Don’t Fill the Garden without Checking
on New Varieties
by Mick Rood

If you are getting ready to fill some holes in your fruit and vegetable garden or you haven’t yet planted some of your warm weather crops, why not try something new? Every year the seed companies try to come up with new varieties that might satisfy the desires of their customers. Many are the result of years of research and should produce what they promise.
And lucky for us, someone has already done our homework. Consumer horticulturist B. Rosie Lerner at the Purdue University Extension Service has culled through the new offerings for this year. We borrow the most interesting prospects from her list along with the attributes the seed companies predict. Some general gardening tips follow – these from the Home and Garden Information Center at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extensive Service. Finally, you’ll be able to access the Web sites of the seed companies mentioned here.
Creatures of habit, we all plant our old favorites. To shake things up, sample this menu of garden favorite wannabes:
Seedless tomatoes. You read it right. Burpee Seeds knows you’ve heard of seedless watermelons and grapes, but this product – dubbed “Sweet Seedless” – is a first. Burpee says this hybrid is sweet because the plant uses its carbohydrates to produce flavor, not seed production. The medium-sized fruit should continue forming until frost sets in.
Snack pack watermelon. And speaking of watermelon, Burpee has a seedless, “personal-sized” variety yielding three-to-four-pound fruit about the heft of a large musk melon. Check out the hard, dark green rind in about 75 days.
Lunch box-sized cucumbers. It appears handy sizes are in. The Cook’s Garden and Johnny’s Selected Seeds offer “Iznik” cucumbers that grow to be just three to four inches long. With compact vines and small leaves, these cukes fit well in small gardens and containers.
Bull’s eye beets. Here’s something different. Park Seed Co. has come up with Chioggia Guardsmark, a beet with a spiral of magenta and white stripes that form a bull’s eye if you cut them in a cross section. The mild-flavored beet can grow to three inches or a bit more in circumference.
Honey bear squash. Stokes Seeds, along with Johnny’s, Park Seed and Jung Quality Seeds, sells an acorn-type, winter squash that promises plenty of yield and a good tolerance of powdery mildew. Plants reach only three feet tall, with a four or a five-foot spread.
Colorful sweet peppers. Burpee has “Pinot Noir” bell pepper that starts out light green and morphs into shades of yellow, red and purple. A plus is its ability to set on fruit in cool or hot, muggy weather. They are 70 days away.
Deep purple onion. Johnny’s offers a dark-reddish, bunching scallion that holds its color into the warmer weather. Sixty days away.
It may be too late to start your seedlings inside, but we know some vegetables and herbs don’t get happy until it gets a bit warmer – tomatoes, basil, hot peppers and egg plants to mention a few. One way to jump-start tomato plants is to enclose them in clear plastic around the plants but open at the top to retain day-time heat. Here’s another tip from the Maryland Cooperative Extension: Fill plastic water bottles and place them near the plants inside the enclosure. The bottles heat up during the day and release heat at night.
Some other words to the wise:
• Mix in a handful of finely ground lime around tomato and pepper plants to prevent blossom-end rot.
• If you are still growing seedlings, begin to harden them off by putting them outdoors during the day and bringing them in at night for up to a week before transplanting.
• To prevent cutworm damage to vegetable plants, try putting cardboard or plastic collars around the plants to prevent night-time feeding. Some gardeners swear by spreading ground-up oyster shells as a means of preventing cutworms.
Here’s how to reach the seed companies:
Burpee Seeds
The Cook’s Garden
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Jung Quality Seeds
Park Seed Co.
Stokes Seeds

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