As we all plan our upcoming year’s gardens, remembering any problems from last year that could be fixed by growing a different variety of seeds can be helpful.
Example 1: Did you plant a ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’ tomato that grew so vigorously that it spilled across ten feet of garden space AFTER erupting out the top of a 6-foot tall tomato cage? If your garden is too small to comfortably accommodate that growth, you might want to select a variety this year that stays a little more in-bounds. Read the height/length information carefully. The word “vigorous”, when used to describe a plant’s growth, can be a sign that the plant could outgrow a small garden.
Example 2: Did your basil plants suffer from basil downy mildew in last year’s wet spring? According to a 2010 article in HortScience (HortScience September 2010 vol. 45 no. 9 1416-1419), this disease was first identified in Florida in 2007 and has since spread across much of the US, and all sweet basils can be affected to some degree.
A Cornell University webpage, updated in 2017, lists basil types that are less likely to be affected by the disease: “…red types (including ‘Red Leaf’ and ‘Red Rubin’), Thai basil (‘Queenette’), lemon basil (‘Lemon’, ‘Lemon Mrs. Burns’, ‘Sweet Dani Lemon Basil’), lime basil (‘Lime’), and spice types (‘Spice’, ‘Blue Spice’, ‘Blue Spice Fil’, ‘Cinnamon’)”.
If downy mildew spoiled your pesto-dreams last year, you might try switching to a resistant variety, even though the flavor will be a bit different.
My own garden has not yet been affected by basil downy mildew (that also can affect coleus and salvia), but I have seen it in other gardens nearby. I know it is in the area, so I like to be prepared. At least one of the basils that I grow this year will be from the list of resistant varieties!
When I have finalized the list of what I hope to grow this year, I will include the entire year, right through fall.
Some garden centers remove their seed-display racks before mid-summer, and catalog sources can have limited supplies of popular seed varieties. Any gardener who waits until summer to buy seeds for the fall garden could be out of luck.
More garden centers do keep their seed racks up longer than when I first started gardening, but I know that when I buy seeds sooner, like now, I can store the seed packets in sealed containers in the fridge soon after they arrive on my front porch.
Some seeds, when stored cool and dry, can be good for growing for several years. This is a real advantage to buying, or ordering, seeds for the whole year in late winter or early spring.