Forget the latest fashion and don't bother downloading any hot new tunes. The hippest trendsetters get down and dirty by growing the latest and greatest edible plants.
The year 2010 has become the year of the edible garden with yuppies, boomers, foodies and even the presidential family sprouting green thumbs, brown knees and red-blooded enthusiasm to improve their health, meals and their own bottom line by growing more edible plants.
Enter Ed Hume. Our own Northwest garden icon might be the granddaddy of local gardening, but he is also the father of Ed Hume Seeds, with some new varieties for 2010 that should be as popular as Taylor Swift at a country fair.
And you don’t have to hide these edibles in your backyard. These plants look good, taste great and are perfect for growing where everyone can see them. And, oh yes, purple carrots, bush beans and blueberry shrubs can add appeal to your front-yard landscape.
The front of a west or south facing home often is the hottest spot on the property, especially if the house is painted white or has a brick or stone exterior. This is a prime hot spot for growing heat-loving edibles. Pot up a cherry tomato and surround it with white alyssum; try a purple eggplant mixed with yellow marigolds; or use bush cucumbers as a bed mate to red geraniums. Mixing flowers in with your edible plants is a great way to encourage pollinating bees and confuse the bad bugs.
GRAB THE HEAT - AND A MIDGET MELON
To really get the neighbors talking, plant the Minnesota Midget cantaloupe, another new variety from Ed Hume Seeds, in the hottest spot of your front-yard garden and prove to the world that yes, you can grow melons in Western Washington.
Growing tips for the Minnesota midget melon: This melon needs 100 days to ripen, so start the seeds indoors in the middle of April. Don’t set the young plants outside until late May or June when the nights have really warmed. Keep the melons off the cold ground by tying the vines to a metal fence or trellis. Don’t overwater, and don’t get the foliage wet when you water. Melons prefer to be watered in the morning and like the heat provided by a protected area under the eaves of a house.
GROW UP – AND PLANT SOMETHING FOR THE KIDS
Use bamboo, twig or metal poles to make tepees that can support the beautiful and edible Scarlet Runner bean. A bean tepee can serve as a dramatic focal point in the middle of a front-yard flower bed, or make a pair of tepees to serve as visual sentries at the start or end of a garden walkway. You can add three poles to a large pot and plant your bean seeds in a large container.
The Scarlet Runner bean is an old favorite and a classic vegetable for kids to grow. Once the vigorous vines cover a tepee of poles, the foliage and flowers will create a shady hideout for kids and (and pets) to enjoy.
BORDER THE FLOWER BEDS WITH PURPLE SPLENDOR
A new carrot called “Cosmic Purple” has lovely purple skin and a bright orange center. Pair this carrot with a deep red beet called “Early Wonder.” Cosmic Purple Carrots and Early Wonder Beets are new offerings from Ed Hume Seeds, and you can use them in so many ways. Both beets and carrots can be planted in large containers or into the ground as early as March.
The seeds should be barely covered with soil that has been worked well with added compost so that it is light and loose. Thin the young seedlings of beets and carrots when they are a few inches tall and enjoy the early harvest by adding them to stir fries and salads.
Growing tips for beets: Beets can attract flea beetles and other insects in warm weather, so plant beet seeds in early spring and then do a second planting in August for a late fall harvest.
Growing tips for carrots: Dig a narrow trench three inches wide but 8 to 12 inches deep and fill this with bagged compost that you can buy at the garden center. Press the seeds into the soil — don’t bury them. Soft, loose, well-worked soil without rocks or clods grows the best carrots.
PLANT A WALKWAY THAT JULIA CHILD WOULD LOVE
The French green bean called Marseilles is another newcomer for Ed Hume Seeds, and this variety is tidy enough to use in the front yard. The short, compact plants never need staking, but the green beans are tender, thin and flavorful. You won’t be able to buy a taste of France like this at a grocery store.
Growing tips for beans: Wait until the soil warms up in late May before planting the seeds into well-worked soil. Beans are heat-lovers and need a sunny spot without a lot of water hitting the foliage. Don’t plant the seeds too deep, covering with only one inch of soil so they can feel the warmth of the sun. Beans prefer once a week deep soaking over frequent watering.they hate to have wet leaves.
SCREEN AND FEED THE NEIGHBORS
In Western Washington there is no plant that does so much for so little care as blueberries. Rip out your boring laurel hedge, replace that sickly photinia border and chop down that demanding row of cedars that require constant trimming.
Next, improve your soil by adding compost, peat moss and rhododendron fertilizer. Finally, invest in a collection of blueberry shrubs and you’ll not only harvest one of the most recommended and tasty health foods, but enjoy fiery red fall foliage color and attractive upright plants that need little pruning.