Spice Up Your Garden with Variety
by Don Janssen, Extension Educator
Be Adventurous! Plant a variety of peppers this year
Someone asks what you're planting in your vegetable garden this year and you yawn and say, "Ah, the same old stuff."
Maybe you're in a rut.
The solution is as close as the nearest seed catalog. Two ways to liven up a boring garden are to try completely new crops and to try old favorites in unusual colors or shapes.
Maybe you've never grown kohlrabi or salsify or Jerusalem artichokes. How about Indian corn? Or popcorn? Or, if you've grown popcorn before, what about the miniature ears with red kernels? Broom corn is another possibility.
In the squash family, decorative gourds, giant and miniature pumpkins, yardlong cucumber, luffa gourds and spaghetti squash may be what you need to break out of your rut of butternut squash, zucchini and slicing cucumbers.
In the salad portion of the garden, consider planting a mix of salad greens, often sold as mescluns, for a variety of leaf shapes, flavors, colors and textures for your salad bowl. Experiment with spinach and escarole, romaine and endive; and radishes in various sizes, shapes and colors.
There's nothing wrong with globe-shaped red tomatoes and green peppers, but tomatoes and peppers come in a range of shapes, sizes and colors, from yellow cherry tomatoes and red cherry peppers to yellow banana peppers to orange pear-shaped and round white tomatoes. For the truly adventurous, there are hot peppers that range in heat from mildly spicy to four-alarm types (handle these with gloves -- really!).
Purple-podded snap beans, purple cauliflower, white pumpkins, chocolate-brown peppers, ivory-colored peppers that mature to lavender, and then red, pink or purple radishes, golden-yellow acorn squash and zucchini, yellow-fleshed watermelon, white-fruited eggplant -- the list of common vegetables in uncommon colors goes on and on. Their eating quality is often just as good as that of standard varieties in more ordinary colors. When trying them for the first time, gardeners might want to plant them in addition to tried-and-true favorites rather than instead of them.
Then, if you decide that the new variety doesn't measure up, you still have the old standby to fall back on. But you'll probably find that the variety of sizes, shapes and colors available in the seed catalog does indeed spice up the garden and make for a more interesting harvest.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office