Garden Talk: October 4, 2012

From NGA Editors

Small Space Edible Gardening

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If you're interested in growing some of your own food, but aren't sure you have the space or time to do so, turn to horticultural educator William Moss for inspiration and advice. In his new book Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2012, $21.99), Moss explains how to grow your own fresh, nutritious vegetables, whether you have a yard or community garden plot with space for an in-ground garden, or a patio, balcony, rooftop, or even just a front stoop or window box. He details how to get the biggest harvest from the least amount of space, highlights the top ten veggies for small spaces, discusses growing in raised beds and containers, and outlines the benefits of vertical gardening with trellises, pergolas, arbors, hanging baskets, and green walls.

For time-strapped gardeners, Moss provides a helpful section on time-saving garden strategies that help reduce the time and effort needed to bring in the harvest, as well as ways to save on the amount of water used. This is followed by step-by-step instructions for growing, harvesting, and eating an extensive array of vegetables, including a special section for the ever-popular tomato. Here Moss covers everything from variety selection to growing techniques to dealing with tomato problems and pests, and gives you his eleven top tomato picks, which include heirloom varieties and modern hybrids; big slicers and cherry tomatoes; and red, purple, yellow, even ivory colored fruits!

Above all, Moss thinks that gardening should be enjoyable. He urges gardeners to have fun, not to stress, to start small, and not be intimidated if they are just starting out. With his book for guidance, you can do just that!

For more about Any Size, Anywhere Gardening and William Moss, go to: Cool Springs Press.

Fall and Winter Gardening Advice

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It used to be that the first fall frost signaled the end to the vegetable harvest for most gardeners. But no longer! More and more gardeners are incorporating techniques and materials that allow them to continue to harvest crops through the fall and even into the winter. Cold frames, row covers, low tunnels, and hoop houses are some systems used to keep the harvest coming after frost hits. Many are also rediscovering the benefits of storage systems like root cellars, commonly used in generations past to keep produce fresh for months after the end of harvest season.

Many market growers are also using these techniques as a way to extend their harvests – and income – into the winter months. One such grower is Becky Maden, Assistant Farm Manager at the Intervale Community Farm in Burlington, Vermont. Writing in The Seed Hopper, High Mowing Organic Seed's online blog, she offers advice on growing and storing crops for winter markets. While aimed primarily at market gardeners, her suggestions are also useful for home gardeners looking to extend their harvest.

For example, she notes that spinach has been one of the most successful greens grown in the farm's unheated hoop houses, tolerating colder temperatures and a broader range of conditions than crops like arugula and baby lettuce. But she stresses that it's important to choose varieties that have been selected for winter growing, such as 'Regiment' and 'Renegade', both of which are resistant to downy mildew, a common disease on winter-grown spinach. She suggests spacing spinach and other winter greens more widely than for spring or summer sowings to increase air circulation and help prevent diseases from taking hold.

Maden also stresses the importance of timing plantings for fall and winter harvest carefully. Many crops need to be seeded in late summer, when gardeners are still busy with the care and harvest of summer crops, and it's easy to forget about new seed sowing chores. But she points out that delaying a fall sowing by even a week may mean a month of missed harvests in winter, due to the effect of decreasing daylengths on the pace of crop development.

If you plan to store crops like carrots, cabbages, and potatoes in a root cellar, Maden suggest sleuthing out those varieties that do best in storage. For example, she notes that 'Bolero' carrots, while not her first choice for summer and fall fresh use, are tops as keepers, improving in flavor and keeping for months in cool, humid storage conditions.

To read her entire post on Growing and Storing for Winter Markets, go to: High Mowing Organic Seeds.

Vertical Fall Color

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Vertical gardening is all the rage, and with good reason. Growing vines up arbors, trellises, and tuteurs or over a pergola adds interesting vertical accents to the landscape, can be used to provide privacy, camouflage unattractive walls and fences, and is a great strategy for gardeners short on space.

Besides all these advantages, a well-chosen vine can offer multi-season interest. Vines such as clematis and climbing hydrangea brighten the summer garden with their lovely flowers. But it's at this time of year that the easy-to-grow native Virginia creeper vine (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) displays its full glory with colorful fall foliage. The new cultivar Red Wall™ (P.q.'Troki') from Proven Winners is especially attractive. Covered with glossy green foliage all summer long, in fall its leaves turn a brilliant, fire-engine red for an eye-catching jolt of color as the seasons change.

This fast-growing deciduous vine climbs by tendrils that have sticky pads on the tips, so it can make its way up any vertical surface and even be allowed to scramble across the ground. Adapted to Zones 3-9, it grows 20 feet or more tall. As an added bonus, Virginia creeper's bluish-black berries are welcome food for many birds, including thrushes, vireos, chickadees, robins, cardinals, and warblers, and its branches provide cover and nesting sites to many species.

For more information on Red Wall™ Virginia creeper, go to: Proven Winners.

A Sweetheart of a Cyclamen

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Many of the flowering plants we associate with fall are bright and brassy sun lovers -- asters, chrysanthemums, and goldenrods. But for late summer and fall blooms with a more elegant and understated appeal, as well as a tolerance for shade, consider hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium). 'Sweetheart™ Sensation' cyclamen, a new, extra-hardy variety from Terra Nova Nurseries, thrives as far north as Zone 4 and makes a vigorous and fast-growing low groundcover that thrives even in the dry shade under trees and shrubs. From August to November, graceful pink flowers with swept-back petals hover on short stalks like a swarm of delicate butterflies. The hexagonal to octagonal green leaves accented with silver centers light up the garden and appear following the first blooms.

Cyclamen is easy to grow in shade to part shade in loose, well-drained, slightly organic soil. Plant as deep as the depth of the tuber from which it grows. In colder zones (Zone 6 and lower) protect plants over the winter with a light organic mulch. Plants go dormant in the heat of summer; add a mulch of leaf mold as the leaves shrivel and keep soil on the dry side when plants are dormant. Mix them with hostas or hellebores for season long interest.

To find out more about 'Sweetheart™ Sensation' cyclamen, go to: National Garden Bureau.

 
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