Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.
Last year, we ran a story about veggies for dummies (we gave it a classier headline at the time). The experts I interviewed offered up the usual easy-grow suspects -- tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers ... and one veggie that surprised me: beets.
I had never tried growing beets. And for some reason, I would have guessed they were hard to grow. But horticulturist Mike Hibbard assured me that beets are no-brainers. Toss seeds on the ground in April, and they germinate with no care at all, he said.
I decided to try my hand at beets. I bought three big resin pots, potting soil and bagged compost, and three kinds of beet seeds. I planted in late April and put the pots on my deck. Within 10 days, my pots were full of tiny seedlings. They grew so fast and thick that they soon looked very crowded.
"You have to thin them," said Karen, my friend and go-to veggie expert. The seeds are actually seed clusters, she explained.
"What do you do with the ones you pull?" I asked.
"Throw 'em away," she said.
I'm not good at throwing things away (my parents grew up during the Depression). So I bought a couple more big pots and tried replanting the pulled seedlings. They looked a little limp for a couple of days, but I kept watering them, and most of them rebounded.
Soon I had five pots of thriving beets. Sadly, this was not good news to the others in my household, who refused to eat them. I don't know what it is about beets. Garden centers tell me beet seeds are a hot seller, but most of the people I know turn up their noses at them.
I didn't like them myself until a few years ago. Beets, to me, were those pickled things in salad bars. But then restaurants started putting more beets on their menus around the time I started a diet and was trying to expand my veggie repertoire. I tried roasted-beet salads and beets with balsamic glaze and chilled golden-beet soup. I loved them all.
My "Beet Farm" became a family joke. But I produced a lot of small but sweet, tasty beets, including my new favorite, chiogga (candy-striped) beets. This year, I'm doing it again.
What veggies have you found surprisingly easy to grow? And how do you feel about beets?
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