By Wayne McLaurin
Georgia Extension Service
Six new vegetable garden cultivars have been awarded All America Selections for 2002. Based on their performance in test gardens all over the country, these new plants have been judged as superior in their class.
The AAS winners are selected based on how they have performed in the garden as well the greenhouse. Of course, no plant guarantees success in your garden. But the AAS winners have proven themselves worthy over a broad range of growing conditions.
Try these new selections alongside your old standbys so you'll have a way to compare. AAS winners should be available through local garden centers and mail order catalogs in the spring of 2003.
"Diva" is a sweet cucumber with high yield potential. It has only female flowers and doesn't require pollen to set fruit. The 4- to 5-inch, slicing-type cucumbers are supposed to be free of any bitter taste. They're normally seedless, though a few seeds may develop if grown among other cultivars. They should be ready to harvest 58 days from sowing seed in warm soil. The plants are reported to resist scab and tolerate powdery and downy mildews.
"Chilly Chili" is a new, edible, ornamental pepper for the current pepper craze. It's low-growing and loaded with 2-inch peppers of all colors. The great thing about this is that the peppers aren't hot. They're very mild and don't pose a problem to children who might handle them. They're great, though, for that splash of color in a salad.
"Magical Michael" is both an edible and ornamental sweet basil. The unusually uniform plants reach about 15 inches tall and 16 to 17 inches wide. Harvesting can begin as early as a month after transplanting to the garden. Magical Michael has unusual flowers as well, with purple sepals and white petals.
"Sorcerer" works its magic by producing a full-sized pumpkin on a compact plant. The dark orange pumpkins range from 15 to 22 pounds, yet the plants only reach about 10 feet. Sorcerer pumpkins mature in about 100 days from sowing seed and can be used for either pies or jack-o'- lanterns.
"Orange Smoothie" is exactly what you need if you're looking for a smaller pumpkin along with a compact plant. Weighing in at 5 to 8 pounds with a strong, long handle, this pumpkin is ideal for children. The smooth skin is a great surface, too, for painting Halloween decorations. Orange Smoothie matures a bit earlier -- about 90 days from sowing seed.
"Cornell's Bush Delicata" delivers a sweet, tender, nonstringy winter squash on a compact plant. You can expect to harvest the first of these gems about 100 days from sowing. They start out as bush-type plants. But they will send out short runners later in the season. The plants are reported to have good tolerance to powdery mildew.
For more information about these and other years' winners, point your Web browser to www.all- americaselections.org.