Innovation and imagination help feed new garden ideas

  • Mar. 24, 2018 6:30 a.m.

With today’s high density living, containerization is the new way of gardening. Flora Nova in England has done a remarkable job of introducing many new edible plants developed to perform well in containers and to provide quality produce in a shorter timeframe, even under less than ideal conditions. Their chili peppers, like ‘Chenzo’, ‘Loco’ and ‘Basket of Fire’ are easy to grow, quite attractive (like an ornamental) and their small fruits are equivalent in taste and quality to garden-grown varieties. Flora Nova’s container tomatoes, ‘Tumbling Tom’, ‘Megabite’ and ‘Sweet ‘n’ Neat’, are some of the earliest and best tasting you’ll find. From basil and eggplants to squash and strawberries, they’ve perfected fast, easy-to-grow quality varieties to help even less experienced gardeners have success. The beauty of these crops is their ability to be grown in large containers for instant results and attractiveness.

Pan American’s ‘Simply Salad’ series, with its three salad blends, is another example of beauty, functionality and ease of growing. ‘Alfresco’ has Mediterranean flavours; ‘City Garden’ is a traditional salad; and ‘Global Gourmet’ is a mix with an Asian flair.

Along the theme of beauty, swiss chard has come such a long way, with some of the blends even being used in floral containers. ‘Bright Lights’, ‘Peppermint’ and ‘Celebration’ are now being grown in six-inch or eight-inch pots as focal points for containers or as garden pop-ins.

Speaking of pop-ins, for gardeners who have limited space or for those in a hurry, they can minimize the time from planting to harvest by purchasing larger one-gallon size pots of sugar snap peas, bush and climbing beans, cherry tomatoes, bush cucumbers, lettuce, kale, peppers, summer squash, corn, brassicas and many greens. While the vegetables they planted from seed or transplants are growing, these larger plants will allow them an early harvest. Small space gardeners should trellis their climbing beans, peas and cucumbers.

Healthy foods have become a big issue over the past few years as the younger generations are very concerned about what they and their children eat. Now ‘Boomers’ too want to live to 150 and are becoming far more food conscious. It is imperative that we grow vegetables either organically or with minimal chemical pest controls. This is equally important for protecting pollinating insects like bees.

I give the Burpee Company full marks for their innovation, not only in providing informative labels that can be scanned with an app, but also for their lead in identifying and selling seeds for vegetables with higher antioxidant values. Their ‘Boost’ antioxidant collection has some amazing varieties. ‘Gold Standard’ cucumbers have 500 per cent more beta-carotene; ‘Sweet Heat’ peppers have 65 per cent more vitamin C; ‘Healing Hands’ salad mix has 20 per cent more lutein, 30 per cent more beta-carotene, 30 per cent more carotenoids and 70 per cent more anthocyanins; and ‘Healthkick’ tomatoes have 50 per cent more lycopene.

Kale, especially the hardy and heat tolerant new varieties, like ‘Red Bor’ and ‘Winter Bor’ as well as the beautiful ones like ‘Lacinato’ and ‘Black Tuscan’, is now a superfood, and kale chips are standard fare in younger households. Herbs too have jumped to new prominence, mostly for adding flavour to salads, Asian cooking and drinks. ‘Mojito’ mint is popular because of its flavouring for mojitos, and horseradish and wasabi have a new role in Asian cuisine.

Food gardening is not limited to vegetables and herbs but flows into perennial vegetables and small fruits. The ‘Brazelberry’ series of container raspberry and blueberry plants (now newly branded as ‘Bushel and Berry’) are attractive and offer the added bonus of picking one’s own fruit – a huge feature for small space and patio gardeners. These plants need larger pots and good soils and nutrients for the best results.

Perennial vegetables are really growing in popularity. Rhubarb is, perhaps, the most recognized and easy to grow, especially from well-established clumps growing in pots, as opposed to root chunks. Jerusalem artichokes are fun and also easy to grow, as is horseradish. In milder climates, the beauty of globe artichokes thriving in a garden is amazing, and even if grown in colder climates as an annual and harvested for only one season, if you let it flower, it’s stunning.

With a new season upon us, let’s enjoy greater success with more innovative gardening and newer and more productive varieties.

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