Selecting Seeds for the Wisconsin Vegetable Garden

Jeremy Erickson

Jeremy Erickson

Agriculture Educator

Wood County UW-Extension

Tis the season for recovering from the holidays, festivities, family and friends, and putting up with bitter, bitter cold. The question of “what am I going to plant in my garden next year” might not be the first thing on your mind, as some of us are enjoying a break from garden chores, but it is this time of year when seed catalogs start to arrive. Even though it is the middle of winter, it can be quite important to get a jump on getting those seeds that you really want, as some popular varieties can sell out by early February. When selecting seeds, there are a number of different factors to consider such as organic/conventional, heirloom/hybrid, disease resistance, pest resistance, cold/heat tolerance, yield, appearance, taste, and more. When selecting seeds for growing in northern climates such as Wisconsin, it is very important to choose seed varieties that have a short growing time to maturity and are able to tolerate cooler than typical temperatures in order to ensure harvest before the fall frosts come.

I am happy to share with you a few of my favorite vegetable varieties that I have tried over the years, and always look forward to trying other new varieties in the future. Let’s start with potatoes, my favorite vegetable! I usually grow a few different varieties every year, but Kennebec is always a standard. It is high yielding, has good disease resistance, and one of the best potatoes for winter storage. For sweet peppers, my go-to is the Carmen (left). It is one of the best tasting sweet peppers I have ever had, very good yield, and a beautiful deep carmine red color at maturity. I have a special place in my heart for Sun Gold cherry tomatoes (right), as this was the first tomato I ate right from the vine, and the first tomato that got me to enjoy eating a plain raw tomato. For slicing tomatoes, I really enjoy the Golden Jubilee. This is an orange beefsteak variety, very sweet, low acid, and has a very high yield. I will end with a great winter storage crop, and one of which some of you might still have in the ground…carrots. A great and consistent performer has been the Nelson variety. This variety grows well in warm weather while still maintaining its sweetness. A great storage carrot is the Bolero, which tastes great fresh and after long-term storage, making it a great choice for fall and winter harvest. I hope that you have the opportunity to experiment with some of these great vegetable varieties in the future, and wish you a plentiful gardening season this next year! As the days start to get longer, I yearn for the first day of mixing up soil mix, planting seeds, and getting ready for the next season to begin.

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