These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.
Choose Vegetable Seeds Wisely
January 4, 2001
Garden catalogs have started to arrive. With all the snow and cold, it is easy to get carried away and start ordering lots of vegetable seed for the 2001 season. Success in vegetable gardening starts with wise planing, however.
No matter how good the vegetables look in the catalogs, they must have good growing conditions to produce in your garden. One of the critical elements is adequate sunlight. Vegetables need sun to grow and produce! Gardens should be as far from shade as possible. Pruning trees will help to some degree, but you can only do so much.
Good soils are also essential. Many gardens have clay and poor soil drainage, which makes growing vegetables difficult. Organic matter such as compost, quality topsoil, peat, or rotted manure can be added to help improve soils. Raised beds are another way to grow vegetables in areas with poor soils.
When looking at the catalogs, there are key features to consider when choosing vegetable varieties that have a big impact on the success of your garden. Produce quality, length of time until harvest, produce size, size of the plant, and pest resistance are among them.
For example, disease resistance should be a major consideration when choosing varieties of certain vegetables. Disease resistant and disease tolerant varieties can still produce a crop even though diseases may be present. While the plants are not necessarily immune to disease, yields of these varieties will be better than a susceptible variety.
Tomatoes are a good example; look for varieties with resistance to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, and root knot nematode. This is what the abbreviations VFN or VF stand for when listed after a tomato variety. Other diseases of note to look for resistance to include fusarium wilt of melons, scab of potato, mosaic virus and scab of cucumber, black rot of cabbage, and mosaic virus of pepper.
Length of time until harvest is another factor to look for in choosing varieties. Crops that are listed to take over 100 days until harvest may be a problem in northern Illinois, especially in cooler years.
Finally, if space is limited in the garden, look for compact or bush varieties of vegetables that traditionally take lots of garden space. Included in these space-saving varieties are melons, cucumber, squash, gourds, and pumpkins.