There are basically three kinds of gardeners. There are the learners just testing their soil prowess for the first time, seasoned gardeners who can make anything grow, and a large group in between who may have some experience and some expertise but still have a lot to learn.
There may be three kinds of gardeners, but there are many more reasons for taking up the hobby. Some approach it with teeth bared and an I-must-plantbecause- it-is-our-family-tradition approach. Others just love the flavor of fresh, homegrown vegetables. For some people, gardening is all about the process. For them it is about getting out into the sunshine, getting their hands dirty and watching the new little plants take hold and grow.
A passionate gardener embodies all of these characteristics. They find out what is new and try some new varieties with the old ones. They often grow some All-America Selections plant varieties. These are plants with promise that have been tested using a network of 70 judges in over 40 trial grounds across North America to rate entries against two or three similar varieties currently on the market.
What it boils down to is these are plants that grew well in a wide range of climate and soil conditions, looked and produced better than what was already on the market, and are considered the best of their type. In essence, the plants get better and better. Vegetable gardeners have three new AAS varieties this year. Last week’s column introduced five new flower varieties.
Botanically, the seed-bearing body of a plant is called a fruit. At the dinner table, we expect fruits to be sweet. Gardeners grow both fruits and vegetables in the vegetable garden. With this as the criteria, this year’s AAS vegetable winners are all fruits botanically.
All three of the winners are botanical fruits but all fit into a traditional vegetable garden. Two are melons and the third is a tomato.
Melon ‘Melemon’ F1 Early yield is important in our growing season. This makes the 2013 AAS winner, Melon ‘Melemon’ F1 a good choice for us. Among other characteristics, it earns plaudits as an early producer, yielding fruit 70 to 80 days after transplanting or 89 to 95 days from sowing seed. The vines are typically sturdy and healthy.
That makes gardeners happy. Its additional culinary charms make everyone happy. The fruit was chosen for its outstanding superior taste. Although it tastes similar to honeydew, its flavor is a bit tangy — a unique variation. Best of all, with the right kind of storage, fruits hold for a month after harvest.
The fruits usually weigh in at about 4 1/2 pounds — small enough to qualify as personal melons and are uniform enough to be an attraction at a farmer’s market. The vine is small — extending to a plant width of about 28 inches — so it lends itself to smaller gardens or even a large pot. The rind on the fruit turns from green to chartreuse at maturity and the flesh will be light to white.
Plant the seeds in hills or place transplants about 14 inches apart in full sun after danger of frost is past. Hasten the process by planting in season extenders such as wall of waters or cover the ground with clear plastic to warm it early in the season. Its closest comparisons are Lambkin F1, Kermit F1 and Sparosa F1.
Watermelon ‘Harvest Moon’ F1 Seedless watermelons first took their place in the marketplace as a novelty. However, they aren’t always the most flavorful melons.
‘Harvest Moon’ is the first ever hybrid triploid seedless watermelon to win the AAS award. It ripens earlier, yields better and tastes better than traditional seedless melons.
It not only tastes better, but it also grows on healthy shorter vines, which produce mediumsized fruits. The flesh is crisp and pinkish-red. ‘Harvest Moon’ has a dark green rind with large and small yellow dots. Triploid melons require a pollinator plant at a ratio of three triploids to one diploid. Seeds require very warm soil to germinate. For an earlier start, it is best to start the seed indoors in very warm soil (about 90 degrees). As these melons require 100 days from transplant to maturity, early season extenders to help warm the soil would probably be a wise idea as well. Black plastic can help, but clear plastic focuses the sun on the soil and heats it better.
Plant these melons 3 to 5 feet apart in a fully sunny garden location. The elongated round fruits grow to 18 to 20 pounds. Tomato, Cherry ‘Jasper’ F1 There must be a million cherry tomatoes on the market, but some are better than others. Who needs more? Perhaps ‘Jasper’ is the answer to that question.
‘Jasper’ won its AAS designation because judges liked its texture and sweetness. These tomatoes win it for looks and disease hardiness as well. Considering that these were compared to the likes of ‘Suncherry Premium’ F1, ‘Juliet’ F1 and ‘Sweet Baby Girl’ F1, that is saying something. In gardening circles, these are well known and well liked.
The fruits of ‘Jasper’ are uniform, red, about an inch in diameter and produce bounteously. They hold their quality well after ripening both on the vine and after they are harvested. Keep in mind that these plants are evaluated for the AAS award based on superiority to other top-quality similar kinds.
The indeterminate vines are vigorous with little or no fertilization and they are highly resistant to late blight, early blight and fusarium. They are also able to overcome weather-related stresses.
Place these plants in full sun about 2 feet apart, but be prepared for tall vertical gardening because these plants grow to about 7 feet tall and about 3 feet in diameter. Like many cherry tomatoes, these produce early — about 60 days after transplanting.