The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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What’s an AAS Winner, You Ask?

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Pelagonium x hortum “Pinto Premium White to Rose” geranium. Image courtesy of All-America Selections.

I’m hopeful one of my patio containers will include Pelargonium x hortum “Pinto Premium White to Rose,” a 2013 All-America Selection bedding plant winner. I received a packet of the geranium seed last year and am doing my best to start the seeds to later be transplanted to a patio container.

My beloved VegTrug is home to Artwork broccoli, Amanda lettuce and Green Beret spinach. Artwork is an AAS winner as well. As I also mentioned in a prior post, I’m volunteering to help grow a vegetable container garden at work.  These too will be planted with some AAS winners.

My familiarity with AAS is limited to viewing the flower and vegetable Display Garden at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Beyond strolling past the beds and looking at the selections, I never took the time to understand the organization’s purpose. All-America Selections officially describes itself as an educational, non-profit that evaluates new seed-grown flowers and vegetables from around the world.

Their web site told me much more. First, AAS is independent. Since the 1930s the organization has set about earning gardeners’ trust and promoting varieties by testing new, unsold varieties. Annually they conduct impartial trials all over North America so that gardeners can have an understanding of what grows well locally. Winners are named three times a year: January, July and November. Of course there are multiple divisions in the Flower, Bedding Plant, Vegetable, and Cool Season Bedding Plant categories, such as ornamental veg, edible, perennial. You get the idea.

Winning seed meets criteria for important qualities such as pest or virus resistance, early or late blooming, length of blooming (tops on my list!), novel colors, flower forms and yield.

How important is AAS to you when making garden selections?

 

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Veggie Connections

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My VegTrug looks empty now, but lettuce, spinach and broccoli should pop up soon.

Some of my posts have mentioned visits to the Missouri Botanical Garden, which happens to be in my backyard, figuratively speaking. MoBot, locals call it, is the place I go with friends to stroll through its many gardens, listen to summer concerts and enjoy multiple annual events.

My backyard is also home to seed company Monsanto. This controversial company also happens to be my employer. As regular readers know, that’s not what blog is about. I only bring it up in this post because working at a seed company has its advantages. I’m not sure I’d be interested in backyard gardening if I didn’t work in agriculture.

Yet, my gardening hobby has not been about my experiences in growing fruits or vegetables. I’m more focused on shrubs and flowers. There’s no doubt, however, that working in agriculture has focused my thoughts on food and the very necessary dialogue taking place around what goes into the foods we eat.

But that’s not what this post is about either.

Actually, it’s about a conversation with a woman named Sue whom I sat next to on a bus during the 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto last summer. Sue’s company, Bonnie’s Plants, is an herb and vegetable plant company as well as one of the sponsors of the Fling. Sue shared with me the joy she gets from vegetable gardening. I told her vegetable gardening pretty well terrifies me. I had tried growing veggies here and there over the years with little success. In fact, last year’s patio tomatoes resulted in nothing more than half-eaten orbs chomped on by squirrels.  Sue assured me that I needed to start with the right vegetable, something easy to grow like lettuce or spinach or other cold season crops. Coincidentally, weeks later I was given some vegetable seeds to try. It was too late to do anything with them so I hung on to them.

Seed packets (960x1280)Throughout the winter, I revisited the Fling in my mind, sorted through the hundreds of photos and I took and recalled the people I met as I contemplated my garden and what to do in it this year. I don’t think I will try tomatoes any time soon, but I am taking the plunge this year and planting a few cold season veggies. And I plan to follow those with some peppers.

Last week my red felt Lee Valley VegTrug was delivered. (Lee Valley was another sponsor of this fine event and I have really enjoyed using the garden tools they gave the bloggers.) Into this elevated planter on legs went lettuce, spinach and broccoli seeds. I was told I could sow them directly into the soil, so fingers crossed.  I’ll report back on my progress.

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The VegTrug from Lee Valley was easy to assemble. I love the poppy red.

In come the benefits of working for a seed company.  On a regular basis, I am in contact with experts in agronomy, soil sciences, weeds, insects and plants. Passionate people who know a thing or two about growing things. A couple of colleagues who are aware of this blog invited me to volunteer to help plant a Seminis vegetable garden on campus. Planning is well under way for 20 large vegetable containers. The “team” is made up of all sorts of talent from agronomists to marketers to administrative assistants, and we share a common love of growing things. We’ll face many of the same challenges as my backyard—squirrels, rabbits, deer and watering. Along the way, I’m hoping to meet new colleagues and get some expert advice on my own vegetable gardening experiment.

 

Do you grow vegetables?