September 26, 2012

Three Confidence-Building Veggies for Central Valley Gardeners

There are a few veggies in my garden that do well every single year no matter what, and always make me feel like a successful gardener regardless of what the rest of the homestead looks like. It's hard to go wrong with them, and they do a lot to boost my confidence at times when other veggies are letting me down (I'm looking at you, tomatoes!) Here are my favorite sure bets for a Davis summer vegetable patch:

1) Armenian Cucumbers

These guys produce and produce...and keep on producing huge, tasty cucumbers all summer long without fail. These cukes form the basis of my go-to summer meal, the Greek chop chop salad.

Armenian Cucumber

People joke about giving away zucchini, but in my yard it's the Armenian cukes I'm constantly distributing around the cul-de-sac. Lucky for me, I have a neighbor who absolutely loves them and will always take the excess! I've grown Armenian cucumbers for at least the last four years, and they've never let me down. Always prolific, never bitter, and not fussy. All you have to do is keep the ground moist for them. Even if the leaves start to show signs of cucumber plant diseases, like mosaic virus, the cukes keep coming. In fact, if you don't stay on top of it, you'll be overwhelmed by the amount of food produced by just one plant.

2) Cherry Tomatoes

If you want to know the thrill of growing an abundance of your own tomatoes, plant a cherry tomato. Even in a bad tomato year, I can always count on the cherry plants to deliver loads and loads of fruit all summer long. They are the first tomatoes to ripen in the garden and they continue to hang on practically until the first frost.

Ever dependable cherry tomato

My plants consistently grow 8-10 feet tall, even in soils that haven't been amended very well. If I end up with too much fruit--not likely given the many different ways cherry tomatoes can be eaten--it goes to the chickens, who go absolutely mad for cherry tomatoes. I like to spoil my chickens, so this year I grew an extra plant just for them.

3) Basil

Plant basil early (April or May) to give it a chance to get established before the worst of the summer heat, and you'll have basil all season long. Put it in a spot where it'll get a little bit of filtered shade in the hot afternoons, or make your own basil shade structure to give it a break from the scorching sun. I'm sure on the coast or in the Pacific Northwest basil does just fine in full sun, but here in the Central Valley, it appreciates a break. Not many pests will bother my basil plants, except for the occasional batch of whiteflies which are easily removed with a spray of water in the morning. Clip sprigs of basil as you need it in the kitchen rather than harvesting the whole plant all at once; the plants will keep growing and giving you pesto ingredients until the cold weather kills them in the fall.


None of these veggies are super fussy about soil nutrients and will still produce even if you've accidentally neglected your soil. If you're feeling frustrated with your gardening results this summer, or if you're just starting out and thinking of putting in a new or bigger garden next season, I strongly encourage you to try out these winners next spring. I've found that in Davis, it's hard to go wrong with them.

What are the confidence boosters in your garden?


  1. Radishes, beets, potatoes...

    I was going to say squash is easy. Until we got invaded by squash bugs this year, a first for us. Suddenly, squash wasn't so easy...

    1. I saw the pic of your monster beet. Wow! Ditto on the squash. I've never had any trouble until last year. My plants didn't take off for various reasons, and I didn't get a single squash. This year, loads. And yes, radishes are kind of a given, aren't they? :)