Friday, January 2, 2009

Solanaceae Crops

I have three main beds in my garden. I've already talked about my three sister's garden. The other one is the greens garden which will also have onions, brassicas and some herbs in it. The last one that I've yet to talk about is my solanaceae family bed.

I love all the solanaceae. Well the wild nightshade that grows around here I could do without, but the rest is delicious. In the past I've grown mostly tomatoes and chili peppers. Last year I added on eggplants. This year I'm adding more. I liked Slim Jim eggplant. I'll plant that again, in addition I'm going to plant Lavender Touch. I haven't figured out what tomatoes I'm going to put in. It might be all seeds saved from my Sungolds. Or it might be plants from Verrill Farm. They sell about 30 varieties of seedlings in the spring. But I can make up my mind later.

In addition to tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. I've decided to grow potatoes for the first time in years. I ordered Kennebec from Pinetree, which is a nice all purpose potato. I wanted French Fingerling too, but I really don't have room for more. And yes they didn't grow well when I planted them before. I've mostly forgot the pain of it all. So time to try again.

The potatoes come in a 2 1/2lb unit. They claim this plants about 15 square feet, or to me that would be a 4'x4' area. I have about a 20'x4' area for all the solanaceae crops. I need at least 10' for my tomatoes and peppers, 4' for my eggplants. I don't have room for another 4'x4' area. But I do know what other plant I want.

I've grown tomatillos before too. They used to be a staple in my garden, self seeding every year. A couple of years ago they died out. I hadn't saved seeds. Why bother when they grow themselves? So this year I'm going to buy them again, but with a twist. I'm not growing the regular tomatillo, but a pineapple tomatillo. This sounds more like a ground cherry to me than a tomatillo but what's in a name anyway? What I do know is that it says they get to 3' across and spread. Hmm maybe I need more than the last two feet. I'll probably grow them next to my potatoes and when I harvest them they tomatillos can grow into that space.

The one problem with the solaneceae family is that they don't do exceedingly well here. Last year when I pulled my carrots I found nematodes on the roots. Not horrible, but enough to slow down growth. These nematodes are also bad for tomatoes. So this year I'm going to have a slightly different set up. On the north side of my 4' wide bed will go the tomatoes. At the front will go the chili peppers. In the middle I'll plant the carrots and dotted around will be marigolds.

Marigolds are supposed to be good for lots of things, but one of their best properties is nematode control. Pinetree has a variety just for this purpose, called Ground Control. I've planted marigolds at the edges of the tomato beds before, but this year the carrots and marigolds will be in the middle of the bed all mixed up. Hopefully the companion planting will succeed. I wonder if I can fit in a couple of basil plants too. It is also a nice companion to tomatoes.


  1. Daphne,
    Do you start most of your veggies from seed? Indoors? I am shopping for a lighting system, and was curious if you have any good suggestions.
    Happy New Year!!

  2. I am growing a lot of them from seed this year. I'll blog about it tomorrow. It is a new lighting system, not all put together yet.

  3. I marvel at your knowledge of plant botanical names! I've gardened for nearly 50 years, and I can only call a bean a "bean" and a tomato a "tomato"!

  4. Sounds like a good plan! Hope the marigolds work.

  5. Annie's Granny: Well I know a few Latin names, but I tend to forget. I do know both the ground cherry and tomatillo are in the same genus, but I can only remember that it starts with a 'p' and has a 'y' in it. I can't remember the whole name. Tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants are in the genus solanum. However for me a bean is just a bean too - though I wouldn't be terribly surprised if it had legume in it. The funny thing is that I was one of the few people that complained when Carol of May Dream Gardens told us to embrace Latin names. I love regional, common names for things. They often embody the the plant better than the Latin name.

    Karen: Thanks! I hope they work out too.

  6. Hi Daphne, Have you ever tried crab meal for your solanaceous plants? It supposedly has nematode suppressant qualities and is a slow release source of nitrogen and calcium.

  7. No I've heard of crab meal before. I used egg shells (which I eat every morning) for calcium. If the marigolds don't work, I'll have to try it.