Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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February 22, 2013

THE DIRT ON GARDENING: Old breeds are great, but new hybrids can offer a lot

People make me smile by the  remarks they make to me when I hit on a subject that is dear to them and it triggers their memory of “back when” or maybe it is a flower that they too had grown (or still do) and they make a connection.

While my columns are to help educate the average gardener, I also thrill at the opportunity to get that response of “oh yah, I remember those” or “I used to have one of those.” It happens regularly when people see me at the store or on the street and I smile to myself, (another reader of my columns).

My intent is to spark interest in the new gardener and help them in their quest for gardening knowledge. At the same time, I want to trigger the seasoned gardener’s brain and renew that forgotten thing from their past. You know what they are — “my mom used to grow those” or “we used to have those when I was a kid” kind of answer.

I have to chuckle because I, too, relate to those past gone days of my “growing up on the old homestead.” Memories of hollyhocks and rhubarb patches and corn rows (and they were 18-inch rows back then) and squash and pumpkin and muskmelon vines being everywhere in the garden.

There’s something to be said about the old “standards” (and they still have their place). But new is even more exciting because of hybridizing that creates new and more disease-resistant strains of nearly everything. That’s why we lead the world in grain production.

New hybrid strains of corn with the best in fertilizers and disease and weed prevention products keeps us at the top and offers us the opportunity to help other nations benefit by teaching them what we already have accomplished. For them to be able to be more self-sufficient is the goal of our endeavors and by doing this it also creates self-satisfaction on their part.

Crops aren’t the only things that we benefit from when it comes to “hybridizing.”

New strains of the old standard-bearers are introduced every year. These are more disease-resistant and tweaked for compaction or height to make them more appealing to garden applications for the average gardener.

New colors of flowers are yet another example of hybridizing. Multiple colors on a single blossom can be achieved as well as increased sizes or clustering blossoms — a flat blossom vs. a blossom with multiple waves.

These accomplishments aren’t only for the satisfaction of the person doing the hybridizing but also to appeal to gardeners the world over.

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