Garden Talk: November 18, 2010

From NGA Editors

Climate Friendly Gardening

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While climate change is a global problem, home gardeners can do their part to avoid contributing to the problem. By following the dictum "Think globally, act locally," gardeners can use climate-friendly techniques and tools to maximize the amount of carbon storage in their green spaces and minimize the emission of other global warming gases from their gardens and landscapes. A new, science-based guide, The Climate-Friendly Home Gardener: A Guide to Combating Global Warming from the Ground Up, is available as a free PDF download from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit organization whose mission is to use science to work for a healthy environment and safer world.

The guide offers recommendations to gardeners on minimizing the use of carbon-emitting tools and products such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers and garden chemicals; using cover crops to protect the soil and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers; planting trees and shrubs in the landscape to not only take up carbon dioxide, but save energy as well; using composting to keep yard and food wastes out of landfills; and growing a "green" lawn.

To read more about climate-friendly gardening to, go to: Garden Guide.

Broccoli for Healthy Babies

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Expectant mothers know that eating a healthy diet while pregnant is important for the development of healthy babies. Now new research indicates that substances in the diets of pregnant mothers might confer on their offspring life-long protection against certain illnesses.

David Williams of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, as reported in the October 4, 2010 issue of Time Magazine, has found that when expectant female mice were fed a phytochemical derived from cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage, their offspring were much less likely to develop cancer, even when exposed to known carcinogens. And the protection extended well into maturity, even though the offspring were never exposed to the phytochemical again once they were weaned.

While more research needs to be done to establish this protective effect in humans, this study is intriguing. And it adds to the many reasons for including lots of vegetables in your diet, especially if you are expecting. And what better way to include fresh, pesticide-free broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, collards, kohlrabi and cauliflower than growing your own?

To read the entire Time article, go to: How the First Nine Months Shape the Rest of Your Life .

Glamorous Kale

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Ornamental cabbages and kales are some of the most colorful additions to the fall garden. Displaying eye-catching, ruffled textures and vivid shades of pink, purple, red, white and green, these cold-hardy plants continue to add interest to the late-season garden long after frost has shut down even asters and mums.

Now, for the first time in seventy-eight years of trialing, the All-America Selections has chosen an ornamental kale (or any kale at all, for that matter) as one of its 2011 winners. Bred by Takii & Co., Ltd., the cultivar 'Glamour Red' was chosen as a cool-season bedding plant award winner for its unique, shiny, waxless leaves that have a more intense, vivid, reddish-purple color than other ornamental kales with waxy leaves.

'Glamour Red' is a fringed leaf type of Brassica oleracea that grows about 12 inches tall and 14 inches wide, with good disease tolerance. Plants sown from seed will begin to "bloom" in about 90 days. Their bright colors begin to develop when night temperatures fall below 55°F for about 2 weeks. This frost-tolerant plant will look good in the garden until late fall in northern gardens and through the winter in milder climates.

All-America Selections winners are new garden seed varieties that have been judged to have superior garden performance in impartial trials in North America.

For more information on 'Glamour Red' ornamental kale, go to: AAS.

Clear the Air with Houseplants

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Scientists have known for years that plants can take up common indoor air pollutants, improving the air quality for the occupants of homes and offices while not harming the plants themselves. One common pollutant is formaldehyde, which outgasses from many construction materials and is a potential source of health problems, especially in buildings with energy-saving, tight construction.

As reported in the Nov-Dec 2010 issue of HortIdeas, researchers in South Korea recently evaluated a wide range of indoor plants to see which were the most efficient at removing formaldehyde. They placed plants in growth chambers with a known initial concentration of the gas, then measured its cumulative removal at hourly intervals up to five hours. While all the plants tested removed some formaldehyde, those that removed at least 1.2 micrograms per cubic meter per square centimeter of leaf area after 5 hours were judged to be "excellent" air cleaners.

Interestingly, many of the top "removers" were ferns, including the top performer Osmunda japonica, Japanese royal fern. Others good air purifiers were Selaginella tamariscina, resurrection fern; Davallia mariesii, hare's foot fern; Polypodium formosanum, caterpillar fern; Pteris spp., Chinese brake fern and Botrychium ternatum, grape fern. Also high on the list were lavender and geranium (Pelargonium) species. Overall, the Osmunda species that removed the most formaldehyde was 50 times as effective as Dracaena deremensis,the plant in the study that removed the least, so if air cleaning ability is a priority, proper plant selection can make a big difference.

For an abstract of this research, go to: HortScience . For more information on HortIdeas, go to: HortIdeas.
 
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