Monthly Archives: February 2017

New Vegetables for planting in 2017

Each year the best of the new annual flowers and vegetables are judged nationwide, and the winners given the All-America Selections (AAS) designation.   To be an AAS winner, plants must show improvements over any similar existing cultivars (cultivated varieties).  This year’s vegetable winners include a mustard, onion, two sweet peppers, a pumpkin, radish, two tomatoes, and even a strawberry.

In the past, the winners were only those that were deemed worthy across most of North America.  While there are still these “national” winners, there are now regional winners as well—those performing best in a particular region.  This doesn’t mean that they won’t grow and produce acceptably in other regions too.

Japanese Red Kingdom mustard was a national winner, being an F1 hybrid (a cross of two specific parents).  It is the first mizuna type, or Japanese, mustard AAS winner, and has attractive reddish-purple leaves in addition.  It has higher yields than some other mizunas, is less likely to “bolt” (make flower stalks), has a mild flavorful taste, and the leaves make it good too as an ornamental.  It only needs three to five weeks from sowing until harvest.  Mizuna greens are used in Asian cooking, such as stir fry, or in hot dishes such as to flavor potatoes.

Bunching Warrior onion is a bunching or green scallion type, good grilled or to add texture and flavor to salads and many kinds of recipes.  It is reported to last longer, if left in the ground, than other similar onions.  This is a regional winner, needing about 60 days from sowing until harvest.  If sowing seeds indoors, figure on about a month to harvest from transplanting.

Cornito Giallo is a sweet Italian frying pepper, a cone or horn shape, and bright yellow when left to mature.  From transplanting outside, figure on about 75 days to harvesting.  It is prolific, and can have two dozen or more fruits per plant.  Judges reported this national winning pepper to have an outstanding flavor either raw, cooked, or fire-roasted.

Escamillo is another sweet frying horned-type pepper and, like the other winning pepper, is a national winner, an F1 hybrid, and bred by Johnny’s Seeds of Maine.  Its fruits, when mature, are a golden yellow.  Figure on about the same time to harvest as the other pepper, and similar uses.

Super Moon pumpkin is an F1 hybrid and regional winner.  As you might guess from its name, it is white when mature– the first white pumpkin to be an AAS winner.  Fruits can get large—up to 50 pounds—although they are usually 25 to 30 pounds.  The plant is disease resistant.  Figure on about 90 days to harvest from sowing seeds.

Sweet Baby radish, too, is an F1 hybrid and regional winner.  Fruits (roots) are an elongated egg shape (“obovate”).  On the outside they mature purplish, and on the inside mostly white with purple streaks.  Their taste is described as crispy, crunchy, and slightly spicy.  Days to harvest from sowing seeds is 40 to 45 days.  Make successive sowings every two to three weeks if you want to harvest through the season.

Candyland Red tomato is a national winner, and the only currant-type winner ever.  This type has smaller fruits than cherry tomatoes. Fruit are dark red and sweet, maturing about 95 days from sowing seeds, or about 55 days from transplanting seedling plants that you started indoors about six weeks earlier.  Fruit are only about one-half inch wide and weight about one-quarter ounce.  Vines are indeterminate (keep growing from the tips) so can reach five feet or more, and need suitable staking.  This makes them more suited to ground beds than containers.

Chef’s Choice is a green tomato, a national winner, and another F1 hybrid.  Fruit are green with subtle yellow stripes, and flavor described as citrusy.  The beefstake type fruit get 6 to 7 inches wide, and can weigh 9 to 10 ounces.  It too is indeterminate so needs staking.

Strawberry Delizz is an F1 hybrid, so is grown from seeds unlike most strawberries you buy as plant offshoots.  This is a national winner, and the first strawberry AAS winner, coming from a gourmet strawberry breeding firm in Holland.  Being compact, these strawberry plants are good in containers and hanging baskets, as well as in ground beds.  Being a day-neutral type (length of day doesn’t affect their fruiting), they’ll fruit through the season.  In the north, start plants indoors a month or more before planting outside, as they need 120 days to harvest from sowing seeds, or about 60 days from transplanting outside.

You can find more All-America Selections winners, information on them, and sources, from their website (  If you’re unsure what to grow in your garden this season, or want to try some new crops or varieties, these are a good place to start.  Many won’t be available as plants locally, so plan to order seeds and enjoy sowing and growing them yourself.

Using A Water Channels Are Safe For Planting Plants

Deicing walks safely for plants, searching catalogs and online for new flowers and vegetables, and growing flamingo flowers indoors are some of the gardening activities for this month.

When deicing walks, use one of the granular products with a “chloride” other than from sodium—these are safer on plants.  They may cost a bit more, but you often can use less product.  Calcium chloride works best in the coldest areas (down to about 5 degrees F).  If below this temperature, don’t use any chemical product but rather sand instead for traction.  To save on cost and dilute the salt too, mix it with a large portion of coarse kitty litter.  Liquid products don’t track into buildings as granular ones often do.  Apply any material before ice and snow, if possible, for best results.

If you are clearing your driveway with a snow blower this winter, direct the snow away from plants. Otherwise, the blowing ice crystals may damage the tender bark of young trees and shrubs. This isn’t as much of a concern for plants wrapped with burlap.

A great winter pastime for gardeners is spending hours with seed and plant catalogs, or at such firms online.  Make sure if choosing fruit plants that they are suited for your region and hardiness zone.  Make sure if choosing vegetables that the varieties fit your growing season.  Catalogs generally will list how many days from sowing, or transplanting (read the fine print to find out which applies) until harvest.  If you’re in an area with cooler summers and short growing seasons, look for varieties having the fewest days to harvest.

Look for All-America Selections winning flowers and vegetables to try.  These are the best of the new seed-grown varieties, and you’ll often need to start the newest ones from seeds yourself in order to have them.  A couple of new 2016 winning vegetables are Chef’s Choice green tomato, and Candyland red tomato.  The latter is a currant-type tomato, meaning fruit are even smaller than cherry tomatoes.  Other winning vegetables to check out are Sweet Baby radish, Super Moon (of course white) pumpkin, Japanese Red Kingdom mustard, Bunching Warrior onion, and two golden-yellow frying peppers.

New flower winners for 2016 in the All-America Selections program include Brocade Cherry Night geranium, with large cherry-pink semi-double blooms; Brocade Cherry Fire also has semi-double blooms only in orange, and with tri-colored leaves; and Summer Jewel Lavender salvia is the fourth winning color in this series of upright flowering sages.

Flamingo flower often just goes by its scientific name of anthurium (say an-THUR-ee-um).  This is an easy houseplant tolerating low light, only with fewer if any flowers there.  Ideal is bright, indirect light.  Too much direct sun and the leaves may get bleached out or “burn”.  They like a moist soil, but not wet.  If in doubt, don’t water.  Generally red and heart-shaped, the flowers are a good fit for Valentine’s Day.  Actually, these “flowers” are modified leaves called “spathes”.  The “spadix” or central column has the real, but inconspicuous, flowers.

Other gardening activities for this month include bringing any potted spring bulbs that you’re forcing from cold  into warmth, cleaning bird feeders and heated bird baths, checking seed starting supplies, sharpening pruning tools, sowing begonias and onions (and their relatives) indoors, and buying some Valentine flowers for special people in your life.


Visiting local greenhouses and transporting holiday plants home safely, cleaning and storing hand tools, and removing snow from shrubs are some of the garden-related activities for this month.

Try to visit a local greenhouse, as the sight of so many plants all in bloom is sure to lift the spirits on a cloudy and cold day.  If you’re buying holiday plants anywhere, make sure to protect them on the way home with a paper “sleeve” or bag, especially poinsettias which are quite sensitive to cold.  Once home, keep plants away from drafts and heat sources, and don’t overwater.  Make sure if foil is around the pot that there is a hole for water to drain, and that the pot is in a saucer if on furniture.

In addition to the popular poinsettias, other holiday plants you might look for are cyclamen, azaleas, and kalanchoe (best said as “cal-AN-cho).  None of these plants, including poinsettias, like to be too wet.  Cyclamen and azaleas last better slightly cooler, while kalanchoe and poinsettias prefer slightly warmer (65 to 70 degrees F).  Amaryllis is a bulb you can buy potted, in bloom, or just as a bulb or bulb kit to give as a gift.  They are easy to grow, and should bloom within a couple months from planting, depending on variety.

Wipe hand tools clean after use and before storing them for winter. Any moist soil left on the blades can encourage rust, and dirt can dull pruner blades.  Also wipe wooden handles with linseed oil to keep them from splitting due to dryness. Before putting tools away or forgetting them for winter, sharpen the blades.  You can find files for this online and in garden stores.

Don’t walk on frozen grass, especially if you don’t have snow cover on your lawn. Without the protection of snow, grass blades are easily broken, causing dieback in your lawn that will show up next spring.  Similarly, try not to drive or park on lawns, otherwise you’ll be looking at the tire tracks long into next season.

Snowfalls can be tough on trees and shrubs by weighing down the branches, as many in northern areas find each year with heavy snowfalls. Gently brush off most of the snow with a broom or by hand. Don’t use a shovel, which can injure the branches. If there is ice buildup, it’s best to let it melt because it’s easy to break off the brittle branches if you try to remove it.  If plants are under roof eaves, protect them from falling ice and snow with tee-pee shelters.

If you have friends or family that like to garden, think of gardening gifts for holiday presents.  Books, gloves, hand tools, weather instruments, and fancy pots are some ideas to consider.  This year, instead of giving baskets with local and homemade food items, we’ll be giving decorative colorful pots filled with these.  If you can’t decide, how about a coupon for so many hours of help in the garden, or even a gift certificate to a local garden or book store?

Other garden-related activities for this month include visiting a local farm to cut a Christmas tree or to buy greens for decorating, checking holiday indoor trees daily for water needs to keep them long-lasting and safe, mulching tender perennials (if you haven’t already) once the ground is frozen, keeping bird feeders filled and heated birdbaths cleaned regularly, and checking houseplants weekly for pests. Making holiday decorations from natural materials can be as simple as adding your favorite decorations from craft stores to undecorated wreaths, roping, kissing balls, or door swags.

10 nice and healthy plants

1. Begonia

Begonias are slow and tricky to raise from seed andBegonia tubers can be expensive if you have lots of space to fill. Begonia plug plants are an easy and economical way of growing Begonias and will quickly fill your containers and baskets with colour! Smaller plug plants are best potted up and grown on but jumbo plugs or garden-ready plug plants can be planted straight into their final containers after all risk of frost has passed. Begonia plants are a fantastic addition to beds, borders, baskets, Flower Pouches® and just about any patio container you can think of! Producing a long-lasting display of bright and showy flowers, Begonia plants keep going until the first frosts.

2. Petunia

Petunias can be fiddly to raise from seed but Petunia plug plants are easy to grow on, giving a rewarding display in beds, containers, hanging baskets and Flower Pouches®. Trailing Petunia plants such as the Surfinia varieties are our most popular, but there are plenty of other unusual and eye-catching varieties available! These half-hardy annuals look spectacular spilling from hanging baskets and containers, or massed in flower beds where they will keep going all summer long until the first frosts.

3. Fuchsia

Fuchsias are an essential addition to summer hanging baskets and containers, and some varieties are hardy so can be enjoyed year after year. Fuchsia plants can be raised from cuttings but require over-wintering, taking time and space to look after. For quick results, Fuchsia plug plants are a much easier alternative and trailing Fuchsias can be planted straight into hanging baskets and containers without the need for potting up first. With trailing, climbing and upright varieties available in a mixture of colours, Fuchsias are a fantastic and easy-to-grow addition to beds, borders, hanging baskets, containers and Flower Pouches®.

4. Dianthus

Dianthus plants, also known as carnations, pinks and sweet Williams, can take a year to flower from seed so for quick and instant results try Dianthus plug plants. Once potted up, Dianthus plugs will quickly start to flower and will come back year after year! These hardy perennials and biennials are cottage garden essentials and perfect for the front of sunny borders where they add a profusion of colour and sweet fragrance. Dianthus flowers are also superb for cutting, lasting many weeks in a vase.

5. Geranium (Pelargonium)

Geranium plants are slow to grow from seed, requiring an early start and many months of nurturing to reach flowering size. As with Fuchsias, Geranium cuttings require over-wintering which takes up lots of space and time. Geranium plug plants are a much easier alternative – their strong growth will quickly fill out beds, hanging baskets and patio containers with clear, vibrant colour. With a range to choose from, including trailing, climbing, upright and unique rosebud varieties you’re sure to find a Pelargonium plant to suit your garden!

6. Pansy

Pansy plants and violas, their smaller relatives, give months of pleasure in beds, borders and containers. Winter-flowering pansies inject a welcome splash of colour when most other plants are dormant, making an invaluable addition to autumn, winter and spring container displays. Save yourself the hassle of growing pansies from seed and try growing pansy plug plants for a quick and easy display!