New Varieties in the Garden This Year

2/2/2013 7:00 AM
By Robin Follette Maine Correspondent

Nothing improves my mood when an arctic cold front moves in better than putting together the seed order.

I’ve looked at the Fedco Seeds catalog several times in the weeks since it arrived in my mailbox. The first thing I look for when I open the pages is the list of new varieties. Variety keeps the garden interesting. It isn’t often that a new-to-me variety will replace an old-time favorite, but it happens now and then.

With the poultry settled in and enough firewood lugged to last a day, I started marking the catalog with red pen.

First up in the new-this-year category is Ministro. It’s a slicing cucumber that made me take a second look. Forty-nine days. 49? That’s three weeks earlier than my go-to slicer, Marketmore. It’s monoecious, meaning it has male and female flowers. It can be grown in the high tunnel without adequate pollination being a concern. Can this get any better?

Yes. It’s thin-skinned. It will damage easier than Marketmore, but it’s a good trade-off. I’ll be careful when I put them in the basket. And there’s more. Ministro is hardy. I expect it to tolerate cool fall weather and continue producing into October.

To keep Minstro producing so late in the season, I’ll transplant seedlings into the tunnel in July. Cucumbers have a tendency to wear themselves out. If this isn’t a great tasting cucumber, I am going to be very disappointed.

Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies on the grill. It’s also a favorite of the chickens, ducks and turkeys. Golden Arrow sounds like it’s going to solve the problem of too many overgrown zucchini going to the birds. This variety grows on an “open” plant; it doesn’t have dense leaf cover to hide the vegetable.

Golden Arrow needs 46 days to maturity. Transplanting seedlings that have their first true leaves will take a week or so off that time. Plants average 10 zucchini. It lacks the gourd gene that makes zucchini bitter. The only downside I see is a mention of it being susceptible to squash bugs.

Eastern Rise winter squash is on my list. It’s under my 100-days-to-maturity limit without season extenders needed, and it grows in cool conditions. Flavor develops long after harvest, not until December, but it holds in storage through February, according to the description.

We eat a lot of winter squash soup. Eastern Rise sounds like it might give butternuts a bit of competition with its nutty flavor.

Bleu de Solaize leeks were on my list of things to grow once before. If I remember right, I killed them by missing the tray when I watered seedlings. I’ve thought about them off and on since and decided this is the year to try again. I’ll start the seeds in early February and transplant them into the north corner of the high tunnel. It’s coolest in that corner. They’re supposed to do well in cool ground. At 110 days to maturity, they’ll need the extra time.

Bleu de Solaize is a French heirloom with a fat, medium-long shank. I’ll start some of the seed later and transplant them to the main garden outdoors with the intention of overwintering under straw. This variety is a good storage leek.

Last on the list from Fedco is Rossa di Milano onion. Redwing is back-ordered until later after the time I need to start the seed, so I’m trying Rossa. It needs 114 days to reach maturity. It tolerates a cool climate, so I’ll transplant the seedlings out as soon as possible.

This is a red onion that is either sweet or medium hot, depending on where you read the information. It sounds interesting. It’s shaped like a buttercup squash without a button. The top is flat and is four to five inches across.

Tops that don’t fall over should be pushed down. It’s slow to dry, so it will probably have to have some time on a wire bench in a high tunnel. Rossa di Milano is a long-term storage onion, which is good news as we eat a lot of onions.

Now that the cold front has moved out and the temperature is our typical mid-20s during the day, I’ve put the catalogs away. We’re ice fishing (great fishing) and getting ready to prune the apple trees. I need to snowshoe into the woods to look for an apple tree Steve found last year, and see if it needs work.

Robin Follette and her husband, Steve, operate Seasons Eatings Farm in Talmadge, Maine.

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