Wally Peck: New veggies gardeners can try
Gardeners can be a strange lot sometimes. While others are anxiously awaiting the latest spring fashions or looking for the new cars in the showroom, gardeners get excited about new plant varieties.
The promises in the seed catalogs are for bigger, tastier, earlier, showier or more prolific. Here are some vegetables that are worth a look this year.
With more growers planting under plastic in high tunnels, Johnny’s has tomatoes bred for these growing conditions. I’m trying Arbason this year — a main crop greenhouse tomato. Be warned about these varieties; some seeds such as Rebelski run more than $1 a seed.
If you like cherry tomatoes, Sweet Million is hard to beat but I’m going to try Nectar from Park Seeds this year. It grows a cluster of 18-20 snack-size tomatoes that all ripen at the same time.
I grow my tomatoes and peppers in the ground in a mini high tunnel. They seem to be the vegetables most affected by our cool nights and disease potential. Here are some peppers to look for. Karma is a hybrid sweet pepper from Park Seed that matures bright red with thick walls and is very prolific. My favorite sweet pepper is still Carmen, a horn-shaped pepper that matures dark red and is great in sauces.
The hot pepper market has exploded with peppers that range from mildly hot to sizzling. Burpee sells Biker Billy, a hot jalapeno and other jalapenos that range from mild to five alarm fire. We’re going to try Serrano del Sol from Jung’s that looks like a jalapeno but has the unique flavor of a Serrano.
My favorite for making salsa is still Garden Salsa, a long 9-inch pepper with medium heat that turns a beautiful red at maturity.
If salads are a favorite at your house, check out the greens at Pinetree (superseeds.com). It’s not just lettuce anymore. Cress, collards, mache, arugula, orach, mizuna, tatsoi, kales, radicchio and mesclun are some of what they offer in addition to leaf, bibb and head lettuces. Johnny’s is another great source of greens and micro greens as well as sprouts.
Since greens do not do well in the heat of summer, we’ve been starting them in plug trays and transplanting as soon as the nights are above freezing. That method works well in the fall, too. Plant in late July or early August and enjoy until freeze-up, longer under a row cover or cold frame.
With the late spring this year, corn may be a little late unless you warm the soil under clear plastic for that first planting. I plan to plant this week if the soil reaches at least 55 degrees under the plastic. Plant, then put the plastic back until the corn is a few inches tall (sideways that is). Pull the plastic off and let it rip.
If you have not tried Mirai sweet corn — oh my! It is hard to eat others now. But like other sugar-enhanced types, it requires isolation from all other corns.
Have a great summer garden.
For horticultural information about growing vegetables and other horticultural topics, go to the University of Minnesota Extension website, www. extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo
Master gardeners will answer your gardening questions via a voicemail service. Call 444-7916, leaving your phone number, name and the nature of your question. A volunteer master gardener will give you a call to speak with you personally.