Garden Talk: December 21, 2006

From NGA Editors

Sourcing Organic Seeds

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For those avid about using organic methods to grow their vegetables, herbs, and flowers, using organically grown seed is a must. However, not all seed companies offer organic seeds so it can take some sleuthing to find sources.

Now the non-profit Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI) has made finding organically grown seed a little easier. They have compiled an Organic Seed List. The list has more than 120 listings for vegetable, flower, herb, and grain seed. Whether it is alyssum or onions, you can click on the plant of your choice and a listing of varieties and seed company suppliers pops up. The supplier’s name is hot-linked to a page with their contact information. This new list is still growing, so check back occasionally to find more companies and varieties as they are added to the database.

To browse the Organic Seed List, go to: OMRI.

Plant Sales Support Medical Research

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Perilla is a colorful annual flower that resembles coleus but is more sun and heat tolerant. A newly introduced perilla not only has improved leaf color and texture, it also has a special story behind it.

'Gage's Shadow' perilla grows 3 to 4 feet tall and has black-purple leaves with striking green veins. This perilla is named after Gage Baker, the 13-year-old son of the plant breeder. Gage has cerebral palsy. As a way to support kids with this disease, for every ‘Gage’s Shadow’ perilla sold next year, plant marketer Proven Winners will make a donation to the United Cerebral Palsy Fund to promote research and services for kids.

Look for ‘Gage’s Shadow’ in garden centers in spring. For more information about this perilla and cerebral palsy donations, go to: Proven Winners.

Amended Compost Holds More Nutrients

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Adding compost to your garden soils is a great way to improve water retention and drainage and add nutrients. Making your own compost is the best way to produce large quantities at home, however, an uncovered compost pile can leach nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, creating pollution runoff.

Research from the Rodale Institute in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, has shown that adding amendments such as clay and gypsum to your compost pile can reduce this leaching and help retain nutrients.

Researchers built three 20-cubic-yard compost piles: one containing only manure; one containing manure and leaves; and one containing manure, leaves, clay, gypsum, and humic acid. They then monitored the nutrient loss after heavy rains. The manure-only pile lost 18 pounds of ammonium nitrogen and 74 pounds of phosphorus. The leaf and manure compost pile lost 18 ounces of nitrogen and 3 pounds of phosphorus. The pile with amendments lost 19 ounces of nitrogen and only 1.9 pounds of phosphorus. Thus, amending the compost resulted in a 90 percent reduction in nitrogen runoff and a 75 percent reduction in phosphorus runoff compared to the manure-only pile. Also, the amended compost piles matured three months sooner than the other piles.

The amended piles consisted of 14 cubic yards of leaves, 4 cubic yards of manure, 2 cubic yards of clay, 110 pounds of humic acid (leonardite coal dust), and 90 pounds of gypsum. Home gardeners can use similar ratios of the materials to make their own smaller piles.

For more information about this research, go to: Rodale Institute .

New Orange Eggplant

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Eggplant is a favorite vegetable for grilling, roasting, and using in soups and other dishes. Most commonly available with purple skins, in the last 20 years eggplants have been introduced with green, purple-and-white-striped, and lavender and white skins. Now a new orange-skinned variety is available for home gardeners.

‘Sweet African Orange’ eggplant features a 2- to 3-foot-tall plant with plump, 4-inch, oval fruits that mature from white to an orange-red color. This eggplant matures only 90 days after seeding. You can harvest the fruits at any stage once they turn white, but the sweet, mild flavor is most pronounced when they’re allowed to mature to orange.

For more information about ‘Sweet African Orange’ eggplant, go to: National Garden Bureau.

 
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