Gardening provides great freedom in the choice of plants available and this winter, the seed catalogs arriving in the post with new plants for the next season show a snapshot of the choices available in glorious color printing. Read on to find out what new varieties of plants I will be growing and the totally new plants my 2018 garden.
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Every year I trial plants. I am always trying something new in the garden. It might be a new variety of plant or a new plant completely. I bought my seeds before the seed catalogs showed up meaning I would be forced to plan my garden for the next few years ahead of time. As such, I’m growing some trusted varieties that are delicious family favorites as well as experimenting with new varieties without the temptation to trial plants which are coming out year after year.
Just as science has lead to amazing feats like walking on the moon and exploring the universe, experimenting in your garden can lead to something amazing. You could develop your very own variety of plant from a hobby of growing organic open pollinated produce!
Why Experiment & Trial New Plants?
Have you ever heard the saying that variety is the spice of life? We are encouraged to eat a rainbow of colors on our plates and to eat more fruit and vegetables. but aside from the different colors, nutrient content and flavors of the produce, there are other good reasons for growing new and different varieties. With my permaculture thinking hat on, the following reasons for plant trials come to mind:
- A diverse array of plants will help to create a resilient microclimate and ecosystem.
- Diverse plantings help to confuse pests.
- Diversity reduces vulnerability and reliance on only one plant or species.
- Diverse plantings lead to stable ecosystems and guilds.
Other reasons to trial new plants include:
- Resistance to pests.
- Resistance to disease.
- Resistance to environmental factors such as heat, frost and drought.
- Historical preservation of the variety, especially important for heirlooms.
- Plant breeding.
- Ability to home in on the plants which meet your needs.
- Disaster back up in case of crop failure.
- Different days to maturity meaning you can grow early, mid season and late varieties.
- Different color, texture or appearance.
- Increased yields.
- As a new grower you may be trialing new varieties to find your rockstar performers to grow in the future.
How To Select New Varieties To Trial
The plants you choose to trial are dependent on the features or traits you are needing. Ask yourself what are you seeking? New colors, new flavors? Do you need drought tolerant plants or those which are cold hardy?
Create a list of the features you are looking for then review the seed catalogs and websites. Carefully read the descriptions for the features you are wanting and select those plants.
If you are a new grower, only trial 1 or 2 new varieties of a plant so you don’t get overwhelmed.
How To Trial Plants
Decide on the objective of the trial. What is the reason you are growing the plants for?
If you have a consistent variety which you already grow, this will become your standard or control. You will compare your trial varieties against this standard.
Try to grow your plants in similar conditions; same seed starting method, similar growing locations etc so that you can have a fair assessment of the plants growth and progress. Be consistent with fertilizer, mulch, water and other factors which you control too this way your trial plant records and plots will be able to provide you with the most useful information.
Keep records of weather, fertilizer and watering, pests and diseases, planting dates, transplant and seed starting dates, when you first started harvesting, your final harvest date and the yield obtained so you can accurately evaluate your growing experiment. You can also note flavor, cooking and family thoughts on the trial plant varieties as well.
Decide on how you will rate your plants. If you are growing for yield then weighing the yields may be appropriate. Improved tolerance against environmental factors may be as easy as seeing the damage exhibited by the environment.
2018 Trial Plants In My Garden
The following plant varieties are to be put through their paces in trials in my garden. Read on to find out what I’m trialing and why.
As a united family front, we are really driven by tomato flavor. We even made a video with my husband as a blindfolded taster sampling different tomatoes that we grew and from the store:
As a family, we much prefer the darker purple/black/red tomatoes and this year in addition to the requested favorite, I will be growing Black Krim and trialing Black Icicle tomatoes. My family want to grow Amish Paste and Gezahnte paste tomatoes.
Black Icicle is reputed (according to the seed packet) to have an incredible rich taste with earthy overtones.
Our trial will be based on taste again although I plan on some tomato breeding experiments in the upcoming year!
Peppers I’m trying to find out what my family like the best. As such I’m growing Lightning Mix, Jalapeno (hot peppers saved by Erica from Owning Burton Farm), Poblano. Leutschauer Paprika and Emerald Giant bell peppers.
I usually grow yellow patty pan squashes which are wonderful sliced with pasta with pesto. The yellow patty pan will be the control variety against Gelber Englischer Custard and Panache Blanc et Vert Scallop patty pan or scallop type summer squashes. I’m growing these to find a variety which is more productive than the yellow patty pan.
Zucchini is a break from the usual Black Beauty to try Costata Romanesco; a beautifully fluted variegated or striped variety.
Winter squash trials include acorn Table Queen, the warty Italian delight rated as one of the best for flavor Marina de Chioggia and banana type Candy Roaster – North Georgia. This trial is rated by taste and yield.
Pumpkins (and beans) are my downfall in vegetable growing, I love growing them, carving them and eating them. My husband is a firm believer that pumpkins should be orange and chose the small Winter Luxury Pie and the large Rouge Vif D’etampes and Musquee de Provence to grow whilst I opted for the blue-grey striped Pipian from Tuxpan.
Pumpkins will be rated on appearance, ease of carving and taste.
I almost exclusively prefer pole bean varieties in the garden. They add structure and interest to the vegetable plot when grown up bamboo cane structures or over arches. We eat more dried beans as a family than fresh beans. Our rockstar performer in 2017 were my Borlotti pole beans which will serve as the control for 2018. In trialing the pole beans I’m looking for yields in the following varieties: Ojo de Cabra, Mayflower, McCaslan 42 Pole, Hutterite Soup, Good Mother Stallard, Cherokee Trail of Tears, Hidatsa Red Indian bean.
To my husband, a carrot should be like a pumpkin: orange. However, our non-existent carrot harvest has lead me get different colors of carrots. I am literally growing all the varieties of carrots I purchased in an effort to find one which will grow well in my garden. Looking at yield, taste and overall growth the following varieties are to be grown Pusa Asita Black, Cosmic Purple, Purple Dragon, Gniff, Kyoto Red, Atomic Red and Pusa Rudhisa Red.
Carrot varieties which grow well will be left in the ground over winter under mulch and will be harvested for seed in the following year.
Bloomsdale Longstanding and Strawberry Spinach make it in a head to head test of taste and yield. The Medieval heirloom of Strawberry Spinach will be an exciting variety to try for my family!
What plants and varieties are you going to trial in your garden?
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