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Archive for February 2012

Carrots-Clamping and other Useful Info

February 28th, 2012

Carrot Plants In StorageBefore you get around to “clamping” carrots, you have to first get them to grow. The Garden Harvest Supply Facebook page, has turned out to provide a wealth of helpful information, as well as being a forum where we can “touch bases” with our customers on a more personal level and even learn something new. For example, we heard from Sue, who talked about “clamping” her harvested carrots, which, of course, heightened my curiosity and led to Sue providing us and other Facebook fans with her tips on growing carrots, which she is obviously very good at.

Here is what Sue told us and taught us:

“We sowed the carrot seed really thinly in a mix of compost and sand in a slightly raised bed. To avoid the dreaded carrot fly we keep the tops of the carrots plants covered at all times to avoid too much damage… in doing this many more of the carrots were fly free when pulled. We lifted them and spread them onto trays to dry for a few hours before clamping them down.”

When Sue mentioned covering them, I immediately thought of our Haxnicks Easy Tunnel Row Covers and how easy that would make the process for large carrot plots. For smaller gardens we have our Harvest Guard Row Cover that can easily be cut to size.

When we questioned Sue on what “clamping down” meant, she answered, “Layered and bedded in sand preserves Carrots for many months keeping the lovely flavour of freshly dug Carrots! She also added, upon further questioning, “We clamp by using sharp sand (dried out) and put in a layer of sand followed by a layer of carrots until the box is full.” Thanks Sue for the great pic!

Another of our Facebook fans had a question for Sue, “Sue did you build your own root cellar? Wondered if you had any tidbits…I want to build one with our next house…”

And Sue was kind enough to answer, “We made a deep box 30″ long 14″ deep 12″ wide, we then put in a layer of sand and carrots alternately, we have done this for several years now and it works really well the Carrots stay firm and sweet, we have kept them this way until the following spring . It can be done with Swede , parsnips etc :)”

This led us to ask the question “Where do you store the box after it is layered, to which she replied, “We keep it in our Garage through the winter where it is cold but frost free.”

Thanks to Sue and to all of those who have posted in the past and will post in the future. We will continue to pass along what we learn and what we think might be useful to you, though you are always welcome to visit the Garden Harvest Supply Facebook page and find out first hand or share your own experiences.

Happy Gardening!

Supertunia Petunia’s from Proven Winners

February 22nd, 2012

vista silverberry supertunia petunia plantNew plants are introduced in what seems to be ever-increasing numbers.  It can leave a gardener wondering if it is really necessary to have 50 new marigolds or 100 new petunias added in one year.  I have to admit that sometimes one marigold or petunia is as good as the next.  But, sometimes a petunia isn’t just another petunia.  Sometimes you get something so outstanding it makes you rethink what you were sure you knew about that plant.  For me, Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia was one of those plants.

I’ll admit it.  I wasn’t really a fan of Petunias.  Sure, they could be really pretty, but they had to be deadheaded—and who has the time for that?  They also didn’t really perform that great throughout the whole summer, at least partly because I didn’t deadhead.  Petunias weren’t really anything I was going to get too excited about.  Then in the spring of 2006, that all changed.  Proven Winners® introduced Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum and Supertunia® Vista Fuchsia and I’ve never viewed Petunias the same again.  Three years later, Supertunia® Vista Silverberry joined the group.

So why did Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum have such an impact?  First, it doesn’t need to be deadheaded.  The plant will bloom prolifically all summer long and I never have to pick off a single spent flower.  Second, the vigor of the plant is outstanding.  The first year, I used three plants in each of three 20-inch containers.  They grew like crazy, cascading onto the concrete around the planters and then kept on going.  The second year, I planted them in the landscape—a single plant in several different spots.  They bloomed all summer, no deadheading, no supplemental water, just a good addition of compost prior to planting.  I planted in May and by September that one single plant was 3 feet by 5 feet and 18 inches tall—buried in bright bubblegum pink blooms.

Both Supertunia® Vista Fuchsia and Supertunia® Vista Silverberry perform as well as Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum.

vista fuchsia supertunia petunia plant in containerAfter growing these in my garden every year since they were introduced, do I have any tips or tricks so that you, too, can be this successful?  First, they don’t necessarily need it, but I give my plants a light “haircut” when I’m planting them.  This encourages additional branching and helps the plant start growing strong in its new home.  Second, put them where they’ll get at least six hours of direct sun a day.  They will do much better with a lot of light.  Third, because they are such vigorous growers and bloomers, they use a lot of energy.  This means fertilizer is key to maximizing their potential.  Fourth, because the plants get very large, you will need to keep up your watering, if you grow them in containers.

I do treat in-ground and container plantings a bit differently. For containers, I add a controlled-release fertilizer when I’m transplanting and then mid-summer (usually in July for me) I start using a water-soluble fertilizer as often as I can.  This will really give your container plants a boost.  I also recommend larger containers (18-inch or larger), because they are much easier to keep hydrated.  If it is hot, be prepared to water every day—and potentially more than once.  In containers, I usually give a mid- to late-summer trim-back, since the plants can begin to look a bit open as the summer goes on.  That first year on a warm August lunch break, I trimmed back my three large containers by about 1/3. What was full bloom in the morning was green meatballs after the trim-back.  Within a couple of days, they were back in color and by a week later they were in full bloom.  That trim really reinvigorated the plants and improved the look of the containers as they headed into fall.

For in-ground plantings, things are a bit easier.  Before planting I incorporate a good dose of compost and then use a controlled release fertilizer.  The in-ground beds have never needed supplemental fertilizer beyond that.  I put the plants one to two feet apart, depending on how impatient I am for them to fill the spot.   I put soaker hoses in my beds and water only when things are very dry—and then only once a week.  I find it is better to water deeply with a soaker hose once a week, versus a little bit of water more often.  For one thing, it encourages deep root growth.  I also don’t usually give my plants the mid- to late-summer trim-back.  The openness that I see in container plants doesn’t happen in the ground.  The only time I trim back is if the petunias have covered too much of the sidewalk and I need to make room for people.

vista bublegum supertunia petunia plantSupertunia plants are truly some of the best performing petunias you can buy.  Try them and you might find yourself rethinking what growing a Petunia means.

This article was written by Kerry Meyer. Kerry is the Project Manager at Proven Winners.

Patent info:  Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia hybrid ‘USTUNI6001′ PP: 17730 Can.: 2871; Supertunia® Vista Fuchsia Petunia hybrid ‘USTUNI8902′ PP: 17895 Can. Can.: 2875; Supertunia® Vista Silverberry Petunia hybrid ‘USTUNI6001M’ PP: 20903 Can.: 3866

Announcing Our Wholesale Program and New Varieties of Veggies for 2012!

February 16th, 2012

wholesale vegetable plants for saleBuy More and Pay Less Through Our Wholesale Program

In this newsletter we’re excited to announce our new wholesale program that will benefit growers needing lots of plants, as well as those who would like to get together with neighbors or a growing co-op to place an order together. Here’s how it works: you special order plants in quantities of 100; we do the initial planting, germination and thinning, and send you the seedlings in the Spring, just at the right time for planting in your zone. The minimum order is 100 plants of any single variety.

What you get—besides lots of plants—are huge savings. For instance, let’s say you ordered 100 Packman Broccoli plants through the wholesale program. What you’d pay is a total of $20.58 as compared to $2.80 per plant if you ordered them individually. That means you get 100 hundred plants for what you would ordinarily pay for 7 plants! Plus, shipping comes out to be about the same: in both cases it runs about $15. The same super-low prices are in effect for dozens of our other vegetable plants when you buy them wholesale including Black From Tula Heirloom Tomato PlantsSweet Baby Girl Cherry Tomato Plants, Blue Curled Scotch Kale Plants, and Bell Boy Sweet Pepper Plants.

You’re probably asking yourself, “How can they afford to do this?” The answer is that it’s simply cheaper for us to grow plants in large quantities, and we then pass the savings on to you. Yet every single plant is guaranteed to arrive alive and healthy. So take advantage of our wholesale program—it might be just the excuse you need to meet other growers in your community and help each other out.

Make Your Own Hot Sauce from Homegrown Tabasco Peppers

Do you like hot sauce? Think how much fun it would be to make your own! For the first time ever, we’re offering tabasco hot pepper plants, the same medium-hot peppers that tabasco hot pepper plants for salethe McIlhenny Company uses to make its famous Tabasco Sauce®. Though your sauce won’t taste exactly like theirs—unless you age it according to these directions—it will have its own appeal, including a freshness you won’t find on any supermarket shelf.

Our tabasco hot pepper plants and these recipes are all you will need to start making your own hot sauce come harvest time. (If you preorder now, we’ll ship the plants automatically in the spring.) Because tabasco peppers are milder than habaneros, they can also be used to decrease the heat in recipes with habaneros, such as this highly rated vegetarian chili. By the same token, they can increase the heat in recipes that call for jalapeños, such as this very popular Avocado Mango Salsa recipe.

Another fun project we encourage you to try is making hot pepper jelly. If you substitute tabasco peppers for haberneros in this recipe, you’ll end up with a medium-hot jelly with the distinctive taste that led Mr. McIlhenny to choose this variety of hot pepper over all others when formulating his famous hot sauce.

Other Exciting Veggie Plants

Our bestselling veggie plant is the Little Fingers Carrot, a Nantes-type gourmet baby carrot. It’s sweet, crisp, and easy to grow, making it ideal for child gardeners as well as child snackers. Of course, these 4-inch “fingers” are a nutritious treat for anyone. We ship them in boxes of 4.

Every year we sell out of our Caspian Pink Heirloom Tomato Plants. And it’s no wonder: in a recent survey of more than 10,000 home gardeners and tomato farmers, Caspian Pink was among the ten most popular heirloom varieties, along with the Brandywine Pink. Like most heirlooms, these varieties are prized for their flavor. In her book, 100 Heirloom Varieties for the American Garden, Carol Male offers perhaps the best description of the sublime taste of the Brandywine Pink: “winey, robust, mouth-watering, sweet, tart, and complex.” If you’re interested in either of these tomato plants, we recommend that you preorder now because it’s likely we’ll run out of both of them.

grow your own goji berry plants for saleLastly we’d like to mention the Goji Berry Plant. Many health-conscious people are consuming goji berries, often in the form of expensive supplements. Unlike many health fads, however, goji berries have a long history of use in Chinese medicine. Though not as famous as ginseng or ginkgo, they’re a whole lot easier to grow and harvest, and are very tasty, too. You might want to give them a try. We’ve even found an excellent cookbook, Goji and Wolfberry, Superfood Cook Book for Health, Flavor and Fun by Dr. Donald R. Daugs, with 93 recipes from breakfast to dessert, and even a section on appetizers and how to grow Goji Berries.

Until next time, happy gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

Summer and Winter Squash-The Differences Explained

February 8th, 2012

summer squash in basketsMost of you are aware of the existence of both winter and summer squash, but we continue to get questions asking us what the major differences are. The questions range from “how to grow” to “how to cook” to “how do you tell the difference?” We will attempt to answer the most common questions here, and if you find that you have more questions after you’ve read this article, please feel free to Ask Our Master Gardener.

The most simple explanation of the main differences between summer and winter squash is that summer squash bears fruit best eaten when it is immature and the skin is tender. Winter squash takes longer to mature with the skin being more rigid and tough, making winter squash the ideal “baking” or “stuffing” squash. Winter squash, such as Hubbard, acorn or butternut requires a longer growing season, typically between 80 and 120 days, while summer squash, such as yellow crook neck, zucchini or patty pan requires one third to one half of that time.

winter squash harvestGardeners in the northern climes of the U.S. may not have a growing season long enough to grow winter squash to maturity; they must stay on the vine to ripen. If this is your situation and you just have to have some winter squash, you can try germinating the squash seeds indoors in order to give you a jump start on the season and then babying, “really babying”, the transplants. Most recommendations call for planting squash directly into the ground, but…if you HAVE to have it…it is worth a try. We also have a few varieties of squash seedlings that will save you the time and expense of germinating your own. You will have to monitor the moisture level carefully, as squash will wilt with the smallest hint of drought, so we suggest mulching to retain moisture as well as to inhibit weed growth that can choke young seedlings. Once they have started spreading and are well- established, you can relax your vigil and be proud of your success.

Summer squash must be eaten or processed fairly quickly, lending itself well to inclusion in breads or soups, as well as freezing, frying, sautéing and steaming. Winter squash, on the other hand, can often be stored for months in the right conditions and can also be pureed for soups, but is most often served baked, cubed or sautéed with fall spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. The experts recommend storing winter squash in warm household temperatures for about 10 days and then moving to a cool, dim place, like a garage or basement, where the temperature ranges between 40 and 50 degrees. You can freeze winter squash once it is cooked, even if it is pureed, for use later in pies and soups.

But, how do you grow each of these varieties? Squash requires room to grow, so we suggest you are sure of the varieties you want to grow. Visit your farmer’s market or your grocery store and try them. Ask your friends and family what their favorites are, and then grow only what you know you will eat, unless, of course, you sell your harvest at the local farmer’s market or will be freezing it for use later.

Neptunes Harvest Gallon JugThe process is basically the same for winter or summer squash. Both winter and summer squash like warm soil, lots of sun and prefer loamy, well-drained soil that is rich in compost or fed with a fertilizer that is not too high in nitrogen. Nitrogen will encourage leaf growth, sending those vines scurrying near and far, instead of concentrating the energy on the fruiting process. Of course, composting at home is the most economical and eco-friendly way to fertilize your vegetable plants, but for those of you who haven’t gotten “around to it” or who don’t have the room for your own composting set up, there are a number of fertilizers, such as Neptune’s Harvest, that are organically approved and will serve to provide nutrition to your plants while amending your soil, resulting in a better and healthier harvest. If you are short on space, you can train the vines to climb a trellis or support, even from a container, though container plantings will require more vigilance on your part when it comes to moisture and nutrients.

Pests are not normally a big problem, but for those of you in areas where the vine or squash borer is a springtime problem, we suggest you cover your young squash plants with row covers, uncovering them as they start to set blossoms; bees and butterflies are needed to pollinate the flowers in order for fruit to grow. At this point, the vines are also often thick enough and sturdy enough to thwart the efforts of even the most voracious pests. Check regularly under the leaves for eggs that have been laid and remove them. They are usually colored from white to amber and will be quite recognizable, being laid in sizable colonies. We don’t recommend using chemical pesticides, but instead suggest you rely upon those proven organic methods that are safer for your pets and your family.

Keep track of the number of days from planting, that being the most reliable indicator of when your summer or winter squash harvest will be ready. Summer squash should be harvested when no larger than 6-inches long or wide, this being when they are at their most tender and flavorful. Harvesting at this size will ensure the skin will not become thick and hard or the flesh bitter. Winter squash are best when fully mature, so should be harvested at the end of the growing season. The fruit should feel solid and sound slightly hollow when you thump or tap it.

We hope we’ve answered most of your questions. Watching squash grow is satisfying, the plants are amazingly vigorous and the resulting harvest is always colorful and incredibly delicious.

Happy Gardening!

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