Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Garden Talk: February 24, 2011

From NGA Editors

Blazing Good Pepper


Nutritionists encourage us to include lots of colorful, fresh produce in our diets. Ripe sweet bell peppers in an array of colors, from yellow and orange to red and purple, are a tasty way to do just that. Low in calories and high in Vitamins A and C, sweet peppers are nutritional powerhouses as well as a feast for the eye.

One of the best is 'Orange Blaze' sweet bell pepper, an All-America Selections Vegetable Award winner for 2011 that was bred by Seminis. A great choice for gardeners in shorter-season areas of the country, 'Orange Blaze' was chosen as a winner in part because of its quick maturity, ripening to bright orange in just 65 to 70 days from transplant.

In addition, the 3-4 inch long, 1 1/2 inch wide, blocky, two to three lobed peppers develop a very sweet, fruity flavor, and the plants show high resistance to several bacterial and viral diseases that can trouble peppers. Plants will grow 18 to 24 inches tall and should be spaced about 2 feet apart.

All-America Selections winners are new garden seed varieties that have been judged to have superior garden performance in impartial trials in North America.

For more information on 'Orange Blaze' sweet bell pepper, go to: All-America Selections.

Pollinator-Friendly Gardening


Are you concerned about the decline in both honeybees and native pollinators? Want to know what you can do to help? The Penn State Center for Pollinator Research has a helpful website with lots of information on the problem and suggestions for actions for individual gardeners.

As part of their public outreach, the Center has developed a program focused on encouraging home gardeners to support suitable habitats for native pollinators. Pennsylvania residents who implement the suggestions are eligible to apply for pollinator-friendly garden certification. But even if you live elsewhere, the program offers information and strategies that can be adapted to other parts of the country.

Step one is providing food for pollinators by choosing plants that provide nectar and pollen from early spring to late fall, as well as those that provide food for larval stages. Second is providing water sources for pollinators; third is providing shelter such as dead wood, rock piles, and bee boxes. The fourth step is to safeguard pollinator habitat by removing invasive plants and reducing or eliminating pesticide usage. The website provides links to many other sites with additional information on implementing these steps in your own landscape.

For more information on pollinator-friendly gardening, go to: Center for Pollinator Research.

Journey to Shangri-La


What is it about the first flowers of spring that make them so delightful? Maybe it the sight of color in the garden after the long month of winter that makes us revel so in the blossoms of cool-season bloomers.

Now you can enjoy a little bit of garden paradise in early spring with the 2011 All-America Selections Cool Season Bedding Plant Award winner, Viola 'Shangri-La Marina'. This prize-winning selection of Viola cornuta displays a vibrant, new color -- light blue petals surrounding a velvety dark blue face bordered with a narrow strip of white -- that remains consistent throughout the bloom season.

Bred by Tokita Seed Company, this viola is an early bloomer, coming into flower only 70 days after sowing seeds. Only 6 inches tall with a mounding habit, 'Shangri-La Marina' is a great choice for containers and hanging baskets and makes a neat edging plant in the flower border. Best in full sun, plant should be spaced 8 inches apart. A frost-tolerant biennal, it can be planted for fall color and will rebound with another show of early spring flowers.

All-America Selections winners are new garden seed varieties that have been judged to have superior garden performance in impartial trials in North America.

For more information on Viola 'Shangri-La Marina', go to : All-America Selections .

Allergies Worsen Along with Climate Change


A newly released study by the USDA confirms what many allergy sufferers may have suspected. "Ragweed pollen in some parts of the northern United States and Canada now lingers almost a month longer than it did in 1995, and these increases are correlated to seasonal warming shifts linked to climate change dynamics in the higher latitudes, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." Looking at ten locations along a north-south transect from Austin, Texas to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, researchers found that from 1995 to 2009, as the number of frost-free days at higher latitudes increased, the ragweed pollen season lasted from 13 to 27 days longer.

Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) is a native, warm-weather annual found throughout North America, usually in sunny sites. It can crowd out garden plants, plus wind-borne ragweed pollen is a big contributor to seasonal allergies. Learn to recognize the deeply cut leaves, and pull young plants from moist soil or spray them with an organic herbicide containing acetic acid or clove oil. Seedlings also can be cultivated into submission with a sharp hoe. Mature plants produce slender upright flower spikes that resemble candelabras. Cut down ragweed plants that have set seeds, then bag and dispose of the tops to reduce reseeding.

For more information on the links between ragweed and climate change, go to Agricultural Research Service. For more information on ragweed, go to Ragweed.



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