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.

Kale:

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