Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Garden Talk: March 3, 2014

From NGA Editors

Fantastico Tomato


Tomatoes are America's favorite home vegetable garden crop. From heirlooms to hybrids, tiny grape tomatoes to mammoth beefsteak varieties, gardeners across the country are always eager to harvest luscious, tasty, truly ripe tomatoes from their home gardens. 'Fantasico', a 2014 All-America Selections (AAS) National Vegetable Award winner, is sure to be a popular addition to the gardens of tomato lovers across the country.

This early-maturing (90 days from seed, 50 days from transplant), high yielding grape tomato is a determinate variety that is loaded with delicious half-ounce, grape-shaped fruits -- up to 12 pounds per plant! The long clusters of fruit are held toward the outside of the plant, making harvesting easy, and the fruits resist cracking better than many other varieties. Good news for the many gardeners who have battled this disease in recent years, 'Fantastico' shows good late blight tolerance. Best grown in a cage to provide support, 'Fantastico' also can be grown in a 10-gallon patio container or an 18-inch hanging basket.

For more about 'Fantastico' grape tomato and other 2014 AAS winners, go to AAS. (Image courtesy of All-America Selections)

Site Assessment for Better Gardens


Ever wonder why some gardens and landscapes look dazzling year after year, while others decline? Or why a planting looks great at one location while the same planting looks skimpy and unattractive nearby? Site characteristics determine whether a plant will thrive in a particular spot. Site Assessment for Better Gardens and Landscapes, by Charles Mazza, (Plant and Life Science Publishing, 2013, $19.90) describes how to evaluate site characteristics that are important to successful plant growth. Useful for novice as well as experienced gardeners and landscape professionals, this book takes you through the site assessment process step by step. Over 50 color photos enhance the text, while the sturdy, spiral-bound format of the book makes it easy to use as a reference out in the garden. You'll end up with a site sketch and draft landscape design that take into account factors such as sun and shade, hardiness zone, microclimates, wind, slope, drainage, soil compaction and other soil characteristics, and wildlife challenges. Making a careful site assessment will reward you with an easy to care for, sustainable, and attractive garden or landscape. Author Mazza is a former statewide leader of New York's Master Gardener Program.

To find out more about Site Assessment for Better Gardens and Landscapes , including ordering information, go to PALS.

Rhododendrons of the Year


With their large showy flowers and attractive foliage, rhododendrons and azaleas are popular landscape plants across the country. But there are so many to choose from! How do you select the ones that will do the best in your garden? That's where the American Rhododendron Society can help! Every year, for eight geographical regions in the U.S., they select plants that have excellent flowers and foliage, an attractive habit, good pest and disease resistance, and are hardy and well-adapted to a specific region.

For seven of the regions -- Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Northwest, South Central, Southeast, and Southwest -- four plants have been chosen, including a elepidote and a lepidote rhododendron, and a deciduous and evergreen azalea. For the warm weather Hawaii/ Southern California region, a vireya rhododendron has been selected. For each selection, you'll find a picture and information on appearance, growth habit, and hardiness. Some selections are cultivars, while some are species, like the deciduous flame azalea R. calendulaceum (pictured) that is one of the 2014 selections for the Mid-Atlantic region.

To find all the 2014 Rhododendron of the Year selections , as well as information on growing rhodies and azaleas, go to American Rhododendron Society .

Spotlight on Youth Gardens


Growing healthy food is the basis for all programming at Youth Farm in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a recent recipient of National Gardening Association's longest running award program, Youth Garden Grants. Youth Farm operates in five different neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, reaching over 800 youth each year. Programming centers around growing, cooking, eating, and ultimately, sharing food. There are no fees or costs for youth participants. In fact, all of the locations employ teen workers to them develop work experience and leadership skills. The effectiveness of their efforts is best illustrated in the high retention rate of returning participants and meals served; over 65 percent of students come back for multiple years, and 2,000 healthy meals are served annually to the community and youth participants using garden produce.

A recent fire at Youth Farm's Frogtown program site resulted in the loss of half of their tools and supplies when their tool shed was vandalized by arson. National Gardening Association's support helped to replace tools and provided funding to purchase lumber for raised beds, as well as supplies to create garden signs. The program looks forward to building hoop houses and enhancing existing composting systems and making connections with several local elementary schools to increase programming opportunities.

Youth Farm was established by David Brant and Karen Lehman in 1995 in an effort to bring the benefits of nature and gardens to youth living in urban areas. Since that time, five gardens have flourished in communities and have expanded to programming within schools. Participants can enter Youth Farm programs at age nine as "Youth Farmers" focusing on developing interpersonal skills and learning to garden and prepare the harvest. "All Stars," children ages 12 and 13, learn to become leaders and focus on cultural competency while learning about the food system. High school participants or "Project LEADs" are engaged in leadership roles, teaching younger students, and developing conflict resolution skills. High school students are focused gaining expertise to help with employment and future careers. Lastly, college-aged participants, known as "Farm Stewards" focus on teaching, greenhouse work, and connecting with the local community. Employment programs at Youth Farm are year-round internships that facilitate growing opportunities even during long Minnesota winters using greenhouses. Collectively, the students who work, teach, and eat at Youth Farm drive the direction and decisions of this 501c3 nonprofit, truly making it a student-led organization.

"Youth Farm interns have recently identified that their participation has led to an increase in their public speaking skills and confidence, as well as their knowledge of their community," comments Frogtown Program Director Beth Ringer. Other benefits of participating and leading youth programs at Youth Farm include instruction from professional chefs, a fresh lunch from the garden each day, and fruit and vegetable donations to the food shelf and families in need. NGA is proud to support programs like Youth Farm that make significant contributions to the overall health and welfare of their communities.

To learn more, go to Youth Farm. To learn more about NGA's Youth Garden Grants, go to NGA Grants. (Image courtesy of Youth Farm)

Help us plant the seeds for the next generation of gardeners. Your donation helps NGA support youth garden programs across the country and around the world. Please consider a generous donation to the National Gardening Association.



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