I’m often asked if I only grow heirloom varieties in my own vegetable garden. I’m not that discriminatory about vegetables. The only criteria I have is that they must grow in my climate and they must taste terrific.
I also have a hard time resisting the promises of seed catalogs, even though I should know better by now. I can easily be seduced by the mere image of a glowing chili pepper in the dark days of winter.
Since I don’t have unlimited space to garden in, I get really excited about varieties that claim to be compact, but highly productive. Truth be told, I’d probably get excited about that even if I had a vegetable garden that spanned acres. Less space. Less work. More to eat. It’s all good.
Last year I tried a bush type zucchini from Renee’s Garden called ‘Astia’. Renee’s seeds seem to beckon to the cook in me. ‘Astia’ was described as “…smooth, lustrous, glossy-green… delicious whether roasted, sauteed, steamed or baked.” You can see how glossy they are, below. You’ll have to trust me on the flavor.
Most bush zucchini are still large plants, but ‘Astia’ didn’t really get much wider than about 2 — 3 ft. Maybe it was something I did or didn’t do, but I was happy with the small scale of the actual plant. I was even happier with its continual production of squash. They form at the base of the plant, which gives the plant an odd, whirlybird look, but makes it easy to harvest. And the zucchini were indeed delicious and quite firm, which meant they didn’t turn to mush when cooked. I will definitely grow it again and recommend it.
I grew my ‘Astia’ plants in large potato grow bags. I have a tenacious groundhog who loves squash foliage and keeping them off the ground gives me a huge advantage. It’s not fail safe, because Wilbur the groundhog can climb and knock things over, but it is still an edge and I’ll take whatever help I can get.
I used to start squash seeds indoors, in paper pots, but the seeds I direct sowed always caught up to the early birds, so now I don’t bother. These are quick plants and you should be enjoying your zucchini in about 7 — 8 weeks. You can speed things along by covering the seeded container with a row cover or plastic, early in the season. To me, zucchini is a summer treat. I’ll be patient.
Don’t forget to mark your calenders for August 8th. That’s National Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day™. As Jane Austin said, with some pleasures, a little goes a long way.
Another vegetable that I’m trying in a container this year is the 2014 AAS Vegetable Award Winner Bean ‘Mascotte’. I’m not always impressed by plant competitions. Let’s face it, a lot of them are just marketing gimmicks. But AAS does quite a bit of trialing before they honor a plant and I’ve had good luck with many other winners, like ‘Carmen’ pepper and ‘Hansel’ eggplant, not to mention the Profusion Double zinnias.
‘Mascotte’ is a French green bean. It’s a bush type which only gets about 1 – 2 ft. tall and it is supposed to be ideal for containers and other small spaces. Besides being a compact plant, it also has a compact root system, so you don’t need a large container. The seed packet says it holds its pods above the foliage – another effort saver in the vegetable garden. It is also supposed to be tasty and, since I tend to go overboard growing beans, I will be able to compare it to some of my favorites, like ‘Lazy Housewife’ and ‘Caseknife’. We’ll see how it does in a few weeks.
By the way, Mscotte is French, for mascot. According to AAS, “…is a symbol of good luck and was chosen for the variety’s gardener-friendly habit.” I’m all for gardener-friendly. Marie~con