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Herbs for sure, because they can be grown in containers or among the flowers. Basil is the only tricky one; the rest take care of themselves. There may be a hardy basil variety, but I haven't found it. MUST have sufficient, but not too much, water; MUST not get too cold; MUST have decent amount of sunshine. Beyond that, many bugs love basil as much as you and I. Funny thing is that, once the basil gets established, it flourishes - barring the aforementioned water issues.

All herbs can be frozen - just rinse them off a little and air-dry for an hour or two, throw them in a freezer bag, press the air out of the bag, seal it up, and throw it in the freezer. Another way is to make basil, parsley, olive oil pesto - pine nuts, if you want - in the old Bassomatic 500 (Dan Ackroyd skit), then bag, press, and freeze.

Best bang for the buck - green beans, climbing variety. Stake 'em or build a tripod, occasionally convince them to stick to their climbing pole. Plant in mid-Spring (past frosts), then again in July. Soil does not have to be high-quality, but some humus never hurts. Harvest frequently to keep them going.

Second best is lettuce, because you can eat the thinnings. Trick - get small glass storage bottles and label them with, say, three varieties - I like Romaine and Butter Crunch for two of them. Add about half a jar of sand, throw the seeds in them, cap 'em, and shake to mix the seeds into the sand. When you plant, grab some of the sand and let it run out of your hand into the row or broadcast it into a small area. Plant regularly through the growing season, but they will bolt to seed quickly, when the weather gets hot.

Tomatoes, no doubt. I concentrate on cherry-types for quickest production and Romas for eating and freezing. Romas resist all kinds of diseases, plus splitting from heavy rains. They are the best storage tomatoes, and, if you like your sauce meaty (not runny), then Romas are for you. These can also be run through the Bassomatic, bagged, and frozen - no prep other than light rinse, unless you don't like tomato skin in your sauce.

If you have the room, build an arbor and grow, say, two grape vines - same variety. Two years to get a decent crop, then only pruning annually to maintain the relationship of the vines to the arbor. Under an arbor, you can sit in the shade, or you could grow some of that lettuce that doesn't like hot sunshine.

Carrots and spinach can be overwintered with a little protection from some light mulch. Plant edible-pod peas in late July for peas in September-October, because they don't like hot weather either. Best to have climbing devices for the peas, too.

Brussels Sprouts are the best payback on the cabbage family - again, because they grow vertically. After that, it's all about space and growing season.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2007 at 05:22:56 PM EST

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