As a newlywed more than 38 years ago with my own house and bit of land, I knew I wanted a garden.
I had a pretty good idea of how things worked. My family always relied on homegrown vegetables. When my parents were growing up, their parents were forced to supplement their groceries with what they could grow. This ethic was passed down to my parents, not because it was as much of a necessity as by this time industry was booming in northeast Ohio and hard-working families could afford to buy all the produce they needed. But those money-saving habits were hard to break.
By the time it my turn to accept the torch, I didn't need to supplement my groceries, nor did I care whether or not growing a tomato or pepper would save me a few dollars in the long run. I wanted to grow my own vegetables because it was fun and because they tasted better than anything in the stores.
I remember that first garden. In the early 1970s, it wasn't strange to see someone driving a tractor with a plow and tiller on the road a few times a week. All we had to do was flag them down and for a small fee, the driver was happy to plow and till any size section we wanted.
That first year, all I intended to grow were tomatoes and peppers. I knew nothing about varieties, hybrids or what grew best. My parents didn't discuss the merits of beefsteak versus Rutgers or sweet bell versus Hungarian hot wax. There was no Google- or YouTube-filled computers ready to show me all the information I needed with the click of a mouse. There was just my parents' expertise and the public library. The librarians knew me by name and I knew what shelves held all the gardening books.
When our space was plowed and tilled and the tomatoes and peppers were planted, we realized we still had quite a bit of space left. That's when it got crazy. We filled those empty spaces with everything we could, cucumbers, melons, beans, onions. We grew them whether we liked them or not. Someone would eat them. We just knew we could stick a seed or seedling in a patch of earth and within a few weeks, wonderful things happened. We also learned the diligence of weeding and had our first encounter with tomato hornworms.
Although now my vegetable garden is organic, not to mention much smaller, back then it didn't bother me to sprinkle diazinon or malathion - deadly chemicals that make me cringe as I type their names - in my garden rows, right along with the seeds. Back then, we used chemicals as prevention against disease and insects. Afterward we learned to only use them if there were indications of problems and later, we learned not to use them at all but to let natural predators and manual techniques take care of things.
We also learned tolerance. So what if we lost a few lettuce plants to the rabbits. Who cares if the eggplant leaves have a few holes in them, chewed away by flea beetles. We don't mind sharing.
These days we're also a little more choosy about what goes into our garden. There are only two of us now and we're busier than ever. We still grow tomatoes and peppers, beans and onions. We put in a lot more greens, but not as many melons or rows of corn. We know our favorites and plant what we like and know we will eat rather than anything and everything, just because we can.
That doesn't mean we don't like to try new things. All-America Selections just announced its choice for a sweet, orange bell pepper called 'Orange Blaze,' a hybrid, that looks interesting. It takes a longer season to grow a yellow, orange or red pepper versus plain green, although peppers can be harvested at any age during their growth. They get sweeter as they mature.
When growing these peppers, patience is helpful, but according to the AAS, not necessary when growing 'Orange Blaze.' This variety turns orange about 65 to 70 days from transplant. Look for 'Orange Blaze' in garden centers this season.
Grow what you like, but don't forget to grow some fun.