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November 2017
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Trial tomatoes provide tasty treats from the garden

‘Gladiator’ tomato is a large, meaty, Roma-type that was very prolific. Photo courtesy burpee.com

I only grew trial tomato plants this year and the results were fantastic. This was probably one of the best tomato years I’ve had.

By far, the top performer was Gladiator, a large, meaty, paste tomato that makes a lot of other Roma types look wimpy. This oval fruit, which weighs about 8 ounces and easily fills the hand, is delicious in soups, salsas, sauces or sliced onto homemade pizza.

The prolific Gladiator started producing in midsummer and kept on into October. I had so many that I had to give them away. I’d already frozen all that my freezer would hold. Look for Gladiator seedlings next spring at garden centers and through Burpee, which also has seeds.

In late June, Red Racer tomatoes were sent to trial along with the promise that I’d have tomatoes by Labor Day. Indeed there were, juicy red fruits right on time. Red Racer has been named a 2018 All-America Selections winner, so seeds and plants should be available next spring. Seeds can be found at High Mowing Seeds.

‘Red Racer’ was late to arrive for its trial in the garden this summer, but it produced quite well. Photo courtesy All-AmericaSelections.org

Called a cocktail tomato, Red Racer’s fruit measures about 1½ inch diameter and weighs 2-ounces, making it larger than a grape or cherry tomato. Stuff it with cheese or other filling for cocktail treats.

With an average of 68 tomatoes per plant, Red Racer is a prolific producer, and at only 3 feet tall, does not require staking, making it a good candidate for growing in a pot on the patio, balcony or deck. Or, use as an edible-ornamental in a flowerbed. It had a low acid, sweet flavor.

Little Bing cherry tomato produced all aummer. Photo courtesy burpee.com

In the cherry tomato category, Little Bing was the earliest to give me a tomato, and it continued producing all summer. It was sweet and a nice size for snacking with ½ to 1-ounce size fruits. At only 2 feet tall, Little Bing also is perfect for a pot. Seeds are available at Totally Tomatoes.

Don’t be afraid to try new things in the garden, even tomatoes. You might just find some new tasty treats.

 

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Indy’s All-America Selections Display Garden wins 1st place

The Purdue Extension Marion County All-America Selections Display Garden won first place in its category in 2017. Photo courtesy Steve Mayer

Since 2013, Marion County Master Gardeners and other volunteers have designed, planted, tended and harvested the All-America Selections Display Garden on the grounds of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Last year alone, they contributed nearly 2,000 hours working in the garden or interacting with visitors.

Their hard work has paid off. The garden garnered AAS’ first place award in the Foodscaping Landscape Design Challenge in the 10,000 to 100,000 visitors per year category for 2017.

Dozens of All-America Selections award-winning flowers, vegetables and herbs are grown in the garden. The garden also demonstrates various techniques, such as tomato supports, vertical gardening methods, cover crops, types of raised beds and ways to keep insects off of plants. It’s the perfect place to see and appreciate beauty and learn about plants and practices we can use in our gardens.

This year’s garden featured 110 AAS winners, about 30 more than previous years, primarily because there were more early, cool-season plants. Photo courtesy Steve Mayer

This year’s theme illustrated the foodscaping trend of mixing ornamental and edible plants in garden beds. Master Gardeners volunteered 1,058 hours in the garden in 2016. This year’s hours are still being counted.

The 2017 design featured edibles used in landscape beds and flowers with vegetables in raised beds, said Steve Mayer, Purdue Extension-Marion County horticulture educator and coordinator of the AAS Display Garden.

Among the judges’ comments: “Fantastic job for a new garden entry. Flower and veg integration were great. Good use of incorporating edibles into a landscape. Real life application for the end user.”

Among the ornamental-edible plants featured were Candle Fire okra and Hot Sunset pepper. Three pumpkin vines did double-duty as a ground cover under a newly planted tree. All the plants are labeled. One tip: Whenever you visit a garden, take a photo of the plant and its label with the camera on your phone for future reference.

Nearly 13,000 people visited the All-America Selections Display Garden during the Indiana State Fair. Photo courtesy Catherine Corbin

“Foodscaping is not a topic we often address,” Mayer said. “However, the All-America Selections theme this year allowed us to show people that gardens can be both beautiful and edible.”

The food grown in the AAS Display Garden doesn’t go to waste. In 2016, 604 pounds of food was donated to area food banks. This year’s donation is still being tallied, Mayer said.

The garden is on the north side of the fairgrounds, near the Department of Natural Resources building. It is open to the public during the growing season. Access to the garden is usually free, except during the fair. Tell the gatekeepers that you are visiting the Marion County Demonstration Garden and they should let you pass. During this year’s fair, 12,980 people visited the garden.

 

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Hardy cyclamen and a tough Bidens brighten the landscape

 

 

Cyclamen hederifolium. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

 

You know how forgetful we can be. Forget what we planted and when, for instance. Mother Nature pulls through for us, though.

A few weeks ago while weeding, I glimpses a patch of small pink flowers barely visible under the White Dome hydrangea.

It took me several minutes to remember the flowers were hardy cyclamen (C. hederifolium). I planted the corms a year ago for late summer and fall blooming perennials that thrive in shade. This plant is hardy to USDA Zone 5, which includes northern Indiana to Indianapolis’ northern suburbs.

The foliage of a hardy Cyclamen hederifolium is attractive in its own right. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

We’re already familiar with the florist cyclamen (C. persicum), usually found in garden centers and florists around holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. It is sold primarily as a gift plant or short-lived, but long-blooming houseplant. These houseplants have large, showy flowers, but are not winter hardy and they are a challenge to get to rebloom. Some gardeners plant these outdoors in spring and summer to edge a flower bed or they tuck them into containers.

Another cyclamen (C. coum) also is considered winter hardy to USDA Zone 6, which includes central and southern Indiana. This one blooms early to midwinter.

Look for hardy cyclamen in bulb catalogs.

Tough-as-nail annual

Bidens used to be a don’t-bother-to-plant annual, because it was such a weak grower, spindly and just unhappy.

In the last few years, plant breeders have bolstered bidens, improving the flower power and overall toughness.

The annual ‘Blazing Glory’ bidens has blazed right through summer in a touch spot without fail. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The best example this year is ‘Blazing Glory’ bidens, which has bloomed orange-yellow flowers all summer with only periodic attention from the hose. It sits in a newly planted area, a gravel garden of sorts, designed by Wendy Ford of Landscape Fancies for low-water plants and soil retention.

‘Blazing Glory’ has been holding its own at the tough corner of this bed where it meets the asphalt driveway in blazing hot sun. The trash can has been thrown at it at least twice this summer. ‘Blazing Glory’ has been a trouper and I look forward to growing it again next summer. Other fine varieties to consider: ‘Campfire Fireburst’ and Beedance series.

Give bidens a chance. Experiment with different varieties and I’m sure you’ll find one suited for your landscape or pot.

November garden checklist

Indoors

  • Houseplant growth will slow so apply less fertilizer and water.
  • Move plants closer to windows or to sunnier exposures if plants are dropping leaves.
  • Potted hyacinth.

    Potted hyacinth.

    Pot up spring-flowering bulbs with tips exposed to force blooms indoors. Moisten soil and refrigerate 10 to 13 weeks. Transfer to a cool sunny location and allow an additional three to four weeks for blooming.

  • Continue to keep poinsettias in complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily until early December or until red bracts begin to show. For more information, download Purdue University’s The Poinsettia.

General Landscape

  • Mow lawn as needed.
  • Rake or shred large fallen leaves and compost them with other lawn and garden debris. For more information about creating a compost pile, download the pamphlet: Making Compost From Yard Waste from Virginia Tech.

    Toss plant debris from fall cleanup into the compost heap. (C) Fotolia

    Toss plant debris from fall cleanup into the compost heap. (C) Fotolia

  • Continue watering gardens, shrubs and trees if rainfall doesn’t reach an inch or more every week or 10 days. It’s important for plants to go into cold weather with adequate moisture.
  • Erect physical barriers around woody plants and trees if rabbits, rodents or deer are a problem. Metal mesh (1/4-inch) hardware cloth is good for this. Pull mulch away from trunks to discourage rodents from making a winter home there.
  • Remove dead or diseased branches from trees and shrubs.
  • November is the second best month to fertilize the lawn with natural products. Late fall fertilizing with products keeps the lawn green going into winter and boosts encourages it to green up earlier inspring. Always read and follow the label directions of the natural product you use. 
  • Prepare new beds now for planting next spring. The soil is usually easier to work in the falland fall-prepared beds allow for earlier plantings inspring. Beds may be mulched with compost, chopped leaves or other organic material during the winter, if desired. Avoid fall tilling when there’s a chance of soil erosion.
  • Continue planting container grown and balled-and-burlapped plants as long asground can be worked and weather permits. Mulch well. Keep watering new plantings until ground freezes.
  • Protect graft union on rose bushes by mounding soil around the plants and adding mulch on top. Wait until after several killing frosts so that plants will be dormant. Plants covered too early may be smothered. Don’t use soil from around the plant. Instead, buy bags of top soil and use that.
  • live-christmas-tree-istock_000002559385Prepare hole if you plan to use a “live” Christmas tree (one that is balled-and-burlapped). Mulch the area heavily to prevent freezing or dig the hole and put the fill in a protected area that won’t freeze, such as a garage or basement. For details, check out Purdue’s Living Christmas Trees for the Holidays and Beyond.

Vegetables and Fruits

  • Continue harvesting vegetables that have not been killed by frost.
  • Clean up and discard fallen leaves and fruit around plants to reduce disease carrier over.