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Archive for February 2009

The Care and Feeding of Your Hummingbird Feeder

February 24th, 2009

orange hummingbirdHummingbirds are nature’s iridescent winged jewels, flitting in your garden, bringing a sweetly exotic touch to your landscape. If you’d like to attract these beauties as regular visitors, you should provide them with nectar, the high energy drink that gives them the strength to catch their protein source: bugs. Garden Harvest Supply makes it easy to welcome hummingbirds to your home by providing a large assortment of feeders specially designed for the tiny birds’ feeding habits. You may choose from blown glass feeders, which are, themselves, works of art to hang in your garden, or a wide variety of plastic feeders with easy-to-clean features. Since hummingbirds use a great deal more energy hovering in place at feeders than they do when flying from flower to flower, it’s good to have a feeder that allows for perching to provide necessary rest.

Cleanliness is essential for a successful hummingbird feeder. Each time you refill the feeder, it should be taken down and flushed with hot tap water and scrubbed with a bottle brush. Hummingbirds do not like the taste of soap residue, so if the feeder needs a more thorough cleaning, such as it would if you notice black mold, then it’s best to soak it for an hour in a mixture of 1/4 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water. Rinse thoroughly and refill with your nectar mixture. This bleach soaking should be carried out at least once a month. Nectar should be changed at least every 3 to 4 days when temperatures reach above 80 degrees (F), and every 2 days when temperatures rise above 90 degrees (F). In addition, if the nectar mixture becomes cloudy, it means it is spoiled and the feeder must be emptied, cleaned and refilled. It’s been said that hummingbirds would rather starve than drink spoiled nectar.

Providing nectar for the hummingbird feeder is a very simple matter. Simply combine 1 part white cane (not beet) sugar to 4 parts water. This formula (21%) best reproduces the amount of sucrose naturally found in flowers that North American hummingbirds prefer. It is sweet enough to fulfill the little birds’ needs but not so sweet that it unduly attracts insects such as wasps, bees, and ants. Unused syrup may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Never put brown sugar, Jell-O, honey or fruit in the feeder. Because honey ferments rapidly when mixed with water, it can be fatal to hummingbirds. It is not necessary to use red coloring in the syrup mixture and, as a matter of fact, red dye may even be harmful to these delicate creatures. For added convenience, Garden Harvest Supply sells prepackaged nectar.

You will certainly want to hang your hummingbird feeder where you can easily see it from the house. In order to get these darling birds accustomed to visiting a new feeder, you can hang it in your garden where you have hummingbird-attracting plants. Garden Harvest Supply sells both perennials such as Delphinium and Buddleia (“Butterfly Bush,”) and annuals such as Lantana and Fuchsia that are attractive to hummers.

Depending on where you live, you may wish to leave your hummingbird feeder up year-round, as it will not delay migration patterns. In the winter, some western hummers may visit feeders in the southeastern United States and hummingbirds wintering near Mexico will welcome your feeders in that part of the country. Parts of the U.S. Pacific Coast and extreme southwestern Canada are home to a non-migratory variety known as Anna’s Hummingbirds. Feeders will be visited by these hummers year-round.

Taking care of the hummingbird feeder so that it can take care of the hummingbirds’ needs does require a little effort, but it is more than worth it to view these lovely little birds in your own backyard or patio.

Declare Your Love of Birds

February 13th, 2009

Did you know that February is National Bird Feeder Month? Really, it is! And it’s not without good reason. It’s the month for lovers—and for lovers of wildlife.

Most of the year, birds can find plenty of food in the form of seeds and berries on growing plants and grasses. But in February, in much of the country, plants are dormant, and birds are dependent on their human compatriots to keep them well fed through the freezing temps and blustery days.

Garden Harvest Supply has an incredibly wide selection of bird feeders available for sale, so you can appeal to the exact types of birds you wish to attract to your yard and wildlife habitat. There are feeders that hold every imaginable type of seed, nut and suet…and feeders for each size and type of bird. There are now feeders that can successfully keep squirrels out of the bird food supply.

When choosing feeders for your winged guests, there are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind. First, what kinds of birds live in your region? And, do they live there year-round, or only during the warm season? It would be a waste to put food out for birds that are sunning in the South for the winter months.

Also, if you have squirrels, raccoons or other wildlife that would likely forage in your bird feeders, make sure you purchase styles that will prevent their invasion—or worse, their breaking the feeders with their excess weight and industrial-strength claws.

Where you hang your bird feeders is also paramount to choosing the correct styles. If you have large picture windows and wish to watch birds up close, hang a bird feeder right from your eave or on a bracket attached to your house. Some feeders can be attached right to the window glass, with suction cups. Some can also be affixed to your windowsills. Make sure that wherever you place your feeder, it’s easy for you to reach, so that refilling regularly is an easy task, and that spilled seed won’t be an annoyance. Birds aren’t always the neatest diners, but some animal will usually be happy to clean up whatever seed is spilled on the ground.

Pole feeders are great for yards or walkways. There are also many types of feeders that are appropriate for suspending from poles in the ground.

Different bird species have different diets, so plan your feeder according to the type of seed, suet or nectar you plan to supply to your visitors. Garden Harvest Supply not only sells the feeders, but they sell all the different types of feed, as well.

Impatiens Aren’t Impatient

February 8th, 2009

double impatienInterior decorating creates an environment that defines your individual tastes and your temperament.  But no one will appreciate your hard work to create a comfortable ambiance if the exterior of your home doesn’t have the same welcoming appeal.

Landscaping with plants and flowers sets an inviting tone for you and your guests, every time you enter your front door.  A colorful flower garden around the patio will make any backyard barbecue feel like a four-star dining experience.  Nothing brings more instant cheer than a hanging planter of flowers on the porch.  Like interiors, the effort you put into designing the exterior spaces around your home will allow you to be creative and artistic while providing months worth of beauty for all to enjoy.

Impatiens are the most popular bedding plant in the U.S. for many reasons.  The quality they’re most noted for is their ability to thrive in shade.  They bring a burst of color to partial or full shade areas where most other plants wouldn’t survive.  Impatiens have medium-sized glossy leaves that are green or green with white edges—and they are covered in blooms from spring to fall.  They have a compact growth habit, meaning they will maintain a nice symmetrical shape without taking over other plants. There are single and double impatiens and the double impatiens are growing in popularity for their wide assortment of color, and their larger, fuller blooms.

Another reason for the popularity of impatiens is that they perform equally well in containers and hanging baskets, so you can surround yourself with blooms.  Make sure to maintain a moist soil, and remember that containers will dry out faster than plants in the ground.  Because they prefer partial shade, they don’t need the same frequent watering as plants requiring lots of sunlight.

Double impatiens come in colors including white, light pink, salmon, and coral, with pink, red and purple varieties ranging from light and soft to deep, dark and intense. Some flowers are even two-tone, like the pink and purple blooms on “Purple Star” or the red and white “Red Star.”

The double impatiens Silhouette ” Appleblossom” plant provides a wealth of double peach-pink blooms set against green foliage.  The Silhouette “Appleblossom” will grow to approximately 10 inches in height and 9 inches in diameter, making a gorgeous compact display of soft pink throughout the warm season.  Garden Harvest Supply grows Appleblossom, as well as all our other double impatiens, in fine quality growing medium and in larger pots than most plant sellers, so you receive plants that are healthy and guaranteed to arrive alive and thrive with your love and attention.

Become your own landscape designer, personalizing your beds and containers to your tastes.  If your home’s exterior is busy, consider a minimalist look in your flower beds, sticking with a monotone, single color of bloom offset by assorted heights and colors of foliage.  Choose two complementary colors of flowers like light pink and deep pink to make a design in small isolated beds.  Or, use two contrasting colors such as purple and orange, or dark red and salmon to add drama and impact.  Spread a rainbow of color where you want to make a dull, drab bed feel bigger and brighter.

Water conservation makes sense/scents/cents

February 8th, 2009

It wasn’t so long ago that environmentalists were thought of as tree huggers, hippies, extremists, or wackos. Well, now that clean water is becoming more scarce, those same folks are considered economical and ecological trendsetters.

Being careful with household water use will prevent excessive untreated water from overflowing into lakes and rivers. It’s an easy way to save money, as well.

Conserving water isn’t rocket science, and in many areas it’s a necessity. Countless simple measures can make you a good steward of the water supply we all must share. Check your water meter during a period when water isn’t being used, to make sure you have no faucet, toilet or pipe leaks. Take shorter showers, and don’t flush your toilets more often than necessary. Don’t run the water while you brush your teeth. Run only full machine loads of dishes and clothes. As you wait for your shower water to get hot, capture the cold water in buckets to water your houseplants or garden.

Outside the home, conservation is even easier—and sometimes it isn’t optional. Set your sprinklers to avoid watering your driveway, and water when it’s not windy or too sunny, to avoid evaporation. Using mulch and organic matter in the soil around your plants and landscaping will help retain moisture, meaning less frequent watering from your hose.

One common-sense conservation measure is to start your vegetable and flower garden with healthy starter plants from healthy seeds. You can start at home from seeds, but it requires daily watering and monitoring for proper moisture, to get the seeds off to a good start. Garden Harvest Supply sells an enormous selection of vegetables already started for you, to be transplanted after the last threat of frost. High quality, mature starts will establish quickly and not be as sensitive to moisture fluctuations as plants started from seed.

As you plan your spring garden, consider that keeping your vegetable plants in pots in a greenhouse as long as possible is the best way to conserve water. You are only watering the soil immediately around the new plant, and not an entire garden of soil. Some vegetables can be transplanted well into maturity. Others can remain in pots through the entire growing season, such as peppers, tomatoes and herbs. Potted plants require more frequent watering, because their soil will dry out more quickly, but compared to garden plants, they will require cups instead of gallons with each watering. Other advantages of keeping plants in pots is their portability and their decorative possibilities.

If your water is being rationed, it’s mandatory to consider your garden’s efficient use of water. Keeping new plants in pots eliminates the need to set up a garden sprinkler system as you get your new vegetables and flowers established. Garden Harvest Supply sells larger plants, and starting with healthy plants in the right growing medium means less susceptibility to drying out.

Starting your garden plants from seeds is fine, but it does require more constant moisture from the very first day of planting in pots until the plant’s roots are well established. Sometimes, starting with plants instead of seeds makes economical and ecological sense!

Creativity in a Jar

February 2nd, 2009

Mrs. Miller’s Homemade Red Raspberry Jam is probably not the first ingredient you reach for when you’re getting ready to make a batch of brownies. Or the main sauce ingredient to top roasted pork medallions. But you really should consider what the addition of homemade jams can do for your other foods.

In marinades, Mrs. Miller’s Homemade Cherry Jam adds just the right combination of sweet and tart. Blend Mrs. Miller’s fruit jam with something acidic, like vinegar, wine or lemon juice, and salt (or soy or worcestershire sauce, to add the salty flavor), then toss in fresh herbs and spices to taste, and you can marinate nearly any meat, to be cooked in nearly any way. Beef needs to marinate for several hours, but chicken and fish can absorb marinades quickly, in an hour or less.

Barbecue sauces all contain some form of sugar, but the savviest grillers know the secret to the best sauces is starting with high quality fruit jams. The sweet and tangy fruit flavors, and the body added by the pectin, create a sauce that will literally stick to the ribs. Another culinary secret known by anyone who loves hot spices is that the sugars in jams and jellies bring out all the robust flavor to balance the heat of fresh or dried chili peppers.

Baked brie is always the first thing to disappear from cheese assortments. Try topping a wheel of brie with Mrs. Miller’s Homemade Strawberry Jam, and a touch of brown sugar and butter, then brown in the oven until the cheese is soft and the topping begins to caramelize. Your guests will need to be restrained!

For diabetics or anyone who is watching their sugar intake, you’re in luck. Mrs. Miller’s Homemade No Sugar Cherry Jam can be used in exactly the same ways as the full-sugar variety. Try mixing a few teaspoons into your meatloaf recipe, to give it new zing. Many of Mrs. Miller’s jam flavors come without the addition of granulated sugar, but instead are sweetened with fruit juices. So, it’s another way to give a sweet flavor twist to your standard recipes without adding refined and processed commercial sauces.

Of course, Mrs. Miller’s homemade fruit jams are also delicious in the traditional manner, spread on toast or muffins. These jars of preserved heaven, created in the kitchens of an Amish family farm in Ohio, are filled with fresh, wholesome ingredients, and no artificial preservatives. You’ll immediately taste the high quality ingredients and handcrafted quality.

You can find a huge assortment of Mrs. Miller’s Homemade fruit jams and jellies in Garden Harvest Supply’s specialty food section. Try the old standard flavors like apricot, orange marmalade or grape. All the berries are there, including gooseberry and elderberry. And if you’re in the mood for something altogether different, treat your tastebuds to the Dutch Apple, hot pepper, or tomato—yes, tomato—jam.

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