by Terry Kramer
Each year, according to the National Garden Association, more than 100 new varieties of vegetables are introduced to the gardening public. In a typical seed catalog, like Burpee, for instance, you might find 25 varieties of tomatoes, a dozen different kinds of peas, 15 types of corn and an avalanche of salad greens.
So the dilemma for some vegetable gardeners is determining which varieties to choose. For instance, what variety of corn grows best on the foggy coast or inland where it is warmer and drier.
One reliable way to determine which vegetables grow well in your garden is to consult the North Coast truck farmers, folks who grow produce for a living. They know what grows best.
In Shively, where it is warm and sunny during the growing season, Beth Dunlap of Paradise Flat Farm, grows tomatoes, corn and zucchini, to name a few. For inland gardeners who like tomatoes, she suggests trying Big Girl.
"It tastes like a beefsteak," she says, "but it doesn't crack or get lobes. It is a real good tomato."
Dunlap grows Kandy and Miracle corn on her farm.
"I really like Miracle. It has been consistent for me. It is able to tolerate different weather conditions. And it seems to be able to be dry-farmed, so it is a good drought-tolerant variety. It produces large ears and is a good strong grower. It tastes great," she says.
And if you are looking for a good yellow summer squash try Butterstick, Dunlap advises.
"It is very productive early on, and it is the last to finish producing. It has nice quality fruit for a long period of time," she says. All of Dunlap's suggested varieties are offered by Burpee Seed Co.
Gardeners who live adjacent to the coast, where it is often both foggy and windy during the summer, shouldn't have any trouble growing vegetables if they choose the cultivars suggested by Jackie Sherman of J and J Produce. Due to cool, wet spring weather, she says planting comes late at her Mad River Bottoms farm. So she chooses vegetables that have a short, prolific growing season.
Growing corn is not a problem for her.
"Kandy corn is a good short-season corn. Our growing season is so short because it is so wet out here. Honey Pearl is a good white/yellow corn. It is really sweet and grows small, doesn't get real tall," Sherman says.
She also has success growing wax beans, crops that definitely need a bit of warmth during the growing season. She creates a warm microclimate to accomplish this. "First we plant the corn, and then behind the rows of corn we plant the beans. The rows of corn act as wind protection," Sherman says.
For zucchini she grows a variety called Rich Green. She also grows an old-fashioned English shelling pea named Sweet Pea.
"Peas grow best in gardens next to the ocean, especially if they have protection from the wind," she says. Sherman buys all of her seed from Burpee. "They have good quality seed. And if you have a crop failure, they refund fully," she says.
Coastal gardeners can always depend on growing bountiful crops of salad greens almost all year long, according to Kathy Dolinajec from Jacoby Creek Farms in Bayside.
"You can grow lettuce all year long here, as long as you keep it well watered during the summer," she says. "We grow Prize Head and Grand Rapid leaf lettuce. They are long lasting. they don't all bolt (go to flower) at once.
"Green chard grows real well around here, produces real well during the winter, too," she says.
If you like potatoes, Jessica Bittner of Bayside Gardens suggests a unique potato that is yellow-meated and firm. It has an excellent flavor. The one- to four-inch fingerling potatoes have a buttery flavor. "You don't have to put butter on them."
She has a word of caution for local gardeners who grow potatoes, however: "One danger that is happening here is that there was a potato blight in our area last year. The leaves turned brown. So if you had potatoes that died last year because of brown spots on the leaves, be sure to pull up any of the volunteers that appear this year so the blight will not be spread about," she warns.
For gardeners who like snap peas, Bittner recommends a variety called Mega, available through Territorial Seed Co. She also has success growing Tristar strawberries. "It is a good standard for this area," she says.
Brad Rother of Maple Creek Farms specializes in perennial herbs on his warm inland farm. He says any varieties of oregano, sage, thyme and lavender will grow well in Humboldt County. His advice: "Don't be dependent on the hybrids."
He recommends open-pollinated vegetable plants so you can collect your own seed.
According to Rother, everything grows well in Humboldt County.
"It is really a temperate climate. I can't think of anything that doesn't do well here. Compared to Iowa (this time of year), this place is paradise. We are really fortunate where we live," he says.
Terry Kramer is a Bayside free-lance writer and the owner of Jacoby Creek Nursery.
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