Garden Talk: November 23, 2006

From NGA Editors

California Law Supports School Gardens

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The National Gardening Association has been supporting and promoting school gardens for more than 30 years. We recognize that school gardens help kids in many ways. Children who have been through a school gardening program do better academically, develop better social skills and healthy eating habits, and have a better appreciation for the environment. Fortunately, influential people, such as California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, are starting to agree with us.

Schwarzenegger recently signed into law a bill to promote healthy eating for kids and to fight obesity. The bill offers grants and staff support to develop and maintain instructional gardens at California schools. "School gardens create opportunities for children to learn to make healthier food choices and teach fundamental concepts about nutrition and obesity prevention," says Schwarzenegger.

This bill encourages schools to apply to the superintendent of public instruction for a three-year grant in order to develop and maintain an instructional garden program.

To find out more about this landmark bill, go to: California Office of the Governor.

New Tree for the Edible Landscape

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It’s not often that something new comes along in the world of yard trees, but a recently introduced tree native to northern China is not only widely adapted to American growing conditions, it produces edible nuts, too.

The yellowhorn or Chinese flowering chestnut (Xanthoceras sorbifolia) grows to 20 feet tall and 25 feet wide at maturity, producing dark green, deciduous leaves. The spring show of white flower clusters with red eyes is magnificent. The flowers give way to 2-inch-long seedpods that contain edible pea-like nuts, making this an excellent wildlife plant as well as a highly desirable yard tree. Yellowhorn grows best in full sun and tolerates a wide range of soil types. It's hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8.

For more information on this new tree, go to: Park Seed Company.

Totally Recycled Plant Food

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Gardeners are natural recyclers. They love to recycle pots, stakes, and even plants. If you’re a thrifty gardener and you garden organically, this plant food made from earthworm castings may be for you. Using earthworm castings as fertilizer is not new, but the story behind TerraCycle is unique. The product was created by two Princeton University students who started their composting operation by feeding their earthworms food scraps from the campus dining hall. What started as a small, entrepreneurial venture has blossomed into a thriving business with products sold across the country in stores such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

What makes TerraCycle unique is that 100 percent of the product and packaging is made from recycled materials. The liquid fertilizer is derived from earthworm castings, the bottles are recycled soda bottles, and the spray tops and boxes used for shipping are extras from other companies. In fact, if you want to make some money for a good cause, TerraCycle will donate $.05 to your favorite charity for each soda bottle you send them. School groups across the country have used this recycling program to support special projects.

To find out more about TerraCycle, go to: TerraCycle.

Gardening Anywhere Book

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Gardening on Pavement, Tables, and Hard Surfaces (Timber Press, 2004; $30) is more than just another container gardening book. Author George Schenk shows how you can garden literally anywhere. Schenk writes about growing plants on pavement, rocks, roofs, stumps, tables, logs, and stepping-stones -- often with just a few inches of soil. Imagine growing ground covers in walkways and on top of concrete, creating small rock gardens on tabletops, and even growing plants on your roof.

Included in this book is a plant encyclopedia that helps you match the right plant to the right location. There’s also information on soil type, designs of plant beds, and tips on watering, fertilizing, and plant care.

To learn more about Gardening on Pavement, Tables and Hard Surfaces, go to: Timber Press.

 
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