Check out new garden varieties

January 18, 2013 

— Despite the cold weather and the occasional hint of snow, gardeners already are getting excited about the coming gardening season.

I’ve been checking out some of the new varieties of vegetables and flowers being introduced this year by the National Garden Bureau. The National Garden Bureau (NGB) was started in 1920 by James H. Burdett at the end of World War I. This insightful plantsman and journalist saw a need for home gardeners to learn more about basic gardening. He came up with the idea of using mass media to “create a population of gardeners.” The NGB caught on during World War II when Victory Gardens were being promoted for food production.

Today, this nonprofit organization includes members from most major national and international seed companies and functions as a marketing arm of the gardening industry. Its purpose is to “educate, inspire and motivate” gardeners by introducing new varieties of vegetables and garden flowers. Here are a few of the exciting vegetable varieties that they are introducing this year.

Are you a cucumber fan? For fresh eating, ‘Manny’ is a new gourmet quality Middle Eastern mini-cucumber with 5- to 7-inch-long fruit that have tender skin and a sweet flavor.

Manny is powdery mildew resistant and has the best yields when trellised. NGB also recommends Manny for container growing with a trellis. Manny promises reliable fruit production because it doesn’t need pollination for fruit set. Find it at www.harrisseeds.com.

If new vegetables intrigue you, take a look at Aspabroc, also known as Broccolini and Asparation. While the name implies it’s a cross between asparagus and broccoli, it’s really a cross between broccoli and kai-lan, Chinese broccoli.

This hybrid is similar to broccoli, but has smaller florets and long stems that don’t need to be peeled. Like regular broccoli, Aspabroc is a cool season vegetable that’s easy to grow and doesn’t need much space in the garden. Unfortunately, seed of Aspabroc is only sold wholesale. However, you can find seed of Atlantis Broccolini from Veseys at www.veseys.com.

I’m never sure why home gardeners try to grow sweet corn since it’s a space hog in the garden, but a new space saving sweet corn makes much more sense. ‘On Deck’ is a “container” sweet corn that grows 5 feet tall and sets two to three 8-inch bicolor ears corn per stalk. On Deck can be grown in container and raised bed gardens. The NGB suggests sowing nine seeds in a 24-inch diameter pot. Seed is available at www.burpee.com.

Do you know the weed with succulent leaves called purslane? Its now being sold as a vegetable! Purslane is reportedly rich in vitamins A and C, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. NGB is introducing ‘Golden,’ a purslane with yellow-green leaves and a “mild lemony flavor.” It’s recommended that you begin harvesting when the plants are when 3 to 4 inches tall and remove the flowers and seed pods that form so they don’t self-sow and become weedy. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to plant something so weedy in my garden, but you can find seed at www.botanicalinterests.com. It should be easy to grow.

-- Garden Note: The 2013 WSU Extension Master Gardener training program will begin Jan. 29. If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener volunteer and want to learn more about the program, call the Washington State University Extension office at 735-3551. Applications are due Jan. 24.

-- Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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