Issue: February 2002

Use Garden Catalogs to Select Vegetable Prices

Robust yields and quality vegetables depend on the seed gardeners select for planting before the growing season begins, making February a great time to thumb through the latest vegetable seed catalogs.

Catalogs are fun and educational. Glossy pictures of traditional and exotic vegetables help gardeners visualize their goals for the spring and summer garden. Information on crop maturity ratings, sizes and types of vegetables also helps to determine planting dates, distance between rows, and how to rotate crops to discourage diseases and pests in the garden.

When selecting vegetable varieties, look for high-quality seed from reputable companies, and choose All-American selections that have performed well in national variety trials. If possible, choose varieties with built-in disease resistance or tolerance. For example, if a tomato variety includes the letters VFN, it means the variety is resistant or tolerant to Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and Root-knot nematodes.

When choosing corn, remember not to plant regular sweets next to super sweet varieties. Pollen from regular sweet corn will cause super sweets to taste starchy. Isolate super sweet corn from other corns, either by distance or maturity dates to prevent cross-pollination.

If establishing a new asparagus bed, look for all-male varieties like 'Jersey Giant' or 'Jersey Knight' that outproduce more traditional varieties like 'Mary Washington'. Traditional varieties produce both male and female plants, but females send up seed stalks that make the overall variety less productive.

If planting hybrid varieties, "hybrid vigor" will generally increase yields. But never save the seed off these varieties for planting next year. Genetic material in the seed will segregate the second year and varieties will not produce true-to-type.

Some gardeners prefer "heirloom" vegetables, or varieties grown by our forefathers. The old-fashioned varieties are often tastier and easier to care for. Most are open-pollinated varieties that offer a great selection of sizes, shapes, colors and flavors.

As for potatoes, try planting something different this year, like yellow-fleshed 'Yukon Gold' or 'All Red', which has red skin and pink flesh. 'All Blue' will also excite the kids with its blue-to-purple flesh and skin.

Trying new varieties is fun, but it's wise to compare them with favorites that have performed well in the garden. Keep a notebook on performance of new varieties to refer to next year when buying more seed.

Also, consult the newly published Extension Circular 572, Vegetable Variety Recommendations for New Mexico Backyard and Market Gardens. It contains lists of varieties recommended by master gardeners and researchers throughout the state. To obtain Circular 572 and view more gardening information, visit New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service publications world wide web site at

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For more gardening information, visit New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service publications world wide web site at

George W. Dickerson, Ph.D., is is a horticulturist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

Also Please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly garden program made for gardeners in the Southwest on: KNME-TV Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, KENW-TV Portales at 10 a.m. Saturdays, and KRWG-TV Las Cruces at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays (repeated at 1 p.m. Thursdays.)