Garden Talk: July 6, 2006

From NGA Editors

Grow a Fall Crop of Strawberries

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Strawberry lovers take heart; for those who can’t get enough fresh strawberries and wish the June crop produced over a longer period, there may be a solution. A new cropping technique developed by an Agricultural Research Service scientist in Kerneysville, West Virginia, produces an additional fall crop of berries from June-bearing plants. For commercial growers, this is especially good news because a fall crop commands a much higher price than a June crop.

Here’s how it works. In July the small "baby runners" sprouting from the mother plant are harvested and rooted in a greenhouse under mist irrigation. They are planted into the field in early September, where these new plants produce a fall crop -- continuing even into December -- before cold weather hits. Where there is danger of fall frost, the plants need to be grown under a plastic grow tunnel to protect the developing fruit.

Researchers believe this technique will work well in the Mid-Atlantic region, but more testing is needed to determine how effective it is in other parts of the country.

For more information on this double-cropping strawberry system, go to: Science Daily News.

New, Natural Weed Killer

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Summertime means weeding time for most gardeners. While the old methods of hand pulling and hoeing are still the most effective, sometimes you’d just like to spray those weeds to get rid of them. This is especially true of weeds in a sidewalk, patio, or driveway, where they can be hard to dislodge. If you’re leery of using chemical herbicides, there are several organic herbicides worth trying.

One of the newest products is Perfectly Natural Weed & Grass Killer, which uses two well-known organic weed killers: clove oil and vinegar. This fast-acting (dieback begins within 1 hour after spraying) formula is safe for the environment and effective on a range of weeds, such as dandelions, clover, chickweed, plantain, and annual bluegrass. Perennial weeds require a repeat application in 3 to 5 days. The product comes in two ready-to-spray sizes so there's no mixing.

For more information on this new 100 percent organic Weed & Grass Killer, go to: Perfectly Natural.

Unique Pine Tree

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Evergreen trees fill many roles in the landscape. They block unsightly views, provide a dark backdrop to colorful flowering shrubs and perennials, and create habitat for birds and wildlife. It’s a bonus when an evergreen has unique characteristics in its own right.

The Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) is worthy of being grown as a specimen tree for its unique umbrella-shaped whorls of needles. With a dense pyramid shape, this slow-growing, elegant pine is considered sacred in Japan. It grows to a height of 30 to 60 feet.

The variety ‘Wintergreen’ has won the prestigious Cary Award for 2006, which is given each year to trees with exceptional hardiness, uniqueness, and ability to extend the New England growing season. ‘Wintergreen’ is known for keeping its lustrous green needle color throughout the winter. Like all Japanese umbrella pines, 'Wintergreen' is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8, and grows best on acidic soils in full sun.

For more information on this unique pine, go to: Cary Awards.

Free Guide for Organic Gardeners

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The number of organic farmers, as well as the number of acres devoted to organic growing methods, has increased steadily for the past 10 years. This increase creates a need for up-to-date growing information. While organic farmers and gardeners rely on sound cultural gardening techniques to prevent insect and disease problems, there are times when they have to spray. There are a number of organically approved products on the market that can be used, but little consolidated information about their effectiveness.

Researchers at Cornell University have compiled a guide to help organic farmers and gardeners manage insect and disease problems. The Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management reviews the best practices for growing various families of vegetables, such as brassicas and cucurbits. It also reviews the scientific literature for the performance of 13 organic pesticides used on vegetables. Information in these Fact Sheets includes how the pesticide works, effects on the environment, effects on humans, efficacy, and specific pest observations. The final section of the book contains information on plant resistance, trap cropping, and additional resources.

A free online version of the Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management is available, or you can order a printed copy for $19 (including postage). For more information go to: Cornell University.

 
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