Garden Talk: January 12, 2012

From NGA Editors

Boost your Nutrition

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Eat a rainbow! That's the advice that nutritionists give us for choosing the most healthful produce. Richly colored fruits and vegetables -- bright reds, vibrant oranges, deep greens -- are not only delicious, but offer the most nutrition. When these foods come fresh from the garden, their nutritional bounty is even greater.

Now, Burpee Seeds makes it easy to grow that rainbow of veggies for your plate with their Boost Vegetable Collection that includes a spectrum of red, yellow, and green vegetables especially high in health-promoting antioxidants.

Golden-yellow 'Solar Power Hybrid' saladette tomatoes have three times the beta-catotene of regular tomatoes, while 'Power Pops Hybrid' cherry tomatoes have 55 percent more lycopene and 40 percent more carotenoids than most tomatoes. Compact 'Cherry Punch Hybrid' cherry tomatoes have 30 percent more Vitamin C than the average tomato and are great for container growing.

'Sweet Heat Hybrid' peppers have a nice blend of sweetness and heat along with the bonus of 65 percent more Vitamin C than most peppers. 'Gold Standard Hybrid' cucumbers, with five times the beta-carotene of other cukes, and 'Healing Hands Mix' lettuce, a mix of four varieties in one easy-to-sow pellet with 20 percent more lutein and 30 percent more beta-carotene than the average salad mix, round out the collection. Just imagine the healthful and delicious salads you can toss up!

The collection is available as seeds (one packet of each variety) or as a combination of 4 plants and 2 packets of seeds.

To learn more about Burpee's Boost Antioxidant Collection, go to: Burpee.

Can You FreezePruf Your Plants?

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It sounds like a gardener's dream -- a spray that will safely make plants hardier. And that is exactly what researchers at the University of Alabama and Miami University in Ohio have developed. As described in a report published recently in the journal HortTechnology, the all-natural foliar spray protects plants both externally and systemically from the cold by enhancing their natural ″anti-freeze″ properties. According to an article on the ScienceDaily® website, the scientists say that treating a plant with the spray, which they have christened FreezePruf, is like moving it 200 miles to the south, for a gain in cold hardiness that is equivalent to about a half a hardiness zone.

What's in the spray that causes this effect? The scientists won't say exactly as they await a patent on their product, but they do note that it is non-toxic and made from ″either human food ingredients or [those] used in the human food production chain.″ They say it is environmentally friendly and doesn't damage foliage, fruits, or flowers, while increasing their resistance to cold damage and cold mortality.

While not yet commercially available, according to one of its developers, ″Based on effectiveness data and its non-toxic, ecofriendly formulation, our research suggests that FreezePruf can offer significant benefits to both residential and commercial users.″ So stay tuned!

To read more about FreezePruf, go to: ScienceDaily.

Take a Sunset Cruz

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If you are looking for a ″knock-your-socks-off″ plant for a container or hanging basket this summer, look no further than the arching form and dangling, fiery orange bells of Begonia boliviensis. This tuberous begonia is a South American native and, unlike many in the Begonia clan, thrives in full sun, although it will tolerate part shade as well. The variety Bonfire, with abundant, red-orange flowers and angel-wing shaped leaves edged in red, has become a popular addition to container gardens.

Now two new cultivars have arrived on the scene for 2012. Begonia boliviensis 'Santa Cruz Sunset' (pictured), bred by Ernst Benary of America, Inc., is a super heat-tolerant selection. It branches well to form a mound of dark green leaves that are covered from spring until frost with vibrant red-orange blossoms. Like all B. boliviensis plants, it needs well-drained soil and once established is moderately drought tolerant.

B. boliviensis 'Amour', another new offering from Ball Horticultural, is the most vigorous trailing begonia on the market. This is the one to choose to make a dramatic statement in a large container or hanging basket. This red flowered begonia will do best in partial shade and with regular fertilization to fuel its abundant flower production.

Although often grown as annuals, these begonias are tender perennials that can be overwintered indoors. Because they set their flower buds in response to the long days of summer, they won't bloom over the winter. But you can still enjoy their attractive foliage.

To find out more about these new begonias, go to: National Garden Bureau.

The Value of Urban Trees

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What is a tree on a city street worth? More than you might expect when you take into account all the benefits that trees provide in the urban landscape. This is what Alejandro Chiriboga, an Ohio State University (OSU) graduate student, discovered when he evaluated trees in the city of Wooster, Ohio using special software developed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Chiriboga started out by inventorying and recording the attributes of 3,229 municipally owned trees in Wooster in the summer of 2010. He then used the Forest Service's i-Tree Streets software to calculate the environmental value the trees provided by storing carbon, removing air pollution, helping to deal with stormwater, and conserving energy, along with the more traditionally recognized aesthetic benefits. His conclusion? Each tree provided about $83 dollars in benefits annually, for a whopping $270,153 value overall to the city! This is in addition to the value of the 3,980 tons of carbon stored in the trees' aboveground tissues, which wasn't figured into the annual values noted above.

Research has shown that the more mature and well-established the tree, the greater its contribution in environmental improvement. Trees that are 20 years or older have been shown to have the greatest benefits in terms of carbon removal and storage and removal of dust particles and carbon monoxide from the air. This underscores the importance of assessing the health of existing trees and finding strategies for keeping city trees thriving in a stressful environment.

That's where i-Tree comes in. This state-of-the-art software suite was developed by the U.S. Forest Service to help communities make the most of their street trees. In the public domain so that it is available to all, i-Tree offers various urban forest assessment applications, as well as tools for selecting proper species, detecting pests, and assessing storm damage. i-Tree can help anyone interested in urban forest stewardship assess and manage anything from a single tree to an entire forest.

To read more about the OSU research showing the dollar value of urban trees, go to: OSU Extension. To find out more about i-Tree and assessing and managing community forests, go to: i-Tree.

 
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