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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.

From

All of us at Garden Harvest Supply

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~

Karen

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 the Songbird Cedar Wren House Kit, which makes for a great kid’s project.

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.”

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.

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

Welcoming Birds to Your Garden In Winter

November 16th, 2009

winter bird feederWelcoming Birds

November chores include bringing things in: houseplants, tools. But there’s something you’ll want to put out at this time: birdfeeders. Many varieties of birds are looking in nature’s pantry for something to eat right now and finding it as bare as the trees that such a short time ago were covered with leaves and fruit. By making an effort to keep our feathered friends well fed, you will provide them with much needed sustenance, and they will provide you with a source of delight all winter long. As Jennifer Brennan of Wilmette, Illinois puts it, “having eight cardinals to enjoy with your winter coffee makes living here worthwhile.”

But the satisfaction of feeding birds goes beyond their visual appeal and delightful songs. As Chris Packham explains, “It makes me feel good about myself, knowing I could be helping a bird survive the winter and go on to raise chicks next year…. You can see the good you’re doing the way the birds just pile into your garden looking for food.” He knows of what he speaks: as vice president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in England, he is well aware of what birds are up against in the winter.

Birds that have been weakened by illness or injury will not have the stamina to migrate. Other birds migrate through areas that have been built up to the extent that green areas are far and few between. They need a little help to survive from the biped species that paved over their habitat. Other birds are non-migratory, but they still face slim pickings in the winter, especially if a snowstorm has buried their food. Imagine their relief when they find a birdfeeder stocked with seeds or suet!

Some people worry that birdfeeders might disrupt migration patterns or increase nest predation, but major environmental organizations such as the Audubon Society give birdfeeders an enthusiastic two thumbs up. In fact, in an article entitled The Winter Feast, published by Audubon Magazine, Steven W. Kress argues that bird feeders have such a positive impact on bird populations that ideally every household should have at least one.

If you’re looking for a feeder, we have an more than one hundred: everything from window feeders like our best-selling Window Café, to feeders designed to attract specific birds such as finches, to an All Weather Feeder that will keep seeds dry even in horizontal rain, to artistic feeders with various stained glass designs, to novelty feeders that look like barns or carriage lamps, to those popular wire-mesh No No Feeders that can hold more than two pounds of seed.

By the way, we carry all the fixin’s: sunflower seed, peanut seed, Nyjer seed, and suet. To keep seed from littering the ground and attracting squirrels, we sell the ingenious Seedhoop Seed Catcher. We also have a variety of squirrel-proof feeders, including the award-winning Heritage Farms Absolute II, which is another one of our bestselling birdfeeders.

If you want to solve your squirrel problem by feeding the little guys (and gals) directly, we also sell squirrel feeders. Heck, you can even throw a squirrel party with our Food For A Crowd Squirrel Feeder, which is only $12.75. If any squirrel comes to you and complains that he and his friends are still hungry after you stick a bunch of ears of corn onto this feeder, we’ll refund your money, no questions asked!

bird bathBirds Cannot Live By Seed Alone

Besides food, birds also need water—especially after ponds and puddles freeze, and the fruits and berries that served as secondary water sources are no longer available.  Making water available will attract an even wider variety of birds than a feeder, and the combination of a feeder and a birdbath is unbeatable, especially in the winter.

We sell a heated birdbath that will stay ice-free all the way to 20 degrees below zero! It can either be placed on the ground, or mounted on a rail or post, and comes in terra cotta or blue powder finish, depending on which model you choose. In any case, the bowl is easily detachable: a key feature, as you’ll want to change the water and clean it regularly.

To be frank, if you’re serious about providing birds a place to drink and bathe year-round, you might want to go with another model that isn’t heated, and simply place a de-icer into it during the winter. The reason is that no single birdbath contains all the features recommended by ornithologists, yet it is possible to get a birdbath that has everything but a heater.

For example, the Birdbath and Solar Fountain almost has it all: the pedestal design keeps the bowl off the ground and thus out of reach of cats and other animals; the weathered stone base makes it unlikely that any animal will knock it over (unless you have bears around). The bowl is 2” deep and rough inside, just what the pros recommend, and—best of all— the water does not sit around but circulates constantly, propelled by a solar powered pump.

This last feature is important for several reasons: besides the fact that birds love moving water, standing water needs to be changed much more often, and when the weather warms up it provides mosquitoes a place to breed, including those that might carry West Nile disease. Thus getting a birdbath with a fountain is definitely the way to go for year-round use, and having it be solar-powered eliminates the need for a cord or batteries. For tips on birdbath placement and care, see this helpful guide.

In writing about the needs of birds, we’ve covered food and water, but we’ve left out one more essential: shelter. Next issue, we’ll discuss what you can do on your property so that visiting birds will not only stop for a meal and drink, but possibly to spend the night—or many nights.

We’ll close with a little poem by the nineteenth-century British novelist Thomas Hardy that articulates a bit of the winter birds’ plight that we spoke of earlier:

Birds At Winter Nightfall

Around the house the flakes fly faster,

And all the berries now are gone

From holly and cotoneaster

Around the house.The flakes fly!—faster

Shutting indoors that crumb-outcaster

We used to see upon the lawn

Around the house.The flakes fly faster,

And all the berries now are gone!

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