« Back to all News

Archive for 2010

Cukes

December 28th, 2010

young cucumber growing in the gardenBesides being a crunchy, flavorful salad ingredient, cucumbers are pickles-to-be. So what garden is complete without them?

Cukes grow on vining or bush-type plants; your garden space will determine which varieties have a growth habit that is best suited for your needs. The other factors to consider when choosing the types of cucumbers to grow are how you plan to consume the fruit, and what qualities you seek in the flavor. If you want crisp, fresh cucumbers all summer long, choose a variety with a slower time to harvest. If you plan to make pickles, choose a variety like the Homemade Pickles Cucumber Plant that is mature and ready to harvest in 45 days, and between 2 to 5 inches in length.

Cucumbers like the Dasher II produce copious fruits that are ripe for harvest at 10-12 inches in length, and starting at around 2 months of growth. Some varieties are less acidic and easier to digest.

While you are at it, radishes make great companions for cucumbers. Companion planting means putting compatible plants together to provide benefits to one or both. In the case of cukes, if radishes are planted nearby or interplanted throughout the cucumber bed, they will deter the pesky striped cucumber beetle. There is an entire book, called Carrots Love Tomatoes, that is dedicated to companion planting, to help you get the most out of your garden plants.

Cukes need a lot of moisture to grow and produce bountiful crops. The vining varieties require a trellis or stake support to allow the fruits to have space to grow. They mature best when allowed some shade underneath the plant’s leaves or from neighboring plants.

Harvest cucumbers when they reach their desired length and before they get too plump, which ensures sweeter fruit and it also keeps the plant producing more throughout the season. Also, never let cucumbers turn yellow, or they’ll develop a bitter or sour flavor and hard seeds and skin texture. The varieties you choose will have a recommended “days to maturity” rating that will tell you when to expect your first ripe fruits.

Wear gloves when harvesting cucumbers. They are covered with tiny prickly spines that can easily be removed with a gloved hand. To remove the fruits from the vine, simply hold the cucumber in one hand, and the stem in the other and snap off at the stem. If the fruit resists, pull the stem from the vine and keep it intact with the fruit.

The more you harvest, the more you encourage the plant to continue its production until the frost hits. Cukes like heat and generally aren’t very frost resistant.

plate full of garden grown cumumbersIf your cukes are ripening faster than you can eat them, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or, you can make cucumber salad by preserving them in a vinegar-based brine, and they’ll keep like that for a week or so, refrigerated. The main thing is to keep picking them as they ripen to encourage the vines to continue providing new fruits.

An easy, refreshing and nutritious cucumber salad can be made combining white vinegar, salt and sugar to taste, added to diced red bell peppers, onions and cukes. Allow flavors to marry overnight. Also, the skin contains many nutrients, so if your garden is organic, don’t peel and discard the best part of the cuke!

A Wintry Mix…of Year-End Thoughts

December 27th, 2010

Did you know snow is a great insulator that contains “thousands of tiny air pockets that hold the soil warmth around the plants it covers”? Our friends at the Virginia Cooperative Extension explain that the insulation provided by snow provides “warmth and wind protection to the overwintering spinach, pansies, and multitude of perennials that we had not yet mulched around this time that we don’t even have to apply.”

birdhouse in winterWhen you add on the striking beauty of snow, especially when combined with a birdhouse or two to attract cardinals and other birds that look great against a white background, you might just feel a flurry of gratitude when contemplating the white stuff that can be so much fun, and an extra gift when its abundance results in a day off from work or school.

Meanwhile, inside your home your houseplants will thrive if you give them the right winter care. Most important is to water them only when their soil is dry to the touch. It’s also a good idea to dust or wipe off your plants to maximize their light absorption. Besides, they’ll look nicer when you have your New Year’s guests over.

Talking about New Year’s guests, remember that some of the plants you might now have inside need to be kept away from small children and pets. These include Amaryllis, Jerusalem cherry, and Poinsettia. Hang that Mistletoe up high also; it might be fun to smooch under, but you definitely don’t want anyone nibbling on it. For a complete list of toxic house plants, check out Common House Plants Poisonous to People and Pets.

The quiet period between Christmas and New Year is a good time to take stock of your garden as well as your life.  As you make your New Year’s resolutions and think about the year to come, don’t forget your garden. As we’ve said before, nothing dispels the winter doldrums faster than planning one’s spring garden. And you don’t even have to wait to order vegetable plants, as well as strawberry and watermelon plants: we’re already taking preorders and when the plants become available in the spring, yours will be among the first orders to go out.

asparagus plantThis month we’re featuring two of the most popular varieties of asparagus: Jersey Supreme and Jersey Knight. These male hybrids each produce green spears with purple bracts. The Supreme emerges a week later than the Knight but offers a greater yield. Both varieties will do well in any hardiness zone, but the Knight might do a bit better in warmer climates.

We ship our asparagus plants in groups of twenty, enough for a good-sized patch. Because the plants are already a year old, the time you have to wait before your first harvest will be that much shorter. Asparagus is one of the most long-lived perennial vegetables, so you can expect quite a return on your investment: once your patch starts producing, you’ll be able to enjoy home grown asparagus for the next fifteen years! And nothing can beat the taste of home grown asparagus, especially when it’s cut and cooked the same day.

Acclaimed novelist Barbara Kingsolver talks about the superiority of fresh asparagus in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver, who started out as a science writer, explains, “The moment the asparagus neck goes under the knife, an internal starting gun fires “Go!” and it begins to decompose, metabolizing its own sugars and trying—because it knows no other plan—to keep growing. It’s best eaten the day it is cut, period…. When transported, even as refrigerated cargo…the sweetness goes starchy.”

Kingsolver includes an intriguing recipe in her book: Asparagus Morel Bread Pudding. No, I’d never heard of this dish before either—I’d even forgotten that a morel is a kind of mushroom. But Kingsolver assures us that “two things that are impossible to get tired of are asparagus and morels,” apparently even when combined in a pudding. We invite you to try the recipe yourself once the weather warms up and you have fresh asparagus to harvest. Let us know how it turns out.

new year clockAs we bid farewell to 2010, we’d like to wish you a very Happy New Year. We hope 2011 will be your best year ever, and we look forward to serving you in the months to come.

Broccoli, This Bud’s For You

December 20th, 2010

How to grow tasty broccoliDid you know that when you eat broccoli you are actually eating flowers? As children, many of us had broccoli introduced to us as “little trees,” but actually they are little flower buds bursting with flavor and nutrition. Broccoli has been cultivated for hundreds of years, originally in Turkey, making its way across Europe and finally showing up in Thomas Jefferson’s garden in 18th century America. It wasn’t until the 1930′s, however, that Americans learned to really enjoy broccoli, thanks to a pair of Italian brothers, Stephano and Andrea D’Arrigo, who brought their broccoli seeds and love of the vegetable to California in the 1920′s.

Broccoli is delicious served raw in salads and, of course, its edible stems come in handy when dipping them in veggie dips and dressings. It is equally at home, cooked and served with a rich hollandaise or cheese sauce, stir-fried with other vegetables or meats, baked in casseroles, simmered in soups, or simply steamed in all its bare green beauty.

Isn’t it great when such a delicious and versatile food is also so good for our health, as well? The National Cancer Institute suggests that broccoli may be very helpful in the prevention of some forms of cancer. Its beta carotene, vitamin C, fiber, calcium and phytochemicals are thought to enhance enzymes that help detoxify the body, helping to not only prevent cancer, but heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

All vegetables are at their best when harvested straight from the garden and when it’s your own home garden, well, you just can’t get any fresher than that. Broccoli is a cool weather crop and grows best in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees F. Typically, you can have a spring and fall harvest. (Although in regions where the temperature doesn’t dip below the 40′s, you can harvest broccoli all winter long.)

For the spring harvest, plant seedlings in well-drained soil, with plenty of calcium and boron, about a month before the last expected frost. They should be planted in full sun although they can handle a little shade part of the day. Plant the seedlings just a bit deeper in the soil than they were in their containers and about 18 inches apart to garner the largest heads. Rows should be about 12 inches apart. In 40 to 90 days, harvest the center buds including about 5 inches of the center stalk. Always harvest while the buds are tight and have not opened revealing their bright yellow flowers. (Those may be pretty, but they aren’t tasty!) Side sprouts can be harvested for several more weeks. For a fall/winter harvest, plant the seedlings 90 days before the first expected frost of the season. You can even grow broccoli in containers, 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep, along with other plants such as pretty pink petunias and Dusty Miller to accent the colors of the vegetable.

So whether you call them little trees or edible flowers, broccoli plants fit the bill as attractive plants that provide important nutrition and delicious flavor.

Time to Plan What to Plant

December 13th, 2010

Just as winter is blanketing most of the U.S. under freezing temperatures and lots of white stuff, it’s time to start planning your spring plantings. Garden Harvest Supply sells live annual plants for gardens and landscape beds, and the popular varieties sell out quickly. All annual plants are now available for purchase and will ship according to the spring shipping schedule found on the site.

Consider the advantages to buying your annual plants now:  First, you’re assured of getting the plants you want, before they’re sold out. Second, you can take time to plan the most personal and beautiful outdoor spaces while you’ve got lots of indoor time. And third, winter will seem a lot more tolerable when you know you have fresh live plants coming within only a few months, and they’ll already be ordered and lined up for shipment to you.

There are several advantages to annuals (they only live for one season in most zones) over perennials (they come back each year). Annual flowers are generally more profuse bloomers, and the blooms can last from frost to frost, from early spring through late fall. The colors and bloom varieties of annual flowers is beyond imagination. And there is a variety for every growing condition, soil, water, and available sunlight.

Annuals can be planted in the ground or in containers, and there are countless varieties that are popular for both purposes. Flowering annuals can brighten up even the dreariest areas of your landscape, and can make the most modest home look like a showplace, with only a minimum of planning and care.

For mixed plantings in container gardens, consider tall plants in the center, like Dracaena Spikes and then all around, plant either monochrome or assorted colors of flowers. Consider mixing sizes of blooms, too, like alternating brilliant Petunias, including the Easy Wave trailing varieties, with tiny white or pastel bacopa. For even more drama, at the outside edge of the planter, suspend Dichondra or Vinca vines that will drape down the sides in beautiful cascades.

You can choose to keep your plantings all green and foliage only, or all flowers, too. But most savvy annuals fans like to combine the two for the most showy walkways, landscape beds and containers.

If you like your foliage to have some wow factor, consider some bright fuscia- or neon lime-hued Alternathera. No flower color necessary with these striking beauties.

For a huge tropical plant, Colocasia, or Elephant Ear, has leaves that will grow as big as, you guessed it, an actual elephant ear. It’s a plant that will grow surprisingly huge in a container or in the ground, and the modest bulb can be dug up and overwintered in a garage or root cellar above 40 degrees to bloom again each warm season.

A 2011 Thanksgiving Message from Garden Harvest Supply

November 18th, 2010

A Thanksgiving Message from Joe Stutzman, owner of Garden Harvest Supply

Five years ago I had a vision of creating a business that would offer a full line of vegetable plants for sale online. No one else was doing this, but I believed in that saying, “If you build it, they will come.”  Today I want to thank every single person who has ordered from us, for you have made my dream come true. We’re thriving thanks to your support!

We still offer more vegetable plants than anyone else online, and we’ve expanded to carry everything you might need for your garden, and more.  We remain a family business—perhaps you’ve spoken with me or my daughter Stefni if you’ve called our new toll-free number. By the way, we’re always happy to answer your gardening questions, even if they’re not in connection to any order. Just call us at 1-888-907-4769.

So, on behalf of all the staff, and myself, I want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, and to thank you again for choosing Garden Harvest Supply.

Things You Didn’t Know About Squanto

Most adults will remember getting a history lesson in elementary school about Squanto, the Native American who taught the early settlers how to grow corn and other crops. But there’s a lot more to this Squanto than what your teacher probably told you.

For instance, did you know that Squanto had been captured by an earlier group of explorers and taken to England where he was sold as a slave? Like the biblical Joseph, the experience did not break him, and, in fact, he learned to speak English and learned quite a bit about English methods of agriculture. When a group of friars opposed to slavery liberated him, he was able to secure passage on a ship heading for the New World by working as part of the crew.  He managed to get back to the region where he was born and to his tribe, the Wampanoag. Thus he was uniquely qualified to communicate with and assist the settlers when they arrived in Plymouth on the Mayflower a few years later.

What Squanto taught the settlers was a mixture of Native American gardening techniques and his newly acquired English techniques. For instance, he taught them to use fish as fertilizer, something Native Americans were not doing at the time, but that worked marvelously well. He also taught them how to make the traditional Wampanoag Three Sisters Garden, a method of planting that did not involve any tilling of the land—a great boon because the land around Plymouth is quite acidic with many rocks and pebbles. As you can read in Squanto’s Garden:

The sites were typically round in shape, as opposed to orderly rectangles. The corn was planted first in mounds about six inches apart. After the corn had sprouted, beans were planted on the sloping sides of the mounds. Squash seedlings were to be planted between the mounds, at the same time as the beans. The sunflowers were positioned on the northern edge of the garden, so as not to cast a shadow over the other plants.

As you probably remember, the settlers had a rough time that first winter. After taking Squanto’s advice, however, things turned around for them. When harvest time came, they not only had enough to get by, but in fact, had a bountiful harvest. To celebrate and express their thanks to God, and to Squanto, whom William Bradford described as having been “a special instrument of mercy and grace,” the settlers gathered together in a feast that became the first Thanksgiving.

According to a letter written by colonist Edward Winslow, there were almost twice as many Native Americans as colonists at the feast. Although it is unclear whether turkey was served, we do know there was plenty of corn, beans and squash, as well as deer meat, fish, and—surprise!—various seafood including lobster and crab. A letter Winslow wrote at this time to his loved ones in England well captures the spirit of Thanksgiving: “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

Thanksgiving Quiz

This quiz is guaranteed to keep your kids occupied for at least two minutes while they’re waiting for the Thanksgiving meal to be served. Also suitable for cooks staring at a pot of water and waiting for it to boil, or anyone waiting for the meal to be ready. Answers may be found at the very end of this email.

  1. What Native American man is credited with having helped the settlers to produce bountiful harvests in the New World? 1. Tonto 2. Squanto 3. Tecumseh 4. Sitting Bull
  2. What was the name of the Native American tribe to which he belonged? 1.Wampanoag, 2. Winnebago, 3. Mohawk 4. Lakota.
  3. What soil amendment did these Native Americans teach the settlers to use on their fields? 1. manure 2. lime 3. fish 4. potash
  4. Why did the settlers choose Plymouth as a place to land? 1) They’d been blown off course 2. They were mightily impressed with Plymouth Rock 3. Plymouth looked like it would make a good port 4. The Native Americans were so friendly when they stopped there.
  5. Why didn’t the Settlers realize that they would have a very hard time gardening in Plymouth? 1. The Native Americans told them the land was very fertile 2. They came in the summer and didn’t realize how harsh the winters would be 3. Reports from other earlier explorers had misled them. 4. They Googled “Plymouth” and believed a website that contained incorrect information.

Interview: Customer Margarete C. Jones on her experience with Garden Harvest Supply and what she’s thankful for this Thanksgiving

“I’m 89 years old, and I’d rather enjoy flowers now than have people send them to me after I’m dead! I placed a very large order with Garden Harvest Supply and they sent it all right away. Soon I had a beautiful blooming garden. All those plants they send in boxes are fresh and very good—not one of them has ever been bad. I still have some beautiful flowers, even though it’s cold now where I am in Stedman, North Carolina.

“I’m originally from Austria. Everyone has flowers outside their house and lots of window boxes. I like to continue that tradition, and I especially love daisies and mums. Though I’m confined to a wheelchair, my caretaker wheels me out to the garden, and I explain to him how to do the planting. When it’s watering time, I get to hold the hose. I have a big place, about 20 acres, so he pushes me about quite a lot.

“The rest of the time I have to stay in bed, but I have double glass doors so even then I can still see the beautiful flowers. This Thanksgiving I’m thankful that I can still use my computer (I’m even on Facebook), and that I’m still able to get around in my wheelchair and get out into the garden. Most of all, I’m thankful to God that He takes care of me.”

When Asked What She Was Thankful For, Our Master Gardener Replied:

Defining something for which to be thankful is a hard seed to crack. There are so many things large and small that one should always include. Looking at the struggles of so many others during this tough economic time, I am thankful for the education and training that has allowed me to continue to maintain a modest lifestyle, and thankful that most of my family and friends have been similarly blessed. I’m thankful for all that I have, but there is always room for another plant!

News Flash from Dave Barry

Dave Barry reports that recent scientific research has confirmed a theory he advanced in the 1980s that men are genetically more suited for gardening than cleaning house. “The problem,” he famously argued, is that “women can detect a single dirt molecule 20 feet away” while “men cannot see dirt until there is enough of it to support agriculture.”

Five-Star Bread and Celery Turkey Stuffing Recipe

Is this the first time you’ll be making turkey stuffing, or were you not fully satisfied with how it turned out last year? Here’s a simple but great stuffing recipe by Carlota Chmielewski who describes it as “an easy stuffing recipe for a 10- to 12-pound turkey.” Thanks to AllRecipes.com for letting us reprint it.

Prep time: 20 min.  Cook time: 40 min.  Ready in 2 hours. Yields 10 servings.

Ingredients

1 (1 pound) loaf sliced bread

3/4 cup butter

1 onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chicken broth

Directions

• Let bread slices air dry for 1 to 2 hours, then cut into cubes.

• In a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Cook onion and celery until soft. Season with poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir in bread cubes until evenly coated. Moisten with chicken broth; mix well.

• Chill, and use as a stuffing for turkey, or bake in a buttered casserole dish at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 40 minutes.

Quiz Answers

2, 1, 3, 1, 2

Frustrations of a Tropical Night-Blooming Cereus Grower

November 10th, 2010

The tropical night-blooming cereus blooms at night. Not really surprising, that factoid. But it only blooms for one night.  And then, one night a year.  A neighbor of mine in Columbus, OH called me unapologetically at 1 a.m. one weeknight 15 years ago, begging me to come see her first-ever bloom. She needed someone to help her appreciate the moment, to witness the miracle. After admiring the rare, unusual flower, and learning about the plant, I knew I had to someday grow my own night-blooming cereus. (But not for an excuse to wake people on a work night.)

cereusThis odd, gangly and unruly plant will take over whatever space it’s allotted.  It sends out long, hairy shoots that will keep extending until they reach a wall or ceiling, then they’ll bend and continue growing to infinity. The long, flat, irregular leaves look like a Picasso painting melting. Unexpectedly, right out of the side of a leaf will sprout a hot pink stem and a bud.  Then, a spidery, multi-layered white flower singing tunes from “Little Shop of Horrors” opens to reveal a delicate perfume…evocative of jasmine and evenings spent chugging Mai Tais on Waikiki Beach.

The night-blooming cereus has a cult following. Maybe it’s because of its grotesque greenery only a mother could love. Maybe it’s a purist’s way of proving superhuman patience. Or, maybe it’s just a quirky fun conversation piece.  The first-time viewer always asks, “Why?”

I have been growing a night-blooming cereus indoors from a small start my neighbor Karen (a Master Gardener) gave me about 3 years ago. I’ve tended it, groomed it, and cleared space for its ever-increasing size. I’ve waited for what seemed like 3 1/2 years to see my first bloom, never knowing if or when it would happen.

There is something magical about nurturing this horrible-looking monstrosity to have a large, fragrant flower appear out of the edge of a leaf, only one night each year.

Well, mine bloomed for the first time last night. I missed it. Here’s the wilted, shriveled and jaundiced remains of a flower I found when I woke up:

cereus

There is no point or moral to this story. I was mocked by my own houseplant, and I just needed to vent. Thanks.

Blooming Hibiscus for Container Planting

November 3rd, 2010

white hibiscus plantThe tropical and exotic flowers of the hibiscus plant are adored by plant lovers everywhere.  And experienced growers of this colorful bloomer know that it’s superb for container growing, for many reasons.

Since hibiscus has been hybridized, there are now several growth habits to choose from, as well as varied leaf types, and colors and bloom sizes of flowers. Choosing the type of hibiscus to grow should start with selecting the space where you intend to keep the plant.  It requires a minimum of six hours a day of full sunlight. If you live in a climate with freezing winter temperatures, you’ll need to bring your hibiscus indoors to overwinter.  Therefore, keep that in mind when thinking about the type of container for your outdoor—and indoor—space.

Next, determine the growth habit you prefer for your container-grown hibiscus.  There are hibiscus plants that are best suited to hanging planter pots, like the High Definition Cajun Hibiscus. It has a weeping habit and giant 9- to 10-inch blooms.  A variety with a semi-upright growth habit like Bridal Party also does well in a container that allows it to drape over the sides. Cosmic Dancer has a full upright growth habit and will require a taller growing space. Your container selection might also depend on how frequently you plan to move the plant, if weight is a consideration.

After you’ve chosen the plant type, select a container that will be approximately as deep as it is wide.  Hibiscus prefer to be slightly root-bound, and they’ll send small feeder roots out horizontally to fill whatever space they’re allotted, as well as sending down the main support root vertically. This is a plant that requires proper drainage and some coarse sand mixed in the soil will allow the aeration the roots need.  A container that doesn’t breathe too much, like cement or glazed ceramic, is preferred, since hibiscus are relatively heavy water consumers, and wood or terra cotta won’t hold in the necessary moisture, especially in dry or very hot climates. Otherwise, a standard potting mix and fertilizer regimen should be used.

Hibiscus leaves vary widely among different varieties, from small and simple to large and ornate, and there are plenty of leaf color choices.  In tropical climates, the plants produce blooms nearly year-round, but they go dormant in four-season climates when brought indoors for the winter. During the dormant months, you’ll want a plant that is attractive even without flowers.

Bloom type and color are the main selection criteria for most hibiscus lovers.  Blooms can be single, double, flat or frilly, and the range of colors is pretty much endless!

Provide ample water and sunshine to get the best looking and healthiest container-grown hibiscus.  A well-maintained plant should live and provide abundant blooms for many years.

Most Luxurious Plants EVER Received

October 27th, 2010

I have ordered from MANY catalog nurseries. The four carex Amazon Mist plants I received were quite possibly the biggest (for the price), healthiest and downright luxurious plants I’ve ever received. Carol O.

Deck Perennials, Annuals, Ferns…All Gorgeous

October 25th, 2010

This looks out from my entry over my small deck.  Two simple 2 x 2 frames with double shade cloth top and ends and single layer on the outer side, bungee-corded to existing railings for wind security. Left to right: top hanger is a fern, top of a Plumeria, center on shelf is a Hoya, then my prized Coleus followed by another hanger (I put both hangers from my kitchen outside to get the rain!) Below shelves are varied succulents, a geranium at far left….the Swedish Ivy in white pot inside orange pot as drain (I use commercial food containers for drain pans, as they’re stronger). Lower right side is a large Xanadu Philodendron and a Fern.  Note temp (65)….in October!

deck garden

Left section (each side is 4′ x 4′ x 7′).  Note full Swedish Ivy at right–all from ONE stem of plant I rescued from the trash at Home Depot a year ago!  Just TLC and lots of water.

deck garden

Right side, a bit closer.  Wish I knew the name of the top right hanger.  It’s a profuse grower!

deck garden

My “Baby”…I just LOVE this Coleus.  It’s doubled itself in the past month. Unreal! Note the “drain pan”: it’s what a rotisserie chicken came in. Very sturdy, not like those flimsy clear plastic commercial plant pot liners.  I use all kinds from potato salads, margarine tubs, etc.

coleus plant

The lower right closer, with a peek at my deck box.  Vital in an upstairs granny flat!

deck garden

An Emerald Queen Spathiphyllum (I think) just inside the deck door–a happy camper. It’s much bigger now; this was taken a couple months ago.

garden plant

You Can’t Beat Container-Grown Beets

October 20th, 2010

beet plantBeets make a perfect vegetable to grow in containers.  First of all, they are best eaten young, when they’re about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. So, the time to maturity is quick, but they can be left in the soil until they become 3- to 4-inch globes.  The tops are edible and may be trimmed when very young for use as salad greens, or left to reach a mature height and cooked like any other leafy greens, or even cooked right along with the beet roots.  Beets don’t require as deep a container as many vegetables with deeper roots.

Choose a container that has good drainage.  The diameter of the container is determined by how many beets you intend to grow, since you need to allow room for the globes to expand beneath the soil line.  And as for the growing medium, the richer the better.  Well-draining soil with compost or organic matter added will produce the best and sweetest roots.

Beets need a lot of moisture.  Allowed to dry out, they become tough and woody.  So, make sure to provide a minimum of 1 inch per week of water.

Follow the spacing requirements for planting beet seeds or baby plants, which for most varieties is at least 3 inches apart.  Thin any too-close plants as soon as the tops are a couple of inches tall, and then use those tops as a tender and colorful addition to raw or cooked salads.

Beets prefer cool weather, so either plant immediately after the last frost of spring, or count backward from the first frost of fall and plant far enough in advance to allow the beets to grow to your preferred size, based on the particular variety’s recommended days to maturity.  A couple of heirloom varieties that should do wonderfully grown in containers are Bulls Blood, with its deep purple-red leaves, and Detroit Dark Red, a longstanding favorite among beet aficionados because it stores especially well in root cellars.

Container gardening allows growers to choose a sunny spot on a balcony or patio, where a garden plot might not be available.  The container can be placed near an outdoor spigot, to make watering convenient. And containers can be located where pests are kept at bay.  It’s also popular to use various sizes of containers for rooftop gardening in cities.

Beets show the very tops of their globes above the soil line, and you can pick them whenever you determine the size is right, but keep in mind the smaller the globe, the more tender and sweet.  Also, the skin is smoother on small roots.  Beet skin on any age root is edible and it actually contains many of the nutrients beets are known for.  Some people find the rough texture unappealing, so a compromise might be to peel just the pits and rough spots and leave the rest. 

Beets should lift out of the soil easily if you loosen the soil gently around the globe before grabbing just above the soil line and pulling straight up on the tops.

Fresh-picked beets can be juiced, or cut into wedges or cubes and steamed, made into hot or cold borscht, or cooked and chilled to be topped with sour cream and fresh dill.  Pickled beets store for months and make a colorful, crisp, tart side dish to perk up a cold winter night’s meal.

Discount Coupons
Ask a Master Gardener
Blog Archives
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008