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University of Minnesota Master Gardener Vegetable and Ornamental Trials for 2009

Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, Carver/Scott Master Gardener

Over 100 Master Gardeners throughout Minnesota participated in the trials for 2009. As always, weather was a factor for many, with a long cool dry spell early in the season followed by hot and dry and then by a cool, rainy, stretch at the end. Despite the weather, our testers persevered and most successfully grew and evaluated one of the three vegetables or two ornamentals. Participants grew all the cultivars listed and evaluated yield, flavor, and ornamental value by ranking their performance from 1 to 3 (1=excellent, 3=poor).   They also recorded whether or not they would purchase the cultivar to grow again.

Lima Beans

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Zucchini and lima bean trials
Jackie Smith

Lima growers sowed directly outdoors on an average date of May 30. Growers planted five or more seeds of each variety, and kept from two to three plants of each for evaluation. All varieties were marked as bush varieties. Flavor and texture were evaluated using cooked young shelled beans.
  • "Burpee Improved" averaged 2.8 light green beans per pod at 103 days from planting to harvest. The beans were quite large at .8" each, and the plants averaged 1.1 cup of shelled beans each. Ranked #1 for flavor, texture, and overall. Seventy-five percent of our testers are willing to purchase Burpee Improved in the future.
  • "Dixie Butterpea" was earliest to produce light green beans at 102 days from planting. The small, ½" beans were produced at the rate of 3.2 per pod, with an average of 1.2 cups of shelled beans per plant. Flavor and texture were ranked in 5th place, but our growers rated Dixie Butterpea last overall. Still, sixty-four percent will grow again.
  • "Eastland Bush" set light green beans at 103 days from planting. The beans averaged .6" in size-3.1 per pod- at the rate of 1.1 cup per plant. Growers rated Eastland in second place for flavor, texture, and overall. Sixty-four percent will purchase again.
  • "Henderson's Bush" also produced .6" light green beans at the rate of 2.9 per pod, 103 days from planting. Pod set was light, with a total yield of only .8 cup of shelled beans per plant. Ranked in second place (tied with Eastland) for flavor, but only 4th for texture, Henderson averaged 3rd place overall. Fifty-four percent will purchase in the future.
  • "Speckled Calico" produced beautiful large (.8") beans at the rate of 2.5 per pod, and 1.3 cup per plant. The beans were a lovely marbled combination of pink and white. Plants were slow to set fruit, averaging 109 from planting to harvest, and were large vines that required support. Flavor rated only 4th place, while texture was rated 3rd. Coming in at 4th place overall, Speckled Calico will be grown again by fifty percent of our testers.
  • "Early Thorogreen" took 104 days to harvest, producing .6" light green beans at the rate of 3 per pod and .8 cup per plant. Rated last for flavor and texture, our growers still ranked Thorogreen in 5th place overall. Only forty-six percent will grow again.

Leaf Lettuce

Leaf lettuce trials
Jackie Smith

Participants were asked to sow seeds directly outdoors as soon as the soil was workable and the danger of heavy frost past. They were asked not to thin, but to cut the plants for baby lettuce beginning at 3" in height, and to continue to harvest as often as possible. The growers sowed an average of 35 seeds of each variety on May 7.
  • "Australian Yellow" averaged 43.6 days to first harvest. Leaves were chartreuse color and our growers averaged 5.7 cuttings before the plants bolted or simply quit growing. Flavor was rated 5, and texture last, giving Australian Yellow a overall final ranking of 5. Still, seventy-three percent of the growers will try this again
  • "Black Seeded Simpson". This old standby variety is still doing well in comparison trials, ranking first for flavor and third place overall. BSS was ready to harvest at 42.8 days, and was top yielder at 6.2 cuttings. Leaves were chartreuse in color. Ninety-two percent of our testers will continue to grow this variety.
  • "Grand Rapids" also produced chartreuse leaves starting at 43.2 days from planting. Ranked 4th for flavor and 3rd for texture, this variety placed fourth overall. Harvest was relatively brief, with 4.8 cuttings, but a whopping ninety-eight percent will grow Grand Rapids again.
  • "Lolla Rossa" seed was a crop failure and a different variety was substituted by the supplier. Unfortunately, the variety name was unreadable - but the following rankings do not apply to Lolla Rossa: leaves were green with red margins with good texture but unpopular flavor. Ranked in 6th place, only 68% of our growers liked this lettuce, whatever the variety.
  • "Midnight" leaves were a uniform dark red produced at 41.8 days from planting (earliest), and continuing for 5.6 cuttings. Flavor was ranked #1, tied with BSS, and texture #2. Overall, our growers rated Midnight in first place and eighty-eight percent will purchase again.
  • "New Red Fire" plants produced green leaves with red margins at 42.8 days from sowing. Plants gave up early, however, standing up through only 4.7 cuttings. Flavor and texture were average, but New Red Fire ranked second place overall. Eighty-four percent will grow again.

Green Zucchini

Participants in this trial planted seeds directly outdoors on May 24, planting a minimum of 3 seeds of each variety. Asked to grow at least one plant of each variety, the growers averaged two or more of each. Evaluations for flavor and texture were conducted tasting raw fruit at 6" in length. All varieties produced dark green fruit that was predominantly slender and straight. Powdery mildew was rampant across the state. Vine borers and/or squash bugs were common, but no varieties were either more or less attractive to these pests.
  • "Ambassador" produced fruit at 53.6 days from sowing, at the highest rate of 14.1 fruit per plant. Ranked third for texture, Ambassador was tops in flavor and overall, with 89% of our growers willing to purchase it again for future planting.
  • "Black" took 53.3 days to harvest. One of two varieties with large leaves that seemed somewhat less prone to mildew. Texture was ranked second, but Black's flavor was the least favorite. Production was average at 12.8 fruit per plant. Our growers ranked this third overall and seventy-one percent are willing to buy again.
  • "Cashflow" was the earliest to harvest at 52.2 days from planting. Texture wasn't a favorite, but testers rated it second for flavor. Plants averaged 13.6 fruits. Ranked fifth overall, only fifty-nine percent will purchase Cashflow in the future.
  • "Dark Green" also produced large mildew-resistant leaves with fruit ready to harvest 54.3 days from planting. Plants averaged 12.8 fruits each, with top rated texture. Ranked last overall, still seventy-eight percent will grow Dark Green again.
  • "Emperor" ranked fourth for flavor, texture and overall. The plants were slowest to produce fruit, at 55.6 days from planting, and averaged only 9.6 fruits each. Seventy-eight percent of our growers were still willing to try this variety again.
  • "Spineless" texture placed last in our grower's opinions, but flavor was average. Plants produced fruit sooner than others at 49.3 days from plants, with an average of 13.8 fruit per plant. Ranked in second place overall, Spineless will be purchased again by 83% of our testers.


Dianthus varieties
Jackie Smith

Growers were asked to start seed indoors as soon as received (average March 15) and to select at least three plants of each variety to transplant outdoors for evaluation in this trial. Transplanting was to take place when weather was warm and settled, with the actual average transplanting date of May 26, 2009. Varieties grown were all relatively low plants and were not meant to be color mixes. In addition, none were notably fragrant. In most cases, bloom was curtailed only by frost at season's end.
  • "Corona Cherry" plants averaged 7.7" tall by 8.0" side, with 2.0" single blooms in varying shades of raspberry pink. Ranked in third place for amount of bloom, and fourth place overall, Corona Cherry will be purchased again by 77% of our trial participants.
  • "Crimson Carpet" produced attractive blue leaves when out of bloom on plants that averaged 8.5" tall by 7.4" wide. Ranked in fourth place for amount of bloom, plants produced single red blooms that averaged 1.4" in diameter. Placing last overall, only 57% will purchase Crimson Carpet again.
  • "Ideal Red" single blooms were 1.4" in diameter in a pleasing shade of warm rosy red on plants that averages 8.7 inches by 8.5 inches. Ranked second for amount of bloom, this variety also placed second overall. A full 80% will grow Ideal Red in the future.
  • "Parfait Raspberry" large single blooms averaged 1.8" in raspberry shading to cream edges. Plants averaged 8.0" by 8.3", with blue leaves. Flower production was the lowest in the trial, but because of the large bloom size, there was plenty of flower-power. Ranked number one overall, Parfait Raspberry will be grown again by 73% of our testers.
  • "Snowfire" is our third variety with blue leaves. Plants were a bit larger than the others at 10.2" tall by 8.9" wide. The 1.6" blooms were a little more sparse than most (5th place) and were single, with smallish fire engine red centers on white petals. Ranked fifth overall, sixty-seven percent will purchase Snowfire again.
  • "Telstar Crimson" produced small (1.3") single red flowers abundantly (ranked #1 for production). Plants grew to 9.3" tall by 8.9" wide. Growers rated this in third place overall and a very strong 82% will purchase Telstar Crimson in the future.


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Rudbeckia "Prairie Sun" and "Cherry Brandy"
Jackie Smith

Growers were asked to start seeds indoors (average starting date was March 23), and to transplant outdoors in full sun when the weather was warm and settled (average May 28). They started an average of 8 seeds of each variety, and averaged one to three plants of each by trial end.
  • "Cappuccino" plants averaged 21" tall by 17" wide. Petals of the single, 4.6" blooms were gold with rust toward the brown centers. Ranked the most floriferous of the varieties tested, Cappuccino tied for number one overall, along with Cherry Brandy. Eighty-nine percent of our trial participants will purchase again.
  • "Cherry Brandy" is an unusual color breakthrough for Rudbeckia with burgundy petals backed with pink and brown centers. The single blooms averaged 3.1" in diameter and were ranked second in flower production. Plants grew to 26" tall by 16" wide. Tied for number one overall with Cappuccino, Cherry Brandy exceeded it in popularity with a full 100% of the growers interested in trying it again.
  • "Chocolate Orange" seed caused problems for several growers, with a dismal 28% germination rate. Those who were successful were rewarded with 3.5" single blooms with petals showing orange tips and dark red toward the dark centers. Bloom amount ranked third on plants that grew to 23" tall by 16" wide. Rated in third place overall, 94% of our growers will continue to grow Chocolate Orange.
  • "Indian Summer" produced very large, 4.5", single gold blossoms with dark centers on plants that grew to 29" tall by 18" wide. Ranked fifth for flower production and fifth overall, Indian Summer remains popular enough to encourage 94% to continue to grow it in the future.
  • "Maya" was at a disadvantage grown against the others since it was the only double flower on much smaller plants, which grew to only 16" tall by 12" wide. The gold blooms were 2.9" in diameter, but flower production was only average or below. Ranked in 6th place overall, only 33% will grow Maya again.
  • "Prairie Sun" differed from the others by being the only variety with light green centers. The blooms averaged 4.2" diameter, and the gold petals had lighter yellow tips. Coupled with the green centers, the overall effect of the blooms was a paler yellow. Plants grew to 28" tall by 17" wide, but flower production was rated least of all tested varieties. Growers ranked Prairie Sun fourth overall, but enjoyed it enough to encourage 90% of them to purchase it in the future.

Asian Vegetables

Red noodle bean was part of the Asian vegetable variety trials
Jackie Smith
Trial information was also collected for a number of Asian vegetable varieties. A summary of these results can be viewed this spring in the Northern Gardener

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