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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Cosmos

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.

Two 4-inch tapered sweet peppers, Aura in golden yellow and Glow in bright orange, were produced to go along with longtime favorite Lipstick.

Johnny’s also has introduced a couple of interesting flowering plants.

Red Flame Celosia has vibrant dark red flowers with burgundy stems and foliage, growing up to 31 inches long, with 2- to 4-inch blossoms that last well as a cut flower.

The Profusion series of zinnias in double deep salmon, double fire, double hot cherry and double yellow are said to provide carefree color all summer long, are self-cleaning and have unmatched disease resistance.

Pinetree Garden Seeds in New Gloucester offers Swing, an f1 hybrid cucumber with all female flowers, which means more fruit, producing crisp, 8- to 10-inch, slightly spined cukes with a non-bitter taste.

I had never thought of growing lentils, an ancient plant but new to the Pinetree catalog. They germinate in 10 to 15 days, and you can let them grow all year and use them dry or harvest green and use them like snap beans.

Nicotiana Marshmallow sounds interesting in that each flower on the plant fades, giving the effect of three colors – rosy red, pink and white – on each plants. It grows to 4 feet on wiry stalks.

Pinetree also has Serengeti bean – also listed new this year by Vermont Bean Seed Co. – that grows on strong upright plants, and has long and uniform pods.

Vermont Beans says, however, that another bean introduction called Cantare is one of the easiest bush snap beans for the home gardener, producing beans that are good fresh, frozen or canned.

Burpee has introduced a tomato called Baby Boomer – perhaps recognizing that those who are getting older are doing more container gardening. This is a determinate plant, and that one plant on a patio is supposed to produce 300 1-inch fruit, and keep producing until it is hit by frost.

Burpee also has a Ms. Mars sunflower that has flowers, leaves and stems that are all a light purple.

A little bit like Johnny’s Shiraz, Cook’s Garden has a purple-podded shelling pea – with green, not purple peas. You can eat them shell and all if picked young.

These are just the highlights for me from a full day perusing the catalogs. I might find more when I get down to figuring out what to order. And you might be interested in totally different things. Curl up on the couch soon and check out your catalogs.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

tomatwell@me.com

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Additional Photos

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Elderberry blooms.

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Elderberry fruit.

 


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