Monday 31 May 2021

What do you sow in a Planty Garden?

Do you sow unique vegetables or do you want a big harvest? In other words: which plants produce a lot and which don't?

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A very varied harvest
In my vegetable garden, I'm all about the harvest. 100%. A Planty Garden is made to produce the biggest possible harvest in the smallest possible space. It's the most efficient way to grow. 

But variation and taste are important too. Because why would you put your energy into something boring or something you don't like. 

My favorite restaurant

Not far from where I live in Groningen, there's an old ship:
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The boat restaurant Het Appeltje (The Little Apple)
It's a bummer it's closed now, but it used to be my favorite restaurant. Not just because it was on a boat. 

It was my favorite place to eat because they only ever served five things. Just five. It was simple, no fuss, locally produced, and unbelievably tasty food. Groningen at its best 😋

It's the same with a vegetable garden.

We usually enjoy the vegetables our grandparents grew more than those fancy varieties you find at specialized seed companies.

Why? Isn't it fun to grow super special vegetables?

Sure, but carrots and lettuce from your garden are already exceptional. They can't be compared to what you get from the supermarket. Taste a tomato from your own garden and you'll never want to go back.
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Home-grown vegetables ready to eat
This applies to all vegetables and herbs: fresh from the garden is 10x better than from a greenhouse or far away. No exotic variety can compete with that.

Experienced gardeners know that and grow the same thing year after year. They experiment, but not that much.

Beginners do it the other way around.

Jelle, did you do it the right way from the start?

I did 😊

I'd just started my first Planty Garden, but then my mom went out and bought a bunch of unusual seeds.

Tubers from the Andes, gooseberry cucumbers, purple radishes, saucer-shaped zucchini: in no time she had a shoebox full of funky seeds.

"Um, Mom, where do you want to put all that?"

"No problem, Jelle. I'll build a raised bed over there."

"Or two. Or three."


Before I knew it, there were 5 huge garden boxes filled with my mom's varieties. The weirder the better. She left me to my lettuce and radishes.
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My mom's garden boxes
The results? We ate mountains of lettuce, snow peas, and tomatoes that first year. From my garden boxes. Everybody was surprised, especially since I was actually pretty lazy about it.

My mom on the other hand kept on sowing, repotting, and transplanting. The purple beans were beautiful, but when we cooked them, they turned just as green as mine. The red kale overshadowed the neighboring plants so they didn't grow as well. We hardly saw any Japanese bak choi, asparagus, or broccoli. The snails and caterpillars got them.

But fair is fair: there were some real keepers among them. So we're still sowing those.

Are they also in your seed collection?

Yes, one funky variety that worked out was New Zealand spinach. It grows great in the summer when it's too hot for ordinary spinach.
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New Zealand Spinach: a great alternative to normal spinach
Winter purslane is also not so well known, but it's tasty and super healthy. It grows like a weed, even in really cold weather. 
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Purslane ready for harvesting
Then you've got dino kale: a super fun kale variety with blue-green, scaly leaves. The plant grows upward instead of sideways, so it looks more and more like a palm tree as you harvest the leaves. 
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Dino kale: a feast for the eyes and stomach
But most of the vegetables we use in the Planty Garden are pretty common. We have thrown in a few unique types. Our zucchini is unique because of its long stem. So instead of growing along the ground, you can guide the plant up a trellis.  
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A climbing zucchini tied up to the trellis
It takes up less space that way and doesn't overshadow the other plants.

And if you're sowing radishes anyway, why not sow the biggest and tastiest ones?
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Giant radishes: as big as ping pong balls
How about carrots...
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...with rounded bottoms?
These round-nosed carrots grow thicker when they hit the bottom of your garden box. Other carrots varieties that have a pointed tip will hit the bottom and keep growing at an angle. 

So, most of these classic vegetables have some fun quirks. They're also guaranteed to be successful in a Planty Garden.

What about those extra-special seeds in the shop?

It's true. The past year or two we've been trying out some test seeds. Nothing too crazy. They all grow great with our system: striped Chioggia beets, purple carrots, and different types of tomatoes.
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Like a bulls-eye: the attention-grabbing Chioggia beet

Okay, but what about broccoli or cauliflower, hm?

Here's the hard truth: it takes months before you can harvest broccoli or cauliflower.

That is if you have something to harvest. The plants are magnets for snails and caterpillars. On top of that, they grow too big to stay in their own square patch.

That's not what a Planty Garden is about. We're in it for:

  • fast, compact growth 
  • easy cultivation 
  • high yield per square patch
  • continual harvesting
Just look at these Bibb lettuces: four fit in one patch. You harvest the first leaves before its fully grown and continue to harvest for weeks until the leaves get bitter.
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Head lettuce ready to harvest
Meanwhile, you've already sown new seeds in another square patch. So when these plants are gone, you've got another lettuce patch ready to pick. 

Since you sow lots of different vegetables in one garden box, you have a lot to choose from. This is how you optimize the space you have. 

So:

Do you want a fantastic and varied harvest this year? Then go for vegetables that always work: good for growing in boxes and grow bags and fit for your local climate.

We picked the best varieties for you and put them in our seed packets:
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We've got dozens of different kinds of vegetables and herbs: more than enough to fill a bunch of garden boxes. You can buy the bags separately, but they're cheaper in bulk:

A last tip from Mom

My mom also wanted to say something:

"I understand the temptation to try other vegetables all too well. I still give in sometimes and plant something I think will be exciting.

"But after 10 or so years of experience and lots of unsuccessful attempts, here's my sincere advice: leave the unusual or difficult vegetables to the professionals, especially if you are just starting out. You'll have a much better chance of a good harvest."


Mom: I agree with you 100% this time 😄

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