Selecting Vegetable Varieties

— Written By and last updated by

By now, you should have received your seed catalogs. If you haven’t, you can easily search online by visiting the seed company’s site. As you thumb through the colorful pictures and exciting descriptions, take note of the valuable information you’ll find.

Trials of varieties are conducted around the country to test performance. Most of this data is published online, so you can find it there. Keep in mind that are hundreds of varieties of some crops (like tomatoes), so you may not be able to find data on every single variety.

All-America Selections (AAS) is an independent organization that tests newly developed varieties and judges them based on their performance and uniqueness. Popular varieties like the Celebrity tomato, Bright Lights swiss chard, and Waltham butternut are All-America Selections.

Initials following a variety indicate that the variety is less susceptible to certain diseases. If you’ve had a particular disease in your garden in the past, look for varieties that are less susceptible.

Pay attention to the days to maturity (dtm). This can be very helpful in maintaining a steady harvest. For example, planting three different carrot varieties with varying days to maturity at the same time will allow you to harvest carrots for weeks.

All in all, it can be difficult to know exactly how a variety will perform in your garden. Weather, among other things, can further complicate the issue, as some varieties will do great one year and poorly the next. When in doubt, you may just have to do some experimenting and see what works best in your garden.

Whichever seeds you choose, make sure you order early. Some of the rarer varieties will sell out quickly. Keep in mind that if you’re starting seeds to set out as transplants, you’ll need to sow seed about six weeks prior to setting them out.

For questions to your gardening questions, contact the Caldwell Extension office by calling 828-757-1290 or visiting