Year of the Eggplant
'Hansel', an early-maturing, small-fruited hybrid eggplant, won the All-America Selections vegetable award in 2008. A sturdy, compact plant (less than 3 feet), it is a natural for containers. The plant produces finger-length purple fruit in 55 days. If left on the plant, they continue to grow in size but remain tender and non-bitter. In AAS trials, 'Hansel' produced mature fruit about 10 days earlier than other eggplants.
Eggplants are heat-lovers, so don't rush to plant them in spring. Wait until soil has warmed to at least 60 F, with daytime temperatures above 70 F and nighttime temperatures above 45 F. To thrive, eggplants need full sun.
The National Garden Bureau has declared 2008 the Year of the Eggplant and offers a wealth of growing tips for many different varieties, including the classic 'Black Beauty' (80 days) and the hybrid 'Fairy Tale', a 2005 AAS winner that matures in 51 days. You can view NGB's eggplant-growing tips at www.ngb.org/gardening/fact_sheets.
AAS is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.
- Patio cucumbers don't get as much press as patio tomatoes, but many dwarf and bush varieties grow and produce well in containers without staking. 'Spacemaster', 'Picklebush' and 'Bush Whopper II' are but a few varieties to look for. A 1-gallon container will comfortably accommodate one plant.
- Some annual flowers are hardy enough to withstand light frost. Get a jump on the season with petunias, stock, sweet alyssum and snapdragons.
- Many annual climbers, such as moonflower, morning glory, black-eyed Susan vine, vining nasturtium and scarlet runner bean, are a cinch to grow from seed and provide fast gratification as they ramble and bloom. To speed germination, nick the outer coating of moonflower and morning glory seeds with a knife or file and soak overnight. Sow directly into the ground.
- Tetanus bacteria lurk in garden soil—all it takes is a cut, scrape or splinter to invite infection. It's easy to avoid this potentially deadly disease: Make sure you are vaccinated at least every 10 years.