Spring Rites In and Out of the Garden: Picking a Vegetable Champion

Welcome, Spring! Welcome to the vernal equinox, the very beginning of spring, which is at 7:44 AM EDT on March 20th.

Welcome, too, the Rites of Spring in and out of my garden.

I performed an important rite of Spring in the garden on March 17th, when I planted peas and all the other early spring vegetables in the raised bed vegetable garden. Then last night, I performed another rite by potting up violas and pansies to decorate my front porch and a front window box.

More rites will follow in quick succession… setting up all the patio furniture, hauling out all the garden decorations, and watching as new blooms pop up every day, like these miniature daffodils.
These rites are comforting in their sameness. They remind us that the garden continues, as it always has, oblivious to what happens in the world outside the garden gates.

One of the other rites of spring outside of the garden, at least in the United States, is the men’s and women’s NCAA college basketball tournaments which started yesterday.

Millions of people, who rarely pay attention to college basketball most of the year, will complete a rite of spring by filling out the tournament brackets to see if they can score the most points by picking which of the 64 teams will win in the first round, which 32 remaining teams will make it to the ‘sweet sixteen’, then the ‘elite eight’ and finally the ‘final four’ and eventual champion.

All day yesterday, people asked me if I had completed my picks.

I hadn’t and I didn’t. I rarely fill out the brackets. But if I had done so, I would have picked my alma mater, Purdue University, to go all the way to the championship, both the men and the women. I always do.

But I was asked so often about my picks that I was feeling a little left out of all this “March Madness”, this special rite of spring.

So I decided to practice my own kind of picking, not for basketball, but for the vegetable garden.

By using the same method people use to pick basketball winners, I picked which vegetable of the 67 different varieties of various vegetables I’m growing in my garden will be my favorite, the champion of my garden.

How did I do that, you wonder?

First, I tossed out three vegetables that I’m not that excited about, to get the number down to 64. Sorry, but Bok Choy, lima beans (I don’t know why I’m growing them, I don’t even like lima beans) and ‘Snowbird’ peas did not make it to the ‘big dance’ of this vegetable tournament.

Then I sorted the remaining list of 64 vegetables by variety name and lopped off the bottom 32. I then sorted this list by the fourth letter in the variety name, and lopped off the bottom 16.

This gave me a lovely list for the ‘sweet sixteen’, which in the basketball world is how many teams will make it out of this weekend’s tournament games to advance to the next round.

With me so far?

Then I sorted my list of 16 remaining vegetables by the variety name and deleted the bottom eight, leaving me with eight left in the contest. In the basketball world, this group is called the elite eight.

One more sort by the last letter of the variety name, or something like that, and I eliminated four more vegetables to give me the “final four” contenders in my vegetable garden contest.

Then I used an online random number generator to give me the number “2”, making the second vegetable on my remaining list of four the winner of the May Dreams Gardens Vegetable-Equivalent to the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

And the winner was a variety of summer squash called ‘One Ball’.

But who wants summer squash to win? If I were picking basketball teams, I’d force my selections to make Purdue the overall winner, whether they have a legitimate chance or not, and I think they do! So I’m going to do the same with my vegetables and force my selections to make the tomato variety ‘Aunt Anna' the winner.

I think the tomato variety ‘Aunt Anna’ has a legitimate chance of being the best vegetable to come out of my garden this summer, don’t you?

We’ll know the winner of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in early April. But we’ll have to be a bit more patient to find out the winner of the best vegetable contest, as I won’t know for sure which one it will be until later this summer.

Did you follow all that? Did you fill out your brackets for the basketball tournament? Did you pick my Purdue Boilermakers? Or some other team?

If you do this champion picking for your vegetable garden, by my method or any other method, I’d love to hear what your pick is. What vegetable variety do you think will be the best vegetable in your garden this season?


  1. Carol, my champion in my NEW (as in raised beds not put in yet!) vegetable bed (it is too small to call a garden though it is separate from the rest of the garden) will be the vegetable I plant on time, I remember to weed/stake etc. and I harvest on time! I do hope I get one right.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  2. Yes, I filled out the basketball picks. No, I don't care who wins. It is just, as you say, a spring rite.

    I am not picking a veggie. Another spring rite.

    I did plant some pansies this week. Another spring rite.

  3. Heck no I didn't fill out brackets..my crazy son, husband and their friends did though. My champion veggie I hope will be the sweet peas!

  4. HA Carol, this was brilliant! I know what a sports fan you are, basketball in particular, being from Indiana and all. I was going to protest squash as the winner too. It just had to be a tomato of some kind. No offense to squash fans though. That is too time consuming for me to sort but I am hoping the Tomato Moneymaker wins here at Fairegarden. With a name like that, dare I say it, yes I will, it is a slam dunk! :-)

  5. I forgot to say that I cut the grass for the first time yesterday. And thought of you. :-)

  6. Mine is always top dressing the entire garden...almost finished!

  7. Carol, You are amazing. If you were one of my cousins, Peggy would follow you around waiting for you to have another great idea! At this point I don't even have a list of vegetables, but I'll get to work. Don't tomatoes have a general advantage?

  8. I've never been into sports all that much (please don't throw rotten tomatoes or squash at me), so haven't done any picking there. As to vegetables, I would think the winner must be a tomato. The front runners are the F2 Sungolds that I'm going to grow, my pick is on number 3, just because. Now I just have to figure out which edge I'm counting from. The one I'm rooting for is Gregory's Altai since it is an early beefsteak tomato, and wouldn't it be fun if that one was the best. If I had to root for a non tomato it would be my Sugar Snax carrots. I'm trying to grow a homegrown long straight carrot. Even with all the double digging I did a couple of days ago, I'm thinking it might be a stretch with my rocky clay soil. So that one is my long shot.

  9. That's all too much for my brain this morning. I'm just not that into basketball and since I left my old job, I haven't had a pool to enter to keep me interested. If this summer is anything like the last one, the veggie winner will be 'Mucho Nacho' jalapenos.

  10. I'm not into basketball at all. Like you (the other you) I would have skipped all the fancy stuff you did to whittle down the list and jumped straight to tomato. Aren't tomatoes the main reason everyone tries vegetable gardening at first? Tomatoes are the gateway vegetable.

  11. Very creative way to narrow down a sometimes overwhelming selection of things to plant. I chose the musician Prince as my garden inspiration this year and am planting lots of purple stuff. Luckily there are plenty of purple tomatoes!

  12. Dear Carol, I am planting mt first raise bed garden this year and have been starting plants from Seed. I am so excited. I have 9 sugar snap pea plants now 6 inches tall and I planted radishes in one of my planters and have sprouted some marigolds and others. My HS Freshman says mom the Kitchen is getting scarey !!! With all the little growing seedlings I think he afraid it will turn into giant plants like in little Shop of Horrors. I am excited. LK

  13. I love this post! Two of my favorite things, gardening and March Madness. =) I'm new to your blog, and I'm addicting to flower gardening. I'm so glad I found you! ; )

  14. Loved this post! ;) Too fun!

    I didn't fill out brackets this year, but let me tell you -- I have spent way too much money on a Purdue education to not put them in as winning, whether they are doing poorly or doing well, I always have high hopes for them.

  15. I wish I was that methodical doing anything ! I did my picks (Memphis all the way - my DH alma mater), but very hapharzardly and it seems to be working out for me. I take my veggies more seriously though ;)


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