Varieities to Try – What I have been Trialing

Some of you might be ready to try a new variety you haven’t grown before, but are not sure what to try.

Others of you might want to try and grow a different crop, but are unsure about doing so.

I realized in the last few days it has been a while since I passed on info on varieties I have been trialing.  Each year I try new varieties along with ones I have loved to grow for years.

So in this blog post series I’ll pass on some varieties that I’ve fallen in love with and some I don’t ever want to grow again.

Both perspectives are important because the descriptions you’ll get from seed companies put every variety in a good light. We can get some idea from those descriptions what we might want to try, but there is nothing like growing them yourself to see if you like them.

I like to try a variety for at least two years before I make a decision about it. Each year the weather is different and can affect their growth. To give each variety a fair shot, I grow them in different beds each time, because each has a bit different soil or light. Plus, it may have had a different type of crop preceding it in crop rotation.

Today lets go through some brassica family plants. I start here because for some of us, it will soon be time to start spring plants indoors.

grow broccoli Lets talk broccoli. For years I have grown the same open pollinated varieties and they did okay.  I kept reading descriptions of hybrids as being more uniform and the last three years I broke down and decided to try some.  Okay, as you know, I am a champion for seed sovereignty and preserving genetic diversity in seeds, so I have tended not to grow that many hybrids.  It has been interesting to start growing some to make comparisons.

So at this point both Fiesta and Belstar broccolis have outperformed my standard open pollinated varieties. They are both hybrids, both organic and both available from both High Mowing Seeds and Territorial Seeds. The germination rates are higher, the plants are stronger and they head more reliably and hold up over winter better.

Cabbage: another cool season crop you can start now is cabbage.

Caraflex cabbage
One late spring, after I have harvest the Caraflex head, I left the roots in the ground and it kept growing other heads. We ate from it all summer.

The best new cabbage I have been growing is Caraflex, another hybrid. I admit I was pretty darn skeptical about growing a hybrid cabbage, but my rep at High Mowing Seeds convinced me to try it and I am thrilled she did!  I tend to get 100% germination, the cabbage heads well, holds better in the garden through heat and cold better than any cabbage I have ever grown, and I have grown over 20 varieties.

One cabbage listed for short season is Red Express.  It seems to be the only short season offering in red cabbages. I have tried to get a decent head out of it for over five years and it just doesn’t happen.  It takes about 120 days to get a head the size of a gold ball for me, so I’d say, don’t bother trying this one.


Dazzling blue kale grown with peas in spring

A kale I have kept trying to grow for years is Scarlett, red-purple curly kale that continually has very low germination rates.  I have tried seed from four companies I trust, tried starting it indoors in winter for spring and again in summer for winter and tried seeding it directly outdoors in spring and fall and in all these scenarios, I get maybe 25% germination, so I quit and can’t recommend it.

But I can highly recommend Dazzling Blue kale, which is a lacinato type.  Great germination, hardly plants in both cold and heat, they taste great and color is just awesome. Bluish leaves with purple/red veins in hot weather and deep purple when overwintered.  I have gotten my seed from Territorial, but many good companies carry it.

Lookout for the next post on varieties I have been testing .. until then, have an awesome day!


Debby’s Top 5 Round Red Tomato Varieties

tasting different tomato varitieties we grew
Tomato Tasting Tray. One thing we sometimes to for dinner at Prior Unity Garden is the tomato tasting tray, where we just try all the different kinds of tomatoes from the garden. Here is a tray with over 15 varieties – Yum !

Okay, so pretty much everybody loves to grow tomatoes, and even if some of us like the funky colors and shapes, I find that loads of gardeners keep asking me for ‘round red tomatoes’.

The main reason for growing these is because they taste good.

So, here goes with my top picks and note of why they are on my list…

  • Old Virginia – Here in Virginia, or anywhere you have hot, humid summers, this one is the one grow.
  • Old Brooks – it just tastes so darn good, with my preferred acid/sweet balance, a bit on the old fashioned acid side
  • Thessaloniki – the dependable tomato for drought or dry conditions, amazingly so!
  • Siletz – the only determinate on the list that I have grown for 30 years. Great for salsa.
  • Carmelo (F1) – the only hybrid on the list because it performs so well and tastes so smooth and rich

Hope this inspires you to step out and try more varieties.

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What to Grow When – Foundations of Organic Gardening Info Series

Forellenschluss, translated to Flashy Trout's Back, romaine lettuce is a not only a good choice for most seasons, but a beauty in the garden.
Forellenschluss, translated to Flashy Trout’s Back, romaine lettuce is a not only a good choice for most seasons, but a beauty in the garden.

You already know to grow your tomatoes and squash in the summer and you may know to grow your peas in the spring, but what about all year round ? Did you know there are several plants you can over winter here ?

There is a yearly cycle that can have you eating out of your garden all year long, even in winter. For example, now is a good time to start kales, cabbages and other winter crops. There are timing differences not only with different spring and summer crops, but also with fall and winter ones.

You can refine this further to have even more success. For example, you can grow lettuce almost year round here. To do so, take into account what different varieties like, some only grow well here in cool weather, but some can take more of our summer heat.

Choosing where to grow each crop in each season, based on sunlight and water resources different months of the year also helps insure your success.

Taking all these things and many more into account is part of how each person come up with their month by month checklist in the Foundations of Organic Gardening Course. Don’t miss this opportunity to become a great organic gardener ! Sign up today.

A Tried and True Tomato, and Everything Else – Foundations of Organic Gardening Info Series

Tomato Tasting Tray.  One thing we sometimes to for dinner at Prior Unity Garden is the tomato tasting tray, where we just try all the different kinds of tomatoes from the garden.  Here is a tray with over 15 varieties - Yum !
Tomato Tasting Tray. One thing we sometimes do for dinner at Prior Unity Garden is the tomato tasting tray, where we just try all the different kinds of tomatoes from the garden. Here is a tray with over 20 varieties – Yum !

Hopefully everyone is enjoying juicy home grown tomatoes from their garden or farmers market. Do you know what your favorite tomato variety is or what ones do best here ?

Although most love a summer tomato, if you are growing your own, it is an asset to know what ones you like best as a place to start. It also helps to know what grows well here.

It is no secret that Debby’s favorite is Cherokee Purple and Russell’s is Green Zebra and if you know a favorite, it a great place to branch from to try different varieties. The good news is, when growing at home, pretty much every tomato tastes good, so even if a new variety does not turn out to be a favorite, chances are it will still be better than one you’ll get anywhere else.

Also consider if the tomato variety is Indeterminate or Determinate. Indeterminate varieties are vining and are best trellised. Determinate varieties have a more bush habit and are often the best choices for containers.

One of the things we do in the Foundations of Organic Gardening Course is everyone get to consider what the best varieties are best for them, of each thing you want to grow, and learn ways to keep making choices you’ll like. Check it out and sign up soon before space runs out.