Farm Horizons, April 2012

New seed trial results for gardeners

By Christine Schlueter, McLeod CountyMaster Gardener

Every year, the University of Minnesota master gardeners test trial seeds for the coming year. The results are in from last summer, and here is a sneak peak of some you will want to try this spring.

• One of the vegetables the gardeners worked with was the eggplant. On average, the gardeners planted three to eight seeds. The seeds were sown about April 15, and then transplanted to a permanent outdoor location about June 7.

The varieties tested were Oriental Charm, Lavender Touch, Orient Express, Bride, Violetta Lunga, and Ravenna.

The germination rate of all was pretty consistent – about 87 percent – with the exception of Violetta Lunga, which only had a 79 percent rate of germination.

As for flavor, the varieties that were rated “good” included Oriental Charm, Orient Express, and Bride.

The average date for harvesting was Aug. 15. The one that produced the most fruits – with an average of six – and was first that the master gardeners would purchase again was Oriental Charm. The remaining, listed in order of ranking are: Lavender Touch, Orient Express, Bride, Violetta Lunga, and Ravenna.

• Cilantro was another plant that was trialed last year. An average of 28 seeds were planted. May 30 was the average date the seeds were planted, but thinned to plants per variety.

The varieties tested were Santo, Leisure, Caribe, Confetti, and Delfino. Most had a fairly good germination rate of about 70 percent, with the exception of Delfino, which only had a 49 percent germination rate.

The average date they were ready to be harvested was July 19. The clear winner here was Santo, with three-and-one-half cups.

The second harvest was about Aug. 3, with the exception of Caribe, which was harvested July 28. Santo and Leisure had a little more than two-and-one-fourth cups in the second harvest Aug. 3 and 6.

When asked which they would purchase again, the winner by more than 25 percent was Santo and Leisure. The ranking for cilantro, from first to last, is as follows: Santo, Leisure, Caribe, Confetti, and Delfino.

• Fennel was also a part of the seed trials. An average of five seeds of each variety was planted. They were sown April 16, and then transplanted about June 5.

Orion had a germination rate of 70 percent, and was harvested Aug. 11. It had very good flavor, was tender, and 73 percent said they would purchase it again.

Mantovano had a 58 percent germination rate, and was harvested Aug. 13. It also was tender, but only 40 percent said they would purchase it again.

Romanesco was not the best in the trials. The germination rate was only 38 percent. It was harvested Aug. 10. It had good flavor, but was a bit woody, and only 28 percent would purchase again.

• Kohlrabi had three trial varieties. The top-two were Kolibri and Kossak. Kolibir had a better germination rate, but both had very good flavor and were tender. Superschmelz was only acceptable and a little woody, and had a 75-percent germination rate, but only 43 percent were interested in purchasing.

• Other seeds trialed were radishes, with Pink Beauty and Red Head being the top winners. Pink Beauty was mild, and Red Head was medium spicy.

• Tall zinnia plants were trialed in 22 different locations, with all gardeners pleased with their growth in an unusual year for gardens. The landslide winner was UpRoar Rose, followed by Queen Red Lime, Pinca, Queen Lime, and Benary’s Giant Lime. Any of these would be a good green zinnia in a landscape.

• Morning glory seed trials were a bit hard, with the less-than-ideal growing conditions this past summer. The favorites from this test were Grandpa Otts, Heavenly Blue, President Tyler, Flying Saucers, Da Capo Light Blue, and Blue Star. Most would purchase again, with the exception of Blue Star, which had the lowest percentage of 60 that would try it again.

Look for more details on the annual master gardener seed trials in the March edition of the Northern Gardener magazine, or online at

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