Garden Talk: February 1, 2007

From NGA Editors

New Lime Green Cauliflower

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There are few vegetables as majestic-looking and beautiful as the Romanesco cauliflower. This Italian heirloom hails from the coastal region between Rome and Naples. Romanesco cauliflower is noted for its large, white heads with groups of pointed spirals.

Now comes a new color for this classic. ‘Veronica’ Romanesco cauliflower has the same growth habit but features lime green heads. The heads have a mild, nutty taste and are best harvested on the young side. Although ‘Veronica’ has excellent heat tolerance, in most of the country it’s best planted as a summer crop to mature during the cool days of fall.

For more information about ‘Veronica’, go to: Park Seed Company.

Cold-Hardy Clumping Bamboos

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Bamboos have become popular landscape plants for creating garden rooms, blocking unsightly views, or lending your garden an Asian feel. Bamboos are grouped as either running or clumping types. Running bamboos are generally hardier than clumping types, but because they can become invasive, many gardeners avoid planting them. Clumping bamboos are tamer, but the selection of cold-hardy varieties for northern gardeners is limited. Now two forms of evergreen clumping bamboos have been introduced in the U.S. that are hardy enough for a northern gardener to try.

Green Panda bamboo (Fargesia rufa Green Panda) produces deep green leaves and green culms (stalks) with orange-red sheaths (covering). It grows 6 to 8 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter at maturity and is hardy to USDA zone 5. Its well-behaved habit makes Green Panda a great addition to a perennial garden or even a container.

Asian Wonder (Fargesia scabrida Asian Wonder) grows larger than Green Panda -- up to 16 feet tall -- and features colorful steel-blue new culms with bright orange sheaths. Asian Wonder is hardy to USDA zone 5.

Both bamboos thrive in full sun but will tolerate some shade. They grow best in well-drained soils with high organic matter content.

For more information about these new bamboo varieties, go to: Bamboo Select.

Organic Strawberries Better for Fighting Cancer

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Over the years we’ve reported about the various cancer-fighting compounds contained in many fresh fruits and vegetables. New research suggests that how the fruits and vegetables are grown may make a difference in the quantity of these compounds in the crops.

Researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences took extracts from five varieties of strawberries, some grown organically and some grown conventionally. They compared the extracts for their ability to inhibit colon and breast cancer cell growth in laboratory tests. The organic strawberry extracts inhibited colon cancer cells by 60 percent and breast cancer cells by 53 percent. The conventionally grown strawberry extracts inhibited the cells by 49 and 38 percent respectively. Also, the organically grown strawberries had higher concentrations of antioxidants and vitamin C.

For more information about this research, go to: Institute of Science in Society.

New Biodegradable Seedling Pots

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Many gardeners have used peat, coir, and other biodegradable pots to start their seedlings. The advantage of peat and coir pots over plastic is that the "pot and all" can be transplanted in spring, resulting in less transplant shock to the seedling. However, peat and coir pots provide marginal fertilizer value to the developing seedlings.

CowPots offer something new: They are biodegradable and as rigid as peat or coir pots, plus they release organic fertilizer as they break down in the soil. They also are easy for seedling roots to penetrate. CowPots are made from the solids leftover from a methane digester on a Connecticut dairy farm. The solids are composted and pressed into 3- or 4-inch-diameter pots. The pots stay rigid enough to last for months in a greenhouse, but decompose within four weeks once planted in the soil.

To find out more about these seedling pots, go to: CowPots.

 
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