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June 9, 2000     Cape Gazette
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June 9, 2000

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72 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, June 9 - June 15, 2000 G00ARDEN &amp; FARM "- ---, ... Grasscyclir00g t)roves better for }00our lawn By Jim Neidner Between April and November, homeowners spend much of their free time caring for their lawn. This means regular mowing, an activity that some people enjoy as exercise but most find a chore. Like it or not, however, mowing the lawn is part of home mainte- nance and needs to be done regu- larly to keep up the value of your property. While standard practice used to mean raking the clippings and putting them in plastic bags for disposal, the current trend in lawn care is "grasscycling." What is "grasscycling"? Actually, it's not new. It's what homeowners did for years and is just now enjoying a revival. Grasscycling is the natural recy- cling of grass clippings from your lawn. Simply put, it means letting the clippings lie on your lawn where they can recycle into the soil. You don't need a special mower to make grasscycling work. When you mow, don't use a catch bag and don't rake the clip- pings when you're done. Thirty years ago, it was widely believed that grass clippings caused thatch and that removing them slowed thatch development. Since then, multiple studies have shown that thatch is composed of grassioots, not blades of grass. There are lots of good reasons to start grasscycling. Besides slowing the development of thatch, grasscycling improves lawn quality and saves time, work and money. Consider the follow- ing: Studies conducted with home- owners who stopped bagging their clippings found that grasscyclers spent an average of seven hours less on yard work during the grass-cutting season because they didn't spend any time bagging the clippings. Grasscyclers save money on fertilizer, trash bags, and reduced wear and tear on their mowing equipment. Grasscycling does not spread lawn disease. Disease spores are present whether or not grass clip- pings are raked and disposed of. To learn more about lawn care and grasscycling, click on Jim Neidner is a national radio home host and award-winning builder/remodeler. You can talk to him online at www.ihomeline. com. Leaving grass clippings on your yard is l good for yo:i:?: Bioteclmology seminar June 19 The University of Delaware's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources "will host a biotechnology symposium enti- tled, "Novel Crops: An Agronomic Future?" from 8- 11:30 a.m., Monday, June 19, at university's Clayton Hall in Newark. The symposium will include a panel discussion with present and future leaders of the agricultural community in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. The general public, the univer- sity community and those in pri- vate and public organizations are invited to attend. For more information, call 302- 831-1392. Cape Region,farmers can apply for crop insurance In an important victory for local farmers, state Sen. George Bunting (D-Bethany Beach) has teamed with members of Congress to help secure passage of a bold new crop insurance program. The bill will make it easier for local farmers to get federal assistance and will provide much needed coverage for specialty crops. The legislation authorized $8.2 billion in federal crop insurance premiums, which will increase the premium share paid by the federal government'from 40 to 59 percent. In addition, it includes an appropri- ation of $7.1 billion in market loss assistance. "Agriculture is such a vital part of our local econ- omy and we owe it to our farmers to make sure they get the help they need when times are tough," Bunting said. "This federal legislation will signifi- cantly expand the number of Delaware farmers who are eligible for crop insurance and enable them to get crucial assistance from the federal government." The changes were approved by Congress late last month and are expected to be signed into law by President Bill Clinton in the near future. "With the crucial leadership of our regional Congressional delegations, I think we sent a clear message to Washington," Bunting said. "When we work together, we have the capability to aggressive- ly and effectively pursue our regional agricultural agenda at the federal level." A berry as Attierican as the rest of us When President ED. Roosevelt addressed the Daughters of the American Revolution he wanted to point out that as Americans we are all a mixture of foreigners, so he opened his remarks with "Hello fellow immigrants." Many of our garden plants, like our- selves, are often in fact a mixture' of New World and Old World genes. As far back as the Ancient Greeks, people were eating tiny, sweet cone-shaped berries. These berries seemed to be strewn across the meadows, hence the English called them "Strewn berries," today's strawberries. Colonists discovered America filled with native wild strawber- ries that were much larger than the European berries. It was the French Captain Amede Frasier who brought back to France the wild beach straw- berry of Chile, "Fragaria chiloen- sis," to be crossed with the American strawberry, "Fragaria virginiana," and the European wood strawberry, the "fraise de bois" CFragaria vesca" ). It worked and the large, hardy mod- GARDEN JOURNAL Paul Barbano ern strawberry is the result. French strawberries are named in honor of Captain Frasier, "Fraiseirs." Because they bear quickly and yield quite a bit in a small space, strawberries mike an excellent garden plant. Plants should be set out 12 inches apart in early spring. Choose a sunny, well-drained site with a pH between 5.3 and 6.5. Make sure the crowns are set at ground level or they might rot. Fertilize with sea kelp and bone meal or a good 6-10-10 commer- cial fertilizer. Avoid heavy nitro- gen fertilizer that will produce lots of leaves and fewer berries. Don't plant strawberries where you've grown tomatoes, peppers, potatoes or eggplants because all of these can spread a disease called Verticillium Wilt. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, but strawberries can be roughly classified as Junebearers, Everbearers and the newest class, Day Neutral Everbearers. The Junebearers are the tradi- tional berries that produce their crop all at once, usually over a few weeks in June or early July. By planting early, mid-season and late varieties you can stretch the Junebearers over the entire straw- berry season. "Annapolis" is well suited for Delmarva. It is one of the earliest strawberries around, with large firm berries that are mild, yet sweet. "Earliglow"is another very early Junebearer strawberry with medium to large, very firm fruit that keeps producing longer than most early varieties. Earliglow is very disease resistant. "Honeoye", a midseason variety, is considered one of the best. The large conical fruits are firm, bril- liant red and sweet. "Honeoye" is a heavy producer. "Sparkle" is a favorite late strawberry that is considered the best for jams and preserves. Everbearing strawberries pro- duce a crop at about the same time as the Junebearers then set a sec- ond large harvest towards late fall. Most everbearers will have some fruit on them during the entire summer but with the bulk of their production coming in two flushes of June then August. The old standby everbearer is "Ozark Beauty" with very large berries and a distinct sugar sweet taste. "Ozark Beauty" is deep rooted so may get by with more neglect than some other strawber- ties. It is disease resistant and productive. "Fort Laramie" is an everbearer that will fruit on its unrooted run- ners so it's great in hanging bas- kets. "Ogallala" yields a huge early crop then goes on to keep producing even in dry spells. The newest developments in strawberries are the so:called Day Neutral Strawberries. As their name implies, they set fruit spring, summer and fall without regards to the amount of sunlight they receive. Disease resistant "Tribute" bears huge plump strawberries. "Tristar" is a day neutral that sets its biggest crop last so is good for fall canning. It has medium size fruit. Eaten fresh, a handful of straw- berries will provide you with a day's supply of Vitamin C, along with vitamin A, fiber, and miner- als. They can be poured over that American Colonial invention, the shortcake, and made into jams or frozen. Not bad for a plant that mixes native and foreign genes. After all, it was the strawberry that moved William Butler to exhort, "Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did." Paul Barbano writes about gar-i dening andfa: in Rehoboth :'leeh  <:'itadf questions or comments to him c/o the Cape Gazette.