It may be the middle of winter, but it sure is a great time to daydream about the spring. For gardeners, this is the time when seed catalogs begin to show up in the mail, and we sort through our seed collections to plan what to grow in the upcoming season. Maybe you can even start to sow some seeds now… or soon enough!
Speaking of planning and planting, many of you have expressed curiosity about exactly what we are growing this year. So here it is: a list of everything we are planting for the 2020 spring and summer garden. The rotating annual vegetables and flowers, that is! Below you’ll find a list of the exact varieties that we’ve selected, broken down into categories like tomatoes, flowers, herbs, squash, beans, greens, and so on.
Many items on the list are already sprouting away in our greenhouse, sowed just a couple of weeks ago – with a couple extra of each plant, just in case. Other things will be planted over the next couple of months – either started indoors or sown directly outside.
If you aren’t sure exactly when to plant what in your zone, reference your Homestead and Chill planting calendars! Don’t worry, you aren’t “too late” just because we have already started. Plus, you can always buy started seedlings at a nursery if you miss the seed-starting window.
So Many Options!
Choosing what to grow can be exciting but also slightly overwhelming because there are SO many options. I hope this list will introduce you to new and interesting varieties, and you can grow some of them along with us! I would also LOVE to hear your favorite tried-and-true varieties, so be sure to drop them in the comments section at the end of this article.
However, keep in mind that we may not be able to grow exactly the same things with the same success – or at the same time. Different varieties may be more-or-less suited to different zones, so be sure to read plant descriptions provided by the seed company and consider your individual climate and growing season!
For example, plant types may be exceptionally heat or cold-tolerant, quicker or slower to develop, or resistant to a disease common in your area. Not sure what characteristics to look for? Talk to other local gardeners in your area, be it online or at a local nursery! Also, you’ll learn with time.
WHAT WE ARE GROWING
Without further ado, here is a list of what we are growing this season. I’m not going to provide crazy in-depth descriptions or links for every seed variety – but you should be able to find them with a quick Google search if you’re interested to learn more!
We purchase all of our seeds from a handful of trusted companies, which you can find here: 12 Places to Buy Organic, Heirloom and Non-GMO Garden Seeds. Also, keep in mind that we have in-depth “how to grow” tutorials for many plants like basil, calendula, potatoes, carrots, radishes and more. I will link them in the appropriate sections as we go!
While “summer garden” and “tomatoes” seem damn near synonymous, tomatoes are actually finicky for us to grow here! Our cool foggy summers leave something to be desired for these heat-loving crops. Have you heard of May Grey, June Gloom, No Sky July, or Fogust? Those are real months here on the Central Coast of California, where a daytime high in the 70’s is considered “a warm one”.
Alas… huge, beefy, juicy heirlooms just don’t happen for us – but we don’t let that stop us from growing plenty of tomatoes. We just have to pick the right varieties for our climate.
We seek out tomato varieties that are known to be early-maturing, prolific, and small to medium in size. If their description mentions being “cool weather tolerant” – even better. They may not all be the most exotic or glamorous, but they pay their rent!
Repeat Favorite Tomato Varieties
- Sungold. You can’t go wrong with these prolific, sweet, golden bite-size gems! Warning, the plants can get huge! Give them space.
- Stupice. We’ve grown Stupice for years – a reliable early producer and cool-weather tolerant potato leaf tomato. They’re similar to an “early girl” – but not owned by Monsanto.
- Amber. A very compact dwarf plant, great for containers and small spaces. Produces early, sweet, 1-3 ounce yellow tomatoes. Determinate.
- Scotland Yellow. These yellow tomatoes produce fruit similar to Amber (above), but set fruit a little later on larger, indeterminate plants. Do well in cloudy and cool conditions.
- Granadero. A prolific, disease-resistant, indeterminate “Roma” type of tomato. They have thick flesh and are perfect for slicing, salads, or sauces – such as our super simple roasted tomato sauce.
New-to-Us Tomatoes for 2020
- Glacier. Prolific orange-red small “saladette” tomatoes (larger than cherry tomatoes). Said to be good for containers and small gardens. Semi-determinate.
- Citrine Cherry. Similar to a Sungold cherry tomatoes, but crack-resistant. We have issues with our Sungolds splitting (especially if we’re late to harvest) so maybe this will be the new replacement! Also said to be fairly hardy and disease-resistant.
- Sakura. Indeterminate, early, prolific, sweet, long-season producing red cherry tomatoes that grow on compact plants. Good natural disease-resistance package.
Oh, zucchini… Sometimes, just one plant can give you more fruit than you can handle! However, growing at least a couple helps to increase the chances of pollination – which is required to give you fruit at all. Therefore, we usually grow at least 3 or 4 summer squash plants, and sometimes two rounds of “succession planting” per summer. Need tips about squash pollination? Read “Squash Sex: How to Hand Pollinate Squash to Prevent End Rot & Increase Yields”
You’ll notice that we aren’t growing any winter squash this year. With limited space and how long they take to mature here (plus how quickly powdery mildew can overtake the huge plants), winter squash hasn’t been a priority for us. But don’t let that stop you! I absolutely encourage you to grow butternut, pumpkins, or other hard winter squash as well. Most all of them are easy to train up a trellis to save space if needed.
Since squash won’t be started until later (in the greenhouse just a few weeks before planting outside, or directly-sown) we haven’t totally decided which varieties we’ll grow this year yet.
Here are the top summer squash contenders:
- Dunja Zucchini (definitely growing). This is a super-prolific, early, green zucchini that is naturally resistant to powdery mildew. It does excellent for us here. The leaves also have a really awesome shape and pattern.
- Green Machine. We have this seed packet in our collection but I don’t think we have grown it yet! It has a similar description as Dunja (green zucchini, prolific, good disease resistance) but isn’t known to be as early-producing.
- Butta Squash. A very prolific straight summer squash, aptly named for its smooth creamy texture and light yellow color. Another repeat favorite.
- Zucchini Gray. Come to think of it, these remind me of Butta squash – but pale greenish grey rather than light yellow. They’re slightly more fat than classic zucchini, but don’t get overly seedy or pithy in the middle until they’re huge. Also very prolific, and pretty!
- Dario. This is a Cocozelle-type zucchini, meaning it has really awesome light and dark green stripes. It also has the tendency to stay slim as it gets long, rather than fat and seedy like some zucchini can. This particular cocozelle variety is also somewhat naturally resistant to powdery mildew.
- White Bush Scallop. This one wasn’t as prolific or long-lasting as some of the other summer squash, but the adorable lobed white fruit may make it worth growing again!
Our garden is full of established perennials (and volunteers!) that provide us year-round blooms. In addition, we also start a handful… okay, more like half a greenhouse full… of annual flowers each spring too. We tuck flowers in the raised beds, amongst the veggies as companion plants, and around the borders of the yard. Basically, in any free open space I can find!
The flowers we choose to grow each have their unique beauty and benefits, but all of them have one thing in common: they provide nectar and/or pollen for the bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and other pollinator friends! Meaning, you probably aren’t going to find many (or any) dahlias, tulips, or pollenless sunflowers in our garden. Perhaps if we had more room! But with limited planting space, we give preference to flower varieties that serve many purposes – beyond looking pretty!
Annual Flowers Started
- Marigolds: Tangerine Gem Marigold (repeat) are a petite and citrusy-smelling cultivar, perfect for tucking in beds with veggies without taking over. Orange Hawaii French Marigold (new) boast huge blooms on large plants, and are said to turn chicken egg yolks extra-orange. Standard French Marigold (volunteers) repel root-knot nematodes and also attract pollinators.
- Sunflowers: Lemon queen, Garnet Star, Sonja, Goldy Double, Strawberry Blonde, Fantazja, and Black Mammoth (we enjoy a lot of branching, multi-headed types).
- Calendula: We sowed seeds for strawberry blonde, orange king, and pacific beauty calendula – though we also have volunteers popping up of previously-planted solar flashback, pink surprise, zeolites, and apricot twist. Calendula is my FAVORITE flower (actually a medicinal herb) in the garden! See: “All About Calendula: How to Grow, Harvest, Dry & Use Calendula Flowers” to learn more.
- Zinnia varieties: Purple Prince, Benary’s Giant (in purple and golden), and another huge pink one of an unknown variety. We got seeds from a friend at one time, and have been saving them every year since. We also sometimes pick up started nursery 6-packs of smaller varieties later, tucked in as space fillers throughout the summer as crops come and go. Zinnia are a close runner-up to calendula, and a monarch butterfly favorite!
There are also dozens of flowers already-present in our yard, growing as perennials, including many varieties of lavender and salvia, verbana, yarrow, milkweed, echinacea (cone flower), daisies, anise hyssop, rock rose, and more. They can be grown as annuals in zones where they may not make it through the winter.
Or, many other annuals are popping up as volunteers, including borage, nasturtiums, cosmos, Bachelor’s buttons, and chamomile. Hint: the ones on this list can be planted just once. They’ll readily self-seed and return to your garden year-after-year!
For a full list of our favorite flowers, see “The Top 23 Plants for Pollinators: Attract Bees, Butterflies & Hummingbirds” – we’re growing 95% of them! I’m also planning an article on the top easy annual flowers (coming next week) – with more detail about the benefits, uses, and tips for growing each.
Peppers are another tricky one for us, since we usually don’t get the hot weather they need to fully ripen before we need to start our fall/winter crops. Unfortunately that means our big blocky bell peppers are limited. Smaller hot chilis do pretty well though! We plant varieties that are known to take exceptionally long to ripen in fabric pots rather than in our raised beds, so they can continue to grow through the fall.
This year, we said we weren’t going to grow “as many” peppers because we still have a TON of dehydrated hot peppers, hot sauce, and homemade chili powder left from last summer. I think we were successful in narrowing it down! Sort of…
- Shishito. Grow these with us this year! They’re unique, mild, flavorful, and downright delicious. I will be sharing our favorite ways to prepare them later this summer.
- Gochugaru. A classic Korean red chili pepper. We obtained these seeds from a friend who saved them, which we’ve also saved each year, so we’re unsure of the exact variety. They have an awesome rich, hot flavor – perfect for drying into chili powder, making paste, or fermenting into hot sauce.
- Mad Hatter. Interesting-looking and thin-skinned sweet red pepper are produced on large plants.
- Red Ember. A mild-medium hot Cheyenne pepper type, great for using fresh or creating powder.
- Goddess Banana Peppers. Sometimes also known as Hungarian Wax peppers, these are our favorite for making easy refrigerator pickled pepperoncinis!
- Hot Hungarian wax. Like classic banana peppers, but with a little heat to them! Will go great with the mild pickled peppers.
- Glow. A sweet, orange, large bell pepper type, known to be easy to grow in diverse climates.
- Cupid. Sweet, red, mini-bells that develop and mature more quickly for us than most bell peppers.
- Ahi limo. Also known as “lemon drop pepper”, this is an awesome Peruvian hot chili pepper with lemony hints of flavor.
Like squash, we won’t start our beans for another couple of months (direct sow outside) so we haven’t 100% narrowed down this year’s selection yet. However, many of the varieties listed below are tried-and-true favorites, likely to make an appearance once again!
Climbing pole beans:
- Blauhilde. Beautiful and prolific stringless purple beans. Tender even when allowed to get long. Great for eating fresh or preserving. Keep producing all summer into fall.
- Musica Romano. Long, flat prolific romano-type green beans that stay tender even over 7 inches long! Great for eating fresh, canning, pickling, or fermenting.
- Seychelles pole bean. Tender and long-producing classic green beans on a vigorous vine. (new)
- Dragon Tongue. Compact little plants with stellar-looking purple and white speckled flattened beans. Tender and stringless.
- Borlotto di Vigevano. Similar to dragon tongue, but green and red instead.
- Royal Burgundy. What can I say? I guess I like purple beans. A purple “green bean” type.
- Gold Rush. Said to produce prolific golden yellow beans that stay tender longer than other snap beans. (new)
Growing pole beans that need support? Or perhaps for cucumbers (which we aren’t growing this year), squash, peas, or other climbing plants? Don’t miss our Easy & Inexpensive DIY Trellis Tutorial.
The majority of the herbs we grow are perennials in our garden. I know, we are definitely blessed with this climate! The already-established herbs include: Italian oregano, lemon balm, anise hyssop, rosemary, lemongrass, bay leaves, bee balm, and several types of sage and thyme.
That said, we always grow basil as an annual – and a lot of it! Read more about how to grow and harvest basil to create bushy plants that produce all summer long here.
This year, we started the following varieties of basil:
- Genovese. Your classic Italian sweet basil.
- Tuscany. A large ruffled, lettuce-leaf variety with a hint of licorice flavor.
- Opal. A beautiful dark purple variety with a classic basil flavor.
- Sweet Thai. Dark purple-red stems and slender green leaves. A stronger licorice clove flavor, and a favorite for the bees once it blooms.
- Italian Mountain Sweet. A Genovese type of basil that is reportedly more cold-tolerant, slow to bolt, and exceptionally sweet. (new)
- Lemon and cinnamon basil are also awesome varieties we grow many years, but didn’t sow this year.
- Tulsi (holy basil) – Easy to grow, super sweet aroma and flavor (sometimes described as bubble-gum like), produces pretty lavender flowers that are highly attractive to bees, and has a relaxing, anti-anxiety effect when used as a medicinal herbal tea.
In our garden, the prime time to grow leafy greens is fall through spring, in our “winter garden”. Then, we grow dozens of varieties of asian greens, kale, mustard greens, lettuce, spinach, arugula, swiss chard, dandelion greens – you name it. However, in climates with frosty winters and hot summers, the best time to grow most leafy greens is spring and perhaps again in fall. More info about our favorite leafy green varieties, harvest methods, and how to extend your greens season, check out this article.
By the time we switch over to our summer crops, most of the leafy greens that have been growing all winter are past their prime and starting to bolt. So we start a few new greens seedlings to take their place.
This spring, we’re growing another round of:
- Dazzling Blue kale. An awesome variation of dinosaur or lacinato kale. Dark green leaves with purple veins, and slow-bolting.
- Joi Choi bok choy. My favorite leafy green to grow, ever. The large thick stems and open plant structure are perfect for cut-and-come-again harvesting.
- Peppermint swiss chard. A variety of swiss chard with beautiful pink and white candy-striped stems. We find it to grow larger and faster in our climate than some other chard varieties.
- Lettuce. Coastal Star, Fushion, Sparx, and/or Green Towers. We try to select slow-bolting, open-head varieties of romaine lettuce for prolonged harvests.
- Arugula. I am not sure of the exact variety we seed-saved from a nursery start one year, but it gets huge and bushy and provides prolonged harvests.
- We didn’t start any collard greens yet this spring, though we usually do grow them over summer. Collard greens are some of the best heat-tolerant leafy greens to grow in warmer climates.
Like leafy greens, we grow the largest bulk of root veggies in our winter garden. Yet we always carve out a spot to grow at least a few more during spring!
- Radishes. A few of our favorite varieties include Bravo, Cherry Belle, Pink Beauty, Zlata, China Rose, Miyashige white daikon. To learn all about growing radishes from seed to table, see this article.
- Carrots. We are always experimenting with new varieties of carrots! This spring we’ll try Naval, Yellowstone, Sugarsnax, (new), along with trusty Sweet Nantes and Cosmic Purple. For tips on how to successfully grow carrots (and more of our favorite varieties) see this article.
- Salad turnips. Tokoyo market (small round tender white turnips) and Hinona Kabu (really cool long and slender white turnips with purple tops).
- Green tomatillo (toma verda). These are easy to grow, and make excellent salsa verde. Plant two of them, as they like a buddy for cross-pollination and the best fruit development. You won’t need much more than two plants though. They’re prolific!
- Favas. We have fava beans growing outside now, and are planning to sow more seeds soon. They’re an awesome soil-enriching cover crop, not to mention delicious and nutritious. We’ve had the most success with the “Windsor” variety, though there are several other unique ones out there! Read more about growing (and using!) fava beans and their plants here.
- Jumper leeks. This will be our first year growing leeks. I am excited, and looking forward to creamy leek soup in the near future! Truth be told, we wanted the “Surfer” variety from Johnny’s for their potential allium rust resistance (we get garlic rust like crazy here!) but they’ve been sold out for months.
- Potatoes. Seeds not yet ordered, so to be determined! We’ll likely grow some of the ones we’ve enjoyed in the past like Red Thumb, Yukon Gold, and Jester, plus a new one or two. Interested in growing your own spuds? It is so fun and easy. Learn how we grow potatoes in containers here.
- Onions. Sometimes we start onions from seed, and sometimes we get started onion seedlings (not “sets”) from a local nursery. I’m not sure what we’ll do this year yet. Last year, our walla-walla onions kicked butt – and made the most delicious homemade onion powder ever!
- Purple Vienna kohlrabi – I love this alien-like purple veggie. Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage/brassica family (meaning it prefers cooler weather), and tastes like a super sweet, crisp, juicy inner portion of a fat broccoli stem.
- Allure Bicolor Corn. Another first for us this year! Nope, we’ve never grown corn. I sort of assumed it wasn’t hot enough in the summer for it, but a co-worker grows it… so, we shall see! We chose a sweet yellow-white corn, perfect for fresh eating.
- Peas. We’ll probably pop in a row of sugar snap peas along a trellis somewhere soon.
Off – Season (for us, but maybe not for you!)
And then there is all the other stuff we usually grow during our winter garden, which may actually be best suited as spring or fall crops in your zone! This includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, romanesco, various other leafy greens, and the garlic that we planted in fall and will harvest in early summer. Truth be told, we could grow most of those things in spring here as well – but as you can see, we have plenty on the list already!
And that is what we’re growing this spring and summer!
Did I say that choosing what to grow was challenging? Maybe that wasn’t the tough part. Now, we need to figure out where to plant this all!
I haven’t decided exactly where everything is going yet, but we’ll make a plan soon. When choosing where to plant what, I consider a few factors:
- Proper spacing. Overcrowded plants are not happy plants! They compete for water, nutrients, airflow, and sun, and are also more prone to disease.
- Crop rotation. Where was this plant grown last in the garden? As best we can with limited space, we try to avoid growing the same thing in the same spot year after year.
- Where is the sun, or sources of shade? Keep taller plants behind shorter ones as to not block their light. For example, planting tomatoes in the “back” (north) end of a bed with shorter crops towards the south.
- Companion planting! I will write up an article about this soon, but until then, reference your Homestead and Chill Garden Planning Toolkit – which has a detailed companion planting chart, along with plot plan templates like the one shown below!
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
- A Beginner’s Guide to Using a Hobby Greenhouse
- How to Fertilize & Amend a Raised Garden Bed Before Planting (or Between Seasons)