Garden Talk: October 22, 2009

From NGA Editors

New Colorful Abelia

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Abelia is a broadleaf evergreen that grows well in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 10. The glossy green foliage contrasts nicely with the pinkish-white flowers in summer and fall. Now a new variety of abelia ramps up the color show with leaf colors that change depending on the season.

In spring, Abelia grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’ features bright yellow and green variegated leaves. By summer the leaves darken to a deep green with a golden-creamy yellow outer edge. In fall the show really gets going as the leaves turn a combination of green, yellow, orange, and red. The plant has red stems and white flowers, adding additional contrast to the colorful leaves. In winter the leaves turn dark red before changing back to yellow and green in spring. This compact plant grows 3 feet tall and wide and the leaf colors don’t fade, even in the bright sun.

For more on this colorful new abelia, go to: PlantHaven Nursery .

Watch Birds with New Birdcam

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Gardeners love to feed and watch birds. However, birds are often at the feeder or in nesting boxes when you’re at work, early in the morning, or late in the day. It’s hard to catch all the activities of our feathered friends without adjusting your own schedule.

Now, bird viewing just got a little easier with the new Wingscape Birdcam. This birdcam features motion sensors that activate when birds are at the feeder or nesting boxes. The birdcam can be set to take digital photos or video. The images can be viewed on your television or downloaded onto your computer for sharing with friends and family. The birdcam is weather-proof, only 9 inches tall and 5 inches wide, and can be operated manually by remote control. It’s easy to use and unobtrusive.

For more information on the windscape birdcam, go to: Wingscapes .

Build Your Own Weeder

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The wheel hoe is a nifty, hand-powered weeder that is great for slicing off weeds at the soil line. It features a wheel attached to a metal frame with a sharp blade and wooden handles. If you’re growing straight rows of cut flowers, vegetables, or fruits, this simple hoe can save lots of time and energy as you push it down the rows to weed. Unfortunately, it’s pricey when bought new.

If you’re handy there is a cheaper way to have a wheel hoe: build it yourself. The Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe instructions and kit are available on-line. If you’re good at metal- and wood-working you can download the instructions with photos for free. However, most people will want to buy the hardware kit that comes along with the instructions. With easy-to-follow, online assembly directions, the kit allows you to build your own wheel hoe with an 8-inch oscillating stirrup blade at less cost than buying one new. It’s a great winter project!

For more information on building your own wheel hoe, go to: Planet Whizbang

New Farmer’s Business Book

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Gardeners trying to establish a new market vegetable garden or farm may not take the time or have the expertise for the business side of their operation. They spend most of their time building the soil, planting a wide variety of interesting crops, maintaining, and harvesting. While all these aspects of gardening and farming are important, the business side of the farm is sometimes neglected. Many farmers work harder than they have to and sometimes fail at their new enterprise altogether.

A new book by Richard Wiswall helps new and existing farmers and market gardeners avoid some of these pitfalls. The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook (Chelsea Green, 2009) emphasizes the business decisions that a farmer/market gardener has to make for the most efficient and profitable operation. Relying on his 27 years of farming and marketing gardening experience in Vermont, Wiswall’s handbook goes through advice on managing employees, farm operations, and office systems. It also includes novel marketing strategies, what to do with your profits, business spending, investing, and planning for retirement. A companion CD offers valuable business tools, including easy-to-use spreadsheets for projecting cash flow, a payroll calculator, comprehensive crop budgets for forty different crops, and tax planner. If you’re thinking of getting into farming and market gardening or are struggling to make ends meet with your existing operation, this handbook might be very helpful.

For more information on this book and to watch a free 30 minute interview with Richard Wiswall about organic farming, go to: Chelsea Green.

 
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