By Cindy Haynes
Iowa State University Extension
While gardening might not be foremost on your mind this year because of the floods, it might make it to the top of your list in the near future as the cost of produce continues to rise. Growing a garden is generally pretty easy -- when Mother Nature cooperates, that is.
One of the reasons I like gardening is that it engages all the senses. You see beautiful flowers, smell wonderful flowers or herbs, hear birds, bees and other wildlife nearby, touch plants as you tend or harvest them and ultimately taste the fruits of your labor. Let this year’s Home Demonstration Gardens be a garden for your senses.
The Home Demonstration Gardens feature many new and unusual vegetables and annual flowers each year. Featured plants this year include heirloom and modern hybrid tomatoes. If the timing is right you’ll get the opportunity to sample different cultivars of each so you can select one or two cultivars for your garden next year. At least eight cultivars each of heirloom tomatoes and modern hybrids are planted at the Demo Gardens. Many gardeners consider heirloom tomatoes to be some of the best tasting tomatoes available. Take the taste comparison. Try some of the newer hybrids noted for taste and see how they compare to the heirlooms.
Another feature for our sense of taste is personal-sized watermelons. Who doesn’t love the smaller watermelons that fit easily into your refrigerator or the watermelon that is the perfect size for just one or two people? We are growing eight different cultivars that vary in fruit size from three to 15 pounds. Surely there is a small fruited watermelon that will work in your garden next year. With a little warmer (and drier) weather, we should be sampling a few at some of our field days.
For our sense of smell, the garden contains a wide assortment of herbs. Nothing “spices” up your meals better than fresh herbs. We have nine cultivars of basil, four cultivars of thyme, three cultivars of parsley, three cultivars of dill and a sampling of sage, fennel, cilantro, chives, mint, oregano and marjoram for your nose and mouth to sample.
For your eyes, we have flowers. Spreading or groundcover petunias will provide a brilliantly colored carpet of blooms. Over a dozen species of cut flowers are showcased at the garden. Another feature will be plants with green or greenish flowers. Green is one of the few flower colors that is hard to find in the garden.
Come to this year’s Home Demonstration Garden Field Days for your chance to hear about, touch, see, smell and taste all the plants in the garden. For directions to the research farm nearest you visit http://www.ag.iastate.edu/farms/ or your local Iowa State University Extension county office.