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Archive for 2009

To Fans and Loyal Customers of GHS:

December 29th, 2009

garden We’d like to offer our sincere thanks to you for making 2009 a great year for Garden Harvest Supply. We appreciate your business, and your patronage has allowed us to continue expanding and enhancing our site, our products, and our services. Ushering in 2010, we hope you are able to look back with appreciation on all that was good for you in 2009, too.

Through the hardships many Americans faced the past year, there have been numerous bright spots. Our nation’s economy is recovering from a rough ride, and the uncertain future has forced us to examine what’s truly important in life. The season of giving has never had more meaning. The materialism of the ’90s has been replaced with a more retrospective, caring and selfless attitude in our society.

Less self-centered living has given us a deeper respect for nature. Our homes have become our sanctuaries, and simpler lifestyles mean a higher quality of life. Growing our own food is becoming necessary for budgetary reasons, as well as for our nutrition, our physical health, and our spiritual well-being. Organic gardening empowers us to enjoy the very best the earth has to offer.

Garden Harvest Supply is now accepting orders for spring plants for landscaping, gardening and home decorating. (We also sell a full line of organic seeds year-round.) Live plants will arrive as soon as it’s safe to ship them to your growing zone. Don’t forget to purchase fertilizers, soil amendments, and ergonomic gardening tools, to make this spring’s garden your most enjoyable, most productive, ever. Order your plants now, to ensure they’re available. Plant a rainbow of vegetable colors to get the widest array of nutrients out of your produce.  We wish you a fantastic New Year, and we’re here to help you plan a bounteous spring garden.

Again, thank you for making our year wonderful, and we look forward to serving you in the future.


All of us at Garden Harvest Supply

Gifts That Encourage A Child’s Love of Nature

December 8th, 2009

“Nature deficit disorder” is becoming an increasing concern these days as kids spend more time playing video games and watching TV than exploring and enjoying the great outdoors. Only a relative few will have the experience their parents or grandparents had of climbing trees, swimming in the creek, catching frogs and fish, and helping out in the garden.

In his book The Last Child In The Woods, Richard Louv documents this growing chasm between children and nature, citing everything from summer camps that involve no camping to a TV ad that “depicts a four-wheel-drive SUV racing along a breathtakingly beautiful mountain stream—while in the backseat two children watch a movie on a flip-down video screen, oblivious to the landscape and water beyond the windows.”

The good news is that many people are working to help restore children’s connection with nature. The Children and Nature Network has succeeded in passing “No Child Left Inside” initiatives in 27 states. On a regional level, people have created programs such as the Edible Schoolyard through which children develop “a deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us…by growing, harvesting, and preparing nutritious, seasonal produce.”

ant farmIn our own small way, we at Garden Harvest Supply also consider ourselves part of the solution by selling child-sized tools that enable children to garden from their earliest years, and insect kits that stimulate their curiosity about the natural world.

It doesn’t take much to get young ones interested in nature; in fact, scientists such as E. O. Wilson believe that children have “an innate tendency—an instinct if you wish—to affiliate with nature, to observe it, to live near it, to understand it, to have it within reach.”

What’s more, most children will enjoy gardening if a key Montessori principle is followed:  “Child-sized, everyday objects and tools set children up to be successful in their projects, and build a more equal relationship between a child and his or her environment.”  Montessori believed that “children have an innate desire to do the tasks and work of the adults in their environment,” but that they need to be comfortable to master these skills.

Child-Sized Garden Tools

That’s why we’re proud to carry Little Farmer Garden Tools. These tools are not like the plastic gardening toys you might see at Wal-Mart or Target: each one is made of steel with a sturdy hardwood handle. Children can really use them to garden!

The Little Farmer Garden Tote ($16.50) includes a spade, a short-handled shovel, short-handled rake, and a matching watering can. These all fit into a sturdy canvas tote which has two handles and seven pockets.

The tools in the tote can be used by children as young as 2, and will continue to fit their hands until they are about 4 or 5. (Of course, the manufacturer warns of a choking hazard for children under 3. But we’ve never heard of a child choking on a garden tool, even a child-sized one.)

We also carry the Little Farmer Kids Tool Set that contains a spade, a short-handled rake, and a short-handled shovel. At $5.95 it’s a real bargain.

For children ages 5 and up, you might want to get individual child-sized tools with long handles. In this category we carry hoes, leaf rakes, garden rakes, and shovels, all of which have handles that are about two and a half feet long. Each individual tools sells for $5.95.

junior wheel barrowWe’ve also just gotten in the Seymour Junior Wheelbarrow ($30.45) which children as young as 3 will be able to manage, and yet which they won’t outgrow until they are eight or older. Here’s how one satisfied customer put it: “Most children’s wheelbarrows out there are too small for ‘big kids.’ This one is big enough for my 7-year-old and its sturdy construction has been put to the test. He loves it.”

Actually, the only bad thing we can say about the Seymour Junior Wheelbarrow is that it’s too bulky for us to ship it with any nice packaging. Just a wheelbarrow in a box—but what fun your little helpers will have with it!

Insect Lore

We also carry educational kits made by Insect Lore that can be very useful stepping stones for getting children more involved with the natural world. Using these kits, children can get up close and personal with their favorite critters, whether we’re talking about ladybugsspiders, ants, or earthworms.

For example, put the Garden Spider Web Frame ($11.95) outside in an easily observable spot and a spider will soon make herself at home on it—or you can simply find a spider and place her down on it. From the spider’s point of view, it’s just the right size to spin a web, and when she discovers the built-in hideaway that will protect her from predators, she might even lay her eggs there, just as Charlotte did in the barn doorway.

The great thing about the Insect Lore kits is that they allow children to closely observe an entire cycle of nature from start to finish. For example, the Earthworm Nursery ($20) allows children to watch baby earthworms hatch from earthworm cocoons, dig and grow in the multi-chambered greenhouse habitat, and then reach maturity, at which time they can be released outside. Likewise, the Butterfly Garden ($16) allows children to watch caterpillars metamorphose into chrysalises, and eventually become butterflies.

Children’s Books About Butterflies

little butterflySpeaking of butterflies, we just got in the Little Butterfly Puppet Finger Puppet Book ($8.50), which features a loveable butterfly character, colorful art, charming rhymed text, and best of all, an adorable finger puppet that peeks through each of the 12 pages of this board book. Recommended for infants and toddlers.

For children ages 4 – 8, we have Butterflies and Moths ($6.75), a book that “excels in vivid color close-up photos, with an intriguing text” according to Children’s Bookwatch. 32 pages long, it is written in language that this age group will understand, and contains a good mix of photos, fun facts, and more in-depth information.

For the 6 – 12 crowd, we have The Life Cycle of a Butterfly ($7.45), part of a larger series that School Library Journal praised as containing “an abundance of clear, colorful, attractively bordered photographs and illustrations that enhance the fact-filled texts.”  According to the publisher, “A monarch born in the fall has two major challenges. In addition to metamorphosis, these butterflies fly 4,000 miles on a two-way migration trek! This book explains butterfly metamorphosis and migration in simple terms.”

Children’s Books About Birds

Finally, we also have some great books for the bird-loving children in your life.

B is for Bufflehead contains an eye-catching and humorous photograph of a bird species for each letter of the alphabet. The photos, letters, and names are perfect for the earliest learners. The accompanying text is intended to intrigue young children with a few fun facts about each bird. For older kids there is a section that offers detailed information on each species, including range, habitat, and diet. Just this month, Birder’s World Magazine included it in their year-end roundup of “new books worth reading…that belong in your library.”

Bird experts making use of the resources of the world-renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology have created an innovative series of hardcover titles about birdsongs each of which includes a digital audio player that faithfully reproduces the songs described in the texts. Though intended for adults, these books make great gifts for older children with a serious interest in birds and their calls.

Birdsongs: 250 American Birds in Song ($37.75) and Birdsongs from Around the World ($33.50) are the two most popular titles. However, if the child has a special interest in certain regional birds, you will want to consider Backyard Birdsongs Guide: East/Central Coast ($22.50) or Backyard Birdsongs Guide: West Coast ($22.50).

Finally, do you remember ever getting a colorful sticker of a cardinal or robin on your homework when you did a good job in elementary school? Well, those stickers are still around and, in fact, they gotten even better! The North American Birds Sticker Book ($8.50) will delight any child who loves both birds and stickers…in fact, you might want to get one for yourself and “time release” the 60 reusable stickers as rewards.

The reward for you when you give any of the gifts discussed in this issue is the knowledge that you are helping to nudge the children you love towards a greater connection with the natural world. The renowned pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton recently commented that, “The tragedy we are facing in this generation is that there is no time for children to explore, to play, to go outside.”  But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even Richard Louv agrees that in order to counter the problems he describes in his book, “all you really have to do… is get your kid out in nature now and then—it’s not brain surgery. It’s actually fun, and it’s fun for parents.”

Oracaena Spike Question

November 30th, 2009

dracenaspikeI live in Michigan and have a beautiful spike Oracaena in my yard that I planted in spring.  Will this plant last through the winter and come back next spring?  Thanks in advance, Patty

Answer: I am not finding a plant reference for Oracaena. I am thinking that maybe you have one of two plant species often sold in the spring as “spikes,” either Dracaena or Cordyline. Both are considered tropicals and would need to overwinter inside through a Michigan winter.  

These are sold as indoor houseplants and for patio container gardens to add height.  They can be similar in appearance, depending on the variety. As houseplants, both are low maintenance, requiring only medium light and even moisture.

Hope this helps~


Popcorn Kernel Preservation

November 25th, 2009

gourmet popcornIf stored properly, popcorn can last for years. There have been thousand-year-old popcorn kernels (preserved by the Peruvian Indians) that still popped.

Popcorn has been around for a long time. The oldest ears of popcorn discovered were over 5,500 years old! The early Americans loved it so much that they ate it for breakfast, with sugar and cream. During the Great Depression, when many businesses went under, popcorn producers thrived because people could easily afford it. Today it is so popular that the average American eats 50 quarts of popcorn each year!

Because of the popularity of this snack food, farmers are now growing specialty popcorn in different sizes, colors, and flavors. Most popcorn connoisseurs will tell you the best popcorn is the ladyfinger variety. The preferred method for preparing these gourmet popcorns are with a stovetop popper, although hot-air poppers produce equally delicious fluffy kernels without the added calories of oil.

If you buy popcorn in bulk, proper storage is a necessity in order to prevent mold and bugs. Popcorn kernels should be stored in an air-tight container. It is recommended to put a couple of bay leaves inside the container to prevent bugs. The air-tight container should be kept in a cool, dark area. Do not store in a refrigerator, freezer or open container, as this will dry out the popcorn kernels, making them unpoppable.

Popcorn is inexpensive, easy to make, and provides fiber, potassium, vitamin B, and carbohydrates.  Eaten plain, it is low in calories, and very satisfying—so enjoy some today!

Birdhouses 101: Housing Wrens, Bluebirds, and Purple Martins

November 24th, 2009

In our last issue, we discussed how you can help birds make it through the winter by providing them with food and water. Today we’ll discuss that third essential that birds share with all animal life: shelter.

Birds generally build their nests in the spring. But if you put one up now, it will weather and have a comfortable smell and feel to the birds by the time spring comes. What’s more, needy birds will probably come and use it before then to escape the vicissitudes of winter.

Birdhouses vary widely in design and price, depending mostly on which species they are intended for. You can get a nice wren house for less than $10, but a housing complex built to shelter a purple martin colony can cost more than $600. Therefore the first thing to consider before buying a birdhouse is what species you want to attract.

wren housesWrens

If the answer is wrens, we carry eight different models, all of which are under $20. Most are made of cedar wood, (which repels insects, mold, and is resistant to bad weather), and have a removable section to allow for easy cleaning. You can choose between a natural cedar model such as the Woodlink Audubon Cedar Wren House, or a painted model like the Home Bazaar Little Wren House which is white with a brown roof.

We also carry the Decorative Metal Roof Wren House that has been hand painted to give it a weathered look, and the Songbird Essentials Recycled Wren House, which is made from recycled plastic jugs and has a lifetime warrantee that covers it against rotting or splitting. For children, we have the Songbird Cedar Wren House Kit, which makes for a great kid’s project, and is only $6.99.

Build Your Own

By the way, if you’re good at woodworking, you can find specs and instructions online for building your own birdhouse at such places as the Maine Cooperative Extension Service and the Okalahoma Extension. Specs for building birdhouses for twenty-four different species including four kinds of woodpeckers and three kinds of owls, may be found on this Bird House Dimensions Chart. You can also buy complete plans for building purple martin houses from Purple Martin Central.

Bluebirdsbluebird houses

Many people want to attract bluebirds because they are beautiful, helpful, peaceable, and have an enchanting song. Furthermore, due to loss of open space and exposure to pesticides, bluebirds are in serious decline. Besides the personal enjoyment you will get from hosting them, putting up a bluebird house is also an act of conservation. As the Michigan Bluebird Society says, “A bluebird box is perhaps the easiest and most rewarding way to do something good for the environment.”

We carry seven models designed for bluebirds. The one we most highly recommend is the Droll Yankees Bluebird Nest Box for it has the seal of approval from the North American Bluebird Society. This ensures that it contains all the features bluebirds want and need.

That said, our bestselling bluebird house is the Songbird Essentials Top Viewing Bluebird Box, which has a Plexiglas portal that lets you peek in through the roof. The Songbird Essentials Flat Top Bluebird House is also very popular. We’ve looked at the recommendations of the Bluebird Society, and these boxes seem to follow them pretty well.

purple martin housesPurple Martins

Another popular songbird are purple martins, the largest American swallow, and one of the few birds that can be considered semi-domesticated in that they will return year after year once they have established a home, along with their offspring who will live in the same quarters or as nearby as possible.

Like bluebirds, purple martins are also facing survival challenges, in fact, according to the Purple Martin Society, “purple martins east of the Rocky Mountains are completely dependent on humans to supply their nestboxes (birdhouses) in order to breed today.”

Purple martin birdhouses are the most expensive kind of birdhouse you can get, as they are designed to contain multiple rooms to accommodate a whole colony of martins. Furthermore, these types of houses have to be mounted on poles, so the purchase of an additional pole kit becomes necessary.

People who set out to attract purple martins consider it a hobby, and some get into it quite deeply. In fact, more than a few of our customers who consider themselves “empty nesters” have decided to change their status by attracting and caring for a purple martin colony.

If you want to become a “purple martin landlord,” we recommend you read The Stokes Purple Martin Book: The Complete Guide to Attracting and Housing Purple Martins, which will tell you all you need to know about getting a colony started it and keeping it happy and growing. You may also want to visit the Purple Martin Conservation Association for many helpful tips and suggestions.

If you’re handy at building things but don’t want to attempt to build a purple martin house from scratch, we recommend the kits made by Heath, which can be ordered with as few as six and as many as twenty-four rooms. You can start out small and expand as needed. We sell a six room house that includes a pole system for $100.00.

Note that the manufacturer describes them as houses but we call them kits. This is because they are time consuming to put together, in fact we have received reports of customers spending all day on the project. That initial challenge is their main disadvantage, although their design also makes it somewhat difficult to access the interior spaces for cleaning and nest checks, and they offer no protection against winged predators or competitors like starlings and sparrows.

Our top-of-the-line models by Lonestar come fully assembled, and their design provides some protection from winged predators. They can be ordered with crescent starling resistant entrance holes (SREH), if you anticipate starlings being a problem.  They also have other features that “purple martin landlords” seek out: expandability, easy access to interior spaces, and a design that maximizes occupancy. Their main disadvantage is their price: the Lonestar pole system alone is $225 and the houses range from $259.95 for the 8-room Goliad Jr. to $389.95 for the twelve-room Goliad.

If you don’t mind an hour or less of assembly, the Heritage Farms Quad Pod boasts what we think is an even better design than the Lonestar models, and we are offering it at a specially discounted price of $156 for a four room house, plus $198 for the pole system. Heritage Farms worked closely with the Purple Martin Conservation Association to create purple martin homes that incorporate all of its recommendations, including full protection from winged predators as well as nesting competitors, something that none of our other martin houses fully provide. We therefore consider it to be our best purple martin birdhouse and, with the discount we offer, a very good value as well.

There’s more to say about birdhouses, but the main thing is just to be sure to get one or build one and put it up! Whether you are attracting bluebirds who, to paraphrase Thoreau, carry the sky on their backs, or purple martins with their “”loud, rich chirruping,” to quote W. M. Tyler, or the wren whom William Shakespeare called “the most diminutive of birds,” you will not regret your decision to provide them with a home.

Sweet Potato Plants on Sale

November 20th, 2009

sweet potatoWhat a sweet thought…homegrown sweet potatoes.  Not only are they a near-failproof crop, but their long storage life makes them ideal for home gardeners.  Sweet potatoes are delicious and they are also jam-packed with nutritional value.  They’re versatile in recipes and are simple to prepare.  Garden Harvest Supply is now accepting orders for all of our spring shipment sweet potatoes.  Georgia Jet and Beauregard are perennial favorite varieties and are recommended for beginning sweet potato growers.

Place your orders now to ensure the varieties you love will be available to you in the spring.  Check our shipment schedule to determine when to expect your orders to arrive.  Then, enjoy the rewards of growing and harvesting your own sweet potatoes.  We know you’ll thank us with each bite!

My lime tree produces limes without any juice

November 20th, 2009

lime treeWhy would a lime tree produce limes that have no juice? The tree is producing tons of limes but they look like avocados and when you open them up they are only pulp and are all dry. Nick

Answer: Without more information on the location, weather conditions, soil type and fertilization habits, it’s hard to venture a guess.

Here are some conditions I have read about that will affect the juice production of citrus trees in general.

  1. Citrus trees do like to have a good consistent moisture level and so it is recommended they have a drip irrigation system around the root area of the tree. There are  several mineral elements that have positive and negative effects on the juice content. Nitrogen will increase juice content and acid concentration, but can also increase the peel thickness. WIthout the proper balance of all major nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, fruit quality and yield are affected. Before arbitrarily adding any fertilizers, I would highly suggest having the soil tested by a qualified lab that can also test for the micronutrients boron and copper.
  2. If your soil tests OK and the water levels have been sufficient, then I would check with your county extension office for the possibility what type of pests might be affecting the quality of the fruit production of the plant.

I hope this gives you some direction, and may you have many juicy limes next season. Karen

Happy with our purchase

November 18th, 2009

Thank you for the Earthway Garden Seeder which arrived safely today. We are pleased with the prices and the service Garden Harvest Supply has provided. We will happily purchase from you again and recommend your company to other growers.  Thank you, Paul M

How to protect my Tea Rose

November 18th, 2009

tea rose plantI live in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Temperatures can get to -10 F and wind chills to -50 F.  I have tea rose plants, both in the ground and in containers. How should I go about protecting them from winter? My wife wants me to put them behind the house near either the dryer exhaust vent or furnace vents and wrap them in burlap. What do you suggest? Thank You, Bill

Answer: For your roses in the ground you will want to focus on protecting the graft area of the plant. All hybrid roses are grafted to the root stock of a hardier rose and this union is the part that can freeze and die back the easiest. The canes of the plant will almost always die back, so just go ahead and cut them back to about a foot or so. For the roses in the ground the best way to protect them is once you’ve had several good freezes and the chance of warm temperatures have passed, mound mulch up around the base of the plants. Give them a good 6-8 inches deep of protection. Use a physical barrier to encircle the plants and keep mulch and leaves in place during the winter winds. Once the weather starts to warm up consistently, shortly before the last frost date, gradually remove this mulch. You should start to see some new growth coming up from the base. Whatever you use to hold the protection in place, make sure you pin it down well: You don’t want your poor roses exposed in the bitter winter wind.

For roses in pots, if you have a barn or space in an unheated garage you could just store them in there, just making sure the soil doesn’t become too dry (adding just a moderate amount of water once or twice when nights are not going to be sub-freezing). If you want to store them outside, lay the pots on their side. This will keep water from standing on top of the soil and freezing the crowns (grafts) of the plants. If you have the space, you can dig a trench and lay them in that, cover them up with the dirt and some leaves and maybe use burlap to hold these in place. Or just lay them beside the house and cover with leaves.  However, do not lay them near the dryer vents. This might cause them to start to bud too early and then freeze and die. Dryer vents do create a micro-climate but for plants that need dormancy, this is not a good thing. You can put them on the south side of the house, the warmest side.  Generally, any protected area is fine; they are dormant and don’t require sunshine. Once you have snow, mound some of the snow up over them as well.  It’s a great insulator.

Good luck with the roses! Karen

Just a question on growing potatoes

November 17th, 2009

potato plantJust a question on growing potatoes:  I’ve got them growing in the vegetable garden at work and just wanted to know how big they grow and how much dirt do i put around them while they are growing?  And, is it possible to put blood and bone on them?   I look forward to your reply. Any information on potatoes other than the questions I have asked would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Abby

Answer: How wonderful that you can have vegetable garden at work.  What a great way to take a break and enjoy the earth for a moment or two!

How big the plants grow will depend on the variety you choose, of course, so make sure you check that before you start. Typically they can range from 24 inches (60 cm)  up to 30 inches (75cm).

When you plant them you might want to add the bone meal to the site in addition to other organic compost. You will “hill up” the potatoes as they grow until the seed piece is approximately 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) beneath the surface. Blood meal can be added once the plants begin to grow, but since it is a high nitrogen fertilizer you want to use the light feeding rate so as to not encourage too much leaf growth.

You can read more about planting potatoes on our blog page.

Happy growing…and great harvest. Karen

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