Are you an adventurous gardener or do you take the safe route?
Was Calvin Coolidge in the White House the last time you switched cucumber varieties, or do you throw caution to the wind and explore new types?
Plowing up the entire lawn for a do-it-yourself vegetable trial garden would be one way to test all the varieties that fill seed catalogs and seed racks.
Or we can try types that others have found successful.
North Dakota State University coordinates one of the nation's largest systems of home garden variety trials, with vegetables actually grown, tested and compared by more than 200 home gardeners around the region, and the information is shared in the university's yearly list of recommendations.
A note about terminology, because many of us use garden slang. Instead of transplanting our tomatoes into the garden, we 'set them out.' Likewise, when discussing vegetables, we ask "What's your favorite squash variety?" Technically, a named variety of a plant is properly called a 'cultivar,' short for cultivated variety, but many of us hesitate to ask "What cultivar of squash do you prefer?" for fear of sounding pretentious.
Following is a summary of NDSU's 2018 vegetable recommendations. In parenthesis I've added a few additional garden favorites of my own.
- Asparagus: Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, Jersey Supreme.
- Green Bean: Blue Lake 274, Crocket, Derby, Greencrop, Inspiration, Jade, Provider, Maxibel.
- Dry Bean: Arikara Yellow, Great Northern.
- Lima Bean: Fordhook 242, Eastland.
- Wax Bean: Carson, Gold Rush, Rocdor, Soleil.
- Beet: Avalanche White, Boldor, Bull's Blood, Detroit Dark Red, Early Wonder Tall Top, Merlin, Red Ace. (Sweet Dakota Bliss.)
- Broccoli: Packman. (Artwork, Bonanza.)
- Brussels Sprouts: Jade Cross E.
- Cabbage: Early Jersey Wakefield, Golden Acre, Stonehead. (Danish Ballhead, Charmant.)
- Carrot: Bolero, Caracas, Goldfinger, Hercules, Laguna, Mokum, Nelson, Scarlet Nantes, New Kuroda. (Ingot, Napoli, Sugarsnax.)
- Cauliflower: Amazing, Cheddar, Snow Crown.
- Corn: Ambrosia, Bodacious, Delectable, Luscious, Peaches and Cream, Sugar Buns, Sugar Pearl, Temptation, Allure, Honey Select. (Kandy Korn.)
- Cucumber, Pickling: Alibi, Calypso, Eureka, Homemade Pickles
- Cucumber, Slicing: Dasher II, Diva, Fanfare, General Lee, Muncher, Raider, Straight Eight, Sweet Slice, Tasty Green.
- Eggplant: Black Beauty, Dusky, Fairy Tale, Millionaire, Orient Express.
- Kale: Black Magic, Red Russian, Winterbox.
- Kohlrabi: Early White Vienna, Kossak, Winner.
- Lettuce: Bergam's Green, Deer Tongue, Red Sails, Royal Oakleaf, Salad Bowl, Slobolt, Starfighter, Tropicana, Buttercrunch, Muir, Nancy, Nevada, Crisp Mint Romaine.
- Muskmelon: Aphrodite, Athena, Goddess, Solstice, Superstar. (Delicious 51, Goldstar, Dakota Sisters.)
- Onion: Ailsa Craig, Candy, Copra, Sweet Sandwich, Walla Walla. (Dakota Tears.)
- Pea: Early Frosty, Green Arrow, Lincoln, Little Marvel, Sugar Snap, Sugar Ann. (Homesteader.)
- Potato: Dark Red Norland, Kennebec, Peter Wilcox, Yukon Gem, Yukon Gold. (Viking, Russet Norkotah, Dakota Pearl.)
- Pumpkin: Autumn Gold, Early Dakota Howden, Early Giant, Early King, Magic Lantern, Neon
- Radish: Amethyst, Bacchus, Cherry Belle, White Icicle, French Breakfast, Rover.
- Spinach: Bloomsdale Long Standing, Emperor, Melody, Olympia, Space.
- Winter Squash: Table King Acorn, Bon Bon Buttercup, Early Butternut, Sweet Mama. (Uncle David's Dakota Dessert, Gold Nugget.)
- Sweet Potato: Beauregard.
- Tomato: Cherry - Juliet, Sunsugar, Supersweet 100, Sweet Baby Girl, Yellow Pear. Slicing - Big Beef, Early Girl, Celebrity, Goliath, Mountain Fresh Plus. Paste - Roma, Viva Italia. Heirloom - Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Striped German, Wisconsin 55. (Sheyenne, Cannonball, Park's Whopper.)
- Watermelon: Early Moonbeam, Sangria, Sugar Baby, Sweet Dakota Rose, Millionaire Seedless. (Sweet Favorite, Yellow Doll.)
Local seed racks can't possibly stock everything. Seed catalogs accessible online with many of the above varieties include Prairie Road Organic Seed, Pinetree Garden Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Territorial Seeds, Jung Seeds and Baker Creek Seeds. Most orders take a week or less if placed online or by phone, so if ordered soon will arrive ahead of the May gardening season.
Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He also blogs at growingtogether.areavoices.com.