This is a list of the garden vegetable varieties that I am growing in my garden in 2021. I’ll give you little snippets of why I chose those varieties for my garden zone 8a in South Carolina and also links to more info on growing those veggies, in case you’re a bit overwhelmed with the planning of your garden this year.
Being Excited for My 2021 Vegetable Garden
Oh man, it’s only January and I am SO excited to start planting! Any other obsessed and happy gardeners getting all fidgety about planting your 2021 vegetable garden yet?
I have a tradition where I plan my garden (here’s how I plan my garden) on New Year’s Day. That’s when I order my seeds from various organic/heirloom seed companies (here’s a list of my favorite organic seed companies). I ALWAYS order seeds from different companies, not only to ‘spread the love’ and support multiple awesome companies, but also because I feel a bit vulnerable putting all my trust in one company for all my seeds after my poor gardening season fiasco.
This year, however, I ordered all of my seeds on Thanksgiving. The year 2020 proved the importance of gardening and when I heard whispers that seed companies were running low on stock already in early November, I upped my game and ordered seeds early, and thank goodness I did! Many of my favorite varieties were already out and I had to be a bit more creative in my vegetable varieties this year. I’m not complaining about that, because I LOVE experimenting with different crops (but I am also sad that my #1 fave grape tomato variety was sold out. Boo!).
NOTE: IT’s not too late to order seeds! You might need to be creative and expand your search and possibly purchase seeds from multiple seed companies, but you can still get seeds for your upcoming garden. BUT DON’T DELAY!!!! Shop for your seeds ASAP. Need some ideas where to get seeds this year? Check out my post on High Quality Seed Companies and hopefully you’ll find the seeds you need for the 2021 gardening year.
This year, I ordered seeds from 3 different companies: Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and True Leaf Market. I’ve also got some leftover seeds that are still fresh from last year (here’s how I test the viability of old seeds) from some of these seed companies and also from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
My 2021 Garden Vegetable Varieties
Enough blabbering from me. You came here to learn what garden vegetable varieties I am gonna grow in my garden this year. PLEASE tell me about your garden plans in the comments! I love getting a glimpse into other people’s gardens.
I grow both bush beans and pole beans in my garden every year.
2021 Bush Bean Varieties:
I am doubling my bush beans this year so that we have enough frozen beans (here’s how we preserve beans) to get us through next fall and winter. In 2020, I grew Calima beans, and while they didn’t have Mexican bean beetle issues this time (see 2020 notes below), the variety did not produce high yields for me.
I will be growing Dragon Tongue Beans again in 2021. My hubby LOVED the taste of them. I thought the texture was a bit too ‘soft’ for me, but they had a delicious flavor. The texture didn’t bother me enough not to grow them again. We will also be growing Empress beans, which has a description saying “the vigorous plants produce heavy yields” which is exactly what I’m looking for so that we can preserve more beans for the winter.
2020 Garden Notes: I’ve got some leftover Calima beans that I’ll use up. They did pretty well last year, though they did have an attack of Mexican bean beetles at one point, and I’m not sure if this variety is vulnerable to them or it was just bad luck, but I’ve never had issues with bean beetles before. So I’m doing half Calima and then I’m trying a new variety: Dragon Tongue Beans! I’m super excited to try them. It’s a cool name and they look really pretty: with stripes of purple and yellow.
2021 Pole Beans Variety:
We LOVED the Long Bean Chinese Red Noodle pole beans that we tried last year. The texture and taste was amazing and we got very high yields. The downsides include: pest issues and pokey end. For some reason, the leaf-footed bugs that harass my tomatoes every year also really loved this pole bean plant. Also, ants were obsessed with this plant, and would eat a little bit of each bean. Since the beans are over a foot long, I just cut off the parts the ants nibbled on. The pokey ends also took some getting used to. You have to handle with care because the tips are very pointy and kinda hurt. Regardless of the downsides, they were delicious and high yielding, so the Red Noodle beans stay for at least another year.
2020 Garden Notes: I’m trying a totally funky and new variety of pole beans this year. It’s called Long Bean Chinese Red Noodle. The beans get almost 2 feet long! And they are purple and tolerate heat and humidity, which we have in surplus here in South Carolina summers. Can’t wait to try this variety!
2021 Beets Variety: The Golden Beets variety I tried last year were a complete FAIL. They came in the mail with a sticker warning about very low germination, which I wish was included in the online/catalog info, because then I would never have purchased them. None of them grew, so I’ll be trying a different variety this time. I’ll be trying Bull’s Blood Beets, because both the leaves and roots are supposed to be delicious and good-sized for eating. I love the idea of growing a dual-edible vegetable.
2020 Garden Notes: I usually grow Red Ace Beets, but I thought I’d be daring this year and try Golden Beets for a new look. They are bright yellow and it’s an heirloom from before the 1820s which makes me smile.
2021 Carrots Varieties: This year, I’ll be growing Danvers 126 Carrots which are a nice, classic orange carrot type. I’ve grown them before with great success. The Purple Dragon Carrots from last year did not grow well, and I didn’t care for their color (it’s weird having purple carrots in my soup).
2020 Garden Notes: I’ll be finishing up my very successful Nutri-Red Carrots variety packet and I’ll be growing Purple Dragon Carrots as a new variety this year, too. I love non-orange carrots apparently!
2021 Celery Varieties: Apparently I do every-other-year with my celery. I won’t be growing celery this year. However, I can say that the Giant Red Celery grew really well, and the Tall Utah Celery was sickly and did not do well. I’ll be growing the red celery again in 2022.
2020 Garden Notes: I took last year off from growing celery due to lack of gardening space, so I’m pretty excited to grow them again this year! I’ll be growing two different types to compare/contrast how the varieties do for me. Tall Utah Celery is your standard looking celery, and I’ll be growing a funky and very pretty Giant Red Celery, which is an old-fashioned variety from England.
2021 Cucumber Variety: I’m growing the pickling cucumbers again this year, and I chose to try Excelsior F1 pickling cucumbers. The description said “Vigorous, balanced plant with consistent fruit setting. Excellent flavor.” That sounded good to me. We shall see if I can stay ahead of the pickling worms this year! They are terrible in South Carolina.
By the way, the Japanese Long Cucumbers in my 2020 garden (mentioned below) were a FAIL . Not a single plant provided any cucumbers. I won’t be trying that variety again.
2020 Garden Notes: Every other year, I either grow pickling cucumbers or slicing cucumbers. Last year, I had a good pickling cucumber harvest. So this year, I’ll be growing the slicing cucumber type that you eat raw or on salads. Japanese Long Cucumbers are those types at the grocery store that are long and skinny and contain less seeds. It’s my first year growing this variety and I’m looking forward to seeing how they do!
2021 Greens Varieties: Confession: I don’t like eating normal lettuces. My heart belongs to arugula. I’ve got 1/4 pound of arugula seeds to sow in my garden for the year. Here are my expert tips to having an almost year-long arugula growing season. I’m also growing Byrd Mustard Greens. I eat mustard greens both raw and cooked with some bacon. Yum.
2021 Kale Varieties: I LOVE kale. However, I did NOT like the Tronchuda Kale variety that I tried in my 2020 summer garden. It was similar-tasting to cabbage, which isn’t something I want to eat in the summer. Cabbage is a fall/winter/spring food, thankyouverymuch. So I will not be growing that type of kale again. I missed normal kale SO MUCH by the end of summer (because by the time I realized what Tronchuda tasted like, all kale seeds were sold out).
This year, I’m sticking to my favorite varieties: Blue Curled Kale and Siberian Kale. They are just your standard kale types with the curled leaves and I love it. I’m hoping to grow an entire bed of kale to make up for last summer’s fiasco.
2020 Garden Notes: I’ll be trying a new (to me) kale variety this year: Tronchuda Kale. They are supposed to be more heat-tolerant than most kales, so it will be fun to see if I can eat kale even in our 100 degree August.
2021 Pea Variety: I finally found the PERFECT peas for my climate! The Green Beauty Snow Peas that I tried last year were a huge success. We actually got sick of eating peas by the end of the pea season! They had very high yields and they were absolutely delicious. We actually have some in the freezer for making stir-fries this winter. I’m so happy about my peas variety!
2020 Garden Notes: In theory, sugar snap peas do better in South Carolina’s climate than snow peas. But I love snow peas more, so every year I try to grow a different variety of snow peas. I have a nice medium-sized crop every year, but I’m big on experimenting and I’m looking for a HUGE harvest. Some day, I’ll find my Perfect Snow Pea variety. Maybe this will be the year! I’ll be trying Green Beauty Snow Peas, a variety that boasts to having “vigorous vines…[that] yield plentiful amounts of pods”. We shall see!
2021 Hot Pepper Varieties: Okay, I must admit here that I am a spice-o-holic. I LOVE hot peppers. So I grow what might seem like insane amounts of hot peppers every year. And I like trying new ones (as well as keeping the classics) every year, too. So here’s a glimpse at the hot peppers I’ll be growing this year:
- Ancho Poblano: I love these medium-heat peppers, but they don’t yield very well over here. I keep trying, though! I’ll be growing two plants.
- Brazilian Starfish: They are super pretty AND give high yields. They are very delicious, and I love eating them raw, right from the plant. The seeds are spicy but the flesh is like a mild citrus taste. Yum. I’ll always be planting these in the future! I’ll only plant one, because the yields are so high.
- Carolina Cayenne: A very heavy yielding pepper plant that will give me more cayenne peppers for drying than I can use in a year. One plant needed only!
- Habanero: Every year, I can’t resist growing ONE habanero (you only need one!). And every year, I’m swimming in more habaneros than I could ever eat or even dry and I tell myself to take a year off. Too bad! I’m growing it again! After all, what’s salsa without some spicy habanero?!
- Hot Portugal: This was an impulse buy this year, but the description says they are huge HOT peppers with high yields that are good fresh or dried. Dual purpose hot peppers?!? Yes, please! I’ll grow either 1 or 2 plants.
- Hungarian Hot Wax: A hot banana pepper variety, they are delicious in homemade salsa. Perfect in place of jalapenos for poppers! I’ll be growing either 1 or 2 plants.
- Georgia Flame: I’ve never heard of this variety, and it is described as ‘hot and high yielding’ so I impulse-bought them. I’ll grow either 1 or 2 plants.
- Ghost Reaper: I’m going to be crazy and grow ONE ghost reaper pepper plant so I can play around with homemade hot sauce recipes. Can’t wait!
- Jedi F1 Jalapeno: For the first time ever, in 2020, I had a bad harvest of jalapenos, so this year I’m trying a new variety, Jedi, because the description says “highest potential yield” which sounds promising. I’ll be growing 6 jalapeno plants this year.
- Serano: A few years ago, I planted both serano and jalapeno. The slugs demolished the seranos, and I was glad to have a great jalapeno crop. The year after that, the opposite happened, and I was super fortunate to have seranos to replace jalapenos in my recipes. So the lesson I learned is to grow BOTH serano and jalepeno, because they are interchangable in recipes and the pests seem to only both one type a year for some reason. I grow Hot Rod F1 Serano variety and I’ll plant 3 or 4 plants.
2021 Spinach Varieties: My spinach varieties were ALL disappointments in my 2020 garden. Strawberry Spinach did not germinate; New Zealand did not germinate; and the Red Malabar was high yielding but disgusting. Blegh! What a weird texture. I’ll be trying a new variety of spinach this year called America Spinach, which is described as “high-quality, heat and drought-tolerant spinach”. Fingers crossed this is actually true and that this variety also tastes good!
2020 Garden Notes: Classic spinach varieties don’t do very well with our South Carolina heat. Instead, I grow a bunch of non-true spinaches that taste just like them. I’ll be growing Strawberry Spinach which has mild pretty berries and leaves that can be cooked like spinach. I’ll also be growing New Zealand Spinach, which is a really pretty plant whose leaves also cook up like spinach. Finally, I’ll be trying a new variety: Red Malabar Spinach, which is super intriguing because it’s a heat-loving vine with pretty red stems and spinach-type leaves. That will be fun to try!
2021 Sweet Pepper Varieties: I am SO happy that I tried Cubanelle sweet peppers in my 2020 garden! I finally found a high-yielding sweet pepper that does well with our South Carolina summers! I had so many Cubanelle peppers that we were overflowing with them and I put many of them in the freezer for future batches of homemade chili.
2020 Garden Notes: Every year, I try a different variety of sweet peppers and most of them do not like our South Carolina heat. But I keep trying. Here are the sweet peppers I’ll be trying this year: Bull Nose (Large Sweet Spanish), Cubanelle, Golden Marconi, and Sweet Chocolate Bell Pepper.
2021 Sweet Potato Variety: I decided to take a break this year from growing sweet potatoes. The yields are just too low for a plant that hogs an entire raised bed in my garden. In my 2020 garden, the Caroline Ruby Sweet Potato variety did better than the Beauregard did in 2019. I do plan on growing sweet potatoes again in 2022. This year, I’m really focusing on putting up enough food in our pantry and storage, and all low-yielding crops are being put aside.
2020 Garden Notes: I usually grow Beauregard Sweet Potatoes but I thought I would try a new variety this year, appropriately called Carolina Ruby Sweet Potato. I mean, how can I go wrong with a Carolina named variety in my South Carolina garden?
2021 Radish Varieties: I love radishes! They are one of my favorite spring vegetables (and here’s how I love to eat them). I’ll be growing Cherry Belle Radishes, as well as Easter Egg Radishes, and finally Early Scarlett Globe Radishes. That SHOULD be enough types to satisfy my radish cravings. 🙂
2021 Tomato Varieties: Tragically, seed stores are sold out of my #1 fave grape tomato: Five Star Grape F1. Boo! So we’ll be trying a brand-new type: Red Pearl Grape. Hopefully it goes well! We’ll be doing Big Beef for our slicing tomato (the type we use for BLT sandwiches, etc.). This is a new variety for us to try. Finally, we’ll be doing San Marzano again for our paste tomato for canning. I’m doubling our tomato beds this year so I can aggressively fill our pantry with canned tomatoes and canned tomato sauce.
Last year fails: The Atomic Grape were awful! They were WAY bigger than ‘grape-sized’ and you never knew when they were ready to harvest. And I didn’t care for the taste/texture. The German Pinks were also a failure: the plants looked beautiful and they gave me ZERO fruit! I’m pretty sure it’s the seed company’s fault: they have screwed me multiple different ways in the past and I will not be giving them another try.
2020 Garden Notes: For sure, no matter what, I’ll be growing my Five Star Grape F1 Grape Tomatoes variety. My hubby and friends can’t get enough of them. They do really well down here and are SO flavorful. I’ll also be trying Brad’s Atomic Grape Grape Tomatoes this year. They look so funky, I just couldn’t resist the purchase! They are all sorts of crazy colors. I’ll be trying German Pink Tomatoes for my slicing tomatoes this year. Finally, I’ll be growing San Marzano Lungo No. 2 Paste Tomatoes for canning. Someone I know in the area grew this variety last year and had pounds and pounds of tomatoes. So I’ll plant either 5 or 6 of them so I can get a lot of canned tomatoes this year (hopefully).
My Fall Garden Vegetables:
Here in mild Upstate South Carolina, fall gardening is not only doable, it is really easy! The bugs die and the weather remains good. So I’ll be still growing some of the stuff mentioned above, like my arugula and mustard greens. And my tomatoes and peppers will keep going all the way until the first frost in early November. And I don’t harvest sweet potatoes until December so that garden bed is still going.
Here’s a list of the other plants I grow in the fall:
2021 Brussels Sprouts Variety: I grow Catskill (Long Island Improved) Brussels in my fall garden. I don’t have the perfect luck with brussels in our climate, but I try growing them most years because it is one of my favorite vegetables.
2021 Cabbage Varieties: My hubby LOVES cabbage and sauerkraut, so I have to have an entire bed of cabbages just for him every fall. I grow Early Flat Dutch Cabbage and also Red Acre Cabbage which is a purple type. They both do well and look so pretty in the garden during the fall and winter!
2021 Cauliflower Variety: Every year, I try to grow Snowball Self-Blanching Cauliflower with very limited success. It’s fun to try, though!
2021 Collards Varieties: I LOVE collards! They are so good sauteed with some bacon. Mmm…we love eating them weekly over here, so we grow a lot of collard greens. We will be growing Georgia Southern Collards from now on. They did really well with our random heat waves that last until mid-November.
2020 Garden Notes: We usually only grow Champion Collards but this year I’ll be growing those again as well as a new variety, Georgia Southern Collards, because we are so close to the Georgia state line, so they MUST work here! 🙂
2021 Garlic Variety: Each year, I’ve noticed that my garlic harvest was slightly lower than the year before, so I decided to start with a clean slate this year and I bought new garlic bulbs for the first time in years. I bought the Small Garden Sampler Garlic Mix from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. It comes with ¼ lb of an artichoke-type softneck, ¼ lb of a silverskin-type softneck, ¼ lb of a rocambole-type hardneck, and ¼ lb of a purple-striped hardneck. It claims a harvest of approx. 8 pounds. I look forward to figuring out which of these types of garlic will do well for me in our climate.
2020 Garden Notes: I’ll be honest, I don’t remember the Garlic variety I grow anymore. I bought the original bulbs 8 years ago, and I have great garlic seasons and just save 3 or 4 bulbs every year for another crop. It makes it my most frugal garden growing crop. We grow softneck garlic since that’s what does better in the south.
2021 Leek Variety: I’m currently growing my last-year leeks and they are doing great, so I’ll be growing American Flag Leek variety again in my 2021 fall garden. I can’t wait to harvest them!
2021 Rutabaga Variety: I love rutabagas! I’ll be growing the American Purple Top Yellow Rutabaga variety again this year. It does really well in our mild climate fall garden.
2021 Turnip Variety: The Amber Globe Turnip variety did really well this fall season, so I will be growing them again in my future fall garden.
2020 Garden Notes: I try various turnip varieties down here with no success. I don’t know why, since I have no issue growing rutabagas and they are in the same family. But I’ll keep trying because I love eating turnips. I’ll be trying the Amber Globe Turnip this year. Fingers crossed!
What I am NOT Growing in 2021 (and Why):
I am taking another year off from growing potatoes. It’s kinda expensive to grow potatoes and I had only limited success in the past. I’ve been reading and research growing potatoes in grow bags, so once I feel confident in that growing material, I’ll probably grow potatoes again.
For the second year in a row, I am avoiding ALL melon varieties (cantaloupes, watermelons, etc.) as well as ALL squashes. All of them. No butternut squash, acorn squash, zucchini and yellow squash, etc. It’s so sad. But necessary.
I am staying away from these plant families as a drastic measure to get rid of some really bad pest invasions that I’ve had in my garden every year. Every year, despite obsessively and exhaustingly trying to keep up on these particular plant families’ care, I have HUGE pest invasions of vine borers AND squash bugs.
I’ve tried every single organic pest control tip I can find. I’ve spent hours and hours, all day long, killing the bugs by hand, or wrapping plants and produce in stockings, foil, cardboard, netting, yeah, you name it. And I just cannot seem to win.
One of the “last hurrah” organic gardening tips I’ve read about for battling these squash bugs and vine borers is to take a year off. The remaining eggs of these pests in my garden, in theory, will hatch this year and find none of their favorite foods to eat. In theory. We shall see how it goes! Hopefully they die off or move on, so I can tentatively try growing some of my favorite garden vegetable varieties again in the future.
Without these squash bug and vine borer issues in my 2020 garden, I was much happier and less-stressed in my vegetable garden. It was nice not exhausting myself in a losing battle. Since I liked that feeling of success, I decided to take another year off from growing those pests’ favorite foods. Hopefully I’m ready to try again in 2022.
More Plants in My 2021 Vegetable Garden
A vegetable garden is NOT complete without companion plants, edible flowers, and zinnias. They look beautiful (good for the gardening soul), they repel bad pests, and they encourage pollinators. And obviously edible flowers are a tasty addition to summer salads!
- Click here for my list of Plant for Attracting Beneficial Insects
- Click here for my list of edible flowers (and delicious recipes!)
My Vision for My 2021 Gardening Year:
In 2020, my darling hubby built me a greenhouse. I’m still figuring out how to use it, but I hope to add new articles on greenhouses and more tropical plants that I can grow in the greenhouse over the winter.
I also plan to continue my ambitious plan on transforming our entire backyard into a garden paradise. We are tearing out the grass and adding lots of flowers and herbs instead. We got half of it done in 2020, and we hope to finish in 2021. When I feel more confidant in my flower-gardening-skills, I’ll add that info to my website!
My biggest goal is simply to dramatically increase the harvest numbers for the plants I am growing. I’ve been working on adding soil amendments (check out my soil amendments ebook for details!) and really nurturing the soil this year. Stay tuned!
Tell me about your 2021 Garden Vegetable Varieties and plans in the comments below!