ISU Extension garden fields days will focus on purple vegetables this year.

ISU Extension garden fields days will focus on purple vegetables this year.

If you’ve always wanted to start a garden, or want to find out about new plants and ideas for your garden, a series of Home Garden Fields Days planned across the state can help you out.

Iowa State University extension horticulturist, Cindy Haynes, says the field days this year are focusing on new things. “One of the themes for this year’s gardens are the purple vegetables. So we have a lot of vegetables that you wouldn’t think of as being purple,” Haynes says. “There are purple carrots, purple tomatoes, purple beans. Some of those things that add a different color to it, so kids like it, or everyone wants to try it.”

The purple color can in some cases add something to the traditional vegetable. Haynes says in carrots for instance, it adds vitamins. “It’s not the beta carotene — the orange that you have in a carrot — but there is a carrot out there called purple haze that has a purple outer skin and the orange on the inside, so you can get the advantages of both,” Haynes says. “And it tastes just like a normal carrot, so it really doesn’t taste any different, it’s just a new color to put on your plate.”

They will also show off some sun-loving impatiens. “Everyone thinks about impatiens for the shade, but there are some New Guinea hybrid impatiens that will tolerate the sun. And they are resistant to downy mildew — which is a problem we are seeing in some of our shade-loving impatiens,” Haynes says. Other items on display include compact zinnias and new annual flowers. “We’ll kind of tour them around the different gardens — the same garden at six different locations — and we’ll pull things out of the ground. I’ll pass things around, and some might want to take a few things home. We’ll sample a few things from the garden as well,” Haynes explains.

Haynes says more and more people are turning to gardening to grow their own food and the field days offer help to make those efforts a success. “It’s just about getting people to experience as much of what we have out there as possible,” according to Haynes. “And we talk about the things that did well at all of the gardens, and the things that didn’t do so well so they can write on their little list ‘try this new variety’ or ‘don’t try this’ because it didn’t work out.”

Haynes says people are learning you don’t have to live out in the country to have a garden. You can use all different kinds of spaces. “A lot of these things you could put into a small space, you could put into containers. You could even do a sqare-foot garden. With myself and some of the other ISU staff being there, we can answer some of these questions and help you garden better,” Haynes says.

The first demonstration is July 21st at 6:30 at the Armstrong Research and Demonstration Farm near Lewis in southwest Iowa. The remaining field days will be: July 23, 6 p.m. at the, Horticulture Research Station three miles north of Ames on Highway 69; August 5th at 6:30 p.m. at the Muscatine Island Research and Demonstration Farm, 111 North St, Fruitland; August 6th, 6 p.m. at the Northern Research and Demonstration Farm, 310 S. Main Street, Kanawha; August 9th at 4 p.m. at the Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm, 3321 290th St near Nashua.

For more information go to the ISU Extension Department website.