Garden Talk: March 22, 2012

From NGA Editors

A Pot Full of Eggplants

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Eggplants are among the prettiest plants in the vegetable garden, with their richly colored fruits hanging like large jewels amid the broad, lobed, gray-green leaves. Which makes them perfect plants for a pot on a deck or patio. The new variety 'Pot Black' (pictured) from FloraNova Ltd. is a great candidate for container growing.

The bushy, compact plants get 10-24 inches tall and bear a profusion of small, 2-3 ounce, glossy black fruits. In addition to being highly ornamental, the fruits can be picked from the time they are the size of ping pong balls up to tennis ball size while retaining their tenderness.

For a colorful mix, add a pot of a unique new eggplant variety from Turkey called 'Turkey Orange' from Seeds by Design, Inc. The two foot tall plants set huge crops of 2 1/2 to 3 inch, 10-14 ounce, round orange fruits accented with darker ribs. Their size makes them great for stuffing.

Look for these new varieties as started seedlings at your local garden stores. Wait until the weather and soil have warmed and all danger of frost is past before setting plants out in the garden.

For more information on these new eggplant varieties, go to: National Garden Bureau.

Fast Forwarding Spring

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This year across the eastern U.S. the winter has been mild and spring conditions are arriving early. Many trees and grasses are flowering two to three weeks ahead of schedule. The winter-weary among us may relish the unexpected warmth. But according to Dr. Donald Leopold, chair of the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY, as quoted in an article on the Science Daily website, ″When the weather is really altered from typical conditions, there are always winners and losers among all types of both plants and animals.″

Who might the losers be? Allergy sufferers for one. Many spring blooming trees, such as willows, maples, aspens, elms, and poplars, and grasses are several weeks ahead of their normal schedule, which portends a longer and more intense allergy season. (Pictured are red maple flowers already in bloom in Vermont.)

Another concern is what can happen if the warmth doesn't last. If a spell of seasonably cold weather returns, the over-eager flowers on fruit and other trees may be damaged or killed, with the consequent loss of the fruits that would have followed. Apple and other fruit growers are nervously awaiting what temperature fluctuations are in store. But the impact extends to wildlife as well, if the fruits of trees they depend on for food fail to develop.

To read more about warm weather and plants on fast forward, go to: Science Daily.

Packing it up with Mushrooms

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You're probably used to having piles of foam packing ″peanuts″ cascade out of shipping boxes. But how about some packing material that really comes from the natural world? That was the idea of a couple of innovative mechanical engineers in Green Island, N.Y. Their company, Ecovative Design, uses mushrooms as the main ingredient in the packaging blocks it produces.

Actually, the packing material isn't made of what probably comes to mind when we think of a mushroom, which is the fruiting part of the fungus. Instead what's used is the mycelium, the root-like network of fine strands of fungal material that threads through the wood or other substrate on which the mushroom grows. These fungal filaments are used to bind together the husks of seeds or other agricultural byproducts to create an eco-friendly, compostable packing material that offers an alternative to packing products made from non-renewable resources.

The five-year-old company is growing as fast as -- well -- mushrooms in the rain, and they have plans to expand their line to products as diverse as footwear and car bumpers.

To read more about Ecovative Design and its fungus-based products, go to: Burlington Free Press.

What Tree Is That?

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Would you like to be able to identify the trees you see growing in the wild or in landscape plantings? It's easy to learn with the help of the Arbor Day Foundation's online Tree ID Guide. Start by viewing the ″What Tree Is That?″ animation, which leads you step-by-step through the identification process, showing you just what sorts of characteristics to look for as you narrow down the ID possibilities.

Once you've mastered the process, you can then use the free online Tree ID Guide to easily come up with the correct name for a tree. If you want to be able to identify out in the field, What Tree Is That? is available for purchase as an app for the iPhone or other mobile device.

After you've made your ID, go to the online Tree Guide where you'll find lots of additional information about the tree species, including attributes and growing information.

To learn more about tree identification, go to: Arbor Day Foundation.

 
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