This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Biodegradable Pots, Marrows and Apple Diversity

Pots from manure and paper

A new kind of environmentally friendly plant pot, that is nutrient-rich and rapidly biodegradable, has been launched in Taiwan. Other than providing a solution to livestock waste management, this novel idea could also serve to enhance awareness of environmental protection among Taiwanese people, said Koh Meeng-ter (Kuo), the owner of the patent of this new technology, and the head of the Livestock Management Department at the Livestock Research Institute in Taipei. The pots are made from a mixture of pig manure and paper, and are apparently already receiving wide acclaim from environmentalists, gardeners and florists.

Traditionally the manure from pigs is piled into a compost heap. Each pig produces around 0.01kg of dry sludge per day. Taiwan has enough pigs (6.8 million) to generate around dry 68,000kg of dry sludge per day. In the past, other than turning it into compost, there was no other way of dealing with animal waste. So Kuo decided to utilise the dehydrated sludge made from pig manure, and to mix it with paper pulp in a ratio of four to six, to produce pots with diameters of 5 mm (2 in) and 89mm (3.5 in). Kuo calculated that if an 89 mm pot weighed 17g, it contained up to 7g of dry sludge. The advantage of using this type of pot is that it is rich in all types of nutrients and decomposes within three to seven days. "When using it, the gardener does not have to remove the plant, just plant the whole pot directly into the soil", he said. Kuo added that he was prepared to share his methods with others. So watch out for these pots at a garden centre near you soon!

Green bush marrow

Yesterday I had quite a surprise. I posted a note on this blog about the UK Marrowthon, a fun fund-raising competition for growing vegetable marrows - just scroll down to yesterday’s blog to read it. However, it was not any reaction to the competition that caused my surprise, but those gardeners, especially American members of the GardenMessenger Yahoo group, who had never heard of a marrow. Having spent quite a lot of time in the United States I am aware of the confusion that Europeans have over squashes, and also differences between the popular naming of courgette and zucchini, but I never imagined that marrows would cause any excitement. So today, for those who want to know a little about these plants and the related courgettes (yes they really should be called courgettes as ‘Zucchini’ is merely one cultivar ) I offer a short presentation.

There is quite a range of marrow and courgette cultivars, but all require the same culture. The common green marrow is divided into two kinds; bush and trailing. The bush kind is the most popular because it is a compact plant with a predictable spread. The trailing kind goes wandering off and can cover several metres of ground. This is the one commonly used for planting on a finished compost heap which is rotting down prior to dispersal in the autumn. The bush types are known as ‘Bush Green’ and ‘Bush White’, while the trailing sort is ‘Trailing Green’. There are other cultivars, including the superb, evenly fruiting F1 ‘Zebra Cross’, and the Rugby ball-shaped ‘Twickenham’. However, the basic green and white skinned kinds are perfectly adequate for most gardeners. There are also Custard Marrows. These have fleshy discus-like fruits in white and yellow which are excellent for cooking like traditional marrows. For the most sophisticated there is a Vegetable Spaghetti, a marrow-like plant with typical marrow-like yellowish or pinkish fruits which after cooking are opened up to reveal a spaghetti like interior. In North America these are often called Spaghetti Squash.

Green courgette

Courgettes are really prolifically fruiting marrows which are harvested in their juvenile state. They are also grown for their flowers which are used in fashionable cooking. As with the marrows there is a ‘Green Bush’ cultivar. It looks similar, but is different from the marrow. The traditional trailing sort is the dark green fruited ‘Zucchini’ and its yellow counterpart known as ‘Yellow Zucchini’. Marrows and courgettes are usually sown under glass or on the window ledge in the UK between mid-April and mid-May. The seeds are sown individually in small pots of good seed compost and pot grown until it is safe to plant out once the danger of frost has passed, usually during late May or early June. They must be grown in an open sunny position in a richly organic soil and kept well watered during dry spells. Courgettes should be harvested regularly as they develop, but marrows, while best eaten on the point of maturity, can be stored for the winter in a cool frost-free place if unblemished and fully mature at harvest time.

Diversity in the apple collection

The results of United States Department of Agriculture sponsored visits by scientists to Europe and Asia over recent years are starting to bring their rewards. Especially trips that were made to the central Asian republic of Kazakstan. Here many collections were made, and returned to the United States, of a local apple species, Malus sieversii, one of the forerunners of the modern domestic apple. According to the scientists, the Kazak trees showed significant resistance to apple scab - the most important fungal disease of apples - as well as to fire blight. They were highly resistant against Phytophthora cactorum, which causes collar rot, and Rhizoctonia solani, an agent of apple re-plant disease. Researchers have also found genes in the Kazak apples that allow them to adapt to mountainous, near-desert, and cold and dry regions.


Gerrondo Gerberas
The Gerrondo Gerbera is an entirely new type of flower which will be available during the next few months. The individual blooms differs from traditional gerberas by virtue of their unique spherical shape and huge number of petals – 450-500 - to a single bloom. Although the flower of this new strain is similar in shape to a dahlia, the overall appearance is quite different. The first series of Gerrondos has been named Terra Universe. The prefix in the name being a reference to the breeder Terra Nigra, and the suffix to the unusual spherical shape of the blossoms. The cultivars within the series have been named after planets, the pink-flowered ‘Terra Saturnus’ (illustrated) being the first to become available. The series contains six other colours: white, yellow, red, orange, cream and purple.


Journées de la Rose
9th-11th June
Royal Abbey of Chaalis,
Oise, France
Contact: Nathalie Darzac
Tel: +33 (0)144414340
Web-site click here.

Happy Gardening



Today’s Sponsor

Pots: Taipei Times
Marrow and courgette: Suttons Seeds
Apples: USDA
Gerbera: Flower Council Holland

If you have enjoyed this publication, you may also like to visit the monthly SeedMessenger gardeners’ seed saving and seed exchange blog click here.
and the weekly water gardening blog PondMessenger click here.

To join the GardenMessenger gardening community
click here

To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
click here

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