Gardening is, by its very nature, the triumph of optimism over experience.
William Alexander, The $64 Tomato
I will honestly tell you that I came very close not to publishing my annual seed review this year.
2011 was one of the most miserable years that I’ve experienced in the vegetable garden in at least a decade. How shall I count the ways? Well, let’s see: a winter with constant snow on the ground for 4 months that caused an almost biblical proliferation of rodents of all types: moles, voles, mice, which ate everything within miles, including girdling several major trees; then came a long, cold, wet spring which retarded plant growth but cheered on every type of mildew and fungus, followed by a cool, wet summer, which did the same; then Hurricane Irene on Labor Day, which flattened out what had managed not to rot out, and then the coup de grace, the Halloween snowstorm which dumped seven inches of wet, slushy snow on the few pumpkins I’d managed to harvest, took out a quarter of the large trees in town, and shut off our power for 5 days.
Still, I decided that there must be something to be learned from all this – if only perhaps what crops are so indestructible as to survive such levels of calamity. So, here it goes:
|Bean, Pole ‘Nor’easter’||Still the best bean in the business; flat tasty pods are delicious even when let to grow on the big side; not that I got to taste any last summer, as the rabbits ate them to the ground, twice, and the plants just gave up.|
|Beet ‘Red Ace’||Managed to eat of few of these before the chipmunks destroyed the crop; excellent flavor|
|Belgian Endive ‘Totem’||Small plants which failed to mature sufficiently for forcing; definitely climate conditions, not the cultivar|
|Cucumber ‘Alibi’||Excellent production, despite conditions|
|Cucumber ‘Diva’||This is my second time growing this Diva, and for the second time she sang off key; poor yields.|
|Leek ‘Lexton’||A very expensive new variety from Johnny’s, with little or no improvement over older cultivars. My two favorite leek varieties still remain ‘King Richard’ and ‘Giant Musselburgh’|
|Pepper , Sweet Ace||Even in this miserable year, this variety managed to produce a few peppers. This year I am starting my plants much earlier (now, in the greenhouse) to be able to set out larger sized plants directly into the garden in May – ones that aren’t so likely to be trampled by foraging ducks… (don’t ask)|
|Pumpkin ‘Polar Bear’||The only one of four varieties to bear; the large white fruits are an interesting novelty; I prefer the blue of Jarrahdale – especially when viewed under six inches of snow.|
|Radish ‘Red Meat’||Tasty! (And fast enough to mature to beat out most disasters, natural or otherwise.)|
|Radish ‘Rover’||Another great radish|
|Radish ‘Shunkyo’||Specialty radish with excellent flavor|
|Squash Buttercup, Burgess Strain||This is rapidly becoming my favorite winter squash; keeps well with a nutty, intense flavor. This year I am trying a new, larger “improvement” ‘Bon Bon’ from Johnny’s, as well as Kabocha, which I have grown in the past and much enjoyed both for taste and show.|
|Tomato ‘Defiant’||This was the biggest loser this year. With extremely expensive seed (4.95 for 15 seeds from Johnny’s), ‘Defiant’ is supposedly resistant to Late Blight, but in fact was the first tomato in my garden to succumb, even before the heirlooms. What little fruit was harvested was of poor taste, barely above store-bought flavor.|
|Tomato ‘Pink Beauty’||This hybrid variety has consistently held up under adverse conditions; great flavor, heirloom quality fruit and taste with increased disease resistance.|
|Tomato ‘Rose’||Excellent yield, excellent flavor, relatively good disease resistance|
|Tomato ‘Sungold’||Still my favorite of all cherries|
So, on to 2012!