Eat your fresh veg
Perhaps the best (some may argue only) reason to plant a garden is to eat garden fresh produce. Pull a radish or carrot, give it a quick rinse, and eat it right there and then. Pick a bunch of fresh greens and eat them plain, crunchy and so flavorful they don't need dressing.
I planted lots of salad greens this year, and they did just fine until the squash smothered them.
Spinach: 3 rows each of two varieties. I preferred the Avon to the King of Denmark. They both produced plentifully, and I pureed and froze a lot of spinach for using in smoothies over the winter.
Arugula also grew well and provided both Katie and I with a pretty steady supply in June.
The leaf lettuces and romaines did not, mostly because the squash took over the planter I planted them in before they had a chance to get going.
My plan for the up coming summer is to do a second spring, and maybe a third fall planting of greens so that we have greens available longer than we did this year. Maybe making sure they won't be smothered by squash will help with that too.
Katie helped me plant the root veg. In the past I've been pretty lazy in how I plant seed in that I mostly broadcast seed rather than plant in rows. This year, we planted in defined rows, and Katie was very meticulous in planting at the recommended spacing between seeds. I have to say it worked much better than my spray and pray methods. In years past we've harvested a handful of small, misshapen beets. I'll even admit to perhaps the most laughable fail of the spray and pray seeding method, when I spent all summer harvesting tender young greens that I thought were spinach. It confused me why the spinach didn't bolt like usual once the hot weather came along. When I was cleaning out that garden, the roots of those 'spinach' plants were tiny little beets that never had a chance to grow without leaves.
We planted 3 rows of each of the following:
Nantes Carrots - usually a very reliable and tasty carrot. Super slow to germinate this year, and a relatively low yield. But those that grew grew to be quite large. They were all eaten fresh or added to the tomato sauces we made over the summer. I love fresh baby carrots, and will plant more varieties, and more rows, this summer, so I have both baby carrots to munch and bigger ones to store for a few months.
French Breakfast Radish (Wild Rose Seeds) - recommended by the vendor at Seedy Sunday. They're amazing. I'm the only radish eater in the family, and so I feasted on 3 radish per day until they were all done. Definitely planting again.
Heritage Dark Red beet
Mixed beets (WCS)
Touchstone Gold (Wild Rose)
This year I learned that each little beet "seed" is actually a capsule that contains many individual seeds, and that's why you get beets germinating in bunches and why thinning beets is actually important. Now, the great thing about thinning your beets is eating the baby greens fresh. I might have done this on the spot in the garden ;-).
We ate fresh beets weekly all summer and cooked the last of them for Thanksgiving. I tried making beet chips - slicing beets on a mandolin is not an easy job, and the result of dehydrating them is teeny tiny little flavor bombs but they're delish served with homemade dill dip.