Garden Talk: April 7, 2014

From NGA Editors

Look Before You Pump

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Spring is arriving (however belatedly in some parts of the country this year!) and it's time for gardeners to get their tools and equipment ready for the season ahead. As you get mowers, trimmers, blowers, chain saws, and similar small engine equipment fueled up, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) reminds you to Look Before You Pump. This caution comes because at some gas stations, consumers can dispense fuel with higher than 10 percent ethanol. If this higher-ethanol fuel is put into any outdoor or garden power equipment or other non-road product, such as boats, snowmobiles, and motorcycles (with the exception of "flex-fuel" engine products), they will be damaged or destroyed. Known by its emblematic prominent, red warning hand symbol indicating 'OK' for 10 percent ethanol and 'No' for mid-level ethanol blends (such as E15, E30, E85), the Look Before You Pump campaign is spreading nationwide as ethanol blended fuels containing more than 10 percent ethanol are made available in the marketplace for "flex-fuel" automobiles. You're most likely to find this higher ethanol fuel in the Midwest and South, but blender pumps that dispense various levels of ethanol fuel can be found all over the country.

In thousands of retail store aisles across the country and in spring preview circulars and catalogs, consumers will be reminded that it is harmful and illegal to use higher than 10 percent ethanol gas in any outdoor power equipment or other non-road product with the exception of 'flex-fuel' engine products. OPEI urges consumers to read their equipment operating manuals before filling equipment with gasoline to ensure they use the right fuel for that engine. OPEI is an international trade association representing 100 small engine, utility vehicle, and outdoor power equipment manufacturers and suppliers of consumer and commercial outdoor power equipment.

For more information, go to Look Before You Pump

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Growing Active Kids

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School gardens grow more than plants. Young people who participate in school garden programs improve their knowledge of good nutrition, broaden their tastes in terms of food choices, and increase their consumption of vegetables and fruits. Equally important, participating in garden programs allows children the opportunity for regular moderate exercise in an enjoyable way. These healthful diet and exercise practices, planted like seeds in the garden, continue to grow into life-long habits that can be potent weapons in the fight against childhood obesity.

Recent research at Cornell University reinforces the effectiveness of school garden programs in getting kids moving. In a two-year study at 12 elementary schools in five regions of New York State, researchers found that children at schools with garden programs were moderately physically active for 10 more minutes a week than children at schools without such programs. While that might not seem like a lot, it was a four-fold increase over activity levels at schools without gardens. Perhaps even more significant, the children who gardened at school were considerably less sedentary at home and elsewhere than those from gardenless schools.

According to environmental psychologist Nancy Wells, associate professor of design and environmental analysis in Cornell's College of Human Ecology, "School gardens are an effective way to begin to nudge kids toward their 60 minutes of daily activity," the minimum amount recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services. She also noted that at the schools in the study with garden programs "kids were only spending an hour or two per week in the gardens, yet there was a significant difference in physical activity. The findings suggest that if schools embraced gardens further and integrated them into lesson plans, there might be an even greater effect."

To read more about this important research, go to Cornell Chronicles. To learn more about the National Gardening Association's work to put A Garden in Every School®, go to National Gardening Association School and Youth Gardening.

Year of the Cucumber

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Cucumbers are one of America's favorite home garden crops. Whether for fresh eating, pickling, or even cooking (cucumber soup or roasted cukes, anyone?), cucumbers are one of the five most popular additions to home vegetable gardens. Easy to grow, cukes are a boon for those with limited space as they are good candidates for vertical growing. In recognition of all of its attributes, the National Garden Bureau has declared 2014 the Year of the Cucumber.

Did you know that cukes are native to India and have been grown in Asia for thousands of years? Seeds uncovered in a cave on the Burma-Thailand border and radiocarbon dated came from cucumbers eaten in 9750 B.C.! Cucumbers made it to the New World with Columbus, where centuries later H. J. Heinz of Pittsburgh first began bottling pickles commercially. Lots of breeding work has gone on over the years, and modern gardeners now have a wide array of varieties to choose from.

Cucumber varieties are divided into two main categories -- slicers and picklers -- but within these divisions there is lots of variation. You can grow ″burpless″ cukes; ones with vining or bush growth habits; varieties bred for disease resistance; parthenocarpic varieties that set fruits without pollination; one with big or small fruits, cylindrical or round fruits; even ones with white, brown, or yellow fruits.

A new one to try is 'Sliver Slicer', an open-pollinated variety with 7-8 inch long, creamy white fruits with tender skin, sweet, mild flavor, and pleasantly crunchy flesh. Bred by the organic vegetable breeding project at Cornell University, the vigorous vines bear prolifically and are resistant to powdery mildew. Like all cukes, 'Silver Slicer' is a warmth lover, so wait until the soil is warm and all danger of frost is past before planting seeds or transplants.

For more about the history of cucumbers, variety selection, and culture, go to Year of the Cucumber. For more about 'Sliver Slicer' cucumbers, go to National Garden Bureau. (Image courtesy of National Garden Bureau)

Spotlight on Youth Gardening: Landry Early Childhood Center

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Gardens grow much more than fruits and vegetables at Rivier University's Landry Early Childhood Center in Nashua, New Hampshire. Since 2013, over 200 youth participants have had the opportunity to grow edible gardens on their playground. By installing raised beds, youngsters have been able to grow sunflowers, vegetables, and fruit. Lessons in seed starting, health and nutrition, and core academic subjects have helped to create lasting connections for teachers and youth, making the garden a center of activity and key to the instruction. In support of their efforts, the Landry Early Childhood Center was awarded the National Gardening Association's 2013 Rubenstein Foundation Garden Grant, which provided funding and materials to support the young child at laboratory schools in New England and New York.

Since the founding of the center in 1987, the Landry Early Childhood Center has provided instruction to the next generation of teachers and nurses. The garden is now a core area of study for teachers in training and nurses to work directly with mentors and youth to engage in discussions and lessons. The edible garden is an extension of an existing play space called "The Enchanted Forest," an outdoor play environment reflective of New Hampshire’s natural landscape. Under a canopy of maple trees, children learn through play, observing the growth of native perennials like mountain laurel, ferns, fiddleheads, and much more.

The center hopes to increase their capacity to grow fruits and vegetables for children to enjoy. This year-round program is excited to expand their efforts by planting seeds saved in 2013, some of which they will start indoors. The official outdoor growing season begins with their annual May Day festival where families and children celebrate the coming of spring by decorating maypoles, planting flowers, and coming together to enjoy one another's company.

Visit the Landry Early Childhood Center on Facebook. Learn more about their program at Rivier University .

 
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