Monday, March 4, 2013

Tips for Choosing Vegetable Varieties for the North

Gibby's Garden of Maine
Part of planning your vegetable garden means choosing the right varieties to grow in your USDA zone, as well as varieties that suit your needs. Some vegetables seem to have an endless amount of varieties to choose from, which can seem daunting, especially to the novice gardener. To make choosing a little easier, I’ve put together a list of tips I use when it comes to choosing vegetable varieties for my garden.

1. How big of yield do I want?
2. What size is my garden?
3. How many days to maturity?
4. What am I going to do with my vegetables?
5. Which varieties are best for freezing, canning or making sauce?
6. Do I want to try something new?

Typically, I want high yields of vegetables that I plan on freezing or canning such as beans and cucumbers. I start by thinking about which varieties I planted in the past, how well they grew in my garden and whether or not they suited my needs.

I then consider days to maturity as I flip through my seed catalogs. Seeing as I live in the north, I prefer to grow varieties with shorter days to maturity. When it comes to certain vegetables such as tomatoes and broccoli that take longer to grow, I plan on either starting my seeds indoors or buying transplants from my local nursery to get a head start on the growing season.

I have lots of room to grow my vegetables so the size of my garden is really an issue. For those with limited garden space, choosing bush varieties is a good way to go. Bush varieties are more compact, taking up less space in the garden. Many can even by grown in containers.

When I want to try a new vegetable or variety, I follow tips 1-5 to make choosing a little easier. My biggest concern is whether or not the vegetable will have enough time to fully mature in the north. Last year I tried kohlrabi for the first time - it didn’t do so great so I’ll be trying a different variety this year, because I am bound and determined to grow it successfully.

Lastly, it’s always a good idea to ask friends, family and neighbors which vegetable varieties they grow in their gardens. They’ll know first hand how well certain vegetables grow in the area, how high the yields are and whether or not they’re a good fit for the growing season.

Which vegetable varieties are you growing this year?

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