Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 6, 2020 and Island Ad-Vantages, February 6, 2020 and The Weekly Packet, February 6, 2020
Superior performance from new vegetable varieties
by Caroline Spear
All-America Selections have been announced for January 2020. These are the best performers among new and improved plants and seeds for home gardeners.
Winners announced in January include two annuals, two perennials, seven tomatoes and three for the vegetable garden, which this column will detail. Descriptions are used with permission from AAS.
Green Light F1 Cucumber: This little beauty is an excellent mini cucumber, said many of the AAS judges. The yield was higher than the comparison varieties with more attractive fruit, earlier maturity, and superior eating quality. “I would absolutely grow this in my home garden,” commented one judge. Grow Green Light on stakes or poles for a productive, easy-to-harvest vertical garden that will yield 40 or more spineless fruits per plant. Pick the fruits when they’re small, between 3 and 4 inches long, and you’ll be rewarded with great tasting cucumbers, even without peeling. Succession plantings will ensure a summer-long harvest. This cucumber is 37-42 days to harvest from seed or 30-37 from transplant. Plant spread is 20 inches.
Fun fact: This cucumber is parthenocarpic, meaning the flowers are all female and the fruits are seedless without needing to be pollinated. Blue Prince F1 Pumpkin: For any edible entry to become an AAS Winner, it must outperform the comparisons, and Blue Prince Pumpkin certainly scored high in the areas of maturity (earlier), yield, fruit size, and uniformity, color, taste, and texture. Vigorous trailing vines produce 7- to 9-pound beautiful blue flattened pumpkins with non-stringy, deep orange flesh with savory sweetness. These pumpkins are as pretty as they are delicious; after fall decorating, bake the flesh for a smooth and creamy treat. Of all the varieties trialled, Blue Prince was first to flower and fruit, which is beneficial for gardeners with a shorter growing season. Plus, this winner has slightly better disease resistance than the comparisons. A judge’s testimonial: “Overall, if I was looking for a blue pumpkin to display AND eat, I’d pick this entry every time!”
Sow seeds in a garden setting leaving enough room for 5-foot vines. Plant in a sunny location as soon as soil temperatures reach 65 degrees to ensure maturity in 110 days.
Mambo F1 Watermelon: Summertime means melon time and Mambo watermelon will grow and yield well even in cool cloudy conditions! Gardeners who plant Mambo will enjoy multiple, perfectly round melons with a beautiful dark green rind and deep red flesh. The sweet crisp flesh is extremely tasty and holds well (doesn’t over ripen) if you can’t harvest them right away. Each 9-inch fruit will weigh about 11 pounds at maturity, which is only 75 days from transplant. A smaller seed cavity means you almost get the look of a seedless melon but the superior taste of a seeded melon. The AAS judges agree this is one of the easiest watermelons they’ve grown because of high seed germination and vigorously healthy vines.
Bonus, from late 2019, Clancy F1 Potato, grown from seed, not potato cuttings. From AAS: The benefits of growing this tasty edible from seed are many. For home gardeners and market growers, sterile seed eliminates the potential for introducing disease to the garden. Seeds are also easier to store and can be stored longer than potato tubers. Potato Clancy produces compact and healthy dark green plants with blue flowers. Resulting spuds are a beautiful ornamental mix ranging from red to rose blush skin tones with interiors of creamy white and yellow. In terms of eating qualities, Clancy has great texture and flavor, making it especially good for mashing or boiling due to its lighter texture. Sow just as you would tomatoes, about six to eight weeks before last frost, and transplant out in the garden on your spring tomato planting date. From there treat as you would a normal potato plant, mounding up soil every few weeks (also works great in a container). Judge’s observation: “I like this one. It is unique and something fun for gardeners young and old alike. The almost mythical seed potato has finally been discovered. Each plant I harvested had 3-4 decent sized tubers and half a dozen more large grape sized tubers. This is one I would grow for fun at home with the kids and for food purposes as well. It takes nothing to grow these and they last a long time in the ground.”
Caroline Spear of Stonington is an amateur gardener in Zone 5B. She has worked for Penobscot Bay Press in a variety of capacities for 30 years. She welcomes questions and comments, which should be addressed to Green Thumbs at email@example.com or P.O. Box 36, Stonington, 04681.