Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

It’s That Wonderful Time of Year

Snow covers the garden, and spring is nowhere in sight, so it’s time for that perennial pleasure—perusing the stack of seed catalogs that’s been piling up since November.
Tomato 'Artisan,' Johnny's Selected Seeds - Alice
Interesting trends in vegetable gardening emerge in this year’s catalogs. If you plan to grow tomatoes, 2015 promises intriguing choices; breeders have been busy creating new combinations of traits both beautiful and tasty. ‘Genuwine’ is a cleverly named cross of ‘Brandywine’ and the classic Italian, ‘Costoluto Genovese.’ with delicious fruit between 10 ½ and 11 ½ oz each. The “Artisan Tomatoes” are a collection of small and striped types– they may be small in size, but promise big flavor.

‘Berkeley Tie-Dye Green’ produces beefsteak size tomatoes with green skin dramatically striped red and yellow. Its flesh is green, red and yellow with flavors both tart and sweet. According to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, this one’s taken California chefs by storm.

I haven’t grown them myself, but if you’re eager to try the new grafted tomatoes, they seem universally available where seeds are advertised. Johnny’s Selected Seeds even sells tomato grafting stock, and tools to make your own in the basement or greenhouse.

Evidence of anthocyanin, Territorial Seeds - Alice
‘Indigo Cherry Drops’ is a vigorous, especially disease-resistant tomato with 1-2 oz. fruit that are red brushed with dark blue—an indication of their high anthocyanin content. Blue is big this year-amazingly, some catalogs even list a “Blue Tomato” section. But tomatoes aren’t alone. The Cook’s Garden features Lettuce ‘Ruby Glow,’ a romaine with deep purple leaves and red hearts—and again, anthocyanin, the powerful antioxidant, is responsible for its gorgeous coloring.

I suppose it’s a sign of the times that vegetables have become so relevant. Breeders appear to be taking another cue from gardeners and consumers in the continuing development of varieties suitable for patio culture as container plants. I was interested to read about Pea ‘Half-pint’– 6-8” high and touted as “ideal for small spaces and containers.” But it has to compete with Pea ‘Masterpiece,’ which has edible foliage that supplies decorative greenery for window-boxes.

Pea 'Half Pint,' Territorial Seeds - Alice Another contender in the most productive per inch category is ‘Pick-a-Bushel’ Cucumber. This 2-foot high semi-bush with exceptional disease and heat tolerance is suitable for containers too.

Whether your family and garden are large or small, this looks like a great year to enjoy some wonderful fruits (and vegetables!) of the labors of contemporary vegetable breeders. I highly recommend sitting indoors on these chilliest days of winter with a stack of old-fashioned paper catalogs to assist you in mapping your summer dreams. Then, get started with seedlings in the greenhouse.