Did you know January is National Mail Order Gardening Month? January is the perfect time of year to hunt through seed, garden, and nursery catalogs, shopping for the perfect plants to grow in gardens and orchards.
I love picking out varieties that I’ve never tried before, because—to me—experimenting with new and different plants is half the fun. Here are three plants that I’m excited to grow for the first time in 2024.
1. Apricot Tree
My orchard is filled with fruit trees that are hardy to northern Wisconsin winters: more than a dozen varieties of apples, three different kinds of plums, three types of cherries and even a couple of pears.
But I’m also branching out with more adventurous specimens. A couple of years ago I planted a cold-hardy Contender Peach tree that is doing well. And in 2024, I intend to plant a similarly cold-hardy apricot tree.
I haven’t seriously considered planting apricots in the past because I assumed they weren’t hardy enough for my region. But shopping through catalogs this winter, it seems there are at least a couple of varieties hardy to Zone 4.
Emboldened by this discovery, I’m going to give an apricot a try. My orchard is situated on a south-facing slope, so as with my peach tree, I’ll plant my apricot at the top of the hill (for frost protection), where it will be protected from harsh winter winds by rows of windbreak trees to the west, north and east.
By taking this approach–and by mulching it thoroughly before each winter—I’m optimistic my apricot will not only survive, but thrive.
2. Jarrahdale Pumpkins
I have a tendency to grow the same pumpkin varieties year after year. Early Prince and Casperita are my two favorites. They’ve proven productive and consistent in my raised garden beds.
But last year, I expanded my horizons with Big Max pumpkins. The plants struggled a bit with health issues, but I did manage to grow two hefty pumpkins—one of them the largest I’ve ever grown.
Now that I’ve conquered “big pumpkins,” I’m going to branch into growing different colors. I love my miniature white Casperita pumpkins, and in 2024 I’m going to plant blue Jarrahdale pumpkins.
When I saw them in a seed catalog, I knew I had to give them a try. Blue is a relatively uncommon color in nature, and blue pumpkins will be a delight to grow. The only tricky part is the fact they require 100 days or more to grow and ripen. I may start them off indoors as seedlings to give them a head start.
3. Mongolian Giant Sunflowers
I enjoy growing American Giant sunflowers each year and will plant more in 2024. But I’m going to try another variety as well: Mongolian Giant.
It seems that Mongolian Giants can grow to extraordinary size—more than a dozen feet tall, with flower heads as wide as 1 1/2 feet. I plan to grow them in a rich bed of compost soil, giving them every chance to live up to the “Giant” part of their name. I may even stake a few of them to provide extra support and see if they’ll grower taller as a result.
Which plants are you excited to grow in 2024?