How to Grow an Unusual Vegetable Garden

How to Grow an Unusual Vegetable Garden

How to Grow an Unusual Vegetable Garden

Growing an unusual vegetable garden can be a fun and rewarding way to expand your palate and gardening skills. With some planning and care, you can have a thriving garden of unique edibles right in your own backyard.

Selecting Unusual Vegetables to Grow

The first step is choosing which unusual veggies you want to try growing. Here are some tasty options to consider:

Heirloom Varieties

  • Heirloom vegetables are older cultivars that have been passed down for generations. They often have more complex flavors and unique colors compared to hybrid varieties found in stores. Popular heirloom vegetables include:

  • Tomatoes like Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, and Brandywine

  • Beans like Rattlesnake and Dragon Tongue
  • Peppers like Fish Pepper and Jimmy Nardello
  • Lettuces like Forellenschuss and Merveille des Quatre Saisons

Exotic Imports

  • Vegetables originally from other parts of the world can add new flavors to your garden. Examples are:

  • Asian greens like bok choy, napa cabbage, and mizuna

  • Indian vegetables like amaranth and malabar spinach
  • African crops like okra and yardlong beans

Rare Local Varieties

  • Check with local seed banks or specialty growers to find uncommon vegetables adapted to your climate. These might include:

  • Squash like rampicante zucchini or round zucchini

  • Corn like Floriani Red Flint or Hopi Blue
  • Cucumbers like Lemon Cucumber or Armenian Cucumber

Considerations

  • When selecting vegetables, think about your cooking preferences and growing conditions. Pick varieties suitable for container gardening or vertical gardening if space is limited.

  • Read seed descriptions carefully to understand mature plant size, growing needs, and disease resistance.

  • Start with just a few new varieties each season to learn how they grow before expanding your unusual crop selection.

Caring for Your Unusual Veggies

Giving your unique vegetable plants attentive care will help ensure a successful harvest. Here are some tips:

Provide Proper Soil

  • Most vegetables grow best in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. Enrich soil with aged compost before planting.

  • Follow specific soil pH recommendations for each vegetable variety you grow. For example, peppers prefer slightly acidic soil.

Water Thoroughly

  • Give vegetables at least 1 inch of water per week from rain or irrigation. More is needed during hot, dry periods.

  • Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation to provide consistent moisture to roots. Avoid overhead watering.

Control Pests

  • Unusual veggies can be prone to pest damage. Prevent issues by using floating row covers, maintaining proper crop rotation, and attracting beneficial insects.

  • Identify pests early and treat organically with sprays made from neem oil, insecticidal soap, or Bacillus thuringiensis.

Provide Support

  • Some vegetables like tomatoes and climbing beans need staking or trellising to grow upright. Install supports at planting time.

  • Use organizers like cages and vertical gardening towers when growing in containers.

Harvesting and Enjoying Your Bounty

One of the best rewards of growing unusual edibles is getting to taste and enjoy their unique flavors. Follow these guidelines for harvesting and kitchen prep:

Know When to Harvest

  • Consult seed packets and online guides to determine when vegetables are ripe and ready to pick. Time frames can vary greatly between unusual varieties.

  • Harvest most vegetables like eggplant and peppers when shiny and firm. Allow others like winter squash to fully mature on vines.

Handle With Care

  • Use clean, sharp knives or pruners to carefully cut vegetables from plants. Avoid bruising or damaging skins.

  • Set delicate vegetables like tomatoes and okra down gently in harvest baskets. Do not toss or pile them.

Store Properly

  • Check storage requirements for specific vegetables. Some, like potatoes and winter squash, can be stored for months. Others are best eaten fresh right away.

  • Place vegetables in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper drawer to help retain moisture.

Get Creative in the Kitchen

  • Unusual veggies offer an opportunity to experiment with new flavors. Try roasting, grilling, or sautéing them.

  • Use veggie parts like broccoli leaves, radish pods, and squash blossoms that you might normally discard.

  • Look for recipe ideas online, in books, or on seed company websites.

Growing unique, heirloom, and exotic vegetables requires some extra planning but brings many rewards. With careful variety selection and attentive care, you can enjoy harvesting, cooking, and tasting new flavors from your unusual garden. Start small, learn as you grow, and experiment with new vegetables each season.