New and novel vegetable plants to add to your garden this year
Taste-tested varieties to add to your containers, backyards — and your dinner plate!
Whether you're growing your first vegetable garden, or you plant a tasty plot every year, you likely have started your plan — maybe a list of your favourite, most-consumed veggies. But it's also fun to throw in some novel plants, ones you may not have tasted or even seen before. So save a row for these new varieties; you might spot a few of these at your local garden centre, on seed racks, or be able to order these online.
Lemon Drop summer squash
This was one of my favourite crops last year. It may look like a lemon, but the pint-sized, aptly named 'Lemon Drop' from Burpee is a summer squash. I found them to be delicious grilled on the barbecue, either in a pan or on skewers. The plant and fruit are a perfect size for a small-space garden, but I grew them in a raised bed. If you don't find plants, seeds can be started right in the garden in a warm, sunny spot, after all threat of frost has passed.
"I grew a handful of new cucumber varieties last summer, but the standout was Picolino," says Veggie Garden Remix author and radio host Niki Jabbour. "The seedless cucumbers are perfect for dill pickles, but also fresh eating." She also noted that the plants produce only female flowers, which means a big crop!
I love growing basil to enjoy in summer dishes and salads, to make pesto, and to freeze for winter sauces. Amazel basil from Proven Winners was a lovely new sweet variety that I planted among my tomatoes last year. It is the first Italian sweet basil that is resistant to downy mildew, and this plant loves the heat. If you don't have a veggie garden, pop it into an ornamental container among the flowers.
Midnight Sun tomato
"I like this variety for so many reasons," says Emma Biggs, author of Gardening With Emma and co-host of The Garage Gardeners podcast. "Its appearance is quite different from any of the other [tomatoes] I've grown, and when you slice it open, you see all the beautiful marbling on the inside!" She adds that with few seeds, it's a meaty variety great for sandwiches and salads.
Mini Love watermelon
Mini Love is a great choice for smaller gardens — not many gardeners have the room for a sprawling watermelon patch. It's also on the esteemed All-America Selections (AAS) Winners list, with vines that are only three to four feet long, and about six fruits per plant. And the flavour is sweet! Plant from a seedling or sow seeds (it was on the 'new introductions' list this year at Renee's Garden seed company), after all threat of frost has past.
Mardi Gras Fun Series snack peppers
Snack-sized veggies seem to be a popular category. I grew a rainbow of Mardi Gras Fun Series last year in a small raised bed — red, orange, yellow and purple — and they were all sweet and delicious. They're great to bring along on summer picnics and fun to chop into a colourful salad.
Fire Away Hot and Heavy hot pepper
The plant tag didn't lie: these peppers, a new introduction from Proven Winners for 2020, are quite hot! The peppers are quite ornamental in the garden. The plants love the heat and work well in-ground or in pots. It also racked up some accolades in trial gardens last summer.
Growing a little extra?
Concerned by a rise in food insecurity during the pandemic, many Canadians are wondering how they can help share some of their fresh produce with local food banks and organizations that will deliver it to those in need. A quick internet search should yield organizations in your community that will take fresh food donations. Plant, Grow, Share a Row shows how to get your community involved to share produce with local food banks.
Tara Nolan is the author of Gardening Your Front Yard and Raised Bed Revolution. She is also one third of the popular gardening website Savvy Gardening.