Monday, October 31, 2011

Renee's Garden Seed Trials

I have always been a fan of Renee's Garden seeds and the predecessor seed company Shepherd's Seeds (before it was sold). The company is locally owned and all the seeds are trialed locally and in other climate zones which generally means that they will do very well in my climate. The seeds are also very conveniently carried at many of my local garden centers and other outlets. They may not grow the seeds themselves, but Renee Shepherd chooses select heirloom, open pollinated, and hybrid varieties that taste good and perform well for home gardeners. Last year I was offered the chance to trial a number of varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers for free, all I have to do is report back on how the plants did for me.

I'm going to publish a series of posts about the varieties that I've trialed. I am a bit ashamed to say that I didn't manage to grow everything that I availed myself of, but I'm going to try to make up for that by reporting on the varieties of Renee's seeds that I purchased myself and when I get around to growing the overlooked stuff I'll report on that.

Here's a list of seeds that I was given to try, the ones that I managed to grow to harvestable size are in bold:

Beet, "Baby Ball"
Carrot, Tricolor, "Circus Circus" (too many gophers and moles this year)
Cucumber, Japanese, "Tasty Green"
Greens, Salad, Frisee, "Glory" (just planted!)
Leek, French, "Baby Primor" (started seeds but never planted out - my bad)
Mache, "Gala" (crop filure this spring but time to try again now)
Onions, Scallions, "Parade" (same fate as the leeks)
Pea, Snow, "Oregon Giant"
Chervil, "Fancy French" (now growing but being munched by rats)
Tomato, Heirloom, "Chianti Rose"

Cottage Garden Flowers:
Cerinthe, "Pride of Gibraltar"
Cosmos, Knee-High, "Sonata"
Nasturtium, "Buttercream"
Zinnia, "Little Lion"

Here's a list of Renee's Garden seeds that I purchased and will be reporting on:

Bean, Bush, French, "Rolande"
Bean, Bush, "Classic Slenderette"
Bean, Pole, Spanish "Musica"
Beet, Gourmet Golden
Cabbage, Baby, "Pixie"
Cucumber, Baby, Persian, "Green Fingers"
Lettuce, "Sweetie Baby Romaine"
Pea, Snap, "Super Sugar Snap"
Basil, "Profuma di Genova"
Hibiscus, "Zinger"

Today's report will be on the cucumbers.

"Tasty Green" Japanese cucumbers:

Cucumbers were a mixed bag this year and that wasn't the fault of the seeds or the varieties. I sowed the cucumber seeds in 4-inch pots on May 23 and planted them out in the garden on June 10. The young plants grew well and bloomed profusely but I kept wondering when the flowers would start to set fruits, they were blooming away but there were no cucumbers forming. Then I figured out that the tiniest baby cucumbers were being nipped clean off by marauding rats, arrrgh. I had to enclose the cucumber vines in row cover which you can see on the right in the photo below.

Most days I pulled the cover away, then I pulled the cover back up for the night when the rats are most active. After a while I started finding young cucumbers, look closely and you can see them on the vines. There are actually 2 varieties of cucumbers growing up the tower, Tasty Green Japanese and Green Fingers Persian which I discuss later.

Finally, a cucumber with just a slight bit of gnawing at the stem end which I harvested on August 6. The rats eventually moved on to tastier garden treats and mostly left the cucumbers alone so I was able to remove the row cover. I managed to harvest about 5 pounds of Tasty Green cucumbers from 2 plants in August and September. The plants are making a slight comeback at the moment and I'm getting a few small cucumbers even now.

The vines seem to be resistant to powdery mildew even though they aren't touted as such. They are not hugely prolific but produced at a nice steady pace, not too much nor too little. The cucumbers themselves are thin skinned with just a few tender spines when harvested young. They are crisp and delicous, perfect in salads.

"Green Fingers" Persian cucumbers:

These are lovely, smooth, thin skinned, and seedless cucumbers. This is a self-pollinating and very prolific variety. They can be picked as small as 3 inches long but even when they get a bit larger they stay thin skinned and sweet without seeds. The cucumbers don't develop seeds until they get quite large and spiny. I love to snack on them out of hand but they are also great in salads.

These cucumbers were sown and planted out at the same times as the Japanese cucumbers. I harvested the first Persian cucumber on August 10 and have harvested 8 pounds from 2 plants to-date, not including rat gnawed and overgrown specimens that ballooned up while I was on vacation (chicken treats).

The vines are quite resistant to powdery mildew, a plus in my climate. Any plant in my garden that has any susceptibility to powdery mildew inevitably gets covered with it and is generally short lived. The vines for these plants have been in the garden since June and are still producing a few cucumbers as the calendar moves into November. I will definitely be growing these again next year.

Now, if the rats would just leave the cucumbers (and other veggies) alone next year I might get an even better result!


  1. The Persian cucumbers look great!

  2. I really like your cucumber climbing frame. Great idea.

  3. Tasty Green did great for us here. I really like the Japanese cucumbers with their thin skins and mild flavor. The Persian cukes are on my list to try next year.

  4. "Green Fingers" is my favorite cuke, I've grown it the past 2 years.

  5. I grew a new variety this year, but wasn't impressed. I always trellis the cukes and it just wasn't a climber.

  6. I wonder if there is any variety that is "rat resistant"!? LOL!

    The persian cucumbers look really good. I generally only grow my pickling cucumbers and just use those for fresh eating too (peeling them first usually), but every now and again I give some space to a salad cuke as well. I may have to give these a spot in the 2012 garden.


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