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How to Determine the Best Vegetables to Grow

Reveal the best vegetables for your garden by conducting your own plant trials.

| Fall 2017

  • Regularly monitoring your plants’ progress will invite you to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
    Adobe Stock/Jessmine
  • Perhaps the most important detail to track during your plant trial is which cultivars your family enjoys eating the most.
    Adobe Stock/adamkaz
  • Clearly marked pepper cultivars grow in a small greenhouse until they're ready to be transplanted.
    Getty Images/-Oxford-
  • Taking consistent notes during your plant trial will help reveal which cultivars perform the best.
    Adobe Stock/Budimir Jevtic
  • Download this free plant trial table at to help you keep on track with your record-keeping throughout the trial process.
    Carolyn Lang
  • Vigorous seedlings often lead to healthier crops.
    Adobe Stock/Patrapee5413
  • When conducting a plant trial, you'll want to keep the growing variables the same, such as weeding, watering, and when you start seeds or transplants.
    Adobe Stock/nmelnychuk

When you read through seed catalogs, you’re likely to find references such as “the best flavor in our taste tests” or “most consistent production in our trials.” Comparing cultivars of a specific crop for a determined set of criteria, known as “trialing,” is how seed companies decide which cultivars to sell. While reading seed catalogs is a favorite winter activity in many households, learning how to run a successful trial yourself can help take the guesswork out of which cultivars to grow.

Trialing different crops can provide you with a wealth of information, revealing which cultivars of zucchini are the most disease resistant, which red bell pepper plants produce the largest yields, or which beefsteak tomato really tastes the best. The information gathered will also reveal how well your plants respond to seasonal weather pressures, such as hot, cold, dry, or damp conditions. You can even trial seeds of the same cultivars from different seed companies to see which companies carry the best strains for your area and personal criteria.

Whether you’re a farmer looking to increase yields and decrease pest pressure, or a gardener looking for the tastiest cultivar to grow, knowing how to run a successful plant trial is a valuable skill. Now, we’ll look at how to conduct two different types of trials at home.

Plant Trial Within the Same Crop Type

For this type of trial, choose up to five different cultivars within the same type of crop. For example, if you choose to compare different red lettuce cultivars (Lactuca sativa), your list might include ‘Red Velvet,’ ‘Beleah Rose,’ ‘Flame,’ ‘Lollo Rossa,’ and ‘Merlot.’

While you can of course choose however many cultivars you’d like, keeping it to a handful will make your trial more manageable.

Make sure to clearly mark each cultivar throughout the trial, from seedling to transplant. Label a garden marker or wooden craft stick with the cultivar name, and stake it in front of each cultivar. Then, draw a simple map to note where each cultivar is planted in the garden. When trialing, redundancy will save you from the frustrations of a lost map or of faded, unreadable plant labels.

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