Nifty New Varieties for Your Vegetable Garden

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Tomato 'Chef's Choice Black', image courtesy of Totally Tomato

The New Year is here, which among gardeners is our season of great expectations. Just like when you look forward to a vacation, the anticipation phase of pre-planning the garden deserves to be celebrated.

To maximise your pleasure, I recommend this three-stage strategy: Bask in the colourful images provided by your favourite seed companies, and then study the backstory on things that spark your interest. Give the new information time to meld together in your brain, and forge ahead into real garden planning.

I’ve been doing this for the past week, so I’m ready to share my shortlist of gotta-try new varieties for temperate climate vegetable gardens.

“Spring
Spring onions such as this ‘Ishikura’ are ideal for small gardens

Cool Season Openers

The first seeds I start indoors are onions, and it’s always best to go with fresh seeds. Tender spring onions can be grown at tight spacing and they are great for companion planting, so they are a fun first crop of spring. Crystal white varieties like ‘Ishikura’ set a high standard, but I can’t stop thinking about ‘Apache’ spring onions clad in purple, or the aptly named ‘North Holland Blood Red’ variety. One of these will surely make the cut.

I’ll be making room among my brassica seedlings for ‘Fioretto’ cauliflower, a novel “stick cauliflower” that separates into tender, broccoli-like stems. This is how all cauliflower wants to grow in my garden, so why not make the most of its natural tendencies? In stores, small packages of ‘Fioretto’ are carrying high price tags, and I always like to grow costly things for almost free.

“Carrot
Carrot ‘Black Nebula’ will be delicious roasted

Radical Roots

When the soil warms up enough for direct sowing, I’ll be planting a little patch of ‘Black Nebula’ carrots for roasting – the best way to bring out the nutty spiciness of super-nutritious dark-fleshed carrots. I also plan to include a few ‘Black Nebulas’ in the flower garden, where the big umbels of barely lilac flowers can support tiny pollinators and serve as summer cut flowers.

I’m looking forward to growing yellow-fleshed ‘Elfe’ potato, which you are as likely to encounter at the produce shop as in a seed catalog. These are the popular Albert Bartlett yellow potatoes sold in Great Britain. Creamy oval ‘Elfe’ potatoes have a strong following on both sides of the Atlantic, with plenty of disease resistance in case you get swamped by rain as much as I did last year.

“Tulsi
Tulsi Basil ‘Krishna’ adds colour as well as flavor

Heavenly Herbs

The deluges didn’t bother my tulsi basil, which I’m now using to make fragrant winter teas. A new selection called ‘Krishna’ produces rosy pink leaves that keep their colour when dried, so I’m planning to introduce it to my garden as a long-term reseeder. The rainy weather triggered my first ever outbreak of downy mildew in regular basil, so I plan to grow this year’s crop in containers, high and dry on the deck. I’m also looking to the ‘Everleaf Emerald Towers’ basil variety to prevent problems this year, because it resists downy mildew and fusarium, grows great in pots, and is super slow to produce flowers.

Tempting Tomatoes

Good canning tomatoes are a high priority crop for me, and I like my paste tomatoes to be big, because large tomatoes are faster to peel, chop and can. Every year I try a new variety, and this season’s pick is ‘Giant Garden Paste’, which produces firm red fruits weighing a half a pound each. It shouldn’t take many of those to fill a jar! Among slicing tomatoes, I have high hopes for ‘Chef's Choice Black’, a red-purple beauty with great disease resistance and the promise of 30 or more fruits per plant. Count me in!

“Tomato
Big tomatoes like ‘Giant Garden Paste’ make bottling quicker

Wildflowers for Wildlife

As I visualise the garden to come, I hope to have a puddle of pollinator-friendly flowers near the garden’s centre, starting with a seed mixture like Bee Feed flower mix, which includes over 20 different species. Whether you choose a seed mixture for bees, butterflies or winter birds, you will surely discover a few flowers that love life in your garden, which is what trying new varieties is all about. It many ways, it’s an exercise in expecting the best.

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Comments

 
"I,m waiting for my new seed order to be delivered, I,m resisting sowing anything yet. I,ve never tried canning or bottling tomatoes. might give it a go this year so I can use them in my soups later on. has anyone got any tips"
melanie on Friday 4 January 2019
"How do we know if any of these are GMO?"
Michael on Friday 4 January 2019
"How do we know if any of these are GMO?"
Michael on Saturday 5 January 2019
"Good question, Michael. None of the seed companies linked to here sell GMO seeds, which are very rare in the home garden market. To raise the bar, purchase organic seeds which cannot be genetically modified or chemically treated, and are grown using organic methods. "
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 5 January 2019
"Barbara, thanks for the response. The problem is the concept of GMO versus organic. As you may know, the organizations which check for organic growing methods do not check for GMOs. That is a separate organization. Further, there are two distinct labels for products sold in the USA for these things. And finally, it is possible to grow GMOs organically. We need to be very careful of these things and not assume anything. The only guarantee I know is a statement from the seller."
Michael on Monday 7 January 2019
"In the US, seed companies have taken initiative on the GM issue with the Safe Seed Pledge. Companies on the Safe Seed Pledge list have committed to not selling GMO seeds. The list is available at the web page of the Council for Responsible Genetics."
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 8 January 2019
"Michael, I looked it up to make sure I was right, and GM is strictly prohibited under US organic certification laws. Their language is in quotes "The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table." I think this is good news."
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 8 January 2019

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