Plants we grow and recommend for our climate

Sunny Woodlands is in Zone 5a, in the Connecticut River Valley in New England. Our last frost this year (2020) was about June 6. Our first average frost date is near the end of September. As of Oct 5, we’ve had 4 nights in a row of light frost and then almost two weeks of no frost. We are at 43° latitude, which means that we get nice long days in the summer, which for some plants, makes up for the shorter season.

Some plants that do well in our garden:

Low-maintenance, VERY prolific plants

  • Kale! We have especially good luck with a regular broadleaf kale like “Premier.” (Brassica napus ssp. pabularis or pabularia) and we have volunteers (that Bill thinks are too pungent, but other family members like, even raw)
  • Egyptian Onions (Allium proliferum): we have a solid 6′ row of these, for green onions in the spring, top onions to pickle in mid-summer, then we cut them back and wait for a second round of green onions in late summer/early fall. After they’ve been growing for a while, you can use the roots, but it’s a lot of work for not much onion bulb, especially when onion bulbs are so cheap at the grocery store.

Stars of 2020’s main growing season; will grow again

  • Thai Basil from Livingston Seed: we started in the greenhouse, planted densely, and harvested enough to make Pho all winter long! The frilly Mammoth Basil and regular Genovese Basil also did well.
  • Blue Hubbard Squash: they thrived in our new squash patch, and we plan to plant a LOT more of these in 2021
  • Shungiku, aka edible chrysanthemum, a stir-fry green doing well in our garden. I want to plant much more of this next year. Seeds from FedCo.
  • Mangels! We grew Yellow Eckendorf and and Mammoth Long Red, trialing them for when we have pigs to feed. As of Early October, we haven’t pulled them out yet, don’t think we’ll get 30 lb specimens, but they should be much larger than regular beets.

Moderately successful: we can do better with them, and will plant them again

  • “Hale’s Best” muskmelon: we only got some small ones, but we started them late
  • Siberian Sweet watermelon — same story: not huge, but we were thrilled to get any watermelons starting so late, and these yellow-fleshed ones are tasty
  • New Zealand spinach and Malabar spinach (warm-weather greens, not related to true spinach): they got started late and should have been planted in a sunnier spot, but did well, considering, especially the New Zealand spinach.
  • Tomatillo: planted from saved seed, transplanted out late, the jury is still out on how much we’ll harvest. The fruits were marble-sized before the light frosts, but we protected them because they have a tendency to fill out their wrapper more after the temps drop.
  • Arugula: less bolt-y than the other brassicas in our early spring weather that can have short very-warm periods.
  • Oregon Sugar Pod: Bonnie’s favorite pea variety, didn’t do too well this year, but that was before the new garden fence was up.
  • Hon Tsai Tai (flowering broccoli): tried for the first time this year, very tasty, much milder than broccoli rabe. Planted more for fall, which are still small seedlings as of early October. It worked well in the spring because unlike other brassicas I planted then, we wanted it to bolt!
  • Chamomile: does some self-sowing, but I also planted more seeds in the spring. Will grow more next year.
  • Daikon radishes: planted some in the Spring, ended up digging new beds all around where I’d planted them, a few survived until fall; to be picked soon.

Fall Gardening

  • Renegade and Bloomsdale Spinach: doing great as a fall crop
  • Red-veined Sorrel, a perennial I planted in fall that’s doing well, not getting attacked by slugs, and should really take off next year
  • Detroit Dark Red beets: I’ve been nibbling the leaves from the August 4-planted bed, will harvest them before the hard frost, and will cover up the other two beds I planted later, in hopes of a Thanksgiving-time or Spring harvest.
  • Champion Radishes: got a great late start, still small; we’ll see how much we get from the bed
  • Parsley and Cilantro: doing well as of early October

Perennials that came back, but not as prolific as the Kale and Egyptian onions

  • Strawberries: we have a variety with medium-size berries that multiplies well, but the birds and maybe chipmunks and voles get to them quickly.
  • Jerusalem artichoke: we put a fence on top of where some of the row was, so we didn’t have as many this year as last, but we haven’t killed ’em off yet and they should multiply
  • Asparagus: we have one glorious asparagus plant out of the six or eight I planted two to three years ago. We will be planting more.
  • Thyme: the small bed from three years ago got choked back by weeds, but we have a plant in a pot that we put outside from late spring until fall, and then keep on a windowsill for winter.
  • Lemon Verbena: another potted plant that we take in for winter; I’ve killed it a half-dozen times and it keeps coming back to life.
  • Mints: Bonnie had a square yard of Mohito Mint in Vermont and brought some to Sunny Woodlands; there are a few stems hanging in there in our yard. We also have small clumps of spearmint and peppermint under a big maple tree near the house.

Weeds we can eat in spring before other things are up

  • Chickweed, lambsquarters, pigweed amaranth, wood sorrel