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University of Minnesota Extension

Sugar Ann, Sugar Bon or Sugar Sprint?

February 7, 2020
Head of reddish-purple cabbage in a garden.

The seed catalogs are landing in mailboxes but how should Minnesota gardeners separate the good from the better? 

Answers are available in the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners’ annual list of top picks, based on seed trials carried out in 2019. Master Gardeners from 44 counties tested six varieties of five different vegetables, two flowers, and one herb. Tests were conducted at 22 community gardens and four school gardens as well as home gardens. 

Among the winners: Ruby Perfection red cabbage, Sugar Ann snap peas and Fourth of July early tomatoes. See the full list

“We can help save frustration and money by guiding gardeners toward varieties that really do well in Minnesota,” said Sue Schiess, who is chair of the Minnesota Master Gardener Seed Trial Leadership Team. “I don’t think you can get that information any place else.”

Master Gardeners have been testing seeds for Minnesota gardeners since 1982. In blind tests, they monitor six varieties of each plant for disease and insect intolerance, growth and germination rate. They rate flowers for bloom color, size, and fragrance; vegetables are rated for taste, flavor, and productivity. 

Other winners were Surrey arugula, 3-root Grex golden beets, licorice mint and Indian Chief nasturtiums. 

What’s next?

In 2020, volunteers will test eight plants that are considered "hot" for the year. They are: mildew-resistant basil, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes for beginners, white cauliflower, purple pole beans, mini-cucumbers, white larkspur and portulaca. 

“Minnesota Winner” varieties are featured each year at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Teaching Garden in Chaska.

In 2019, Extension Master Gardeners logged nearly 144,000 hours of volunteer service to Minnesota. Learn more about the exciting work going on throughout the state in their newly released annual report

Master Gardeners recently welcomed their largest class of new volunteers. Enrollment for the program begins in August

Media Contact: Sue Schiess, chair, Master Gardener Seed Trial Leadership Team, 612-618-7311; Mary Dalsin, Master Gardener Trial Leadership Team, 612-619-2680, mgseedtrials@umn.edu 

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