Variety Recommendations

Sharon July 14th, 2009

Ok, we’ve already talked about the fact that a variety that overwinters beautifully in, say, Oregon or North Carolina won’t do well in Saskatchewan or Maine, so let us begin with the assumption that varieties are regional and specific, and use this thread to share widely our wisdom about what grows well in cool seasons in our particular region and place like it - that is, I’d be really grateful if you’d tell us what has overwintered well for you, or done well in fall, and also where you are and what your climate and soils are like “ie, high desert climate, cold winters, hot, dry summers, alkaline soil zone 5″ or whatever.  There’s not enough of this information out there.

Here are some of my own observations about growing here, in zone 4/5 (5 official, 4 for elevation), on my wet, thin soil in my wet, cold climate ;-).  I had a good chance to experiment with varieties during the years we ran our CSA.

Best cold tolerant salad greens: Forellenschuss, Winter Density,  and Marvel of Four Seasons Lettuces, Mizuna (too bad I find the taste boring), all arugulas, vit and big seeded maches, beet greens (start a new crop since the little ones are best), sorrel, any mustard, pinky lettucy gene pool mustards.

Best spinach: Vert and Bloomsdale Winter

Best cold tolerance in broccoli: Umpqua (OP) and Blue (Hybrid)

Best cold tolerant root varieties: Flat of Egypt and Lutz Longkeeper beet, all parsnips, Diamante Celeriac, Golden Ball and Purple Top White Globe Turnip, Oxheart and Meridia carrots (the latter are designed for overwintering - they didn’t quite for me, but did very well), any salsify and scorzonera, Gigante Kohlrabi.  Also Yellow Mangels lasted quite a long time in the ground for me - and I thought they were tasty, if a little mild.  Goats liked ‘em too.

Best fall producing pea varieties: Alderman (tall vine shelling) and Sugar Ann (snap)

Best cold tolerant leek: Blue de Solaize

Best cold tolerant favas: Lorraine

Best cold tolerant cabbages and kales - All kales  (red and white russian  are pretty hardy - red has even overwintered for me, but they do winterkill before the Tuscan and Siberians for me), Coeur de Blue, Glory of Enkhuizen, Stein’s Late Flat Dutch Cabbage, Even’star Collards, Vates Collards

Best Mustard: Osaka Purple and Green Wave

Best tomatoes for overwintering in pots: Red Robin, Balconi Yellow

Best hot peppers for overwintering in pots: Fish (this is the only one that doesn’t end the winter looking sad), Korean Dark Green, Thai Hot

Best basil for overwintering: African Blue

Best eggplant for overwintering - Pingtung Long, Fairy Tale

Ok, how about the rest of you?  Share your wisdom!

 Sharon

17 Responses to “Variety Recommendations”

  1. Abbieon 14 Jul 2009 at 7:25 pm

    You can also check at your local Agricultural Experiment Station for variety recommendations. I didn’t know it until a scientist came in to speak to my botany class, but there are people at the ag stations who specialize in testing varieties in your local climate, and they can help you find exactly what you’re looking for. If anyone is in southern ct, you can call the New Haven office of the CT Ag Exp Station and speak to Dr. Maynard to get tips on varieties. She loves helping out gardeners and farmers, and would love to hear from you!

  2. Mikeon 14 Jul 2009 at 8:07 pm

    I’ll let you know next year: you’ve inspired me to try for the first time! And, by the way, I’m loving A Nation of Farmers, although I keep stopping to stare out the window and replan my city. Reading the blog for the past two years has helped me to farm the 12′x2′ planter behind my condo. This year had a good potato crop, some beets (I just planted more for fall) and I even have some corn coming up.

    Thanks for infecting me with the bug!

  3. agwhon 14 Jul 2009 at 8:54 pm

    The lettuces that lasted longest, unprotected, for me last winter were the oakleaf types. The spinach, variety Bloomsdale Longstanding, and the chicory both made it into early January.

    The ground only freezes here on and off, so carrots of almost any variety will keep pretty well right in the ground through February or March, or until they are all eaten. Last year I grew a small carrot called Little Finger, and I planted a second round of it at the end of February for the Spring. Worked just fine. Other carrots have worked just as well in other years, but the clay soil here is pretty dense, so I always choose a variety that is short, so it won’t have too hard a struggle to get established.

    Last year I also had two kinds of radishes still coming in from the garden in December: French Breakfast and Muncheiner Bier (spelled, wrong, I know). They don’t usually make it that long, but every year is different. It is worth planting extras of things, when I can, just in case the weather is relatively moderate.

    We would have had beet greens (Detroit Dark Red) if that darn rabbit hadn’t got to them. The year before, we had beet greens in the garden into January. This year I will try to keep them covered.

    My husband made a 3×8 cold frame for me early in the Spring, so I will (hopefully!) have different results this year from at least one bed.

    Amy, NW of Atlanta

  4. Mark Non 14 Jul 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Some of the best cold tolerant and overwintering varieties I have found in the 40 years of dealing with this thin sandy loam in southern Saratoga county, NY are…

    Carrot Kuroda, Yellowstone

    Beets golden grex

    tomato Burpee’s long keeper

    kale Winterbor

    chard Argentata

    Lettuce winter density, Forellenschluss

    Leek Large American Flag

    Winter
    squash Waltham butternut, Buttercup, Delicata

  5. Shaneon 14 Jul 2009 at 10:20 pm

    After doing extensive variety trials of just about everything I am interested in growing there is only one thing I can recommend.

    If you want to grow good tomatoes then you need to get at least ten different seed sources and grow them all the same way during the same year. You will typically see a ten fold difference in performance/yield. Pick out the best three and grow them on a few more years to allow for varying growing seasons. You might even want to try hand pollinating to produce your own variety.

    The most important thing I learnt too is that just because the packet says “san marzano tomato” doesn’t mean it will be anything like the “san marzano tomato” seed offered under the same name by different seed companies. So getting a recommendation from someone just of a name isnt enough. You at least need to have a supplier as well, and even then their suppliers can change year to year.

    So…do your own variety trials. It takes time and organisation, but the long term pay off is immense.

  6. Sophia Katton 14 Jul 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Those of us who live in the West can play with this resource, too:

    http://plantfinder.sunset.com/sunset/plant-home.jsp

  7. gaiasdaughteron 15 Jul 2009 at 6:15 am

    Sorry, Sharon, but I don’t have enough experience yet to recommend anything! But I do have a question. When you say ‘overwinter’ for tomatoes, eggplant, etc — are you growing in a greenhouse?

  8. Rayeon 15 Jul 2009 at 7:21 am

    I just started growing in the fall and winter last year, and slugs ate much of what I started with. sigh. But the vit mache did extremely well, here in zone 6 on a west-facing hillside. A couple of parsnips that survived the slugging are also doing well. Does garlic count, since we plant it in the fall?

  9. Emilyon 15 Jul 2009 at 11:16 am

    South-central Michigan, Zone 5 (in a particularly open, cold, and less-snowy area), in raised beds over heavy clay. I found the kale variously called “dinosaur,” “lacinato,” or “black” kale handled winter in the greenhouse better than the curly varieties (Winterbor, Vates).

    I “root cellared” winter squash just by putting them on a shelf in an unheated breezeway (usually 45-50 degrees over the winter). Delicatas, sweet dumplings, and Waldham butternuts were still fresh and edible the following July.

    I’m also working on a strain of Contender bush beans that seem to withstand cold temps better than most.

  10. Sharonon 15 Jul 2009 at 11:49 am

    Gaia’s Daughter - Nope, I’m talking about windowsills in my house. And I probably should have mentioned that my house is cold - really cold. So these are ones that will tolerate a south facing window in a northerly climate and a very cool house - in the 50s. I bring them in by the woodstove at night, so their night temps are often warmer than day, which is weird, but they seem to tolerate it. They won’t fruit through the winter, but the tomatoes brought in will fruit into December, and then started again early from seed, will produce cherries by May. The peppers and eggplant, being true tropical perennials, will get started again very early and you’ll have peppers and eggplants in June, plus the plant will get huge, which doesn’t happen as much in my climate.

    Shane, I agree with you, and it is important to realize that strains of plants vary a lot - they may even be bred differently - I know someone who was determined to dehybridize “Early Girl” tomatoes, only to discover that at least some of the strains she started with already have stabilized genetically - she grew out generations, and some were a true hybrid, and others, the companies sneakily stabilized ;-). So there can be enormous genetic difference in strains of really popular breeds of vegetables - less common ones have fewer issues with this - although I’ve grown out two really radically different versions of “Albino Bullnose” pepper recently, and that’s fairly obscure.

    Your strategy for variety comparisons is a good one, and people without room for 10 varieties can do it with three or four. One caveat I’d add - the same tomatoes will taste very different from year to year. Last year, in the northeast, August was cool and wet and two of my favorite varieties were bland and awful, while Principe Borghese, which I like as a standby, but I don’t think of as a great flavored tomato, really was a standout. I was also reminded of why I got in the habit of growing “Pineapple” - because its creamy texture and sweet flavor are really good in a cool year, while “Black Brandywine” frankly sucked, and barely matured. So don’t necessarily assume that the best tomatoes will always be the same from year to year.

    Sharon

  11. Lynneon 15 Jul 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks, Sharon. Between these posts and the Independence Days challenge, I’ve been much more on top of the fall garden this year, experimenting with timing. I live in s. B.C., zone 5, but with easily 3 feet of snow our ground doesn’t freeze. We’ve found:

    -In a cold frame, red leafed lettuce and spinach survived and enabled us to get a jump on the spring. We planted these ones quite late - i.e. mid-September and let them just hang out over winter and size up in March/April. Larger lettuces lasted until February in the cold frame. We ate lettuce every month last year!

    -Russian Red kale overwintered unprotected (we’re saving for seed this year)

    - flat leaf and curled parsley of unknown types survived the winter and were tasty in the spring (also for seed)

    -We have carrot rust fly, so I won’t overwinter carrots in the ground again (whoops! major infestation this year), but the Chantenay carrots did beautifully in the ground, they are big and fat

    -Our “Lyon” leeks survived the winter very nicely, and we were able to eat a few in the spring

    -”Purple Vienna” Kohlrabi almost made it outside, unprotected. But I’m not sure if it froze or was actually starting to grow by March. All I know is that while it was still firm it tasted terrible. Otherwise, I love Kohlrabi, so easy compared to some brassicas.

    -Harris Model parsnips survived, of course

    -I found a few Russian Blue and Yukon Gold potatoes in the ground this spring that looked perfectly firm and intact, though I didn’t eat them. I wonder if they would store ok this way?

  12. Lynneon 15 Jul 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks, Sharon. Between these posts and the Independence Days challenge, I’ve been much more on top of the fall garden this year, experimenting with timing. I live in s. B.C., zone 5, but with easily 3 feet of snow our ground doesn’t freeze. We’ve found:

    -In a cold frame, red leafed lettuce and spinach survived and enabled us to get a jump on the spring. We planted these ones quite late - i.e. mid-September and let them just hang out over winter and size up in March/April. Larger lettuces lasted until February in the cold frame. We ate lettuce every month last year!

    -Russian Red kale overwintered unprotected (we’re saving for seed this year)

    - flat leaf and curled parsley of unknown types survived the winter and were tasty in the spring (also for seed)

    -We have carrot rust fly, so I won’t overwinter carrots in the ground again (whoops! major infestation this year), but the Chantenay carrots did beautifully in the ground, they are big and fat

    -Our “Lyon” leeks survived the winter very nicely, and we were able to eat a few in the spring

    -”Purple Vienna” Kohlrabi almost made it outside, unprotected. But I’m not sure if it froze or was actually starting to grow by March. All I know is that while it was still firm it tasted terrible. Otherwise, I love Kohlrabi, so easy compared to some brassicas.

    -Harris Model parsnips survived, of course

    -I found a few Russian Blue and Yukon Gold potatoes in the ground this spring that looked perfectly firm and intact, though I didn’t eat them. I wonder if they would store ok this way?

    Also - I had wondered about collecting seed from hybrids. Our friends have propagated a “hybrid” cucumber for a decade. Seems worth a try….

  13. NMon 15 Jul 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I don’t have a great deal of winter gardening experience, but here’s what I have found, at the northern end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley (which has heavy clay soil, though the raised beds I was using had been filled with compost-amended sandy loam. Which somehow turns into clay over the years…)
    Bright lights chard overwinters more or less well — eventually you can’t really pick any more in winter, but it comes back in late winter/early spring and you can have a few more cuttings before it bolts, and it reseeds itself well, too.
    Leeks overwinter beautifully; our regional garden writer, Steve Solomon, recommended relying on leeks instead of onions through the winter. I think I planted Giant Musselburgh starts last year, in August or September and was still happily harvesting leeks in May. I finally pulled all but one, which is now bolting, but still have some in the fridge that I’m enjoying, from that harvest.
    Last year I grew celery for the first time; Redventure, and although it died down when we got an extremely unusual two feet of snow in December, the crowns of most of the plants lived, and began growing again in early spring. They’re flowering now, and I’m planning to collect seeds.
    My sorrel, growing in a pot, also did very well, but unfortunately, now I can’t recall the variety. It’s the large-leafed kind. It made lovely Christmas dinner raviolis, in the absence of spinach, when we were snowed in for Christmas (that was a hoot; first time in my lifetime to be snowed in).
    Garlic and shallots here are planted in September or October for June harvest.
    We have extremely rainy, but relatively mild winter weather. Gets down to freezing quite a bit, but is often above. It drops down into the 20s or teens, usually at least once during the winter, sometimes more. When it snows, we get quite excited.
    A lot of the winter gardening advice here is that a lot of things will grow fine through the winter, if you can provide some protection from the constant rain — and the attendant slugs …

  14. dogear6on 15 Jul 2009 at 4:46 pm

    I did not try to over winter anything in the regular garden. My deck planters had my kitchen herbs - the chocolate mint (a peppermint variation) was the only thing that overwintered in Zone 7. I was really surprised that neither the rosemary or the spearmint came back.

    And the chocolate mint is growing like crazy. I’ve already removed two pots worth to give away and will be digging up more shortly from the planter.

  15. Claireon 15 Jul 2009 at 8:31 pm

    St. Louis, MO suburb, zone 6/7 border, silt loam soil (glacial loess), highly changeable winter conditions (high could be 80 or it could be in the teens or single digits), occasional snow but it doesn’t last more than a few days, cold rains, occasional sleet and ice (sometimes all in the same day), high winds during storms.

    In the cold frame, I’ve overwintered plain-leaf parsley, Afina cutting celery, argula, Spring Wok bok choy (but not every plant), Western Front kale, mustard greens especially a red one whose variety name I don’t recall, Bronze Arrow lettuce (but not every plant).

    In the open garden, mache and sorrel overwinter reliably, the occasional kale plant makes it through the winter but most do not, and I haven’t tried any of the other root crops (I’m still figuring out how to grow good carrots in the regular growing season, next year I may grow enough to leave some in the ground). Usually I overwinter garlic, potato onions, and shallots successfully, but some years I have trouble with rotting. This was true last winter. It may be that I waited till too late in the season to mulch them. Topset onions do overwinter reliably. Lettuce does not overwinter in the open garden, nor do other greens except what I’ve mentioned above, whether or not they are mulched, but maybe that is because I mulch with readily available oak leaves rather than purchasing straw. We can usually pick these until sometime in December, however. Jerusalem artichokes overwinter, of course. The occasional potato overwinters, but I can’t count on them overwintering.

    Red Meat and Round Black Spanish radishes, Purple Top White Globe turnips, and Blue de Solaize leeks all last until March when kept in 5 gallon buckets in what we call the root cellar (the staircase from the outside leading to our basement and crawl space - similar to the cellar door in the Wizard of Oz movie). Sweet potatoes (Ivis White Cream and Oakleaf) keep into early summer when kept in baskets in the kitchen. We heat our house to 65 during heating season, which lasts until sometime in April, and the kitchen is at the warmer (east) side of the house. This year I started my own sweet potatoes from some of the stored roots.

    I have managed to keep one Variegata hot pepper alive in a pot all winter, but I only have one room that works for this. It’s the warmest room of the house (the one that actually is 65, the rest are cooler) and has an east and a south facing window. That’s also the only room in which I have successfully overwintered rosemary - which has not overwintered for me in the garden, maybe because my soil stays too wet for its liking. There isn’t enough window space in that room to keep any more than the one pepper and a few rosemary plants because I have several houseplants in there too, including a gardenia and hoya.

    I overwinter citrus trees (Bearss lime, Meyer lemon, kumquat, Navel orange) in the basement even though it is dark and cool (50 in January). I put them as close to one of the tiny windows as I can get them. I also overwinter banana plants in the basement the same way. The lime usually begins flowering in early spring and the kumquat ripens fruits over the winter while in the basement.

  16. Jeanon 15 Jul 2009 at 9:32 pm

    South Dakota - Zone 4
    We planted winter onions (also called walking onions) in the fall and went south for the winter (one of the worst on record in SD). We came home in April to find a large patch of 10″ green onions which now give us shallot-type bulbs in the summer and small onion sets we can eat or keep to plant . Of course we can eat the green tops all summer. These are the most interesting plants in our garden. If left unattended in the fall they will tip over and plant the sets themselves (thus the name walking onions). The “mother onion” will split into multiples and send up more green tops in the spring. Since we are gone for the winter I don’t know if we can harvest anything during the winter months but I suspect the green onions would be available quite early.

  17. homebrewlibrarianon 16 Jul 2009 at 2:40 pm

    In Anchorage, AK (zone 4a/b) the only things that overwinter on this lot are perennials. I tried to overwinter kale and brussels sprouts last winter but it got too cold and too dry. The radishes withered and dried up so much that there were only radish shaped holes in the soil when the snow melted. The cherry tomatoes I brought inside at the end of the season suffered death by aphids (I have never seen plants so coated in aphids before. Shudder). Since I still haven’t managed to plant any root vegetables in two seasons, I can’t say if those would overwinter or not. But I do know that the ground freezes up pretty solid in October and there’d be no way to harvest them until late April.

    I’m still trying to figure out winter storage and seed saving since overwintering outside doesn’t look very possible. I’m particularly concerned with saving seed from biennial plants because it gets so danged cold. However, this year I purchased some small parsnips at a farmer’s market from last year’s crop that had been properly stored, planted them and now six out of eight have sprouted and several have flower stalks growing. It may be that I should be more concerned with determining proper winter storage and not overwintering. But living on a small, flat, urban lot with no basement and a year round 50 F crawlspace is not offering up a lot of options.

    Sigh.

    Kerri in AK

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