January 12

Maine Gardener: Grab the catalogs and start planning

Gardeners, it's time to use that fertile imagination.

Once the holiday is over, it is time to peruse your gardening catalogs. It can take a while, because our gardening-catalog stack is almost a foot tall.

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Photos courtesy of Fedco

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Snow peas.

Additional Photos Below

With Fedco, at least, don’t peruse too long. Friday is the deadline to get volume discount from that Waterville co-op’s tree catalog, and the final ordering deadline is March 7.

Fedco is different in other ways. While many catalogs promote their offerings with full-color spreads over several pages, you have to search for the new plants with Fedco.

The company introduces two new elderberry (Sambuca) plants this year. Now, elderberries don’t have the glamour of tomatoes and were used more by your grandmother’s generation, but they are making a comeback, both for their flavor and their health benefits. Both of the introductions are seedlings taken from wild Maine stands rather than the work of hybridizers.

Meadowview has the higher profile of the two elderberries. It was propagated by Polly Shyka and Prentice Grassi of Freedom from a patch in Orrington that has been harvested by Deb Soule of Avena Botanicals for 15 years. Shrubs average 5 feet tall and fruit heavily.

Mattawamkeag was offered by Mitch Lansky of Wytopitlock comes from “cuttings taken from plants that were robust with consistently high fruit yields.”

Similarly, Fedco is offering a new black walnut tree. These trees get 90 feet tall, so not everyone will have room. But it would be nice to produce good nuts in the backyard.

Thor-Nox Black Walnut seedlings come from a parent tree planted 30 years ago at Thor Nox farm in Waldo County as a seedling of a Maine tree. It “produces an abundance of flavorful nuts every year and has self sown nut-bearing offspring that possess qualities very similar to the parent.”

I liked a few other new plants from Fedco.

A longtime goal has been to produce great watermelon from our garden. Diana hybrid might be the answer. “She bested past favorite Golden Crown and AAS winner Faerie easily” producing 4-pound oval melons having light skin with bright yellow stripes

“The crunchy texture and complex flavor of her sweet red flesh, unmarred by the small sparse seeds won over the warehouse staff.” It produced six fruits from two hills in what was a poor melon year.

Slick Pik is a new yellow summer squash from Brent Loy at the University of New Hampshire, producing slim, glossy 8-inch fruit that resists cucumber and squash beetle and was the last to succumb to wilt.

We ate a lot of Caesar salads last year, but we have not had luck growing romaine lettuce. Pandero, a mini-romaine that produces baby romaine in 44 days – 66 days for mature plants – might be the answer. It develops color early and keeps it, is both heat and cold tolerant and does well despite last year’s wet spring.

The Rose BonBon Double Click cosmos sounds great for a flowering plant, producing “luxuriant fluffy semi-double to fully double rose-colored blooms” that are absolutely spellbinding.

From Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, the Shiraz snow pea stood out. It produces 3-inch-long beautiful purple pods. It’s best harvested promptly because larger pods are somewhat bitter, and it is best used raw or slightly sauteed to maintain color.

Johnny’s recognizes that people like baby vegetables. Babybeet is a small, fully developed round beet, while Adelaide are true baby carrots, maturing with a blunt tip at 3 to 4 inches long.

A dark green 8-inch slicing cucumber with the romantic name SV4719CS has the best resistance to downy mildew. Yellowfin is an organic yellow zucchini that has great resistance to powdery mildew.

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Additional Photos

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Elderberry blooms.

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Elderberry fruit.


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