If you love pickles as much as I do, you owe it to yourself to grow your own pickle garden. It provides you with all the ingredients you need for making fresh pickles right from the garden without the expense of purchasing the supplies. You cannot, of course, grow the vinegar and sugar – but you can grow everything else.
Pickling cucumbers: Plant pickling cucumbers in a prepared garden bed in a location that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Pickling cucumbers grow to a length of four to six inches, but if you want crisp, tender pickles, pick them when they are two to three inches long. Pickling cucumbers can be sliced for bread ‘n butter pickles or used whole for dill or mustard pickles.
Gherkins: For smaller pickles, try gherkins. These West Indian or Burr cucumbers produce miniature spiny fruits ready for pickling. Cultivation is similar to regular cucumbers – but plants are small and don’t take up a lot of space in the garden. If you dream of tiny pickles packed tightly in a jar – gherkins may be the choice for you.
Onions: Plant onion sets in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Fresh onions from the garden add flavor to bread n’ butter pickles and can be used in relish if you choose to add cucumber relish to your pickle-making pursuits.
Peppers: Many pickles call for the addition of diced green or red peppers. Growing your own in your pickle garden provides you with fresh produce at your fingertips. Grow peppers near tomatoes in a sunny location.
Tomatoes: Growing your own tomatoes to make green tomato pickles in early summer is always a good choice. Remember to add fresh sliced onions and diced red peppers to get the best flavor from your green tomatoes.
Dill: Fresh dill adds flavor and spice to pickles. This easy-to-grow herb can be started from seed in the spring and produces large seed heads by mid summer. Grow dill in a sunny location. Dill produces attractive foliage making it perfect to tuck in the background of flowerbeds or at the back of your vegetable garden.
Garlic: Plant garlic in the fall before the ground freezes to allow it to build a root system. Shoots emerge in early spring and the bulbs mature by late summer or early fall. Many pickle recipes call for fresh garlic to enhance the flavor of dill.
Pickling spice: If you are the adventurous type, plant the seeds in a package of pickling spice and grow an assortment of spices for your pickling endeavors.