Find the Tomato Type and Variety That is Best for You

April 1st, 2018

tomatoes of every color and sizeConsidering that there are more than 4,000 varieties of tomatoes available, it can be quite a project for a gardener or farmer to decide what types and varieties to grow. But don’t worry – we’re here to help! We’ll simplify the vast amount of tomato info so that you won’t have to try to digest it all yourself. And to help you decide which types are best for you, we’ve come up with a handy quiz that will quickly determine whether you should concentrate on open-pollinated types or hybrids.

Click here to take our 5 question tomato quiz.

All right, now you know which of the two broad types of tomatoes are best for you. The next step is to determine which varieties to get within that category. To help you decide, simply read on, skipping to the category that best suits you.

Open-Pollinated Tomatoes

Technically speaking, open-pollinated are tomatoes that were pollinated naturally by the bees and the wind. The only breeding they have been subjected to is the selection process that has naturally taken place as growers saved seed from plants they were happy about, and discarded seed from plants they didn’t care for. Over time, varieties that exhibited the best qualities were replanted and preserved, while plants with less desirable qualities fell by the wayside.

That a grower would be able to save seeds used to be a given, but with the advent of hybrids (which produce plants that are not true to type), the ability to save seeds is now is considered an advantage of open-pollinated varieties. People generally save seeds in order to reduce expenses, live more self-sufficiently, and support crop diversity. Many people also like to grow open-pollinated varieties because of their superior taste. Other enjoy their unusual size, shapes, and colors.

Slices of fresh heirloom tomatoesHeirlooms are simply open-pollinated varieties that have been handed down for many years. How long a variety has to be handed down in order to be called an heirloom is not strictly defined, but the range is generally considered to be between 50 and 100 years. Some heirlooms date back even longer than that such as the Brandywine Red, which has been around since 1855!

One of the interesting things about heirlooms is that you are not only growing a tomato but you’re tapping into a history. Often that history is quite elaborate, and there are some fine books available that go into depth as to the origins and history of the most notable heirlooms.

Master Gardener Renee Shepard writes that the Brandywine Red is widely considered the tastiest heirloom, but other heirloom experts beg to differ, even if only slightly. In her beautiful coffee table book The Heirloom Tomato From Garden to Table, acclaimed food writer Amy Goldman discusses the origin and history of two hundred heirlooms, comparing and contrasting them, and also rating them. We carry two varieties that she ranks among the very tastiest: Brandywine Yellow and Black Krim.

Another excellent source of heirloom information is Dr. Carolyn J. Male’s book 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden. The author, a professor of microbiology, goes into detail about the history and pedigree of many different heirlooms like Brandywine Pink, Box Car Willie, Amish Paste, Cherokee Purple, and Mortgage Lifter, just to name a few.

Hybrid Tomatoes

Hybrids are the direct result of crossbreeding two or more different varieties with some specific purpose or purposes in mind. For example, a highly disease-resistant variety might be combined with a strain that produces very tough skins to produce a disease-resistant tomato with a thick skin: just what a commercial grower who ships long distances would need. And, in fact, big producers grow hybrids almost exclusively because there are varieties that are high-yield, disease-resistant, and produce highly uniform fruit that travels well and will not split.

For example, the Burpee Big Boy, which was released in 1949, still is a bestseller due to its abundant yield of flavorful fruit. We also sell the Big Beef, which tops even the Burpee Big Boy in productivity. The Better Boy is another great hybrid whose superior disease resistance offers it protection against the triple threat of Verticillium, Fusarium, and nematodes.

Mountain Fresh Plus is one of the few varieties that is not only resistant to Fusarium and nematodes, but also to early blight. If you want to choose a variety based on its resistance to a particular disease or pest challenge, you will find this chart from the Cornell University Department of Plant Pathology to be very useful.

Cherry tomatoes ripening on the vineCherry Tomatoes

Last but not least, don’t forget about cherry tomatoes, which we carry in a variety of colors ranging from red and yellow, to brown, and even black. One of our yellows, by the way, is none other than the Golden Nugget.

All of these cherry tomatoes will thrive with less attention and care than full sized tomatoes, and because the fruits are lightweight, most cherries will grow just fine without the need for staking.

Happy gardening from Garden Harvest Supply!

SunPatiens: Unstoppable Flower Power for Sun or Shade!

March 28th, 2018

mixed colors of sunpatines in a containerNot only are SunPatiens® the first impatiens that can grow in full sun or shade, they can’t be beat for easy care and non-stop color. Aside from regular watering, they are virtually maintenance free. Plant them, step back and enjoy the exceptional performance.

SunPatiens can be grown in baskets and containers, and as bedding plants in flower beds.

With their strong, durable root systems, SunPatiens will grow quickly and fill in fast. They also offer strong sturdy stems that can tolerate high heat and humidity, rain and adverse weather conditions. And these disease-resistant plants aren’t affected by downy mildew!

White sunpatiens growing in a hanging basketFor the best performance, plant your SunPatiens in a well-drained spot. If you have clay soil, amend it with peat or compost when transplanting. The location can receive full sun or as little as a few hours of sunlight. The variegated leaf varieties are great options for locations with heavier shade.

During the first few weeks following transplant, don’t allow the soil around the SunPatiens to dry out. If they happen to wilt, increase the amount of water you’re applying. It’s best to do the watering early in the day. If mulch is used, avoid mounding too much close to the base of the plants, as this could cause stem rot.

SunPatiens do not require much fertilizer. If a liquid fertilizer is used, only apply 1/3 of the recommended rate and don’t apply more than every 2-3 weeks. If a slow-release fertilizer is used in the soil, apply at half the rate. Too much fertilizer will result in less flower production and leaf-tip burn.

Sunpatiens growing a flower bed around a houseIn most cases, SunPatiens should not be cut back to control size, but if they get taller than desired by late summer, they can be cut back by taking off the top 1/3 of growth. New leaves and flowers will cover old blooms, so there is no need to remove old flowers or cut off older growth.

Now sit back and get ready to enjoy the unstoppable flower show these SunPatiens will put on for you!

How to Prune Hydrangea Plants – Expert Advice for the Novice

March 12th, 2018

The easiest way to avoid having to prune is to always plant your hydrangeas where they can grow au naturale and won’t need pruning, except to clean out dead stems or to deadhead the blossoms as they fade, both of which can be done at any time of the year.But, if you have established hydrangeas, the first thing you must do is attempt to identify them. If you already know the type of hydrangea you have, just skip down to the How to Prune Your Hydrangea section. Different types of hydrangeas have different pruning requirements and improper pruning can literally mean a bloomless season or worse.

How to Identify Your Hydrangea

There are four common types of hydrangea:Mophead Hydrangea Flowers

Mopheads & Lacecaps (macrophylla) are considered one group. The leaves on this species are usually heart-shaped or ovoid with serrated edges and are about 4 to 6-inches long and 3 to 5-inches wide, though some varieties will be larger. The leaves are somewhat thick and semi-shiny. The leaf stems are the biggest clue to your hydrangea’s identity, especially when combined with the type of flower it produces. The leaf stems (petioles) on a mophead or lacecap will be short, meaning that the leaves hug the main stem. On a mophead hydrangea, the blossoms grow in round and oval mounds of tightly clumped individual flowers. On the lacecap varieties, the flower head shape is almost the same, but you will have itty-bitty, lacy-looking flowerbuds in the middle, surrounded by larger, fully developed flowers. The buds are the fertile flowers, while the full blossoms around the edges are infertile. Though considered one group when it comes to their pruning requirements, each of these look quite different when in bloom. It is also interesting to note that mopheads are the ONLY hyrdrangea that has colored blossoms when they first open. All other species will be white, so that may be the first hint that you don’t have a mophead, unless you have a white mophead cultivar, which is relatively uncommon. Photo is courtesy of Ginger.

Oakleaf Hydrangea Plant

 

Oakleaf hydrangeas are so-named, just for that reason; they have leaves that are shaped  similar to the leaves on a red oak. The size of the leaves can range from 4-inches to 10-inches long and wide, and will often stay on the plant most of the winter. They are not really considered an evergreen though because after several freezes they are not very attractive. They also have cones of flowers, as opposed to mounds or balls of flowers and ALL oakleaf hydrangeas will bloom white before changing color. It should be very easy to identify this species if you have it. Photo is courtesy of RPOP.

Snowball Hydrangea Flowers

 

Snowball hydrangeas (H. arborescens), the most common of which is ‘Annabelle’, might remind you of lollipops. The flower heads are usually very large, but made up of tiny, individual blossoms. The leaves are usually thinner, though oftentimes heart shaped, somewhat similar to the macrophylla. They also tend to be a bit floppier than the ones on mopheads and are not shiny, instead having a matte finish. The leaf stems (petioles) are also long, holding the leaves further out from the main stem. The one single trait that sets this species apart is that the blossoms will open green, turn white for two or three weeks and then turn green again, which is when you can dry them. These humongous blossoms also tend to fall over in high wind and heavy rain, so you might want to plant them on the side of the house with the least wind, as long as it is not fully shaded.

hydrangea paniculata flower blossoms

 

Finally there is the PG hydrangea (paniculata). The leaves are normally smaller than other hydrangeas; they are also thinner and can either be finely or coarsely toothed. They have a rougher overall texture and are medium-green with a matte finish. The biggest identifying characteristic is that the leaves grow in a threesome from one stem node and are spaced around the node, in a whorl. This type of hydrangea can be pruned to grow in both a tree and shrub form and is also not easily identified by the type of flower heads. They can be cone-shaped or round, full or sparse, stand erect or droop. In fact, the name paniculata is derived from the panicle-type flower head that most of them bear. They, like the oakleaf, will first emerge white, turning pink as they age. These hydrangeas can grow to lofty heights of 8 to 10 feet and sometimes taller, matching their height in breadth. Photo courtesy of Alan Buckingham.

 

How to Prune Your Hydrangea

Now that you’ve identified your hydrangea(s), we can talk about how to prune to keep your hydrangeas healthy and beautiful. Please note that pruning and deadheading are two different things. Deadheading is just removing the old blossoms as they fade, while pruning changes the total appearance and form of the plant. There are two methods for pruning:How to deadhead faded hydrangea flowers

Method 1This method is for mopheads, lacecaps and for oakleaf hydrangeas. These hydrangeas bloom on old wood which means they develop buds on stems that have been on the plant since the summer before the current season. They develop these buds sometime between August and October the previous year, for the following summer’s blossoms. Therefore, if you remove these stems in the late fall, winter, or spring, the flower-producing buds will be removed, meaning NO FLOWERS (or only a very few) this summer. So, prudence and patience is required when pruning mopheads, lacecaps or oakleaf hydrangeas:

  1. You can remove dead stems at anytime throughout the year and they should be removed every year.
  2. Once your plant is at least 5 years old, remove about 1/3 of the older, living stems, cutting them down to the ground in late June through early August. Try to choose ones not already blooming or that are starting to look a bit naked. Keep an eye to how this will change the shape of the current plant, stepping back once in a while to see how it’s looking. Doing this will revitalize the plant.
  3. To reduce the size of a plant, it can be cut back in June or July without doing away with the following year’s blossoms, but it won’t take long for it to return to its original size, which is why planting where it doesn’t require pruning is recommended.

Method 2This method is used for the snowball (H. arborescens) and PG (PeeGee or H. paniculata) type of hydrangeas. Both of these hydrangeas bloom on new wood, which means that you can prune them any time of year, except in the spring when they are setting buds, or in the summer when they are either preparing to bloom or are in full bloom. Some people even grow hedges of the snowball type, pruning them back almost to the ground in the fall, so as to present a neater winter appearance; but be aware that this type of drastic pruning can keep the stems from reaching the sturdiest size in order to adequately support the huge flower heads. If you do this, you may have to stake your flowers in the spring and summer, or grow them along a fence and use string across the front to offer support when in full bloom. When pruning PGs, we don’t recommend pruning every year, but trimming out criss-crossing branches or those that detract from the overall form. These hydrangeas can be pruned from the bottom into tree-form. The developing trunk and the top branches should not be removed and you should also not attempt to make it look like the tree the first year or two. Patience is key here. Each year just trim a few of the lower branches in order to expose the developing trunk, and then late nature take its natural course. One note: if a tree-pruned paniculata’s main trunk is broken close to the ground, it will grow back as a shrub unless the training process is started again from the new shoots.

Everblooming Hydrangea ShrubThough this may seem like a lot of work, it really isn’t. Once you have the knowledge, the rest is easy. But if you’d rather not worry about it there are a small group of mopheads that will bloom regardless of when they are pruned. These are called everbloomers and will bloom on both old and new wood. And if you want to amend your soil to change the color of your mopheads, it is also quite simple. Hi-Yield Agricultural Limestone will reduce the pH of your soil relatively quickly, resulting in blue coloration, while Hi-Yield Aluminum Sulphate will increase the pH, giving you pink. You also might want to invest in an inexpensive soil tester to determine where your pH lies right now, especially if you are planting new mophead hydrangeas and want to be sure of a particular flower color.

We hope that this has provided some valuable information, as this is one of the questions that our Master Gardener sees on a regular basis. And if you still have questions after reading this, please contact us. Our goal is to help you to be the best gardener you can be! Happy Gardening!

Colorful Plants for Shady Flower Beds

March 5th, 2018

Colorful annuals growing in a shade gardenPartially or fully shaded flower beds present a unique challenge for gardeners. When it comes to shade-loving, colorful annual plants, there are only a few to choose from. However, a little bit of imagination and a little bit of knowledge can combine to create fantastically stunning, vibrant displays in your more challenging areas. The imagination part is up to you, but here’s the knowledge you need to maximize the potential of your semi-shady flower beds.

All of these shady flower bed selections are relatively disease-free, require little maintenance and provide lots of color. You can mix and match ’em, or plant your favorites en masse for bold, eye-catching spectacles. Just as an artist paints a picture, you can use a selection of shade-friendly annual plants to create your own masterpiece. Depending upon the play of dappled sun and shadow, the palette of colors can be an ever-changing kaleidoscope for your viewing pleasure.

Are You Inspired Yet?

Let’s get started. In alphabetical order:

  • Begonias – There are plentiful Begonias to choose from. Begonias will bloom throughout the summer and fall, and all are adaptable to being moved indoors for the winter. One of the most popular shade-friendly annual plants, they are comparatively easy to grow and will tolerate varying amounts of sunlight. You can learn more about growing Begonias here.
    Each type of Begonia has its own characteristics:
    • Angel Wing Begonia -You may also know these as Cane Begonias. Red begonia plants in landscapingFlourishing on segmented stems somewhat similar to bamboo, the foliage on Angel Wing Begonias provides color throughout the season, even when the plant is not in bloom. Angel Wing Begonias enjoy partial to fully shaded locations and can be planted in containers or in the ground.
    • Dragon Wing Begonia – This is a hybrid between Angel Wing and Wax Begonia varieties, the offspring possessing the best qualities of both. It grows equally well indoors and out, is heat tolerant, and will bloom prolifically in full sun to light shade.
    • Solenia Begonia – This Begonia has been bred to be a sun-lover, though it will perform just as well in partial shade. This heat-tolerant variety is also resistant to mildew and has some of the most unique coloration.
    • Tuberous Begonia – The Santa Cruz® Begonia is truly unique. Bred to brave the rain, heat and sun, this is the Begonia to grow if you are ‘iffy’ about Begonias. Once a breeder hits a home run like this, you can expect to see more of the same.
    • Wax Begonia – This may be the Begonia you are most familiar with. Its waxy leaves retain water for the plant, while also displaying some really striking color. They will all perform well in shady beds or containers and will be covered with single and beauty_lyon_Mdouble blossoms from late spring through early fall.
  • Coleus – Coleus plants are grown almost exclusively for their colorful foliage, some varieties sporting amazingly unique patterns and hues. In fact, one idiosyncrasy is that you should pinch the insignificant blossoms before they go to seed. Coleus has the distinction of thinking its life is over once it goes to seed and, subsequently, the plant will die out. Some Coleus will have the best color in full shade, while others prefer a bit of sun. All will provide gorgeous pigment in partial shade and will perform equally well in containers or beds. Coleus is also quite adaptable to indoor living. You can check out this article, How to Grow Coleus Plants, for more information about this pretty foliage plant.

 

  • Ipomoeacolorful sweet potato vine plants – You may know these as Sweet Potato Vines or Plants. Exhibiting fantastic growth over a single season and available in a variety of leaf shapes and colors, Ipomoea is often grown as an annual ground cover, but is also utilized as a spiller or filler with any number of annuals in containers. Ipomoea will be happy in partial shade to full sun, though it is happiest in dappled shade, especially in the warmest environs.

 

 

 

  • SunPatiens Impatienslilac_sunpatiens_M – There is literally a SunPatiens for everyone! Classified as Compact, Spreading, or Vigorous, each has attributes and colors to suit every grower’s tastes. The Compact SunPatiens have shorter stems with exceptional branching, and will grow up to 36 inches high and wide. The Spreading SunPatiens have a more cascading habit, spreading up to 40 inches, with sometimes variegated foliage. The Vigorous SunPatiens are not only adaptable to container growth, but are being utilized as a super gorgeous flowering ground cover. Vigorous SunPatiens will spread up to 48 inches. All SunPatiens are self-cleaning and are unaffected by downy mildew.

 

 

  • Torenia – This fun and colorful shade-tolerant plant is a little-known relative to the Snapdragon. Looking quite whimsical, these blossoms have velvety-looking cheeks, wide open mouths and yellow or orange tongues. Slow growing, though exceptionally heat tolerant, Torenia, a.k.a. the Wishbone Flower, will bloom nicely in the shade. In northern climates it will tolerate full sun. Blooming throughout the summer, right up to the first frost, Torenia will be as happy indoors during the winter as it is outdoors the rest of the year.

 

 

So there you have it. Now you know exactly what to plant in that semi-shady flower bed. You can fill that container you’ve been wanting to plant and you can hang it where the sun doesn’t shine much. It’s time to put your creative skills to work.

 

Favorite Herbs for Container Gardens

February 19th, 2018

The first thing you need for growing herbs in containers is a container … any container will do! As long as you have one that allows for drainage, you can grow an herb garden. Most herbs will grow with as little as 4 to 6 hours of filtered sunlight and will thrive in a fully sunny window. Make sure you turn your herb plants regularly to encourage even growth; they will all reach for the sun. It’s also wise to only water when the top of the soil is dry, and then water thoroughly. Many more plants die from over-watering than do from under-watering. Also, water sitting in the drainage pan is not a good thing; always empty it as soon as the water has finished draining. Each herb has specific harvesting and pruning needs, but generally, you harvest from the outside first.

These 10 herbs are the top choices for container gardens. They will all grow according to the size of container they’re in, so you can grow them as big or as small as you want. Grow enough to freeze or dry, if you wish. Fresh herbs, already potted or cut and tied with a bit of ribbon, also make lovely, thoughtful gifts.

Basil herb container plant

 

Basil: Use it fresh in salads or pesto, add it to your favorite Italian dishes and try Lime or Opal basil to flavor ice cream. Genovese Basil is closest to the ‘classic’ basil you’re familiar with, while Greek Columnar looks like a small, ornamental, fully branched tree. Basil can be difficult to germinate, so we recommend you start with seedlings.

Chives growing in a container

 

 

Chives: Chives can be added to practically anything you would add onions to, but are most often used in salads. They will impart a more subtle flavor than onions and will provide a bit of color that yellow and white onions are lacking.

 

Cilantro: Cilantro-Santo is prized for its pungent, sharp aroma and flavor, a favorite in Mexican cuisine, and does not produce many seeds. Cilantro seeds germinate easily right in the garden or pot. Harvest the outside leaves first. Cilantro tends to lose strength when dried, so use it fresh or freeze it.

 

 

Dill: For container growing, we recommend Fernleaf Dill. It grows to a maximum height of 18 inches. Its leaves are used in salads and vinegars, while its seeds flavor breads, pickles, stews and rice. A dill garnish, complete with yellow blossoms, can make even your simplest meal more attractive. Dill does not grow back once harvested, but it can re-seed if seed heads are left to mature.

 

 

Mint: This prolific grower is the ultimate container herb, even if growing it outdoors. As anyone who has grown mint can tell you, it will take over any pot or garden spot it’s grown in, in relatively short order. Some herbs can share containers; not so with mint. It does, however, make a fantastically prolific and aromatic ground cover for a shady, moist place outside. You have choices, too: Chocolate, Orange, Peppermint and Spearmint are just a few.

 

 

Oregano: For culinary use, we recommend Golden Oregano, a milder variety, or Variegated Oregano, a colorful addition to Mediterranean cuisine. It will trail over the sides of its container but will only reach about 12 inches in height.

 

Parsley: Flat leaf Parsley varieties are said to have more intense flavor for cooking, but our Triple Curled Parsley plant is especially comfortable when grown in containers, even if grown indoors. You can combine the two in one planter for a more dramatic and much fuller look. Parsley is at its best when used fresh and it can add color as a garnish to almost every dish. It freshens breath when chewed, too! Parsley seeds start fairly easily.

 

 

Sage: Most often used with poultry, we suggest you try pairing sage with white beans, apples or green vegetables. Berggarten Sage does not flower and adapts very well to container gardening. Additionally, its thick, textured and uniquely colored leaves add variety to the collection in your herb garden. If you have an exceptionally sunny window or balcony, we highly recommend our Pineapple Sage plant. It smells like fresh-cut pineapple, produces gorgeous red flowers and will even attract hummingbirds. Sage can be started easily from seeds.

 

 

Tarragon: This perennial herb doesn’t start well from seeds, so we recommend you start with seedlings. French Tarragon is very adaptable to container growth, with a wonderful licorice-like flavor. Tarragon will grow well in partially shady areas, but do best with midday sunlight.

 

 

Thyme: You have choices when growing thyme, and we recommend you grow these three: English Thyme, French Thyme and Lemon Variegated Thyme. They all have a slightly different flavor, can be trimmed to keep a compact shape and are drought-tolerant. Well-drained soil and lots of sun will produce the best results, even in salty environs. We recommend, however, you purchase seedlings; thyme seeds tend to germinate slowly, if at all.

To get you started, take 10% off all herbs now until Friday, February 23. Use code TENOFFHERBS at checkout.

Now, go container hunting! Group your herbs, arrange and rearrange them, imagine your enhanced recipes, and get planting! 

All About Clematis

February 28th, 2017

Clematis are loved both for their ability to climb and for the lovely flowers they produce.

All you need to enjoy the beauty of clematis is to provide them with a minimum of 6 hours of sun, well-drained soil, and proper support, such as a wall, fence, trellis, rocks, tall shrub or another vine. Once these requirements are met, they are happy planted in gardens or in containers. If planted in full sun, keep a heavy layer of mulch around the roots.

Jackmanii purple clematis plant growing on a bamboo trellisIf you are a first-time clematis grower, here are a couple of short videos that will take the guesswork out of planting.

Clematis grow best if these watering, feeding, and pest control instructions are followed:

  • Watering: For newly planted plants, keep the soil moist for the first few weeks. After that, watering only needs to be done during hot dry periods. Its better to do a deep soak rather than a few light waterings.
  • Fertilizing: Feed the plant with a fertilizer that’s rich in potassium. Look for a fertilizer that has an N-P-K ratio with the third number being the highest value. Feeding can be done each spring and fall.
  • Pest Control: Slugs are the main pest, and they can be kept away by putting down a slug barrier each spring. Sluggo® works very well.

Clematis plants require pruning, but how you prune depends on the variety and the planting location.  The amount of cutting and the correct time to prune is determined by when your clematis blooms and other factors, such as your preferred growth habit.  Some clematis bloom only in the spring, others later in the summer, and a third variety can bloom both early spring and late summer.  Once you’ve chosen which clematis is right for your growing conditions and bloom-time preferences, you’ll want to do some research to find the pruning method that fits your circumstances to ensure you get the maximum amount of blooms the next season.

With the proper care, your clematis will provide you joy for many years!

Creative Companions: How Companion Planting Increases Harvests through Natural Pest Control

February 20th, 2017

companion planting

We all know that certain foods taste delicious together, like basil and tomatoes. But did you know that basil and tomatoes grow well together, too?

Companion planting—combining different species of plants to benefit one another in the garden—is a long-practiced organic gardening technique. Remember U.S. history class? Native Americans grew food for a balanced diet in a single plot of land. By planting corn, beans, and squash together on a hill, they maximized their harvest in minimal space. The practice became known as a “Three Sisters Garden.” The plants proved mutually beneficial: the tall corn supported the climbing beans; the beans added nitrogen to the soil, providing nutrients for the corn; and the low-growing squash vines served as a living mulch, preventing weeds while retaining moisture.

Companion planting is a great way to pack lots of veggies into a small space, but it also serves many other purposes in an organic garden.

Companion Planting Deters Pests

beneficial insects, useful insects

Scent attracts many pests to their host plants. Insects lay eggs on the host plant, knowing that the plant will provide food for the newly hatched larvae. By interplanting strongly scented herbs and flowers among crops in the vegetable garden, pests become confused, leaving your future dinner in peace.

If you want to protect your harvest, try these companion plantings that repel pests:

However, French marigolds win the prize as companion-planting champs. They deter Mexican bean beetles, aphids, potato bugs, squash bugs, and nematodes (microscopic roundworms in the soil that damage many plants). Plus, they add a beautiful burst of color to the garden. After all, an organic edible garden should be lovely to look at, too.

Companion Planting Attracts Beneficial Insects

bee, pollinator, pollination

Not all insects are bad. Along with repelling pests in the garden, it’s also important to attract beneficial insects. Beneficial insects serve many purposes. Bees, butterflies, and some beetles provide pollination, which increases harvests.

Besides pollination, many beneficial insects feast on pests, making your work easier. For instance, when you find a tomato hornworm happily snacking on your beautiful heirloom tomatoes, have you noticed small white spikes on its back? Those small spikes are actually killing the hornworm—organically. Parasitic wasps lay eggs on the hornworm, and as the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the hornworm, eliminating your garden nemesis without an ounce of pesticide.

Nature is amazing, isn’t it?

As gardeners, we can minimize pests and eliminate pesticides by encouraging beneficial insects to visit. The trick is to know which insects are the good guys, and what plants to include in the garden to attract garden helpers.

Some beneficial insects include:

  • Ladybugs: both the larvae and adults eat aphids, small caterpillars, and pest eggs.
  • Braconid wasps: a parasitic beneficial insect, it lays its eggs on host insects. When the larvae hatch, they consume the host insect, killing it.
  • Hover fly: larvae eat mealybugs, small caterpillars, and aphids.
  • Lacewings: larvae eat aphids, small caterpillars and caterpillar eggs, small beetles, and insect eggs.
  • Ground beetles: consume many pests, from asparagus beetles to squash vine borers.

How can you recruit an army of organic helpers to keep your garden pest-free? Adding flowering plants to your food crops attracts beneficial insects that will keep the pest population low, while also encouraging pollinators to boost your harvest. Plus, some of the recommended plants serve a dual purpose: attracting beneficial insects and providing flowers and food for you, too. A few recommended plants include:

  • Dill
  • Yarrow
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Asters
  • Fennel
  • Feverfew
  • Angelica
  • Cosmos
  • Sunflowers
  • Golden Marguerite
  • Butterfly weed
  • Tansy
  • Lemon Balm*
  • Mint*
  • Also, allowing parsley, carrots, and celery to overwinter in the garden produces blooms the following year, which are attractive to many beneficial insects.

(*Plant mints and lemon balm (also a member of the mint family), in containers, as the plants can overtake a garden with their vigorous growth.)

Remember to include a succession of blooms so that beneficial insects visit your garden spring, summer, and fall—and winter in mild climates. Feed your flowers and crops with Espoma Flower-tone 3-4-5 to keep plants healthy and productive.

Companion Planting Increases Harvests and Improves Flavors

companion planting, marigold

While we often think of companion planting primarily as a method of pest control, companion planting also improves harvest flavors—and even yields. For instance, in a limited-space garden, combining tall, sun-loving crops, like tomatoes, with shorter plants that enjoy a bit of shade in the heat, like lettuce, allows maximum use of space in a 4′ x 4′ raised bed. Add nasturtiums to your bed, and now you have beautiful, edible flowers to brighten your meals. Place a trellis for cucumbers along the back edge of the raised bed, and you’ve added another treat for your organic salad. The nasturtiums entice pollinators to visit, increasing the yield of your tomatoes and cucumbers, plus they serve as a trap crop for aphids, protecting your harvest.

Add a few radish seeds near the lettuce. Not only do radishes and lettuce grow quickly, but the lettuce protects the flavor of radishes in summer when they can turn bitter. Add a dill plant or two in the corner, and encourage braconid wasps to hunt tomato hornworms for their nursery. You’re protecting the tomatoes while growing an ingredient to add to a homemade salad dressing.

Perhaps you want to create a pretty, edible container garden. For a cool season combination, plant kale as a “thriller”—the central, taller plant in the combination. Add aromatic herbs, like sage, to protect the kale from cabbage moths as your “filler.” Finally, plant pollinator-friendly violas along the edge of the container as the “spiller.” The violas will tumble over the edge of the container as they grow, attracting pollinators and adding aesthetic appeal—and the flowers add a lovely, edible ingredient to meals.

companion planting, marigold

Companion planting packs many benefits into a small space. It does require a bit of thought about your garden. What crops will you grow? What pests also enjoy the same food you do?  Which plants can help you fight off the bad guys while attracting the good insects? The time spent planning your companion plantings is worth it. Adding beautiful, beneficial flowering plants into your garden plan is much tastier than eating a toxic dressing of pesticide on your produce, don’t you agree?

Besides, creating an organic garden filled with blooms is a beautiful way to eat healthfully while saving money, too. Enjoy!

New Varieties of Grasses for 2017!

January 31st, 2017

Ornamental grass growing next to a benchWhat’s not to love about ornamental grasses? These easy-to-grow plants bring multiple seasons of movement, sound and color to your gardens and containers.

Their dramatic form provides a distinctive look and offers a good contrast for your other landscape plants.

Not only are ornamental grasses very adaptable and low-maintenance, they also have very few pest problems. They’re just about the perfect plant!

The first thing to think about when selecting a plant is its mature size. Because there are many different sizes and structures, finding the correct one for your space will make all the difference. Once you have your size, you’ll want to choose the color and texture that will provide the best look in your landscape.

View our fantastic grasses here:

When you purchase plants from us, it’s more than just buying something for yourself: you’re helping to feed someone who’s hungry! We are accomplishing this by partnering with community gardens across the nation. We will provide them with free plants to grow and then they will distribute the produce to the needy. So, from everyone who will benefit, allow us to say, “Thank you!”

We appreciate your business and look forward to continuing to serve you in the future.

Joe Stutzman and Everyone at GHS!

Feeding The Hungry, One Plant At A Time

January 3rd, 2017

GrowJoy, Inc is committed to helping alleviate hunger in our communities.

The idea behind our community service project can be summed up by the famous old saying: “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime”.

We are helping the hungry, one plant at a time

Photo compliments of Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger (BSCAH)

Poverty exists all around us, including among some veterans and senior citizens. Churches and other organizations have started creating community gardens, and they often designate part of the garden as a place where needy people can learn to grow their own food. They give them a plot and teach them how to get started.

We are partnering with these types of community gardens and also with those whose main purpose is the donation of their harvest to the hungry, as well as with the community gardens that allow those with special needs to participate. Come harvest time, there are a lot of smiles all around, and plenty of good, nutritious veggies for people who really need the nourishment. And pretty soon after that, it’ll be planting time again.

We think this is a great idea, and we want to promote it. Therefore, GrowJoy, Inc. is going to provide the plants for outreach programs at community gardens around the country. We have already started forming partnerships and are planning to do so with many more gardens in the future.

We love growing plants and we have always wanted to do something that will have a continuing positive impact on the world. We are very thankful that we have now found it, and we want to thank our esteemed customers for being a part of this. With your continued support of our business, you’ll be participating with us in feeding the hungry!

If you know of a community garden that could benefit from our plants, please email us at gardens@growjoy.com

We appreciate your business!
Joe Stutzman & Staff,
GrowJoy, Inc.

Feeding the hungry, one plant at a time.

The bigger the gift, the better. Correct?

December 9th, 2016

Do you remember what it was like as a child to walk into the living room Christmas morning and see the presents all tucked under the tree?

I sure do, and I also remember that the bigger the size, the more they were anticipated…because bigger always meant better, or at least that’s what we thought as children.

Wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree

Now here we are, adults who need very little, and bigger does not always mean better. If fact, when we have our family gift exchanges, which are often White Elephant events, it is inevitable that the smaller packages, which are often gift cards, are the ones everyone wants to “steal.”

Just as time goes faster the older we become, the gifts we like become smaller.

So, with this in mind, we are offering everyone the opportunity to purchase the “perfect” gift for the gardener in your life: a Garden Harvest Supply Gift Certificate!

Our Gift Certificates are electronic, which means you can email them directly to the recipient, or you can place the codes in envelopes to be given Christmas morning.

So skip the long lines and go for the perfect gift. It makes everyone happy, including your budget, because we have them marked down 20%! This offer expires December 24.

Since our certificates don’t expire, consider buying one for yourself. You can use it to save money on your next plant purchases!

A Garden Harvest Supply Gift CertificateView our Gift Certificates here: Gifts

We wish you a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season, and a New Year Filled with Joy!

All the best,
Joe Stutzman
Owner
Garden Harvest Supply

 

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” — Norman Vincent Peale