Garden Talk: August 2, 2007

From NGA Editors

New Edible, Ornamental Salmonberry

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Salmonberry is a common, native woodland shrub that grows in part shade in many areas of the country. Now it's available with striking golden foliage that contrasts beautifully with its bright pink blooms and edible, raspberry-like fruits.

'Golden Ruby' salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis 'Golden Ruby') spreads 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, and is easy to grow in part shade on slightly acidic, well-drained soil in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. Prune branches after fruiting to keep the shrub evenly shaped. Like its relative, the raspberry, Salmonberry will spread from root suckers and should be given room to ramble. It’s a perfect addition to a woodland garden where it will provide food for birds and other wildlife, as well as gardeners.

For more information on ‘Golden Ruby’ salmonberry, go to: Wayside Gardens.

The Lowdown on Organic Sprays

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Organic pest controls are very popular with vegetable gardeners trying to avoid excessive pest damage and also have less impact on the environment. However, detailed information about the organic pest control sprays available can be hard to find. Now a new resource guide from Cornell University will help organic gardeners and farmers decide on which sprays to use for various pests and diseases, and determine how safe they really are.

The Resource Guide for Organic Insects and Disease Management, (Cornell University Press, 2007; $15) features detailed information on various vegetable crops and the organic sprays registered for use on them. The first section provides cultural information and management practices for a number of important vegetable crop groups, such as brassicas, cucurbits, and solanaceous crops. For each family, key pests and disease problems are described, as well as control techniques.

The second section has fact sheets about specific sprays to be used, such as spinosad, neem, and copper. Not only are the materials and the insects and diseases they control explained, their impact on human health and the environment is also discussed. A third section explains other pest control methods, such as planting resistant varieties and trap cropping, and lists additional resources for growers.

To order a copy of The Resource Guide for Organic Insects and Disease Management, visit: Cornell University.

Home Gardens Essential for Bumblebees

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Pollinating insects have been in the news lately because of their declining numbers and the impact this may have on many food crops. The good news is that it appears that wide-open spaces and acres of natural areas are not critical for at least one pollinating insect’s health. On the contrary, small home gardens can provide important habitat.

A research report in the Journal of Applied Ecology in England discusses the recent National Bumblebee Nest Survey that was conducted by Rothamsted Agricultural Research Station in collaboration with the Universities of Newcastle and Southampton. More than 700 volunteers surveyed their own gardens plus one of six different countryside habitats for bumblebee nests. They found home gardens contained the highest densities of nests (36 nests per hectare), followed by hedgerows, fence lines, and woodland edges. Nest densities were lowest in woodland and grassland (11 to 15 nests/hectare) areas.

Researchers theorize that gardens provide a large variety of potential nesting sites due to the diversity of garden styles, structures, and features, and they offer a consistent pollen source with flowers blooming all summer long. Bumblebees can nest in garden features as varied as compost heaps and raised flowerbeds. This research points to the importance of home gardens in supporting pollinators.

For more information about this research, go to: Science Daily.

High Lead Levels Found in Garden Hoses

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A common summer scene involves kids squirting each other with the garden hose. Invariably, on a hot summer day some of the kids will take a drink from the hose. We’ve all done it, whether as kids or adults. It turns out that drinking from a plastic hose may be hazardous to our health.

Lab tests conducted on water left sitting for a day in 10 common brands of garden hoses revealed that 5 out of the 10 hoses had lead levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's safe levels for drinking water. Despite a mandate for manufacturers to significantly reduce lead levels in hoses by July 31st, it appears there are still brands with excessive lead leaching into the water.

You can avoid lead hoses entirely by purchasing hoses sold for boats or RVs, which don't contain lead. Flush out any hose before using it, and avoid hoses with brass fittings, which also contain lead.

For more information on this news report, go to: ABC News.

 
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