By PAUL HETZLER
Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County
Now that the holidays are over, many of us have noticed that it’s “cold,” and that the days are still short and the nights long.
With no more parties to look forward to and no days off work for a long while, it’s natural to cast about for distractions. It’s a time when some of us give in to the temptation of those types of publications. You know the ones I mean.
Those glossy pages and full-color pictures that make our hearts beat faster. And though we want to believe we’re adequate, we can’t help but compare.
Those perfect shapes, those perfect sizes. Oh, the heartbreaking seduction of seed catalogs!
Orange cauliflower, purple carrots
It isn’t fair, really. We’re at such a vulnerable time and they flaunt their mounds of orange cauliflower, purple carrots, yellow, green and red peppers. It makes a person want just about every variety of every vegetable. Never mind that despite our best efforts, our produce has never been as voluptuous, or as brilliant of color, as the pictures. This year it will be different, we tell ourselves, as we proceed to spend more than we intended.
This season might in fact be different. Each year there are always a few new plant varieties that are resistant to various viral, fungal or bacterial diseases, or that tolerate adverse site conditions. Hypothetically this means we do have an increased chance of success this year. Cornell has just released its 2013 Selected List of Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners, available at www.gardening.cornell.edu or at the Extension office. It includes the tried-and-true varieties along with new offerings, and notes what varieties are resistant to what diseases.
Novelty varieties can work
There’s nothing wrong with buying novelty varieties—it helps keep the fun in gardening. The plain, dependable types, though, generally translate to less work and more food for your buck. Another money-saving tip is to consolidate seed-buying. If a group of people divvy up a half-ounce of carrot seeds, for example, instead of each buying two packets, the price difference is amazing.
Unfortunately, many common plant diseases are seed-borne. A Cornell vegetable expert recently said that of the four aspects of disease prevention, the first one is getting disease-free seeds. (The others are sanitation, sanitation and sanitation, in case you’re wondering.) Since infected seeds look identical to disease-free seeds, the only way to be safe is to ensure they’ve been treated with hot water. Evidently the seed companies have found that magic, Goldilocks-perfect temperature that’s hot enough to kill disease but not so hot that it kills the living plant embryo inside the seed.
Along with the sexy purple snap beans and black tomatoes, get some disease-resistant varieties, and be sure that your seed company hot-water treats its seeds. And try not to get those catalog pages all sticky; someone else might want a look at it after you.
Paul Hetzler is a Horticulture and Natural Resources Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.