Variety Is The Spice Of Your Garden

On many occasions, when people talk to me about their gardens, they will often ask me about why a certain vegetable crop they planted failed to perform as expected. Perhaps their tomato plants produced little or no fruit, or their cucumbers had a white powdery growth, or their beans failed to grow at all. When I’m asked why they didn’t do well or what they did wrong, I’ll often as them what cultivar or variety they planted. And nine times out of ten, the answer I get is some variation of, “Oh I don’t know what variety they were; they were just tomato plants I bought at Wal-Mart.” And therein lies the problem, or at least a good portion of the problem.

Allow me to ask a question. When you need to purchase personal transportation, do you go out and buy “a car?” When you need a reliable communication device, do you purchase “a cell phone?” When you need a machine to automatically clean your dishes, do you buy “a dishwasher?” The answer to all three questions is no. You don’t buy a car; you buy a Ford or a Toyota. You don’t buy a cell phone; you purchase an iPhone or an Android. And you don’t shell out your hard earned money for a dishwasher; you buy a Maytag or a Whirlpool. And furthermore, you carefully research your purchases before you dole out your dollars to make sure you are getting something that has all the features you need with a quality that will last at a price you can afford. And why? So that you can be assured that you can drive safely, communicate effectively, and get your dishes sparkling clean. Now if you’re going to go through all this trouble with machines, wouldn’t you want to put at least this much effort into the food you grow and eat?

Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and other garden vegetables all have what are known as cultivars. These are different genetic versions of the same plant. These different genetic variations result in different colors, shapes, sizes, hardiness, flavor, and disease resistance within the same type of plant.

For example, a Sweet 100 is a small cherry tomato, while a Big Zac is large, meaty Beefsteak tomato. A Thumbelina is a small, round, yellow carrot, while a Purple Dragon is a large, long, purple carrot. A Thumbelina and a Purple Dragon are both a carrot, yet they’re quite different from one another.

So why does this matter? Because just as you want to choose a brand of car that’s suits your lifestyle and driving habits and preferences, you want to choose cultivars of garden vegetables that will have the color and flavor that best delights your eye and tickles your taste buds, resistance to specific diseases (if you’ve had past problems with those diseases), and overall, the greatest chance of success in your garden.

Have your tomatoes produced poorly due to late blight? Then you’ll want to plant a cultivar such as Defiant, which is specifically bred to resist late blight. Do you want to grow a drought-resistant flour corn? Hopi Blue will meet your needs. Do you have hard blocky soil? Planting a standard carrot will result in forked, misshapen roots. Thumbelina carrots produce small, orange, almost round roots that are perfect for firmer soils.

The point of all of this is that if you want a garden that yields large amounts of tasty, mouth-watering vegetables, you’ll have to do a little more than throw some seeds into the dirt, water them, and hope for the best. You’ve got to put as much thought and care into buying your seeds and plants as you would into buying a car or a dishwasher. You’ve got to decide what vegetables you want to plant and then find the cultivars of those vegetables that have the traits that will best meet your wants and needs. Doing this will most definitely improve your odds of having a successful, high-yielding garden.


Goals Not Resolutions

2021 has officially passed into history and 2022 now begins. Now is the time we all make bold resolutions about all of the wonderful things we’re going to be, do, and acquire. Then three months later (or sooner) we put them aside to be forgotten. Then, come December 31st, we remember those broken resolutions, hate ourselves for not executing them, and vow to do better next year. Then we make a new set of resolutions — which we once again break like fine china in the hands of a klutz.

Let’s face it. Bold behavior-changing declarations rarely are realized as planned. Human beings simply do not turn on a dime and become new people with all bad habits replaced by good ones. In addition, the mundane aspects of life (e.g. family, career, chores, etc.) all seem to take precedence. In the end our bold resolutions simply crumble to dust.

Rather than setting resolutions, may I suggest that you set goals instead? Statements of what you want to accomplish, when you expect to accomplish it, and a plan for how you’re going to do it are far more effective than brash statements of instant behavior change. And goals can also be somewhat flexible. If you are following your carefully thought-out plan and you still don’t quite accomplish what you set out to do by your deadline, then you are perfectly free to review, re-assess, and decide to either extend the deadline or drop the goal entirely.

Goals can be both short and long term. The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to look over your life, take pride in what you’ve already accomplished, decide what you would like to do in three months, six months, one year, five years, and ten years, and develop sound plans for achieving them. So ditch the resolutions and go for the goals instead. You’ll find that you’ll be making much more progress this way than with a vague declaration.