You have heard of “Sweating to the Oldies” -- well, how about “Sweating in the Garden” this year at the 2012 Home Demonstration Garden Field Days? Sorry – but sweating in the garden is bound to happen this year with all our heat, even with evening field days. There is nothing like a little bit of “truth in advertising” right? But seriously, finding truth in advertising is what this series of field days is all about. Every year several ISU Research Farms host field days that showcase different vegetables and annual flowers to the public. We pick the plants and themes for the garden in the winter while perusing various gardening catalogs and websites. All we have to go by for selecting these plants are the pretty pictures and short paragraphs touting the novelty of each plant. So, we select some of the newest and most unusual and test them at each garden – six gardens this year. This means we can test for ourselves how accurate those descriptions really are for Iowa gardens.
Some of the themes for this year are: compact, space-saving plants; foliage plants; sweet corn; and several other new varieties of flowers and vegetables.
Vegetable gardens are rarely as big as the 80x40 foot garden at each Demonstration Farm. But since most gardeners try to pack in as many vegetables as possible, we showcase several of the veggies touted for compact, or bush type, habits. In this 20x40 foot section of the garden are 21 different space-saving vegetable varieties including zucchini ‘Elite’ and muskmelons ‘Honey Bun’ and ‘Minnesota Midget’ each of which uses less than half the garden space of regular sized varieties. Some of these varieties are touted as container tomatoes since they should consume such little space. One of our tomatoes is ‘Mega Bite’, which is supposed to produce medium-size fruit on compact plants. We shall see!
Despite the heat this is turning out to be a good year for foliage plants at the Demonstration Gardens. Flowering annuals in typical gardens or landscapes are suffering from our summer-long heat and drought. Our foliage plants are holding up well. Come check out the millets (‘Purple Majesty’ and ‘Jade Princess’), variegated sweet corn (‘Field of Dreams’), red leaf cotton, Alternanthera (‘Purple Knight’), and a few ornamental peppers (‘Black Pearl’, Purple Flash’, and ‘Tricolor’).
Yes – sweet corn is back in the Home Demonstration Garden! We have devoted a quarter of the garden to it – just so we can taste it at the field day! That is our plan, anyway, with the new “augmented type” of sweet corn. These augmented types of sweet corn combine the traits of the sugar-enhanced and super sweet varieties into one. We will taste test the three varieties on display and find one we like.
Who knew that in the winter while looking through catalogs for ideas for this year’s garden we would end up selecting several heat and drought tolerant plants? This is turning out to be the perfect year to test their mettle. Look for the new varieties of rose moss, marigold, and Agastache to perform well across the state this year. The other new varieties of annuals, such as wishbone flower and coleus, may not be fairing quite as well. Also check out the new vegetable varieties of tomato (‘Red Bounty’ and ‘Tasty Lee’), pepper (‘Delirio’ and ‘Cayennetta’), cucumber (‘Gold Standard’), and spaghetti squash (‘Pinnacle’) to see how they are holding up to oppressive summer heat.
Field Days and Locations
Regardless of the heat – each of the following sites below will be hosting a field day. There should be plenty of water, a shady spot to gather, and hopefully a few tasty treats from the garden. Fortunately, gardeners are a tough breed and a little hot weather shouldn’t deter them from visiting a Home Demonstration Gardens nearby. Where else can you check out some potential flower and vegetable additions for their garden next year and sweat a little at the same time?
July 24, 6pm, Lyon Co Fair Grounds, Rock Rapids
August 2, 6:30pm, Armstrong Research Farm, Lewis*
August 7, 6:30 pm, Muscatine Island Research Farm, Fruitland*
August 8, 6:30 pm, Horticulture Research Station, Gilbert*
August 9, 6:30 pm, Northern Research Farm, Kanawha
August 11, 4pm, Northeast Research Farm, Nashua
Sidebar: At the 3 gardens highlight above - BioChar, a byproduct of biorenewable fuels, will be also be featured as a potential soil amendment.