For the past few weeks I have been encouraging home gardeners to be deliberate with their gardening and landscaping activities this year. Like many others, I have spent these past few weeks thinking about what I will plant and grow in my own landscape this year.
Among the plants I will definitely grow are my favorite Mississippi Medallion winners.
I promote these plants in my garden for their performance. While there have been some who didn’t live up to the hype, these low performers are very rare and very far apart.
The 2020 quarantines and home use orders – and I hope we won’t see anything like this in 2021 – have sparked increased interest in domestic vegetable gardens. I called these home gardens “COVID Victory Gardens”. Growing some of your food is satisfying and comforting.
So first, I’ll share my favorite vegetables from the Mississippi medallion. Tomatoes come first as I get most of the questions about them.
Garden Gem tomatoes were selected as the 2020 winner and this variety has proven to be a high performing tomato. Garden Gems have a bushy, semi-determined growth habit that only grows up to 42 inches, which is perfect for my gardening preferences.
The fruits are about 2 cm in diameter and plentiful. I grew Garden Gems in both my spring and fall tomato seasons. I was impressed with the tolerance of the variety to our hot and humid environment, which ravages many other varieties of tomatoes.
Tumbling Tom tomatoes were selected in 2014. This is a smaller tomato plant that I have grown in hanging baskets for several years. The variety is available with both bright red and sunny yellow fruits. I like the compact, trailing growth habit and the fruit clusters that fall over the rim of the basket are very attractive.
I’ve written in the past about how I love growing heirloom tomatoes and learning the stories behind the plants. One of the first heirlooms I grew in my yard after moving to Mississippi was Cherokee Purple.
For the past twelve years, this has been a consistent and pleasant tomato that is purple in color and has a rich flavor. And, boy, does it have a fascinating story! It is said that the strain has been passed down for over 100 years and the seeds originally came from the Cherokee Indians.
The fruits are nice and big and perfect for a delicious “tomato mix”.
This plant needs to be trellised or caged as it is a vigorous, indeterminate grower. The fruits begin to ripen in the garden of my Ocean Springs in mid-June. Although this is late, your patience will be rewarded.
So let’s keep working on being intentional gardeners. There’s no better place to start than tomatoes. I’m going to start my tomato seeds next week and the good thing is you have plenty of time to get seeds to start your own plants as well.
Gary Bachman is Professor of Horticultural Extension and Research at Mississippi State University’s Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, hosting television and radio programs for Southern Gardening. Contact him at [email protected]