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Plant a 'Minnesota Winner' in your Veggie Garden this year!

Want to know some of the best vegetable or flower varieties to try in your garden or planter this year? Take a closer look at University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners’ new list of top picks just for Minnesota gardeners.

Master Gardener Seed Trials

In February, 2019, 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.”

What makes these plants 'Minnesota Winners'?

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’].”

2018 Seed Trial Results

Some highlights about the Minnesota Winners for 2018:
Salvia 'Victoria Blue'
  • 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.

See/buy a 'Minnesota Winner'

You can find "Minnesota Winners" on display in county gardens around the state, as well as in the 2019 Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's teaching garden in Chaska. “Minnesota Winner” plants will also be for sale at the Hennepin County Master Gardener Annual Plant Sale on May 18, 2019.

View or download a spreadsheet of past Master Gardener Seed Trial Winners by clicking here.

Author: Gail Hudson, Extension Communications

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