Garden Talk: May 8, 2008

From NGA Editors

Unusual Butterfly Geranium

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Geraniums (Pelargoniums) are classic summer annuals that grace window boxes, containers, and gardens across the country. While most gardeners are familiar with the Martha Washington and zonal geraniums, there are other types of Pelargoniums that are equally as desirable.

The South African butterfly geranium (Pelargonium violareum) is a highly floriferous, long-blooming geranium with unusual coloring that’s perfectly suited to containers. The five-petaled, tricolor blooms begin in late spring and continue until frost. The viola-like flowers have pure white upper petals and raspberry pink lower petals with a black center. The flowers are borne on thin stems that rise just above the foliage.

This species is mostly grown as an annual since it’s only hardy to 25 degrees F. However, as with other geraniums, it can be brought indoors for the winter in cold climates. It grows 24 inches tall and 16 inches wide and flowers best in full sun.

For more information on the butterfly geranium, go to: Wayside Gardens.

Japanese Beetles Thrive With Global Warming

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Global warming is affecting plants, animals, and insects in ways we are just starting to understand. Unfortunately, not all species will be affected equally, and some of the worst pests of garden crops may thrive.

New research from the University of Illinois indicates that as carbon dioxide levels increase with global warming, so do populations of Japanese beetles. Researchers exposed soybeans to normal (380 parts per million) and high (550 parts per million) levels of CO2 in the field. This high level of CO2 is expected to be the norm in our atmosphere by 2050. Researchers found that as CO2 levels rise, soybean plants produce more carbohydrates and less nitrogen. Thus the pests that feed on the plants have to eat more of them to get the nutrition they need. The increase in CO2 also appears to cause Japanese beetles to live and reproduce longer, making them even more destructive. Also, at the high carbon dioxide levels, the soybeans lose their ability to defend themselves from insect attacks.

For more on this study, go to: Biology News Net.

Prevent Dog Spots on Your Lawn

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Man’s best friend can be one of the lawn’s worst enemies. Dead areas on lawns from dogs "doing their business" are a common sight in urban and suburban areas with little green space. While the best solution is to train a dog to use a designated area, dogs still may use your green patch as their personal bathroom.

The grass is killed by the excessive amount of ammonia nitrogen and salts from the urine and feces being concentrated in a small area. You can reduce the damage by heavily watering the area immediately after your dog is finished urinating and by removing the feces. However, this isn't always practical. Now there’s a product that can help.

Guard Dog is a nontoxic formulation of microbes and organic compounds that help repair dead spots on your grass caused by dogs. Spray Guard Dog on affected areas to repair the damage. The microbes consume the ammonia, bind the salts, and increase soil permeability, helping the lawn recover. As a preventative spray, apply Guard Dog on lawns every eight weeks.

For more information on Guard Dog, go to: GET Microsolutions.

Eat Veggies to Build Muscles

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Most people think protein is essential to building and maintaining muscles. While protein is a key ingredient, it turns out that vegetables and fruits are just as important. It’s the high level of potassium in fresh fruits and vegetables that helps protect our muscles from aging and decline.

Researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston recruited 384 men and women, 65+ years old, to take part in a three-year study to determine the best ways to keep bones strong and reduce falls. Of course, strong muscles are key to keeping bones strong as we age. Researchers found a direct correlation between eating fruits and vegetables and lack of muscle decline. As the body breaks down proteins and carbohydrates -- the majority of the U.S. diet -- it leaves excess acid residues in the body that break down muscles. Fresh fruit and vegetable diets are rich in potassium, which helps buffer the breakdown process. So keep eating those fruits and vegetables to stay strong.

For more information on this research go to: Science News.

 
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