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Seed catalogs and pop-up ads on the internet show many pictures of delicious vegetables.Many letters appear along with the plant descriptions. What does all this mean? How will this information help me select the vegetables for my garden? By understanding a few terms and using the catalog or online code definitions, the seemly secrete characteristics of the plants are revealed.To extend the harvest of vegetables, look for the phrase “days to maturity,” which indicates the average number of days until the crop is ready to harvest.Pay attention to determine if this refers to the length of time starting from planting seeds or planting transplants. Keep in mind the weather and growing conditions impact the actual harvest date.Earlier maturing varieties produce an early harvest in the spring and are used in a fall garden when the growing season is shorter to produce a crop before frost.Also think about the growing space available in the garden. Look for the description of the plant size. “Patio” often means it takes less space to grow and is possibly suitable for containers.Look for plants described as the best varieties to grow in containers or raised beds. There is at least one variety of tomato, green bean, and sweet corn bred for growing in containers.Pumpkins grow long vines and cover a lot of space. Consider growing a bush type of pumpkin which usually has smaller fruit. However, consider the actual size of the plant in the description. The bush pumpkin may still be too big for the available space.Two terms that describe the growth habit of tomatoes are “determinate” and “indeterminate”. Determinate means the plant will reach a specific size and then stop growing.The tomatoes ripen at about the same time. These plants are suitable for smaller spaces. Indeterminate means the tomato plant continues to grow. Both growth types need staking or caging since it is best to keep the tomato fruit off the ground. However, the indeterminate type needs a bigger support system. The benefit is a continuous harvest until frost or disease kills the plant.When managing plant diseases, look for the terms “tolerant” or “resistant.” Tolerant means the plant endures the disease while still producing a crop. Resistance means the plant has the natural ability to prevent or slow disease development and still produce vegetables.With disease resistance, the need for organic or synthetic chemical management is reduced or possibly eliminated. Examples of disease resistance to look for in tomatoes are verticillium, often represented by a V, and fusarium, represented by an F.These two soil-borne diseases are only managed by disease resistance. You may see a number after these letters. This indicates the disease resistance is against a specific race of the same organism which causes the disease.Look for disease resistance to what is common in the area. For example, early blight is a common disease of tomatoes. Cultivars of cherry tomatoes with some resistance to early blight are “Jasper,” “Mountain Magic,” and Sungold (yellow). Slicing-size tomatoes with resistance to this disease are “Mountain Fresh Plus,” “Mountain Merit,” and “Stellar.” Check the description of the tomato varieties to see what disease resistance they carry.“Treated seeds” indicates that a fungicide or insecticide is put on the seeds. This helps the seed grow without rotting from a soil-borne organism or prevents insects from destroying the seed. Often the seed protectant material has a color, such as pink or green, so you know it is treated.Other codes in the catalog are “F1” and “OP.” F1 is the first generation resulting from the cross-pollination of two specific parents. This hybrid cross results in offspring that are uniform and vigorous.Breeders use this method to naturally obtain resistance to certain diseases. If seeds from the F1 hybrids are saved and planted, you will not have the same variety characteristics as what was planted the first year.On the other hand, the code OP stands for open-pollinated. Seeds collected from these plants come ‘true’ for that variety when planted again.A symbol to look for is a circle with AAS and Winner in a red banner. These varieties were tested for performance across the United States. The winners have different desirable characteristics compared to other varieties within the same crop.After deciding what you want to grow, look for the number of seeds per package. To avoid buying too much, make a quick sketch of your garden space. Plan how many rows of certain vegetables you want to grow.Then look at the required spacing between each vegetable plant. When planting seeds, the plants are thinned to a final spacing because not all of the seeds will germinate. For example, summer squash is planted with 3 seeds to a hill spaced 4 feet apart.After the seeds germinate, remove one of the plants to allow space for the other two plants to grow. Bush-type green beans or snap beans seeds are planted 2 to 3 inches apart and thinned according to the variety.Usually, about a pound of bush snap bean seed is needed to plant 100 feet of row. If you have seeds leftover, share them with a friend or store them in a cool dry location or in the refrigerator in a jar.For more information about understanding seed descriptions and codes, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service at 270-685-8480 or [email protected]’s TipAnnette Meyer Heisdorffer, PhD, is the horticulture extension agent with the Daviess County Extension Office. She can be reached by calling 270-685-8480.

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer, PhD, is the horticulture extension agent with the Daviess County Extension Office. She can be reached by calling 270-685-8480. 
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