Sweet showers dampen the soil, the earth warms under springtime sunshine,, and winter-pale shoots rapidly green. Rejoice as birds echo Spring's compelling song, calling us forth to enjoy another new season in the garden.
What's New for '85: Part II
In New Seed Varieties: 1985, I covered 18 of the new crop varieties for 1985 gardeners. Here are many more introductions that are sure to add variety and good taste to this year's garden harvest.
The free 1985 catalog of Otis Twilley presents five additions to the firm's Professional Series.
- Red Ribbon is a widely adaptable 78-day red cabbage that's said to exhibit good disease tolerance
- What-a- Joy is a somewhat curiously named Chinese cabbage which has 10 to 12 stalks per plant and which grows 10 to 12 inches in both height and width
- Star Performer is a 75-day cantaloupe with a sweet, slightly musky flavor
- Great-Time and Main Time are supersweet hybrid corn cultivars that mature in 78 and 82 days, respectively
Twilley is most proud, however, of a group of five supersweet corn cultivars that come under the general name Summer Sweet. Said to be more widely adaptable and easier to grow than other ultrasweet ears, Summer Sweet corn also has kernels with a distinctively crisp texture. The three yellow varieties are Summer Sweet 7200 (80 days), 7600 (82 days), and 7800 (84 days). Summer Sweet 8601 is an 86-day white corn that's been favorably compared to Silver Queen, my personal favorite, while Summer Sweet 8502 (85 days) is a bicolor claimed to be the sweetest of all.
Down east, Johnny's Selected Seeds continues to offer innovative vegetables especially suited for cold climate gardens. A perfect example is Geneva, a new cold-tolerant lima bean that can give northern gardeners a two- to three-week jump on the traditional planting date for this crop. For many, this will mean the difference between a good harvest and none at all.
The 85-day lima germinates in cool soils, has a bush habit, and bears three or four beans per pod. Other offerings from Johnny's include:
- Pike, a locally popular rutabaga now offered for the first time outside of Maine
- Rondino, a 68-day Nantes-type carrot with an exceptionally sweet flavor and resistance to carrot blight
- Patty, a large-headed Bibb lettuce that's resistant to six races of mildew and tolerant of botrytis
- Winterbor, a high-yielding kale
- Golden Summer, a beautiful F-l hybrid yellow bell pepper that will add a lot of visual appeal to summer salads (for all but the very shortest season areas)
The Northrup King seed displays are familiar sights in supermarkets and hardware stores, and the large wholesaler has some interesting introductions for 1985.
- There's Grand Slam hybrid cabbage, a mid- to late-season variety resistant to fusarium yellows and tolerant of black-leaf speck, black rot, and cold weather.
- Golden Cross is a very short-season (40 days) dwarf cabbage.
- Pik Master is a most productive gynoecious hybrid pickling cuke that's resistant to the cucumber mosaic virus, scab, and both powdery and downy mildew.
- Centurion is a gynoecious slicing cuke with resistance to (or tolerance of) a number of diseases.
- The Jupiter bell pepper is simply huge; better yet, it's an open-pollinated variety that has hybrid vigor and productivity.
- Finally, a boon for terrace gardeners: NK offers Patio Prize VFN, a sturdy tomato for container growing that requires no staking.
The free 1985 Burpee catalog is crammed with goodies, including six introductions for vegetable growers. Included are:
- Bushkin pumpkin, a 95-day short-vine cultivar with "nearly" naked seeds requiring j minimal hulling
- Pic-N-Pic crookneck yellow squash, producing huge crops of golden fruit starting in 50 days
- Toudo carrot, a 70-day Nantes type that's crisp and golden from little-finger size up to its full 7 1/2-inch maturity
- Sundrop, a small-fruited 76-day orange tomato on vigorous indeterminate plants
- Early Curly Cabbage, with sweet 4-pound heads and at 74 days the most precocious savoy variety
- Sweetheart, a compact watermelon (vines spread just 5 feet) with 9- to 14-pound red-fleshed fruit.
Back up north, the Vermont Bean Seed Company offers Earliserve, an extra-early (49 days) bush bean, and Slenderwax, a 58-day bush wax bean that yellows up early. If you like unusual cauliflower, investigate Violet Queen, a purple variety that turns green when it's cooked. The firm itself has been a Vermont favorite for decades.
The good news from Thompson & Morgan is that the majority of prices are lower than they were last year, and the remainder are frozen at 1984 levels. This English seed house is offering:
- A "dwarf" Jerusalem artichoke (the plants are shorter)
- The Football onion (as big as 5 pounds and grown from seed: Try that at the county fair!)
- Turbo, a preferred alternative to the common onion set varieties
- Titania, a productive but dwarfed form of the famed Green Arrow pea.
The folks at J.W. Jung Seed Co. (Randolph, WI 53957; free catalog) are offering:
- A super hybrid carrot called Touche, a 72-day Nantes type
- Baby Fun, a compact-vined 82-day icebox watermelon
- Packman, a 60-day broccoli that produces a bumper crop of side shoots once the main head has been harvested
- A Plus, a 75-day hybrid carrot with nearly double the vitamin A of older varieties
The catalog of Gleckler's Seedsmen (Metamora, OH 43540) contains a large selection of imported seeds, many from the Orient. New this year are:
- Pink Bride eggplant, a long version of the firm's Pinky cultivar
- Red Queen muskmelon from China
- The old-fashioned (but often hard-to-find) Cob melon and Lily, an edible-seed watermelon.
William Dam Seeds, Ltd.has long been one of my favorite Canadian sources, in part because its seeds are untreated and in part because of the hard-to-find European varieties it lists. Look for the special Mideka witloof endive for forcing, the Hokus gherkins, the English seedless cucumbers especially suited for greenhouse culture, and the extensive collection of beans: pole, bush, broad, and European slicing-type.
Another fine firm, Harris Seeds offers:
- Red Head, a new 88-day red cabbage
- Concord, an 80-day bicolor sweet corn with the Golden Summer yellow bell pepper March/April 1985 "sugar-extender" gene
- Indian Fingers, a petite ornamental corn with 2 1/2- to 4-inch ears in a wide range of colors
- Red King, a highly disease-resistant radish
Fruits and Flowers
From the home of the antique apple, Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, come several "new" old apple cultivars, including:
- Mahogany, a tart apple with dark red skin that makes a perfect pink applesauce
- Hyde King, an enormous, tart, green winter-keeper, popular for cooking and eating out of hand
- Wickson, a large crab apple that's extraordinarily sweet (the juice is 25% sugar!)
- Careless gooseberry, the whitest of all the old English varieties
And while we're on the subject of old apples, it's appropriate to mention the Home Orchard Society, primarily a northwestern group (although members come from many states). For folks who live in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon, membership is a must — if only to participate in the Spring Scion Exchange. Last year over 235 varieties of scion wood were contributed by members, including 162 different apples, 15 pears, 11 grapes, 7 cherries, 6 peaches, 14 plums and prunes, a persimmon, an edible sloe, and a medlar. Annual dues are $5, a rare bargain.
For readers who would like to establish a small business raising flowers for cutting (or for those who just like to grow flowers), I can't think of a more appropriate seed catalog than that issued by The Country Garden. You'll find listings for over a thousand cultivars: annuals, perennials, and mixes. The firm also offers potted perennials, root clumps, and bulbs. With a copy of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' new A-to-Z Flower Garden Favorites, you'll have all the information you need to make the best selections from The Country Garden catalog.
Other Green Thumb Goodies
After several years of planting far too many tomatoes (my wife threatened mayhem after I foolishly asserted, "I just grow 'em. I don't care what we do with 'em when they're ripe"), this year I'm using the garden-planning information contained in the Ball Blue Book, the fine canning guide published by the folks who make Ball canning jars. You can purchase a copy of the 31st edition of the book for $2.50 (Indiana residents add 5% tax) from Ball Blue Book. While attending the Common Ground Fair of the Maine Organic Growers' Association last year, I saw a sturdy row cover cloche that allows you to protect up to 24 square feet of seedlings, salad greens, or transplants at a time. This "portable mini-greenhouse" opens from either side for watering, planting, or harvesting. Constructed of galvanized metal tubing and 7 mil cross-laminated plastic, the Green Frame sells for $58.60 plus 15% shipping and handling from Green Frame Products. Mel Bartholomew's enormously popular book, Square Foot Gardening, has sold over a half-million copies in hardbound and paper editions, but Mel's willing to share the essentials of his method for free.