3 Garden Plants I’m Excited To Grow In 2023

Half the fun of shopping through seed, garden and nursery catalogs is looking for new plants to try. Here are three plants I'm excited to try growing for the first time.

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by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Up here on my northern Wisconsin farm, there are tried-and-true plants I grow every year. Sun Gold tomatoes. Sweetness sweet corn. Casperita pumpkins.

But half the fun of shopping through seed, garden and nursery catalogs is looking for new plants to try. Sometimes I’m experimenting with a different variety of a favorable vegetable. Other times I’m looking for a new type of tree to plant.

After putting plenty of thought into my choices, I’m happy with the orders I’ve placed for spring 2023. I’m particularly excited to try growing the following three plants for the first time.


Hazelnuts

Growing nut trees in northern Wisconsin isn’t quite as easy as growing fruit trees like apples and plums. The winters are too cold for many nut trees, including almonds and pecans. Even walnuts and hickories can find the top of Wisconsin a little chilly.

My farm has three old black walnut trees. While they tolerate the winters well enough, spring frosts often prevent the trees from producing meaningful nut crops.

But I’m trying my best to add nut trees to my orchard. I’ve planted a couple of Chinese chestnut trees hardy to my region. Now I’m adding hazel trees.

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Hazel trees grow wild around these parts as small shrubs. While there aren’t any currently growing on my farm, that will change as soon as I plant the two hazel trees I’ve purchased.

I’m excited to give these little nut producers a try. I’m not very familiar with the growth habits of hazel trees, so I’m eager to watch them develop. And with two trees to ensure proper pollination, I’m hopeful I’ll be harvesting bountiful nut crops in the future.


Read more: Considering a nut orchard? Read on to learn more.



Big Max Pumpkins

The northern Wisconsin growing season runs on the short side. So the pumpkins I grow tend to be on the smaller side, so they have time to sprout, flower and fruit between spring and autumn frosts.

But this year I’m going to push the limits of the growing season and try Big Max pumpkins. They’re supposed to reach 100 hundreds or more, dramatically larger than the sub-10-pound pumpkins I normally grow. Best of all, Big Max pumpkins require less than four months to grow, simplifying the challenge of squeezing them into a northern Wisconsin growing season.

I may have to get a little creative to ensure my Big Max pumpkins have a chance to ripen. My goal is to plant them as early as possible in the spring, covering my raised garden beds with plastic beforehand to warm the soil and introducing cloches to protect the young pumpkin plants at night. With a little effort early on (and ample watering throughout the summer), I’m optimistic I can grow some impressive Big Max pumpkins.


Read more: You can use these 4 items as emergency cloches in the event of frost.


Gala Apple Tree

The Gala apple is considered to be one of the sweetest-tasting apple varieties. I can vouch for their delicious flavor. They’re commonly sold in grocery stores, and I’ve enjoyed many Gala apples acquired that way.

But now I intend to grow a Gala apple tree of my own. As far as I can tell from online research, Gala may be the sweetest apple variety that grows this far north, so I’m excited to add it to my orchard. I’ve ordered a relatively small specimen (compared to the large trees I acquire from local nurseries), but waiting a few more years for Gala to grow up and fruit is bound to be worthwhile.

Which plants are you excited to try growing in and around your garden in 2023?

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