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Archive for 2008

Planting Blueberries

December 26th, 2008

Blueberries are among the fruits highest in antioxidant activity. So, they’re gaining in popularity among gardening enthusiasts. If you haven’t tried growing them, or you’ve grown them unsuccessfully, here are some easy tips to ensure your blueberry harvest is bountiful.

Most of a blueberry plant’s roots are in the top 8 inches of soil, so your planting area should be wide, but not very deep. Dig a hole 3′x3′ wide, and about 12″-16″ deep. If you plant on poor draining soil, mound the shrub so it sits 6″-8″ above grade (these shallow roots deal well with wet soil, but remember that in droughts, anything raised dries out faster and will need watering).

To refill the hole, mix peat moss, shredded pine bark (not nuggets, but mulch, and it does need to be pine), and the native soil (unless it is clay, in which case you also have poor drainage, so plan on mounding and using the peat and pine bark 50/50). Blueberries must have acidic soil.

Refill the hole with the above ingredients in a 1:1:1 ratio (1 part peat, 1 part pine mulch, 1 part native soil if not heavy clay). Pine mulch works well for two reasons: it stretches your peat moss, which is more expensive; and it gives a nice texture to the mix, for better air circulation and water channeling. If you can’t find shredded pine mulch, just double up on the peat moss. Canadian peat is the ideal additive.

Make sure to combine at least two blueberry varieties for cross-pollination, as some plants are not fertile by themselves. For two shrubs, you’ll need one 3.8 cu. ft. bale of sphagnum peat moss; and two 3 cu. ft. bags of pine mulch. Once you get all this mixed into the hole, it’s time for amendments. Add 6 cups (2 pounds) of alfalfa pellets and a half cup of soft rock phosphate (optional), or 3 cups (about 1 pound) of a balanced organic fertilizer. Stir it all into the top 8 inches of soil mix.

Pine fines, which are the little bits of chips and dust left over from the process of producing pine nuggets and pine mulch, make a wonderful soil amendment. Pine fines provide amazing results, especially in garden areas with low levels of organic matter. Add about 1 cubic foot to the planting bed for each blueberry plant. DO NOT use hardwood fines with blueberry plants, as the chemical makeup may adversely affect the pH and nutrient absorption.

Set the blueberry plant in the ground so that the top of its root ball is just covered by the mix in the hole. The planting area, after being amended with the peat moss and mulch, will likely have mounded slightly. This is fine, and will encourage rapid growth. Don’t use compost or manure when planting blueberries, as these amendments will raise soil pH above what the plant requires to thrive.

Caring for your blueberry plant:

Pine needles are an ideal mulch for blueberries. Shredded leaves (no walnut), and shredded pine bark mulch are excellent for blueberry plants. DO NOT use hardwood bark mulch, hay or straw, as they alter pH and encourage weeds. During the year you plant it, and the following year, water the bush regularly (one good soaking weekly during the growing season, equal to about 5 gallons of water). You can top-dress (apply fertilizer under the mulch) with alfalfa pellets (2 cups) or granular organic fertilizer (1 cup) in March, and again in late May. Be careful not to overfertilize. Add 1-2 pounds of sulphur per plant each year. Do not fertilize after June in zone 3-5, or after July in zones 6-8.

Blueberry plants do not like cultivation (due to their shallow roots), so keeping them weed-free with a thick, porous mulch is essential for blueberry plants to thrive. Birds love blueberries, so use bird netting if you intend to have any berries for yourself!

The Tomato ‘Better Boy’ Plant

December 24th, 2008

This blog entry is dedicated to one of the most beloved tomatoes, the Better Boy. This plant bears round, heavy fruit with deep red color, a dense and meaty texture, and enough flavor to make your taste buds dance.

Tomato plants fall into one of two categories: determinate and indeterminate. A determinate plants quit growing in height when they form a flower cluster at their terminal growing point and they produce their fruit all at once. They are preferred by people who preserve tomatoes through canning or cooking and freezing, so they can do the preparation all at once. Indeterminate plants, which is what Better Boys are, keep growing throughout the season, and they produce fruit that matures all season long. These varieties are better for families who wish to enjoy fresh garden produce for as long a growing season as possible.

Tomato plants do best in full sun locations and they like heat. For the healthiest plants, keep the soil uniformly moist, and use a good organic compost and mulch to amend your garden soil. Better Boy tomato plants aren’t finicky and should produce an abundant harvest with minimal attention. Several tomato cage and stake products are available to help keep your plant upright (and not weighted down by the mature fruit) and to provide good air circulation to keep your foliage healthy. Since Better Boy tomatoes will continue growing taller through the season, make sure you provide some form of support! Harvesting begins 72 days from planting. Better Boy tomatoes are generally free of cracking and other deformities and irregularities. They are resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilt, diseases not uncommon to many varieties.

In the kitchen, Better Boy tomatoes are multi-purpose and very popular. Fresh off the vine, this variety is ideal for slicing and eating raw on salads and sandwiches, or stuffed with bread crumbs and seafood and broiled. They can be sautéed, grilled, stewed or served on toast points with melted fresh mozzarella and basil. Don’t forget the salt and pepper!

Better Boys weigh up to 12-ounces and make delectable slicing tomatoes. Better Boy tomato plants produce fruit with health benefits common to all tomatoes, including their high lycopene content (an antioxidant and cancer preventive), as well as vitamin C, potassium, fiber and beta carotene—which converts in the body to vitamin A.

Veggie Cage Tomato Support

December 21st, 2008

Until someone designs a tomato plant that stands tall on its own, the Veggie Cage Tomato Support will keep your plants healthy and upright as well as anything you’ve ever used. This economical and efficient support system will wow you!

If having a garden that satisfies your aesthetic sensibilities is important, you’ve found the way to have the best-looking tomato plants around. With the Veggie Cage Support, your tomatoes will grow in a uniform, upright habit. This simple spiral easily attaches to any stake, and will extend up to 7 feet tall.

This practical and economical cage should provide several seasons of use. Made of a highly durable polypropylene resin material that’s UV-protected, the Veggie Cage Tomato Support will never rust. The spiral uncoils for easy set-up in the garden, then folds flat for storage during the winter months. Its green color will blend in with the foliage of your garden vegetation.

The benefits of the Veggie Cage Tomato Support are many. First of all, since it’s not metal, you never have to worry about rusty or rough edges tearing or injuring your plants’ leaves. Second, since it’s a spiral, your plants will need very little coaxing to fill in the coils as they grow upward. The smooth, continuous flow of the one-piece spiral will naturally guide the tomato stems—as well as all other vining and support-loving plants—to grow tall and symmetrical without the need to be constantly monitored. The resin material is sturdy enough to support heavy fruit or foliage from the top to the bottom of the plant.

Most plants will fill in the cage support naturally, and the best part? The single-piece design ensures that your plant will keep following the guide of the spiral, up to the very top. The plants will not need to be tied and re-tied as they grow. In fact, they won’t need to be tied at all. This support does its job with minimal maintenance and oversight.

The Veggie Cage Tomato Support will work with stakes of nearly any height, made of metal, wood or plastic. By affixing the spiral to the top of the stake and then to the ground next to the young plant, a perfect cone-shaped support is ready for the plant to fill in the spaces. Oh, and your leaves and fruit will have plenty of air circulation and breathing room!

Some other plants that will thrive with the support of the Veggie Cage are peas and beans, melons, cucumbers and creeping or vining flowers. Any plant that requires staking will be well-suited for the Veggie Cage.

Watch us assemble the Earthway Garden Seeder

December 20th, 2008

Watch as we show how easy it is to assemble the Earthway Garden Seeder.

Squirrel Feeders

December 19th, 2008

The first thing that comes to your mind after hearing the words “Squirrel Feeder” may well be “Why on earth do I want to feed a squirrel?”

Well, there’s actually a very good reason…and it has nothing to do with wanting to make sure that your neighborhood squirrel population is well fed.

The primary reason for including a squirrel feeder in your yard is to keep the bushy-tailed buggers away from your bird feeders.

Any bird lover knows the havoc that even a lone squirrel can wreck on birdseed intended for your feathered friends. And, in the process of dining at the bird buffet, the squirrel can destroy the feeder itself, not to mention waste a lot of expensive wild bird food.

Think you can outwit, outlast or outplay your opponents? Don’t count on it. Even dangling your bird feeder isn’t enough of a defense. A grey squirrel can easily leap ten feed in a single bound. If there were animal Olympics, the squirrel would have a serious shot at a medal in the long jump.

No, the best way for you to win this war is to appease the enemy. And that means feeding him what he likes in his own, out-of-the-way diner. Mounted on a deck, tree, or post, a good squirrel feeder turns your bird feeders into safety zones.

There’s another positive side effect as well. A good squirrel feeder isn’t just utilitarian. It also provides hours of nature-watching fun.

Consider the Squirrel-go-round, in which the freeloading creature inadvertently spins the wheel to acquire the corn. Or the Cedar Wood Squirrel Jar Feeder, in which not only does the glass jar protect the food from the elements, it also gives you and your family a unique perspective view of your hungry friend.

As to what to put in them, squirrels are essentially vegetarians that, in addition to the stereotypical nuts also like corn, fruits, mushrooms, pinecones and seeds. Corn-on-the-cob shaped feed is a popular and, we’ll admit it, fun to watch dining choice.

Dust It Yourself

December 17th, 2008

Pest control is now easy, economical, and more environmentally friendly than ever. The Dustin-Mizer Dust Applicator allows you to apply all powdered garden products—including insecticides and fungicides—with the turn of a handle and the control to deliver the product exactly where you want it. There are many reasons it’s the number 1 selling garden duster.

The Dustin-Mizer sends a column of dust at up to 72 rpm in a controlled, even application, with a large volume of air propelling the product quickly and efficiently. The hopper holds up to 1 pound of powdered chemical. The built-in 1/8-inch metal screen sifter ensures a consistent and steady dispersal of product. Dust is propelled at 20-30 miles per hour, enabling quick and easy coverage. Use the Dustin-Mizer to coat trees, garden vegetation, landscapes…over and under any tough-to-reach surfaces.

This lightweight, hand-held dusting applicator is designed for use in attics and crawl spaces, landscape areas, and gardens. The Dustin Mizer is comfortable to hold and operate. It comes with an extension tube and deflector that give you total control and aim, and they allow application on the undersides of leaves, where many insects hang out. Its total length is just over 34 inches.

Besides traditional pesticides, the Dustin-Mizer is well-suited for use with diatomaceous earth, one of nature’s least harmful and most effective insect killers. It’s also a good spreader for boric acid, pyrethrin, sulfur, Delta Dust, Permethrin Dust, Rotenone, and Drione Dust. The Dustin-Mizer is a great tool for broadcasting dry powdered fertilizers and soil additives, as well.

Made of impact-resistant plastic with durable steel internal components, the Dustin Mizer is meant for years of dependable use. All parts are non-corrosive and chemically inert. The 16-inch delivery tube and extension deflector allow application where it’s desired, and with a hand crank that’s geared for smooth and easy turning, coating surfaces with powdered products has never been easier or more convenient.

Because of its portability, the Dustin Mizer is ideal for farm use. Its operation is quiet, so applying organic insecticides and diatomaceous earth on large and small pets and livestock animals, around barn stalls and anywhere animals are cared for doesn’t cause undo stress among the four-leggeds. Simply fill the hopper, aim the nozzle, and crank.

Broadcasting small seeds can also be a cinch with this well-designed, multi-purpose applicator. The 1/8-inch screen allows passage of spinach, lettuce, flower and other little seeds with an even and consistent spread.

This dust applicator saves product, because it allows excellent control of application. The Dustin-Mizer takes up very little space when stored. And because it’s operated by hand power and not a motor, it gets two environmental thumbs up. No pollution, no waste products, no electric cords, and no disposal of propellant.

Organic Vegetable Seeds

December 12th, 2008

Organic, the word just sounds so clean and natural.

Yet, as we surf into the future on this growing green wave, we sometimes forget to take the time to learn what exactly the term means. We’re human. It happens.

But the information is actually pretty easy to understand. It comes down to just three main classifications:

  1. To be certified 100% organic by the USDA, a product has to contain only organically produced ingredients and processing aids. Apart from water and salt, that is.
  2. Anything sporting the word “organic” has to be at least 95% organically produced ingredients. (Apart, again, for water and salt.) The remaining ingredients must be on the approved National List, which includes items that are not available in organic form.
  3. How about the claim “made with organic ingredients”? Well, that requies 70% organically produced ingredients.

The USDA backs up these rules with a fine up to $11,000 on anyone who knowingly sells or labels a product as organic that isn’t.

Now, you don’t have to be a botanist to know that organic vegetables come from organic seeds. The main advantage of growing organic seeds is pretty obvious: Whatever you grow—provided you take proper care—will be free of pesticides and other chemicals. There’s also a down-the-line costs savings. Have you seen the cost of organic vegetables in your local supermarket?

Sometimes, there’s a visible difference, too. Organic seed is often larger than non-organic. Once planted, their roots can go deeper. Their leaves often spread quicker. They can survive in poorer soil than their pesticide-tainted cousins.

The healthiest seeds still need a healthy home. Adding natural compost to the soil before planting can promote strong growth. Organic mulch can also help keep the weeds at bay.

Since it would defeat their purpose to spray organic seeds with pesticides, you may find yourself having to pick off insects by hand. (Of course, there are organic pesticides, but that can wait for another blog post.) If you’ve got kids, insect removal could make for an interesting science fair experiment. Ladybugs can also help with the job.

While organic seeds have demonstrated specific physical advantages, perhaps the biggest one is social. By using organic seeds, you are encouraging and nurturing not just plants—but also environmental friendly companies. You’re being a part of this green wave.

Find all your Organic Seeds at Garden Harvest Supply.

Strawberry Plants—Chandler and Sweet Charlie

December 8th, 2008

Planted correctly, Chandler and Sweet Charlie strawberries are hardy in Zones 5-8 and will produce fruit for 3 to 5 years. Strawberries need a full sun location and nutrient-rich soil.

An excellent fertilizer for strawberries is Espoma Plant-tone. Two varieties, Chandler and Sweet Charlie strawberries, can be planted in the fall for berries ready for picking the following spring, without a year-long waiting period. Spring-planted varieties need to have the blooms picked the first season, to prevent the production of fruit the first year. This allows their roots to better develop and to provide a longer life for the plant.

Chandler and Sweet Charlie are excellent varieties for home gardeners, because they are both vigorous producers. Sweet Charlie is a strawberry plant that is disease-resistant, and it produces super-sweet, large and firm fruit with a good balance of sweet and tart. It is an early-season variety, ready to pick a week or two before Chandler.

Chandler strawberry plants are high yielding, with medium to large, bright berries that are full of flavor. This mid-season variety will thrive in rich soil that is kept evenly watered, especially in the first couple of weeks after planting. Chandler strawberries are popular with commercial growers because of their abundant fruit.

For home gardens, space strawberry plants 18 to 24 inches apart, in rows 42 to 48 inches apart. Tiered gardens (like the Original Pyramid Space Saver Garden) and strawberry pots are also an option for those with limited planting space.

Fall strawberry plants are available for shipping and planting the middle of September. Plants should be well-mulched in the fall, with mulching material removed in the spring when plants show new growth.

Fresh-picked, sweet and tart strawberries will be consumed quickly from the fruit bowl. Jams and jellies can be made with strawberries alone, or try blending with a mix of other berries. Strawberries are a fantastic snack when sliced and dried in a food dehydrator. They are a hit in fruit compotes alternately layered with whipped cream or smooth mascarpone cheese. No fruit tart or torte is complete without sliced strawberries. Both Chandler and Sweet Charlie are superb for fresh snacking, baking and preserving.

A fresh strawberry dropped into a glass of Champagne adds a festive and elegant touch. And chocolate-dipped strawberries will disappear as fast as you can make them. Both milk and dark chocolate complement the flavor and firm texture of the berries.

Spring strawberries are shipped as bare root plants, and fall plants are shipped as potted plants. Both Chandler and Sweet Charlie strawberries will ship in the fall.

Georgia Jet Sweet Potato. Suh-weet!

December 7th, 2008

The sweet potato is not the most beautiful of vegetables, with its long, irregular shapes and craggy, pitted outer skin. But its interior is truly a thing of beauty. The Georgia Jet Sweet Potato is a good variety for home gardens. In 90-100 days, the plant will yield potatoes with red skin and bright orange flesh. This variety is somewhat cold tolerant.

Ornamental sweet potato vines are common in container gardens, as the leaves are a unique shape and they come in colors from lime to deep green and dark purple. The edible varieties of sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, are related to the morning glory plant. They produce leaves that are also edible. The leaves of the edible varieties, including Georgia Jet, are as nutritious and versatile as any other greens.

Slow cooking and sweet potatoes are a natural partnership. The tuberous root can be diced, and then cooked with greens, rhubarb, or meats, and the soft texture of the cooked flesh is a nice contrast to denser white potatoes, as well, when cooked together in a crock pot. Baked sweet potato can be sliced open and served with butter and brown sugar, molasses and raisins, or crumbled pecans and orange marmalade. Purists are happy eating them plain, since their flavor is dense and sweet.

Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in the body. They also contain Vitamin C, B6, and minerals manganese, copper, potassium and iron. They’re an excellent source of dietary fiber, known for many health benefits. Georgia Jet rates high on taste tests of sweet potato comparisons.

Like other varieties, the Georgia Jet Sweet Potato thrives in bright, full sun and a well-drained soil. They can be propagated by stem or root cuttings or by slips, which are part of the tuberous root that are prepared for planting.

Sweet potatoes are grown all over the world, but South Carolina is the leading commercial growing state. Home gardeners throughout the U.S. have good luck with this plant, because it’s easy to grow. The quick-growing vines shade out weeds, and the plant is disease resistant, meaning novices will generally have few problems getting a bountiful harvest their first season growing sweet potatoes, as long as they start with healthy plants or slips.

The Georgia Jet Sweet Potato is one of the earlier varieties to mature. The tubers grow below emerald green leaves. Georgia Jet is meaty and sweet, and great for baking. It’s one of the sweet potatoes recommended for northern growing regions.

Harvest by carefully digging the tubers out of the dirt, around the time of the first fall frost. Sweet potatoes can keep in cool, relatively humid storage for up to 6 months, making them a nice mid-season or late season harvest vegetable. They must be cured before storage, by keeping them in a temperature-controlled area at 80 to 85 degrees for 10 to 14 days or between 65 and 70 degrees for two to three weeks. Then, store at 50 to 60 degrees over the winter. Don’t allow temps to drop below 50, or the air to get to dry, or the tubers will be damaged.

Pink Brandywine Heirloom Tomato Plant

December 7th, 2008

This write-up is dedicated to heirloom tomato, and the plethora of shapes, colors, sizes and flavors they bring to the table. If you’ve never grown heirlooms, this will hopefully convince you to try at least one in your next garden. If you’re already a fan of heirlooms, add a Pink Brandywine plant to your mix. It has all the great qualities of the traditional Brandywine, but with a blush color and terrific taste appeal.

The Brandywine Pink Heirloom Tomato plant is a classic Amish tomato that dates back to 1885. It was named after the Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania, where it was initially planted. It is one of the finest-flavored large tomatoes, and its popularity is due to its creamy texture, thin skin and classic Brandywine flavor. Plus, there’s the bonus of the deep pink color!

Heirloom tomatoes have been handed down for generations. They don’t have the regular shapes, the perfect uniform sizes or the range of colors of the heirlooms. Granted, they haven’t been bred for long shelf lives, but they’ve also not been compromised where flavor is concerned. Supermarket tomatoes simply don’t compare, on the taste scales. Heirloom seeds, like from the Pink Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes, have been saved and passed down because people have preferred the flavor to the hybrid varieties, and certainly to any commercially grown fruits.

The Pink Brandywine heirloom plants produce extra-large, firm, rosy pink fruits weighing from 12 to 18 ounces! Like all tomatoes, this variety performs quite well in high heat areas. Plant the Pink Brandywine Heirloom plant in a full sun location with well-amended soil. Plants mature in about 80 days.

The luscious flavor and rich, creamy texture of the Pink Brandywine Heirloom Tomato are the barometer by which all other tomatoes are measured.

This is an indeterminate plant, meaning it will produce fruits throughout the growing season. Brandywine tomatoes have been around since recorded history, but the Pink Brandywine is thought to be the original variety by some. Whether it was the original or is one of the varieties bred from other types, is irrelevant. It’s one of the chart-toppers for flavor, and it’s got a smooth, creamy texture not found in most tomatoes. Pink Brandywine Heirloom tomato plants need no special treatment in the garden. Plant them like any other tomato, then wait for rave reviews by everyone lucky enough to taste the produce of this plant!

The flesh is juicy and smooth, and the flavor of the Pink Brandywine Heirloom Tomato is rich and low acid. The pink color lends itself to sandwiches and tomato appetizers, such as sliced tomatoes with Buffalo Mozzarella cheese slices and fresh snips of basil. This tomato also holds up well in cooking, for marinara sauces and salsas.

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