| March/April 1982

After grow-testing this year's seed introductions, MOM's crop evaluator brings you . . .

Brent Elswick

I sometimes think that gardening years tend to alternate between good and bad. After the rainy disaster of 1979, our Kentucky valley had a nearly perfect growing season in 1980. So I probably should have known that last year would be something less than ideal. Sure enough, the extremely dry conditions of 1981 weren't exactly hospitable to such moisture-loving vegetables as cabbage, peas, and potatoes ... but there were a few pleasant surprises even in those categories. And last summer's arid weather was just perfect for many other crops, especially tomatoes and melons (I've never seen a finer year for growing either one).


However, let's start at the beginning. I opened my garden test trials early last spring—as I usually do—with the first plantings of lettuce. While old standbys like BlackSeeded Simpson and Salad Bowl proved their worth, as always, a couple of new stars appeared on the horizon, as well. Crispy Sweet lettuce from George W. Park is as delicious as its name implies . . . and it stays good-tasting much longer than you might expect! Another new green of note is Midget Leaf by the McFayden Seed Company of Canada. This north-of-theborder supplier is known for its shortseason varieties . . . and Midget Leaf is truly one of the best. The tiny, rosette-grouped leaves are an absolute lettuce-lover's delight . .. and since Midget Leaf matures in only 42 days, it's a natural planting partner for Crispy Sweet. You can sow the Canadian variety for your early crop, and then add a few rows of Crispy Sweet to guarantee yourself tasty eating well into the summer.

During the early weeks of the season, 1981 promised to be one of the greatest years ever for peas .. . but then the dry spell set in! Despite the hostile conditions, however, several varieties proved worthy of further trial. In particular, the Green Sugar snow pea (Vermont Bean Seed Company) has about as many good characteristics as I've ever seen. Green Sugar is a sturdy, short plant . . . and it has excellent resistance to yellows (the dread disease that has struck down many a good pea crop in these parts). A second "winner" snow pea being offered for the first time in 1982 is Dwarf Sugar, from Farmer Seed & Nursery. This variety, an update of the old Dwarf Gray Sugar, is much tastier—and a more cooperative producer—than is its predecessor. Its very short vines yield an abundant crop of tender snow peas, although some folks do find the relatively dark color of the seeds objectionable.

My '81 garden trials also uncovered several varieties of standard garden peas that hold promise. Burpee Seed Company—as usual—has a fine new cultivar to offer. This year's introduction is called Grenadier, and it's a truly remarkable pea. The mediumheight plants sport extra-long pods that are literally crammed with plump, sugar-sweet peas. Other fine new varieties include Joff from Unwins, Novella from Park (and other suppliers), Supersweet from Canada's T & T Seeds, Sounder from Rogers Brothers, Kosta from Vermont Bean, and Aldot from Farmer Seed & Nursery. The last variety is particularly attractive: It sprouts into almost midgetsized plants (making it a good choice for gardeners with limited space) . . . and it's a darned prolific producer of tasty small peas!


Kentucky's typically cool, damp spring weather is quite conducive to cabbage cultivation ... but last year, of course, wasn't typical at all! Most of the varieties I tested didn't get a fair trial under the unusually hot, dry conditions, and cabbage became my major disappointment of 1981. A few seeds, however, did fairly well against the odds . . . and those are worthy of note.

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