“I am going for it—planting a variety of veggies, knowing that some will work better than others this year,” said Jody Main, our local expert on organic heirloom vegetable gardens.
“Every summer, there is something that does not do well.”
I told Jody I have been disappointed in my tomato crops for several years, because the summer weather was not hot enough to promote a good crop. Jody said the trick for unpredictable weather is to plant a lot of different things, because any one crop can fail.
Jody teaches organic gardening at Common Ground Garden Supply in Palo Alto and designs edible organic gardens in Los Altos Hills, Woodside and Portola Valley. We have been friends for decades. Her client list probably reads like a Who’s Who, but she is not allowed to tell me, because of the privacy requests from her clients.
As the basis for a summer vegetable garden, Jody recommends tomatoes, beans and peppers, several varieties of each.
She has so many great tomato recommendations, particularly heirlooms, that I've listed them.
- Jody recommends Stupice, one of the few “early” heirlooms. Early tomatoes have a better chance of getting enough sun to mature because they do not need a long hot summer with warm nights.
- Another good tomato for our climate is Cherokee Purple, which is like Brandywine but earlier and more productive, with a “velvety sweet taste, large and luscious.”
- Pineapple is a large delicious heirloom that displays gorgeous swirls of red and orange when sliced.
- Another of Jody’s favorites is San Marzano, a long satiny paste (dry) tomato with wonderful flavor, perfect for pasta sauce and also great for quick cooked dishes like scrambled eggs, as it will not leave a puddle of juice on the plate. And if you don’t like soggy sandwiches, San Marzano is the ticket.
- Sun Gold cherry tomatoes are sweet and productive—a must-have for any garden.
For beans, Jody recommends “tender, sweet, crunchy” Romano, which can be eaten as a young green bean but is even better as it grows flat and long. Another great bean is Yard Long, which produces “beautiful, stunning, long, hanging, slender beans.”
Jody mentioned that Renee’s Garden seed company offers a wonderful bean seed blend, Tri‑color Bush Beans. “The gold, purple, and green beans are beautiful both in the garden and on the table.”
Peppers look great in the garden, and planting several different types will help ensure some of them make it through our unpredictable weather. Generally, the earlier varieties do better here than the late, because we never have the very hot weather they prefer. When buying plants, check the tags to see days-to-maturity.
Jody’s favorite pepper is Alma Paprika, wonderful fresh or dried and ground into paprika. She also recommends Italian long, sweet, frying and stuffing peppers such as Jimmy Nardello.
Most of the plants that Jody recommends are open-pollinated varieties that have been grown for years. The seed from these crops (as opposed to hybrids) can be saved and grown the next year, sustaining the diversity of our seed for future generations.
carries all of these varieties and the bean seeds.
Jody is scheduled to teach a summer vegetable class: Organic Vegetable Gardening at Common Ground on June 4. The more you know, the more you grow.
About This Column: Each week Pam Walatka will explore sustainable life in Los Altos Hills. Contact Pam at firstname.lastname@example.org or see the Pam Portugal Walakta Writings on FaceBook. Contact Jody Main through Common Ground.