If you're one those Preppers whose family thinks you're a tad "off" because you believe in being prepared this is the book for you. More specifically, it's a great book to give them since it's full of down to Earth information they could use to keep themselves relatively secure in an emergency such as Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and other natural disasters. And, who knows? If they read it they might actually start Prepping..
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AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON.COM
I'm finally back at work on Freedom Rising (Book 3 of The Dying Time Trilogy) but I haven't finished the first draft yet, much less done the editing and re-writing that will be necessary. So please be patient. I'm trying to put out the best book of the trilogy and it's a challenge.
In the meantime I hope you'll give my latest books a try. And if you do, don't be shy. Tell me what you think about them and post reviews on Amazon and GoodReads, okay? The reason these books are being released is because I'd already written them years ago so all I had to do was a bit of updating and formatting to get them on Amazon.
The first book in The War Corps series, a terrorist thriller titled Tap Doubt: Your Next Drink of Water Could Kill you is available on Amazon now. The second book in that series, American Jihad, is also available.
Here's a link to Tap Doubt http://amzn.to/29ozNIY
And one to American Jihad http://amzn.to/2vwIfiS
I hope you enjoy them.
Last year one of my readers gave me terrific idea for putting together a list of extremely useful Prepper websites and tips. I originally thought I would post that as an article in this newsletter but it's WAY too long--near 100 pages at last count and I'm still working on it. I took the following piece of it out and am posting it here to feed that gardening fever that hits us when the seed catalogs arrive. So, without further ado, here's an article on my personal favorite varieties of mostly heirloom veggies, as well as a few I want to try. Warning, it's a long post as I cover MANY varieties of vegetables and herbs.
GARDENING: PERSONAL FAVORITES and SOME TIPS
Over the years I have developed some distinct preferences for growing certain varieties of vegetables. Most of these, oddly enough, grew well in Denver, Colorado (Zone 5a) and here in Arizona (Zone 8b). All of the varieties listed below are heirlooms unless otherwise noted.
Asparagus: Mary Washington. This is the only crop I grow in our alkaline soil—though the beds were amended with compost and get a new compost dressing every fall and spring. I haven’t mastered the art of getting all the spears to come up at once, so we get half a dozen here and a few more there—enough to whet our appetites but not enough to prevent us buying asparagus at the grocery store. I just figured out I should feed it more often than I do and take care in managing the alkaline pH Asparagus loves..
Asparagus: Purple Passion. I usually have radishes, turnips, lettuce, kale and beets before asparagus shows up for the party but it’s eagerly anticipated. I messed up and put this at one end of one of my 4’x16’ raised beds, filled with nice slightly acidic soil and it did poorly. After a couple of years, the roots apparently found their way to the alkaline soil below the bed and now the plant sends up dozens of spears as big around as my thumb. Delicious—sweeter and more tender than other asparagus.
Basil: Actually Sweet Basil has a prominent spot in our container herb garden. It gets used, mostly by my wife, when she’s cooking spaghetti sauce. It grows so vigorously we put it in it’s own container and have to stake it. For those of you who do companion planting it's good to grow in with tomatoes.
Beans: Just a note about beans. Grow as many as you can. They are a good source of protein and if you grow dry beans, like Anasazi below, you’ll be eating good all through the winter. Along with potatoes, beans are the best crop for nutrition and storage. They last for years as dry beans and even longer if you pressure can them. When I fist started out here in AZ I thought bush beans would be the way to go because my place is windy and I didn’t want the crops drying out. But after seven years of me getting older I’ve started switching to pole beans to save my back during harvest time.
Bean (dry): Anasazi, 86 days, aka Red Anasazi, aka Cave Bean. This bean has the best flavor of any bean I’ve ever grown and virtually everyone I know who has tried it agrees. It also has one of the best legends of any vegetable—allegedly having been discovered in a sealed pot inside an Anasazi ruin that dated back 1500 years. They claim bush bean status but they grow more like pole beans. Doesn’t matter. Delicious, rich flavor--very sweet and nutty with a creamy, meaty texture. Like Peas (below), I’m a firm believer in providing support, even for so-called bush varieties. Air flow is the best defense against mildews. I’ve learned never to top water beans or peas. Drip irrigation is best for all garden crops. I’m providing multiple links since this bean is hard to come by and companies often run out quickly.
Bean (Green): Blue Lake 274, 58 Days. Prolific and flavorful. My wife likes the Blue Lake 274 best—I suspect due to their lack of fiber and pleasant tenderness. The one we’ve been growing is a bush type but it’s available as a pole bean and I’m going to get some.
Bean (Green): Contender, 55 days. Extremely productive and really good flavor. If I could only grow one green bean this would be it just because it out-produced every other bean I grew by a large margin, I mean, by far the heaviest yields of any green bean. Excellent, robust flavor. Heat tolerant. Note: in spite of what some websites say, every single bush bean I've ever grown requires staking.
Bean (Wax): Golden Wax, 50 days, aka Topnotch. Wonderful flavor and, as with all yellow beans, easier to find and pick than the green ones. Easiest to grow of any wax bean I’ve tried. I once, but only once, planted these beans on Nov 30 and grew the plants in a low, hoop-covered bed through the winter. I had water-filled milk jugs in the “hoop house” and the warmth they absorbed during the day radiated out at nigh and kept the beans alive. They didn’t thrive and they didn’t produce beans (because the days were too short), but they took off in late February and by mid-March I had beans when everyone else was just beginning to plant. I have tried to replicate this experiment, but without success. I think because that winter the air temps never dropped below freezing (32 F).
Bean (Lima): Fordhook 242. 75 days. The best Lima I’ve ever grown. Fairly heat tolerant. They are productive and taste great. Good for fresh eating, freezing and canning.
Beet: Detroit Red. Very hardy, slow to bolt, very tasty, easy to grow in beds or containers. Very sweet and tasty. Very tender with a smooth texture. And on top of all this it stores well. You can make a killer Borscht soup with them, but we usually slice them into salads or simply cook them up as a side dish. I never knew I liked beets until I tried this one. It’s also good for canning.
Beet: Cylindra. Next to Detroit Red, my favorite beet. Both varieties are excellent raw, cooked or canned, but I think Cylindra is better for canning because of its uniform size (around 2”).
Broccoli De Ciccio: 50 days (yeah, right, more like 60) Excellent flavor, slow to bolt, and the one I let go to seed gave me about a bazillion seeds. I use a lot of those seeds for sprouts. Develops its best flavor when planted with garlic—which also repels cabbage worms and deters aphids. This is the only broccoli I bother with anymore as it thrives in our climate, tastes better than others and grows tons of side heads once the central head is harvested.
Cabbage: Earliana Hybrid. 60 days, One of the tastiest cabbages I’ve ever grown and, by far, the earliest. Most cabbages take 100 days or more to mature.That’s why I grow this hybrid.
Cabbage: Early Jersey Wakefield, At 90-110 days, they have some nerve calling this “Early” anything. I think it’s 90 days if planted in Spring and 110 if planted in Fall—at least that’s how it seems to me when I grow it. I like this cabbage a lot because it is the sweetest cabbage I’ve ever grown. Because of that, it makes great slaws and is good in stir-frys. My best success with it came when I planted it in the Fall (early Nov) grew it over the winter in my low “hoop houses” and harvested it in mid-March. I have had some success planting it as a Spring crop but I have to use shade cloth to keep it from getting sunburned. The Fall-planted crop tasted better.
Cabbage: Pak Choi (Bok Choi), 45-50 days. I like Pak Choi in salads and stir fry dishes. Grows well all winter long here if I protect it from hard freezes.
Cantaloupe: Hale’s Best. 80 days. A reliable favorite with decent flavor and easy to grow in the ground or in containers. You’ll hear later on about my problems growing watermelons—all melons really, but Hale’s Best comes through more often than not. It is relatively compact for a cantaloupe with vines rarely exceeding 6’ long.
Cantaloupe: Planter’s Jumbo. 85 days. Drought tolerant and able to resist heavy rainfall. Those traits alone made me try it, but it’s the flavor and aroma that keep me coming back. Simply delicious. Easy to grow. Resistant to Downy and Powdery Mildew, which helps make it my personal favorite. This is my “if I could only grow one” variety.
Cantaloupe: Minnesota Midget. 65 days. The sweetest and earliest melon I’ve grown here in NW AZ. This one came in before the monsoon rains could destroy its flavor. Heavy rainfall or over-watering while fruits are ripening prevents sugar concentration in the fruits of ANY melon. I started these inside and mulched the bed with black plastic to warm the soil before transplanting them in mid-March. They were ready for harvest in late May.
Carrot: Scarlett Nantes sweet, crisp and delicious raw or cooked, holds very well in the fridge after harvesting, slow to bolt and excellent at re-seeding itself. This is my go-to carrot and, aside from Short n Sweet below, it’s the only one I grow. I truly do love the flavor.
Carrot: Short n Sweet, 68 days, a hybrid that is my wife’s favorite and does well in the ground or in containers.
Cauliflower: Snowball Self-Blanching. Quite good but struggled and only developed one very small head. Probably my fault as I didn’t pay attention when it got overwhelmed and shaded by my peas. It grew well in Colorado so I'll try it again here in AZ.
Chives: No idea what variety as I bought it as a plant from a nursery that simply had it labeled as chives. We grow it in our container herb garden and cut it so often for cooking that it rarely forms flowers.
Corn (Sweet): I try different varieties of heirloom sweet corn almost every year and every year the plants grow tall and strong and develop good ears. And every year corn ear budworm beats me to the harvest in spite of trying Neem Oil and Diatomaceous Earth. This year I’m going with a fast maturing, cool season variety and have decided I will spray pyrethrum and bt as needed. Maybe that way I can beat the earworms to the punch.
Corn (Sweet) Country Gentleman. I grew this old, mouthwatering corn in Colorado and had great success. Here in AZ it’s been a different story--earworms, in spite of this being a "tight" sheathed variety..
Corn (Sweet) Golden Bantam. 75-90 days. This old heirloom is getting hard to get because hybrid sweet corns dominate the market. It is delicious when picked fresh—I grew it in Colorado. Here, as stated above, I’ve had no luck with it. But is is a great sweet corn and I hope gardeners and preppers, who know the value of non-GMO, open pollinated seeds, will get it, grow it, and learn to save seeds. Here the problem was earworms.
Corn (Sweet) Candy Mountain. At 70-80 days this corn just might be early enough to beat the earworms. It is tolerant of cooler soils than other corn and thus can be planted much earlier. I’m planning on early March before our frost date as opposed to mid-April, when I usually put in corn. I’ll lay black plastic on the soil to warm it faster and keep the plastic cover one until the corn is growing well. I’ll spray with pyrethrum and bt and if that doesn’t work, I’ll start dusting the plants with Sevin as soon as the ears start to form. My alternative plan is to start the corn inside to give it a head start then put it out in the black plastic mulched garden. I have several different Norther varieties of sweet corn I can try if Candy Mountain fails. I love sweet corn and refuse to be beaten by a worm.
Cucumber: Straight 8. 65 Days. Good as a slicer or for making bread and butter pickles. Easy to grow. Pretty good in salads, too.
Cucumber: Armenian. 63 days. A melon, not a cuke but tastes like one and is burpless. Warning—so easy to grow it will take over. Very good no matter how large it gets. It was a favorite at our local farmer’s market.
Garlic: Inchellium Red. 257-451 days. When I planted this as a companion to my broccoli both did much better than without the companion. Like all garlic, here in the SW you plant it in the fall (Oct-Nov) and harvest it late Spring (early June). It really is good and mild when fresh but gets so strong in storage that I had to find another variety. Still, if you like strong garlic…
Garlic: Purple Queen. 300+ days. Another great companion garlic with broccoli. Soft-neck variety, mild but spicy. Flavor mellows with age when stored. My personal favorite.
Ginger: 300 days. I like oriental cooking, especially stir-frys. Thus, ginger. It struggles here, because it likes humidity, but produces enough for us. Since our ground doesn’t freeze I overwinter it in situ and dig it up as needed, taking care to leave smaller roots that will come up the following Spring.
Goji Berry: Perennial. I planted one of these last year as I was told they were heat tolerant and could grow like a weed here in AZ. Mine hasn’t. In fact, it struggles to survive in our intense sun. I’m going to rig shade cloth and see if that helps. The few berries it produces are delicious. It’s also a medicinal plant. I'm also going to study up on what pH and types of fertilizer it likes as I do think it will be worth the effort.
Kale: Red Russian (55-60 days) is prolific and hardy, which is also slower to bolt. Re-seeds itself. I like young tender leaves in salads, but unlike most leafy green even the older leaves aren’t bad, especially cooked. It’s also much taller than most kales—2-3’ not being uncommon. While I occasionally grow kale as a spring crop I mostly grow it in the late Fall as frost heightens its sweetness. My favorite Kale.
Kale: Lacinato 65-80 days. Best grown in Fall to take advantage of enhanced flavor after a frost. The flavor as a whole was to strong for me. But different strokes for different folks, right?
Lettuce: Iceberg. In our climate it tends to not form real tight heads but it’s still very good and I love the sweetness of head lettuce for salads.
Lettuce: Crisphead Great Lakes (Iceberg type). Heirloom from Botanical Interests. 75 days. Great Lakes is the first true iceberg lettuce. An All America Selections winner in 1944, this bolt-resistant variety continues to be a favorite today. Grow extra to harvest young, crunchy, baby greens! Lettuce is easy to grow from seed, and home-grown is far superior to the grocery store product.
Marvel of Four Seasons Lettuce (Butterhead) – Heirloom from Botanical Interests. 55 days. If you are looking for a lettuce that is both tasty and attractive, this heirloom is the one. The tender, sweet leaves are green at the base, turning to a beautiful cranberry-red, forming a crinkly rosette that almost looks like a flower! Won’t turn bitter when heat arrives. Rosettes are 8" - 12" in diameter, good for large containers. https://www.botanicalinterests.com/product/lettuce-butterhead-marvel-of-four-seasons-organic-heirloom-seeds/category:vegetables/filter:73
Lettuce: Red Salad Bowl: 33-35 days. AAS Winner. Very hardy and slow to bolt and successfully re-seeded itself for five straight years. Excellent in salads and on sandwiches and burgers when leaves are young. Like most leafy green the older leaves tend toward bitter. I still harvest them but use them in my compost pile. It is very slow to bolt. It is a great spring or late fall crop. I have managed to overwinter it in my low hoop-covered beds by using water filled milk jugs as a low cost solar trombe wall—absorbing the suns heat during the day and releasing it at night.
Onion: Australian Brown. 100 days. I like medium sized onions and this one fills the bill with excellent flavor. I plant it in the early fall and overwinter it in my raised beds. Planted with brassicas like broccoli it enhances their flavor while offering a degree of protection from aphids.
Onion: Evergreen Bunching. It’s a perennial so leave some in the garden to multiply. Wonderful in stir fry dishes.
Parsley: My wife and I both love clipping fresh parsley to add to recipes like bracioules.
Parsnip: Hollow Crown. Confession—this grew well in Colorado but I haven’t tried it here in AZ yet. I keep meaning to because I love it’s sweet, nutty flavor, but I keep forgetting to save room in my raised beds for it.
Parsnip: Harris Model. This one does great here in AZ. I usually plant it in a deep container because its 12” root needs more depth than I have in my raised beds—which average 10” deep. It has wonderful sweet, nutty flavor after a frost. It stores well but I usually store them in the ground and harvest as needed.
Peas (Edible Pod): Mammoth Melting. 60-75 days. The most productive, delicious snap pea I’ve ever grown. Bush type but tall enough to need support. Tastes so sweet, it’s one for me, one for the basket, one for me... Superb in salads or stir fry or simply as a snack. If I could grow only one edible pod pea this would be it. One good tip: I always use inoculant on every single pea variety I plant.
Peas (Edible Pod): Sugar Ann. 54 days. Another deliciously sweet snap pea. In addition to being a terrific Spring crop, I grow it as a Fall crop (planted in late September) because it’s early enough to produce before any killing freeze hits (almost always). Doesn’t require support but benefits from it anyhow. My favorite stir-fry pea and one of the best for eating raw.
Pea (Shelling): Little Marvel. 63 days. As with all my peas I install a 4’ tall 4” x 6” wire mesh between rows to provide support. Even bush varieties need support for air flow (to prevent mildew infection). Little Marvel yields a heavy crop of fine tasting peas in about 60 days. They seem sweeter than other shelling peas. Great raw as a treat, in salads or cooked. I plant it in late August for an early November harvest. I also plant in late Winter (mid-Feb) for a pre-summer harvest.
Pea (Shelling): Lincoln: 67 days. I plant this one in early spring and love it for it’s flavor and heat tolerance. Not many peas can tolerate our June temperatures. This one does while giving high yields. It grows more than 30” tall and definitely requires staking or a trellis.
Pea (Shelling): Keveldon Wonder Garden Pea aka First Early. A very early (50 days) pea that produces bumper crops of sweet, small peas. I sometimes plant this variety instead of Little Marvel. It’s short enough (rarely topping 2’) that I can cover it when I put the plastic over my low row hoop-style raised bed covers and extend its season well into winter when I plant a fall crop. Caution, if you cover peas with plastic and don’t provide adequate ventilation you will get downy mildew. One of the things I like most about Keveldon is its resistance to pea wilt and downy mildew. To prevent this, I usually roll the plastic up to the top of the hoops and secure it during the daytime—only lowering it at night if a freeze is expected.
Peppers (Bell): California Wonder. Here in our harsh AZ sun, California Wonder does great. I harvest some green (and they have good holding power in the fridge) but prefer to let them ripen to red as they are sweeter then. Wonderful flavor. I sautee them with butter and onions to use on cheesesteak sandwiches. I cut them up raw in salads—especially macaroni salad. They are perfect for stuffing. Easy to grow if your soil is good.
Yes, it will get sun scald if you're not careful. I rarely use shade cloth. Instead I interplant them with my tomatoes. The tomatoes give them all the shade they need. I get a very good crop of thick-walled, juicy, bells. Oh, I usually start them in Jiffy pots and plant them a week before I plant my tomatoes to give them a bit of a head start. Otherwise the tomatoes can almost choke them out.
I try to control insect pests with soapy sprays and diatomaceous earth but will resort to Sevin dust if required. btw Sevin dust won't harm bees if you keep it away from the blooms.
Peppers (Bell): Yolo Wonder. Basically identical to California Wonder but produces a heavier crop. I grow these on alternating years.
Peppers (Banana): Burpee Sweet Banana. Terrific sweet pepper that’s easy to grow but take the same Sun Scald precautions as shown above. I usually pick them in their yellow stage as that is when they are most firm. By the time they get red they tend to be soft and won’t keep nearly as well.
Peppers: Golden Marconi. I also grow Red Marconi on occasion. It’s a toss-up between these sweet, delicious Marconi peppers and Sweet Banana as to which one I like best. I sautee them with butter and onions to top off cheesesteak sandwiches. I also like them because they come in late (80 days), which is after my bells have developed, so they help to extend the season. They are thick walled and produce relatively few seeds.
Peppers (Chile): Hatch Mild Chili Pepper. These are my favorite mild green chili pepper. Great pepper flavor without the heat that no longer agrees with me. Confession: I don’t grow these, roast and peel them on my own. I order them from The Hatch Chili Store in New Mexico. You can get them fresh, but frozen, or roasted and peeled which is how I usually order them. https://www.hatch-green-chile.com/?http://gclid=Cj0KCQjwn6DMBRC0ARIsAHZtCeMJEtT_P6Y7oQYFJGiKZ-BHwi9UugzwRaC7FhhvsxrnS2IV38dkTjgaAmooEALw_wcB
Potatoes: If you are a prepper this should be your main crop. Under perfect conditions you can expect to grow 10-15 pounds of potatoes for every pound of seed potatoes you plant. One pound of seed will plant a row 8’ long where the pieces are spaced 8”-12” apart. That is important knowledge as it lets you know roughly how big your garden needs to be to produce enough potatoes to get you through the winter. For example, that means I could—again, under optimal conditions—which never exist—produce 10 eight foot rows, or between 100-150 pounds of potatoes by planting 10 pounds of seed potatoes. A much more likely scenario is producing half that many potatoes. Since we use roughly 100 pounds of potatoes per year, I would probably have to dedicate two full 4’ x 16’ beds just to potatoes. Looks like I either need more raised beds or a more efficient way to produce potatoes (tower or grow bag or some such). Also, in my area I can plant potatoes in the fall and have a good crop by May so long as I protect them from frosts. Remember, potatoes are a cool weather crop.
The reason potatoes are so important is because they are nutrition rich, particularly in carbs—which mean calories.
I grew beautiful potatoes in Colorado but I have a hard time growing potatoes of any size here in the SW. Therefore, I keep trying new methods. This year it was grow bags—an experiment that flopped miserably though I haven’t figured out why. Maybe too little water or I just got a bad set of seed potatoes. Last year it was a potato tower that did okay, but didn’t impress me enough to repeat the experiment. Next year I’ll try straw bales. The thing about growing them in a raised bed garden is it’s hard to mound them as you should because the dirt wants to spill or wash off over the edge of the bed. I’ll keep at it until I have beautiful 8-10” baking potatoes in hand every year.
One thing I learned this year is I need to grow potatoes in beds, bags, towers or whatever that have a pH between 4.8 and 5-5. Potatoes love acidic soils and mine are too alkaline. Also, I learned I was over fertilizing (with compost no less, and I didn’t think that was possible). But too much nitrogen and the wrong pH totally describes the problems my potatoes are having—heavy vegetative growth and light potato production. Thank you, Heirloom Organics.
Potatoes: Yukon Gold. I love the flavor and thin skins of this potato. In CO the tubers grew to 3-4” but here in AZ they come in half that size at best. I’m thinking they need more compost. Oh, they did best when we put shade cloth over the hoops. They gave a good crop. I know you’re supposed to use red potatoes when you make corned beef and cabbage, but when I made it with Yukon Gold potatoes plus cabbage and carrots straight out of the garden it was superb.
Potatoes: Gold Rush. This potato gave me a larger crop of 3” spuds than the Yukon Gold did. It has the same delicious, buttery flavor also. It’s a winner. But I’m still searching for a good-sized baking potato.
Potatoes: Purple Viking. I tried this variety this year and out of 15 plants only 1 came up and promptly died—cutworms maybe? Anyhow, they were a total flop, which I now realize was probably because my soil pH was too alkaline and I over-fertilized. My fault. Live and learn. Since these are drought tolerant and large-sized potatoes, I will try them again.
Radishes: Cherry Belle. At 22 days (mine always seem to take more like 32) these mild radishes are very good in salads. I interplant them with other crops to help repel aphids.
Radishes: Early Scarlet Globe: Another radish that is supposed to take 22 days but at my place takes longer (32-36 days). Same mild flavor and crisp texture as Cherry Belle but a bit more heat tolerant, so I start planting Cherry Belle as early as possible then go to Scarlet Globe later in the Spring.
Rosemary: We have a ton of rosemary growing around our house so anytime I need a sprig I just step outside and clip one. For those not so fortunate. The blue flowers are usually covered with bees and I’m pretty sure if I gathered any wild honey from around here it would have a Rosemary flavor.
Sage: Common Sage. We are not fans of sage so when we use it we do so sparingly. I doubt we’d grow it at all but my wife says some dishes require it—at least in limited amounts.
Spinach: Bloomsdale Long Standing is a heat resistant variety I’ve had the best luck with. It’s easy to grow, will re-seed itself if allowed to do so. I like spinach in salads or cooked with crumbled bacon and cheese. My wife makes a terrific quiche with this variety.
Spinach: New Zealand. Not a true spinach but tastes like it. Withstands our harsh heat better than any other variety. Easy to grow. Will spread if allowed.
Squash: (Summer): Black Beauty Zucchini is the only zucchini I grow and if I could only grow one squash this would be it. Very heavy yields on bush plants that spread but don’t’ take over. Best flavor if picked at 6” but I usually let it get larger, often much, much larger. Great raw in salads (when picked small), cooked, or (my favorite) grated and made into Blueberry Zucchini bread. During the summer season I keep my sun oven busy baking batches of this delicious bread. Then I freeze loaves for eating later of to give as gifts.
Squash: (Summer): Pattison Golden Marbre Scallop. I’m drooling just thinking about this one. Definitely the most flavorful summer squash. I try to pick them small (2-3”) while the skins are tender as that is when they taste best. If allowed to get big they make a decent winter squash since the keep good flavor and store well. Now, that said, I’m likely to stop growing these as they produce too little food for the space they take up.
Squash (Summer): Early Prolific Yellow Straight neck. It’s a AAS winner and still one of the tastiest, easiest to grow summer squashes around. I try hard to harvest them when they are less than 14” long since if they get bigger than that I have to peel them—unless I’m roasting them. Oh, at 5-6” they are tender and succulent.
Squash (winter): Delicata is easy to grow and produces a fairly hard-shelled fruit that is sweet, nutty and my favorite winter squash. It holds very well if kept in a cool, dark place. It is memorably good when baked with butter and a hint of brown sugar (much like you’d bake an Acorn squash, but with a lot less sugar since it’s already very sweet), but is also delicious roasted. I’ve stuffed it with sliced apples, sausage and cornbread stuffing and served it as a main dish. But mostly, I just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds to save, then stick it back together and roast it until it’s fork tender. A bit of butter and salt and I’m set.
Squash (winter): Table Queen Bush Acorn. I like this for its fine flavor and compact size (36” though mine get slightly larger at 48”)—great for small raised beds anyhow. Really excellent producer and easy to grow. Stores better than any other winter squash I’ve grown.
Strawberries: We have two strawberry beds and three strawberry pots. The beds are mulched with bark and even though it is now August in our hot desert SW climate both beds are still producing—though production has slowed.
Strawberry: Eversweet fills the first bed. Next to those tiny little alpine strawberries that grew wild in CO these are the sweetest and most flavorful I’ve ever tasted. Best used for fresh eating and strawberry shortcake.
Strawberry: Quinalt fills the second bed and (being hardier and even more heat resistant than Eversweet) also fills the strawberry pots. While not as sweet or flavorful as Eversweet it is still delicious and is far more productive. Aside from fresh eating, it freezes well and I think it would hold up making strawberry jam.
Sweet Potato: Covington. I like orange-fleshed sweet potatoes so I used to grow Beauregard Yams. I switched to Covington’s because you can’t tell the difference taste-wise, they have a more uniform short, blocky shape, like a Russet potato, and they store much better. I cut back to growing nine plants this year as last year I put in 20 and was overwhelmed with productivity. Even these nine plants have all but completely taken over the 4’ x 16’ bed they are growing in. One last tidbit. Almost everyone in North Carolina who grows Sweet Potatoes has switched over to Covington’s and NC is a huge producer of sweet potatoes.
We got our slips—they don’t come as seeds—from Gurney’s but I can’t find them there now, so here’s a link where you should be able to get them.
Thyme: Another staple in our tiny containerized herb garden.
Tomatoes: There are few veggies tastier than a juicy, ripe tomato fresh picked. I have liked or loved every tomato variety I’ve grown but over the years have settled on a few that do well here in sunny, hot, dry AZ.
One thing to be sure of is to check your soils pH before planting tomatoes. If it gets too high (my problem) it won’t matter how many powdered eggshells you put in your garden the plant won’t be able to utilize the calcium and you’ll end up with blossom end rot (Guess how I learned that lesson).
Like most veggies (except Asparagus) tomatoes prefer a pH ranging from 6.0 to 6.8. I find I get best results if I keep my soil on the low end of that range.
Tomatoes also love compost and fertilizer so till some in before planting, then side dress them as the season progresses. Just be careful not to use a high nitrogen fertilizer next to a new plant’s roots or you could burn them. Mostly I use composted veggie scraps and well-composted steer or chicken manure. Another thing about high nitrogen fertilizers is they will promote heavy vegetative growth while doing little to aid in flower formation or fruit set and development.
One last bit of advice on planting and growing tomatoes. Check out this PIN on my Pinterest site for information on how to have a successful tomato crop. If you visit my Pinterest site (Link below at bottom of page) you will find many ideas on growing veggies in my Gardening: Growing Your Own Food is Like Growing Your Own Money folder.
Tomato (Cherry): Sweet 100 Hybrid. For pure productivity and amazing, candy sweet flavor, it’s hard to beat Sweet 100. It’s my wife’s favorite and we grow them every year. They re-seed themselves without help from us. It grows so well and so easily here I have to keep cutting it back to keep it in its place. The fruits are grape-sized but grow in clusters of 6-8. Where most tomatoes shut down or vastly reduce production when temps climb above 100, these babies thrive. I have to pick them every four days or they get out of hand. My neighbors are enjoying the bounty. They will give you volunteers next season but since they are a hybrid it’s best to pull them up and plant fresh.
Tomato (Cherry): Black Cherry. I only grew these one year but really liked them. If I had room, I’d grow them again. Larger than Sweet 100, about the size of ping-pong balls, they are just as productive and heat tolerant.
Tomato (Cherry): Yellow Pear. This hardy and prolific variety re-seeds itself every year with no help from me. It is very tasty and almost indestructible. Way more resistant to pests such as hornworms than other types. Also, one of the only heirloom tomatoes that is naturally resistant to Verticillium and Fusariam Wilts.
Tomato (Cherry): Gardener’s Delight. They got the name right on this one. Truly excellent flavor in a golf ball-sized tomato that hangs in cluster of 6-12. Not as sweet as Sweet 100, but more tomatoey, if that’s a word. While it is more crack resistant than Sweet 100, it isn’t as prolific. Well worth growing though.
Tomato (Cherry): Jelly Bean’s Hybrid. These little gems have a fantastic, sweet flavor you're sure to love! Disease-resistant vines bear multiple clusters of 15-30 grape-size fruits that resist cracking. Indeterminate. Disease resistance: VF. 66 DAYS. My wife has no problem growing hybrids. Best well-supported or grown on a trellis.
Tomato (slicers): Mortgage Lifter. This tomato consistently wins taste tests and I can see why. When I first bit into one—Wow! This is what a tomato is supposed to taste like. In spite of being touted as heat resistant I’ve found it struggles here in AZ, so I’ve taken to planting it where it can get shade in the afternoons. I also like the thin skin, but that causes it to split easily if not watered consistently. Our monsoon rains can cause some serious splitting so I try to harvest as many as I can before they arrive. It is an indeterminate tomato—which means instead of setting a large crop then doing nothing—it continues to produce up to your first hard frost.
Some people can get huge four pound fruits off of theirs but I usually only get one pounders. Works for me as they are the perfect slicing size for burgers. While they are good cooked, they never produced enough for me to try to can them. If it was more productive it would be in my if-I-could-only-grow-one-tomato file. Here’s a guide on how best to grow them.
Tomato (slicers): Rutgers. This old standard produces a large first crop of tasty tomatoes that are resistant to crack. Then it produces several smaller crops. Mine were no larger than 2 ½” in diameter, but they tasted great. They were supposed to reach 8 oz. weight but mine were closer to 4-5 oz. Like Mortgage Lifter they have a lot of wonderful old-fashioned tomato taste. And they are more productive. Good for fresh eating, cooking or canning. This is a fine New Jersey heirloom that is technically a determinate type—which is good if you plan on canning tomatoes.
Tomato (slicers): Hawiian Tropic Hybrid. This indeterminate tomato is well adapted to handle our extreme heat. It can set fruit at temps up to 110 F, which we hit all too often. Thus, it resists blossom drop, which is all to common in other tomatoes here. It’s best grown on a trellis because it’s vines can easily reach 8’ high. Also, a trellis improves air flow, thus helping to prevent mildews. I rate the flavor of the fairly large, thick-walled, meaty tomatoes as good, but in the heat they can get mealy.
Tomato (slicers): Early Girl. Another strategy for getting tomatoes in hot climates is to plant varieties that have a chance at producing a crop before the heat hit. Early Girl fills the bill. It has the advantages of being very hardy. Last year it produced better than any other slicing tomato I grew. It is somewhat resistant to cracking and diseases (Fusarium Wilt and Verticillium Wilt) and has very good flavor. In some catalogs Early Girl is listed as a hybrid but a volunteer from last year came up in one of my beds and certainly looks like it bred true. And it was listed as an heirloom on the site where I bought it.
Tomato (slicer): Gurney Girl’s Best Hybrid. This one offers 8 to 10-oz. vibrant red fruit, with excellent flavor. Rich, sweet true tomato flavor is paired with meaty, juicy texture and crack free fruit. If it bred true instead of being a hybrid, it just could be the perfect tomato. Plants are very vigorous, so give it plenty of room and put it on a trellis. Yields are intense. Indeterminate. Disease resistance: VFFTTyTsw. 75 DAYS. Btw V means resistance to Verticillium Wilt, FF is resistance to Fusarium races 1 & 2, T is resistance to Tobacco Mosaic virus and I have no idea what the Ty and Tsw stand for but it’s probably some more tobacco virus resistance so they are a good thing. Disease and even Pest resistance is one of the best things about hybrids.
Tomato (Sauce/Canning): San Marzano: A lot of folks praise this tomato as a sauce tomato. It has a sweet flesh with a just little bit of tang. The thick skin peels off easily and it has fewer seeds and is more meaty than most other sauce tomatoes.
It is definitely the tomato of choice for pizza makers. I’m not much of a pizza maker but I do love a good sauce. I only grow these about once every three years as I only set up to make sauce that often. There’s nothing about them I don’t like. I always grow them in a bed that has been freshly filled with rich compost and I check that the pH is around 6.3. They love it and reward me accordingly.
Tomato (Sauce/Canning): Amish Paste. It’s possible that Amish Paste may be the best all-around tomato going. It’s a plum tomato, which means it’s thick walled and fleshy with far fewer seeds than slicers. It cooks down into great sauce and it is also easy to can. And as a bonus, it’s sweet enough to eat fresh. One of it’s advantages over San Marzano is it produces very large fruits—1/2-1 pound—which means fewer tomatoes to de-seed and peel. It’s more tart than San Marzano, which is good or bad depending on your point of view.
Turnips: Tokyo Cross Hybrid. This AAS winner was the first turnip I ever grew in Colorado and it was crisp, sweet and just plain delicious in salads when picked small (1-2”). If allowed to get big it went woody. Its chief advantage was how swiftly it grew. It competed with radishes for first crop—usually lost, but only by a day or two. It is slow to bolt and young leaves are good in salads.
I don’t plant them every year but when I do I plant them just like radishes and at the same time and do succession plantings spaced a week apart.
Turnips: Purple Top White Globe is my favorite turnip. I do succession plantings every year in early spring and again in fall. It’s easy to grow and has excellent flavor when picked small (less than 3”). It holds its flavor even when allowed to grow large (softball size) but at that stage it’s best if peeled. Good raw, cooked, or roasted. It is extremely heat tolerant, often lasting until late June. Young leaves are good in salads. Older leaves turn bitter but lose mush of that if cooked. They also store well in a cool, dark room, or in the fridge. The last planting in Fall I overwinter one or two of the best looking plants in the ground. The following Spring, they send up shoots, flower and produce abundant seed pods. And there is my source of seeds for the following year as by the time they have produced seeds I’ve already planted seeds I harvested the year before. Ah, the advantage of growing heirlooms.
Turnip: Boule d’Or. This yellow-fleshed turnip has even better flavor than Purple Top White Globe. It’s sweeter, milder and even more ender. Young greens are great in salads. Older greens should be cooked. I grow it the same way I grow the purple tops. I haven’t had any problems with cross pollination because the purple tops send up their flower spike earlier than the Boule d’Or. It isn’t as productive as purple top and can’t withstand heat as well. But that amazing taste makes up for those minor shortcomings.
Watermelon: According to experts the way to get good melons is to keep soil consistently moist until fruits are about the size of a tennis ball. After that, water only when soil is dry. Avoid overhead watering to beat foliar diseases; use soaker hoses instead. About a week before fruits are ripe, water only if leaves wilt. Withholding water at this stage concentrates sugars in fruit.
I’ve had to learn how to grow watermelon all over again since moving to Arizona and Zone 8b. The biggest challenge has been learning how to water them. The vines of every variety I plant grow well and set fruit but as the fruit ripen our monsoon rains arrive (mid to late July-August) and all that water dilutes the flavor from delicious to so bland as to not be worth cutting up to eat. And the problem is, I can’t start them outside any earlier than I do or they won’t thrive. Next year I’m starting them inside at least a month before last frost (March 15) and transplanting them outside ASAP.
Maybe I should grow them in containers so I can transport them into our Arizona room (a room that is open to the outside on one of more sides, but is roofed over). It may be too much work for too little reward. It certainly is that way now.
Watermelon: Blacktail Mountain is early (65-70 days), heat tolerant and heat resistant, which is why I bought the seed. I planted it in late April figuring on harvest in early July. Nope. Rains came and crop was ruined. Since it’s early I’ll try it again by starting it inside.
Watermelon: Black Diamond 75-90 days, large 30-50 pound melons, bright red, sweet flesh. Heat and drought tolerant. Very prolific and spreads so leave room. My results were the same as above except it got some sort of wilt—probably fusarium.
Watermelon: Crimson Sweet 80 days, so fairly early, and mouth-watering sweet, resistant to anthrachnose and fusarium wilt, very few seeds—yes! Here’s one I had to try and I did—the rains were so hard that year the melons split and the ants got in. Once again, I will try this variety again using the methods I’ve outlined above.
Watermelon: Moon & Stars 95 days, I had a brainstorm. What if, instead of trying to beat the rains by growing melons I could harvest early, I went the other direction. So I planted a late maturing Moon & Stars red-fleshed melon late, early June, for an anticipated early September harvest. The rains came when the fruits were tennis-ball size and pretty much wrecked the crop again. I did manage to harvest one that had some flavor but it was grainy, mealy, full of seeds surrounding a small heart and got wilt. Won’t try this one again. Put this here not because it was one of my favorite but because it wasn’t.
Watermelon: Sugar Baby Another year, another variety. I only plant one at a time because I don’t want any crossbreeding since I’m saving seeds. 75-80 days and one of the very sweetest melons out there Small, fridge size is a plus for me. It completely took over a 4’x16’ bed and I had to keep cutting it back. Each vine got 12-16’ long and produced 2-3 fruits. Next time I’m going to trellis them (Crimson Sweet also) to prevent wilt and make insect control easier.
Watermelon: Desert King. 85 days. This yellow-fleshed, oblong melon is by far the most successful melon I’ve grown here in Zone 8b AZ. Being known as disease and sunburn resistant and with extreme drought tolerance, it was also the first one I tried and thus it gave me a completely false sense of how easy it was to grow melons here in AZ. It produced wonderful, 15-20 pound fruits and the flavor was very sweet and juicy. I didn’t catch them at peak ripeness (because I used that stupid “thump” test that practically guarantees a mushy melon) and they got a little bit over-ripe and therefore slightly mushy but the flavor made up for it. The reason for my success was, though I didn’t realize it at the time, the monsoon rains never came that year. They are quite seedy and, as watermelons go, compact—thus perfect for a raised bed garden. Mine was grown in a 4’x4’ bed and while the vines extended beyond that it didn’t try to take over the world.
Gardening wish list: These are plants I intend to find or make room for but haven’t got around to doing so yet.
Asparagus: Asparabest from Gurney’s Harvest lots more spears—without sacrificing flavor. AsparaBest truly lives up to its name! Its predominantly male plants produce little to no seed and 2-3 times more spears than popular Jersey varieties. And, the purple-tipped green spears have an excellent flavor.
Garlic: Elephant. The largest garlic around, thus the name, it’s also one of the mildest. It’s been described as garlic for non-garlic lovers,” which comes close to describing my wife and I.
Potatoes: German Butterball Mid-size, won first place in Rodale’s Taste Test. I’m told their best flavor is enjoyed if they are harvested when small to medium-sized. If you order these from Burpee be sure you read the planting instructions on their site because they are different than other potatoes. I ended up ordering them from Gurney’s and intend to grow them in “grow bags.”
Potatoes: Early Ohio Heirloom from Gurney’s. A favorite heirloom potato from the 1800s, Early Ohio Potato has a delectable flavor unlike any other potato! Grown throughout the Midwest, this excellent all-purpose potato has tan skin and delicate pale pink flesh. Early Ohio Potato is excellent for baking, boiling and frying. An early season potato, it stores well for up to 3-4 months. This variety was bred to withstand golden nematodes, potato scab and verticillium wilt. Seed potatoes from Gurney's are all Blue-Tag certified by state inspectors to be free of disease and true to type. They can be planted three weeks before the final spring frost. I ordered this one and will plant it in “grow bags.”
Potatoes: Bintje Heirloom from Heirloom Solutions (aka Bintje or Miss Bintje) This is the potato that made Belgium famous for frites. Known as the best variety for french fries, and the Belgians should know, their per capita consumption of french fries exceeds even America's by a third! Introduced in 1910 by the botanist and schoolmaster named Kornelis Friesland and named after one of his pupils. This variety literally fed Belgium through two world wars. Possible the most widely grown variety of yellow-fleshed potatoes in the world. Will grow on a wide range of soils and will store exceptionally well.
Potatoes: Kennebec Delicious taste, large size, and blight tolerance! This large multipurpose potato is attractive, with light tan skin, attractive white flesh, and uniform appearance. The skin is thin, so it peels quickly and is tender and flavorful when left on the potato. Kennebec is a nice oval potato with shallow eyes for easy washing, smooth peeling, and attractive presentation on the plate. These easily-grown main crop potato plants bring a high and dependable yield of large potatoes, and they resist blight and other diseases well. Tubers store well through the winter. Kennebec's' rich potato taste and consistent large size make them popular not only with home cooks but also in the culinary world. The drawback is the plants sunburn easily so I’ll have to use shade cloth.
I am definitely growing these either this year or next year.
Also available from Heirloom Solutions.
Potatoes: Norkotah is a long, smooth, shallow-eyed, russet-skinned potato. It is adaptable to many growing areas, and grown primarily for the fresh market. It is moderately resistant to black spot, and resistant to growth cracks, second growth, and hollow heart. Tubers can become large late in the season, so close monitoring is necessary after early August. These potatoes generally have a 7-9 month storage life. Maturity: 90-100 days. Hardiness zones 3-9.
If I can’t get the Kennebec’s, or if they don’t do well because of our intense sun, I’ll grow these instead.
Potatoes: Burbank Russet. The potato that made Idaho famous. Most widely grown of all potatoes. Scab resistant, Long-storing. Needs consistent moisture supply. Good for beginners as it’s easily established. Medium size. Long, oval shape.
Watermelon: Hopi Yellow from Adaptive Seeds. This variety from the Hopi people has bright, golden-yellow flesh that is very sweet, crisp and flavorful; medium to large size. They received this variety from Native Seeds Search and as such it should do very well in our heat.
Yacon: These come as live plants from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (http://www.rareseeds.com ). They are a perennial, grow 4-5 feet tall and produce propagation tubers at the center of the roots that can be divided and replanted in the Spring. And they produce edible tubers that grow around the perimeter of the central ones. According to reports these taste like a combination of crisp apple and Asian pear—which sounds pretty good to me. But the main reason I want to grow them it I’m type II diabetic and these plants are a source of insulin (which might be good in a SHTF scenario).
That's it for this month folks. See you next month.
As always, I invite you to contact me.at the email address provided below.