Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Not Too Early To Think About 2014 Veggies

Today was quite chilly outside with a windchill of about 5 degrees F this morning.  We shifted our Grumpy day from tomorrow (Thanksgiving) to today but understandably didn't see many of the guys.  I cracked open my first catalogs including Stokes ( seen above and Pinetree Garden Seeds ( seen below.  Most catalogs that offer both vegetables and flowers start with the veggies first which I always find both exciting and daunting!  I literally read every catalog cover to cover.  There are so many selections to choose from and it makes me wish I had the space to grow and sample everything!  As our catalogs start to arrive, it's not too early to get out the highlighter and mark some of your favorites and some new ones to try (both veggies and flowers).  Perhaps you've not grown your own veggies (ever) or haven't explored new selections in a while.  It is amazing how much variety is out there including the most modern hybrids, old heirlooms, varieties from other countries, etc.  The produce section of any grocery store carries less than 1% of the overall vegetable varieties available to you as seed.  Consider involving your family and particularly youngsters in the selection process.  Connecting our youth to growing their own vegetables can have educational value that includes an environmental focus, soils, water resources, perhaps organic approaches, nutrition and fun!  I would have to rank my seed catalog explorations as one of my favorite "career tasks" and my younger daughter (now 13) still helps pick seed packets every spring for our home garden and will likely do the same with her children and grandchildren!  The carrots, tomatoes and peppers that she has grown continue to be the "best she has ever had!"  

It was business as usual today despite the pending holiday weekend.  Above are Dr. Gredler and Patrea painting/re-painting some of our garden elements for next year.  Many of these containers will go in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden and be part of the second year of our "Pollinator's Paradise" theme.  We like the idea that these are re-purposed containers and a nice use of plastic that will outlive all of us (and the next 50 generations...).  Pat M. was the tough guy today and went out in the gardens to continue wrapping yews (Taxus) with burlap.  With the colder weather, the deer have already been in the gardens foraging and we're frantically trying to protect some of their favorite snacks (arborvitae, yews, small pines, etc.).  Maury brought in some supplies and we also saw Gary S., Dick H. and Dick P.  Chuck S. came in to check on recycling needs and Janice worked on some projects for 2014 as well.  It was a quiet day but I was able to focus on next year.  Directly below is Big John finishing his last day (for 2013) yesterday.  He's holding all of his "task maps" from the year and with mixed emotions (mostly joy I think) and tears (probably joyful too), he recycled them before he left.  John will help run the Holiday Lights Show (see our website for dates and times) with both Larry and me as well.  We had a nice pre-Thanksgiving lunch and I was also able to see Jenny, Cheryl, Cindy, Vern, Kris, Terry and Kay.

We're only a couple months from seeing displays like the one above in most garden centers and stores.  It's lots of fun to explore these opportunities as well although I feel catalogs give more information on specific vegetable varieties including some fun historical facts.  While we grow veggies at home (primarily in containers) we've always tried new varieties and are exploring cooler season opportunities as well both in spring and fall to extend the season.  At RBG, we also like to vary our vegetable and herb offerings at the Spring Plant Sale (May 10th and 11th, 2014, pre-sale for RBG members on May 9th!).  We'll again have a wide range of offerings with a strong focus on heirloom varieties.

I recently read an article entitled "Why Home-Grown Food is More Nutritious" by Shelley Stonebrook in the magazine Heirloom Gardener (an awesome quarterly magazine, see  It was a wonderful article and brought up some very valid points about the produce we're purchasing from the grocery store.  She mentions that modern vegetable breeding focuses on high yields, rapid growth and "shipability" which frequently does not consider nutrient content.  Bigger fruits are more watery and less nutrient dense.  She goes on to say "In a large-scale agricultural setting, plant roots don't have to work very hard or grow very deep."  These pampered roots are small and tend to create "nutrient weak" produce.    She also points out that many fruits and vegetables don't reach maximum nutrient potential until they are ripe.  Much of our produce is picked unripe for shipping and maturation around the time of purchase or slightly later.  This equates again to nutrient poor produce.  She mentions a study showing that apples and apricots picked before ripening had no vitamin C but those same fruits left to maturation (before picking) had high levels of vitamin C.  Declining nutrient values in the fruits and vegetables that we purchase is a huge concern that can be thwarted by growing our own food!  Below are some examples of produce accumulated and/or growing at RBG in the past and we're happy to have been able to donate thousands of pounds of this produce to area food banks over the past 12 years.  Let this "eye candy" inspire you to take a close look at your catalogs and take more control of what you eat!  Edibles can be ornamental, nutritious and incorporated throughout our landscapes.

cherry tomatoes (Lycopersicon) - great for kids of all ages!
cucumbers galore (Cucumus sativus)
eggplants (Solanum melongena) - an acquired taste but highly nutritious (annual)
pumpkins (donated to RBG for education programs)
my hodge podge from home (colorful, delectable and affordable!)
'Bright Lights' Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) - annual
'Chilly Chili' hot pepper (Capsicum annuum) - annual (minimal "heat")
two neat new quote benches that will be installed out in the gardens next spring

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