Garden Talk: August 5, 2013

From NGA Editors

Successful Freezing

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Now is the season when our vegetable gardens are overflowing with fresh produce. It's also a time when many gardeners preserve some of this bounty to enjoy the rest of the year. One of the most popular ways of preserving the harvest is by freezing.

How to make sure you'll be enjoying the highest quality frozen veggies this winter? According to the experts at University of Minnesota Extension, the key is blanching most kinds of produce before you freeze it. (Some vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, freeze well without this step.) Blanching simply means heating vegetables briefly in boiling or steaming water to inactivate the enzymes that cause produce to lose flavor, texture, and nutrients during freezer storage. Blanched veggies are cooled quickly by plunging them into an ice water bath for the same amount of time as they were blanched. Properly prepared in this way, your garden goodies will keep their quality for 8-12 months in a freezer maintained at zero degrees or lower.

Find the details of the blanching process, as well as blanching times for various kinds of vegetables, at Blanching Vegetables. For lots of great general information on preserving vegetables and herbs in a variety of ways, go to UMN Food Safety-Vegetables and Herbs

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Growing Public

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Have you ever looked at a vacant lot, an expanse of grass around a school or municipal building, or an under-used area of a park and thought, "Food could be grown there."? Using public land to grow food can bring a host of benefits to a community beyond the harvest itself, including increased civic participation, better nutritional knowledge, job skills training, and neighborhood greening. If you're interested in exploring the possibilities, Dig, Eat, and Be Healthy: A Guide to Growing Food on Public Property will guide you through the steps you need to take to make this a reality.

Put together by ChangeLab Solutions, a non-profit organization that works to provide community-based solutions to America's health problems, this downloadable publication provides the tools needed to access public land for food production. It includes information on identifying urban agricultural sites, working with public agencies to develop community partnerships, and crafting appropriate agreements. There is a section on developing urban agricultural opportunities on public school properties and suggestions for ways to use community garden harvests in school cafeterias. Also included are sample agreements from actual urban agricultural projects on public land.

To download Dig, Eat, and Be Healthy and get more information about Change Lab Solutions' other publications related to community health issues, go to ChangeLab Solutions.

Bad News for Bees is Bad News for Flowers

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It's not news that bees are in trouble. And not just honeybees. Declines in native populations of wild bees have been noted as well. This could present a serious problem for the many agricultural crops we depend on for food. But some recent research suggest that the loss of biodiversity of bee species, separate from the actual number of individual bees, may have far-reaching implications for ecosystems as a whole.

In an experiment carried out in Colorado and described in the New York Times, researchers studied 20 plots of meadowland of approximately 500 square feet each. Individual insects of the most populous species of bumblebee were caught in nets and removed from the test plots, and the plots were patrolled to see that this species remained excluded. According to their mathematical models, the researchers expected that the other species of bumblebees present would fill the gap and pollinate the flowers that the removed bee species had previously visited. The flowers, larkspur specifically in the study, wouldn't ″notice″ any difference.

But things turned out differently than expected. With the most populous species removed, the other species of bees took advantage of the lack of competition and broadened the range of flowers they visited. Whereas before, certain species of bees concentrated on certain species of flower, the bees now visited many different kinds of flowers. This reduced the likelihood that on each flower visit a bee would be carrying the pollen of that same kind of flower so that pollination could occur. Because of this change in bee behavior, the larkspur plants in the test plots ended up producing about 30 percent less seed than in control plots, a significant impact from an ecological perspective and a reminder of the interconnectedness of the natural world.

To read more about this study, go to NY Times Science.

Joy in the Garden

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Late summer and fall is when sedums really shine in the garden. These easy care plants bring color and texture to the late season garden. An exciting addition to the sedum line-up is 'Pure Joy', a new hybrid sedum from Proven Winners.

Great in the front of the garden, as a container plant, or as a colorful edging, 'Pure Joy' makes a low mound that gets about a foot tall. In late summer through fall it's light green leaves are hidden beneath a dome of bubble gum pink flowers. Pretty seedheads finish up the show and provide interest far into the fall and winter.

Like most sedums, 'Pure Joy' does best in full sun and lean, well-drained soil. Great for low maintenance gardens, it is drought tolerant once established and doesn't need regular fertilization to thrive. Adapted to zones 3 to 9, this new sedum will add a joyful note to your late season garden.

For more about Sedum 'Pure Joy', go to Proven Winners.

 
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