Gardeners, Do You Know the National Garden Bureau?

Last year, a lot of people started gardening–and a lot of gardeners tried other types of gardening for the first time.

To assist with this, the National Garden, a non-profit organization which describes itself as one “whose mission is to disseminate basic instructions for backyard gardeners and those who want to garden, that will inspire them to spend more time outdoors, enjoying all nature has to offer. ”  (That quote comes directly from their web site, by the way), put together a series last spring all about vegetable and fruit gardening for beginners. It was fun and informative and helpful.

What else does this organization do? Well, every year it showcases 5 plants–an annual, a bulb, a perennial, an herb and a vegetable that it selects as its “plants of the year.” This year its plants are sunflower, hyacinth, hardy hibiscus, monarda, and green bean. I don’t always find that its plants are the easiest to grow or the most trouble free, but that’s a story for a different post.

It also spotlights AAS winners, which are generally annuals and vegetables that have been trialed in AAS trial gardens and been found superior for a particular trait. If you click on the photo of the plant they are featuring, they will tell you why that plant is an AAS winner: generally it is more heat tolerant, or drought resistant, or disease resistant than others like it. So it is a good way to find out about new varieties of plants that are coming to market.

One thing to be aware of though is where the plant was trialed.  Generally they are trialed in a number of places, but often they might say, “this is a tomato bred for the heat of southern gardens.” That’s a cue to me that I don’t want to try to grow it in Connecticut–I just don’t have the necessary heat–at least most years! I also probably don’t have a long enough growing season. So why should I set myself up for failure?

It’s always great to experiment and to try to grow things that you’re curious about and you wonder if you can “push the envelope” a little bit with, especially when it comes to things like annuals and seeds which aren’t too expensive. If however, you know something needs a long growing season (bred for the heat of southern gardens) and you’re up north, maybe you want to try something with a shorter growing season just so you’re not disappointed–or buying your tomatoes at the farmer’s market (although there’s nothing wrong with supporting local farmers too!)

So check out the National Garden Bureau for some tips and new varieties. You’ll be sure to learn something!


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