Although it is probably true that a youngster sometimes
develops a liking for a once disdained vegetable if he grows it himself, there is infinitely more fun in growing things he already considers special treats. Not many vegetables fall into this category, to be sure. But there are a few garden products which are definitely associated with parties, picnics and holiday meals which could keep his interest at high pitch. Growing the makings for parties is no more trouble than growing the more prosaic foods. And surely such a garden is in less danger of suffering from slackening interest.
Popcorn, for instance, is a perfectly simple crop to raise, and an undeniably festive one. It is grown exactly like sweet corn, but allowed to ripen before picking. There is a dwarf variety known as Tom Thumb which takes up the least room. However, since there are new hybrids being developed all the time for size, early maturity and better "poppability," it would
be a good idea to consult some seed catalogs for the latest and best before making your choice.
Peanuts, too, are a thoroughly exciting crop. The production habits of this "nut" are quite curious, and growing it is an illuminating experience. During the summer the plants are loaded with small yellow pealike blossoms. Then suddenly there are no blossoms and no visible sign of where they were. Close examination reveals that all stem ends have turned downward and disappeared into the ground. A little experimental digging with the fingers exposes the fact that the blossoms have literally gone underground to complete the production of their seeds, which are the peanuts.
Peanuts should be planted as soon as the ground becomes warm. If planted early enough and given a rather sandy soil on a southern slope, they are a surprisingly successful crop, even out of regular goober-growing territory. But they will put on a good demonstration in ordinary garden soil, and without the southern exposure. The early Spanish variety is particularly recommended for growing in the North. Most seed houses carry seed peanuts and supply growing and harvesting directions.
Digging this crop is like hunting for buried treasure, and you may have to use a restraining influence to keep the nuts from being dug too early. Vines are dug up in the fall before frost, and cured by hanging them in an open shed.
Pumpkins for Hallowe'en jack-o'-lanterns and pies are another obvious choice for the party garden. One or two hills in a corn patch will provide ample carving and pie material. They are really easy to grow.
A midget pumpkin called Baby Bush produces eight-inch fruits on dwarf, bushlike vines; this is good for the limited space garden. Another variety, appropriately named Jack o'Lantern, has fruits about the size of a man's head.