Sunday, October 5, 2008

Green thumb's up

The growing season is almost at its end, and today I pulled out most of the plants in my garden. I thoroughly enjoyed my first summer as a community gardener. My harvest was bountiful, even overwhelming at times. None of my plantings were a complete flop, but some of the varieties particularly outperformed the rest.

Receiving top honors in my garden review is the Eight Ball zucchini (Cucurbita pepo 'Eight Ball' ). This zucchini produced early and abundantly. My two Eight Ball plants were among the first zucchinis in the community garden to fruit, I was picking them the last week of June, and today when I went to pull up the plants, I found two more zucchini waiting for me. That's 15 weeks of fruit production, pretty impressive, not to mention that they taste great and their little round shape is remarkably endearing.

Another of my favorite cultivars this year was Aussie Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum 'Lesbos'). This great basil plant thrived in a pot on my balcony. It has slightly smaller leaves and a spicier taste than the sweet basil I've grown before, but the selling point for me on Aussie is that it does not produce flowers. With traditional basil you spend the summer pinching off buds and pruning the plant so it doesn't flower and ruin the flavor of the leaves, but with Aussie there's no maintanance required. Just picking and pesto!

I grew Juliet plum (Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Juliet'), Super Sweet 1oo cherry (Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Super Sweet 100'), and Jet Star (Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Jet Star')tomatoes, and was pleased with all three. I also grew Golden Nugget yellow cherry (Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Golden Nugget') tomatoes, but I didn't like their flavor as much as the other tomatoes. They were not as sweet and a bit mealy in texture. Also, Golden Nugget is a determinate variety, its fruit ripens all at once, and I couldn't keep up with picking them, so a lot ended up splitting and rotting on the vine.

I grew eggplant for the first time ever this year. In keeping with my small round fruit theme, I selected Little Ball eggplant(Solanum melongena var. esculentum 'Little Ball'), which is shaped like Eight Ball zucchini. Unfortunately, Little Ball was not as successful as Eight Ball. The plants produced plenty of beautiful purple fruit, but they were so filled with seeds that I found them unpalatable.

Successes celebrated, lessons learned, my summer in the community garden is drawing to a close. Truthfully, when I pulled out my plants today, I left my Eight Ball zucchini in the ground. I know frost is coming some night soon, but there are still flowers on the plants and I saw a bumblebee buzzing around them. So I'll leave them a little while longer, and see if they beat the odds and give me another harvest. Grow little zucchini, grow.


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