By Janice Gestner, Master Gardener
For nearly 40 years, the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Program has conducted annual research trials to identify the vegetables, herbs and annuals that perform best in Minnesota gardens. The results of these trials are available to consumers every year in February. Reviewing the results of the trials can help you choose vegetables, herbs and annuals that should grow successfully in your garden. Winning varieties going back to 1982 can be found in the article, “Recommended Plant Varieties from the Master Gardener Seed Trials.”
Each fall, a State Seed Trial Committee chooses two herbs, two flowers, and four vegetables that will be part of the trial the next year. Care is given to not include too many vining plants or plants that need early starts under lights. The goal is to have a slate of vegetables and flowers that will appeal to a wide variety of community gardeners.
Master Gardeners around the state grow the plants from seed and test them on a variety of measures, such as: germination, disease resistance, vigor and taste. In 2020, 127 Master Gardeners from 46 counties participated in the trials. Master Gardeners in Dakota County participate in the trials either individually or through community gardens in South St. Paul and Rosemount. The final results come from the information Master Gardener participants send to the State at the end of the growing season.
In 2020, the top winners in each category were:
White Larkspur “Fancy Smoky Eyes”
Tomato (medium size, red) “Wisconsin 55”
Basil (Mildew-Resistant) “Emerald Tower”
Purple Pole Bean “Purple King”
Cucumbers (Mini) “Picolino”
Red Leaf Lettuce “Garrison”
This year’s trials include dill, ground cherries, delicata squash, onions, lacinato kale, cayenne peppers, white cosmos, and tall marigolds.
The Master Gardener trials are a great resource for community gardeners in planning what vegetables, herbs and annuals to grow in their home or community gardens. Take advantage of this free, research-based resource to plan and grow a happy, healthy garden.