Even when the calendar says spring is officially here, in many parts of the country it still feels like winter. But it’s never too soon to start planning your vegetable garden.
The best seed and plant vendors offer new varieties of virtually every garden crop every year. For 2020, there are plenty of new varieties to whet your appetite for fresh, homegrown produce. Here are some favorites for this year’s garden.
A golden potato not found at the supermarket
There is nothing quite like a homegrown potato. The flavor can’t be beat, and potatoes are quite easy to grow. A new variety called Keuka Gold (pronounced Cue-kah) is a wonderful, golden-fleshed potato that tastes great boiled or baked. Developed by Cornell University, Keuka Gold is known for producing big yields in organic growing conditions.
Much to the delight of organic farmers and backyard growers, Keuka Gold is a handsome golden potato (similar to Yukon Gold) that is a reliable producer of delicious potatoes that store well. A 2.5-pound bag of organic seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Family Farm sells for $16.95, and larger bags are available—all the way up to 50 pounds. Order directly from the grower at woodprairie.com/awesome-two/.
A rhubarb for summer heat
Here’s a new variety of rhubarb that’s so special it just won a 2020 Green Thumb Award from the Direct Gardening Association. KangaRhu Rhubarb is the result of nearly 10 years of development at Gurneys Seed. It offers outstanding quality and superior summer production. Plus, this new variety makes it possible to grow delicious garden rhubarb in areas where warm summer nights restrict production of typical rhubarb varieties.
KangaRhu Rhubarb was developed using genetics adapted to Australia, one of the most challenging gardening environments. The dark red stalks of KangaRhu cook up a brilliant red, and they taste great. The plants grow up to 36 inches tall and thrive throughout USDA zones 4-8. KangaRhu Rhubarb bareroot plants are available at gurneys.com.
A Russian cool-weather tomato
Moskvich is a tomato variety that originated from Russia in the 1970s. It’s name, Moskvich, literally means “inhabitant of Moscow.” Moskvich tomatoes withstand cool weather better than most varieties. This cold-tolerant beauty will be the first to produce homegrown tomatoes in your garden. Plus, at the end of a sweltering summer, this tough plant will be the last to stop producing tomatoes when the weather cools off.
The bright red, globe-shaped fruits of Moskvich Pole Tomatoes grow to about 6 ounces, which is a great size for most uses. This indeterminate plant keeps growing and producing all season long. Seeds are available from botanicalinterests.com.
A big crop from this tiny cherry tomato
Cherry tomatoes are a garden favorite because a single plant can produce hundreds of tasty, bite-sized fruits, but the sprawling plants can take up lots of space in the garden—even when staked on a pole or trellis. Cherry Fountain is a dwarf plant that is small enough to grow in containers or small gardens. This diminutive plant grows to just 10 inches tall, but it produces abundant yields of delicious bright-red cherry tomatoes. And the tomatoes keep coming all summer long.
Cherry Fountain is an attractive trailing variety that is especially well-suited for hanging baskets and containers. It’s a great choice for kitchen gardens, too. Like all tomato plants, it needs full sun to produce the best crop. Available from parkseed.com.
Autumn Frost squash
Nutritional powerhouses, squash typically need soil temperatures above 65 degrees to germinate. But once they emerge, these plants grow quickly—and they grow big. Autumn Frost squash produces lots of tawny-colored, ridged fruit that resembles pumpkins. (Squash and pumpkins are, after all, in the same plant family.)
The mature fruits are about 6 inches wide and weigh 4 pounds. Inside is a thick layer of delicious orange flesh. Each vining plant produces about 8 or 10 squash that start out green and ripen to a frosty orange. Seeds are available from territorialseed.com.
A sweet potato for garden or container
Treasure Island is a new series of edible sweet potatoes that come with the added benefit of looking great in ornamental gardens and containers. These plants can turn patios, window boxes, or almost any growing container into a tropical garden.
The edible tubers come in a wide range of colors from orange to red to purple, and they taste great in all kinds of dishes. Some of the varieties even have edible leaves, which range in color from dark purple to light green. The different varieties are named for specific South Pacific islands of French Polynesia, where sweet potatoes have been grown for centuries.
Treasure Island Sweet Potatoes were developed in a collaborative breeding program at Louisiana State University. Best of all, these edible varieties offer yields that are on par with commercial varieties. Treasure Island Sweet Potatoes are available at springhillnursery.com.