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Martha's Vegetable Garden

Martha Stewart Living, March 2008

Who doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous flowers all summer long? But a gal's got to eat. So it's not surprising that the first garden Martha set to work on when she bought her Bedford home, Cantitoe Corners, in 2001, was her vegetable garden.

The garden, next to the greenhouse and close enough to the house to make it a quick stroll to pluck a tomato, has come into its glory. Of course, the bounty, which ranges from early peas to fall's brussels sprouts, didn't come without effort. The soil has been amended with compost and minerals, and the garden has been enclosed with a 7-foot-tall fence -- because Martha isn't the only area resident who appreciates a tender lettuce leaf.

Row by Row
Martha's vegetable garden was laid out with rigorous geometry to yield maximum results and easy access. The major cross-axial paths are 10 feet wide and can accommodate a garden cart or a pickup truck. Each row of vegetables is 30 inches wide, and the paths between them are 12 inches wide, which makes it simple to hoe and weed from both sides. To minimize weeds and retain moisture, each row is mulched with salt hay, a grass harvested in marshes along the East Coast that contains no weed seeds.

Rotation of the Earth
Each year, the vegetables are planted in different beds to lessen disease problems and interrupt the life cycle of pests that are attracted to a particular plant. Crop rotation also allows the soil to replenish after hosting heavy feeders, and alternating deep-rooted and fibrous-rooted crops from year to year improves soil structure. Marigolds are interspersed amid the vegetables because they are believed to repel insects, and calendula is planted for its edible petals, which add color to salads.

Tricks of the Trade
1. Martha designed this dibble, inspired by one she saw in her friend David Rockefeller's greenhouse. He uses his to make holes in seed trays. Martha uses hers in the beds to make evenly spaced holes for crops such as lettuce and Asian greens.

2. Mustard greens are interplanted with cole crops, such as kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli, to serve as a trap crop for flea beetles. The beetles are attracted to the mustard first, leaving the cole crops to grow undisturbed -- at least in theory.

3. Collars of heavy paper are pushed into the soil around a 'Romanesco' cauliflower and the other brassicas to keep cutworms at bay. They are removed when the danger from cutworms has passed.

4. Sungold cherry tomatoes are everyone's favorite, best eaten straight from the vine.

5. A tomato-staking method Martha tried last year consisted of white nylon twine supported by bamboo tripods. The vines were attached to the twine with trellis clips. Staking tomatoes allows for a clean, disease- and pest-free crop and even ripening of the fruit, and the clips can be reused each year. The supplies are available from Johnny's Selected Seeds.

6. Heirloom varieties, such as this Rhubarb' Swiss chard, are grown from seeds that have been passed down for generations.

7. Clean straw is slipped below each pumpkin and winter squash to keep them from rotting and to put them out of reach of soil-dwelling insects.

8. Accurate record keeping is crucial. This plan lists what is planted in each bed so that proper crop rotation can be maintained from year to year.

9. Freshly dug garlic is hung in the dry and airy potting shed for a week or two until the skin turns off-white. The loose soil is then rubbed away, and the bulbs are stored in the pantry for use in winter. Onions and potatoes receive similar treatment.

10. Branches of gray birch and other twiggy trees are pushed a foot or more into the soil to support the vines of beans, peas, and cucumbers. Martha learned this method of staking from the gardeners at Skylands, her home in Maine. Strong branches can be used for more than one year and then added to the compost pile after they become brittle.

Spring's First Bounty
1. 'Fordhook Giant' Swiss chard
2. Mache
3. 'Natividad' lettuce
4. 'Kolibri' kohlrabi
5. 'Orion' fennel
6. 'Thumbellina' carrot
7. 'Eder' kohlrabi
8. 'Purple Top' turnip
9. 'Cassius' cauliflower
10. 'Pink Beauty' radish
11. 'Galisse' lettuce
12. 'Oscarde' lettuce
13. 'Alcosa' cabbage
14. 'Sugar Sprint' sugar snap pea
15. 'Lucky' broccoli
16. 'Rhubarb' swiss chard
17. 'Bull's Blood' beet

Fall's Ultimate Harvest
1. 'German Butterball' potato
2. Curly parsley
3. 'White Cherry' tomato
4. 'Tigerella' tomato
5. 'Big Beef' tomato
6. 'Green Zebra' tomato
7. 'San Marzano' tomato
8. 'Reduna Ibrido' tomato
9. 'Japanese' garlic
10. 'Sungold' tomato
11. 'Jerry's German Giant' tomato
12. 'Asian Long' cucumber
13. 'Zenovese' zucchini
14. 'Dusky' eggplant
15. 'Rosa Bianca' eggplant
16. 'Imperial Star' artichoke
17. 'Purple Pole' bean
18. 'White Tango' eggplant
19. 'Shishito' pepper
20. 'Czechoslovakian Black' pepper
21. 'Tilsam' bean
22. 'Antoli Romanian' pepper
23. 'Spicy Globe' basil
24. 'La Ratte' potato
25. 'Red Knight' pepper
26. 'Cajun Delight' okra
27. 'Burgundy' okra
28. Soybean

Seeds, from Johnny's Selected Seeds, 877-564-6697; Seeds of Change, 888-762-7333; and John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, 860-567-6086. Hair by Jason Decaprio, Noelle Spa for Beauty and Wellness, 203-322-3445. Makeup by Vinnetta Scrivo, Tomato twine (No. 9834), and tomato trellis clips (No. 9624), from Johnny's Selected Seeds.

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