Trials and errors

Under control: Above, Californian poppies Sunshade mix and Red Chief, below, basil Sweet Green and British Basil, bottom, Goldmine and Parador courgette.

Under control: Above, Californian poppies Sunshade mix and Red Chief, below, basil Sweet Green and British Basil, bottom, Goldmine and Parador courgette.

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THIS year, I was overwhelmed with seeds again – Thompson & Morgan asked me to trial 19 varieties.

Some were new, others had controls, to see how they do.

The new varieties didn’t have names, just numbers when I received them, although they’re now named and in the new catalogue.

I didn’t have room to trial everything - but here’s what I grew, how they did, and how they appear in the catalogue.

BEETROOT: a five-variety mix of skin and flesh colours, with contrasting stems and leaves.

PERFORMANCE: A bit unfair to make a judgement, as I only planted one row and most fell victim to slugs.

CATALOGUE: Beetroot Rainbow Beet, Vegetable of the Year 2014. Five varieties – Subeto F1, Boldor, Chioggia, Albina vereduna and Bulls Blood Scarletta, £1.99 per packet.

COURGETTE: Golden skinned with thin white stripes, sets flowers without insect pollination, to compare number of fruit set with Parador.

PERFORMANCE: Oddly, Parador was the winner here. The new variety seemed tasty to slugs – Parador was barely attacked.

CATALOGUE: Courgette Goldmine F1 Hybrid, the first self-setting golden courgette, (10 seeds) £2.99.

Cat deterrent: Plug plants of Cavolo Nero Black magic and chard Bright Lights next to the globe artichokes.

Cat deterrent: Plug plants of Cavolo Nero Black magic and chard Bright Lights next to the globe artichokes.

BASIL: “Weatherproof”, British-bred, tolerant to colder weather, winds. Grow next to Basil Sweet Green to see its better performance as days get cooler.

PERFORMANCE: I’ve never been good with basil, but both got off to a good start. Although not a brilliant crop, the “weatherproof” variety did outperform Sweet Green in the long run.

CATALOGUE: Basil British Basil, 99p.

LETTUCE: Upright, compact red “little Gem” type with a pronounced red heart.

PERFORMANCE: Did really well, decent crop without bolting.

CATALOGUE: Lettuce Intred (Romaine/Cos), 200 seeds, £2.29.

TOMATO: Superior flavour glasshouse cordon variety, thin-skinned, cherry-red fruits of 12g, up to 150 fruits per plant. Compare with Gardeners’ Delight.

PERFORMANCE: The star! Beautiful flavour, heavy cropping and withstood the odd day without being watered without ill effects.

CATALOGUE: Tomato Sweet Aperitif F1 Hybrid, (10 seeds) 99p.

CALIFORNIAN POPPY: All-weather performance, one of the best reds with blue-green foliage. Compare against deep oranges of Sunshades Mix to show how good a red it is.

PERFORMANCE: A better red and nice foliage colour, but poor flower quantity compared to Sunshades Mix.

CATALOGUE: Californian Poppy Red Chief, 99p.

SUNFLOWER: Blooms two-three times longer than other doubles, carrying up to 20 flowers at a time. Dwarf plants, up to 20in. compare with Teddy Bear.

PERFORMANCE: Equal performance. Both did well in pots.

CATALOGUE: Sunflower Sunshot Golds Mixed F1 Hybrid, bushy and multistemmed, producing up to 20 blooms per plant,16-20”, (10 seeds) £2.99.