“It’s seed catalog time, a gardener’s true joy” • Stephanie Hudak, gardening columnist
The holiday season brings mountains of gift catalogs to our homes, but now we gardeners can look forward to the joy of poring over all those seed catalogs that will be coming; tempting us into growing new and exciting vegetables and fruits. While I lust after all the great looking pictures, I don’t get to plant much in my own garden. But my good friend, Hilda Chilton, who is an outstanding gardener, is serious about her choices. She gardens on two acres of her large farm in Rutledge, producing delicious produce that she shares with everyone. I’ve been lucky enough to be the recipient of her goodies so I wanted to share the names of what she thinks is the best.
Tomatoes are one of the top seed picks and heirloom varieties are even more desirable. ‘Cherokee Purple’ is one of her favorite heirlooms; and ‘Goliath’ is her everyday mainstay tomato. The seeds are started in Styrofoam cups at the end of February; when ready, the bottoms are cut out and the cup planted in the ground, helping to prevent cutworms and providing a place to write the name of the tomato. I loved this piece of advice for successful tomatoes: mix compost into the beds; to each hole add a half-cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer, ½ cup Epsom salt and 1 cup of lime. It must work because I took home gigantic tomatoes with no blossom end rot.
Beans are easy to grow and look really great growing on a bamboo trellis stacked against an old wagon wheel. Winners in this league are ‘Willowleaf’ lima beans, ‘Rattlesnake’ and ‘Romano’ pole beans. I loved the beans but not sure I would grow okra. For those of you that do like okra, ‘Cajun Delight’ is one of Hilda’s favorites… it does make for nice flower arrangements though if you aren’t interested in eating it.
Potatoes… How about ‘Kennebec,’ ‘Red Pontiac’ and ‘Yukon Gold’ for your garden. I am told that potatoes like an acid soil, so dusting the cut eyes with sulfur is good and also helps prevent rot. Speaking of acid soil brings me to blueberries, which also prefer an acid soil. Even if you don’t want to eat them, the birds sure will and they make a nice bit of shrubbery in your yard. Two varieties are always needed for pollination and Hilda’s picks are ‘Rabbit Eye’ and ‘Tiff.’ She gets the pH of the soil tested every two years and, at the time of planting, adds sulfur and peat moss to each hole.
While I might not eat them, I fell in love with ‘Greasy Green’ collards. They have bright green, shiny, beautiful leaves that could just be ornamental in your garden. In fact, Hilda plants them all around her flower beds but does eat them in the end. The key to success with collards, she tells me, is to side dress them with ammonium nitrate when they get a couple feet tall.
One last bit of advice from the Rutledge garden guru: Move your plants to different beds each year to avoid pest/disease, let the soil recover and be fertilized. Happy seed shopping!
Printed in the January 17, 2013, edition.