2014-05-02 / Community

Students grow newly developed plants

Southern Maine Community College students are growing newly developed varieties of tomatoes, petunias and other vegetables and flowers as part of a national program to introduce new plants to home gardeners.

SMCC’s Horticulture Department, in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, is growing the plants from seeds that were made available to the public for the first time this year.

All-America Selections, a nonprofit organization that tests new varieties of seeds, chose the cooperative extension to showcase the plants at its Tidewater Farm display garden in Falmouth. Cooperative Extension then asked SMCC to grow the plants from seed in the college’s greenhouse until they’re ready to be transplanted to the display garden.

Students in SMCC’s greenhouse production class are now growing and tending to the plants. This is the first time that SMCC has taken part in an All- America Selection project.

“Not only are our students getting the chance to work with some of the best new plant introductions, but they are becoming part of a long-established, well-respected national program,” said Cheryl Rich, chairman of the horticulture department. “This is a great opportunity for our program. Hopefully we can continue to work with the Cooperative Extension and the All-America Selections program for years to come.”

All-America Selections, based in Downers Grove, Illinois, tests new varieties of seeds that are submitted by seed companies across the U.S. and Canada. Seeds that do well are designated as “winners,” allowing seed companies to market them with the All-America seal of approval.

All-America Selections asks places around the country to display the winning varieties to allow the public to view them in regions where they can grow.

This winter, SMCC received six varieties of flower seeds and five varieties of vegetable seeds that were chosen as 2014 winners. The plants include African Sunset petunias, Fantastico tomatoes, Patio Baby eggplant and Mama Mia Giallo peppers.

SMCC is also growing another 31 varieties of vegetables and flowers that were All-America Selection winners between 2010 and 2013. They too will be displayed at Tidewater Farm.

The seeds are expected to be moved from SMCC’s greenhouse to Tidewater Farm in mid-May.

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