The garden catalogs are coming thick and fast this time of year. There may be no better way to beat the winter blues than to thumb through these catalogs and start planning this year’s garden (it will be time to start seeds before you know it). While making plans for this year’s garden, take some time to review your notes from last year. What varieties and cultivars did you grow last year? What produced well, what didn’t? What tasted good, what didn’t? Keep this information in mind as you start thinking of things to plant for this year.
If you’re in the market for something new this year, some plants to consider would be the All-American Selections Winners. All-American Selections (AAS) is an independent, non-profit organization that trials new, unreleased plant varieties at different trial sites across the U.S. and Canada. Independent judges compare entries to plants that have already been introduced and evaluate these new plants on a number of different qualities. After the trials, the top garden performers are given the AAS Winner award designation for their superior performance. For 2020 there were nine national winners (six vegetable and three flower):
Cucumber Green Light F1 is a great tasting mini cucumber that will produce 40 or more 3-5 inch spineless fruits that mature earlier than comparison varieties. These plants trellis well so they can be grown on stakes or poles for easy harvest.
Pumpkin Blue Prince F1 is an early maturing edible pumpkin that can also be used as an ornamental. Plants will produce seven to nine blue flattened pumpkins on vigorous vines. The flesh of these pumpkins is non-stringy, deep orange with a smooth, creamy texture.
Tomato Apple Yellow F1 is a prolific plant, producing up to 1,000 bright yellow apple-shaped fruit. The plants are indeterminate, reaching up to six feet tall. The fruit are long-holding on the vine and are delicious with a good sweet/acid ratio and firm flesh.
Tomato Celano F1 is a patio type grape tomato with a strong bushy habit that produces sweet oblong fruits. These plants have excellent late blight resistant and are ideal for growing in pots due to their smaller size, although they do best with some support.
Tomato Early Resilience F1 is a Roma tomato that is ideal for canning and cooking. These determinate, bushy plants grow to about two feet tall. They have good resistance to blossom end rot as well as several other diseases.
Watermelon Mambo F1 produces three to four round melons with dark green rinds and deep red flesh per plant. Fruit weigh about 11 pounds and hold well, meaning they won’t overripen if you can’t harvest them right away.
Coleus Main Street Beale Street is the first coleus to be named an AAS Winner. Plants have deep red foliage and hold their color well, even into late summer. These bushy plants grow uniformly and don’t flower until very late in the season – up to 6 weeks later than the comparisons. They can be successfully grown from full sun to full shade.
Echinacea Sombrero® Baja Burgundy produces vibrant, deep violet-red blossoms that are perfect for cut flowers. These plants bloom from mid-summer until frost and were noted for their hardiness, sturdy branching, and floriferous blooming habit.
Rudbeckia x American Gold Rush produces golden-yellow flowers with black centers and arched petals from July through September. They were bred for resistance to Septoria leaf spot and showed no signs of the fungus even in wet, humid conditions.
Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just starting, make sure to check out these and other AAS winners. To see a list of all of the winners dating back to 1934, visit the All-American Selections website at: all-americaselections.org.
Good Growing Fact of the Week: All-America Selections tests new varieties every year at over 80 private and public trial sites located around the United States and Canada. Currently, there are five trial locations in Illinois (three northern, one central, one southern).
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Cucumber Green Light F1, Pumpkin Blue Prince F1, Tomato Apple Yellow F1, Tomato Celano F1, Tomato Early Resilience F1, Watermelon Mambo F1, Coleus Main Street Beale Street, Echinacea Sombrero® Baja Burgundy, and Rudbeckia x American Gold Rush photos courtesy of All-America Selections.