Garden Talk: June 5, 2008

From NGA Editors

New Sun-Tolerant Caladium

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Caladiums are known for their ability to brighten shady spots in the yard with their colorful leaves. Now there's a caladium that's more sun tolerant than other varieties, and its shorter stature expands the options of where you can grow it.

‘Gingerland’ caladium grows 15 inches tall and has large, curled, heart-shaped leaves. Each leaf unfurls creamy white with green edges and a dark red center. ‘Gingerland’ grows equally well in sun or shade. Its diminutive size makes it a great container plant that adds color to pots throughout the summer. For a bushier plant, simply pinch out the growing tip when young and the bulb will respond with multiple side shoots. In fall dig and store the bulbs, or bring the plant indoors to enjoy as a houseplant.

For more information on ‘Gingerland’ caladium, go to: Park Seed Company.

Grapes May Protect Against Diabetes

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According to the National Institutes of Health, it’s estimated that 1 in every 400 to 600 children and adolescents in the U.S. has type 1 diabetes. This epidemic has spurred research into ways to prevent it, and one simple solution may lie in table grapes. Eating this sweet fruit may actually help control blood sugar levels.

Researchers at the USDA’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, California, have found that compounds in table grapes slow the progression of type 1 diabetes in mice. People with diabetes must closely monitor their sugar intake, but even though grapes are naturally sweet, they also contain phytochemicals that protect the pancreas from immune cells that attack insulin-producing beta cells. Insulin is needed to regulate the sugar levels in blood. If there are too few beta cells, type 1 diabetes results.

For more information on this research, go to: USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

New Animal Control for Gardens

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Controlling marauding animals from eating your landscape and garden is a never-ending task. Now there’s a new, low-impact, technological tool to add to your list of repellent sprays, fences, and scare tactics.

The Nite Guard solar-powered light is used to scare off night-patrolling animals such as raccoons, deer, and skunks. The red, flashing, LED light automatically turns on at dusk and stays on until dawn. The red color mimics the eyes of an animal, causing night visitors to avoid the area for fear of being watched. For best results, use three or four lights since they are one-directional. For tough-to-control animals such as deer, move the Nite Guard every one to two weeks so the deer don’t get used to it. For ground animals, such as skunks and raccoons, keep the lights at eye level of the animal. Place the lights 50 feet apart around your perimeter and 10 to 20 inches off the ground.

For more information on this new animal control devise, go to: Nite Guard.

Warm Temperatures Increase the Sugar and Nutrients in Tomatoes

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Most gardeners know the flavor and nutritional quality of fresh tomatoes is best if you grow your own. New research from France shows that the temperature at which fruit ripens can also affect the taste and chemical composition. Researchers in Avignon, France, harvested mature green tomatoes from a greenhouse and ripened the fruits in light or dark rooms at either 70 or 79 degrees F. Six days later when the fruits were fully ripe, they measured the concentration of various nutrients.

Concentrations of carotenoids -- including the cancer-fighting compound lycopene -- were highest with fruits ripened in light rooms at 70 degrees. However, higher levels of sugar and lower levels of acidity were recorded when the fruits were ripened in light rooms at 79 degrees. While you can’t regulate the temperature outdoors in the garden, you can adjust the indoor temperature where you ripen those green fruits harvested before the first fall frost. For the highest nutrient content, keep the tomatoes at 70 degrees. For sweeter fruits, keep them at 79 degrees.

For an abstract of this research, go to: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

 
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