Around this time of year, I usually start to get serious about garden planning. I like to begin ordering seeds about now, and before I can do that I need to do a seed inventory as well as get some ideas about what I want to grow in the coming year. I’ve been working on my 2021 plan for some time now, and I believe it’s about finalized. There are always last-minute changes to my list of course, and sometimes things change even at planting time if I run out of room or lose seedlings.
Last year I made a conscious decision to scale back the garden by 30-40%. I was literally gardening more and enjoying it less, and I am happy to say I was pleased with the 2020 plan and how things turned out. I spent a lot of time working in the garden, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than I had in previous years. Even with less planted, we still brought in over 700 pounds of fruit and vegetables, which kept us well fed with fresh food and filled the freezer and pantry with preserved foods. I also feel like I did a better job keeping up with things like weeding and mulching. So this year’s garden will be about the same size as it was last year, with the idle beds devoted to cover crops.
My desire to cut back is always tempered by my love to experiment with growing new things, so my growing list is always long. It’s hard for me to cut back on things like tomatoes and peppers where the list of varieties I want to grow exceeds my garden capacity and my energy! But I cut back last year anyway, and most varieties I am growing in 2021 are the tried-and-true ones, plus of course a few new ones to trial.
I usually begin starting seeds here in February, beginning with petunias and herbs like parsley. I’m a big fan of the Wave petunias, and this year I plan to grow several of my favorites including Easy Wave Burgundy Velour, Tidal Wave Red Velour and Misty Lilac Wave. Later in the month I’ll start lettuce and brassicas, and a few early plants of eggplant and peppers. I’ve had good luck the last few years growing Fairy Tale and Patio Baby eggplant in containers, and this year I want to add the white fruited Gretel to the mix. It has done well for me in containers in the past. In the main garden I want to try Annina and Asian Delight eggplants, along with old favorites like Dancer, Galine and Nadia.
While my list of tomatoes might be a bit less than previous years, I’m still growing quite a few including old standbys like Better Boy plus newer favorites like AAS Winners Chef’s Choice Orange and Galahad. For small fruited tomatoes, I plan on growing the hybrids Sun Sugar, Jasper, Sunpeach and Cherry Bomb along with the open-pollinated Amy’s Apricot. One new one I want to try is Citrine, bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It is crack-resistent and has bright orange fruits. I am also trialing several named and unnamed tomatoes from Artisan Seeds.
I grow quite a few plants of paste tomatoes every year, and the indeterminate Granadero is a new favorite that was loaded with fruit here in 2019 and 2020. Juliet is a 1999 AAS Winner that is one of my all-time favorite tomatoes. The vines are always loaded with the plum shaped fruits, and we use them fresh as well as for drying, roasting and making into sauce. One new one I want to try this year is Verona, which Johnny’s says is “similar to Juliet, but with even tastier, somewhat plumper, deep-red ‘cocktail plum’ fruits”. With a description like that, I plan to grow it side by side with Juliet in the garden and see how they compare.
Summer and winter squashes are always a big crop for us here, and this year I plan on growing some of my favorite yellow varieties like Tempest and Zephyr plus zucchinis like Astia and new favorite Green Machine. One new one I want to try is called Mexicana, which is a grey zucchini much like we saw everywhere in the markets when my wife and I visited Mexico early last year. I’m growing another grey zucchini called Hurakan this year too. And the prolific and vigorously vining Tatume will be back too.
Lately I have grown fond of collard greens, and I found several heirloom varieties I want to try here in 2021 including Nancy Malone Wheat Purple, Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage and Variegated. From the Seedsavers Exchange I got North Carolina Yellow and Georgia Blue Stem. Many of the ones I grew in 2019 and 2020 will be back too, including White Mountain Cabbage, Hen Peck, Yellow Cabbage and Jernigan’s Yellow Cabbage. The collards I planted late last summer are still keeping us supplied, and they have become a fall and winter staple green for us.
I’m mostly sticking with my old favorite sweet pepper varieties like Jimmy Nardello, Cornito Giallo, Cornito Rosso, Sweetie Pie and Carmen. I do want to try Johnny’s new hybrid Corno di Toro pepper called Cornito Arancia. And I am trialing one new hybrid Fresno type hot pepper called Hernandez. I plan to grow AAS Winners Flaming Flare, Red Ember and Chili Pie again too.
I love to experiment with growing new things, so my growing list is always long. And there are always last-minute changes to my list too. Varieties I am growing for the first time are marked with an *.
Asian Greens: Central Red mizuna, Miz America mizuna, Mizspoona Salad Select, Mei Qing Pak Choi, Violetta pac choi
Basil: Amethyst, Aurelia, Corsican, Profuma di Genova, Salad Leaf, Siam Queen, Siricusa, Sweet Thai, Thai Lemon
Beans (bush): Orient, Speedy*
Beans (pole): Barnes Mountain, Bertie Best’s Greasy Bean, Gizzard*, Lazy Wife Greasy, North Carolina Long Greasy, Pink Tip, Robe Mountain, NT Half Runner, Turkey Craw
Broccoli: Apollo, Artwork, Burgundy, Happy Rich, Santee, Rudolph
Cabbage: Farao, Green Presto, Minuet (napa), Primo Vantage, Soloist (napa), Tendersweet
Collards: Georgia Blue Stem*, Hen Peck, Jernigan Yellow Cabbage Collards, McCormack’s Green Glaze, Nancy Malone Wheat Purple*, North Caroline Yellow*, Yellow Cabbage Collards, Variegated*, Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage*, White Mountain Cabbage Collards
Cucumber: 7082, Corinto, Excelsior, H-19 Little Leaf*, Itachi, Iznik*, Mini Munch, Nokya, Unagi*
Eggplant: Annina*, Asian Delight*, Bride, Dancer, Fairy Tale, Farmer’s Long, Galine, Gretel, Orient Charm, Machiaw, Purple Shine, Nadia, Patio Baby
Greens: Apollo arugula, Darkita arugula*, Esmee arugula, Speedy arugula
Kale: Darkibor, Dazzling Blue, Groninger Blue Collard Kale, Purple Russian, Red Ursa, Starbor, True Siberian, Tronchuda Beira, Western Front, White Russian, Wild Garden Mix
Kohlrabi: Beas, Kolibri, Konan, Kossak, Terek
Lettuce: Baja, Bergam’s Green, Cavendish, Hampton*, Jade Gem, Jester, Mayan Jaguar, Mirlo, Nancy, Oscarde, Panisse, Pele, Red Sails, Salanova, Sea of Red, Simpson Elite, Slobolt, Spritzer, Tango, Tendita*
Parsley: Cilician, Giant From Italy, Hungarian Landrace, Splendid
Pepper(hot): Aji Angelo, Aji Delight, Aji Golden, Aji Rico, Amazing 2*,Biggie Chili, Cayenneta, Chili Pie, Early Flame, Emerald Fire, Flaming Flare, Guajillo, Hernandez*, Honeypeno, Hot Happy Yummy, Kaleidoscope, Kimchi, Lady Choi, Malawi Piquante, Minero, Red Ember, Senorita Jalapeno, Sugar Rush Peach, Tangerine Dream
Pepper (sweet): Carmen, Cornito Arancia*, Cornito Giallo, Cornito Rosso, Dulce Rojo, Escamillo, Glow, Hungarian Magyar, Jimmy Nardello’s, Orange Blaze, Sweetie Pie, Sweet Happy Yummy
Radish: Alpine, Bora King, Red King 2*, Sweet Baby
Squash(summer): Astia, Dunja, Green Machine, Hurakan*, Meot Jaeng, Mexicana*, Safari, Tatume, Tempest, Teot Bat Put, Zephyr
Squash(winter): Centercut, Thelma Sanders, Tromba d’Albenga, Turkeyneck
Sweet Potatoes: Beauregard, Bonita, Korean Purple, Murasaki, Purple
Tomatoes: Amy’s Apricot, Better Boy, Chef’s Choice Orange, Chef’s Choice Pink, Chef’s Choice Red, Chef’s Choice Yellow, Cherry Bomb, Citrine*, Damsel, Galahad, Garden Gem, Garden Treasure, Golden Rave, Granadero, Health Kick, Jasper, Juliet, Monticello, Mountain Magic, Mountain Rouge, Red Racer, Sunpeach, Sun Sugar, “W” Hybrid
Turnips: All-Top, Hakurei, Mikado, Topper
Photos of Citrine and Verona tomatoes used with permission of Johnny’s Selected Seeds. All other photos were taken by me.