Vegetables now grown in compact varieties

KENNEWICK -- Not only have home gardeners downsized their homes and yards, but they also have reduced the size of their vegetable gardens.

There are an increasing number of bush varieties of crops that have traditionally been space hogs in the garden. These newer compact forms of normally rampant growers are a smart choice for today's smaller gardens.

Cucumbers were one of the first vining cucurbits (cucumber, squash and melon) available in bush form for home gardens. Regular vining cucumbers can grow as much as 9 feet long, but bush cucumbers only grow to a height of two to four feet. The first "bush" cucumber was Spacemaster with 2 to 3 foot tall plants and 7-inch cukes.

Another AAS winner is Fanfare, a highly productive bush-type with great tasting 8 to 9 inch fruit. Other bush-type cukes include Salad Bush, Cucumber Bush Champion, Bush Crop, Pot Luck, Patio Pickler and Bush Pickle Hybrid.

Summer squash varieties don't produce long vines like most winter squash and pumpkins. However, they can become gigantic leafy green monsters in the garden, some growing to five feet wide. There are compact zucchini varieties that require less space than the regular goliaths. If you're a zucchini fan and need a compact plant, consider Raven.

Not only does Raven take up less space (2 to 4 feet wide) in the garden, but the dark green tasty fruit is mostly spineless and are produced even after other zucchini are done for the season.

Spacemiser is another compact zucchini and Balmoral Patio Squash produces 6- to 8-inch creamy white pattypan summer squash on compact 2- to 4-foot plants.

Winter squash, including pumpkins, are traditionally produced on large vining plants. However, thanks to the efforts of plant breeders, there are now a number of different types of bush winter squash and pumpkins.

Some of the bush winter squash are Burpee's Butterbush (butternut), Emerald Bush Buttercup (buttercup),Table Gold (acorn), Table King (acorn), Tivoli (spaghetti) and Bush Delicata (delicata). The pumpkin's gigantic space hogging vines have also been tamed with some bush and semi-bush varieties including, Bushkin, Spirit, Sugar Treat, Trick or Treat, Tricky Jack, Harvest Moon and Sugar Treat.

The favorite crop of American gardeners is the tomato. There is nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato, but large tomato vines can take up precious garden space. Burpee's Big Boy tomato is a classic prized for its big tasty tomatoes. Going with the trend of smaller gardens, Burpee has developed the Bush Big Boy Hybrid. Burpee indicates that the plants are half the size of the regular Big Boy but with the same number of the same great tomatoes produced on the plant. Burpee also has developed a bush variety of their popular Early Girl tomato.

Bush Early Girl has 4-inch fruit produced on 18 inch tall, self-supporting plants. If you can't find these specific tomato varieties as transplants, look for varieties that indicate they are a bush type of tomato.

If you have a downsized vegetable garden or you're growing in containers, be sure to consider these space-saving varieties.

Before long you'll be harvesting your own tasty tomatoes and refreshing cucumbers from smaller plants.

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension Office.