Whether you're a backyard gardener, a truck-crop gardener or a farm-market grower, you need to take a peek at this year's All-America vegetable crop selections. Why? You already have the public relations system working for you.
Each year, the best of new seed-grown vegetables are chosen as winners by the All-America Selections (AAS) program after growing trials across the country, explains Leonard Perry, Extension horticulturist at University of Vermont. They must represent either a totally new variety or one improved in some way.
This year's winning vegetables include a melon, watermelon and tomato. Yes, all three are categorized as vegetables. All three are F1 hybrids, meaning they're bred from particular parents.
'Melemon' melon was chosen for its superior taste to comparable melons, early fruiting, and high yields. The taste is described as like a honeydew melon, only with a pleasant tanginess, according to Perry, similar to 'Lambkin' and 'Kermit' melons.
Fruit are fairly uniform in size and a small "personal" size, about 6 inches across and 4 pounds or slightly more. The green rind turns lighter (chartreuse) when ripe, and flesh inside is beautiful white. Figure on about three months from sowing seeds to first harvest, sowing in the north about 4 weeks (mid- to late-April) before the last frost date, in peat pots. Keep seedlings warm, and after planting outside cover with hot-caps or similar to protect on cool nights. Figure on a spacing of between one and two feet apart.
'Harvest Moon', a hybrid watermelon, is similar to the heirloom 'Moon and Stars' (available in both red and yellow), only it produces healthier and shorter vines, is seedless, ripens earlier, has higher yields, and has a better taste. The medium-sized fruits have a green rind with yellow spots, and flesh inside that is sweet and pink-red. Fruit are just over a foot long, weighing 18 to 20 pounds.
Sow inside in peat pots two to three weeks before planting out in the north, and keep the soil warm (85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit). About four to five fruit will be produced per plant, about three months from sowing seeds. Figure on a plant spread, and spacing between plants, of three to five feet.
This plant is a triploid. It has three times the amount of genetic material in cells. That's what makes it seedless. But it also means you'll need another selection for pollination. If purchase it by the packet, this other selection has been mixed in. Otherwise, you'll want to plant a standard watermelon selection too, with similar flowering and maturity times, using one standard plant for each two to three of 'Harvest Moon' or other seedless triploid watermelon.
'Jasper' is a cherry-type tomato bred by Johnny's Seeds in Maine. It's similar to 'Suncherry', 'Juliet', or 'Sweet Baby Girl'. In addition to vigor, a great taste, fruit ripening over a long period, and uniform fruits, it has resistance to several diseases – early blight, late blight, and fusarium, says Perry. Deep red fruits are about 3/4-inch wide, borne in small clusters ("trusses") with hundreds of fruit produced per plant.
Figure on about 90 days from sowing seeds to first harvest, starting indoors five to six weeks before planting outside. Don't plant outside until night temperatures are above 45 degrees. Frost damages plants, and cool temperatures may result in purplish leaves from poor uptake of phosphorus, similar to all tomatoes. Space plants one to two feet apart and stake, as they are vining ("indeterminate") and will reach over two feet high.
For more details, visit the All-America Selections website, www.all-americaselections.org