Monday, February 17, 2020
Feb. 17, 2020

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Gardening with Allen Wilson: Three new vegetables win awards

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Pumpkin Blue Prince
Pumpkin Blue Prince Photo Gallery

Three vining vegetables have been given awards by All-America Selections, the nonprofit testing organization for new vegetables and flowers. All of these new varieties should grow well in our climate.

Green Light cucumber is a unique new mini-cucumber that produces smooth 3- to 4-inch seedless fruits that are sweet and crisp. Serve this cucumber with the skin on.

Plants are parthenocarpic which means all the flowers are female and fruit is seedless so no pollination is required. This also results in higher fruit yields — 40 or more spineless fruits per plant. Green Light is quick maturing, producing fruit only 45 days from planting seed in the ground; even less when transplanted. Four- to 5-foot vines yield best when staked, caged or trellised. It can be grown in a container if supported.

Pumpkin Blue Prince has blue skin and deep orange flesh. The blue skin gives a nice contrast for decoration with orange pumpkins. The deep orange flesh is not stringy with savory sweetness. Blue Prince is great for eating with much better taste than most pumpkins.

Vigorous 5-foot disease-resistant vines produce early and with higher yields. First fruits mature about 90 to 100 days from transplanting.

Watermelon Mambo is a very early variety especially for short season climates. This hybrid produces round-shaped melons weighing about 4 pounds. Flesh is deep orange and sweet. Smaller seeds makes it resemble a seedless melon. Melons do not over-ripen if left on the vine a week or two beyond maturity. Rapid seed germination and healthy, vigorous 12-foot vines.

These three new varieties are easily started from seed indoors as described in last week’s column. It takes only four weeks from seed planting to transplantable plants.

I have had good success planting cucumbers, melons, squash and pumpkin seeds directly outside. I plant three or four seeds in hills spaced about 4 feet apart for the cucumber and pumpkin and 10 feet apart for the melon. I cover seed with bark dust instead of soil which makes it easier for the seedlings to push through. Then I cover each hill with a gallon milk jug with the bottom cut off. I push the jug into the ground and place 2 inches of soil around it to stabilize it against the wind.

This creates a mini-greenhouse effect which warms the soil enough for seed to germinate in about 2 weeks. Leave the lid on the jug until seed germinates and make sure the soil stays moist. After sprouting, remove the lid in the daytime for ventilation and put it on at night. I plant seeds in mid-April. There is no danger of frost damage while seed is in the ground. Milk jugs give 2 or 3 degrees of frost protection. If temperature is predicted below 30 degrees, I cover the jugs with towels or blankets, using rocks or soil to hold them in place. When daytime temperature reaches 75 degrees, I remove the jugs. Plants are usually larger than ones available for transplanting and are well-established so they grow quickly. Seed sources are available at All-AmericaSelections.org.

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