ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Want to know some of the best vegetable or flower varieties to try in your garden or planter this coming year? Before ordering seeds from a catalog, take a closer look at University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners’ new list of top picks just for Minnesota gardeners.
More than 120 volunteers from 46 counties around the state announced their favorites for Minnesota gardeners after growing and observing six kinds of vegetables and two flowers last summer. This annual top picks effort goes back to 1982, and more than 200 plants are on the list.
“We can help save frustration and money by guiding gardeners toward varieties that really do well in Minnesota,” said Sue Schiess, chair of the Minnesota Master Gardener Seed Trial Leadership Team. “I don’t think you can get that information any place else.”
In a blind test, Master Gardeners monitor half a dozen varieties of each plant for disease and insect tolerance, growth and germination rate. They rate flowers for their bloom color, size and fragrance; vegetables are rated for taste and flavor, as well as productivity. Schiess says the trials help sort out the “buzz” about new plants.
“Like the ‘Victoria Blue’ Salvia—that was a Minnesota winner from a number of years ago,” she said. “In spite of the chatter about fancy new varieties that are more expensive, they did not do as well [as the ‘Victoria Blue’].”
Some highlights about the Minnesota Winners for 2018: Edamame (young soybeans) was trialed for the first time and Master Gardeners chose the variety ‘Chiba Green’ as their favorite. Schiess says they reported all varieties tested were easy to grow. The truly yellow ‘Valencia’ tomato achieved high marks for a slightly acidic, slightly sweet taste and soft skin. For pollinator gardeners, Salvia ‘Victoria Blue’ held its top spot, in spite of many new challengers on the market. Its blooms lasted past several frosts into October.
What’s on 2019’s list? Volunteers will test varieties of arugula, gold beets, sugar snap peas, red cabbage, mint, tall yellow snapdragons, a red-blossoming nasturtium and a very early tomato called ‘Fourth of July,’ Schiess said. “We want to know—what do they taste like?”
You’ll find “Minnesota Winners” in county display gardens around the state. The 2019 Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s teaching garden in Chaska also features these varieties.
For more information about the Minnesota Master Gardener Seed Trials, go to: https://z.umn.edu/MNWinners. You can also contact the Stearns County Extension Office, 320-255-6169 ext. 1 for specific information on the seed trial and the winners.
Credit for quotes and trial results in this article goes to University of Minnesota Extension News.
— Katie Winslow, University of Minnesota Extension
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