Choosing Varieties

Choosing Varieties

Vegetables and
Annual Flowers



How do you choose among all those luscious-sounding tomato varieties? (Especially if you are looking at seed catalogs on a cold January day...) Though there’s nothing wrong with choosing a variety because you like its name or how it looks, you may want to consider some other characteristics that can make your job as gardener a little easier.

Disease Resistance
There are cultivars (cultivated varieties) of many garden plants that have shown resistance to certain pests. If you know a pest is common in your region, by all means choose a resistant variety. If you don’t know what pests you might encounter, you might want to plant a few disease-resistant varieties anyway, just in case your non-disease-resistant choices succumb.

Short- or Long-Season Varieties
If you like to have the first ripe tomato on the block, or you live in a region with relatively short summers, choose varieties that mature the fastest. Some tomato varieties, for example, ripen are ready to begin harvesting 60 days after transplanting, while others need 85 days or more to mature.

Growing Habit
Choose plants with growing habits that match your needs. Bush beans, as the name implies, grow as small, free-standing plants, while pole beans need something to climb. Some types of squash grow in compact form, while others need lots of space for their vines to run. There are rambling, vining nasturtiums and tidy, mound-forming varieties.

Hybrid or Open-Pollinated
Plant breeders create hybrid plants by cross-breeding two different varieties. Hybrid plants often are more productive and disease-resistant than non-hybrid ("open-pollinated") varieties. However, there’s a drawback. If you like to save seed at the end of the season for planting the following year, avoid hybrids. Their seed doesn’t come true -- that is, the resulting plants may not have all the characteristics of the parent plant.

Of course, if you have some favorite varieties, go ahead and plant them, even if they aren’t the most logical choices. Brandywine tomato has no particular resistance to diseases -- but if you manage to keep yours healthy, the reward will be one of the tastiest tomatoes on earth!

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There are thousands of tomato varieties to choose from. Refer to the seed packet or catalog description to learn about a particular variety's disease resistance and days to maturity.


Gardening Basics FAQ #2

What does it mean when a variety is described as an "heirloom"?

Answer



Bush beans grow as small, free-standing plants ...


... while pole beans grow as long vines and need a support to climb.

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