Archive for 2008

Planting Blueberries

Friday, 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

Wednesday, 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 sauteed, 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 carotenewhich converts in the body to vitamin A.

Veggie Cage Tomato Support

Sunday, 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 stemsas well as all other vining and support-loving plantsto 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.

Dust It Yourself

Wednesday, 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 productsincluding insecticides and fungicideswith 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, landscapesover 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

Friday, 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 growprovided you take proper carewill 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 plantsbut also environmental friendly companies. You're being a part of this green wave.

Find all your Organic Seeds at Garden Harvest Supply.

Strawberry PlantsChandler and Sweet Charlie

Monday, 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.

Pink Brandywine Heirloom Tomato Plant

Sunday, 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.

Don't Cry

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Onion plants growing in the gardenWith all produce, nothing compares to growing your own, and onions are no exception. Onions are a requisite ingredient in kitchens throughout the world. Some varieties are excellent raw, whether sliced on burgers, or chopped in cold salads. Others are preferred for cooking, because their more pungent flavor or firmer texture holds up better in heat or liquids. Luckily, there are varieties to suit all cuisines and preparations. And growing onions is a snap, if you follow some simple guidelines. Since most cooks use onions in nearly every meal, it's wise, if you have a sizable garden, to dedicate a lot of space to growing them.

Onions can be grown in most parts of the U.S., but each plant is intended for a specific type of growing region, based on the amount of sunlight per day. Determine your summer day length and choose from short day, intermediate day or long day varieties as recommended.

Sets, direct seeding, and transplanting are the three options for planting onions. Sets are like baby onions, planted from seed the previous year. Sets tolerate light frost and can be planted earlier than the last frost date, but they also have a shorter storage life after harvest. Onions planted from seed have a longer storage life, but they're slower to produce. For the earliest produce, start with transplants. Transplants also are prized for the best flavor and heartiest, largest bulbs.

If you're going to plant transplants, you can raise seedlings indoors 8 to 12 weeks before you plan to transplant in the garden. Or, you can buy transplants ready to transfer to your garden. Choose onion plants from a reputable grower who will provide you the healthiest onion plants to start with.

Onion plants can be transplanted about 4-weeks before your last spring frost date. They should be planted at a depth of around 1-inch, to support the plant and keep it from falling over. Space them 4-inches apart. Rows should be 8-inches apart.

Onions seem to attract weeds, so make sure you weed regularly. Keep soil watered, but don't let it get saturated, or the onions will rot. Adding compost in late spring will supply the onion plants all the fertilizer they will need. If you don’t have compost, apply Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed every 4-weeks.

Harvested onion plants hanging out to dryOnions can be harvested and eaten at any stage in their growth. They're ripe when the tops start falling over and the bulbs have developed a papery skin. They're at their peak ripeness when most of the foliage has fallen over. If onions bolt, or go to seed, they'll develop a rigid center stem. It's best to just pull that onion and use it right away, as the bulb will stop growing anyway.

Harvest onions late in the summer. Pull up gently on the green foliage and lift the onions up. Allow them to dry out in the sun for a few hours each of a few days, bringing them indoors at night. This cures them and prepares them for storage in a dry, dark place with good ventilation where they'll keep over an entire winter, if conditions are maintained.

To store onions, make sure you have an area that will promote dormancy, with temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees. Onions will sprout at 40 degrees and higher. Do not store them in the same area as tomatoes or apples.

Winter Squash

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Summer squashes (green and yellow) have a soft skin that's edible, and they are meant to be harvested when the seeds and entire interiors are soft enough to eat, as well. Winter squash is different in that the seeds are mature and hard, and the skin is a rindtough and hard, and not meant to be consumed. Remove the skin and seeds, and what's left is flesh that is a culinary treasure. The hard outer skin on winter squash is what protects it and allows it to be stored over 3-6 months, through the winter and into the spring.

Squash is a vegetable that mostly grows on sturdy vines, but some can also be semi-vining or bushy plants. The most common types of winter squash are acorn, butternut and spaghettithe one with the interior that becomes stringy like long noodles when it's cooked. There are numerous specialized varieties, as well. Each has a unique flavor, and ranging from slightly sweet to peanuty. Some common seasonings used with cooked squash are butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, and ginger.

The difference between winter squash and pumpkins is mostly nomenclature. Some people interchange the terms. And, some cooks interchange them in pies, with squash doing a superb job without being detected as a faux pumpkin. Winter squash can have skin that is smooth or bumpy, thin or thick, and in colors ranging from light yellow to blue-grey to dark green to vibrant orange. They also vary greatly in size and shape. All contain flesh that is light yellow to deep, rich orange.

Plant winter squash in the spring. It will mature over the summer and be ready for an autumn harvest, before the first frost. Most winter squashes will store wonderfully over several months in a cool cellar throughout the winter. Some varieties benefit from an initial curing stage immediately after harvest, kept at around 70 degrees for 10 to 20 days, then moved to a cool, dry place, with 45- to 60-degree temps.

For the health-conscious, squash ranks high on the charts of nutrition-dense foods. It is high in fiber, and also contains potassium, niacin, iron and beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in the body.

Winter squash will be the sweetest and mildest when prepared with the seeds scraped out before cooking. The skin can be removed either before or after cooking. The flesh can be boiled, broiled, baked, or steamed. Then, it can be cubed, mashed, pureed, or in the case of spaghetti squash, used in place of pasta, for a healthier, lower calorie and more flavorful base for marinara sauce.

Squash seeds can be roasted with a little salt or tamari (soy) sauce and eaten as a healthy snack. Butternut squash soup is simple to prepare, with most recipes calling for few ingredients, and it's popular with meat and potatoes gangs as well as uber-gourmets. Cooked squash freezes well, whether alone or in prepared dishes and soups.

Most vining squash plants will require a lot of room, so plan your garden space accordingly, and try a few varieties, to keep a range of flavors to enjoy over the winter months.

Can Help Me Find This Bean Seed

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

I am looking for a bean seed called Little Greassy. It is a old bean and comes in white and brown. Hope you can help me find this bean seed. Thanks Joyce G.