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Can't wait for 2009 gardening season?

The melon "Lambkin" is a vegetable award winner for this year. It is a gourmet melon that matures early, and is easy to grow in either large containers or gardens. The oval-shaped melon weighs between two and four pounds, and has a thin rind surrounding the sweet and aromatic white flesh inside - perhaps the main reason for growing it. It only takes a little over two months (65 to 75 days) after setting plants out until fruit ripen. Since vines are vigorous, if planting in gardens allow six feet between plants.

This melon is among a group with a couple of descriptive common names. Piel de sapo translates to "skin of the toad," referring to the yellow skin with green mottling. Since it stores for a long time, it is called the Christmas melon.

Eggplant "Gretel" has small fruit on a small plant, making it perfect for small gardens and containers. It has tender skin, few seeds, the sweetest flavor, and is the earliest of the white eggplants. Fruits can be harvested in less than 2 months (about 55 days) from transplanting. Harvest regularly to get the most fruit set, and when fruits are at least three inches long. Plants grow about three feet high, and the same or less wide so space two feet apart.

The third vegetable winner for 2009 is the squash Honey Bear, bred here in New England (many new introductions are bred in California or Asia). It is an acorn squash with a sweet flavor, and a tolerance to powdery mildew. This is the common disease on squash with moisture and the cooler temperatures late in the season. Honey Bear has a high yield of three to five fruits per plant. Having a compact and bushy habit, this vegetable, too, is ideal for smaller gardens. Reaching about two feet tall and about four feet across, space it about two feet by six feet or similar. Plan on a little over three months (about 100 days) from sowing to harvest.

Ask your local garden store or greenhouse if they will carry these All-America selections this year, otherwise you may need to start them yourself from seeds. Look for seeds in mail-order catalogs, and seed racks this spring at your local garden store. For more details on these and past All-America winners, visit their website (www.all-americaselections.org).

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