For many people the whole reason they garden is to have the biggest and/or earliest harvest no matter what the plant. Varietal selection plays a big role in achieving the goals of these gardeners, as does optimal growing conditions. Unfortunately we cannot control mother nature, but we can provide good soil conditions and supplemental water if needed to help the plants grow the way we desire.
Varieties to look for if earliness or size are your main goals include:
'Sweet Success' cucumbers. This AAS winner boasts 14 inch long cukes in only 54 days. It is resistant to mosaic virus as well as scab and leaf spot diseases. As an added bonus, the fruit is easy on the digestive system.
For the biggest green pepper on the block try 'Big Bertha'. This variety produces 6-7 inch fruits in 72 days. For an early pepper try 'Gypsy' or 'Bell Boy'. 'Gypsy' produces golden-green peppers in only 58 days from transplanting. 'Bell Boy', an AAS winner, has fruit in 62 days. If the hottest pepper is your goal, try 'Habanero'. It is reported to be 1000 times hotter than jalapeno peppers and ready 85 days from transplanting.
For that early ear of sweet corn try 'Polar Vee'. It is ready to eat in just 53 days. 'Golden Beauty', another AAS winner, is ready in just 65 days. The bicolor variety 'Quickie' is ready in 67 days.
If the longest carrot is what you are after, try 'Gold Pak'. The tapered roots grow 8 to 10 inches long. They are ready for harvest in 76 days. For the early carrot, look for varieties such as 'Baby Spike' or 'Minicor'. These are ready in approximately 55 days. To grow a long carrot without deformities, the soil needs to be deeply tilled and loose. Many gardeners use a raised bed when growing the long carrot varieties.
If you just can't wait for that first green bean of the season, try the varieties 'Tenderpod' or 'Topcrop'. Both are AAS winners and produce in approximately 50 days. If large is what you're after, look to the 'Yard-long' asparagus bean. The pods grow 2 to 3 feet long and can be used as snap beans or shelled for dried beans.
Nothing is anticipated more than the first tomato of the season. 'Early Girl' is the variety for you if you just can't wait. The flavorful 5 oz. fruits are ready 54 days from transplanting. 'Burpee's Early Pick' produces 1 lb. fruits just 62 days from transplanting. For the large tomato lovers, 'Delicious' or 'Super Beefsteak' are for you. Both varieties produce fruits weighing well over a pound. Gardeners will try just about anything to speed up their tomato harvest. Start with stocky, healthy transplants that are properly hardened off. Training tomato plants helps produce earlier tomato yields. Many gardeners use the Wall O' Water to establish plants earlier, however if the temperatures are too cool at flowering fruit will not form.
In pumpkin growing, biggest is the only way many gardeners grow. Varieties such as 'Atlantic Giant', 'Big Max', and 'Prizewinner' all fit in the largest pumpkin category. All require a 120 day growing season. Some extra hints are appropriate when growing the biggest pumpkin. Allow only one or two fruits to develop on the entire plant. Remove all others. Water regularly if mother nature doesn't provide enough.
For those wanting a large watermelon, try 'Carolina Cross #183'. They will need at least 100 days to mature and plenty of warm weather. Seed catalogs claim they'll weigh over 200 lbs. That's alot of melon!!
Whether you are gardening to have the earliest harvest, the biggest produce, or just for the enjoyment, try some of the varieties mentioned above for an interesting change of pace.
This article originally appeared in the March 17, 1993 issue, pp. , 1993 issue, pp. 20-21.