Researchers from North Dakota State University are requesting the help of Minot-area gardeners to assist in a research project involving more than 88 varieties of vegetables and flowers.
Tom Kalb, horticulture specialist with the Burleigh County Extension Office and lead researcher for the project, is looking for 200 gardeners to evaluate a few of the 44 new flower and vegetable varieties against known varieties to find out which variety germinated better, was the healthiest, produced the higher yield and looked or tasted better.
"The principle behind this is that the university wants to make good recommendations to gardeners and the best way to do that is in the backyard under the management of the gardeners," said Kalb. "These trials are the largest in the nation. No other state has as many participants or tests as many varieties as we do here."
A Bismarck-area student evaluates a Japanese red carrot in last year’s trial. “As you can see, this carrot was a big loser. In research, it is just as important to find the good varieties as the bad ones,” said Tom Kalb, horticulture specialist with the Burleigh County Extension Office.
This is the second year for the trials.
In the first year of the research, 95 gardener participants evaluated 84 varieties of flowers and vegetables including beans, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, watermelon, lettuce, kohlrabi as well as flower varieties such as sunflower, sweet pea, zinnia and cosmos.
Although it was the first year, "I was very impressed with the quality of the reports we received from the North Dakota gardeners," Kalb said.
Before coming to NDSU last year, Kalb had conducted the tests at the University of Wisconsin for the last five years.
"Over the years, gardeners have embraced the opportunity to work with the university and be part of a research team," Kalb said. "These are good, educational projects that bring families together. You don't need to be an expert, you just need to be willing to have fun."
Each household may participate in up to seven trials. There is a fee of $1 per trial and a $3 postage and handling fee, so the total cost for seven trials would be $10. Participants will receive a seed packet containing two varieties of seed, row labels and evaluation sheets. The growing season for the different varieties varies greatly, but once all of the trials are completed, participants will receive a final report summary of the analyzed data as well as a certificate to recognize their valued participation. The results will then be used to make recommendations for North Dakota gardeners.
For more information, go to (www.dakotagardener.com) or call Kalb at 221-6865.