Garden Talk: May 21, 2009

From NGA Editors

Sweet Roses Make For Sweet Dreams

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Beautiful, fragrant roses make most people happy, and now research is suggesting that fragrant roses may also make our sleep happier by stimulating happy dreams. Researchers in Germany analyzed the sleep patterns of 15 women for one month. Scents of rotten eggs, fragrant roses, and no scent were pumped under their noses during their dream cycle while they slept. Researchers then woke up the women and asked them to record their dreams.

Although the women didn't dream about rotten eggs or roses, the study did show that there was a correlation between positive dreams and the fragrant rose smell and negative dreams and the rotten egg smell. Researchers are now considering another experiment using roses to help alleviate the stress of people who have frequent nightmares.

For more information on this study, go to: The Telegraph.

Grow Figs in a Pot

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Fresh figs are a treat, especially if you eat them right off the tree. However, most varieties are only hardy to USDA zone 8 (although the roots of some varieties are hardy to USDA zone 6). In warm climates the trees can get very large. Now there's a new fig variety for gardeners in cold climates and for those who want to grow figs in small pots on a deck, patio, or even indoors.

'Petite Negra' fig (Ficus carica) grows only 2 to 3 feet tall, but produces two crops a year of plump, black, juicy fig fruits one year after planting. It's self-pollinating so you only need one plant to get a crop. Because of its diminutive size, this variety grows well in small containers on a patio during the summer. In cold regions, just bring it indoors to a sunny window in fall. It will stay green all winter as an indoor houseplant. Move it back outside in spring after danger of frost has passed. In USDA zone 8 and warmer areas it can be planted in the ground as a dwarf, edible, ornamental shrub.

For more information on the ‘Petite Negra' fig, go to: Logees Greenhouses

Birds Eat More Weed Seed in Organic Fields

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It's thought that organic farms have lots of bird and wildlife activity because of the lack of harmful chemicals that are sprayed on the fields. Birds, in particular, are welcome because they are keen predators of pest insects on plants. Now researchers in New Zealand are suggesting that birds also help farmers in another way. They seem to eat more weed seeds on organic farms compared to conventional farms.

Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand studied weed seed predation at eight conventional and eight organic farms. Dishes filled with two common weed seeds, lamb's quarters and Persian speedwell, were placed at various distances from the edge of the field to the center. They monitored the birds feeding on the dishes for 2 days. There were higher feeding rates of weed seeds on dishes on the edges of organic farms than conventional ones. Overall there was a 17% loss of weed seeds on the organic farms while the conventional farms only had a 10% loss. This suggests that bird populations are more robust around organic farms and more helpful in removing weed seeds.

For more information on this study, go to: Science Direct.

Vacation Plant Treatment to Resist Drought

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Summer vacations are often a tough time on plants, and can be challenging for the gardener, too. You have to get a neighbor, friend, or relative to come in and water the plants or take a chance it will rain while you're away so your plants and lawn don't dry up.

Now there's a new, all-natural product that can be added to plants and lawns to send them into temporary hibernation so they can fight dry conditions and survive. "Vacation" is a soil drench, anti-transpirant that stimulates plants to close their stomata (breathing and evaporation pores in a leaf) and conserve moisture. There are no adverse effects on the plants. In 2 weeks the effects wear off and the plants continue to grow. If the plant was flowering when you apply Vacation it will hold those flowers, but not produce more until the effect wears off. The effects of Vacation are reversed any time by rain or watering the plant. Vacation is biodegradable and safe for pets and wildlife. It's registered for use on vegetables, lawns, shrubs, and flowers.

For more information on Vacation, go to: Natural Industries.

 
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