Seed & Plant Reviews

The Winner of the 2009 Tomato Awards Is… Sweet Cluster!

I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this yet, but I like tomatoes. I’m pretty sure that, to date, they are my favorite thing to grow. This year I planted six varieties and I thought I’d share my thoughts on which ones I thought were best. (Not all tomatoes are created equal, you know.) So without further ado, may I present to you – The 2009 Tomato Awards!… Also known as Dave’s Favs for 2009… Or Tomatoes I like… Or whatever.

Starting at the top, my number one pick for tomatoes this year is…

Sweet Cluster Tomato

#1. Sweet Cluster

I like to eat my tomatoes like apples and this is the perfect variety for doing just that. They are the perfect size – about the size of a lightbulb, but a very nice round shape. They also produce like mad! They produce in clusters (thus the name) of about six or more tomatoes. These are hands down my favorite tomato of 2009.

#2. Sweet 100

Now this ranking may be a little skewed. I love cherry tomatoes and this was the only variety that I planted this year – so it automatically makes it into the top by default. The flavor was good, but I think I have had better cherry tomatoes (just not this year). I do have to say I was impress with their production though – lots of long trailing clusters.

#3. Lemon Boy

I do have a thing for the slightly unusual when it comes to gardening, so yellow tomatoes certainly have an attraction for me. But I do really like the flavor and texture of the lemon boy tomatoes. This is one that I’ll be planting on a regular basis in years to come.

The Others

The rest of these were fine and good. All of them were quite edible, but they weren’t anything really special. They were “just tomatoes”. So in no particular order…

Brandywine – There were kinda fun because they grow very large. I sliced one up for lunch and I hardly had room on my plate for anything else. This is what you want to grow if you want to out-grow your neighbor.

Beefmaster – Mine were pretty ugly looking. Quite bulgy, like someone was trying to fit two tomatoes into one skin. Still tastes good though. Can’t tell its shape when you turn it into salsa…

Better Boy – This is your all-round average, all-purpose tomato. It’s nice. It’s good. Not much else to say about it.

So that’s my tomatoes of 2009. I’m ready to start planning for 2010, so if you’ve got some favorites that you’re willing to share – leave a comment!

Seed & Plant Reviews

The Dilemma of Pea Varieties

Peas have long been my favorite garden snack. Ever since I was a kid, you would often find me wandering the pea patch popping pods. So needless to say, peas take up a major percentage of my garden plot.

The one thing I didn’t (and still don’t) like about peas is trying to pick them when the plant is wet with dew or last night’s rain shower, and the plant, for one reason or another, is off the fence and on the ground. Then you’ve got to pick the cold, wet, muddy things. Wouldn’t it be nice to somehow avoid all that?

Well, last spring I had an idea. I had seen in a seed catalog a new variety of peas – Greensage. This variety, as the catalog said, was “a semi-leafless vine that makes the pods easier to see and harvest and produces a more upright vine.” These Greensage Peas might just be the answer to my problems.

So, that spring I planted three varieties of peas – Homesteader, Green Arrow, and Greensage – in equal amounts. The results? Well, take a look…

Greensage Peas

The plants were very viney, and the stuck very well to the chicken wire fence that I had put up for them – even in heavy winds and hail. The Green Arrow and Homesteader had a much greater tendency to fall off the fence in those situations. Due to the lack of leaves, the pods were much easier to see, but the massive amounts of tendrils made picking almost more difficult, as some pods were stuck behind a jungle of entangled tendrils.

When compared with the Green Arrow and Homesteader, the Greensage pods were quite small and we didn’t enjoy the taste of the Greensage peas as much.

Green Arrow Homesteader Greensage
Yield (pails of pods) 8 9 6
Flavor Good Good Ok
Easy of Picking Best Good Poor
Uprightness (with fence) Good Good Best

So make your conclusions as you will. It really depends on what’s most important to you. If your space is limited, Homesteader certainly gives the best yield. If you’re concerned about keeping the pods out of the dirt, the Greensage is the way to go.

As for me, I’m sticking with the Green Arrow and Homesteader. But I have heard good things about Mr. Big peas… Perhaps next year.

Seed & Plant Reviews

Sweet Bell Peppers

My Early Prolific, Fat & Sassy, and Bushing Beauty Sweet Bell PeppersBefore two years ago, I had no idea that you could grow peppers in Alberta. I figured they were exclusively a Mexican food or something grown down in Chile. But, lo and behold, Alberta actually grows acres and acres of the things! Who knew? So last spring I tried to grow some seedlings I bought at the grocery store. They were somewhat successful, yielding a handful of hot, skinny yellow peppers.

If the hot peppers grew ok, could the large sweet bell peppers grow here as well? Why not give it a try. So this spring I decided to try my hand at growing some sweet bell peppers from seed.

The three varieties that I decided to try were the Early Prolific, Fat ‘N’ Sassy, and Blushing Beauty. And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they grew.

Seed & Plant Reviews

How Do Your Carrots Grow?

Over the past two years I’ve grown six different varieties of carrots. I’ve grown purple carrots, giant carrots, miniature carrots, and even some “normal” carrots. So I thought I’d write a quick review the different varieties that I’ve grown and maybe you’ll want to try one or two in your garden next summer. So let’s jump right into it.

Seed & Plant Reviews

Fort Laramie Strawberries Reviewed

Fort Laramie StrawberriesThis spring I expanded my strawberry patch. In the past all I had grown was the popular June-bearing Kent strawberry, but this year I wanted to try something different. I ordered my strawberry plants from T & T Seeds (which I highly recommend) and received three varieties of strawberries – Kent, Ogallala, and Fort Laramie. Since I had only planted them this spring, I didn’t expect much in the way of produce until next year. But the Fort Laramie surprised me.