Tag Archives: potato

All-America Selections: Clancy Potatoes From True Potato Seed

Clancy potatoes, photo courtesy of All-America Selections

Last week, I received seed packets of various All-America Selections (AAS), both National and Regional 2019 winners.  All-America Selections are plants, flowers and edibles, tested for garden performance by a panel of expert judges. The varieties that perform best over all of North America become AAS National Winners and the ones that perform well in certain regions are AAS Regional Winners. This is an independent trialing process to offer gardeners reliable new varieties. AAS has an excellent website devoted to gardeners, detailing each plant with growing instructions and beautiful photos.

All the seed packets that I received look very exciting–I cannot wait to plant them this year in my Virginia garden. However, the one seed package that really was different and new to me was Clancy potato seeds, bred by Bejo Seeds. Not seed potatoes mind you but actual seeds. These seeds are so tiny they are coated to make them easier to handle. Clancy is the first potato from seed that is an AAS winner. Clancy grows to about 3 feet in height with blue flowers and produces rose-blush to red skinned tubers with a white to yellow interior. These round to oblong tubers are about 4-5 inches in length and are good for boiling and mashed potatoes.

True Potato Seed is so small, is coated

Usually potatoes are grown from “seed potatoes” which are either very small tubers or parts of a tuber. These are planted in March in our area and eventually a bushy plant appears that produces more and larger tubers to eat. True seed comes from the resulting fruit of a potato flower. True potato seed (TPS) is resistant to diseases especially viruses and lasts much longer than seed potatoes.

Last year I grew seed potatoes in fabric containers from small tubers but I have never grown potatoes from TPS before. TPS needs to be started indoors under lights about 6 weeks before the average last frost (end of April in Northern Virginia). They are sown with a very thin layer of seed starting mix on top of the seed as light inhibits germination. The surface of the soil must be moist until seedlings poke through and then watering can decrease. After the seedlings have produced four true leaves, the plants can be set outside to harden off. I harden off my plants by putting them on the deck in the daytime when the temperature is about 50 degrees and back inside if frost is predicted or the evenings are too cold. When there is no more danger of frost, the plants can be planted in containers or in the ground. All potato plants need to be “hilled” which is a process of covering the plant with soil as tubers form so the tubers are not exposed to light. The top 6 inches or so of the plant is not covered to allow leaves to continue to photosynthesis. Potatoes require full sun with good drainage and loose soil which is easy to provide in a large container where I can add bags of potting soil. In the summer, the plants must be well watered. Clancy will probably be harvested in mid to late summer.

I am truly looking forward to growing Clancy but I am also looking forward to the other AAS winners such as Big Duck Marigold Gold, Viking Begonia XL Red on Chocolate, Holi Scarlet Zinnia, Melon Orange Silverwave, Pepper Just Sweet, and the many tomatoes cultivars! If you are looking for new plants to try with a seal of approval, look to AAS for flower and vegetable winners.

Various All-America Selections to try this year

New Plants in 2015, as viewed from Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show

I just attended the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) at the Baltimore Convention Center. Walking the aisles at MANTS takes at least one day, if not two. There are over 900 exhibitors from across the country and more than 10,000 attendees every year. These are wholesale companies reaching out to other companies, including independent garden centers (IGCs). Garden communicators such as myself attend to learn “what’s new,” identify trends, meet the owners, and connect with other garden communicators. Garden communicators serve as a conduit or bridge between the wholesale companies or the “field” and the public. We see what is available and communicate that back to the public, i.e., the customers. We serve a valuable role in communicating the “what’s new” or “what’s cool” before it even gets to a print magazine or in the IGCs. Below are a few new things I learned about at MANTS with a focus on edibles. Keep in mind that because MANTS is a trade show, some of the companies are wholesale so you will have to either visit the link to ask if they can locate a retailer or ask your IGC if they will carry these products.

Making Healthy Eating Easier

mighty2matogardenamericaGrafted vegetables are making healthy eating easier by reducing disease and soil-borne problems. Grafted tomato plants have been on the market for several years now but what is new this year are the Mighty 2 Matos, double grafted plants with two tomato varieties. Two different tomato varieties are grafted on to one disease-resistant rootstock, taking advantage of a vigorous and disease/nematode resistant root system while providing two types of delicious tomatoes. For example, with one plant you can harvest Blush Tiger and Green Tiger tomatoes, or Brandywine and Cherokee Purple, or Indigo Cherry Drops and Indigo Pear Drops, or Pink Berkeley Tie Dye and Pork Chop, or Sun Sugar and Sweet Aperitif.  http://www.mightymato.com

Burpee Home Gardens also sells grafted tomatoes; they have 15 varieties in their Bumper Crop Grafted Tomatoes line. The Big Collection features large tomatoes; the Bold Collection consists of the Indigo varieties; the Early Collection has plants that bloom and fruit early in the season; while Black Pear Heirloom and Red Pear Heirloom make up the Small-fruited Pear types. http://www.burpeehomegardens.com

Even more interesting is the new Ketchup ‘n’ Fries, a tomato plant grafted onto a potato plant. I had written about this in my December 17 article but at the time I thought Ketchup ‘n’ Fries was only available from Territorial Seed. I learned at MANTS that it is also available from GardenAmerica. http://www.gardenamerica.com

microgreensPart of why I garden is for healthy eating which is a challenge in the winter. I have been interested in micro-greens for some time now as a winter project. Micro-greens are different from sprouts, they are the seedling stage of edibles such as lettuce, radish, chard, kale, spinach, etc. You start them in a shallow container of soil, indoors, and cut them when they are only a few inches tall to put in a salad. I had a nice chat with Sandy Merrill at the Chas. C. Hart Seed Company who had a small container of micro-greens at her booth. They were quite tasty; I could see how easy it would be to grow them. She gave me a packet of “Veggie Confetti,” which I started this week and I will keep you posted on their progress in future articles. The Chas. C. Hart Seed Company has been in business for over 100 years and sells a wide range of seed at garden centers. http://www.hartseed.com

Keeping it Small

Visiting MANTS confirmed what I have been reading, there is a trend towards small edibles, or container edibles. Pixie Grape is a new line of natural dwarf grape plants. Developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they only grow to 2 feet high and 1 foot wide.  They do not grow tendrils like regular grape vines do; they tend to put their energy in clusters of flowers, hence they fruit year round. Hardy to zone 3, they can be grown in the ground or in a container. Four types will be introduced: Cabernet Franc, Pinot Meunier Purple, Pinot Meunier White, and Riesling. http://www.plugconnection.com and http://www.gardenamerica.com

BRAZELBERRIES pink icing - all rights reserved c2014 LAB 2The Brazelberries Collection, developed by Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Inc., is introducing Pink Icing, a diminutive blueberry bush. Pink Icing’s new spring foliage is pink, eventually turning to green in the summer, and blue/green in the fall. The blueberries themselves are large, appearing in mid-summer. Hardy to zone 5, this 3-4 foot shrub would make a great container plant on the deck. All Brazelberries are small enough for containers and hardy to zone 4 or 5. In case you missed the other members of the family there is a raspberry called Raspberry Shortcake (see June 2014 article) and three more blueberries:  Peach Sorbet, Jelly Bean, and Blueberry Glaze. http://www.brazelberries.com

New Landscape Edibles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlants that serve the dual purpose of staying in the ground year round to beautify the landscape while providing food is another trend displayed at MANTS. Proven Winners has a new landscape edible for its Vitamin Berries line: Sugar Mountain Sweetberry honeysuckle. Related to honeysuckles, these are native shrubs also known as haskaps. Sugar Mountain Blue produces blue berries on large hedge-type plants that are more than 5 feet high and wide. The berries look like tubular blueberries but they do not require the acidic soil that blueberries require. Hardy to zone 2, these shrubs will fruit without pollination but will produce larger fruit if allowed to cross pollinate with another bush. Hence, Proven Winners also developed Sugar Mountain Balalaika, Sugar Mountain Eisbar, and Sugar Mountain Kalinka. http://www.provenwinners.com

Lo Hugger 2I also discovered the ‘Lo-Hugger’ American cranberry. I always thought of cranberries as northern bog plants but this is evergreen groundcover that can be grown in wet or dry soil, sun or part shade.  It grows to about 6 inches high, spreads out a couple of feet and produces pink flowers followed by edible, red berries. Hardy to zone 4, it is a fast growing, winter hardy plant. It also is a four-season interest, landscape edible – the foliage remains on the plant during the winter turning to red/bronze and then back to green in the summer. http://www.upshoothort.com

Packaging is Everything

I was surprised to learn that the Netherland Bulb Company, famous for spring flowering bulbs like tulips and daffodils, promotes quite a line of edibles. They sell everything from elderberry, goji berry, asparagus, horseradish, garlic, rhubarb, Dutch onions, shallots, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, pine berry, grapes, to organic and regular potatoes. I saw a wonderful display of boxed organic potato tubers, guaranteed to sell. You don’t have to put your hands in old bins to pick up dirty tubers. Packaging is important, if it is clean and easy to pick up and buy, it sells. http://www.netherlandbulb.compotato (2)

Walters Seed Company is another company that has capitalized on beautiful packaging. Houseplant, herb, and flower seeds and a soil pellet come in these adorable biodegradable containers. Seed Gems make great gifts, can be customized for party favors, and the boxes can be imprinted with special messages. Simply add water to the soil pellet, add seeds and grow. When the plant is ready to be placed in a larger pot or outside, put the entire biodegradable pot in the soil. Who wouldn’t buy these for Mother’s Day, a shower, or wedding. http://www.walters-seed.comseed gemsseed gems (2)

Ketchup ‘n’ Fries: The Pushmi-Pullyu of the 2015 Vegetable Garden

Ketchup 'n' Fries, photo courtesy of Territorial Seed Company

Ketchup ‘n’ Fries, photo courtesy of Territorial Seed Company

When I was 10 years old, my sister and I dressed up as a pushmi-pullyu for the Halloween parade at school. We had just read The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, a fantasy adventure where Dolittle, a country physician, could speak with animals. One of the imaginary animals he encountered on his trip to Africa to save monkeys was the pushmi-pullyu, a cross between a gazelle and a unicorn. It had two heads, each one at opposite ends of its body.  My sister and I used a box as the body and connected ourselves with fabric. She looked ahead and walked forward while I looked behind and walk backwards and vice versa.

The new Ketchup ‘n’ Fries is the pushmi-pullyu of the vegetable gardening world. One side is a tomato plant, growing up, while the other is a potato plant, growing down. Although this combo was first introduced to gardeners in Great Britain last year (land of Doctor Dolittle), it is being introduced to this country for the first time in 2015, sold exclusively by Territorial Seed Company. The tomato plant is grafted onto the potato plant allowing a harvest of up to 500 red cherry tomatoes above ground and up to 4.5 pounds of white potatoes below ground, according to Territorial Seed Company. Because tomatoes and potatoes are members of the same plant family, they have the same cultural requirements of full sun and warmth. The plants are hand grafted (i.e., made to grow together physically); there is no genetic modification. Grafting is a common horticultural process, more so with fruit trees, but quickly gaining ground with veggies (grafted tomato plants have been on the market for several years). Ketchup ‘n’ Fries will be shipped in 2 ½ inch pots so it is planted outdoors after the average last frost date in early summer.

To me the real value of Ketchup ‘n’ Fries is the pushmi-pullyu factor: the “wow isn’t that cool, I want to read more” or “wow, isn’t that cool, I want to learn how to garden!” Imagine showing this oddity to school-aged children to capture their interest and to explain so many important lessons: botany (fruit versus tuber); science (plant family); health (nutritional benefits of eating vegetables); history (potato famine); chemistry (photosynthesis); math (average last frost date); and literature (Dr. Dolittle!). If my sister and I were inspired to dress up like a cross between a gazelle and a unicorn, think of the kids who could be inspired to garden by growing Ketchup ‘n’ Fries!