Garden Talk: December 20, 2007

From NGA Editors

New Rainbow-Colored Corn

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We often think of corn as an edible crop and not -- except for fall decorations -- as an ornamental one, too. That could change with the introduction of new corn varieties with multi-colored leaves. One of the best is the new ‘Garden Leader Rainbow’.

‘Garden Leader Rainbow’ has stalks that reach 4 feet tall at maturity. The leaves start out green, but in a few weeks they’re tinged with red and cream colors as well. Best color is achieved if the corn is grown in full sun. By fall, the multicolored stalks produce small colorful ears for decorations.

For more details on ‘Garden Leader Rainbow’ corn, go to: National Garden Bureau.

How to Top-Dress Lawns with Compost

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Organic lawn care experts recommend top-dressing your lawn with compost to improve the quality and health of your grass. But application guidelines are not always readily available. Researchers at Cornell University examined the effects of top-dressing established turf grass with compost made from dairy and poultry manure. They chose to conduct this multiyear study on four sports fields in New York State. Compost was top-dressed at 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch rates one time the first year and twice a year in years two and three of the study.

The compost applications were found to increase the soil’s organic matter content, bring the pH closer to neutral, and reduce compaction. On some sites the lawns greened up sooner in spring. However, there were concerns about increased phosphorus runoff, high salt buildup, and more weed seeds due to the compost being immature. The quality ratings of the turf grass went up at one site but didn’t improve at other sites that were used more frequently. It appears that top-dressing with compost could not overcome poor lawn construction and overuse.

Researchers found compost applications were most effective when the lawn was aerated before and after top-dressing. They suggest using finished compost with the particle size of 3/8 inch for easiest spreading. For best coverage, the compost should also be moist, but not so wet that it clumps.

For more information about this study, go to: Cornell Waste Management Institute.

New Miniature Eggplant

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Eggplants are classic ornamental edibles. The beautiful plants, stunning pink star-shaped flowers, and colorful fruits make eggplants excellent additions to a vegetable garden, flower garden, or container. While large-fruited varieties may be slow producers, miniature eggplants yield an abundance of fruit.

‘Hansel’ is a new hybrid All-America Selections winner that features a strong upright plant and clusters of finger-sized purple-skinned fruits. The eggplants are best harvested about 55 days after transplanting when they are 3 to 4 inches long. However, you can start harvesting when fruits are only 2 inches long and continue until they are 10 inches long and they’ll still have a non-bitter flavor and tender quality. They are great grilled, roasted, or sautéed.

For more information about this new eggplant variety, go to: Seminis Seeds.

Attractive Houseplant Terrarium

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Terrariums are useful for growing plants indoors without expensive and space-consuming lights and growth chambers. Plus, when the terrarium is attractively designed, it can become a focal point in your living room all on its own.

The Dutch terrarium is small enough to fit on an end table, yet attractive enough to be displayed in a prominent spot. The 10-inch-tall by 7-1/2-inch-wide terrarium features a Dutch delft floral pattern ceramic base and a bell jar-shaped glass top. Included with the terrarium is a Selaginella pallescens fern. This fern thrives in low light and grows well in the high humidity environment provided by the terrarium.

For more information on the Dutch terrarium, go to: Logee’s Greenhouses.

 
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