29 December 2013

Green Mountain Potato Onion Seedling progress

Last autumn I planted my seed of Kelly Winterton's potato onions. Kelly developed a huge potato onion from a variety that he had been growing for a number of years. When it started flowering, he collected seed, grew it out, and got a lot of diversity, but some of these were enormous, a great discovery since most potato onions are quite small. It's worth reading his online info, which I've linked.

My Green Mountain F1 plants are showing lots of diversity.
Some plants are just growing big onions, and aren't showing any sign of dividing or flowering.

Others have one or two divisions

Some have divided multiple times
And one very strange one has divided 5 or 6 times, and each division is now in the process of dividing again, giving what looks like 28 or so individual stalks, with a crazy Medusa-like tangle of leaves and stalks.

I'm hoping I get some Green Mountain-like big spud onions, but this multiple-bunching characteristic could be useful. Will need to see how it develops over summer.

Another plus from this batch is that a few of them are setting flower buds, giving the possibility of even more diversity - if they set seed and I can get them to grow.

05 December 2013

Harvesting and selecting yellow snow peas

This spring I've grown out a couple of selections of F4 yellow snow peas. I should probably go through the development of these lines, if only to remind myself of what went on.

These were originally grown as a bit of an afterthought along a marginal dry bed next to a half shaded fence. I had returned from a lengthy winter holiday to find a mass of F1 plants with set pods, but because of weather conditions, some of the pods had sprouted or sprouting seeds in them. I just chucked a whole heap of what I thought were ruined seeds into a bed, and got a great germination.

The plants struggled, many only setting one or two weak pods, so selection was a bit difficult, but a few plants stood out, with big pods, and vigour. I bulk collected the yellows, and individually bagged the good plants, and grew them out in March 2013, along with 2 seeds from each of the rest of the yellows. This was not a great strategy - autumn weather didn't give me the great seed crops I had got the year before, and I was away on another extended break, and wasn't around to do a proper assessment. Luckly a friend collected and bagged the seeds for me.

This spring 2013, I sowed seed from some of the offspring of the best F2 plants as well as a couple of seeds from all the other yellows. This has given me a lot of plants to choose from, including some unlikely and subtle variations in the phenotypes.

So how to go about selecting from this big pool of candidates? I certainly don't have room to grow out another mass planting, and I'm probably far enough along the generation pipeline for some of the characteristics to begin to show some stability.

Since these plants are being grown to eat, flavour is a major factor. But I didn't select the parents based on their outstanding flavour - I rushed in, and just crossed everything with everything else, just to get started. A bit less haste might have been a good thing. So the flavour of these crosses isn't remarkable, just standard snowpea. Anything with chalky or dry-mouth feel is rejected. Which still leaves a large number of individuals to select from.

I've begun to think along commercial lines - what would reduce labour costs for someone growing yellow snow peas? In the first place, coloured snows are useful for anyone hand harvesting since the peas stand out from the foliage. But there is another characteristic which makes them stand out - literally.
Medium sized peduncle on my Tall Yellow Snow F4 growouts
The peduncle is the stalk that attaches the flower and pod to the stem of the branch. If these are long, the pods are held away from the foliage, making detection of the pods easier. And double flowering at each node also make the task of gathering pods easier, so if I could find plants with long peduncles and/or double flowering, this would be a useful characteristic.
 The pics also show the light weight aluminium tags I use to label plants and crossed flowers - the embossing lasts even if the ink fades.
The background mesh is 10 centimetre squares

As luck would have it, there was considerable variation in peduncle length, from about 1 centimetre long, to almost 10 centimetres.  Unfortunately there weren't any double flowers in the main F4 crop, but there were some in my F2 growouts of another line, my Golden Spring project which I wrote about in one of my recent posts. But the Golden Spring lines went in late, and there was no opportunity to cross the two yellow snow lines together to combine characteristics. Next season.

The double flowered characteristic showed up  on some of my purple snow growouts - you can also see how the purple pods really stand out from the green of the foliage.