We are extremely proud to have a monthly column in The Black Mountain News. The column is titled Gardening in the Valley and the author is a member of the committee. Typically the column is the third Wednesday of each month. So pick up a copy of the paper.
Also want to thank Rhonda Reedy for her behind the scenes management of the column and working with the paper. For being a relatively new member, she has already done so much for our committee.
Committee members interested in writing an article, please contact Rhonda. If you are wondering what to write about, select a month and we can offer you some suggestions.
Scroll down to read this month's column.
Heirloom tomatoes, your Grandmother’s sweet peas, basil seeds passed on since your ancestors arrived from Italy—these make your garden yours! When you taste just-picked produce or arrange fresh-cut flowers, some of your pleasure may come from fond memories of gardens past. But maybe your have not-so-happy memories of a couple of tomatoes the whole season, sweet peas cut short by warm weather, or basil doomed by downy mildew. If you’re fed up with failures, find yourself in a rut, or are simply new to gardening, consider planting some different varieties this year.
Look for new varieties at the non-profit All-American Selections, which tries out new plants in test plots across the United States. Two 2017 choices for the southeast region were ‘Tomato Chef’s Choice Yellow F1’ (“…produces hearty beefsteak type tomatoes in a beautiful yellow color) and ‘Pepper Sweetie Pie F1’ (“A miniature bell pepper…. well-adapted to a container and small garden growing.”) Shake things up by trying yellow tomatoes, or miniature bell peppers!
Many growers introduce new varieties as improvements on old standards. New tomato introductions every year tout enhancements in everything from early fruit production to nutrition. For most home gardeners, trying new varieties is a way to find tomatoes that fit your family’s needs. I enjoy planting cherry tomatoes to use in salads and cooking and usually plant a known favorite like ‘Sweet Million’ and try something new to see if I like it even better! In recent years, I tried currant-type tomato varieties, but haven’t found any that pass my taste test!
For flowers, too, growers also make new introductions trying to improve on past favorites. For example, Johnny’s Seeds is listing a unique gray-white sweet pea with blue-black streaks—‘Nimbus’—while Select Seeds touts a lavender-edged sweet pea—‘April in Paris’—as a new introduction with old-timey fragrance.
Another reason to seek out new varieties is to thwart diseases that ruin your crops. This is the quest of many tomato breeders hoping to produce blight-resistant cultivars. North Carolina State Extension reports that “A plum tomato variety named ‘Plum Regal’, as well as a new campari-type called ‘Mountain Magic’ and the large-fruited variety ‘Mountain Merit’ have resistance to some strains of late blight, as well as the variety ‘Defiant’ from Johnny's seed company.”
Although there are no widely available downy mildew-resistant varieties of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), plant breeders are trying to hybridize it with other basil types (O. americanum and O. citriodorum) that are resistant. 'Pesto Perpetuo' is one such cultivar (although its origins are unclear) that I tried with some success last year. It is an attractive variegated variety that not only did not succumb to disease, but was also an acceptable substitute for sweet basil in the pesto I love.
Planting varieties new to you, but not necessarily new to the horticulture world, is another way to improve your garden in 2018. Especially if you aren’t having much luck here with varieties you’ve grown in other parts of the country, consider asking your friends or neighbors, what they find tried and true in their gardens here. Contact the Extension Master Gardener helpline (828-255-5522) to help you assess how our soils, hardiness zones, average humidity, temperature, length of growing season, and garden pests and diseases differ from areas you’ve gardened in the past.
After several disappointing seasons trying to grow my favorite green bean, cucumber, and squash varieties from my childhood in the northeast, I looked for alternatives. I now grow different cultivars that I find better-adapted to garden conditions here. You can read about the details at: http://www.buncombemastergardener.org/vegetable-standbys/
Whatever your garden passion, keep it growing by trying something new!
Bio: Deborah Green, a regular contributor to the Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener blog, has been a Beautification Committee member for over 10 years and maintains one of the committee's sites in town. She enjoys gardening with native plants, as well as growing flowers, herbs and vegetables.