2023 Spring & Summer Garden Grow List + Homestead Goals
Hey friends! Before the start of each new season, it’s become tradition that I put together a “what we’re growing” post – where I share a list of all the annual vegetable and flower varieties we plan to grow in our garden during the upcoming season. It’s a fun way for us to share new or favorite varieties with you all, narrow down our selections, get excited for spring planting, as well as document/journal for future reference!
We plan to grow several new-to-us things this spring and summer, but there will also be many repeats on the list. So to keep things interesting, I figured I’d share more than just our “grow list” today, and will share some of the exciting homestead goals and projects we have planned for the new year too! Plus, a few reflections about our first full year here with a new garden. Isn’t that what January’s all about? I’d love to hear your 2023 garden aspirations in the comments below!
Click here to skip straight to the grow list.
As you go through our grow list, you’ll quickly notice that almost all the varieties are from High Mowing Seeds. That’s where we get 99% of our seeds these days! High Mowing is a fantastic small certified organic seed company that offers a wide variety of quality veggie, flower and herb seeds.
Use this link + code “23DCAT10” to SAVE 10% on orders over $50 or more, now through the end of January ‘23! Using our link helps to support the work we do here at Homestead and Chill. We appreciate you using it, very much!
2022 Progress and Reflections
2022 was our first full year at this new property, so our main focus was getting the raised bed garden installed. And it turned out better than I ever imagined! (If you missed that project, you can see the step-by-step process here – including ground prep, materials, building raised beds, and irrigation.) We also planted dozens of pollinator plants and a handful of fruit trees. Otherwise, we spent our time enjoying the new space, continuing to learn our slightly different climate, and contemplating what to do next.
Overall, our 2022 spring and summer garden did great. Harvests were bountiful… too bountiful in some cases! Lesson learned: grow less eggplant. Lol. With 9 robust plants producing, we ended up donating SO much eggplant to our local food bank and neighbors, along with eating and preserving as much as we could. Other crops were more on the pitiful side however, like our bush beans and peppers. I’m not totally sure what was up with those! So far, our fall/winter garden is a little lackluster compared to normal too. I think we got a slightly late start, but it’s also been an exceptionally cold and wet winter here!
2023 Homestead Goals
Now that the raised bed garden is done, I’m itching to tackle new projects! I love the entire planning process: the daydreaming, sketching, math, list-making, sourcing supplies… and of course the reward once it’s all complete. I even love the hard physical work and construction phase, though my body often tries to convince me otherwise.
More fruit, please
In 2023, we have one large project in mind: to create a secondary orchard. With 12 trees in our existing orchard space, it’s already at maximum capacity. We have a mature apricot tree plus young apples (2), peaches (2), figs (2), a nectarine, plum, lime, orange, and persimmon… but there is still a lot of other fruit I want to grow! Pears, more stone fruit, figs, and citrus varieties, and maybe even a couple of almond trees. Macadamia nuts apparently do well in our climate too! Can you imagine?
The area we have in mind for a secondary orchard is on a slight slope, over on the corner of our property that we refer to as “Sandy Hill”. Before we even think about planting trees, we’ll need to terrace the wild and weedy hillside in order to create a suitable, functional planting area and to reduce runoff. I think it will look really sharp too!
I’m envisioning short walls made of natural rock or stone as the terrace barriers, though that sounds like a lot of heavy lifting… We shall see. We’ll also need to install a new drip irrigation system for that area. In addition to trees, I want to plant pollinator-friendly natives and companion plants around the base of the trees like borage, comfrey, rosemary, marigolds and yarrow. And of course, mulch mulch mulch!
Since it takes many years for trees to mature and bear fruit, it’s a great idea to focus on planting trees early on when first developing a new homestead or garden. If you’re also working on a new space and are feeling overwhelmed, check out this article for guidance: How to Start a Homestead: 9 Must-Read Tips for New Homesteaders.
Related: How to Choose Fruit Trees for Your Garden, How to Plant a Tree, and Fruit Tree Chill Hours Explained
Other 2023 Projects
Beyond the secondary orchard, I have several smaller projects in mind:
- Expand the chicken run. The current run is plenty big for the three chickens we currently have, but when we eventually expand the flock, I’d like them to have more room. I’d also like to provide them with more green pasture area instead of just dirt, though that is very seasonal here. I wish our girls could free range at this property, but there are too many hawks constantly around! Learn Backyard Chickens 101 here.
- Start a mushroom farm. Lol, maybe not a “farm” per se (just enough for personal use) but “mushroom farm” sure is fun to say! The oak trees on our property offer so much shade, so we might as well make use of it. Mushrooms are one of the few edibles that thrive in shade. Plus oak logs are some of the best wood to inoculate with shroom spores! Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to document and share that process as we go.
- Build a larger 3-bay compost system. The existing garden area already had a modest 3-bay compost bin we’re using now (plus our worm bin of course), but it’s undersized for our needs. It’s also not large enough to build up a proper hot pile, which I love to do! Learn more about composting at home here.
- Expand our “calendula farm” area. In addition to our raised beds, we currently grow the bulk of our calendula flowers in four 100-gallon grow bags in the pasture next to the old orchard. We need to grow a lot of calendula to keep up with the demand for our calendula salve and new face oil in our shop, so I’d like to at least double the growing space, plus improve the current irrigation system there.
- Hang more bird houses. In an effort to create even more shelter, food sources, and places to raise young for our local birdies (all key elements of a wildlife habitat!), I have a few cute birdhouses and feeders on the way from Gardeners Supply Co. Seeing the baby quail, blue jays and crows around our property last spring was such a delight! I also need to relocate our screech owl box because we haven’t yet had any visitors there.
Grow List: What We’re Growing Spring & Summer 2023
Without further ado, here a full list of all the varieties we plan to grow in our spring and summer garden this year! We’ll plant a handful of cooler-season crops like leafy greens, cabbage, and root veggies next month, and then follow with tomatoes, squash, flowers, and other warm-weather crops later in spring. Don’t forget to refer to your planting calendars to figure out the best schedule for YOUR zone!
Also, remember to read plant descriptions to choose things that suit your needs. For instance, the varieties I’m listing here do (or should) grow well in our temperate climate, and may offer natural disease resistance that we’re otherwise susceptible to here – such as powdery mildew.
If you’re new to growing from seed, our Seed Starting 101 guide will help get you going. But there is no shame in buying started seedlings too! Learn how to pick the best seedlings at the nursery here.
I’m more excited than ever for tomatoes this year! Between the warmer (less foggy) weather and a new kickass tomato trellis system, we had such a stellar tomato crop last summer! You can see the trellis system in action in this post, as well as other ways to prune and support tomatoes. As you browse the varieties below, note that we grow mostly indeterminate tomatoes (trellised) but usually grow a couple determinate varieties in large DIY tomato cages as well.
- Sakura. Large 1 oz. cherry tomatoes (more like saladette) that are prolific, delicious, and resist cracking. These performed SO well for us last year! Indeterminate.
- Pink Boar. Beautiful, petitie (2-4 oz) wine-colored fruits with metallic green stripes. Said to perform well in challenging climates. Indeterminate.
- Mountain Merit. Excellent red slicing tomato with firm flesh and 8-10 oz fruit. Productive and highly disease resistant. Determinate.
- Granadero. Large plum tomatoes 4-5 oz in size. Produces abundant and continued yields throughout the season. Offers high disease resistance. Great variety for homemade tomato sauce. Indeterminate. We may try Amish Paste (below) instead of this, or in addition to.
- Green Zebra Tomato. 4-5 oz. fruit with sweet and tangy flavor, color has dark green stripes that yellow as it ripens. Indeterminate.
New to us:
- Rosa de Berne. 4-8 oz. fruit that is resistant to cracking, early to mature than other larger varieties, and the flavor has a perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. Indeterminate.
- Plum Regal Tomato. High-yielding plum paste tomato with 4 oz. fruits that are great for sauces and canning. Good natural disease resistance. Determinate.
- CubaLibre. Abundant and round 7 oz. fruit that are similar to Cherokee Purple in appearance with less green along the shoulders. Indeterminate. (rare)
- Valentine. A highly productive red grape tomato with firm flesh, delicious flavor and holds up well after harvest. Indeterminate.
- Amish Paste Tomato. Large classic paste tomato with 8-12 oz. fruit, very few seeds and sweeter than most paste tomatoes. Indeterminate.
Related: Organic Tomato Grow Guide or 6 Ways to Support, Prune, and Train Tomato Plants
Summer and Winter Squash
Yep! Despite its potentially misleading name, winter squash is planted in spring and grown during the summertime – just like zucchini. It’s called winter squash because it lasts for a long time in storage post-harvest, so you can enjoy it through the winter. But it’s not frost tolerant!
- Dunja Zucchini. Our go-to green zucchini variety. The plants are beautiful, prolific, and naturally resistant to powdery mildew!
- Nutterbutter Butternut. This butternut did absolutely fantastic for us last year. We harvested 28 squash (over 50 pounds) from just TWO pants! It’s described to “reliably mature in regions that have trouble ripening butternuts”.
New to Us:
- Goldy Zucchini. Long and slender bright yellow fruit that resists greening.
- Green Machine Squash. A prolific classic green zucchini with exceptional disease resistance. We’ll either plant that or Stardust Zucchini – another productive zucchini variety with lightly speckled fruit.
- Winter Sweet Squash. Pale gray-blue kabocha squash with complex flavor that improves with storage. These guys only produce 2 squash per plant, but should be fun regardless!
- Delicata Squash. Vining plant that produces oblong striped fruit with superbly tender, sweet flesh.
- Autumn Frost Butternut Squash. A specialty butternut with unique frosted appearance that is rich and earthy in flavor.
Psst! Have you ever had zucchini or other squash that starts to grow, but then shrivels or rots on the vine? Chances are it wasn’t properly pollinated! Learn how to easily hand pollinate squash to prevent end rot here, or visit our full Zucchini & Summer Squash grow guide.
Beans and Peas
Quick tip: soak bean and pea seeds in water for several hours before direct-sowing them outside for a speedy germination! Pop over to our bean grow guide for even more tips, and be sure to come back and try our fermented dilly bean recipe later.
- Pole Beans: Pole beans (vining) usually take longer to grow and bear fruit than bush beans, but they produce more and over a longer season. My favorite are Northeaster Pole Beans: a long, flat, tender, early-maturing Romano variety with great texture and buttery flavor. We’re also going to try these pretty Blue Coco Pole Beans this year.
- Bush Beans are great for succession sowing all season long, and tucking between larger plants to maximize your growing space. In addition to classic green beans (like Provider or Jade bush beans), we’re particularly fond of beautiful purple and white Dragon Langerie, red-streaked Borlotto, tender Gold Rush Yellow Wax, and flat tender Roma type bush beans.
- Sugar Snap Peas are always a spring staple! If you need an easy and inexpensive trellis for growing peas, beans, or any other vining plant, pop over to our DIY trellis tutorial.
I love planting annual flowers in the raised beds amongst the veggies. They’ll add a beautiful pop of color, draw in pollinators, and some even deter pests! Learn more about companion planting here, and a full list of our top 23 plants for pollinators here.
- Calendula, my favorite flower and medicinal herb to grow. See: “All About Calendula: How to Grow, Harvest, Dry & Use Calendula Flowers” to learn more. Resina, Strawberry Blonde, Orange King, and Pacific Beauty are all staples around here. We also picked up a new variety called Erfurter to try.
- Marigolds. Did you know these repel root knot nematodes? We usually grow classic French marigolds along with these adorable Tangerine Gem marigolds.
- Sunflowers. Evening Colors, Lemon Queen, Goldy Double, Mammoth, Strawberry Blonde, and Autumn Beauty are all on the list for this season. We enjoy a lot of branching, multi-headed types.
- Zinnias are a close runner-up to calendula, and a monarch butterfly favorite! Our zinnia seed collection includes Giant Coral, Purple Prince, Giant Yellow, Benary’s Giant Salmon Rose, Queen Red Lime, Oklahoma Carmine and Gold, and many more.
- Nasturtium. In addition to attracting pollinators, both nasturtium leaves and flowers are edible! They taste peppery like arugula. Compact nasturtium varieties (like Alaska Mix) are great as companion plants in the raised beds. Vining varieties like this Nasturtium Blend look amazing trailing down the outside of a bed, as sprawling groundcover, or trained up a trellis.
- Cosmos bring such a cheery vibe to the garden, and our resident goldfinches love to eat the seeds! My favorites are Seashell cosmos and Sensation blend, and I also got seeds for Daydream cosmos this year.
- Chamomile. We’ll be planting A LOT of it this spring and summer so we can make ultra-healing and hydrating face oil for our shop. So far we’ve ordered seeds for classic German Chamomile, Zloty Lan, and Bodegold.
- Other: Bachelor’s buttons (Polka Dot Bachelor Button and Jubilee Gem), Opopeo Amaranth, Lion’s Mouth snapdragons, Goldilocks Rudbeckia, and Roggli Riesen strawflowers.
For cultivation tips on all these beauties, see: 7 Best Easy Annual Flowers to Grow from Seed
Melons and Cucumber
I figured I’d lump these cucurbits together. Not only are cucumbers and melon part of the same plant family, but they’re both crops that didn’t grow very well for us at the old homestead – and did great here last summer! We’re planting the varieties that did best again, and trying some new ones as well.
- Blacktail Mountain Watermelon. Round 6-10 pound melons with crisp, sweet flesh that does well in cool or short seasons. These grew well here last summer.
- True Love Melon. A large, high-sugar, cantaloupe-like melon with great texture that produces later in the season. High powdery mildew resistance.
- Sugar Baby Watermelon. Perfectly round juicy and sweet melons that weigh 6-12 lbs with solid green rind and dark red flesh. Great for short seasons.
- Manny. A vining plant that produces thin-skinned 5-7 inch crisp fruit. Early maturing, high yielding, and good disease resistance.
- Tasty Green. An Asian burpless variety that produces super long 9” fruit with thin skin and sweet flesh. Produces heavy yields. Best results when trellised.
- Excelsior Cucumber. A pickle variety that eats well fresh with great flavor, fruit has uniformed size and shape.
Eggplant and Peppers
Eggplant had been a mediocre performer for us in the past, but absolutely kicked butt last summer! We’ll grow three of the same varieties plus one new one (but fewer plants overall). On the other hand, our peppers were kinda sad last summer. We honestly don’t eat all that many hot peppers anyways, so we’ll be scaling back the amount we plant grow this year.
- Little Finger. An early and productive plant that produces 3 to 6 inch slender dark purple fruit with wonderfully thin skin.
- Ping Tung Long. An Asian variety of eggplant that produces long and slender fruit 12-14 inches long with thin skin and bright lilac color. My favorite!
- Piccolo. Small 3-4 inch ovate (egg-shaped) fruit with stunning purple and white variegated striping. Productive variety that will bear fruit over a long season.
- Black Beauty Eggplant. A high-yielding Italian eggplant with bell shaped 5 to 6 inch fruit that is deep purple in color. New to us this year, but a classic variety.
I haven’t yet narrowed down the pepper list for this season, but some of our past favorites include: Red Picnic (sweet mini bell) Black Magic jalapeños, Glow (large orange bell peppers), Aji Rico (medium-hot pepper with sweet citrus-like notes), Red Ember (a Cayenne pepper type, great for using fresh or creating powder, shishito peppers (SO good pan-blistered!) and banana peppers, which make excellent pepperoncini-style pickled peppers.
Brassicas and Leafy Greens
Our winter garden is already full of brassicas right now, so we aren’t going to grow quite as many in spring. Since most brassicas appreciate cooler weather, these will get planted out in late winter to early spring here and will likely be gone by midsummer (with the exception of the kale and Swiss chard – those should stick around!)
- Cabbage: While we have about 6 different varieties of cabbage growing right now over winter, we’re going to plant another round of just one type this spring: Expect cabbage – with dense, uniformly round green heads and notable heat tolerance.
- Broccoli. Belstar broccoli is a trusty broccoli variety we seem to come back to year after year. It matures fairly early and then continues to produce decent little side shoots after the main head is harvested.
- Joi Choi Bok Choy. Our powerhouse and number 1 favorite green to grow (and one of our top crops to grow, period!) The big thick juicy stalks and open heads are perfect for cut-and-come-again or perpetual harvesting. It doesn’t love hot weather, but is far more slow-bolting than most varieties of bok choy.
- Lacinato kale. Dazzling Blue lacinato kale is our go-to slow-bolting variety… and it’s darn beautiful!
- Swiss Chard. I have yet to find a chard I love more than Peppermint swiss chard (named for its candy-striped stalks, not flavor!) but are also growing this gorgeous yellow-stemmed Sunset Chard this season too.
We already have many established patches of herbs that grow as perennials here, including sage, rosemary, oregano, bay laurel, lemon balm, mint, and thyme. That means the only annual herbs we’ll likely plant are basil and dill, including:
- Dill Delight and Bouquet dill – ideal for adding to homemade pickles
- Basil: We have leftover seeds for two classic Genovese types: Prospera Italian Large Leaf and Rutgers Devotion.
We always grow multiple basil plants so we can stock up the freezer with enough Besto Pesto for the whole year, along with dried basil leaves for the pantry. Learn how to grow bushy basil to harvest all season long here. (Hint: pruning young seedlings and routinely cutting back established plants are key!)
Remember, it’s best to direct sow root vegetable seeds rather than start them indoors! Root veggies don’t take kindly to transplanting.
- Carrots. We always grow several different varieties of carrots including Dolciva, Cosmic Purple, Naval, Scarlet Nantes, Bollin, and Bangor. Get tips on how to successfully grow carrots in our carrot grow guide.
- Beets grew better than ever last year! Especially Boro Beets, my new favorite variety that we’ll definitely plant again. They’re super sweet, produce excellent leafy greens, and can be harvested anywhere from 2 to 6+ inches, perfect to gradually harvest as you need them over time!
- Potatoes. We ordered several different potato varieties (all from High Mowing) that will arrive in April. We love growing potatoes in large durable fabric grow bags, which means we can always find some space for them! Interested in growing your own spuds? Learn how we grow potatoes in containers here.
- Radishes – a spring staple. We’ll likely sow some egg-shaped purple Bravo daikons, attractive and reliable Pink Beauty, and juicy, mild White Daikon radishes. To learn all about growing radishes from seed to table, see this article.
- Onions. We’ve already started seeds for sweet Walla Walla, Rossa Di Milano red onions, and Calibra spanish onions (my favorite). When growing onions, it’s crucial to choose the right variety for your latitude – short day, long day, or intermediate day onions. I prefer to start from seed or seedlings rather than sets. Visit our onion grow guide for more info and tips for success.
- Artichokes. Last year we planted several Wonder artichokes in our raised beds and in our pollinator border area, and the perennial plants are still going strong. This year, we’re also adding a purple artichoke variety! If you aren’t familiar with preparing artichokes, learn one really easy way to cook and eat them here.
- Glass Gem Popcorn is going to be so beautiful and fun! The 8-10 foot tall plants offer heavy yields of 5-8 inch ears speckled with every color of the rainbow. Who doesn’t love popcorn? Yum!
That’s the plan, and I’m sticking to it! (maybe, lol)
Well, that sure felt good! As overwhelming as the garden season and homestead upkeep can feel at times, putting “pen to paper” (or in this case, fingers to keyboard) certainly helps me collect my thoughts and feel more prepared and organized. This process helped me narrow down my grow list – and I hope it inspired you to create your own grow list and spring plans too! I also hope you found a few new fun varieties to try this year. Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below, and thanks for tuning in today. Cheers to a bountiful season ahead!
Other Useful Resources to Explore:
- Seed Starting 101: How to Sow Seeds Indoors
- How to Design & Build a Raised Garden Bed
- How to Fill a Raised Garden Bed: Build the Perfect Organic Soil
- Transplanting Seedlings Outside: Best Practices for Success
- How to Fertilize & Amend a Raised Garden Bed Before Planting (or Between Seasons)
Love hearing about it all!
Curious if you plan to grow full size fruit trees in your orchard, or if you plan to use pruning techniques to keep the trees smaller (and get more total trees in!). I fell in love with all the videos from Tom Spellman / Backyard Orchard Culture from Dave Wilson Nursery and it inspired us. Their videos combined with Ann Ralph’s book “Grow a Little Fruit Tree” gave us the knowledge we needed to pack 25-30 fruit trees in our urban size plot (less than a 1/3 acre, with other established trees also). Love that keeping the trees small gives us more varieities to choose from! I’m not affiliated in any way with those experts – just excited about getting a lot of fruit trees in a city lot!
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Erin, it’s great to hear you have been inspired to grow fruit trees in a modest sized city lot! For our new orchard, we are going for about 12 to 13 feet between fruit trees, so yes, we will have to prune them and keep them a modest size, however, they should still produce a lot of fruit. We are right there with you though on growing more varieties of trees, even if they are smaller to maximize variety and space out your harvests depending on the fruit and varietal. Thanks for sharing and have fun growing!
Love this post – so helpful & inspiring! I’ve been refining my High Mowing Seeds order for 2 weeks. Today I finally tried to submit my order with the discount code (today is 1/30/23) and it says the code isn’t valid. I checked it several times. Thought it was good to the end of the month. Thanks.
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Kristin, the code should work through the 31st of January, the code also only works if you spend $50 or more as well. Hope that helps and reach out if you are having any other issues.
I love this post! Really want to incorporate more flowers/pollinators into the garden this year. Melons too. I hope we see a post on that.
Also, I’d love to find the source of your garden boots. The ground is still *saturated* from our NorCal rains and I’m trying to remove some very thorny olallieberry vines out by the roots. Apparently I have zero footware to accomplish this. Yours look perfect!
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Maria, adding more flowers and pollinator plants will definitely set off your garden space when everything is in full bloom! Deanna uses Merry People boots for outside in the garden and they do a great job of keeping your feet dry and protected although I wouldn’t necessarily call them a work boot specifically. We have been using them for a number of years and they are incredibly comfortable. Hope that helps and good luck with your upcoming tough job of removing those old vines!