early varities of tomato seeds in a small garden area in may and still have a crop in Aug growing your own.! Wal Mart has many seed packs for a $1 that are fine!
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rainbowgardener
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How much garden to feed a family.

"Realistically, a family of four growing just their vegetables on about 1/4 acre (about a 100′x100′ plot) would be a huge amount of their food supply and quite manageable if you were willing to put in the work!"

https://thesietch.org/mysietch/greenspree/2007/07/17/self-sufficiency/
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jal_ut
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rainbowgardener is spot on, however that may be a big order for a beginner.
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ruggr10
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This is year two of me having anything bigger than an 8x10 plot and I'm not worrying about what is too much. I'm growing things I like to each and also things I find fun.

Some examples:
14 types of tomatoes started (so far)
weird types of berries
glow in the dark peppers
strawberry spinach
serpent cucumbers
lemon cucumbers
4 types of japanese winter squash
and more I'm probably forgetting.

I'm making sure I have what we need to eat plus what I want to have fun with. I'm a newb but I am a teacher with summers off (other than coaching hoops) so I can experiment. I guess it's a good hobby to have.

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Aya
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Its a nice concept to have a huge plot Rainbow, but I don't have that much room :(
I also have broccoli growing. And I thought 9-10 pea plants would be too many - I guess that's not the case!

Bobberman
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There is always room for a raised bed. Take a ugly part of your yard and make a raised bed right over a burn pile or grass!! Any kind of old lumber will work even brick or block!
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Aya
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That's a great idea. The hard part will be convincing hubby to let me take over the yard :lol:

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rainbowgardener
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No it's hard to have too many pea plants. They produce a few pea pods and then are done. The first time I grew peas, I planted a row on each side of an 6' long trellis. That gave me enough peas for one meal.

Now with very limited space, I don't bother with peas. I'd rather grow broccoli, which keeps on putting out side heads after you harvest the main one, for cool weather and then beans which keep on producing much longer.

No, I didn't expect that you would or could make a 100 x 100' garden. Just that if you were serious about 4 people eating no vegetables that didn't come from your garden (and you wanted to eat a reasonable quantity and variety of veggies!) that's about what it would take. Very experienced intensive gardeners in the square foot gardening and/ or permaculture style might be able to reduce that , but they would accomplish that by putting in lots more time and energy in the garden, very labor intensive and probably pretty input-intensive in terms of compost and other enrichments.
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Bobberman
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Variety of peas is very important. Most of the peas only grow 2 feet high. The alasakan peas grow 5 feet and can be eaten at all stages plus produce peas for over a month & lots of peas per stock!
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garden5
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I would say start out with as much as you feel comfortable with and then expand as your experience increases. OK, OK, I know that sounds like a cop-out answer, so I'll offer an alternative: 2 beds, each of them 4-5 ft. wide and 20 ft. long.

Now, they don't have to be raised beds, but there is an advantage to having beds rather than one big block (which is mostly what I'm currently gardening with).

Firstly, you won't be walking in these beds (hence the reason they are only 4-5 ft. wide), you will be reaching in from the sides. This benefits you in 2 ways: first, you won't have to cultivate/till nearly as much since you won't be compacting the soil; second, you will be able to space your plants closer than you ordinarily would, thus getting more plants in the space.

Secondly, you will be able to mulch these beds by spreading straw, hay, or grass clippings on them. This will keep the weeds down. It won't eliminate them, but it will help quite a bit.

In the fall, leave the mulch on and spread some compost right over it. This way, the soil in the beds will get built-up and get richer and richer with time.

You may find that at first, it's a bit daunting. You will have a lot of questions (which is what we're here for :wink: ) and probably a few failures. Keep at it. After your first year or two, and you learn from your mistakes, a lot of things that seemed tricky will become second-nature to you. Before you know it, you will no longer ask yourself "How do I grow this ?," and will instead be saying "How can I find room to grow more?"

Good luck and hope you have a banner harvest this year :D.
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wordwiz
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My backyard garden is only about 1,000 sq. ft. and I can grow enough Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Beans, Lettuce, Chard, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Peppers, Broccoli, Basil and onions for our family of four, though some of the stuff we might have to do without in the dead of winter. Two years ago I grew about 105 linear feet of potatoes and I still have a few cans left. Ditto for tomato juice and I just recently ran out of green beans. This is even considering that last year I did not get a single potato or can of tomato juice, plus only a couple quarts of beans.

If I wanted corn it would require at least 120 more square feet and I'm not sure about Sugar Snap peas. Most market growers I have talked with said a good yield is 1/4 to 1/2 pounds of peas per plant, but I could have two seasons.

The ground I leased was only about 15,000 sq. ft. and I had planned on growing enough to do at least one very good Farmers Market per week plus selling to a couple of businesses.

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digitS'
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I am with the "keep it manageable" group - and, if that means "keep it small" - then, do that :wink: !

Here is some information on [url=https://www.hort.purdue.edu/hort/ext/Pubs/HO/HO_124.pdf]yield and intensive gardening from Purdue (4 page pdf)[/url].

There are plenty of mistakes to be made, one of the first is not having enuf seed to grow what you intend. I swear, some of the seed packets contain so little they can just to give you a "hint" of the crop. Most seed lasts for several years so a little larger packet doesn't have to be wasted.

And, once you've got enuf seed - the easiest mistakes to make, because you've got extra - is either planting it too close or set out rows from "here to the horizon!"

I have made mistakes like this. First of all, thinning goes against a gardener's nature even tho' it is necessary. And, it is a lot easier to plant a much larger area in the spring than it is to find all the time to tend it thru the summer.

Succession planting with those seeds! Follow the spring peas with summer green beans. Hide some onion sets in your fridge - you can slip them into just a little space over the course of weeks and weeks. If the garden is full, sow lettuce in a container and when the lettuce in the garden is gone - transplant. Harvest early potatoes and plant fall greens. If the harvest is finished - out it goes - your compost pile is always hungry. Then, don't leave that space bare unless the weather is just too brutal even for beans.

The time for garden care thru the months is something that would depend on the weather and on individuals but it is a fair number of hours/hundred square feet seasonally, for the best gardeners. And, maybe even more, for the best of gardeners :wink: .

Steve
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greenstubbs
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Aya wrote:That's a great idea. The hard part will be convincing hubby to let me take over the yard :lol:
Just tell him that it's that much less grass he needs to cut. Just don't tell him that it's more weeding he needs to do.

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Aya
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Haha I tried the "the more I have for garden room, he less you have to mow" and he still said no. Honestly I just don't think he wants to build me anymore raised beds. I thought of breaking down my 8x2x2 bed into 2 - 8x1x1 beds, but he said I was on my own for doing that and I have some plants in it already, so I'm not sure if its worth the effort.

@Rainbow: I really want a garden that big and I hope to work up to being able to tend that much space realistically without it being something I'm not ready for.

Trying for supermom status here :lol:

WinglessAngel
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aya, i broke my garden up into 6 areas, 6 in ground and two potted areas, ive been lucky in that the only thing my fiance is worried about is mowing Around anything i put in lol but that being said....you can always find space to grow up (as in peas, alaska's are great for that) plus u can eat the tendrils flowers and peas in all stages as someone else said in here, but things like radishes and kohlerabi can be packed in tight...radishes can be grown 1" apart...and produce (most types) in 3 wks (from seed planting) and can be harvested as well as the tops used to be eaten, same with kohlerabi and carrots can be grown somewhat close together as well tops eaten also...that's how i planned my garden, what could i fit that i could grow together and in close quarters without putting them in too tightly...my romain will grow up under my brussel sprouts peas behind my cauliflower growing upwards, radishes underneath my other brussel sprout area etc...hope that helps :) good luck!

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Aya
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Those are great ideas. I might break down my big bed, but I've been putting it off cause I know it'll be a lot of work :roll:

WinglessAngel
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you are very welcome...we just had a wind storm here today and it snapped over most of my brussel sprout and kholerabi seedlings, but i have faith lol, i planted way more than i needed to anyway, so those that do survive will be extra tough and hardy and i can always plant more radishes and kohlerabi as they do grow quick and are harvested immature and early....so here goes on mine, i hope u all the best with yours lol i started an indoor experiment with my leftover alaska pea seeds today too, might be a good idea for you as well, as this is a proven method to sprout seeds (many anyway) take a wet paper towel and place your pea seeds into them and place them inside a ziploc bag, not the zippered kind as they can lose air more easily than the others do...and just place on a shelf in a warm area of the house, they should sprout in about a wk or so....good luck!

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Aya
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I actually remember germinating seeds that way in middle school :)

And I havn't seen Alaska Peas...where would I get them?

WinglessAngel
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most grocers will carry them and most hard ware stores will....now e1 is gearing up for garden season so all the major stores should have their supplies in...i purchased a bigger bag than i have need for for 5 dollars, but i will have plenty of seed for next year and it beats buying about 40 seeds for about 2 dollars....doesnt make sense to me, but u can also look on EBay as well....u purchased 3000 brussel sprout seeds and 2000 kohlerabi seeds from the same seller for a total of 6.95 i think it was, and 2 dollars of it was shipping, so the math adds up to more seeds for the dollar...but yes i had forgotten about sprouting seeds that way until i saw someone else's post on here about sprouting theirs in the same manner....let me know and i can look up on my EBay for you the seller I purchased my seeds from...the seeds were shipped fast and i had no problems with them at all :)

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I learned from James to plant only what I like. When I think of all the money wasted over the years trying this and that... Never again !
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WinglessAngel
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thats true, why plant something u don't like? i don't understand that one....why plant and take time to grow and nurture something if you don't like it or wont eat it?

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Aya
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I think that might be part of my problem. I want to try a little bit of everything right out of the gate! I've never heard of Kohlrabi before this forum - what's it taste like? Do you eat the funny little bulb or just the leaves? (For example). I'm not a fan of squash or radishes, but I want to expand my horizons palette wise so that's why I'm trying new things. I'm afraid I'm going to miss a good planting window and with everything being so SOGGY here all the time - I'm not sure I'll get a harvest this year :roll: But then again, I have a hard time being patient and I need to work on just sitting back and waiting!

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applestar
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I sheet mulch all my new beds. Please look it up using Search the Forum. FYI -- see my Sunflower& House thread in Permaculture Forum (Keyhole New Kitchen Garden was sheet mulched too).

Raised bed doesn't have to be labor intensive if you don't want it to be or you are not handy (I don't and I'm not :wink: ) It can be prettier than mine with a little more effort and supplies. :lol:

WinglessAngel
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aya if u like brussel sprouts and cabbage and those type of veggies in the cabbage family, you will love kohlerabi! its best when harvest yound at about 3" around at the bulb and peeled and eaten raw (think sweet crisp cunchy slightly cabbagy tasting goodness!) or cooked, ive never taken long enough to get it in a pot before eating it but ive been told it gets sweeter tasting when cooked and lot of people use it in place of potatos or carrots in soups and stews or in place of potatos for mashed potatos....also yes you can eat the leaves but not the leaf stems, think just like cooking greens and swiss chard and the like....very good for you and a great all around veggie, same goes with radishes, tops also able to be eaten and cooked, but radish top stems are much smaller and able to be eaten...ive seen a lot of people use them in soups and stews as well in place of carrots of potatos or just as an add in like people use green beans in them :) but the kohlerabi skins on the bulbs can be eaten but only when extremely young, like when they are about golf ball size, i prefer to let it grow a bit more so i have more to eat lol

if would like aya, i purchased a packet of white vienna kohlerabi and then a lot of 2000 kohlerabi seeds, i can mail u some if u like and u can try a few...i have plenty to spare, send me a PM if you would like some mailed to you....just a SASE would be great and ill throw them in the snail mail for u :)

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digitS'
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Aya wrote:I think that might be part of my problem. I want to try a little bit of everything right out of the gate! I've never heard of Kohlrabi before this forum - what's it taste like? Do you eat the funny little bulb or just the leaves? . . .
Kohlrabi is something like a turnip, but not as sweet.
It is something like a radish, but not hot.
Mostly, it reminds me of a peeled broccoli stem.

I like "the funny little bulb" just fine. I don't care about those sweet turnips and often, radishes are too hot for me :wink: .

But, taste is subjective - ya know? The US has become a veggie-limited society. I mean, if the average teenager didn't have tomato sauce with pizza and french fries with everything - he or she would eat no veggies at all!

Steve
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WinglessAngel
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LOL Steve very true!! I was an exception to the bunch when i was a kid, i always ate salads and hardly ever ate meat when i was a kid, my parents had NO idea how great they had it with me....we would go out to eat and i would want a salad for dinner LOL....they always said i could have that at home if i wanted and would get mad....but with any luck, when i have a kid, my kid will be the same as me growing up and i don't care if all they want is salads, at least their eating their veggies! LOL

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Aya
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I completely agree Steve - its kinda sad really. I was like pp and loved veggies and salads. So far my daughter does too, let's hope it stays that way!

WinglessAngel
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aya another thing about the kohlerabi is that most kid DO like it as well, as it is a very unsual looking veggie, and lots of kids like things that are unusual looking LOL...there are also the giant versions as well for all intents and purposes from what ive heard are just as good tasting and don't get woody even when big, look it up on the internet on google images, u can see what they look like, i think its alaska giant or something like that, but if u just put in giant kohlerabi u should see some pics....ive heard lots of kids call it the alien plant/veggie which is why i think so many of them like them....:)

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If I had limited my gardening to what I *already* liked, I would never have experienced fresh kale, among other veggies. The *only* kale I've ever eaten is that out of my own garden. I haven't even bought any from the produce store a block away!

And fresh peas are so $$$ that it really pays to grow them at home, even if you harvest sufficient numbers only for garnishing.

Fresh fava beans I had never purchased UNTIL I picked them out of my Square Foot Garden at MIL's house. WOW! Now I grow them here, I grow them there, and I purchase them as well, since the favas seem to have a difficult time making it back to my house from Palo Alto...I end up with a lot of compost material, but not many beans. :wink: Hey, a driver's got to eat; right? (Another pricey veggie.)

Arugula. $$$, so grow it at home if you like it. Radicchio, ditto. Tomatoes, since even in season, the really good ones don't travel well and won't show up at the stores.

As to why people grow stuff they don't like: I have at least one answer to this. My strange gardening experiences in Atlanta (college + working) included a desperate need for quick success. My Man and I read seed packets like crazy and found that radishes had the shortest germination + days to harvest period, so we bought some radish seeds and put them out in (maybe?) March. By mid- to late April, we had radishes!

Only to discover that, despite their glorious color and odor, neither of us could stand eating them. *sigh* But at least we knew that something would grow behind the house (where the southern exposure was). :)

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Aya
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I'm funny with radishes - sometimes I like them and sometimes I don't. Hubby is very hesitant to try new things, but he's pretty good about eating his veggies too. Imagine if I plopped a Kohlrabi on his plate :lol: (Prolly wouldn't, but ya gotta admit - it would be funny!)

WinglessAngel
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LOL hey a wife's gotta have some fun with their hubby's right?

Des_WA
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Welcome fellow Seattlite!

I'm also a big fan of tomatoes, just be careful to choose varieties that product earlier rather than later. Our springs and summers are cooler and shorter than some tomatoes prefer and you may not get much (or any) of a harvest out of a long season variety here. A pretty good semi-local seed source is Territorial Seed

https://www.territorialseed.com/

They're in Oregon I believe but if you browse their tomatoes, for instance, you can get an idea of what may work around here. You may want to stick with ones listed as 75 days or fewer to start with. Last summer I bought some Mortgage Lifter tomatoes (95 days) and neglected to educate myself sufficiently and didn't get a single tomato harvested from it...
Desiree
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digitS'
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And, Territorial's 75-day tomato isn't some other seed company's 75-day tomato.

They are actually using numbers from their test garden there in the Coast Range, as best as I can understand. Here is an example of what I mean:

Big Beef Tomato is an 80-85 days variety according to Territorial.

78 days, Tomato Growers Supply
73 days, Park
73 days, Jungs
73 days, Burpee
73 days, Burgess
73 days, Stokes

You know, it makes me wonder if some of these others actually have trial gardens and, B, where they come up with their days-to-maturity ratings.

Steve
who can grow Big Beef despite having a much, much shorter season than the Emerald City :wink:
Make everything as simple as possible but not simpler. ~ Albert Einstein

DeborahL
Green Thumb
Posts: 543
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 3:40 am
Location: Coastal Southern California

Wingless Angel, I meant I'm not going to experiment anymore. I'm sticking with what works for me.
God must think highly of animals - He created them before creating us !

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