Garden Talk: March 26, 2009

From NGA Editors

Perennial of the Year

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Each year the Perennial Plant Association highlights a perennial plant that fits the criteria for plant of the year. Winning plants are widely adapted, have multiple seasons of interest, are low maintenance, and are easily propagated. The winner for 2009 is variegated hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola').

Hakone grass is a mounding plant that grows 12 to 18 inches tall and up to 2 feet wide. It’s hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9 and grows best in full sun in the North and in part shade in the South on well-drained, moist soil. The most striking feature is the yellow and green variegated leaves that are tinged with pink in fall. This grass works well as a ground cover planted close to a walkway or sitting area where you can enjoy the undulating leaves as they blow in the wind.

For more information on this perennial of the year, go to: Perennial Plant Association.

Reduce your Carbon Footprint by Mowing Less

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Many people are interested in reducing their carbon footprint in an effort to save energy and limit global warming. While driving less is one of the most obvious ways to do this, mowing your lawn less can also help.

Researchers at the Agricultural Institute of Canada in Ottawa calculated the amount of carbon emissions saved by mowing the average lawn less frequently. Researchers mowed plots of cool season grass lawns only 3 times a year and compared the carbon emissions with mowing similar plots every week. They measured the emissions from mowing a lawn at 0.4 pounds of carbon dioxide per square foot of lawn. To put this number into perspective, if you have a 2000 square foot lawn, mowing only 3 times a season will cut the carbon dioxide emissions by 600 pounds. That’s the equivalent of cutting back driving a car that gets 20 miles per gallon by 600 miles.

For a bigger picture perspective, when multiplied by the 50 million acres of lawn in the U.S., we could potentially reduce carbon emissions by more than 600 trillion pounds just by mowing less.

For more information, go to: Hort Ideas.

New Soil-Moisture Monitor

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Knowing when to water containers is often a head-scratching proposition, especially for new gardeners. While it’s important to not let your container plant dry out, the bigger problem is often over-zealous gardeners overwatering their pots.

Now a new product is available that makes watering containers a little easier. The Waterstik is a probe that senses when the potting soil is too moist or too dry. Insert the probe into the soil at the appropriate level for that type of plant as indicated on the stick. In response to the soil moisture level, the Waterstik has a LED light on the top of the stick that blinks blue when the soil is too moist, green when it’s ideal, yellow when the soil is dry, and red when the soil is dangerously dry. The Waterstik can be used on all types of plants from dessert cactus to tropicals.

For more information on the Waterstik, go to: Lee Valley.

Want to Be a New Farmer? Start Here

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Small farming is on the rise. The USDA estimates there are more than 300,000 new farms in the U.S since 2002, with many being run by younger people. All those new farmers are looking for information on how to get started. Unlike academic or professional manuals, here’s a new, on-line resource book written by first time farmers on ways to be successful in farming.

The Greenhorns Guide to Beginning Farmers is written by a small, grass-roots, non-profit organization in Hudson, NY. Instead of a how-to guide for growing crop or raising animals, this book has sources of information and contact organizations that will help a beginning farmer get the knowledge they need to be successful. It includes information and resources on apprenticeships and internships, grants, loans, and innovative programs for obtaining land, pest management strategies, tools, and machinery. It includes sections on urban agriculture and even community activism.

Check out this informative resource guide free at: Greenhorns.

 
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