5 Plants to Plant

3 huge sweet potatoes, a few handfuls of fingerling and baby potatoes, 1 overly ripe acorn squash and 3 sprouting onions.

That’s what I have left of the summer garden haul. Well, that and a whole rack of canned goods.

It is now time to start all over again.

With only 133 square feet, or 0.003 of an acre, I have to be pretty discriminating with what I plant. There’s not a whole lot of room, literally, for experimentation. So even though I’d love to try growing rice or cotton. I can’t. Well I could, but then I wouldn’t have room for carrots would which make me angry, I’d turn aggressive and perhaps develop a twitch. More specifically, another twitch.

I think I did fairly well with what I planted last year and will probably plant mostly the same stuff, but there were a few things that stood out as the bell of the haul.

So if you too only have 0.003 of an acre, or even less, or even more … these are my 5 top picks for your vegetable garden including the varieties I’ll be using. (when you order seeds online or get them from reputable seed stores you get to pick your actual variety as opposed to when you buy your seeds by the cash in a grocery store where you have the choice between “carrot” or “carrot”.




If you’re looking for some, Cubits carries the Dinosaur Kale  and the Swiss Chard that I love so much (and this from someone who doesn’t really like Kale) and Linda Crago from Tree and Twig farms has a HUGE stock of tomato seeds. Which are now all sold out. I know. Can you believe it?

The early gardener gets the seed, those who wait, just have weeds.

Or crap seeds they bought at the grocery store check out next to the gum.




  1. Marti says:

    So there’s a hot rumor on the internet that you can just replant an celery stump… or some such plant. Did you want to try that and let us know how it worked? You know… since you’ve now become a rabid celery-growing fiend and all.

    Where does the Fella’s father come down on vegetables? Does he have a “true vegetable” list?

    • Karen says:

      You can replant the celery stump. You sit it in water and let it root and a little celery leaf will grow. How well it grows into an entire plant I’m not sure. Celery is a biennial. So if you leave it in your garden and it survives the winter it will start to grow again, but the plant that grows isn’t for eating. It’s in the second year that the celery (radishes do the same) grows its seeds. Did you never wonder where radish or celery seeds came from? That’s where they come from. From their biennialness. ~ karen!

      • JBB says:

        I think that happened to us, too. The kids are 8, 6, 4, 2…Oh dear Lord, no!

      • Marti says:

        So… no rhubarb? Does it not grow up there in the Northlands?

        • Karen says:

          Rhubarb is a perennial. No need to plant. Comes up everyyyyy year. – k!

        • Marti says:

          Could you research how it does as a houseplant? Please find me a way to get a pie plant into my living room, please-please?

        • Karen says:

          Um. Plant it. In a cup of milk. With sliced onions in it. And a snail. And leave it on the counter for 7 months. ~ karen!

        • Marti says:

          I’m reasonably certain I could do all of that and get the rhubarb to grow as a houseplant faster than the app would cut my tortilla chip habit. 😛

        • Deborah says:

          Bonus about living in the Great White North is that Rhubarb LOVES the climate here, it will not grow in the hot southern states.

      • Patti says:

        This is fantastic to know!
        So, the seed it the first ‘ennial’, which you get after planting the stump, and then you turn around and plant the seed and get celery?

        What I mean is: I can just go get seeds and plant celery and be on my way and not have to wait for ‘ennials’, right? Because I have not tried this, and I am sooo stoked to do it because EW – limp yucky celery is not fun in my crisper!

        Also – add to your list: zucchini, IF you love zucchini. I just could not get over how awesome they are fresh from the garden. I eat a lot of zucchini for some reason, and they’re so easy to grow!

        • Karen says:

          Patti – I planted zucchini last year but they got attacked by bugs. I may or may not grow them again this year. ~ karen!

        • Patti says:

          Oh no! Sorry to hear that! We didn’t have trouble, but we sprayed them with a mixture of 1:25 dishsoap :water and that seemed to do the trick. If my garden doesn’t have the wrath of bugs this year, I’ll totally send you garden-fresh zucchinis.

  2. Rebecca P says:

    Can you recommend some good places to order seeds? Also, when should we have everything ordered by? We are going to try a few raised beds this year, and have absolutely no idea what we’re doing! I didn’t know grocery store seeds were bad until 30 seconds ago, while reading your post! Haha! This is going to be very interesting….

    • Karen says:

      HI Rebecca – It’s not that the grocery store seeds are bad … they’ll grow … they just don’t have any variety and you have no idea what you’re getting. In Canada I order many of my seeds from Cubits. (If you click on her button on the righthand side bar you’ll get directed to her Etsy site) I also use seeds from some local suppliers who don’t ship to the States.) If you Google heirloom seeds you’ll find several companies in the States that carries them and mails them out. You should oder them NOW! A lot of seeds will already be sold out believe it or not. ~ karen

    • JessR says:

      If you’re in the States I would suggest http://www.landrethseeds.com/

      They are a super small, family run business. I’ve never gotten sketchy seeds from them and you can call them up with any gardening question or concern and someone will talk you through it.

      Also, I love the fact that they’re so small the packing slips have ballpoint pen tick marks to show that someone has to physically go though every order.

    • Gail says:

      Bakers out of Missouri- great catalogue and they carry non GMO’s and organic. Also ‘Circa’ plants in Loogan OH

  3. arlene says:

    Really?— No lettuce in your top 5? I had the crazy notion that my little garden should bring me the makings of a fresh salad made with lettuce — and while I am asking ~~
    Really? No Beans?
    Thanks for the heads up — on seed purchasing!

    • Karen says:

      Arleen – This isn’t the whole list of my garden, it’s the top 5 things that produce the best and were most enjoyable for me. There will be beans and lettuces and all sorts of other things too. ~ karen!

  4. Beckie says:

    Baker Creek has a fabulous selection of heirloom varieties

    they can be found at http://www.rareseeds.com

  5. Amanda says:

    We’re going to give the square foot garden thing a shot this year…we don’t have much space either. (Or energy, frankly)
    Can’t wait to try these – and see how your front yard garden turns out this year!

  6. Sara says:

    Do you plant celery seeds, or is it better to buy small plants at the nursery? If seeds, do you start them in the house earlier? Love this blog!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sara – Yes you can plant celery from seed indoors. Last year I bought them on a whim, so I bought tiny plants and they worked out great. I’ll probably buy the plants again this year. I only have room to start so many seeds in my house and I’m not sure I have room for celery. ~ karen!

  7. Langela says:

    An idea for those who have less growing space but want a paste-type tomato is to plant ‘Oxheart’. It’s an heirloom and mine were so prolific this past year that I will never have a garden without them. They also got HUGE and were mostly meat. Here is one of the many posts I did on them. It shows the size and the inside meat.


  8. Ann says:

    No, the celery won’t grow into a full sized “celery” but instead just leaves that can be cut and thrown into your cooking. And that is fine, but you don’t get that much.

    My top 5 would be:

    fortex green beans-fortex being a variety of pole beans that give the best, biggest, not stringy beans ever

    I always try one new thing each year. Last year it was turnips and we love pulling them small and eating them sliced up raw. This year it will be kholrabi which we plan on eating the same way. This fall I want to put in sunchokes. They are similar to eat to potatoes but are an official paleo food so I am wanting to give it a shot. But they only ship them for planting in the fall, darn.

    I am anxiously waiting for real planting season to start! It is getting close here in southern Tennessee

  9. Dee says:

    If you add one tomato to your list this year, I would vote for Black Krim. They were outstanding! Made great sandwiches.

  10. Barbie says:

    OH CRAP! I hope I haven’t waited to looooong!! We wanted to buy our seeds organic or heirloom this year. I have no idea “where to buy” my tomato plants from here! (I think it is too late to do them from seeds now isn’t it?) I was going to buy from cubits for stuff, but I also need potatoes which I also don’t know where to get good ones now either! YIKES!

  11. Gardening season seems so far away! We have four foot drifts in the yard and deeper where the plow has pushed it! Nice to see pics of garden produce! Cheers.

  12. Cynna says:

    Great selection, but what about San Marzano tomatoes? The ultimate sauce tomato. This is my favorite seed source:

    • Karen says:

      Cynna – I actually spoke with Linda Crago from Tree and Twig farms about paste tomatoes. She grows … something like 600 varieties of heirloom tomatoes or something ridiculous like that. She grows tomatoes for a living and said San Marzano are actually not the best paste tomato. They’re just the most well known! The 2 varieties she recommended are apparently more difficult to find, but much better. ~ karen!

      • Cynna says:

        The original San Marzanos come from the area near Mt. Vesuvius. It’s the volcanic ash that gave (gives)them the great flavor. So much depends on the source of the seeds. It’s the soil that tends to dictate how fruits and vegetables will taste.

  13. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    How wonderful it will be to taste fresh picked veggies again..And a big slice of tomato on my burger..and sweet little cherry tomatoes in my salad..Can hardly wait Karen!

  14. Susan R says:

    I’m in the California. I order from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds in MI and Seeds of Change. They have all of the varieties that Karen mentioned, and have organic seeds too. Annie’s is run by a young couple. They have a fun newsletter and are really gracious about answering email questions.

    The best tomatoes I planted were Black Krim, pineapple, yellow pear and Paul Robeson. I think it’s too cold in Canada for pineapple tomatoes.

    Karen, you mentioned carrots in several posts. What varieties did you plant? I did some heirloom purple and red, but no joy. But the Chioggia and bull’s blood beets were delicious!

    I’m going to try heirloom potatoes this fall. So excited. I found three metal crib box springs at a barn sale. Set upright and attached at the corners to make a triangular bin, they’ll be perfect for growing layers of potatoes!

  15. Susan R says:

    Oye! Sorry. You know, “the California”. Damn autocorrect!

  16. BarbWire says:

    Great info. Thanks! And I already bought some of the Dinosaur Kale seeds from Cubits thanks to another article you wrote about a week ago. They shipped Monday so I am anxiously stalking the mailman looking for my seeds! Looking forward to some more articles like this and maybe some kale recipes? I know nothing about kale. And I might try to grow some celery. Hubby hates it, celery is his kryptonite but I love it. And so does our bunny.

  17. Deb says:

    Dearest Karen, I LOVE you, I truly do. Your post MAKES my morning every single time. I gaze out my window today looking at mounds of white thinking, she’s a f—– lunatic!!! Buying seeds??? We can’t even see the soil! Then I read JBB’s comment and spew my coffee half way across the house. On line baby shower perhaps…where do we send the booties?

    • Karen says:

      Hah! Understandable. The thing is, if you plan on starting your plants yourself, now is the time to start! Yep. It’s that time already. – karen!

  18. Nobody commented on your sneaky play on words: Belle of the Haul. Beautiful.

  19. allyson says:

    So proud…..Cubits order already received. Just need to start the seedlings (waiting for perfect timing). I got bull’s blood beets and swiss chard – i think those are the only overlaps. Mmmm, need spring.

  20. Susan R says:

    Barbie, Karen had a really great post on starting seeds. Look in the Outdoor category. You should start them inside, even where it’s warm. It can get too cold at night for them until they get some growth going. I actually start mine in those little peat pos set in ice cube trays, then transfer the whole peat pod to a small peat pot. Once they are about 5-6 inches tall, I plant the peat pot outside in the garden. I get all that stuff on Amazon, but WalMart, Home Depot, Lowe’s etc, all carry them.

  21. Laura says:

    Yay! I already have four of the fab five in the garden coming up: swiss chard, beets, potatoes and some volunteer tomatoes from last year that have sprouted. I live in SoCal so we have a year round growing season. Last year my favorite thing was my bell peppers, they were so prolific and pretty. This is my first year doing potatoes and I am so excited to dig them up I can hardly stand it! My daughter has been begging to grow celery but I’ve heard it was really hard to grow so I’ve been putting it off. Maybe I can give it a try.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laura – I don’t know about Southern California, but in Southern Ontario celery was a snap to grow. Stick it in the ground and ignore it. You’ll love, LOVE growing potatoes. ~ karen

  22. susan says:

    I know I will grwo some chocolate cherry tomatoes. The sweetest cherry tomato I have ever had! I also like Trail of Tears pole beans – they can be used as string beans, or left for the seeds to develop into black beans (legume type).

    Can’t wait! Gonna get my little seed starting trays out this weekend!

    Do you ever start leeks, Karen? If so, any tips?

  23. Lisa says:

    You introduced me to Cubit’s last year and I put in another order this year. Seeds received and started weeks ago! I had the itch back in early February and started some experiments pretty early. Can’t wait to follow along with your garden too!

  24. Pam'a says:

    I am too damned lazy and don’t have enough room to plant all those seeds. If you are too, you might want to check around your area for community gardeners, a county extension office, gardening clubs, etc. Many of them offer heirloom seedlings right around planting time. 🙂

  25. Bonnie says:

    Thanks for the planting advice, but I wonder if some of those varieties are best grown in the chilly north. Celery, for example, has such a long growing season, that it is best grown in a cool climate. I tried to grow celery one year, and it was thin and bitter. The National Gardening Association advises,”Celery has a reputation for being a fussy, hard-to-grow vegetable.” And, in warm climates, carrots are best grown fall through winter. I found this out by my failures.
    So, I think we had better check on which plants grow best in our region!

    • Karen says:

      Bonnie – That’s odd about the celery because it was ready to pick by the end of July or beginning of August. I planted it around June 1st. So it was in the heat of summer that it grew. Strange. I believe you … but strange. ~ karen!

      • Bonnie says:

        Well, I am certainly far from an expert. It was just when my celery and carrots were such failures that I looked it up and found that information on the internet. And, we know that all information on the internet is true! I would certainly trust success. Maybe I will try again.

  26. Sabrina says:

    Ahhh, thanks for this list, it makes me very happy. Am just thinking about what veg to plant this year and I’ve just moved to a new house with a giant greenhouse in the garden (the glamour!) so I’ve got space to experiment with a few more things than normal…

  27. Patti says:

    I have a confession to make.

    I can’t grow tomatoes!

    Everyone has luxurious tomatoes. Big, juicy, red tomatoes. Green tomatoes. Yum, yum!

    I love tomatoes. Home made salsa, on pizza, on the bbq, stuffed, plain, dipped in whipped dressing – tomatoes are fantastic.

    But I can’t seem to grow them. I get a LOT of plant, and then they do start growing, but the weight of them breaks the plant, or they don’t ripen (I’ve tried the paper bag trick), or they just get really tall and don’t produce fruit. I might be the only person in the world who can’t grow tomatoes! I’ve both started them from seed and bought plants, and still can’t get those suckers to grow.

    The thing is – my backyard is really, really hot. Our friend, an avid gardener, described it as a “microclimate”. I’m in a townhouse, and the parking is all out back, so we have two small raised beds, which are surrounded by brick townhouses, ashfault for parking, and then a big cinderblock building next door. So it’s hot, hot, hot back there. We water like crazy, but it still isn’t working.

    I have only had trouble with tomatoes and potatoes – everything else grows like teenage boys. Why am I failure!?

    • Pam'a says:

      “They” usually say if you’re getting lots of leaves but not many fruits/flowers, your soil is too heavy with nitrogen. Have you ever had it tested? I can’t think the heat would be the problem, because tomatoes LOVE heat. But maybe since you have to do so much watering, it’s affecting your soil chemistry. County extension offices will usually test your soil if you take them a sample, or there are home kits. Good luck. 🙂

  28. Theresa says:

    So, if I have seeds leftover in packs from the last few years, can I use them? Or should I toss ’em and buy new seeds every year? My storage methods are *ahem* not ideal…

    • Karen says:

      They’re probably fine Theresa. If you want to test them there are 2 ways. Put some of the seeds in a cup of water. Those that sink are likely fine, those that float may not be fine. The best thing to do though is take 5 or so seeds fold them up in a damp paper towel, put the paper towel in a ziploc bag and put them in a warm, dark place for a week. If they sprout, the seeds are good. ~ karen!

      • Theresa says:

        An actual scientific method for testing them – brilliant! I am so doing this, and so excited for spring to come so I can get planting! Thank-you!

  29. Jasmine says:

    I caved. Thanks to you (and Beckie who suggested Baker Creek) I have ordered seeds for the first time in my life. Two tomatoes and two basils. This may not seem like much to you, but it’s HUGE to me. I did grow some lettuce in a pot last year but that is as far as I have been willing to ‘farm’. These can still go in a pot, so I haven’t completely lost my mind. I will keep you in the loop. I don’t even really like tomatoes…

  30. Sara says:

    Fun timing! We just nearly finished our perennial and herb garden in our front yard today. Only need 4 more plants and we’re done. My hubby had to rent a jackhammer to get holes deep enough to plant the three crepe myrtles we put in the backyard to get a little privacy from the neighbors. We’re pretty certain a limestone quarry lives six inches under our dirt. He and fellow gardeners/landscapers/DIYers have been swapping tales about the misery of rock that is our lovely soil here in Austin. We put in three 4×4 raised beds, bought garden soil and are planting our first ever veggie garden this weekend. I scoured through the Seed Saver Exchange’s website for any heirlooms hailing from Texas or that are drought resistant, so we’re trying out Oh So Sweet Watermelon, Hill Country Red Okra and Rattlesnake Snap Green Beans. We also are buying tomato transplants from a local farm. Hoping for success!

  31. Toronto Boy says:

    Hey Karen, I was wondering if you grow your (flower/vegetable) plants from seed? And if so, have you begun seed germination indoors in preparation for warmer weather?

    I attempted this last year with disasterous results! Sure the seeds germinated but shortly thereafter all my seedlings hit the bucket!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Toronto Boy. I’m just getting ready to start all of that now. In fact I have a VERY good tool for that sort of thing coming up in Monday’s post. It sounds like you had troubles with damping off if your seedlings croaked. This usually happens when they’re fairly young. Or … you may have planted them too early and they grew too big for the amount of light you could provide them indoors. Or they dried out, LOL. Any number of things. To help with damping off make sure you use either brand new pots/seeding trays or clean the ones you already own with a bleach solution. Also, only use new soil and use a soilless mix. Agro is what I sometimes use. ~ karen!

      • Toronto Boy says:

        Thanks for taking the time to reply to my enquiry Karen! I believe that you are correct in your assertion that it was probably a case of damping off. I used a grow light to start the seedlings off and took care to keep the soil relatively moist by occasionally misting them with a spray bottle. I’ll be sure to clean the seedling tray with a bleach solution and will try and get a hold of some new soil and potting mix. But before I do that, I’ll keep an eye for your upcoming article!

        Thanks again Karen!

  32. Sara says:

    Eek! So excited and reporting back to you! I picked up my tomato transplants from our farmers market Saturday. I bought the heirloom variety 6-pack. The farm is planting about 25 heirloom varieties this year, so they were putting together the packs based on what was ready for transplant from their greenhouse. I received Chocolate Stripe, Tasty Evergreen, German Giant, Pruden’s Purple, Caspian Pink and Carbon (John). Fun!

  33. Erin says:

    Remains from our summer haul:
    1/2 bushel sweet potatoes. 30ish lightly sprouting garlic heads, 6 bags of frozen green beans, 4 bags of frozen broccoli, 4 frozen cartons of tomato juice, 8 winter squash and 10 pumpkins.

    The pumpkins were an “accident” due to incomplete composting. The vines grew so well I didn’t have the heart to rip them out. The pumpkins were lovely. We cured them really well apparently. But no one likes to go to the trouble of cooking them! Word to the wise.

    • Karen says:

      Erin – Out of curiosity which variety of green beans did you grow? I froze mine and they did NOT do well. They were like mush. I have some Lazy Wife for this year which are supposed to be much better freezing beans, but I’d like something with a taller vine. Like an endlessly tall vine, LOL. ~ karen!

      • Erin says:

        Hey Karen –
        Funny, I’m looking at my seed stuff right now. I’ve had good luck with Isabel and Blue Lake S-7 from William Dam. I know, I know they’re not heirloom. I grow heirloom tomatoes and other open pollinated veg, but I gotta have production when it comes to beans. And taste. They’re really tasty. Plus the vines are out for world domination (8-10 ft) and produce until frost. Hope this helps! -E

        • Karen says:

          Thanks Erin. I’ll go have a look. They freeze O.K.? No mushy beans? And did you blanch before freezing? I’m full of questions today. ~ karen!

        • Erin says:

          Not mushy. Not garden crisp – but definitely not mushy. My mom used to cook beans to mush (fresh lovely beans!) so I have been there – facing a plate of grey-green flabby beans. So sad.

          Blanch 3 minutes only and plunge in ice water right away. I tend to hover when I blanch and I start the timer the second the beans hit the water. I do smaller batches a few days apart, probably helps the freezer do it’s job more quickly and efficiently. – E

  34. Kath says:

    Thanks to hearing you speak in Niagara Falls I now know about the squash vine borer and now I understand why I could never grow anything from that family.
    I read on-line to plant after early July, can’t wait to try it.

    • Karen says:

      Kath – Yup. That helps. Linda Crago grew some late squash and they grew faster and bigger than you could possibly imagine. Just make sure you get them in with enough time to mature. Thanks for coming out to the event. It was a fun one to speak at. ~ karen!

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