The Bonnie Plants Trial Garden at our corporate office in Union Springs, Alabama, provides fertile ground for gathering hands-on knowledge about vegetable and herb plants—both plants that we currently offer and plants we’re considering offering in future seasons. The Trial Garden was started in 2010 by President Stan Cope and, in 2011, the program expanded to two additional small test gardens in New Hampshire and Montana, allowing us to test plants in a variety of locations, conditions, and climates. Read more about the 2011 growing season in on our Bonnie Plants blog post.
What’s in the Garden?
In our Union Springs garden, conditions are ideal for growing our full line of vegetables and herbs. We use the same growing mix that our starter plants are grown in, and the plants are watered and fed regularly through an irrigation system. We know that at least 21 percent of gardeners plant their veggies and herbs in small spaces, such as containers and raised beds, so we grow the plants in large individual containers and raised beds as well as in the ground. We have two employees in the Trial Garden who document the quantity and weight of the fruit picked from each plant throughout its harvest season.
In New Hampshire, Bonnie Field Representative Deke Jackson planted 190 tomato plants in pots outside. He mentions some of his top picks for tomatoes and the reason why. “Bush Early Girl was covered in fruit. It produced so much, so early,” Deke says. “Black Prince produced really well for an heirloom…20 pounds of fruit. And Better Bush is just a beautiful plant. Good size, habit, and extra early bearing.” In Montana, where the growing season is short (about 6 weeks, compared with 4 months in Alabama), Station Manager Bill Furry found that growing under a plastic tunnel yielded the best results. For example, tomato containers grown under the tunnel produced 25% more fruit than those grown outside.
Sharing the Harvest
Bonnie Plants shares the bounty of our gardens with our local communities. In 2010, more than 13,268 pounds of fresh produce were donated from the Bonnie Plants Trial Garden in Union Springs to nearby food banks, homeless shelters, churches, and other non-profit organizations.
2010 Bonnie Trial Garden Stats
- Better Boy Tomato: 5 plants produced 543 tomatoes equaling 217 pounds.
- Eggplant: 24 plants produced 3,059 eggplants equaling 574 pounds.
- German Queen Tomato: 5 plants produced 162 tomatoes equaling 132 pounds.
- Bonnie Bell Pepper: 10 plants produced 265 peppers equaling 48 pounds.
- Habanero Pepper: 5 plants produced 1,707 peppers, equaling 23 pounds.
- Clemson Spineless Okra: 5 plants produced 1,069 okra equaling 48 pounds.
- Sweet 100 Tomato: 5 plants produced 3,809 tomatoes equaling 77 pounds.
Total Harvest: 80,000+ items harvested! 13,268 pounds donated to food banks, homeless shelters, and churches.