The Best of 2020
Every garden has its challenges. From tomatoes with rot issues to squash plants that invariably wilt, there’s nothing more harrowing for a gardener than plants that flop. Fortunately, each year brings new plant varieties that thumb their noses at common afflictions and keep right on growing and producing—and some of them look pretty darn good doing it. Keep in mind that while growing these new varieties can be easy and rewarding, finding the seeds may be a bit of a challenge. New and sought-after varieties are often in limited supply, so if you're considering purchasing, don’t delay.
Basil Everleaf 'Emerald Towers'
This new basil offers two important attributes—late flowering and a compact growth habit. At just 8 to 12 inches wide and 2 to 3 feet tall, 'Emerald Towers' is an excellent choice for small-space gardens. And because flowering signals the approaching end of a basil plant's growth phase, with this new variety flowering 10 to 12 weeks later than most others, you'll get a much longer harvest of traditional Genovese flavor. Plant in the garden or in containers, in full sun. Available from Burpee.com; $5.95 for 100 seeds, or $16.95 for three plants.
'Red Torch' Tomato
Cut the wait time for that much anticipated first bite of summer with this new tomato that produces its 1.5-inch oblong striped fruits earlier in the season. Tolerant of environmental stressors like heat and difficult growing conditions, 'Red Torch' also has excellent disease resistance. Prolific indeterminate vines yield tomatoes with skin that looks like smoldering lava, making this garden choice aesthetically appealing both on the vine and on the plate. 'Red Torch', an All-America Selection (AAS), does well in the garden or the container as long as it’s well supported. Available from johnnyseeds.com; $9.75 for 50 seeds.
'Orange Marmalade' Sweet Bell Pepper
High yields on this compact plant make 'Orange Marmalade' perfect for tight spots, whether in the garden or in a container. The sweet fruit ripens early from green to orange and has excellent disease resistance. Its vibrant color adds a bright pop to the vegetable garden, and it's perfect stuffed and baked or sliced fresh in a salad. Available from ParkSeed.com; $4.95 for 15 seeds.
'Lemon Sun' Pattypan Squash
Not your traditional oblong squash, 'Lemon Sun' looks more like a scalloped UFO. Tender, sweet fruits can be harvested when full grown or when newly formed with the flower still attached. The high-yield plants produce an abundance of male flowers, which are needed for pollination but will not fruit. Be sure to harvest some of them—they're tasty fried. Available from HPSSeed.com; $9.95 for 100 seeds.
'PeppiGrande Red' Pepper
When you roast a 'PeppiGrande Red' pepper, you'll never have to bother scraping out the seeds. That's because it's the first seedless roasting pepper, and it's just as good grilled as it is stuffed and baked. One caveat, though: If it's planted close to other seeded peppers in the garden, 'PeppiGrande Red' will develop a few seeds as a result of cross pollination. If you want to harvest only seedless fruits, grow your new peppers an ample distance from other peppers. Available from burpee.com; $5.95 for 10 seeds, or $18.95 for three plants .
'Royal Purple' Radish
Like perfect purple Easter eggs, these sweet, mild radishes take just 33 days to develop from seed. Radishes are among the easiest vegetables to direct sow, especially for impatient new gardeners eager for a fast and delicious return on their investment. Available from burpee.com; $4.95 for 1,000 seeds.
'Green Light' Cucumber
A 2020 AAS national winner, 'Green Light' produces an average of 40 fruits per plant; plants can be grown on poles or stakes. Pick these mini cucumbers when they're three to four inches long, and eat them skin and all—they’re that tender. Excellent disease resistance, quick maturity, and superior mild flavor make this a perfect snacker. Available from ParkSeed.com; $3.95 for 20 seeds.
'Royal Snap II' Pea
Two-foot-tall vines produce an abundance of three-inch-long deep purple pods that are edible and strikingly ornamental. The rich color elevates the traditional snap pea to a whole new level. Sow these seeds directly in the garden in early spring when the soil can be worked to jump-start the growing season. Available from johnnyseeds.com; $6.71 for one-half pound of seeds.
'Blue Prince' Pumpkin
Use these powder blue beauties in your fall table centerpiece then bake the flesh for a savory and sweet side dish. 'Blue Prince' was named a 2020 AAS winner for its high yield (seven to nine fruits per plant), early ripening and flowering (perfect for regions with shorter growing seasons), and disease resistance. Fruits mature in approximately 110 days from seed on five-foot vines. Check your local garden center for availability.
'Mini Love' Watermelons
Just as happy in a large container as in the garden, 'Mini Love' watermelon is the perfect personal-size fruit. Compact vines produce early bearing striped fruits with crack-resistant skin. You won’t find many seeds in this melon, but you will have plenty of rich red flesh that's sure to send juice dripping down your chin. Available from johnnyseeds.com; $16.43 for 50 seeds.
'Tip Top Rose' Nasturtium
A floriferous compact plant, 'Tip Top Rose' nasturtium is an ideal mounded edging plant that wears many hats. It’s ornamental, totally edible, and a pollinator magnet. What’s not to love? Its rose-colored flowers never fade, and the plant maintains a uniform shape throughout the growing season. Check your local garden center for availability.
'Purple Crush' Cauliflower
Dome-shaped purple heads full of rich, nutty flavor are the hallmarks of this new cauliflower variety. Plant 'Purple Crush' in early spring and midsummer for continuous autumn harvest. A versatile cruciferous vegetable, it’s delicious raw, steamed, or roasted. Available from reneesgarden.com; $3.29 per packet (approx. 45 seeds).
This new everbearing strawberry produces approximately a pound of fruit on an eight-inch-tall plant from June to October. Despite having a slightly smaller fruit compared with other everbearing varieties, 'Wasatch' is equally as sweet, but it edges the others out on yield, vigor, and aesthetics. Available from onegreenworld.com; $19.95 for 25 bare-root plants.
Many leafy green vegetables have a tendency to bolt, or go to seed, pretty fast when warm weather arrives. Unlike the others, 'Lizard' spinach is slow to bolt, which means you can harvest spinach longer. The high-yield compact plants produce thick green leaves and boast excellent regrowth and disease resistance. Available from johnnyseeds.com; $5.95 for 5,000 seeds.
'Dazzling Blue' Kale
Bright purple veining running through puckered, blue-green leaves qualifies this kale as both ornamental and edible. 'Dazzling Blue' is an excellent choice for cold climate gardeners and anyone fond of dinosaur kale. With excellent flavor and tender leaves, this kale is equally good in salads or smoothies. Available from uprisingorganics.com; $3.50 per packet (approx. 240 seeds).
Plant Something New
Why not try a few of these vegetable varieties in your garden along with some of your old favorites?
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