Garden Talk: October 18, 2012

From NGA Editors

The Weekend Homesteader

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Are you ready to move your food gardening up a notch, cut your grocery bills, and have a healthier diet? You can do all this with advice from Anna Hess in her new book, The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012, $17.95). Whether you have acres of land or only a small urban plot, you can put Hess's suggestions to use, devoting only a few hours each weekend to projects that will help you decrease your reliance on the grocery store and create a thriving garden ecosystem -- and you'll have fun in the process!

The book is organized by month, with seasonal projects to try throughout the year. From ″Plan your summer garden″ in April to ″Building a worm bin″ in June, ″Building a chicken coop or tractor″ in August, ″Storing vegetables on the shelf″ in October, ″Planting a fruit tree″ in December, and ″Growing edible mushrooms″ in March, there is a wealth of accessibly presented information that will let you either dip just a toe or dive right into homesteading. Each project lists the cost, time involved, and difficulty; has its ″kid-friendliness″ rated; and contains a list of supplies and tools needs. Helpful diagrams and color photographs enhance the text.

Hess writes from long personal experience. The former field biologist has put all her recommendations to the test on her fifty-eight acre homestead she shares with her husband in Virginia.

For more information on The Weekend Homesteader, go to: Skyhorse Publishing. Read more about Anna Hess's homesteading adventures on her blog, The Walden Effect.

Celebrate Food Day

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As gardeners, many of us appreciate and experience the benefits of fresh, healthful, and sustainably grown food. But unfortunately not everyone in this country has access to these benefits. That's what the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a host of partnering national, state, and local organizations hope to change with the celebration of Food Day on October 24.

This nationwide series of events is designed to address issues such as health and nutrition, hunger, agricultural policy, farm worker justice, and farm animal welfare. Participation in an event in your community is a way to strengthen and unify the food movement and help promote safer, healthier diets, reduce hunger, support sustainable agriculture, protect the environment, make sure farm workers are fairly treated and farm animals are raised humanely.

An online Resource Guide provides information and ideas on many ways to participate, including a Food Day Dinner Party Kit, with everything you need to throw a memorable and informative Food Day dinner; a 2012 Food Day School Curriculum; even a Food Day suggested reading list.

To find out how to get involved, host an event of your own, or search for events in your area, go to: Food Day.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

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There's a new pest on the block and it's raising quite a stink. Brown marmorated stink bugs are pests that were first found in this country in the late 1990s, presumably having hitched a ride in from Asia on shipping materials. Since then they have steadily expanded their range and are now a major pest in the Mid-Atlantic states and are working their way into many other parts of the country. These shield-shaped brown bugs are about the size of a dime and have alternating dark and light bands along their sides and on their antennae. (″Marmorated″ means ″mottled,″ by the way.) Females lay elliptical, light green eggs in clusters on the undersides of leaves, and in most areas these bugs are thought to have several generations per year. The newly hatched nymphs, or immature insects, are mottled with black and red.

Currently found in at least 36 states, these garden and agricultural pests attack a wide range of crops, including apples, apricots, cherries, grapes, peaches, peppers, tomatoes, and soybeans. They cause pitting and scarring of fruits, making them unfit for fresh and sometimes processed use, and their feeding can create entryways for disease. Researchers are still working to develop good control strategies for these pests on crops. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for the most current advice for your area.

Even non-gardeners may find themselves troubled by theses bugs, as brown marmorated stink bugs congregate in large numbers on and sometimes inside of buildings in the fall, looking for a sheltered spot to spend the winter. They don't bite or sting, but true to their name, they can emit a foul smell when swept up or crushed. Sealing up cracks and crevices with caulking and screening is the best strategy for keeping these bugs out. Vacuuming them up and disposing of the vacuum bag is the best option for dealing with home invaders that make it inside.

For more information about the identification and control of the brown marmorated stink bug , go to: EPA and Stop BMSB.

Purple Pearls

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For a distinctive note of color in your fall garden, add this new beautyberry hybrid to your landscape. A cross between Callicarpa dichotema and Callicarpa kwantungensis, Purple Pearls™ beautyberry from Spring Meadow Nursery is a deciduous shrub with purple-tinged foliage that bears pink flowers in clusters up and down its stems in summer. But it’s in autumn that beautyberry really comes into its glory. The purple hue of the leaves deepens and flowers give way to clusters of large, purple-violet berries covering the branches. After the leaves turn yellow and fall, these berries hang on, providing a color note that blends beautifully with other fall hues. Purple Pearls™ grows a mere 4 to 5 feet tall and wide with an upright habit, making it easy to fit in many landscape settings. It does best in full sun and well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 6-8, it should be pruned in early spring before new growth begins. As an added bonus, it's reputed to be deer-resistant.

To find out more about Purple Pearls™, a Proven Winners® selection, go to: Spring Meadow Nursery.

 
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