Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comparing Current and Test Varieties for Renee's Seeds

by Lindsay Del Carlo, Trial Garden Manager
To ensure we are selling the very best seeds, we regularly grow out the same variety from different seed producers to see which is the best strain for our packets. This summer, we've grown "Cherries Jubilee" nasturtiums from two different vendors to evaluate. Now that both are in full bloom, we can see that our current Renee’s Garden selection has the characteristics that we are looking for: plants are very uniform in germination and growth habit and the pretty blossoms are super abundant, and open well above the foliage for a better massed color effect. The other test selection germinated and grew well and the flowers have good color, but the blossoms are less prominent and more hidden in the foliage. So in this case, we will definitely stay with our current seed producer for this variety.
"Cherries Jubilee" Nasturtium - trial seed in back,
 Renee's variety in front
Renee's Garden Cherries Jubilee Nasturtiums
The winner - profuse blossoms are set  nicely above leaves
We are also growing out our crookneck summer squash variety,"Sunny Supersett" to comparison to a newer selection of yellow crookneck squash. Our Supersett germinated very quickly with uniform, vigorous plants and abundant, early fruit set and overall it is consistent with what it should be. However, in comparing the varieties side by side, we see that the new trial variety has some very favorable differences. The little sunny squashes have more slender and graceful crooks and somewhat deeper color. Also, the stems of the squash are longer than the current Renee’s Garden variety which makes them much easier to snip from the plant. So the next step, which is always our favorite part, is to do some serious taste testing. If the flavor wins us over, then we may choose to change the variety that we offer.
Crookneck Squash Trials
Current Renee's "Sunny Supersett" squash on the right,
potential new seed on the left.
Another comparison trial is Renee’s Garden ‘Empress of India’ Nasturtium alongside another seed growers selection of the same variety. This classic Nasturtium has beautiful blue-green leaves with rich, vermilion- red flowers. Here we can see that the plants from the other vendor’s seed are small and quite stunted. With this lack of vigor, it is no question that we would stick with our current grower!
Nasturtiums, Empress of India
"Empress of India" nasturtium trial:
Note the poor quality of the test in front
compared to the Renee's variety in back.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer (Sort of) in Seattle - By Sue Shecket, webmaster and NW Trial Gardener

We “mossbacks” in the Pacific Northwest are resigned to the fact that actual summer doesn’t really begin here until after July 4th.  but this year was particularly brutal - officially one of the top-five coldest springs the region has seen in the last century, and the most precipitation seen in 117 years of record keeping. We were starting to think we’d never again be able to put away our fleece jackets. And those “consistently above 50 degree nighttime temps”?  Not until mid-June!  So gardeners needed fortitude and to get out there and get planting, and as in many other parts of the country, that also meant a good amount of re-seeding for those who were overly optimistic back in April.
Sunshine at last, and things are taking off
Once again my habit of procrastination worked in my favor, and it was late May before I got my cool season veggies in the ground. The tomatoes and eggplant weren't set out until until mid-June, along with the warm weather seeds of squash, cukes and beans. I do cover all new plantings with row covers, making my garden look like a laundry, but thwarting the birds, slugs and roaming neighborhood cats. One lesson that has really come home this year is the importance of supplementing my otherwise good soil with organic fertilizer. Despite last fall's addition of several inches of our excellent Zoo Doo (courtesy of the the happy herbivores at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo), with all that rain the plants were looking pretty bedraggled until I gave them a good meal  (Dr. Earth Organic), and things are looking downright respectable at last.
Musica Beans, Cukes and Asian Eggplant
The fast growing Mesclun lettuces have been providing us with excellent salads for several weeks, as is my husband Bill's favorite "Asian Baby Leaf" mix, so I have made several additional sowings to assure a good supply.  Baby Pak Choi did especially well and makes a wonderful stir fry along with my Sugar Snap Peas.  I have just seeded in our Gourmet Greens Braising Mix (new for 2012- coming soon), a mix of green and red leaf beets with silver and gold leaf chards, which you can cook or eat as baby salad.
"Jewel-toned" Beets, "Circus Circus" Carrots,
Pak Choi (almost all harvested now)
 and a new sowing of  Gourmet Greens Braising Mix
My main beds are 4' by 8', and I prefer to plant in blocks rather than rows, so I broadcast my seed and then thin the seedlings to appropriate spacing - a painful but critical task that really pays off with healthy and vigorous plants.

We have been sharing this "Garden Babies" lettuce,
"Farmer's Market" MesclunArugula (interplanted with Kohlrabi)
and "Lacinato" Kale with the neighbors.
I do start my warm weather loving  veggies and flowers indoors, and this year I included "Stained Glass" Salpiglossis, one of my favorites, planted out in pots and displayed closeup on my deck.  Again, regular feeding has been critical to getting these beauties bursting with blooms.
"Stained Glass" Salpiglossis lives up to it's namesake
Now if only that bit of glorious summer would truly stick around...because it's raining out there...again...

note: you can click on the photos to enlarge for a closer look.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Seed Grow Project update

This is the second month of the Seed GROW project for 2011. Nellie is at her family''s house in the Netherlands right now and her roommates are the ones taking care of her seedGROW seeds right now.  She emailed some pictures that were taken before she left, and will do an update when she returns....

"Summer Splash" Marigold

"Garden Babies" Lettuce

"Garden Babies" Lettuce

"Italian Cameo" Basil
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