There's a REASON why some varieties are popular!

It seems with each garden, there’s new things to learn. With this latest ‘Apocalypse’ garden in this Time of Covid, I’ve learned that there is a huge reason why some varieties are much more popular than others.

Usually, for the gardens here, the first criteria for seed selection is if they are Open Pollinated and/or heirloom. That allows for seeds to be saved for the next season’s garden and the seeds are from the plants that produced the best in our specific garden climate.

The next selectors are variety of plant as well as growth habit. That would be beans and either pole or bush. Tomatoes and either determinant or indeterminate, etc.

The third selector criteria is taste. If there’s no mention of tasting good in the seed description, I’ll generally just pass it by.

Now, here’s the one that has just been brought to my attention that I think I’ve been choosing the wrong seeds. Generally, I try to grow varieties I’ve not grown before and I’ve lately been selecting ones I’ve not even heard of before. I now think this is a mistake since if they were the best varieties, then they’d be much more popular. This, of course, is only applicable to older varieties which are still obscure, if it’s a new variety, then it wouldn’t fit this possible ‘lemon’ classification. (Which really isn’t fair to lemons, come to think of it.)

I’d planted ‘True Gold’ corn and it did grow well as advertised. Many of the stalks had two ears, also as advertised. The taste wasn’t exactly as advertised, although perhaps I’d made assumptions about ‘good old fashioned corn taste’ as being sweeter than what appeared. It was, let’s be polite and call it a ‘butter’ corn. It also got really starchy as it aged, the younger ears were tasty although not sweet, any much more mature than ‘younger’ and it got to be very starchy. Even though I’d saved seeds, they won’t be planted again. Now that the garden has been replanted, the two varieties of sweet corn planted are from the U of H.

Another disappointment in seed selection from the Apocalypse garden was in the choice of watermelon. I’d never heard of a variety called ‘Strawberry’ before and now I know why. It did grow and produce watermelons. Picked dead ripe, they weren’t as sweet as had been hoped, the white seeds were huge - almost gourd like - and the flesh of the melon was coarse with almost woody veins running through it. So, watermelon variety choices will go back to more usual selections. The last good ones that have been grown here were ‘Charleston Gray’, but that’s one of many possible choices that are well known.

‘Greasy Grits’ green/soup pole beans were planted. They had a slightly odd taste as green beans, had a smaller bean as a soup bean and made an okay soup, but not one worth growing the beans for. I’ll replant ‘Good Mother Stallard’ beans or ‘Golden Eye’ beans, those make a much more worthy soup.

Have you had good luck with seed choices? Any obscure varieties which turned out well?

If I were growing an apocalypse garden I would first of all plant perennial fruits, nuts & veggies. Then I would plant popular, well established hybrids simply because of hybrid vigor. The popular ones tell us that they taste good & produce well, sometimes way earlier than heirloom varieties, with enhanced pest & disease resistance. That’s a win-win situation. I would save my heirloom seeds for the second year garden, after ‘hopefully’ doing well with the hybrids.

When I window shop seed catalogs I pay special attention to the taste description of each cultivar. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed on buying any green bean seeds for beans described as ‘sweet’… Green beans have no business being sweet… As far as sweet corn is concerned, I dislike the super sweet varieties. It may be because I grew up in an era before super sweet corn was bred. I like sweet corn to be savory or no more than mildly sweet. I slather mine with butter then sprinkle it with salt & pepper. I like it roasted as well as boiled.

The whole point of an apocalypse garden is to have food growing when you need it most. I wouldn’t snub hybrids just because they won’t reproduce true to type from seed. If they get you past that first hurdle, they’re a worthy part of your gardening strategy & have done the job they were bred to do.

Oh dear, I’ve given the wrong impression with the ‘apocalypse’ name. We named it that because that garden was started during the beginning of the Time of Covid, not necessarily because we were in dire straits. But, it’s still good to have gardening advice for when things get wonky.

Have you found hybrid seeds to be significantly better than heirlooms as far as disease resistance and production go? I usually get the heirlooms and OP seeds because I try to only spend about $20 on seeds each year. If I save seeds from prior harvests, then I can try new varieties.

I think you may like the ‘True Gold’ corn and the ‘Greasy Grits’ beans! Maybe I just need better tastebuds instead of different seeds.

We have a lot of perennials and fruit/nut trees, but they’re not in the garden, they’re part of the landscaping. The garden also doesn’t have to produce a whole lot at any particular time. We pretty much garden year round so something that will produce a little bit over a long time works a treat for us. Folks who save and preserve crops usually prefer the production to be all at one time, don’t they?