Garden Talk: December 3, 2012

From NGA Editors

Top Scoring Veggies

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All veggies make healthful additions to our diets, providing vitamins, minerals, and fiber, as well as delicious taste. But some are nutritional superstars that deliver particularly high amounts of these dietary benefits. In the October 2012 issue of Nutrition Action Health Letter, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a host of veggies are ranked based on their levels of nutrients and fiber. The top scorer -- kale, followed closely behind by other dark leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, chard, and turnip greens.

Not a big fan of greens? The top five for Vitamin C include the popular choices of red bell pepper, broccoli, green bell pepper, green chili pepper and one you might not expect -- Brussels sprouts. Want to make sure you are getting plenty of potassium? Dig into sweet potatoes, lima beans, spinach, chard, and portobello mushrooms. Add fiber with such delectable choices as artichokes, peas, avocado, lima beans, and jicama. Eating the most nutrient-dense vegetables may deliver the most bang for your caloric buck, but even veggies that didn't rank at the top of the list such as beets, eggplant, and cucumbers still deliver important nutrients, fiber, and, of course, good taste.

Want to read more about healthful foods? Check out the list of the ten best foods you can eat on the Nutrition Action Health Letter website. Half are from the vegetable garden -- sweet potatoes, broccoli, watermelon, butternut squash, and leafy greens. Then check out the Nutrition Action Newsletter archives for recipes using some of the superstars, such as Roasted Butternut Squash and Lentils. Yum!

Jasper Cherry Tomato is a Winner

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When the weather conditions are right, late blight can decimate tomato plantings in many parts of the country. The high resistance to this disease displayed by 'Jasper' F1 cherry tomato is just one of the reasons this 2013 All-America Selections (AAS) Vegetable Award winner will appeal to gardeners. This indeterminate hybrid cherry tomato also boasts a sweet, rich taste, outstanding performance, a long harvest window, resistance to early blight and fusarium wilt, and good tolerance of weather-related stress.

AAS judges noted the excellent texture, sweetness, and uniformity of the ¾ -inch diameter red fruits and the vigor of the vines that thrive with little or no fertilization. Bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Jasper is high yielding with fruits that stay on the vine and then hold well after ripening both on the vine and post-harvest. Days to harvest are 90 days from seed; 60 days from transplant.

All-America Selections are new varieties that have proven their superior garden performance in trial grounds across North America, as judged by independent experts in impartial trials.

For more about 'Jasper'F1 cherry tomato and other 2013 AAS winners, go to: AAS.

No No to Nano?

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Perhaps you've heard of concerns about the potential human health impacts associated with nanoparticles. These tiny manufactured particles, found now in everything from cosmetics and sunscreen to the exhaust of diesel fuel, are about 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, so small that they are measured in billionths of a meter. Because of their size, they behave differently than larger particles of the same material, a characteristic that makes them valuable to manufacturers of various products, but one that also causes concern about their effects on the environment and living organisms.

Some recent studies reinforce these concerns as they relate to plants. The research suggests that these manufactured nanomaterials pose a risk to some crops when they are present in the soil in which crops are grown, causing stunting, increasing the absorption of pollutants from the soil, and interfering with the ability of legumes to "fix" nitrogen from the air, resulting in an increased need for added fertilizers.

How do nanoparticles get into the soil in the first place? Cerium oxide is a widely used as a catalyst in diesel fuel. The particles enter the soil as exhaust from diesel farm tractors settles on the ground. Nanoparticles of zinc oxide, widely used in products like sunscreens and cosmetics, accumulate in the solids that are separated out of sewage and wastewater and used as fertilizer on many crops. Researcher Patricia Holden, quoted in an online Science News article on the crop risks posed by nanosized pollutants, notes that the studies "forewarn of agriculturally associated human and environmental risks from the accelerating use of manufactured nanomaterials."

One study led by scientists at UC Santa Barbara's Bren School of Environmental Science & Management showed that when soybeans were grown in soil containing zinc oxide, the zinc accumulated in the stems, leaves, and beans of the plants, causing stunting. Nanoparticles of cerium oxide from the soil did not accumulate inside the soybeans, but caused changes in their root nodules, interfering with the ability of symbiotic bacteria to convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into a form usable to the plants. Another study done at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station showed that when the roots of tomatoes, zucchini and soybeans were exposed to a type of nanoparticles called fullerenes, they took up more toxic pesticide residues from the growing medium than control plants not exposed to the nanomaterials.

These studies point to the need for continued research into the risk to crops posed by exposure to nanoparticles and the potential for environmental harm as their use increases.

To read more about the research into the effects of nanoparticles on crops, go to Science News and Science Daily.

2012 American Garden Award Winners

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The votes are in and the people have spoken! This year's winners of the American Garden Award have been announced by All-America Selections, the fourth year the award has been given. Six new flowering bedding plant contestants with excellent garden performance are chosen each year and put on display at participating public gardens around the country. Visitors to the gardens and the American Garden Award website cast votes for their favorites.

This year's Grand Prize winner is the striking begonia 'Santa Cruz™ Sunset' (pictured). With its abundant cascade of scarlet/orange blooms, it makes an eye-catching display in hanging baskets, containers, or in mass plantings in the garden. Tolerant of heat, drought, and rain, it thrives in full sun to light shade.

Not to be overlooked are second place winner Gazania 'Big Kiss™ White Flame'F1, with huge white and rose striped flowers covering bushy plants, and third place Petunia® Surfina Deep Red', with rich red blossoms on plants that need no pinching or pruning to maintain their good looks.

To find out more about this year's award winners, as well as winners from the past four years of the contest, go to: American Garden Award.

 
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