If you’re like me, you’ve probably acquired quite a hefty pile of seed catalogs by this point.  While it is fun to sit on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and spend all afternoon reading about each variety, at some point, you’ve got to make a decision about what to buy for the year.  For Build It Up, it’s not just about what I want, but about what I think my new and returning gardeners will want to grow this year. I may never understand the appeal of spaghetti squash, yet each year, I am looking for just the right variety to buy.  My gardeners seem to love it, so I am always on the lookout for new varieties with disease resistance to powdery mildew, our eternal cucurbit scourge in East TN.

In 2018, I and several of our gardeners, participated in the UT Garden Variety Trials.  For $1 per trial, they sent you a 2 varieties of a common garden vegetable to grow and compare in your own garden.  According to their final report, there were 131 participants representing 40 Tennessee counties and 1 county in North Carolina that planted 689 trials.  It was a great opportunity to participate in some citizen science and learn more about what grows best in TN.

I was personally pleased with the trials I did: cucumbers, cantaloupe, winter squash, popcorn and zucchini.  In fact, I was so impressed by the Diva cucumber, Sugar Cube cantaloupe, and Raven zucchini, that I’ve ordered these varieties for the whole program this year.  Even with all of the rain we got in 2018, these varieties did quite well.

The final report of all of the trials is up on the UT website.  I picked out a number of our seeds from the trial winners last year and am hoping that they will grow well again this year!  It does take some of the guessing out of seed buying, though who knows what the weather will be like this year.

If you are in TN and would like to participate in a garden trial or three, the order form is up on their website.  Orders are due March 15, though it’s first come first serve, so popular varieties may go sooner than that.  

~Lexy Close
Program Coordinator
Build It Up East TN