On your mark, get set, let’s garden! Organizers are busy growing thousands of plants in the Laboratory Sciences Greenhouse to be ready in time for the annual University of Wisconsin-Green Bay heirloom vegetable plant sale.
The Natural and Applied Sciences academic department at UW-Green Bay will host the sale Saturday, May 16, at the Laboratory Sciences Building located on campus at 2420 Nicolet Drive. Doors open at 9 a.m. with numbers passed out starting at 7 a.m. for those who don’t want to stand in line. The event is a fundraiser in support of student research projects and guest speakers in the NAS program.
Most plants are $1.75. Those looking for a specific variety of peppers, herbs or flowers often arrive early, but sale organizers say they always have a good selection of tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables for those who wait until later in the day. The sales closes up at 3 p.m.
The UW-Green Bay sale features unique and rare heirloom varieties, introducing local gardeners to new varieties and promoting the concept of agricultural biodiversity. This year the sale features at least 57 different varieties of tomatoes (4,000 or more plants), and 34 varieties of peppers (1,800 plants), including eight different bell peppers, as well as mild, medium, hot and scorching hot peppers.
Additional vegetable offerings are new this year, with more and varied eggplants, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, tomatillos, cucumbers, melons, squash, Swiss chard, kohlrabi and lettuce. Also for sale are herbs, including seven kinds of basil, and 15 varieties of old-fashioned flowers. Lists of plants offered and links to descriptions can be found at www.uwgb.edu/biodiversity/.
The sale is noteworthy because it offers 150 open-pollinated “heirloom” varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers that were developed by gardeners over the last two centuries to satisfy the needs of most Wisconsin gardeners. The names of some of the sale’s favorite varieties – WI 55, King of the North, Wisconsin Lakes, Minnesota Midget, Pride of Wisconsin, Sheboygan and Wautoma – reflect dedication to sourcing varieties best adapted to northern growing conditions. Plants unlikely to be found elsewhere include ground cherries and garden huckleberries, old-time flowers like “Love Lies Bleeding,” and tomatoes and peppers for salsa crafters, home canners, and sandwich and salad artists.
The wide array of tomato choices includes “Dancing with Smurfs” cherry tomatoes for the kids. The success of “Blush” in gardens last summer led to the offering of more small artisan tomatoes including Green Tiger, Bumble Bee and a new Siberian tomato called “Korol Gigantov,” which translates to “King of Giants” and in one trial averaged 17 pounds of tomatoes from a single plant.
Expanded offerings of sweet and medium peppers are in store, although very hot tropical peppers from South America will remain available. New northern melons and squash varieties will join other newcomers including a distinctive purple cauliflower called Purple of Sicily, a “Flamingo” pink Swiss chard, and a tricolored edible “Poinsettia” amaranth.
The annual sale began in 1994 with 300 plants for sale. Students benefit from the proceeds that are used to bring in scientists and other speakers that students otherwise would not be able to meet, and to support student research projects as well as travel to conferences where they can present results of their research and meet scientists in their fields. Last year’s sale supported research on the bay of Green Bay, local well-water quality, local biodiversity, and magma flows in Antarctica. The funds also allow students to travel to scientific meetings, and brought internationally recognized scholars to UW-Green Bay for the NAS seminar series.