I am using last year’s full scale garden as a baseline from which to increase my success rate by choosing seed varieties better suited to my climate and disease resistant in order to lessen the damage from plant diseases that exist in such an environment. I live in the lower South which means hot humid summers and generally a shortage of rainfall during the hot months when it’s needed the worst. I’ve done a great deal of research to find varieties that are disease resistant, tend to suffer less damage from insects, and which were bred to produce in hot climates. Those parameters narrowed my choices, but those I’ve chosen will hopefully produce increased yields.

CORN. Last year I planted Golden Bantam and Peaches and Cream at two week intervals over about a month and a half. The corn was not uniform in sprouting and didn’t seem to pollinate as well as it should have, some of it not producing anything. In hind sight I should have watered it more but my research indicates the sugar enhanced varieties seem more plagued with these problems. This year I’m planting an old standard – Silver Queen which is a standard sweet corn. Most sources refer to it, and other standard sweet corn varieties, as a vigorous plant and a reliable producer.

There are three types of sweet corn:
(SU) is the oldest of the sweet corns, it contains more sugar than field corn, but less than the next two types. Su corns are open-pollinated meaning one can save seed from this year’s crop for next year’s planting. (They are not hybrid seed). Silver Queen is a white su variety. I toyed with the idea of planting Country Gentleman and Stowell’s Evergreen and will eventually try both. Su corns also come in multi-colored varieties, particularly of interest to me were Black Mexican/Aztec and Bloody Butcher.

(SE) is sweeter than su, but less hardy. Peaches and cream is an se corn and Silver King is an se version of the su Silver Queen.

(sh2) is a supersweet corn with 4 to 10 times the sugar content of su corn. It is even less hardy than se corn, requiring higher germination temperatures and more care with planting depth. I did not consider anything beyond these three and limited myself to only the su varieties.

I plan to soak my seed corn in clean water overnight before planting to speed the germination process and lessen the chance of rot. Sweet corn benefits from slightly shaking the stalks to release pollen onto the silks or brushing the tassels then the silks to help with pollination, and the sections where I did this last year did produce better.

When preparing the corn for freezing one can cut the kernels off the raw ears and scrape the cobs for creamy corn or blanch the whole ears then cut off the kernels for whole kernel corn.

BEANS. Last year I planted Roma bush and wax beans. We had beans to eat but I didn’t plant enough to can any. The Roma beans tended to get tough at a small size which may mean they didn’t receive enough water, but at any rate this year I’m going with old stand-by’s. I plan to do bush beans for a bumper crop to can and pole beans which will hopefully continue to bear throughout the summer for fresh eating.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (and others) advises that green beans do not do well when the temperatures are consistently above 90 degrees. They say that yard long beans, also called asparagus beans, and lima beans do OK in hot weather. I hope to get my beans out early enough and go with an asparagus bean as a later planting.

I’ve chosen the following:

BLUE LAKE 47 BUSH: Burpee lists the first as, “a very flavorful, stringless bean”, and it received pretty good kudos on reviews. It is a “tender” plant meaning it needs warm soil and night time temperatures well above freezing.

KENTUCKY WONDER POLE: an older variety that seems to have stood the test of time. One can save seed for the next year.

I seriously considered Contender, Provider, Rattlesnake, Jade, and green or red asparagus beans and may choose one of them to go along with the two I’ve already purchased.

TOMATOES. While I love the idea of planting heirloom tomatoes, I’ve given up on them for now. I’ve planted them several years now and the plants suffer severely from disease and do not produce tomatoes. Last year I planted the hybrid Atkinson in the garden and had tomatoes to eat and canned a dozen quarts or so while all I got from the 8 or 10 heirlooms in the raised beds was 2 small pear tomatoes.

This year I gave myself some very strict search parameters. 1. Varieties have to be bred for hot climates; and 2. They have to be among the highest ranked with regard to disease resistance. Perhaps thirdly, I considered reviews from people who live in similar climates, expense, and availability. The Atkinson, bred by Auburn U. is resistant to only Fusarium wilt and nematodes. I think I can do better this year.

Besides Atkinson, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s list of disease resistance includes:
Early Girl: VF
Better Boy: V, F, N, AS, St
Celebrity: V, F1,1, N, TMV, AS, St
Park’s Whopper: V, F, N, TMV
Park’s Whopper Improved: V, F1,2, N, TMV
Big Beef: AS, F1,2, L, N, TMV, V, St
BHN-444: F1,2, V, TSWV, TMV
BHN-640: TSWV, V, F1,2, N, TMV, AS, St
Amelia: TSWV, F1,2,3, V, N, St
Floralina: F1,2,3, V1, AS, St
Florida 47 (heat set): AS, V1,2, St
Florida 91, AS, St, V, F1,2
Mountain Fresh Plus: F1,2,3, N, TMV, V1,2, EB
Mountain Spring: V, F1,2, St
Mountain Crest V, F1,2
Quincy F1,2, V, TSWV
Crista: V1, F1,2,3, TSWV, N
Beefmaster: V, F, N, AS, St
First Lady: AS, F1,2, N, TMV, V
Sun Leaper: F1,2, St, V
Patio: F1, AS, St
Solar Fire: V, F1,2,3, St
Quick Pick: V, F1, N, TMV
Estiva: F1,2, TMV, V

So far I’ve ordered Better Boy and Big Beef, both indeterminate varieties, meaning they will continue to grow and produce until frost. Determinate, on the other hand, means the vines will have a burst of growth, bear a heavy crop, and then be done for the summer. People who can a lot of tomatoes like them to ripen all at once and prefer determinate varieties. I’m considering for my next order Celebrity, BHN-640, Amelia, Mountain Fresh Plus, Crista, First Lady, Florida 91, or Solar Fire (also heat set) with Amelia, BHN-640, and Mountain Fresh Plus or Solar Fire receiving more serious consideration. The best choice in a paste tomato seems to be Muriel: V, F1,2, N, AS, BKS, TSWV.

I have plenty of pickles and relish made last year so I want a good slicing cucumber. The slim Japanese eggplant didn’t do nearly as well as the larger Black Beauty which bore fruit until frost. I’m going with Green Arrow peas and when those come up I’ll probably replace them with Lady cream peas. My potatoes had a wonderful flavor but I got them out late so the harvest wasn’t as bountiful as I would have liked. This year I’m going with just round red potatoes and get them in the ground earlier. My purple top turnips did well so I’m sticking with those. I purchased seed from Landis Valley’s heritage seed program for Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash (supposed to have some resistance to bugs), ground cherry, and salsify which should just about fill the available space.

Anyone in a similar climate please feel free to leave a comment on varieties you’ve had success with or growing tips you’d like to share. Enjoy your gardens and Blissful Meals. – The Historic Foodie ©

V = Verticillium Wilt
F or F1 = Fusarium Wilt, Race 1
F2 = Fusarium Wilt, Race 2
F3 = Fusarium Wilt Race 3
St = Stemphylium (gray leaf spot)
EB = Early Blight
N = Nematodes
TMV = Tomato Mosaic Virus
TSWV = Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
AS = Alternaria Stem Canker
BKS = Bacterial Speck