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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

In the Garden: Unlocking the secrets to successful gardening for all

Staff illustration by Molly Quinn

“Everyone can grow a garden.”

That will be the recurring theme for my columns throughout this year’s growing season. I believe everyone should be able to successfully grow a garden, whether it’s filled with veggies, flowers, fruit, or a blend.

If you live on a city lot, on acreage, or in an apartment or condo, my goal is to help you discover the joy of gardening.

In the coming weeks, I’ll cover site selection, how to start plants from seed, soil preparation, regional considerations, growing in containers, and tending your crops. Even though I have a large garden, I’ll also grow a “postage-stamp” vegetable plot to demonstrate that you don’t need much room to grow a productive garden.

There also will be profiles of local gardeners so you can learn about their methods and I’ll alert you to important garden-related events.

This year, I plan to shoot a series of short videos in my garden that will underscore and expand on what you will be reading here each week. You can find the series, “Everyone Can Grow A Garden,” on my YouTube channel,

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as producing your own food. And since we all have to eat, let’s focus on that today.

Beginning and experienced vegetable gardeners alike often find the sheer magnitude of seed options overwhelming. Since growing veggies is one of my passions, it might help if I share the best varieties I grow year after year. While I enjoy trying new things, there are tried-and-true varieties that I always save a spot for.

Over the past few years, I’ve been planting Cylindra beets. As you can guess, they have cylindrical roots, which are deep red in color. Some of them have been whoppers, averaging 10 inches long. You’d think they’d be tough, but they’re always tender and flavorful and they keep well during the winter months.

I’m not sure how many folks think of growing celery but Tango is ideal for gardens in northern climates. They produce tasty stalks throughout the season and are simple to grow. I know celery is easy to purchase at the grocery store but I often find that if I buy a large bunch of celery, much of it will go to waste before I use it up. With my own celery plants, I just harvest the amount of stalks I need, knowing the plants will continue to grow.

Homegrown corn is a summertime delight and Luscious has been a consistent performer in my garden. It produces long ears filled with tender, bi-colored kernels and the cornstalks grow about 6 feet tall.

Growing your own potatoes is very rewarding. After experimenting with different cultivars over the years, I’ve found Viking Purple and Yukon Gold are the tastiest and most prolific.

Everyone loves to grow zucchini, right? For years, Romanesco has been my go-to variety but my new favorite is Clarimore. It’s unusual with its pale green skin, but you can’t beat how tender, flavorful and productive it is.

After growing many different tomatoes over time, I’m totally sold on three cultivars: Sungold, Chef’s Choice Orange and Amish Paste Kapuler. Sungold is a prolific cherry tomato with a sweet, can’t-eat-just-one taste. Chef’s Choice Orange is a large slicing tomato with bright orange flesh and a scrumptious flavor. Amish Paste Kapuler is an heirloom tomato ideal for making sauce, ketchup and salsa. The plants produce huge tomatoes that are very resistant to blossom-end rot.

I’ve included a list of the crops and cultivars I’ll be growing this year to give you more ideas. Like you, I can’t wait to get my hands in the soil again and get the garden season underway.

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at