Garden Talk: January 6, 2014

From NGA Editors

'Cinderella's Carriage' Pumpkin

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While you may not want to be gardening in your glass slippers, you can still grow 'Cinderella's Carriage'. It may not get you to the ball to meet your prince, but you will be rewarded with a fairy tale harvest of large, flattened, red-orange pumpkins. 2014 All-America Selections Regional Vegetable Award Winner 'Cinderella's Carriage' is the first hybrid Cinderella-type pumpkin that combines high yields with powdery mildew resistance. It performed especially well in the Southeast, Great Lakes, and Mountain/Southwest regions of the country.

Robust, vigorous vines set 5 to 7 large fruits ranging from 25-35 pounds, perfect for fall decorating. The sweet yellow flesh has a nutty flavor, making this pumpkin also well suited for baking. Fruits mature in 100 days from direct seeding. The large vines require at least 3 feet of growing area. They require only moderate watering, so take care not over water. Pumpkin flowers require pollination to set fruit, so be sure to plant a few flowers in your vegetable garden to attract pollinators.

All-America Selections are new garden seed varieties selected for their superior garden performance as judged in impartial trials across North America.

To find out more about 'Cinderella's Carriage' pumpkin, go to AAS.

'Chef's Choice Orange' Tomato

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Many gardeners value heirloom tomato varieties for their delicious flavor, even though they may lack the desirable characteristics of more modern hybrids such as disease resistance. Now you can get the best of both worlds with 'Chef's Choice Orange' tomato, a 2014 All-America Selections National Vegetable Award Winner.

Bred from the popular heirloom variety 'Amana Orange', which matures late in the season, this new hybrid beefsteak-type tomato delivers the wonderful flavor of an orange heirloom but matures in just 75 days from transplant. It is also resistant to cracking, TMV, and anthracnose. Fruits average about 12 ounces but can weigh as much as a pound. The five-foot tall plants are indeterminate and require support. The leaves cover the fruits well to protect them from sunburn.

'Chef’s Choice Orange' is bright orange inside and out, with a superior taste and texture for an early maturing orange tomato. It's excellent for soups and sauces because its intense color does not fade or discolor when cooked.

All-America Selections are new seed 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 'Chef's Choice Orange' tomato, go to AAS.

Gardening on the Moon

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You may have heard of gardening by the moon, but how about gardening on the moon? In an effort to explore the possibilities for living on the moon for extended periods of time, NASA is planning to investigate how plants do in the lunar environment. Plants can provide clues to the effects on genetic material that might occur from exposure to radiation in space, so they can be NASA's ″canary in the coal mine.″ But figuring out how to keep plants thriving in space will also be a vital part of providing food, oxygen, and water to future space colonists.

To those ends, NASA is constructing a small demonstration unit to study the germination of seeds under the conditions of gravity and radiation found in the lunar environment, using the natural sunlight on the moon to fuel seed germination and plant growth. The self-contained habitat module will be designed to be carried on a lunar lander, possibly on the winner of the Google Lunar X-prize competition. When the module reaches the moon in 2015, water and nutrients will be added to seeds of basil, turnips, and arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard. Their growth will be monitored and photographed for 5-10 days and compared to control plants back on earth. Follow up experiments will include longer term growth studies, multi-generational experiments, and the use of more diverse plant species.

While it may be a while before space farmers are harvesting extraterrestrial eggplant or lunar lettuce, this experiment is an important first step -- one small seed for a turnip; one giant leaf for plantkind.

To find out more about NASA's lunar plant growth experiment, go to NASA .

Still Growing after Hurricane Sandy on Coney Island

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The Coney Island Garden Program, now fully recovered after Hurricane Sandy, is a growing success. After the garden was destroyed by the 2012 superstorm, program director Ramy Fakhr and a dedicated team of teachers, parents, and students sought out help from the National Gardening Association, Seeds of Change, Whole Kids Foundation, and Captain Planet Foundation and received nearly $13,000 in funding.

Now in it's second year, this productive collaboration between PS 90 and YW of New York City, has over 100 dedicated participants. Year round, kindergarten through fifth grade students participate in programming for an average of five hours each week. From the annual event ″salad fest″ to insect investigation, garden programming finds it's way both in and outside of the classroom. The impact on students has been tremendous, ″Since the start of the program we've seen huge changes in our students' understanding of the natural world, food, and their own nutritional choices. Students can now identify plant parts, perform basic cooking skills, and have a much clearer grasp of connections between plants and food,″ comments program director Ramy Fakhr.

Much of the programming is based on students' interests. Equipped with magnifying lenses and clipboards, 4th and 5th grade students investigated the garden's ecosystem. Students gathered and recorded their findings through garden journals. Based on these interests teachers introduced earthworms and composting, making this creature a favorite of the young gardeners at Coney Island.The exciting culminating event ″Salad Garden Fest″ was an opportunity for students, parents, and staff to share in the harvest by digging up carrots, harvesting lettuce, and ultimately creating enough salad for everyone to enjoy. Programming included still-life drawings of the harvest, voting on favorite vegetables, a scavenger hunt, and cooking stations.

Learn more about the Coney Island Garden.

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