By Jeff Rugg- Last week, we looked at this year’s flowering plant winners of the All-America Selections testing program. This week we have the vegetable winners. There is one pepper, as well as two melons and four tomatoes.
When you see the red, white and blue logo of All-America Selections on seed packets or in catalogs, you can expect those plants to do well in your garden. Even AAS winners from several years ago are more likely to prove successful than non-winners. Vegetables are judged for such traits as earliness to harvest, total yield, fruit taste, fruit quality, ease of harvest, plant habit, and disease and pest resistance. The judges evaluate the vegetables all season long, not just at end-of-season harvest.
I love watermelons, and I have had a hard time growing them in my garden due to a limited amount of space. I try to grow dwarf plants whenever I have the chance, and now I have a dwarf watermelon plant that still grows watermelons weighing 10 to 12 pounds.
The Cal Sweet Bush watermelon has a short internode (the sections between stem joints), so the vines don’t grow very long. In fact, they only grow 14 to 18 inches long. In spite of this, they still provide enough leaves to protect the fruit. Each plant yields two or three fruits weighing 10 to 12 pounds. Watermelons need plenty of water and a lot of sun, and these conditions are often only found on a patio. Growing a watermelon in a pot was never a good idea until now. Cal Sweet Bush will produce at least one watermelon per vine if it is grown in a container.
Orange SilverWave is an exotic melon from South Korea with a very sweet orange flesh and uniquely colored rind. You may get up to six melons on each vine. The egg-shaped melons are about 5 inches long. They have a smooth skin that blends pure white and lemon-yellow color with spots and dark-green dots. They need plenty of sunlight and water. They can grow in the garden or in a large pot, but in both cases they prefer to grow on a trellis.
Just Sweet peppers look like yellow, skinny bell peppers. The 3-inch-long peppers grow on a vigorous plant that grows up to 3 feet tall. In consumer taste tests, it was rated exceptional. Peppers like full sun, and this one is no exception. It will grow very well in a large pot and add plenty of color on a patio.
The common denominators of four of the tomato winners are that the fruit are small and have interesting colors, and the plants are indeterminate and grow to over 6 feet tall.
Red Torch is a red-and-yellow striped 1.5-inch-long tomato. It is an early-season producer that has very high yields. It produces even in hot and drier conditions.
Sparky XSL is another tomato that can tolerate harsh conditions. It has a 1-inch diameter and very sweet red fruit. Sparky is bred to have fruit with a more X-tended Shelf Life (XSL) than that of other tomatoes. It will be good for community gardens that are not harvested as often as backyard gardens.
The fruit on Fire Fly tomatoes are yellow and very sweet. They are small at only half an ounce each, but they are perfect for salads.
Chef’s Choice Black is a beefsteak-type tomato with a dark-green/black/brown hue. Some beefsteak tomatoes can be almost 2 pounds, but these are only half a pound. Smaller tomatoes allow the plant to produce more, and this plant will produce 30 or more in a season. In the trial gardens, these plants were very disease-resistant, and fruit were free of blemishes. This is the sixth color variation in the popular Chef’s Choice tomato series.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at firstname.lastname@example.org.