It is my purpose in this chapter to assist the gardener of limited
experience to select varieties sure to give satisfaction.
To the man or woman planning a garden for the first time there is no
one thing more confusing than the selection of the best varieties. This
in spite of the fact that catalogs should be, and might be, a great
help instead of almost an actual hindrance.
I suppose that seed stores consider extravagance in catalogs, both in
material and language, necessary, or they would not go to the limit in
expense for printing and mailing, as they do. But from the point of
view of the gardener, and especially of the beginner, it is to be
regretted that we cannot have the plain unvarnished truth about
varieties, for surely the good ones are good enough to use up all the
legitimate adjectives upon which seed stores would care to pay postage.
But such is not the case. Every season sees the introduction of
literally hundreds of new varieties--or, as is more often the case, old
varieties under new names--which have actually no excuse for being
unloaded upon the public except that they will give a larger profit to
the seller. Of course, in a way, it is the fault of the public for
paying the fancy prices asked--that is, that part of the public which
does not know. Commercial planters and experienced gardeners stick to
well known sorts. New varieties are tried, if at all, by the packet
only--and then "on suspicion."
In practically every instance the varieties mentioned have been grown
by the author, but his recommendations are by no means based upon
personal experience alone. Wherever introductions of recent years have
proved to be actual improvements upon older varieties, they are given
in preference to the old, which are, of course, naturally much better
It is impossible for any person to pick out this, that or the other
variety of a vegetable and label it unconditionally "the best." But the
person who wants to save time in making out his seed list can depend
upon the following to have been widely tested, and to have "made good."
Asparagus:--While there are enthusiastic claims put forth for
several of the different varieties of asparagus, as far as I have seen
any authentic record of tests (Bulletin 173, N. J. Agr. Exp. Station),
the prize goes to Palmetto, which gave twenty-eight per cent. more than
its nearest rival, Donald's Elmira. Big yield alone is frequently no
recommendation of a vegetable to the home gardener, but in this
instance it does make a big difference; first, because Palmetto is
equal to any other asparagus in quality, and second, because the
asparagus bed is producing only a few weeks during the gardening
season, and where ground is limited, as in most home gardens, it is
important to cut this waste space down as much as possible. This is for
beds kept in good shape and highly fed. Barr's Mammoth will probably
prove more satisfactory if the bed is apt to be more or less neglected,
for the reason that under such circumstances it will make thicker
stalks than the Palmetto.
Beans (dwarf):--Of the dwarf beans there are three general
types: the early round-podded "string" beans, the stringless roundpods,
and the usually more flattish "wax" beans. For first early, the
old reliable Extra Early Red Valentine remains as good as any sort I
have ever tried. In good strains of this variety the pods have very
slight strings, and they are very fleshy. It makes only a small bush
and is fairly productive and of good quality. The care-taking planter,
however, will put in only enough of these first early beans to last a
week or ten days, as the later sorts are more prolific and of better
quality. Burpee's Stringless Greenpod is a good second early. It is
larger, finer, stringless even when mature, and of exceptionally
handsome appearance. Improved Refugee is the most prolific of the
green-pods, and the best of them for quality, but with slight strings.
Of the "wax" type, Brittle Wax is the earliest, and also a tremendous
yielder. The long-time favorite, Rust-proof Golden Wax, is another fine
sort, and an especially strong healthy grower. The top-notch in quality
among all bush beans is reached, perhaps, in Burpee's White Wax--the
white referring not to the pods, which are of a light yellow, and flat
--but to the beans, which are pure white in all stages of growth. It has
one unusual and extremely valuable quality--the pods remain tender
longer than those of any other sort.
Of the dwarf limas there is a new variety which is destined, I think,
to become the leader of the half-dozen other good sorts to be had. That
is the Burpee Improved. The name is rather misleading, as it is not an
improved strain of the Dreer's or Kumerle bush lima, but a mutation,
now thoroughly fixed. The bushes are stronger-growing and much larger
than those of the older types, reaching a height of nearly three feet,
standing strongly erect; both pods and beans are much larger, and it is
a week earlier. Henderson's new Early Giant I have not yet tried, but
from the description I should say it is the same type as the above. Of
the pole limas, the new Giant-podded is the hardiest--an important
point in limas, which are a little delicate in constitution anyway,
especially in the seedling stage--and the biggest yielder of any I have
grown and just as good in quality--and there is no vegetable much
better than well cooked limas. With me, also, it has proved as early as
that old standard, Early Leviathan, but this may have been a chance
occurrence. Ford's Mammoth is another excellent pole lima of large
size. Of the other pole beans, the two that are still my favorites are
Kentucky Wonder, or Old Homestead, and Golden Cluster. The former has
fat meaty green pods, entirely stringless until nearly mature, and of
enormous length. I have measured many over eight and a half inches
long--and they are borne in great profusion. Golden Cluster is one of
the handsomest beans I know. It is happily named, for the pods, of a
beautiful rich golden yellow color, hang in generous clusters and great
profusion. In quality it has no superior; it has always been a great
favorite with my customers. One need never fear having too many of
these, as the dried beans are pure white and splendid for winter use.
Last season I tried a new pole bean called Burger's Green-pod
Stringless or White-seeded Kentucky Wonder (the dried seeds of the old
sort being brown). It did well, but was in so dry a place that I could
not tell whether it was an improvement over the standard or not. It is
claimed to be earlier.
Beets:--In beets, varieties are almost endless, but I confess
that I have found no visible difference in many cases. Edmund's Early
and Early Model are good for first crops. The Egyptian strains, though
largely used for market, have never been as good in quality with me.
For the main crop I like Crimson Globe. In time it is a second early,
of remarkably good form, smooth skin and fine quality and color.
Broccoli:--This vegetable is a poorer cousin of the cauliflower
(which, by the way, has been termed "only a cabbage with a college
education"). It is of little use where cauliflower can be grown, but
serves as a substitute in northern sections, as it is more hardy than
that vegetable. Early White French is the standard sort.
Brussels sprouts:--This vegetable, in my opinion, is altogether
too little grown. It is as easy to grow as fall and winter cabbage, and
while the yield is less, the quality is so much superior that for the
home garden it certainly should be a favorite. Today (Jan. 19th) we had
for dinner sprouts from a few old plants that had been left in
transplanting boxes in an open coldframe. These had been out all
winter--with no protection, repeatedly freezing and thawing, and, while
of course small, they were better in quality than any cabbage you ever
ate. Dalkeith is the best dwarf-growing sort. Danish Prize is a new
sort, giving a much heavier yield than the older types. I have tried it
only one year, but should say it will become the standard variety.
Cabbage:--In cabbages, too, there is an endless mix-up of
varieties. The Jersey Wakefield still remains the standard early. But
it is at the best but a few days ahead of the flat-headed early sorts
which stand much longer without breaking, so that for the home garden a
very few heads will do. Glory of Enkhuisen is a new early sort that has
become a great favorite. Early Summer and Succession are good to follow
these, and Danish Ballhead is the best quality winter cabbage, and
unsurpassed for keeping qualities. But for the home garden the Savoy
type is, to my mind, far and away the best. It is not in the same class
with the ordinary sorts at all. Perfection Drumhead Savoy is the best
variety. Of the red cabbages, Mammoth Rock is the standard.
Carrots:--The carrots are more restricted as to number of
varieties. Golden Ball is the earliest of them all, but also the
smallest yielder. Early Scarlet Horn is the standard early, being a
better yielder than the above. The Danvers Half-long is probably grown
more than all other kinds together. It grows to a length of about six
inches, a very attractive deep orange in color. Where the garden soil
is not in excellent condition, and thoroughly fined and pulverized as
it should be, the shorter-growing kinds, Ox-heart and Chantenay, will
give better satisfaction. If there is any choice in quality, I should
award it to Chantenay.
Cauliflower;--There is hardly a seed uncatalogued which does not
contain its own special brand of the very best and earliest cauliflower
ever introduced. These are for the most part selected strains of either
the old favorite, Henderson's Snowball, or the old Early Dwarf Erfurt.
Snowball, and Burpee's Best Early, which resembles it, are the best
varieties I have ever grown for spring or autumn. They are more likely
to head, and of much finer quality than any of the large late sorts.
Where climatic conditions are not favorable to growing cauliflower, and
in dry sections, Dry-weather is the most certain to form heads.
Celery:--For the home garden the dwarf-growing, "self-blanching"
varieties of celery are much to be preferred. White Plume and Golden
Self-blanching are the best. The former is the earliest celery and of
excellent quality, but not a good keeper. Recent introductions in
celery have proved very real improvements. Perhaps the best of the
newer sorts, for home use, is Winter Queen, as it is more readily
handled than some of the standard market sorts. In quality it has no
superior. When put away for winter properly, it will keep through
Corn:--You will have to suit yourself about corn. I have not the
temerity to name any best varieties--every seed store has about half a
dozen that are absolutely unequaled. For home use, I have cut my list
down to three: Golden Bantam, a dwarf-growing early of extraordinary
hardiness--can be planted earlier than any other sort and, while the
ears are small and with yellow kernels, it is exceptionally sweet and
fine in flavor. This novelty of a few years since, has attained wide
popular favor as quickly as any vegetable I know. Seymour's Sweet
Orange is a new variety, somewhat similar to Golden Bantam, but later
and larger, of equally fine quality. White Evergreen, a perfected
strain of Stowell's Evergreen, a standard favorite for years, is the
third. It stays tender longer than any other sweet corn I have
Cucumbers:--Of cucumbers also there is a long and varied list of
names. The old Extra Early White Spine is still the best early; for the
main crop, some "perfected" form of White Spine. I myself like the
Fordhood Famous, as it is the healthiest strain I ever grew, and has
very large fruit that stays green, while being of fine quality. In the
last few years the Davis Perfect has won great popularity, and
deservedly so. Many seedsmen predict that this is destined to become
the leading standard--and where seedsmen agree let us prick up our
ears! It has done very well with me, the fruit being the handsomest of
any I have grown. If it proves as strong a grower it will replace
Fordhood Famous with me.
Egg-plant:--New York Improved Purple is still the standard, but
it has been to a large extent replaced by Black Beauty, which has the
merit of being ten days earlier and a more handsome fruit. When once
tried it will very likely be the only sort grown.
Endive:--This is a substitute for lettuce for which I personally
have never cared. It is largely used commercially. Broad-leaved
Batavian is a good variety. Giant Fringed is the largest.
Kale:--Kale is a foreigner which has never been very popular in
this country. Dwarf Scott Curled is the tenderest and most delicate (or
least coarse) in flavor.
Kohlrabi:--This peculiar mongrel should be better known. It
looks as though a turnip had started to climb into the cabbage class
and stopped half-way. When gathered young, not more than an inch and a
half in diameter at the most, they are quite nice and tender. They are
of the easiest cultivation. White Vienna is the best.
Leek:--For those who like this sort of thing it is--just the
sort of thing they like. American Flag is the best variety, but why it
was given the first part of that name, I do not know.
Lettuce:--To cover the lettuces thoroughly would take a chapter
by itself. For lack of space, I shall have to mention only a few
varieties, although there are many others as good and suited to
different purposes. For quality, I put Mignonette at the top of the
list, but it makes very small heads. Grand Rapids is the best loosehead
sort--fine for under glass, in frames and early outdoors. Last
fall from a bench 40 x 4 ft., I sold $36 worth in one crop, besides
some used at home. I could not sell winter head lettuce to customers
who had once had this sort, so good was its quality. May King and Big
Boston are the best outdoor spring and early summer sorts. New York and
Deacon are the best solid cabbage-head types for resisting summer heat,
and long standing. Of the cos type Paris White is good.
Muskmelon:--The varieties of muskmelon are also without limit. I
mention but two--which have given good satisfaction out of a large
number tried, in my own experience. Netted Gem (known as Rocky Ford)
for a green-fleshed type, and Emerald Gem for salmon-fleshed. There are
a number of newer varieties, such as Hoodoo, Miller's Cream, Montreal,
Nutmeg, etc., all of excellent quality.
Watermelon:--With me (in Connecticut) the seasons are a little
short for this fruit. Cole's Early and Sweetheart have made the best
showing. Halbert Honey is the best for quality.
Okra:--In cool sections the Perfected Perkins does best, but it
is not quite so good in quality as the southern favorite, White Velvet.
The flowers and plants of this vegetable are very ornamental.
Onion:--For some unknown reason, different seedsmen call the
same onion by the same name. I have never found any explanation of
this, except that a good many onions given different names in the
catalogs are really the same thing. At least they grade into each
other more than other vegetables. With me Prizetaker is the only sort
now grown in quantity, as I have found it to out yield all other
yellows, and to be a good keeper. It is a little milder in quality than
the American yellows--Danvers and Southport Globe. When started
under glass and transplanted out in April, it attains the size and the
quality of the large Spanish onions of which it is a descendant.
Weathersfield Red is the standard flat red, but not quite so good in
quality or for keeping as Southport Red Globe. Of the whites I like
best Mammoth Silver-skin. It is ready early and the finest in quality,
to my taste, of all the onions, but not a good keeper. Ailsa Craig, a
new English sort now listed in several American catalogs, is the best
to grow for extra fancy onions, especially for exhibiting; it should be
started in February or March under glass.
Parsley:--Emerald is a large-growing, beautifully colored and
mild-flavored sort, well worthy of adoption.
Parsnip:--This vegetable is especially valuable because it may
be had at perfection when other vegetables are scarce. Hollow Crown
("Improved," of course!) is the best.
Peas:--Peas are worse than corn. You will find enough
exclamation points in the pea sections of catalogs to train the vines
on. If you want to escape brain fatigue and still have as good as the best,
if not better, plant Gradus (or Prosperity) for early and second early;
Boston Unrivaled (an improved form of Telephone) for main crop, and
Gradus for autumn. These two peas are good yielders, free growers and
of really wonderfully fine quality. They need bushing, but I have never
found a variety of decent quality that does not.
Pepper:--Ruby King is the standard, large, red, mild pepper, and
as good as any. Chinese Giant is a newer sort, larger but later. The
flesh is extremely thick and mild. On account of this quality, it will
have a wider range of use than the older sorts.
Pumpkins:--The old Large Cheese, and the newer Quaker Pie, are
as prolific, hardy and fine in quality and sweetness as any.
Potato:--Bovee is a good early garden sort, but without the best
of culture is very small. Irish Cobbler is a good early white. Green
Mountain is a universal favorite for main crop in the East--a sure
yielder and heavy-crop potato of excellent quality. Uncle Sam is the
best quality potato I ever grew. Baked, they taste almost as rich as
Radish:--I do not care to say much about radishes; I do not like
them. They are, however, universal favorites. They come round, halflong,
long and tapering; white, red, white-tipped, crimson, rose,
yellow-brown and black; and from the size of a button to over a foot
long by fifteen inches in circumference--the latter being the new
Chinese or Celestial. So you can imagine what a revel of varieties the
seed stores may indulge in. I have tried many--and cut my own list down to
two, Rapid-red (probably an improvement of the old standard, Scarlet
Button), and Crimson Globe (or Giant), a big, rapid, healthy grower of
good quality, and one that does not get "corky." A little land-plaster,
or gypsum, worked into the soil at time of planting, will add to both
appearance and quality in radishes.
Spinach:--The best variety of spinach is Swiss Chard Beet (see
below). If you want the real sort, use Long Season, which will give you
cuttings long after other sorts have run to seed. New Zealand will
stand more heat than any other sort. Victoria is a newer variety, for
which the claim of best quality is made. In my own trial I could not
notice very much difference. It has, however, thicker and "savoyed"
Salsify:--This is, to my taste, the most delicious of all root
vegetables. It will not do well in soil not deep and finely pulverized,
but a row or two for home use can be had by digging and fining before
sowing the seed. It is worth extra work. Mammoth Sandwich is the best
Squash:--Of this fine vegetable there are no better sorts for
the home garden than the little Delicata, and Fordhook. Vegetable
Marrow is a fine English sort that does well in almost all localities.
The best of the newer large-vined sorts is The Delicious. It is of
finer quality than the well known Hubbard. For earliest use, try a few
plants of White or Yellow Bush Scalloped. They are not so good in
quality as either Delicata or Fordhook, which are ready within a week
or so later. The latter are also excellent keepers and can be had, by
starting plants early and by careful storing, almost from June to June.
Tomato:--If you have a really hated enemy, give him a dozen seed
catalogs and ask him to select for you the best four tomatoes. But
unless you want to become criminally involved, send his doctor around
the next morning. A few years ago I tried over forty kinds. A good many
have been introduced since, some of which I have tried. I am prepared
to make the following statements: Earliana is the earliest quality
tomato, for light warm soils, that I have ever grown; Chalk's Jewel,
the earliest for heavier soils (Bonny Best Early resembles it);
Matchless is a splendid main-crop sort; Ponderosa is the biggest and
best quality--but it likes to split. There is one more sort, which I
have tried one year only, so do not accept my opinion as conclusive. It
is the result of a cross between Ponderosa and Dwarf Champion--one of
the strongest-growing sorts. It is called Dwarf Giant. The fruits are
tremendous in size and in quality unsurpassed by any. The vine is very
healthy, strong and stocky. I believe this new tomato will become the
standard main crop for the home garden. By all means try it. And that
is a good deal to say for a novelty in its second year!
Turnip:--The earliest turnip of good quality is the White Milan.
There are several others of the white-fleshed sorts, but I have never
found them equal in quality for table to the yellow sorts. Of these,
Golden Ball (or Orange Jelly) is the best quality. Petrowski is a
different and distinct sort, of very early maturity and of especially
fine quality. If you have room for but one sort in your home garden,
plant this for early, and a month later for main crop.
Do not fail to try some of this year's novelties. Half the fun of
gardening is in the experimenting. But when you are testing out the new
things in comparison with the old, just take a few plants of the latter
and give them the same extra care and attention. Very often the
reputation of a novelty is built upon the fact that in growing it on
trial the gardener has given it unusual care and the best soil and
location at his command. Be fair to the standards--and very often they
will surprise you fully as much as the novelties.