Originally posted 04-01-11
One of the most satisfying gardening memories I’ve ever had was when several years ago I decided to cook grilled shish kabobs for dinner and all I had to buy was the meat because everything else was waiting to be harvested from my “beside the driveway” suburban garden. My mouth still waters when I think of the vibrant flavors of those homegrown vegetables all together in one meal and specifically how the sweet bell pepper and onion juices oozed onto the chicken breast, giving it a delicious marinated zest. I am hopeful to duplicate that scene again this year with the bounty from my veggie garden, and perhaps I can convince you to do so too! You do not need a lot of space, as my garden space is only about a 12′ X 6′ oval (see my earlier post.)
I recommend the following for a shish kabob garden for a family of four to enjoy all summer: 2 Cherry Tomato Plants – “Sweet 100” is a good producing variety if you can find it. 1-2 Onion Sets – Short day onions do best in the south. “Early Red” are perfect. 4 Bell and/or Banana Pepper Plants 4 Yellow, Crookneck and/or Zucchini Squash Plants (or seed) – “Bush” varieties will save space. Why the above? Cherry tomatoes are the perfect size for skewering and they often do not have the issue of cracking during weather fluctuations as do larger tomato varieties. Onions are bulbs and are very easy to grow if you purchase the right variety (short day in Texas) and plant them in early spring (now). They typically like cooler weather to begin with but will endure the heat as they mature. When used for flavor in cooking, they can be harvested at just about any size. Bell and banana are among the most reliable of peppers to grow in North Texas and provide a wonderful marinating flavor when skewered next to both beef and chicken. Squash, when sliced, is the perfect size for a kabob and is a colorful and healthy complement to any meal. My added tip: Brush a little garlic butter on the entire kabob after grilling and ooh la la! So, let’s get started –
- Prepare your garden bed by tilling and/or adding quality garden soil. If you are planting organically, you can also find organic soil and supplements at most large home improvement stores and nurseries.
- Plant your cherry tomato plants at least 2 feet apart and toward the back (west side) of your garden, as they will be the tallest of the crops. Utilize tomato cages or stakes to keep the plants somewhat contained and their growth upright.
- Next, set your bell and/or banana peppers 2 feet in front of your tomato plants and again, 2 feet apart. Keep like peppers somewhat together so insect pollinators can do their jobs more easily. You may wish to utilize cages or stakes for the peppers to keep them upright as well, but it is not usually necessary.
- At the front of your garden, sow your squash seeds, 3 – 4 to a mound, again, about 2 feet apart. Follow the same distance rule if you are planting squash plants, but only place two plants per mound as you will be thinning the seedlings to this count. Squash, like cantaloupe, is a vine and will spread quickly. As mentioned above, if you can find them, “bush” varieties are more compact and are ideal to plant when you have limited space. Keep squash varieties together, again, for the purpose of increasing the success of pollination.
- Between and around the tomato and pepper plants, sow the onion sets. Onions require very little room and will do well in the sun and later, in the dappled shade of the other plants as the days grow hotter. In addition, onions are good “companion plants” to members of the nightshade family (tomatoes and peppers). Onions and other alliums are natural repellents of aphids and other pests that typically attack nightshades.
For grilling purposes, you can harvest the above veggies at a tender age, as they grow, or at maturity. Thus, if you plant the above crops in early April, by mid-June you should be able to taste the mouthwatering benefits of your labor!
I’d love to hear from you if you have suggestions or questions about this post or others. Successful gardening, like most things, is based on trial and error. I sometimes believe the phrase, Location, Location, Location, also defines gardening as well as real estate success! If you have tips and tricks to share, please comment for all our readers or feel free to contact me on Facebook or Twitter!
Until next time,