Choosing vegetable varieties

Posted: Tuesday 20 March 2012
by Adam Pasco

...which are the best crops to grow? Every year I face a dilemma – do I stick with my 'tried and tested' favourites, or try something new?

Hands sowing seeds in soil

March is moving on apace, and seed sowing beckons. But which are the best crops to grow? Every year I face a dilemma – do I stick with my 'tried and tested' favourites, or try something new? If I'm happy with previous results, and there's nothing new on the market, I'll probably go for varieties I've tried before.

Ask any gardening expert which crops they grow and they'll reel off a list of their favourites, but ask another and you'll probably get a different list. Ask three experts and ... let's not go there.

All of this points to the fact that there are lots of great varieties to choose from, and the choice can be daunting. I do like to be able to justify my choice if asked, so I tend to look for:

1. Varieties that have given good results in the past, especially those that were easy and reliable to grow from seed.

2. Varieties that have received awards under the RHS Award of Garden Merit scheme (these are often highlighted in catalogues using a small trophy symbol).

3. Varieties that could overcome a pest, disease or problem.

As tastes vary, it’s really up to you to decide which variety has the best flavour. However I can tell you that 'Gardener's Delight' is the best-flavoured tomato of all time; that it's also Alan Titchmarsh's favourite, and that it has an Award of Garden Merit. But if you grow it outside in your garden this summer, it may well die of blight disease before you pick your first fruits.

If you're growing tomatoes outside then you'll either have to spray crops with fungicide, to prevent blight attack, or consider growing a blight-tolerant variety instead, like 'Lizzano'. It might not have the flavour of 'Gardener's Delight,' but at least you'll get a crop.

Part of my selection process when scanning catalogues to make my seed order is to look for varieties that promise to overcome a problem I've experienced in the past. So what's on my seed shopping list?

Courgette 'Segev' was recommended in Gardeners' World Magazine by Sue Stickland, as it's resistant to powdery mildew. My courgettes always succumb to this fungal disease, so I'll be giving 'Segev' a trial this summer. However, if poor fruit set has been a problem for you in the past, do check out 'Parthenon', a parthenocarpic variety that fruits without the need for pollination.

I've lost enough greenhouse cucumbers to powdery mildew in the past to convince me that you must choose a disease resistant variety, and 'Tiffany' is one of the best I've grown.

The new runner bean 'Firestorm' is worth trying, as this red-flowered variety is said to be self-pollinating, so should guarantee a good crop if insects aren't around to lend a hand.

Carrots often get attacked by root fly unless grown under fleece, but I hate the look of beds covered with this material. I'd recommend growing one of the many varieties offering some resistance to carrot root fly, including 'Sytan', 'Flyaway', 'Maestro' and 'Resistafly'.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Whatever crop you're growing, whether potatoes, onions, peas, brassicas, parsnips or bush or tree fruits, check the detail in catalogues, to gauge whether the variety has virtues or characteristics that could be of value to you.

Perhaps those recommended by your favourite expert will taste the best, but then again, as they say ... the choice is yours.

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seanyhayes1 31/03/2012 at 18:38


lazerlee 13/04/2012 at 20:57

wot is the best way to grow carrots im growing some in the green house and they dont seem to be grwing

figrat 19/04/2012 at 18:09

Have they germinated?