Garden Talk: December 1, 2011

From NGA Editors

Ample Harvest

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Did you count your blessings this Thanksgiving for a table set with a delicious feast? Sadly, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to enjoy such bounty. As a gardener, one way you can help address the problem of hunger in this country is by donating surplus produce from your garden to your local food shelf.

Helping folks to do this is the mission of Ample Harvest, a non-profit organization whose core mission is ″No Food Left Behind.″ While one out of six American needs food assistance and most food pantries offer little fresh produce, millions of home gardeners across the country grow more food than they can use.

Ample Harvest uses the power of the Internet to bring these two groups together. Food pantries can join a registry so local gardeners can find them; gardeners can search to find a local food pantry near them. Food pantries can list the days and hours that donations are accepted and list store-bought items they need as well. Gardeners can view all registered food pantries within a distance they are willing to travel and get a map and detailed driving instructions if needed. Nearly one out of ten of all food pantries in the country have already registered. Services are free of charge for both donors and food pantries.

With their ″Centerpieces for Pantries″ initiative, Ample Harvest encourages people to make edible arrangements of whole fruits and vegetables to decorate tables this holiday season, then donate the produce to a local food pantry the next day. Remember that foods must be whole, not carved or pierced with toothpicks. A bowl full of apples, pears, or winter squash makes a lovely, colorful centerpiece that can provide a further nutritious benefit to those in need.

To find out more about hunger in America, registering a food pantry, donating produce, or making a monetary donation, go to Ample Harvest.

Summer Jewels

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Although winter is getting ready to extend its icy grip over much of the country, it's never too early to start dreaming about and planning for next summer's garden! And Salvia 'Summer Jewel Pink', one of the 2012 All-America Selections (AAS) winners, is a great plant to include in those plans and dreams.

A sister to the earlier AAS winnner Salvia 'Summer Jewel Red', this soft pink cultivar of Salvia coccinea has the same compact size and early flowering habit. Growing no more than 20 inches high and about 16 inches wide, it works as well in containers as in the flower border. A prolific bloomer throughout the season, the flowers appear almost two weeks earlier than other varieties of pink salvia, in just 50 days from seed sowing.

Like all salvias, it does best full sun and in soils with good drainage. It's a great choice for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden.

For more information on Salvia 'Summer Jewel Pink' and other 2012 AAS winners, go to: AAS.

Wild Ones

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If you are interested in native plants and natural landscaping, it's time to go wild! Wild Ones is a not-for-profit environmental and advocacy organization that works to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration, and establishment of native plant communities and environmentally sound landscaping practices.

Inspired by Lorrie Otto, the ″Prairie Queen,″ a Wisconsin gardener who was in the vanguard of the movement to use native plants in urban and suburban landscapes, Wild Ones now has chapters in twelve states. Through their Seeds for Education program, they provide information and grants to encourage members to help children learn about the natural world and support community efforts to establish and maintain natural areas. They have also developed an Ecoscaper Certification Program that consists of three levels of educational work combined with fieldwork to promote the concept and practice of ecological landscaping.

Find information on topics such as selecting native landscape plants, creating a bird-friendly yard with natives, and preserving or restoring native plant communities on their website. Learn more by subscribing to the Wild Ones Journal, a bi-monthly publication full of ideas, inspiration, and information on landscaping with native plants.

To find out more about Wild Ones, including locating a local chapter or starting one of your own, go to Wild Ones.

Climate Conscious Gardening

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Thinking global, acting local is a motto that gardeners can follow to do their part to offset the effects of climate change. The Climate Conscious Gardener, part of the acclaimed series of Brooklyn Botanic Garden handbooks, is an offering that explains what happens when the atmospheric balance of carbon and nitrogen changes and how plants, soil, pesticides and fertilizers can affect climate.

Winner of the 2011 Garden Writers Association Silver Award of Achievement, it offers guidance on ways to reduce your garden's climate footprint, offset carbon emissions from your garden, and turn your garden into a carbon sink. Find out about landscaping for energy efficiency and the climate footprint of homegrown food.

Environmentally conscious gardeners may also be interested in another timely handbook, Healthy Soils for Sustainable Gardens. Presenting a complex subject in an accessible manner, this book helps gardeners understand the unique characteristics of their soil and discover ways to build and maintain its fertility with organic, sustainable, resource-wise methods.

For more information or to purchase these handbooks, go to Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

 
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