Seasonal Gardening: Public Gardens Supply a Local Source of Unusual Plants

The Seasons of the Garden column shares seasonal gardening news briefs, including local sources of unusual plants that can be found through visits to public gardens.

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    Don't eat bitter squash! On rare occasions, a zucchini or a yellow straightneck plant will produce quite bitter fruits.

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The Seasons of the Garden column shares seasonal gardening information and tips with MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers, including a suggestion to visit public gardens where growers and staff members often help home gardeners obtain starts to unusual plants. 


How many times have you tried unsuccessfully to locate a commercial source for some interesting plant you saw in a nearby public garden or arboretum? Perhaps you've not thought about trying to obtain that seed, cutting, or graft from the obvious source—the garden where you saw it! We have found that both large private growers and staff members at public gardens are usually eager to aid home gardeners in securing starts of hard-to-find plants.

If you are an amateur seeking aid, it's very important to do your "homework" on the appropriate propagation techniques for the plants you're interested in. And you must cooperate fully with the donors. This means no collecting without asking! You should not bother other gardeners for starts of common plants, of course; nor should you ask for patented or otherwise protected materials.

You'll find extraordinary educational benefits from interacting with experienced growers; most of these people are all but bubbling over with new ideas, tips, and useful suggestions. Just remember: After you've established your own private garden with the aid of local professionals, you have an obligation to help other gardeners get plant starts!


If the squash is bitter, don't eat it. On rare occasions, a zucchini or a yellow straightneck plant will produce quite bitter fruits. According to horticulturists at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, bitter squash has high concentrations of cucurbitacin E, which is highly toxic to humans and which probably results from chance reversions to ancestral forms or from pollination by wild species. Because even a tiny amount of cucurbitacin E can be harmful, don't eat any squash that has a bitter taste; instead, save its seeds and send them to the Horticulture Department at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (Auburn University, Auburn, AL) to aid research on the causes of bitter squash.

"Dry light" for stored potatoes. If you've had trouble in the past with the sprouting of stored potatoes, take a tip from Canadian researchers: Store your tubers in a place that is not in total darkness and where the humidity is as low as possible. In experiments at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, sprout growth of potatoes stored at room temperature was significantly reduced by keeping relative humidity at 40% and by providing moderate light (typical indoor lighting or a room with daylight is fine, but avoid direct sunlight).



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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