January 2, 2015

2 Intriguing Plants for the New Year - Photo by Jessica Walliser (HobbyFarms.com)

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that 2014 has come and gone so quickly, but despite its warp speed, 2014 was certainly a successful year for the garden.

A Year In Review
Here in western Pennsylvania, we managed to elude the late blight that plagued other parts of the country, and we saw only a few instances of impatiens downy mildew. It was a crazy year for fungal diseases as a whole because we had consistent rainfall throughout the entire growing season. Typically in years with this much rainfall, we see a rise in many different fungal pathogens, but these two issues thankfully seemed to stay away. However, that wasn’t the case for basil downy mildew, powdery mildew and black spot, all of which raged through many gardens this season.

On the flip side, the regular presence of rainfall meant that the 2014 gardening season required very little supplemental irrigation. I didn’t even have to water my containers but maybe a dozen or so times all summer long. The vegetable garden got watered only once in late August. Even the birdbaths seldom needed refilled.

All that rain, with a little help from my mulching prowess, made for a spectacular year in the veggie patch and perennial gardens. I had the best tomato harvest I’ve had in years, and the pole beans continued producing until November! I’m still uprooting the occasional carrot and beet, enjoying them roasted in the oven with a bit of sea salt and olive oil.

Next Year’s Garden
While a gardener never has control of the weather, he or she does have control over what’s planted in the garden and how it’s cared for. Like many gardeners, I often spend the month of January taking stock of the previous year’s garden and planning for the coming season. I relish the seed catalogs, with their colorful images and playful descriptions. Somehow I end up with more dog-eared pages than not. The 2015 seed catalogs hold so much promise for the coming year, filling my head with ideas and inspiration.

I’d like to briefly introduce you to two plants I’m excited to grow in the coming season. One is a returning favorite and the other is going to be an exciting, new experiment.

Digiplexis
One plant I grew for the first time in 2014 that will make a definite comeback in 2015 is Digiplexis (pictured above). A cross between our native foxglove and a cousin from the Canary Islands, this plant truly took my breath away. Tall spikes of raspberry red and orange flowers bloomed non-stop all summer long. Although it’s hardy south of USDA zone 8, here in my zone 6 garden it’s treated as an annual. There are a couple of varieties of Digiplexis on the market and all of them are pretty stunning. I can’t wait to grow it again this year. I’m going to try it in my front garden to test for both deer and drought resistance. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ketchup n’ Fries TomTato
Another plant I’m looking forward to trying, this one for the very first time, is the Ketchup n’ Fries TomTato from Territorial Seed Company. It’s the first commercially available grafted tomato-potato variety that’s actually considered to be successful. They’ve been on the market before, but they proved more of a novelty than a productive crop. To make the plant, the shoot system of a cherry tomato is grafted to the root system of a potato. Because the two are closely related, a union forms and the two grow as a single plant. Each plant produces tomatoes above ground and potatoes below.Two crops from a single plant is pretty exciting stuff. I can’t wait to give it a try!

Here’s wishing you a successful and happy 2015—in the garden and in life!

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