Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2010 Test Garden...the results are in!

It was exciting to get my Organic Gardening magazine, (Feb-Mar, 2011) in the mail today highlighting some of the treasures that the test gardeners (of which I am one) trialled last year.

If you are putting in a garden this year, there were a few items that were just outstanding.  They may just be worth your consideration!

Be aware that not all the test gardeners agreed on all these findings.  There is a huge range where we are growing; from Wellandport, to Las Vegas to Idaho to California and Washington State.  In total there are 14 of us, plus of course the test garden at "headquarters" in Emmaus , Pennsylvania.  Different weather, different soil, pretty much different everything!

I had in the range of thirty different seed varieties to try.  There were quite a few tomatoes, peppers and beans.  Also a good number of lettuces, flowers and a basil and watermelon.

 First, let me say that the flowers were a big surprise and delight.

I don't at all consider myself a flower garden person, but flowers, especially carefree, bright and happy ones like these could convert me.
Definitely worth growing are the two 2010 AAS (All America Selection) winners, Double Zahara Fire  Zinnia and Double Zahara Cherry Zinnia (pictured at right). Exceptional!  These were colourful, full of blooms all season, carefree and totally uplifting.

The AAS winning Marigold, Moonsong Deep Orange was also exceptional with it's bright and large flower balls of colour.  And as with all marigolds, trouble free.  Very worthwhile.

Of the four lettuce varieties I trialled, Sea of Red is definitely the most memorable.

Sea of Red is without a doubt the darkest colour of lettuce I have ever grown.
Deep burgundy, this leaf lettuce (courtesy of Renee's Garden) was a hit in the salad bowl as it was an incredible contrast to the other ingredients and was sweet and crunchy.  Really, just gorgeous!

The peppers were all very good, but the one that knocked my socks off for earliness and productivity was Pinot Noir.  Good in the purple and red stage and heavy with peppers all season, this one was producing WAY ahead of every other pepper in my garden.  We were eating lots of these in July, while the rest of my peppers came on strong in August.  Unbelievable.  The seeds for these were courtesy of Burpee, but sadly they won't ship into Canada.  To get seeds for these you need to be creative (ie-got an American friend?)  Trust me, worth it in every way.

Tomatoes were the most difficult category for me to try.  I do have a built in bias for heirlooms.  And the heirloom seed I was given didn't disappoint.

Green Cherokee, although not a huge producer, is a luscious tasting green tomato.  I've grown it for years, and knew I would like it.  Red Pearl (Johnny's) was an excellent grape-type cherry, although I found the skin a tad tough.  But, wow- sweet and yummy.  It was hard to stop eating it.  I found it very similar to another tomato I discovered on my own last year-Elfin.  Elfin is an open pollinated variety, so I'll probably stick with it, but Red Pearl is very good.

San Marzano 3 , an open pollinated paste was virtually indistinguishable from my favourite paste tomato, Federle.  A long sausage type tomato, it was meaty, with a small seed cavity, with a lovely rich flavour.

One tomato that I didn't care for at all, unlike many of my fellow testers, was the heirloom imposter, Tye-Dye, from Burpee.  This tomato, yellow with red marbling, was pretty, but tough and tasteless.  The heirloom bicolours can't be beat.

Bean-wise, Turkey Craw (Seed Savers Exchange) produced well for me.  This is a dry bush bean...a smallish brown mottled colour.  It's been a tasty winner in winter soups.
Beananza, again from Burpee, was my favourite fresh bean, perhaps because I am partial to french filet types.  This one held well on the plant, was long and slim, with good flavour.

Time to start thinking garden, so consider these suggestions.  And for more results, check out the magazine and the highlights at: www.organicgardening.com/2010trials.

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