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Herbs and Vegetables for the Lazy Gardener

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Herbs and Vegetables for the Lazy Gardener

Post  dk54321 on 10/21/2014, 2:16 pm

This year was not a great year for my garden. We moved the first of January, and I immediately began planning an ambitious garden, twice the size of my garden at the old place, forgetting that it had taken me years to build it to that level. Most of it never got planted. Then life got even crazier, and other than occasionally harvesting whatever was ripe, I neglected my garden most of the summer. My snap peas did well, but I never got vertical frames put up for my tomatoes, so they sprawled all over the ground, and I lost over half the crop to animals, rot, and disease. Everything else was a loss.

I'm planning a simpler garden for next year—one that requires less work, and that  I can still enjoy even if I fall behind on maintaining it. Looking through The Book, I find most vegetables and herbs fall into one of six categories: things no one in my family will eat, things we will eat in small amounts that are not worth the bother of growing, things we can get better quality cheaper at the grocery store, things I've tried to grow without much success, (very few) things I haven't tried growing, and things that thrive on neglect and produce a bounty of food we enjoy.

I've ruled out everything in the first four categories. Naturally, I'm looking for more choices that fit the last category. So far, that includes tomatoes and sugar snap peas. I've already planted garlic this fall to harvest next summer. I've noticed the list of herbs is fairly short.

What vegetables and herbs have you grown that thrive on neglect? I'm especially interested in those that do well in the Northern and Central Midwest, or are not listed in The Book. (I'm in Wisconsin. Our last frost is in May, and our first frost in October.)
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Re: Herbs and Vegetables for the Lazy Gardener

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/21/2014, 2:56 pm

Things in the mint family, including oregano, tend to thrive on neglect. I don't pay any attention to the oregano I have planted in raised beds, and it just looks bigger and better every year. And its profusion of flowers draw the bees in to the garden.

My mints are in pots. They do very well in either shade or sun, in large pots or small. They sometimes need a bit of water, but that's it. Peppermint seems especially vigorous and tough.

Chives love water, but can be planted very thickly in shallow pots and still survive and produce. They can be clipped aggressively and still grow back. The more water they get, the less often they go brown, but they can deal with ugly levels of neglect and still be fine.

Swiss chard can grow in miserably woody soil. You'll just get much smaller leaves. But you'll get a profusion of them just the same.

Kale is a very durable plant with a very long harvest window. I'm happy with how little work it takes. And some are beautiful enough to be grown as ornamentals. It also keeps very well in the fridge.

Maybe I'm just lucky with peppers, but when I have them in good soil, they don't need much from me except an initial staking to help keep them upright. They mind their manners and tend to stay within a smallish footprint rather than sprawl. They don't seem to crave water as much as other members of the nightshade family like tomatoes and especially tomatillos. So if you're successfully growing tomatoes already, peppers shouldn't be a problem.
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Re: Herbs and Vegetables for the Lazy Gardener

Post  dk54321 on 10/22/2014, 5:54 pm

I've been thinking about trying swiss chard. I haven't eaten it since I was very young, so I don't remember what it tastes like. Maybe I'll get some chard and kale from the grocery store and taste it first, so I don't bother growing something I don't like to eat. Mint and tomatoes have done very well for me. This was a bad year for tomatoes, but six plants still produced enough to eat and give some away. I haven't done so well with peppers. I haven't tried growing chives or oregano, but they're on my list for next year.
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Re: Herbs and Vegetables for the Lazy Gardener

Post  dk54321 on 10/22/2014, 6:27 pm

I prefer mild (sweet) yellow or orange peppers. What varieties grow well for you?
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Re: Herbs and Vegetables for the Lazy Gardener

Post  brainchasm on 10/22/2014, 6:42 pm

Radishes!  It's not so much the neglect, but more the fact that they are so quick that you don't really get time to ignore them, lol.

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Re: Herbs and Vegetables for the Lazy Gardener

Post  dk54321 on 10/22/2014, 7:03 pm

Radishes have grown well for me. I just have to be careful not to get ambitious and plant too many!
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Re: Herbs and Vegetables for the Lazy Gardener

Post  Mikesgardn on 10/22/2014, 7:20 pm

It's not a vegetable, but strawberries don't require too much work.   You plant them once and they last a few years.   The hardest part is protecting them from animals.
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Re: Herbs and Vegetables for the Lazy Gardener

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/23/2014, 12:28 am

dk54321 wrote:I prefer mild (sweet) yellow or orange peppers. What varieties grow well for you?

I had good luck with Giant San Marconi last year, and terrific luck with a generic yellow banana pepper this year.

The GSM are nice peppers for general use, either salad or frying or in fajitas. They may be more subject to sunburn than some others because they're big enough to dodge the leaves that might want to shade them. And I was growing them in full sun.

The generic banana peppers had some amazing deep fruity flavor notes when yellow, making them fragrant in a way that really excited the nose without overwhelming it or becoming too perfume-y. It was a wonderful, delicate balance. When red they were still very nice, but there wasn't as much mystery in the taste. They were very nice anywhere from yellow to red -- I didn't try when green. I wish I knew the cultivar, but the nursery tag said only "Banana Pepper."

I find soil makes a huge difference in flavor when it comes to tomatoes and some other things, so I think your results might be different depending on what soil you have.
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