Homesteading – Choosing the Right Varieties
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Choosing the appropriate varieties for your homesteading food production system is a challenging decision that continues to evolve each season. The question, “which variety is best for our area?” is
commonly asked at the Extension Office. I encourage you to add this second question in choosing varieties; “which variety is best for my production system?”.
The first question, “which variety is best for our area?”, is fairly straightforward. Variety selection is much more important when choosing a perennial food producing plant vs. an annual food producing plant. For example, blueberry variety selection is key. If you plant a blueberry variety that is meant for the mountains or Maine it will not do well in the Piedmont heat of the foothills. In contrast, tomato variety selection is not as important. There are tomato varieties that can perform very well in a multitude of latitudes and altitudes. Certainly some tomato varieties are more resistant to certain pests and diseases that are probably more prevalent in certain geographic regions but I cannot think of a variety of tomato that will most certainly perform poorly in our area.
Here’s another example: if you want to plant a peach tree, you need to choose a variety that has a 700 to 800 chilling hour (number of hours in the winter below 45 F) requirement for success in our area. If you buy a peach tree variety at your favorite big box store without checking this you may get a tree that flowers in February (low chilling hour requirement) or a tree that never flowers (high chilling hour requirement). Variety selection is critical for this perennial food producer.
In comparison, the beet variety Detroit is grown as far south as Florida and as far north as Maine. However, if you are suffering from leaf spot on your beet greens, a significant disease for commercial vegetable producers, you may want to consider a variety more resistant to that disease such as Ruby Queen (albeit that a variety trial at Cornell only found a slight difference in disease susceptibility between varieties).
There are a number of excellent resources to help you decide on varieties.
For perennial food producing plants here are a few helpful links on varieties:
Asparagus varieties include: Purple Passion, Jersey Supreme, Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight
Rhubarb varieties include: Victoria, Red Cherry
Strawberry varieties include: Chandler, Camarosa
Raspberry varieties include: Nantahala, Heritage, Caroline
Blackberry varieties include: Arapaho, Apache, Ouachita, Natchez, Kiowa, Osage
Blueberry varieties include: Rabbiteye types like Premier, Powderblue, Tifblue
Muscadine varieties include: Tara, Carlos, Noble, Nesbitt
Vinifera grape varieties include: American hybrid and French hybrids
Tree fruit varieties include: many – click the link!
For annual food producing plants here are a few helpful links on varieties:
Other Homesteading articles: