Park News May 2012

Let Those Kids Loose in the Dirt!

Let Those Kids Loose in the Dirt!Scientists are beginning to echo what gardeners have been saying for years: it's not only fun but healthy to play in the dirt, and today's children (especially girls) need it more than ever before!

Over the past half-century, allergies have dramatically increased in children, while time spent outdoors has decreased. And while there may not be a direct correlation, many experts believe that children who are exposed to soil-borne bacteria from an early age may develop stronger resistance to infection, and be less susceptible to autoimmune disorders.

Girls are still less likely than boys to play in the mud and scrabble in the dirt, perhaps due to lingering stereotypes about ladylike behavior -- or practical issues such as not wanting to "ruin" nice clothes. And certain autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus, are present in women at a much higher rate than in men. One conclusion? Growing up "too clean" may be unhealthy.

So what can you do? This summer, make sure the children in your life run through your sprinklers, dig in your garden, jump in at least one giant mud puddle, and prepare a tasty mud pie, complete with sticks and leaves. Ideally, every child should spend several hours outdoors each day. While that may not be practical year-round, summer is a great time to introduce kids to the joy of gardening . . . which, at any age, is really just the joy of playing in the dirt!

May is for Mother's Day

Tomato Garden in a PailAnd what does the gardening mom or grandma want this year? Why, the same thing as always, of course: plants, plants, plants! Oh, and also mulch, garden tools, and other new gizmos to try out this season!

Bring a smile to the face of any gardening woman with a box of bon bons... Garden Herbal Tea Collection Bon Bons, that is! These are little seed bombs that you just toss onto the garden soil, but they're shaped like delectable chocolates! Nicely wrapped, they're ready to slip onto the breakfast table (or into the wheelbarrow) of your favorite gardener.

Now that the weather is warming up for good, protect the gardener with our Wide Brim Shells Hat. Pretty and feminine, this hat keeps her well shaded as she works the soil.

This season we have a number of fun gardening collections she might enjoy. For the city gardener, apartment dweller, or tomato aficianado, gift the Tomato Garden in a Pail. It's got everything she needs to grow an heirloom cherry tomato in less than a foot of sunshine! And the Mother's Day Zinnia Kit is sweet and simple, entirely organic, and delightfully gift-packaged.

But what about the mom, grandma, or special woman who hasn't yet discovered the joy of gardening . . . but should?! Well, for her we have the Beginner's Flower Garden Collection of everything she needs to start super-easy annuals from seed. All she adds is water and sunshine!

Can't decide? There is always the best gift of all: her own choice! Give a Park Seed Gift Certificate and let her go wild selecting just-for-fun plants, seeds, and garden goodies! You can't go wrong, and it's such a sweet way to say, "Happy Mother's Day!"

Another Piece in the Colony Collapse Disorder Puzzle?

Bee Population DecreasingIn late March, a coalition of environmentalists and beekeepers requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suspend the use of a group of pesticides frequently found on crops pollinated by honeybees and bumblebees. It is suspected that these pesticides, called neonicotinoids, may contribute to the tremendous population losses bees have been suffering in recent years.

Interestingly, tests showed that while the levels of neonicotinoids used on commercial crops were not high enough to kill the bees, they may have led to detrimental behavior changes. Growth rates and reproduction levels in the colonies exposed to the pesticides in these tests were much lower than the norm, leading to speculation that in the case of bumblebees, fewer queen bees would be able to survive winter and start new colonies.

Studies have found that neonicotinoids may inhibit the homing ability of honeybees, which in turn makes them less likely to survive. Honeybees are critical for the pollination of food crops, and in recent years their population has been plummeting in a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

Many scientists believe that Colony Collapse Disorder is the result of the interaction of multiple factors, not a single issue. The EPA is currently investigating the possible role of neonicotinoids in the phenomenon.

What does this mean for the home gardener? Well, if you are still using commercial non-organic pesticides in your garden, check the label! Among the commonly used neonicotinoids are:

  • Acetamiprid
  • Clothianidin
  • Dinotefuran
  • Imidacloprid
  • Nitenpyram
  • Thiacloprid
  • Thiamethoxam
Better yet, switch to natural pest deterrents or learn to accept a certain level of pest activity in your garden. We are all proud of our plants and want them to grow their very best, but sometimes a little natural damage is preferable to the alternative!

Flower Day is Less than 2 Months Away!

June 23 will be here before we can turn around, and with it thousands of visitors to our trial gardens at Park Seed headquarters in Greenwood, South Carolina. Flower Day is part of the annual South Carolina Festival of Flowers, and the day that we welcome guests to our 9-acre trial gardens and Garden Center. The preparations continue...

We have just finished transplanting squash and tomatoes into our trial gardens. You might wonder why we begin squash seeds indoors, when they grow so readily from direct sowing. Well, to get the harvest ready in time for Flower Day, we start some seeds earlier than you might at home. Squash doesn't mind being transplanted, and it's already taking off in this week's warm weather.

The tomatoes are growing well, too. This is a bumper year for tomato entries in the All-America Selections: 5 new varieties are up! And there are more than 40 new tomatoes altogether in our gardens.

The sunny annuals planted last month are taking off, after a delay during a period of unseasonable cold. Any day now we'll see the first blooms of Zinnias in the gardens!

Do consider being our guest at Flower Day this year. Admission and all Park Seed events are free, and you're welcome to bring a picnic or buy food and drink from the local vendors we'll have on-site. Gardeners, photographers, nature lovers, and families gather at Park Seed on Flower Day, and we always have a great time!