Thursday, April 24, 2008

AAS Selections

Wow, we had a great turnout over the weekend for our seminars. Kim and Pam did a presentation on annuals and perennials, I did one on vegetables and herbs, and Kerry and Mike showed how to attract birds, butterflies and bees to your gardens. It was also our Art in the Garden art show, with lots of new artists and some of our favorites from previous shows.

In the news today was an article about the price of food, especially rice. One way to keep the food bill down and eat healthier at the same time is to plant a vegetable garden. Even if you don’t have a lot of room, many vegetables do well in containers or can be easily integrated into your existing annual and perennial beds. I have two half whiskey barrels on either side of my garage devoted to vegetables. I just planted a 4-pack of butterhead lettuce. In a couple of weeks I will add a tomato, an eggplant and a pepper, as well as a few herbs. It’s only me here so I really don’t need much. (Which brings up another subject: As some of you may know I am in the process of getting a divorce. The garden center is not the ideal place to meet single people so if you have an older brother or a younger uncle let me know. I was married to Mr. Ross for 25 years so obviously I’m not that picky.)

I have a few tips for when you are select plants or seeds for the vegetable garden. The first is look for the letters AAS. This stands for All-America Selection and means that it has been grown in trial gardens all over the US and has been judged to be superior in garden performance. Each year since 1933 the AAS organization has announced the winning varieties in several catagories: annual plant, annual bedding plant and vegetable.

There are three trial gardens in Illinois and 12 display gardens. The nearest display garden to Crystal Lake is L & M Gardens on Randall Road in St. Charles. Catigny Gardens in Wheaton is also a display garden. Per AAS rules, each display garden must hold an "open day," in which the public is invited to view the gardens and it must be publicized in the local media.

This year’s selection for vegetables is an eggplant, "Hansel." This eggplant produces finger sized clusters of fruit on a short, compact plant. The fruit mature about 10 days earlier than the comparison eggplant. If left on the plant the fruit continue to grow in size but remain tender and do not turn bitter. At less than three feet tall, this eggplant is great for containers.
Previous year’s winners include: pepper "Holy Mole," carrot "Purple Haze," eggplant "Fairy Tale," and a melon "Amy." To find out about these vegetable varieties and the winners of the annual plant and bedding plant winners go to
Here are two more websites with information on gardening: The Cornell University website has growing tips for all types of vegetables. They have also implemented a project so that everyday gardeners can rate individual varieties. You have to register and give your location if you want to post a comment, but you can browse the database without registering. If you want to try a new variety but aren't sure how it will perform, check out The University of Illinois also has a good web site with vegetable growing tips:

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