Row by Row Episode 148: Secrets of a Plant Breeder

Seed quality is extremely important to us here at Hoss Tools. There are many factors that go into the selection of seeds we offer to you in our store; germination percentage, disease resistance, grow time, crop yield, etc. Because we look for only the best seeds to offer, we get to know the companies we work with and like to help you get to know what you can expect from the products we offer.

We recently invited Tracy Lee from Sakata Seeds to stop by and talk with us about the company and their products that are newer for us and the ones we have had available.

Sakata

Tracy tells us that since 1913 Sakata has strived to be one of the top innovative creators and suppliers of top quality seeds. Their global network of breeders work diligently in accordance to the company’s motto, “Quality, Reliability, Service”, to bring superior performance and standards to the seed industry. 

One of her main driving factors is the needs of the home gardener. Tracy says that she works with the breeders and tells them what gardeners want, what they are in need of, and what they are looking for. The breeders in turn will look at what they have, look at what’s needed, and work to develop a product that will check the boxes of what growers are looking for.

The time and effort that has been put into the company’s seed production and development is evident in the quality of the seeds we have to offer here at Hoss Tools. 

One of the advantages to having the global network of growers and breeders is that each product is tested for yield in all kinds of conditions. In turn, you can trust that the seeds we offer are the best for your needs and your zones.

Quality

After focusing on horticulture and vegetable production in college, Tracy has spent her entire career in the seed industry, working at a few of the top named companies in trialing, product selection, and cataloging. All of this experience has given her a wealth of knowledge on what makes not just a good seed, but a quality seed and now helps suppliers, like Hoss Tools, bring amazing products to you.

Tracy goes on to explain that there was a tendency in the past for seed breeders to focus on yield over flavor as they engaged with the larger crop production companies. She says that Sakata has not given up on flavor in the products they provide; quite the contrary as flavor, disease resistance, and good performance are of extreme importance to the company. After all, those are the factors you, as a grower, are looking for in a product.

Varieties

For many years there were only a handful of options available to shoppers in US supermarkets when it came to vegetables. Then, not too long ago, the grape tomato was introduced. This was a tomato type that was unique in its shape and sweetness. Home gardeners had nothing like it to grow in their gardens which led seed companies, like Sakata, to begin breeding their own varieties.

Now there are many, many options of every type of vegetable out there. So much so that you can plan out extended growing seasons for a specific crop. For instance, if you want to harvest tomatoes until well past July, we have a few suggestions on what to plant and in what order as well.

Tomatoes

There are two main types of tomato; determinant and indeterminate. If you are not familiar with these terms they simply refer to how they grow. A determinant will grow a certain height and remain there for the duration of the season whereas an indeterminate will continue to grow as the season progresses. An interesting fact that has been discovered with testing is that indeterminate plants tend to have a better taste compared to their determinant counterparts.

One of the popular tomato collections we carry by Sakata is called Little Birdie. This line has three varieties of small tomatoes; the Yellow Canary, the Red Robin, and the Rosy-Finch. This collection makes for the perfect container gardener as these plants are smaller, getting to about one to two feet. These amazing plants reach maturity in 55 days and are considered to be compact determinants yet continually produce the entire season like an indeterminate giving you continued crop production in a very small space.

A staple for any garden is a grape tomato and we carry the best you can get. The Sweet Heart Tomato comes from one of Sakata’s Japanese breeding stations. Tracy told us that those stations, in regards to tomatoes, concentrate on umami flavors. This means that these tomatoes have a multitude of flavor layers. This indeterminate will reach upwards of 6 ft by the end of the season and start producing within 60 days.

A new addition to our inventory this year is the Roadster Tomato. Tracy loves this determinant variety the most for its strong tomato flavor and its large fruit that can be as big as a grapefruit. This plant has a high yield in a small amount of time. Your plants will be packed with massive tomatoes in a short 65 days.

Bella Rosa Tomato is a popular variety of determinant tomato and one of the favorites at Hoss. Even though it is a smaller determinant it does have a wonderful flavor. This variety is disease resistant and is also a heat-set plant so it is easy to maintain. Being a heat-set plant means that even if you just miss the planting time this tomato will still set its flowers and produce a full-sized fruit even when your temperatures have shot up during the day. Expect a full harvest when these are ready in 70 days.

The Red Snapper Tomato is one of the newer genetics to come out of Sakata and one of our own had the honor of naming this variety. This determinant tomato was bred with more concentration on flavor as well as being easy to maintain. You will notice a good amount of foliage on this plant but it does not require pruning and it does not take up much space in your garden. This beautiful tomato will be ready for harvest in 75 days.

Peppers

Next we talked with Tracy about a new series of peppers we have; Right on Red, Orange you Sweet, and Yes to Yellow.

The Right on Red pepper is a type of Hungarian stuffing pepper. This is a sweet pepper and as the type may tell you these are perfect for stuffing. These compact plants will fill up with beautiful peppers that Tracy says reminds her of Christmas ornaments. Because of this, you can grow these along with the other two in pots as ornamental plants as well and have a colorful, edible arrangement in 65 to 70 days.

Sweet Dumpling Squash

The Sweet Dumpling Squash is another perfect option for gardeners that have limited space to grow things. This sweet squash is a limited vine type but is packed with fruit. It has a higher sugar content and less dry matter meaning the meat isn’t stringy like you would have with a spaghetti squash. Because of their manageable size, Tracy likes to cut them in half horizontally and cook them with salt, pepper, and olive oil, then stuff them with rice, sausage, peppers, and onions topped with Parmesan cheese. This flavorful crop will mature in 100 days and store for about 30 day off the vine.

Broccoli

As Tracy puts it, Sakata is the broccoli company. There’s over a 70% chance that the broccoli you buy from the store was grown from Sakata seeds. This means they have a huge variety of broccoli to choose from. 

The newest variety here at Hoss Tools is the Godzilla Broccoli. Broccoli can take up a lot of space to grow and some gardeners may not think it is worth growing, especially if the head is small. Hence the name of this variety. The Godzilla produces a large floret with 70 days to maturity. 

Our top-selling broccoli, and the perfect one for beginner gardeners, is the Green Magic Broccoli. The reason it is the best is that it is the most widely adaptable broccoli variety out there meaning it will grow in more zones than other varieties and still get you good to great broccoli. It also has a strong root system which makes it easier for home gardeners. It doesn’t require as much fertilizer or attention as others do and can be planted in spring or fall. Green Magic will reach maturity in 55 days.

Orient Wonder Bean

Another new item for us is the Orient Wonder Bean. This extremely popular vegetable is also referred to as the yard-long bean because the pods, while thin, will grow to be nearly a yard long. These beans grow in clusters of six to ten per stem. It is an unusual vegetable and has its quirks. The seeds will go into dormancy as a part of their natural cycle so don’t be discouraged if you plant them and do not see immediate results. Once you do see new sprouts you can expect maturity in 85 days.

Okra

Last but not least is the Jambalaya Okra. This Okra is a huge seller for Hoss and Tracy says we sell the most of this out of everyone else. The Jambalaya Okra plant starts producing early on and, at full maturity at 55 days, will never be overhead height. The pods are smooth, dark-green, and won’t get that woodiness even if you miss a day or two to harvest.

We hope you try out any of these wonderful products in your garden. You won’t be disappointed with any of these or others in our inventory. Be sure to check back often for new additions we know you’ll love.

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