Newsy Gardens & Plants – April 16, 2010

tree fungi (2) Interested in digging deeper into the world of fungi and other tiny non-plant, non-animal organisms, check out the book by Steven L. Stephenson, a research professor of biological sciences at the University of Arkansas.  In The Kingdom Fungi: The Biology of Mushrooms, Molds, and Lichens (published by Timber Press), Stephenson explains the purpose, forms, and roles of these commonly misunderstood life forms.  Gardeners know fungi do more than adorn a fresh salad or top a pizza, but how many of us really understand the true extent fungi play in our lives.  Stephenson’s author profile notes he has studied fungi and slime mold on six continents – sounds like he’s a real fun-gi (guy) – sorry, couldn’t resist.

Here’s an intriguing vision for gardeners plagued with Japanese beetles:

  • beetle eats petals,
  • beetle rolls over on its back with legs and antennae twitching,
  • beetle remains paralyzed for several hours.

“The beetles typically recover within 24 hours when paralyzed under laboratory conditions, but they often succumb to death under field conditions after predators spot and devour the beetles while they are helpless,” according to an article in the March 2010 Agricultural Research magazine.  What petals, you wonder?  Those of Pelargonium zonale – that’s right common, everyday geranium.  Scientists are analyzing specific extracts of geranium petals to determine which compounds stop the beetles in their tracks.  I wonder how I could entice Japanese beetles in my gardens to munch on geranium petals rather than roses, hibiscus, and other flowers?

The same issue of Agricultural Research reports the sequencing of the complete genome of Phytophthora infestans – potato late blight – the same pathogen that attacked so many tomato and potato crops in eastern U.S. gardens last season.  Sequencing allows scientists and researchers to better study how late blight works and seek ways to stop it.

Ever wonder where some of the most common varieties of strawberries come from?  At least three – Earliglow, Tribute, and Northeaster come to us via work done by the Agricultural Research Service.  Since I’m looking to build a strawberry bed into my new vegetable garden design I hope anyone with experience growing any of these varieties, or others, will pass on their experiences.

volunteer cherry tomatoes - Copy Finally, some stats from the Garden Writers Association offer demographic information on gardeners in the U.S.  Randomly conducted telephone surveys of nearly 600 people show:

  • 50 and 26%, respectively, have gardens in their back and front yards,
  • 54% of these purchase their spring garden plants from a local nursery/garden center, while 37% do so at big-box stores,
  • 37% go to retailers for advice on spring garden planning, 37% ask neighbors for advice, 34 and 31% gain advice from books and magazines, 29% use garden websites, and 7% use blogs for the same,
  • 66% who have a garden will grow vegetables – this is 2% more than in 2009,
  • of the respondents 31% were 35 to 44 years old, 17% were 45 to 54 years old, and 19% were 55 to 64 years old; 14% were younger than 34 and 18 percent were older than 65.

2 comments for “Newsy Gardens & Plants – April 16, 2010

  1. Sharon Waldrop
    April 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I am excited to see spring here and am happy to have found this blog. What type of flower are the purple ones at the header of this page? They are beautiful!

  2. joenesgarden
    April 21, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks, Sharon. The flower is a scabiosia, one of my favorites. A perennial hardy in zone 6. Blooms most of the summer into late fall.

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