Well, this time of year I can literally see the pendulum swinging back and forth. It seems each swing brings an extra three minutes or so of daylight to central Wisconsin. That's big...almost an extra half hour of sunlight every week! I can't help but pick-up seed catalogues and make a stop at Jung's in Stevens Point "just because I'm going by..."
Last year, my vegetable garden planting had its ups and downs. A lot of people were again cursed by late blight. I think late blight might actually be spreading across the area not only on the wind, but on the very transplants gardeners bring into their own gardens. I am encouraging everyone to attempt to grow their own tomato transplants and be extra vigilant of disposing any infected foliage.
This year I have decided on four different tomatoe varieties: Olpalka, an heirloom paste tomato; Chocolate Cherry tomatoes, another heirloom; Superior, a super early tomato; and Supersteak. Last year, I grew a Mountain hybrid. I like the Mountain breeding: very uniform tomatoes and good resistance to blights and other diseases, but a bit on the small side, and about 7-10 later than a lot of people start picking tomatoes. With the sometimes short season, I'm not getting the number of tomatoes I'd like.
I do a lot of sauces and salsas. I need a lot of tomatoes!
I have a small yard, so I can't plant more, I need them to ripen all at once and early!
I also grew some Legend and Rutgers a neighbor gave me. They were beautiful plants and grew well. I did see some disease and I did get some decent tomatoes, but just not the number of smooth shouldered, nice beauties I wanted.
The peppers transplants I purchased grew well. Serrano did well. I tried Serrano rather than a typical jalapeno last year. Serrano is fine for someone who wants a bit of the hot pepper kick, but can't take the heat. The Hungarian Banana peppers did well, too, as did the Cayenne peppers. The Cayenne peppers were not quite as prolific as I would have liked. The bell peppers I grew, I think it was Arthur, did not pump out the nice sized peppers I desired.
The real pepper winner in this area, were some peppers a neighbor gave me. They were a corno di toro pepper, which has to have been either Planet Hybrid or Carmen. They were given to me fully red and ripe. They were some of the sweetest red peppers I have has, no hint of hot. They were picked out of some commercially grown peppers grown by her family; they sell the green, but no one wants the red, thinking they are not sweet, but hot. Their lost was my gain. I cut and froze strips, I dried some, and canned the rest as a sweet red pepper spread.
This year I am going to start seed for the pepper Carmen. Hopefully, I can duplicate her family's commercial effort in my own garden. I am looking for some prolific cayennes like Andy (but it was sold out where I tried to get some). I like to use the cayenne in gherkins and other pickled vegetables.
Favorite Seed Companies
I'm going to plug my favorite two catalogues and online seed sources here, Jung's and Johnny's Select Seed. ( www.jungseed.com and www.johnnyseed.com )Jung's has this incredible, free, online garden planner and is a local Wisconsin company. The planner is easy to use.
Johnny's is an employee-owned company and has a great online catalogue (I like the page turning sound effects!) Pages load very quickly, considering my connection speed. Johnny's also lets you pick out your wish list, so you don't have to decide and purchase everything in one online session.
Other vegetables that were winners for me in 2010
My favorite potoato is Yukon Gold. It really is as buttery as they say. The tubers were all very uniform and well-worth growing for a special treat. I live in the middle of potato-growing country so potatoes are generally cheap for the commercially grown varieties, so checking out some of the red ones to eat fresh, fingerlings, or Yukon Golds is really the only efficient way to go.
Cucumbers had a pretty wet August. I grew Alibi, which were tasty and sweet and filled my canning needs. The Straight 8 was a nice slicer for fresh salads. I didn't get the late season yield because of over-watering right before a major rainy period.
Flat leaved parsley was a winner. I didn't care for basil "'Dani', not enough basil taste for me, although the lemony flavor was nice on the early leaves.
The long day length onions I grew did not do it for me. I am going to try and grow my own sets for leeks, onions, and scallions this year. I'll try to remember to post how that turns out.