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June 18, 2018  |  Login
Visualizing Veggies: What to Grow in Your Vegetable Garden
By Charlie Nardozzi & The National Gardening Association

Part of the fun of planning a vegetable garden is deciding which varieties of a particular vegetable you want to grow. Selecting your veggies before you design your garden helps you ensure that you have the right amount of room and the best growing conditions.

A variety is a selection of a particular type of vegetable that has certain predictable, desirable traits. These traits may include the following:

  • Adaptation: Some varieties are particularly well adapted to certain areas.
  • Appearance: You can find common vegetables in a kaleidoscope of colors. The more beautiful the vegetables, the more beautiful the vegetable garden — and the more stunning the food.
  • Cooking and storage characteristics: Certain varieties of beans and peas, for example, freeze better than others. Some squash varieties may be stored for months, but others need to be eaten immediately.
  • Days to maturity (or days to harvest): Days to maturity refers to the number of days it will take (under normal conditions) for a vegetable planted from seed (or from transplants) to mature and produce a crop. This number is important for vegetable gardeners who live in short-summer climates. (Click here for more about climate)
  • Extended harvest season: By mixing varieties that ripen at different times, you can start harvesting as early as 60 days after seeding and continue for five or six weeks. Seed catalogs and packages often describe varieties as early season, midseason, or late season in relationship to other varieties of the same vegetable.
  • Pest resistance: Many varieties are resistant to specific diseases or pests — a very important trait in many areas. Tomatoes in particular have outstanding pest resistance, with varieties labeled as resistant to verticillium wilt (V), fusarium wilt (F), and nematodes (N).
  • Plant size: Many excellent, compact-growing vegetable varieties are ideal for small spaces or for growing in containers.
  • Taste: You can find flavors for every taste bud.

The scope of your vegetable variety possibilities becomes apparent if you click here

As you begin to look at catalogs and seed packets, you’ll come across some terms that may be new to you:

  • Hybrids: As you look through seed catalogs or read seed packets, you may notice the phrase F-1 hybrid (or simply hybrid) before or after the names of some varieties. Generally, these seeds are more expensive than others. Hybrid seeds are the result of a cross (pollen from one flower fertilizing a flower from another similar plant, resulting in seed) of selected groups of plants of the same kind, called inbred lines. If you choose hybrid seeds, you need to buy a new batch every season. When hybrid plants cross with themselves and form seeds, these seeds lose the specific combination of genetic information that gave the hybrid its predictable qualities. If you plant seed from hybrids, you end up with a very mixed bag of plants.
  • Open pollination: Open-pollinated varieties are basically inbred lines that are allowed to pollinate each other in open fields. The resulting seeds are pretty predictable, but they don’t provide the consistency of
    F-1 hybrids. Open-pollinated varieties are subject to the whims of nature, and some plants may be a little different than you expect. However, if you want to save your own seeds as a seed collector, open-pollinated varieties are the only plants that you can replant from seed and have most of the plants turn out very similar to the parent.
  • Heirlooms: Any open-pollinated variety that is at least 50 years old is generally considered an heirloom. Heirlooms are enjoying quite a revival because of the variety of fruit colors, tastes, and forms that are available. more


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