Now that your tomatoes, peppers, melons and cucumbers are planted, you should check to make sure that the cultivated varieties were all correct. What was the yield and taste? Were there any issues? For example, high rainfall in some areas this year resulted in high humidity levels, which could in turn effect your plants in the greenhouse. When planning or selecting plants for the next year, you should always make sure that the varieties chosen are suitable for your particular greenhouse. When buying young plants in a garden center, it can be difficult buy such varieties.
Nevertheless, the offers in a garden center are mostly “professional varieties”, which have already demonstrated good yield, display quality characteristics and have a high standard of resistance in commercial horticulture. Of course there are new things added each year, whether be it tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuces. But you will always need new varieties – especially with the growing trend of having “regional” varieties. But aren’t all new varieties genetically engineered anyway? It is likewise thought that tomatoes tasted much better in the olden days, before any modifications, so what about purchasing some older varieties? Who actually checks these new varieties and who keeps track of all the varieties?
In many countries, there are authorities who are responsible for this. One such authority is the Bundessortenamt, a regulatory body in Germany who are in the business section of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The Bundessortenamt examines each new variety before giving it their stamp of approval and checks whether the quality of the later sold seeds also adheres to their standards.
What are new breeds and how are they classified?
On seed bags or in the publications of the seed suppliers, you can find terms such as ‘novelty’, ‘selective-breeding’, ‘protected variety’ or ‘original seed’. The terms novelty or new breeding do not say much, because even slight deviations from an original seed could justify this term – e.g. variations in the flower size or stability. Certainly this is commonplace, because after only a short three-year experimental cultivation at the Bundessortenamt can seeds be offered with this additional name.
Also, a “protected variety” is not a statement about any sort of quality standards, but refers rather to the breeder’s protection against someone else copying their variety. The original seed guarantees a consistently high level of quality.
A controlled replica plays a role in the so-called F1 hybrids. These are crosses from two different parent strains. They were bred further until they became “homozygous” and can guarantee consistent offspring. When such homozygous parents are then combined, the first generation resulting from the crossing of the two partners, they are said to be F1 hybrids. They are characterised by absolute uniformity. If you continue to use these progeny (seeds), the characteristics are very different. F1 hybrids have to be bred again and again, so they are also a bit more expensive than most seeds.
Only regional varieties are good – is it true?
Now to regional varieties, which actually do not matter in a greenhouse. In a greenhouse, one can control or improve the conditions, deviating from any normal “regional climate”. Also, just because a local variety has been cultivated on the site for decades does not mean that it necessarily fits your taste.
So-called old varieties, refers to plants which differ to their modern-day cousins have since become modified. It is certainly important to preserve the gene potential of these older varieties. Of course, there are also particularly tasty older varieties, including high-yield ones. Of course these have been selectively-bred and improved in the past. If you want to cultivate old varieties, then do so simply because you appreciate their taste or because you found a seed (as pure as) yourself. Nevertheless, every year you should try something new, for example the so-called snack or mini cucumbers. There used to be big long cucumbers which were right for big families. Today, with the many rather smaller households, mini-cucumbers are much better and no less delicious!
Red Zora tomatoes
The insider tip amongst gardeners
The insider tip amongst gardeners
Among the 3,500 varieties of tomatoes that were tested in 2003 for outdoor fitness against late blight, with good quality and yield characteristics, the Rote Zora is among the top ten recommendations for organic outdoor cultivation. Their origin is unknown.
What do you need to pay attention to when growing vegetables?
A distinction is made between vegetable varieties based on their resistance levels: non-resistant vegetables, as the name suggests, are varieties which have no genetic resistance or tolerance to diseases. But they are nevertheless better in comparison to their resistant counterparts because they have adapted to their environments and often have firmer and harder plant tissues.
Every year, gardening magazines release new varieties in their catalogues and most seed producers have their novelties displayed there. These can also be found over the Internet, just Google new vegetables or novelty vegetables and you’ll find some there. But only once you have found what you are looking for will the real work begin. First, since they are they indeed new, it may be difficult to find others’ experiences with them. Furthermore, you can not conduct a taste-test over the Internet, but keep reading until you find some reviews, there may be some useful information for you there.
If you don't want to do your own selective breeding, it can be more difficult to achieve success, because young novelty plants are rarely offered. In garden centres, of course, it's worth asking around as you will find some other like-minded people. Tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and other greenhouse plants are also offered in spring as young plants. For the brave, there is also the TomTato® - a potato-grafted tomato. Incidentally, this is also possible with aubergines!
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The original version of this article was published in the greenhouse post, issue 08/2016, text and image: Jörn Pinske.