Research and purchase next year’s vegetable seeds now

Bob Dluzen
Special to The Detroit News

Many savvy gardeners I know are placing their seed orders now for the 2021 growing season in anticipation of another seed shortage similar to the one we saw this past spring.

Picking out the right seed from all the different varieties offered in catalogs and on websites can be a challenge.

I’m a firm believer in choosing resistant varieties to reduce the amount of pest control material needed. This is especially important if you plan to grow organically. 

Breeding garden vegetables for disease and insect resistance is a tradition that has been going on for centuries. Plant breeders look for certain characteristics and then make crosses eventually reproducing those desirable characteristics.

I’ve observed a few excellent examples of disease and insect resistance in garden vegetables this year. For example, a variety of mildew resistant cucumbers is growing in the same vicinity as standard cucumbers. The standard variety has been sprayed with an organic fungicide regularly and is struggling with mildew. The resistant variety has not been treated at all and shows very little if any powdery mildew symptoms. The same thing can be seen with a variety of acorn squash in the same garden near a non-resistant squash.

In the case of kale, it appears the curly varieties are less apt to be infested with cabbage worms than are the flat leaf type. It may be a good idea to plant both types in your garden, a curly variety for you to eat and a flat leaf one for the worms.

Here are two kinds of kale growing side by side. The flat leaf type is riddled with holes from cabbage worms while the curly type is untouched.

Often there are limited amounts of certain varieties. Sometimes it’s because the parent plant produces a small amount of seeds for the farmer to harvest. Other times it may be because only small growers are the ones growing that variety of seed. Or demand may be outpacing the ability of seed growers to grow the seed in sufficient quantities. 

So now's the time to research and purchase seeds while there is still a wide selection available. Otherwise come this spring, you will probably end up finding out that the most popular varieties offered by the giant conglomerate seed companies are the only ones available instead of the ones you really were hoping to find.