Top 10 for 10 Part 2: Garden Edition

The hangover from New Year’s Eve wasn’t so bad so I am excited to jump on Part 2 of my Top 10 for 10 list… now that 2011 is firmly here, and the work insanity will be starting soon enough, it is nice to enjoy the final quiet holiday moments by thinking back on the things that were really fun in 2010 and start planning for more fun in 2011!

Happy gardening!

Number 1

Good melons. Or, as they say in the old Benny Hill sketch “Nice Melons!” Ours were both good and nice this year. We’ve attempted growing them every year and they are hit or miss depending on how hot the days are and the amount of rain we get. This year we tried Golden Midget – which very politely turns golden when ripe so you’re really sure it is done – and the famous French Charanais which is an old favorite of ours… they’re small enough to trellis, usually flavorful (extra good in 2010!) and just the right size for two people to share.


This would also be a good time for me to recommend a lovely, lovely book by Amy Goldman called Melons for the Passionate Grower.

Number 2

Growing garlic! Admittedly toward the end of the growing season the last thing I wanted to do was plant garlic cloves in 2009. But I sure was happy that I did in 2010! Garlic couldn’t be any easier to grow… you separate the cloves, push them deep in the ground (we did it at about 4″), mulch (if you remember to) and come spring you have early green in the garden, tasty scapes that seem to have their own personality and, in the case of Elephant Garlic (which is technically part of the leek family, not the garlic family) beautiful flowers too!


Number 3

You probably know from reading this blog that I am a bit infatuated with heirloom vegetables and grow them almost exclusively. One of the things I really like about them is they challenge our modern ideas of what a fruit or vegetable should look like. I tend to seek out things that are unusual or out of the ordinary and love it when a visitor is surprised that a melon, tomato, bean, etc. comes in an unusual color.

In addition to color, many heirlooms are striped! This year we had quite a collection of really pretty stripey things… they made me happy…


A note on the tiny orange striped melon on the lower left… that is called a Pocket Melon and they don’t taste great but have a beautiful fragrance. Story goes that Victorian ladies would carry the in their pockets (thus the name) and sniff them when they encountered a less than pleasant odor. An added BONUS with the pocket melon… it seems that the squirrels like them! We found a lot of half eaten ones around the garden over the summer and it seemed fewer half eaten tomatoes. I’m going to try them again next year to see if they’re a good trap crop!

Number 4

Tomatoes. Yes, you know I have a little problem with the heirloom tomatoes and 2010 was no different. I did enjoy finding new ways to present tomatoes to friends as gifts as well as taking lots of pictures of them… they’re so beautiful.


Number 5

What you might not know is that The Yarden is mostly edible… not that I don’t like flowers but, in general, you can’t eat them so I concentrate on edibles. I do have two rose bushes but I figure you can make tea out of the hips so that makes them somewhat edible. I also have lots of Siberian Iris (which make me crazy they’re so beautiful) and, again, I’ve heard that in times of hardship you can dig up the corms and eat them. So… maybe a stretch but technically edible.

In 2010 I made an exception and planted poppies thanks to a post I read from one of my favorite Chicago garden bloggers Mr. Brown Thumb. NOTE: I did plant some bread seed poppies in hopes of harvesting and eating them but they were one of many…


The great thing about poppies is they’re even easier to sow than garlic and sowing the seeds gets you outside in early March when there really isn’t a lot of garden stuff to be done in our Zone 5 climate. Oh, seed saving for these is a snap… you just pick the dried pods!

Number 6

Miscellaneous new veggies and herbs. Like I said, I like to try new and interesting heirlooms especially ones with an interesting color. This year of the many I tried, four really stood out – one so much that I’m reserving him for #7. Here’s the first three…


Here’s a tale of woe that you may remember from my post on Top 5 Dumb Garden Mistakes in 2010… these lovely “white” peppers on the left are now a mystery to me. I can’t find the seed packet – they may have been sent by one of my twitter garden friends – and all of my garden markers faded because I didn’t use indelible ink. I’m hoping I’ll find their info when I clean out the garage this spring and am kicking myself for not saving any seeds. They were DELICIOUS – sweet and not too peppery tasting. I loved them. Sad.

The second image is Shiso – aka Perillo. This herb grows to be shrub sized, is mild and delicious – we used it a lot in herb salads – and the color is amazing. There is also a green version that is said to be more pungent than the purple version so I may have to try that one in 2011!

The third image is an Armenian Cucumber aka White Serpent Melon. These “melons” – they’re taste like an vaguely apple flavored cucumber – are wildly prolific and delicious. We had few of the issues we usually have with cucumbers. There’s a green version of this guy too which we might try in 2011 as well!

Number 7

Gardening is never boring and Peter and I both love every step of the process… well, I probably love it more. But, my point is, all of it is great and yet once in awhile a plant comes along that is so interesting, prolific and or full of “personality” you want to tell everyone about it. In our 2010 garden that plant was Trombetta Squash.


We had so much fun watching these plants grow! We got the seeds from Renee’s Garden Seeds and planted them as we would zucchini which means, in our garden, that we over plant because the plants either get powdery mildew and/or don’t produce like we’d want them to so we plant extras and pull the diseased/lazy plants as the season progresses. Trombetta didn’t have any of these issues and virtually took over one quarter of the garden and beat the tomatillos in a domination smackdown. The instructions say to “eat when young” (see image on the left) but one day they’re tiny and the next day they’re monstrous like the middle picture. You really have to keep your eye on them. It would help if you anticipated how jungly they would get and plant accordingly – you could perhaps see the squash lurking under the giant leaves better.

Number 8

I feel like I need a little break after all my Trombetta gushing so this one is simple… my dear friend Tony got me this great garden statue for my birthday last year. It now holds court over the herb corner.


Number 9

Another simple one… the first year we had The Yarden we planted some lovely white currant tomatoes – per #3 you know I like the odd colored veggies! Ever since that first year they volunteer profusely. We pull up dozens and keep three or four. These are the sweetest little currant tomatoes you can imagine.


Number 10

Sharing gardening with friends. This is nothing new but 2010 had a twist on it… because of my activity on Facebook and Twitter I have gotten to participate in some “communal” gardening activities which have expanded the number of gardeners I get to learn from. It has been really tremendous especially since I travel so much for work – the on-line gardening community just goes with me!

Many of these cool experiences have come because of #gardenchat which can be found on Facebook and on the web HERE. I’ll let you read for yourself how fun the weekly Twitter “chat” on various topics can be (I got to lead one on Community Gardening awhile back).

One experience I really enjoyed was Super Sow Sunday. That’s where many itchy-to-garden gardeners (who aren’t interested in the Super Bowl) start seeds that day instead and Tweet about it as we work. It is a really interesting way to feel connected to other gardeners out there in a vast community enabled by social media. Below you can see some pictures of my besties who help with all sorts of gardening tasks… they were excited to learn about seed starting this year!


And here’s a numerically appropriate bonus for the new year…

Number 11

Possibly the coolest garden thing I’ve ever done was work with The Peterson Garden Project which is rocking again for 2011… it is a real pleasure to get to teach people how to grow their own food which has always been my mantra for The Yarden. I am so looking forward to learning more, and teaching more!, in 2011!

Peterson Garden

LaManda JoyTop 10 for 10 Part 2: Garden Edition

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