Garden Talk: March 16, 2006

From NGA Editors

New Japanese Sweet Corn

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Supersweet corn varieties created a revolution in the corn world when they were introduced because they allowed gardeners to harvest and keep sweet corn for weeks in the summer. However, some gardeners have objected to the sometimes tough texture and extra-sweet taste of these new hybrids.

A new supersweet corn variety is changing that perception. ‘Mirai’ (meaning “taste” in Japanese) gained its notoriety in Japan, although it’s a hybrid that was originally created in Illinois. The attraction is a sweet taste that’s not as sugary as other supersweet types; succulent kernels that are more tender than other supersweet types; and low starch content. However, because ‘Mirai’ can’t be harvested by machine, large commercial growers weren't interested. The seed made its way to Japan, where many of the sweet corn farmers are small scale, often working by hand. Its popularity spread like wildfire, and in a few years it had captured 35 percent of the sweet corn market. Inspired by this success in Japan, American market farmers have started growing 'Mirai', and now seed is available to home gardeners as well.

‘Mirai’ produces disease-tolerant plants that grow 6 to 7 feet tall, producing 7-inch-long yellow or bicolored ears. The ears hold their sweetness for up to six weeks if refrigerated. ‘Mirai’ should be isolated from other non-supersweet varieties for best flavor. The seed is finicky about germinating in cool soils, so it should be planted later and shallower than other sweet corn varieties.

For more information on ‘Mirai’, go to: Park Seed.

New Portable Label Maker

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Keeping track of plants in the garden is always a challenge. Of course, the best way to know which perennial flower is growing where is to label them. But labeling each and every plant is time-consuming and costly.

Now there's a simple machine that makes labeling a snap. From Brother International, an office supply company, comes a portable, hand-held label maker that produces laminated labels right in the garden. You simply type in the plant name on the keypad and print out the label. Peel off the label backing and stick the label on your wood or metal stake. The labels won’t fade, run, or peel, and they can last for years. They also can be easily removed with a sharp knife if you need to replace or change them. The garden labeler comes with 13 feet of 1/2-inch-diameter black and white tape. Replacement label tape is also available.

For more information on this new garden labeler, go to: Gardener’s Supply.

Razzle Dazzle Dwarf Crape Myrtle

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Crape myrtles are considered the "lilacs of the South." They grow easily in hot climates, flowering in summer when few other trees are in bloom. However, gardeners with small yards have limited space to grow standard crape myrtle varieties. In addition, many varieties are plagued by diseases such as powdery mildew on the leaves and flowers.

Now plant breeder Michael Dirr from the University of Georgia has introduced a line of disease-resistant, dwarf crape myrtles that can grow in small spaces. The Razzle Dazzle series includes varieties with powdery mildew resistance and flower colors that range from red to white. Some varieties, such as ‘Snow Dazzle’, grow only 2 to 3 feet tall, making them great additions to perennial flower borders or containers. Larger varieties, such as ‘Raspberry Dazzle’, grow to 5 feet tall and work well when grown as specimen or foundation plants.

For more information on the Razzle Dazzle series, go to: Gardener’s Confidence.

Disease-Tolerant Pumpkins

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Pumpkins are a fun crop to grow, but for gardeners in areas with humid summers, such as in the Midwest and the eastern US, powdery mildew disease can reduce production. In 2005, researchers at the University of Missouri decided to trial more than a dozen different pumpkin varieties to determine which were most disease resistant. They recorded the total tonnage produced and the percent that were marketable.

The most disease-resistant variety in the 12- to 20-pound pumpkin group was ‘Magic Lantern’. Almost every ‘Magic Lantern’ pumpkin produced was marketable. ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Reliant’ also performed well.

Of the small ornamental pumpkins, exotic varieties such as ‘El Dorado’ and 'Estrella’ had the most disease resistance.

For a complete report, go to: University of Missouri.

 
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