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So Much Variety, What to Choose?

Some seeds are worth trying; others you should avoid

Crockett beans.

My 2011 vegetable garden was the most productive I have ever had. Even as I write this column in early January, I am still harvesting kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, cabbage, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts. I also had the best harvest ever of fall peas, snap beans and carrots.
    The kale we are eating and sharing with friends is called Siberian kale. It is a tenderer curly variety, with leaves closely resembling those of collards. The collards have also been great and sweet now that they have been frozen in the garden several times. However, they take longer to cook than the Siberian kale.
    The Siberian cabbage is also a winner. Its leaves are tender and sweet, and it is not exhibiting sun scorch from being unprotected in the garden. One grower told me that covering the cabbage with boughs from your discarded Christmas tree will help keep it in prime condition and ready to harvest all winter long.
    Last year, my fall crop of shelling peas was three times more productive than my spring crop of the same variety. The spring crop of fresh peas barely produced enough to eat, while the fall crop allowed me to freeze several pints.
    If you are interested in growing a sweet, crisp snap bean, try the Crockett variety by Harris Seeds. This bush bean produces an abundance of pencil-sized, dark-green pods four to six inches long with excellent flavor and freezing tolerance. It yielded more as a fall crop than as a spring-planted crop. Both the peas and beans were planted in early to mid August for late autumn harvesting.
    Do not plant Oliver Brussels sprouts. The 2011 crop was the worst I have ever produced. Other growers of Oliver experienced similar results. I believe that the plant breeders have lost their breeding line. I also noticed that Johnny’s Seed Company of Maine has dropped Oliver from its 2012 catalog. This year I will be testing Churchill, which I am told matures early.
    I planted my fall crop of carrots in mid-August; all the varieties I planted are outstanding. We dig them as needed and find them free of carrot maggot damage. Carrot maggots are a big problem when harvesting carrots in late spring and early summer.

A Guide to Gardening Through the Season

   Over 300 copies of A Guide to Gardening Through the Season, Annapolis Horticultural Society’s spiral-bound book of my advice columns written for them for 13 years, have been sold. I keep meeting Bay Weekly readers who have purchased the book and find it most useful.
    The 250-page book is about to go to its third printing. Make advance orders to [email protected]. The price is $20.