Try your hand with some award winners
Since 1932, the All-American Selections (AAS) committee has evaluated new varieties of seeds. Test gardens are spread across the country and entries with the highest scores are given the AAS Award. This year, in additional to the national awards, they are giving regional recognition as well. As we Zone 3 gardeners well know, not all the wonderful plants we see in the catalogs will grow here.
Most of this year's choices can be grown in containers. While it's probably a little late to start the tomatoes from seed yourself, they might be found at your favorite greenhouse. Here are the 2014 Vegetable Award Winners suitable for our area:
• 'Mascotte' bush bean is a compact French bean that produces 5-6 inch straight, stringless beans 50 days from sowing. This dwarf plant should do well in a pot or window box as in the ground.
• Eggplant 'Patio Baby,' an F1 hybrid, is a compact early eggplant. This plant produces 3-inch egg-shaped eggplants on an ornamental plant. Its compact habit makes it a good choice for containers as well as the garden. The judges felt the flavor was excellent.
• Cucumber 'Pick a Bushel' is a regional winner for our northern area. It sets fruit early and is a prolific bush cucumber spreading only about 24 inches. It produces a sweet, light-green cucumber with a firm texture. They are good for pickling when picked early. When left to grow larger, should be picked at around 6 inches. This F1 hybrid is another vegetable for containers.
• 'Saladmore' bush cucumber, a semi-bush vine, produces sweet crisp cucumbers. This new slicing cucumber has good disease resistance and is good in small-space gardens.
• Pepper 'Mama Mia Giallo' produces a large crop of 7-9 inch long tapered peppers that are yellow/gold when mature, about 95 days after transplanting. This sweet pepper can be eaten fresh or roasted and again would do well in a pot.
• 'Chef's Choice Orange' tomato, an indeterminate plant, is not a good choice for container growing. It was bred from the heirloom 'Amana Orange' to make it earlier, more productive and disease resistant. It bears large, 1-pound, orange-red fruit in 75 days.
• 'Fantastico' tomato produces an abundance of half-ounce grape-type fruits about 60 days from transplanting. This petite tomato grows to be only about 16-24 inches tall, making it another good container vegetable. It is said to resist late blight.
• 'Mountain Merit' hybrid tomato offers resistance to multiple tomato diseases including late blight. It's a good slicing tomato with globe-shaped deep red fruits that start to mature 75 days after planting. These mild-tasting tomatoes are crack resistant as well.
• 'Rivoli' radish has large rounded bright red roots and is bright white on the inside. This larger radish should be spaced farther apart than other radishes. 'Rivoli" remains tasty even if left in the garden for a while. It produces in 30 days from sowing to harvest.
• 'Nu-Mex Easter' is a very hot edible pepper was developed by the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. The tiny fruits are lavender and cream and turn orange when mature. The conical fruit grows in an upright cluster of five or six on a short, 6 inch plant, a size perfect for a pot or the front of the border.
AAS winners are tested in the U.S. and Canada for overall suitability in the home garden. Most of this year's choices are especially suitable for the balcony garden.
You can reference the University Of Minnesota Extension Service website, www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/, for more information on horticultural topics.
Local Master Gardeners will again answer your questions on home horticulture this year. Call (218) 444-7916, leave your name, number, and question and you will receive a return call.