GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show40
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Show #40

This week we visit Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG). Tiffany Jones, a gardener at ABG, shows us around the Children's Garden. The corn, which is doing very well, is Early Bird Corn. It is a yellow corn that was planted in early May. She planted 6 rows of corn because the more rows you have the better the pollination. Pollination is much better with 6 rows of corn versus 1 or 2 rows of corn. That's because pollination wouldn't occur as well. Insects and wind pollinate the corn. The corn wouldn't fill out as much, you might get half an ear or the kernels would only be on one side. The corn silks are actually pollination tubes and they aid in the fertilization of the corn. Each tube goes to an individual kernel and is responsible for filling up the corn as it grows.

Growing weird and unusual vegetables is one way to get children interested in vegetable gardening. Tiffany shows us a pole bean called Asparagus Yard Long. These pods can reach 3 feet long. She planted it in early May and it's blossoming in July. It's edible, they're delicious and unusual.

One problem with growing vegetables is pests and insects. One can help keep them at bay without pesticides. Tiffany uses Marigolds, scented Geraniums and types of Cuban Oregano, because their strong odor deters bugs. Although they may spray lightly, it greatly reduces pesticide usage. These plants are beautiful, they add color and they help control bugs.

Tomatoes are a mainstay in most southern gardens. But for many centuries Tomatoes were considered poisonous because most parts, other than the fruit - the roots, the stem and leaves - are poisonous. Tiffany shows Dr. Rick an unusual Tomato called the Tomato Tree. It was planted in early May, it is slow to produce fruit, but the plant is rapidly growing. It could be used as a specimen plant in a vegetable garden or even your yard.

You don't need a lot of room to grow Tomatoes. Tiffany has Heirloom Tomatoes growing in a container. Heirloom Tomatoes are old-time seeds, known for their quality, they have been around for years and they don't have many disease problems. She started the plant when it was 2-3 inches tall in a smaller pot, then moved it to a larger pot. She has staked the plant with Elespedisa, a hard wood available on the grounds of ABG. It is hard to cut but makes a perfect staking apparatus. You can have a small pot on a patio or apartment and still get enough Tomatoes for a whole family. The plant shown has already yielded 15 or 20 Tomatoes and the growing season is far from over. Since it is in a container Tiffany pays extra attention to fertilizing and watering. She waters every day and uses a liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks. Although the plant is in a terra cotta container, it might not be the best pot. Because it is so porous it makes evaporation more of a problem, but it looks good.

Another unusual plant in this garden is Cat Whiskers, Thosiphom Staminenus. It is unique looking and it resembles a cat's whiskers.

Many think sponges come from the sea and many do. Tiffany shows us a plant that produces a sponge, the Luffa Gourd Sponge. The plant has rather large leaves and a sturdy stem, with tendrils all over that it uses for climbing and wrapping around anything. The flower is a bright yellow, that when fertilized yields an actual sponge. The pod will have a thick skin, let it dry, then peel off the skin and the sponge is actually within the skin of the gourd. One commonly sees this sponge in stores on the cosmetics isle, they're used for scrubbing in the bathtub. The Luffa Sponge Plant.

Peanut Butter doesn't come from the grocery shelf but from a Peanut plant. We look at peanuts growing in the ground and actually pull peanuts out of the soil. This segment shows the plant and the peanut.

Kevin Mercer is the Youth Programs Coordinator at ABG. One of his responsibilities is to take care of the Honey Conservatory Hive, the Bee Hive. This shows the relationship between insects and flowers and how they depend on one another. There is a serious decline in pollinators across the country. Kevin is able to raise bees, keep them growing and pollinate the garden at ABG. The bees are contained in a glass area and enter and exit in the back, staying away from people. Bees in a colony have tasks similar to people. Some bees are worker bees, their job is to keep the hive clean. One bee in the colony is taking a larva that has not developed to the bottom of the hive where it will be worked out through the back. There is a hierarchy in the colony. The newer bees, those just born, have different jobs than bees around for 2-3 weeks. The newer bees clean up the house, the older bees will forage, bringing back nectar to the hive. The bees communicate with one another through what Kevin calls the "waggle dance." This dance helps them tell others where the best nectar is located, what to expect when they get to that flower that's producing sweet nectar and where the food is located. Bees have an average life span in peak honey season of about 6 weeks long. The lower level of the hive is where the brood or offspring is produced. At the top of the hive the honey is stored in the honeycomb. Honey is made this way. The bees forage for nectar, they bring that nectar back to the hive, they then regurgitate it or pass it on. The honey is stored in the honey stomach, there enzymes mix with the nectar, then the bee regurgitates it to one of the honeycombs. The bees can fill a honeycomb in a matter of days. The bees fan their wings to evaporate any water or moisture out of the honey and what is left is honey. And as we know it has an excellent, sweet taste.

Ron Gagliardo is the Curator of Tropical Collections at ABG. There are numerous large terrariums at ABG and oftentimes people want to know, how would I build one at home? There are different uses for a terrarium in ones home. They are suitable for a pet, a frog, lizard, snake or spider, for example. It may be one wants the enjoyment of building a complete enclosed ecosystem that can be closely monitored. These could be built in any number or size of container, anything from a Mason Jar to a five hundred gallon aquarium and anything in between. Ron shows us some of the pieces necessary for building an aquarium and how they might go together. A terrarium attempts to duplicate an ecosystem in an enclosed container. It contains plants and air and water, soil, all the different components of a normal ecosystem. For the soil he mixes fine charcoal, milled Spaghnum Moss, fine Fir Bark, Orchid Bark and Peat Moss. Mix these together in a one to one to one mixture, this is the substrate. Next, add appropriate plant material, shade tolerant, tropical house plants like Caladeas, smaller Bromeliads, plants in the Aerum Family - like Caladium - all do well. Tropical Mosses like Sellaganilla will creep across the bottom of the tank and make nice ground cover. For a flowering plant use African Violet relatives like Persea, although it requires ample light. Ron uses props like cork bark, rocks or stones or pieces of tree limbs. A terrarium is enclosed so it's important to ensure proper drainage under the soil mix, thus he adds a layer of charcoal in the bottom. The above mentioned soil mix is very acidic and will last a long time under very wet conditions. Since it is well drained you can add Ephephytic plants like Bromeliads directly into the substrate. Once the substrate is placed in the tank the design then becomes a personal choice or preference. Ron adds Sellaganilla, Creeping Moss in the front, it grows horizontally across the surface and makes a little canopy. He then adds the Caladium, it's a little taller, has larger leaves that act as a backdrop, thus he places it in the corner, at the back. For hardscaping he adds Cork Bark, but pieces of tree limbs or rocks or pebbles also work. A small Bromeliad is added, it won't get much larger so he places it in the center of the tank. The Persea, since
it flowers is placed front and center. He places a carpet of moss all over the floor of the tank. Long Fiber Spahgnum Moss is used to top dress. Ron then sprinkles with water, it will help settle soil particles around the roots of the plants. Excess water will accumulate in the bottom of the tank but it won't keep the plants too soggy because of the charcoal layer. We want to keep the tank humid and moist so a plastic lid is added. It's important to have holes in the lid so the tank doesn't overheat. The only thing missing from the ecosystem is light. There are several ways to light it, put it in a sunny window sill or use a florescent light, either way the tank will require 8-10 hours of light per day for the plants to flourish
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