Garden Talk: January 4, 2007

From NGA Editors

Tempting New Tomato Varieties

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Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown across the country, and for 2007 there are some new varieties that should peak everyone’s interest.

One of the trends in tomatoes is fruits of different sizes and shapes. Tomato fruits can be round, oval, flattened, and now strawberry-shaped. The indeterminate 'Tomatoberry' features clusters of 1-inch-diameter deep red, sweet-tasting fruits with broad shoulders tapering to blunt ends.

‘Golden Rave’ is a new golden "romanita" tomato. ‘Golden Rave’ has a roma tomato shape but is only 2 inches long. It’s disease and crack resistant and grows on a determinate plant.

Another unique golden tomato variety is ‘Golden Mama’. It’s claimed to be the first full-sized, golden sauce tomato available. The compact, indeterminate plants produce sweet and mild-flavored fruits.

For more information about tomatoberry, go to: Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

For more information about ‘Golden Rave’, go to: Park Seeds.

For more information about ‘Golden Mama’, go to: Burpee Seeds.

2007 Perennial Plant of the Year

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Each year there are a bevy of perennial flowers to tempt us -- both new and old favorites -- and it can be difficult to choose what to plant. The Perennial Plant Association helps us by naming a perennial plant of year. This plant is one that has multiple seasons of interest, is low maintenance, and is adapted to different climates. The 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year is Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’.

This catmint has crinkled, aromatic, silver-green foliage and lavender-colored flowers on a plant that only grows 3 feet tall and wide. It’s hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8 and grows best in full sun. ‘Walker’s Low’ is drought- and salt-tolerant, deer- and rabbit-resistant, and has few pests or diseases.

For more information about ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint, go to: Perennial Plant Association.

Gardening With Seniors and Kids

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Seniors and kids are a natural combination in the garden. Seniors have years of experience, wisdom, and patience for creating gardens, and kids have the enthusiasm, energy, and strength to help make it happen. Working with both groups requires special considerations, but a new book can help make your intergenerational garden a success. Generations Gardening Together, by Jean Larson and Mary Meyer (Haworth Press, 2006; $20), is geared towards health care professionals, Master Gardeners, and anyone working with seniors and kids in a garden project. Chapters are devoted to working with each age group, designing an accessible garden, and building a program. The heart of the book is a chapter outlining a six-week intergenerational sensory garden activity plan.

For more information about Generations Gardening Together, go to: Haworth Press.

Marigolds Thrive With Earthworm Castings

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Earthworms are known to be key components of healthy garden soils. They not only aerate the soil with their tunneling, but their droppings or “castings” are known to be a good plant food, as well. Now researchers at Mississippi State University are looking at the benefits of using earthworm castings in potting soil to enhance container plant growth.

In the study, marigolds were grown in pots containing different potting mixtures: 7 parts peat:1 part perlite; 4 parts bark:1 part sand; and in straight earthworm castings. Researchers also added castings at 1:1, 2:1, and 3:1 ratios into the other mixes. They recorded the growth and flowering of the marigolds weekly.

The marigolds grown in the earthworm casting mix had greater stem diameter, better flowering, and better root growth than those grown in the other mixes. Similar results were found in pots with castings added to the other mixes: the higher the proportion of earthworm castings, the better the plant growth.

For more information on this research, go to: American Society for Horticultural Science.

 
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