Garden Talk: August 28, 2008

From NGA Editors

Don’t Bite Me Insect Repellent

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Summer is biting insect time, and not only are mosquitoes annoying, they can transmit diseases such as West Nile virus and encephalitis. There is a plethora of repellent sprays on the market to ward off these pesky bugs. Most repellents need to be applied as a cream or oil, but a new type features a patch worn on your skin instead.

Don’t Bite Me! Patch contains vitamin B1 and aloe. The manufacturer claims that by wearing the patch on your skin, the vitamin B1 is absorbed into the bloodstream and secreted through the body’s pores. The vitamin secretion is odorless to humans, but offensive to flying insects. Aloe in the formulation accelerates the absorption of vitamin B1. The patch works for up to 36 hours and is nontoxic, safe for kids and adults, and waterproof.

For more information on this new insect repellent, go to: Don’t Bite Me!.

New Dwarf Agapanthus

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Agapanthus, or lily of the Nile, is a common perennial in warm climates (hardy in USDA zones 8 to11). The dark green, strap-like leaves provide an attractive ground cover, while the stalks of sky blue flowers provide color throughout the summer. Most selections of agapanthus form a sizeable clump of foliage up to 3 feet tall but a new dwarf variety offers the well-loved flowers in a more compact size.

‘Baby Pete’ agapanthus (Agapanthus orientalis ‘Baby Pete’) features 6- to 8-inch tall plants with 9-inch-long flower stalks. The blue or mauve flowers appear in clusters and have a white streak on the petals. The foliage is shorter, darker colored, and wider than other dwarf agapanthus. Also, ‘Baby Pete’ doesn’t have viable seeds so it won’t form unsightly seedpods.

For more information on ‘Baby Pete’ agapanthus, go to: Monrovia Nursery.

New Community Garden Book

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With rising fuel and food prices, many people are turning to growing some of their food. However, people in urban areas or without access to land face challenges to growing their own. Community gardening is a way for these groups of people to cultivate a garden and become more closely involved with their local community. Community gardens are vibrant parts of many urban, suburban, and rural areas.

A new book underscores the successes of many community gardens and gives guidelines on how to participate and start one in your area. Community Gardening, by Ellen Kirby and Elizabeth Peters (Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, 2008; $10), is the latest of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden guides. It features hands-on tips, including information on soils, water conservation, and plant selection. For community organizers, this book offers practical advice for starting a community garden and using it to build cohesion in a neighborhood. It profiles successful programs around the country and has a resource section for more information.

To find out more about this new book, go to: Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Does Rinsing Apples Remove Pesticides?

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It’s apple season and many people will be biting into the crisp fruit and enjoying the new crop in pies and sauces. Unfortunately, apples are routinely sprayed with pesticides to control a variety of insects and diseases, and many people don’t want to consume pesticide residue. Washing the fruit is recommended, however it’s not clear if washing removes the residues.

Researchers at Agri-Food Canada sampled apples direct from orchards sprayed with one of three common organophosphate insecticides. Apples received one of three post-harvest treatments: no treatment, rinsed with deonized water, rinsed and peeled.

It was found that rinsing apples only lowered the pesticide concentrations 13.5 to 28.7 percent. Rinsing and peeling the apples lowered the levels significantly -- 74.5 to 97.9 percent. This study suggests that to significantly reduce your exposure to pesticides on apples, it’s best to rinse and peel them before eating.

For more information on this research, go to: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

 
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