There have never been as many choices for vegetable gardeners in the seed listings as there are for 2013. Heirloom or hybrid? Unusual colours or traditional ones? Organic seed or nonorganic? Container types or full-size?
Sturdily upright pea plants that don't need staking, such as "Little Marvel" are popular with small -space gardeners, though taller vines like the eight-foot (2.5-metre) "Alderman" always produce more peas per plant. A practical alternative is choosing snap peas, since people who miss harvesting the pods can just wait and harvest the peas within.
Pole beans produce more abundant and cleaner beans than dwarf beans do. It's always fun to grow beans with coloured pods. These can be yellow, purple or green. There's also "Dragon's Tongue," which is yellow with purple stripes.
Runner beans fit as well into a flower bed as they do in vegetable gardens. They have flamboyant scarlet flowers, which are a bee favourite.
Carrots are now available in an awesome range of colours: yellow, cream, purple and scarlet as well as traditional orange. "Flyaway" and "Resistafly" give some protection against the carrot rust fly. This can be increased by planting carrots later than usual.
Breeders continue to produce sweeter corns than ever before. But in cold, wet B.C. springs, the old-fashioned "Jubilee" is very reliable for timely germination and a good crop. It is now available in a super-sweet version.
Beets of various colours are now increasingly popular. "Touchstone Gold" is yellow, while "Chioggia" has pink and white alternate rings. The long, narrow roots of "Cylindra," which haul themselves out from the soil, are still the most convenient to pull and slice.
But my favourite for production is "Winterkeeper Lutz," which has big, tender roots that can go through the winter in ground if mulched. They do this more reliably if you plant them in groups, not rows, so that voles have to work harder to find them.
More blight-resistant tomatoes are being listed. These include the large cherry "Mountain Magic," "Mountain Merit," the medium-size hybrid "Defiant," and the paste tomato "Plum Regal."
So far there seem to be no truly blight-resistant potatoes, though "Chieftan" and "Kennebec" are said to have some resistance. With partial resistance blight moves so slowly there's time to cut down the blighty foliage and dig the potatoes later.
Planting potatoes very early and quite deep can help a crop to develop before blight hits.
After all, in many gardens, overlooked potatoes from previous harvests sprout early in spring, sometimes disrupting rotation plans.
Seed of storage onions such as "Copra," "Robinson's Mammoth Improved," or "Early Yellow Globe" should be started now. The gardener who grew the biggest onions I'd ever seen always started seed in late December.
It's nice to see the heirloom lemon cucumbers still have a permanent place in crop offerings. These are small, crisp, very sweet and often eaten like apples. They produce masses of cucumbers on big ground-cover type vines that smother out weeds. They're almost never found commercially since three days refrigeration is their maximum storage time.
Hot and spicy peppers are perfect for containers where most are ornamental, useful and much easier to grow than bell peppers. Jalapeños and "Long Red Cayenne" take to container growing especially well and also pickle beautifully. Both need to be used in moderation.
. Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to amarrison@ shaw.ca.