Garden Talk: October 9, 2008

From NGA Editors

New, Colorful Yellow Rocket

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Yellow rocket (Ligularia) is a late-blooming perennial for woodland gardens or shady areas. It’s commonly relegated to the back of the border because of its uninteresting leaves. However, a new selection of Ligularia will tempt gardeners to bring it out from the shadows.

‘Osiris Café Noir’ yellow rocket was bred in Quebec, Canada. It features very dark black, serrated, leathery leaves in spring that transition to shades of bronze, and eventually olive green by the time it sends up yellow flower spikes on ebony-colored stems in mid to late summer. The plant grows 20 to 24 inches tall, is deer resistant, flourishes in a shade garden, and is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. In warm southern areas, plant ‘Osiris Café Noir’ where it will receive some afternoon shade to protect the plant from wilting.

For more information on this new yellow rocket, go to: Walters Gardens.

Are Organic Blueberries Healthier?

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Many people believe organically raised produce is safer than conventionally raised crops because of the lack of chemical spray residues on the fruit. However, what about differences in the nutritional quality of the fruit?

Researchers at the USDA and Rutgers University collected ‘Bluecrop’ blueberries grown in New Jersey on organic and conventional farms. Samples were taken from a number of farms in different locations, and fruit was analyzed for sugar levels, and antioxidant and flavonoid content. Overall the organically raised blueberries contained higher sugar, antioxidant, and flavonoid levels than the conventionally grown fruits -- sometimes as much as 50 percent higher.

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

Tracking Lost Ladybugs

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The old nursery rhyme goes, "Ladybug, ladybug fly away home …" It seems the insects have taken this song a little too literally. Over the last 20 years, several of our native ladybug species have become extremely rare. Ladybugs are good bugs. They are essential predators of many pests that attack our gardens, such as aphids and mealybugs.

In many areas the native ladybugs are being replaced by exotic ladybug species. This is a concern because native ladybugs are better adapted to the ecosystems where they have historically evolved.

Researchers at Cornell University are trying to document what has happened to our native ladybugs and are asking for your help. The first step is to determine what species are prevalent, and how many individual insects there are of each species. To do this they have started the Lost Ladybug Project. They are asking homeowners and gardeners to collect and photograph any ladybugs they see and enter the data on the Cornell Web site, along with the time, date, location, and habitat where the insects were found. This sounds like a great kids’ project!

For more information on the Lost Ladybug Project and how to participate, go to: Lost Ladybug Project.

Protect Plants from Frost

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Frost is threatening in many areas, if it hasn’t already hit. However, many plants are still looking good in the garden, and perhaps you’re not ready to give them up just yet. If you have a prized tomato, eggplant, pepper, rose, or other large plant, you can protect them with a fleece hood. These UV-stabilized polypropylene hoods stand 2 feet 4 inches wide and 4 feet 9 inches tall. They can protect the foliage, flowers, and fruits from temperatures down to 28 degrees F. They also protect the plants from high winds and insects, while still allowing light, water, and air to penetrate.

For more information on these fleece frost protectors, go to: NGA Garden Shop.

 
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