Jefferson seeds grow in White House garden
What's the connection between the new vegetable garden at the White House and Thomas Jefferson? The plants being grown by the Obama family are descendants of those grown by our third president at his Virginia estate more than 200 years ago. Jefferson grew more than 330 vegetable varieties and 170 fruit varieties at Monticello, above, which donated the heirloom seeds for the new White House garden. You can grow the same heirloom produce by ordering seeds from Monticello (monticello.org or toll-free 1-800-243-1743). Seed packets are $2.50, or you can buy seed samplers starting at $16. Jefferson's 1809 Retirement Seed Sampler includes lettuces, beans, tomatoes, strawberries and more that were grown after he retired from political life.
Growing zones reflect rising temperatures
Federal officials have been contemplating revising the USDA Hardiness Zone map for years, and the new version may be released later this year. What's all the fuss? The color-coded map — found on the backs of seed packets, in garden magazines and on Web sites — shows that the average annual minimum temperatures for the country are rising. That means growing zones for the Tampa Bay area could change from 9 to 10, further proof of what most local gardeners already know — we can successfully grow tropical plants rated for South Florida. You can learn more about the zones and warming patterns at arborday.org in the media section.
Help keep the frogs from croaking
If you missed "Save the Frogs Day" last week, you can still help the plight of our croaking friends, which are the most threatened group of animals today, according to a nonprofit international group of scientists. Frogs devour pesky insects such as mosquitoes and are an important food source to predators such as fish and birds. Avoid pesticides and herbicides, which are easily absorbed by the frog's permeable skin and can be toxic or cause genetic mutation. Learn more at savethefrogs.com or contact the group at Save the Frogs, P.O. Box 2145, Centreville, VA 20122.
Yvonne Swanson, Times correspondent