I have signed up for the 2012 UMN Extension Master Gardener Veggie & Flower Seed Trial! I am so excited (and I know you have just been waiting for this news)! ;)
This year the options were pickling cucumbers, tomatillos, kale, flat pole beans, beets, sweet mini-peppers, ageratum, and calendula. It was fairly easy to choose my top picks, because many of these need to be started inside something like 6 to 8 weeks before the last likely frost, and I don’t have a system for starting seeds inside. (You really need some kind of system, because just the light from a window isn’t usually enough for starting seeds—if you try to do that, your plants will most likely grow to be leggy and weak-stemmed. That said, I know there are people who do this successfully—more power to you. It’s never worked for me.)
I chose beets as my first choice and pickling cucumbers as my second—they have some really cool-looking varieties of both! For beets the varieties being tested are ‘Red Ace 125’, ‘Golden Beet 128’, ‘Merlin 2758’, ‘Touchstone Gold 2818’, ‘Chioggia Guardsmark 25’, and ‘Blankoma’. And for pickling cukes it’s ‘Cool Breeze’, ‘Alibi’, ‘Chicago Pickler’, ‘True Lemon’, ‘Salt and Pepper’, and ‘Yellow Submarine’.
Also, I’m excited to get back to vegetables—I did the zinnia trial last year, and I have to say it wasn’t quite as satisfying as the bean trials from the year before. . . maybe because we didn’t have to “taste-test” the zinnias.
So I should be receiving my packets of seeds sometime in early March—I did say on the form that I could do up to two trials, so it’s possible I’ll get both cukes AND beets—which would be awesome. I can spare four rows of my vegetable garden for that!