Archive for July, 2013

Best Natural Pest Control Methods

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

garden_pest_controlIn this follow-up to Natural Pest Control we'll tell you some additional methods that will help make your backyard a Garden of Eden, not a garden that's been eaten!

But before we begin, it's important to note that the best defense is a good offense. Just as you're less likely to catch a cold if you've been eating well, sleeping well, and getting regular exercise, plants are less likely to succumb to disease and insect attack if they've been living in nutrient-rich, well-weeded soil, and are receiving ample sun and water. Actually, pest control begins even before that with the choice of which varieties of plants to grow because some are much more pest and disease resistant than others. So pay attention to the hardiness ratings of plants, and choose wisely. Buy pre-grown plants from a company like ours that guarantees your plants will arrive healthy and disease-free. Then make sure your soil is healthy and that your plants are getting all the sun and water they need.

Less is More When Eliminating Pests

When we think of getting rid of pests, we think pesticides, but it wasn't always that way. The Pilgrim Fathers and Native Americans managed their pests without pesticides and were still able to grow all the beautiful produce that went into those legendary Thanksgiving feasts.

The fact is, there are 200 million insects for every human being on the planet. Eighty percent of them are harmless, quite a few are beneficial, and only a small percentage go after our plants and trees. The ideal in organic gardening is to control only those bugs causing problems while not harming beneficial insects such as the ladybug, praying mantis, lacewing, aphid midge, parasitic wasp, rove beetle, and soldier beetle.

First Things First

The first step in dealing with a pest problem is to figure out what the pest is. The National Gardening Association has a Pest Control Library that contains mug shots of all the usual suspects.

The next step is to watch and see what's happening. Where is the bug and what is it doing? In some cases the pest might not be causing damage. For example, it might be eating your broccoli leaves but leaving the head and stalk alone. The idea is to intervene only if there is a problem, and then, only with enough force to solve the problem.

Fingerpicking Basics

Just as we weed our gardens regularly, the simplest, most sustainable way to control pesky insects is to simply pick them off by hand.

Sometimes that's all you need when it comes to controlling larger insects such as Colorado potato beetles, Japanese beetles, earwigs, cucumber beetles, stinkbugs, and weevils. Catch them in the early morning when they are cool and sluggish, or capture night feeders just before sunset as temperatures start to drop.

If you're dealing with significant numbers, shake the plants and catch the insects on a sheet or drop cloth. Then vacuum them up with a car vacuum and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.

Some organic gardeners vacuum the bugs directly off the leaves. This works with larger insects as well as those that tend to be too small to hand pick such as tarnished plant bugs, leafhoppers, whiteflies, and sow bugs. Move the vacuum gently over the tops of your vegetable and ornamental plants, taking care not to damage any leaves.

Hydro Power

A garden hose can be an effective way to knock aphids and other unwelcome guests right off their perches in your garden. With moderate force, direct a stream of water at your plants, bombarding the pests but taking care not to hurt the plants. Keep the spray moving and be sure to get the plants' undersides. Spray daily but not during hot, humid, wet weather, as this will encourage leaf rot, mildew, and other plant diseases.

Floating Row Covers

Floating_Row_CoverAnother great non-chemical pest solution is to use plant covers and row covers. These are made of a Spunbond polyester fabric that allows light, air and water to get throughbut not bugs. By simply covering your rows in this way, you will prevent bugs from getting on the plants. To learn the ins and outs of using row covers, check out this short article at organicgardening.com. We sell row covers in various sizes: 40″ x 50′, 5′ x 25′, 5′ x 50′, 6′ x 20′ and 10′ x 15′.

Neem Oil

Neem oil is a derivative of an Asian evergreen tree. Its natural steroidal properties interfere with the insects' appetite as well as their egg laying cycle. It is most effective on young (immature) insects, especially those that grow rapidly such as squash bugs, Colorado potato beetles and Mexican bean beetles. It also works on aphids and many varieties of small, leaf-eating caterpillars, whiteflies, aphids, thrips, fungus gnats, caterpillars, beetles, mushroom flies, mealy bugs, leaf miners, and gypsy moths. It will not affect ladybugs, butterflies, spiders, bees, or other insects that help pollinate plants, and it will not harm fish if it gets into the ground water.

Insecticidal Soap

Insecticidal soap is highly effective on small, soft-bodied insects (the kind that squish rather than crunch) if sprayed directly on them. (It has no effect if only sprayed on the plant.) It works best on aphids, mealy bugs, thrips, scale crawlers and spider mites, but it can also produce good results with cucumber bugs, earwigs, grasshoppers, harlequin bugs, leafhoppers, mites, psyllids, sawfly larvae, soft scales, squash bugs, stink bugs, and whiteflies.

As far as toxicity, the good news is that it will not hurt bees. The bad news is that it will harm other beneficial insects like lacewings and ladybugs if it is sprayed on their larvae. It also can burn the foliage of sensitive plants.

Diatomaceous Earth

natural_pest_controlFood grade diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance consisting of the remains of tiny fossilized water plants. If applied around the perimeter of the plants or rows you want to protect, it will act as a barrier to crawling insects. DE can also be sprinkled on and around the infested plant. It is effective on aphids, whiteflies, beetles, loppers, spider mites, leafhoppers, and many other pests.

We've been selling diatomaceous earth for more than five years, and customers continue to give us great feedback about it. In addition to being a pesticide and insecticide, it also can be used to eliminate parasites and/or worms in humans and animals and is safe enough for use even by children.

The downside of DE is that it can be harmful to bees, butterflies, and other desirable insects. Use only enough to get the job done and apply it late in the evening when bees and other beneficial insects are at a minimum. Avoid using it around any blossoming plants and flowers or anywhere you see bees. To learn more about DE, scroll down our DE product page.

Hot Pepper Spray

A little further up on the toxicity scale is hot pepper spray. The active ingredient is the same one that gives hot peppers their heat. It will get rid of aphids, cabbage loopers, beet armyworms, spider mites, whiteflies, and many other insects, and has the unique characteristic of repelling birds, voles, deer, rabbits, and squirrels.

The concerns with hot pepper spray are the same as with DE, plus it could end up harming fish, so be sure to keep it away from all standing water, and don't apply it before a rain. Also, be careful on windy days; if some gets in your eyes you'll be in for a very unpleasant time.

Learning More

In an earlier newsletter we explored other methods of natural pest control such as planting native plants and companion planting. We also discussed the use of milky spore powder to get rid of grubs. We hope you'll refer back to this newsletter to learn more about controlling pests the organic way. We also have specific newsletters about controlling ants, Japanese beetles, and whiteflies. If you have any questions, please contact our master gardener or call us at 1-888-907-4769.

Until next time, Happy Gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

How to Grow Baptisia Plants

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Here are some easy tips for how to grow Baptisia plants: In average, dry to medium well-drained soil, dig a hole 12 in. deep. The hole should be twice the diameter of the pot. Mix in 2-4 in. of compost. The top of the root ball should be level with the soil. Fill in the hole and tamp down to eliminate air pockets. Water well. If planting multiple plants, space them 3-4 ft. apart.

Pronunciation: bap-TIZ-ee-uh

Common Name(s): False Wild Indigo; Rattle bush

Description: These easy-to-grow perennial plants have blue-green foliage and tall spires of showy blue blooms that look like pea plant flowers. Some plants have bi-colored flowers. Baptisia plants grow 2-4 ft. tall and just as wide. They bloom in early summer. Grown from seed, Baptisia plants take several years to establish. They like growing in woods, thickets, and along stream banks. Useful in erosion control.

Origin: Native American prairie plant

Propagation: By seed

Sun/Light Needs: Full sun is best; they will tolerate partial shade.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9

Fertilizer Needs: Generally none. Apply well-rotted compost annually.

Maintenance: Low. These perennial plants do not need dividing. Trim after blooming to keep rounded shape, but only if no seedpods are wanted. May need support if grown in partial shade.

Companion Plants: Coneflower, Geranium, or Black-eyed Susan

Display: Meadows, containers, beds and borders, dried arrangements

Pests/Diseases: False Indigo plants have no serious pests or diseases

Wildlife Value: Rabbit and deer resistant; attracts butterflies; drought tolerant

Herbal/Medicinal Uses: Native Americans used False Indigo plants for dye. Other uses: for toothache, as eyewash, or as a laxative. The seedpods were used as rattles for babies and toys for children.

The Kale Challenge

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Freshly picked kale from the gardenKale is a superfood, and incidentally, is one of the 12 foods most nutritionists eat regularly.  Rich in vitamins A, C and K, kale also provides 9 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium and it's loaded with minerals and phytonutrients.

You don't have to take our word for it. We did some research and will make it easy for you to verify our information. You can find the complete nutritional information for kale eaten raw or for boiled kale by following these links. You will also find the estimated glycemic load, its inflammation factor, its nutrient balance score and how its proteins rate in terms of quality.

Sokale is exceptionally nutritious and ridiculously low in calories, but the question we hear most often is, How do you prepare it?

We'll start with our recommendation to grow it yourself if you can. It's relatively easy to grow and easy to harvest. Growing your own kale will save you $$ and provide you with a ready resource for this super food, though the biggest advantage we see is that when you grow it yourself you know exactly what has been used to fertilize it and to control pests. You also know how it's been harvested and handled. In short, you will not have to fear listeria, e-coli or any of those other bad bugs you worry about when you buy grocery store produce. You can harvest it at its freshest, knowing you are getting the ultimate nutritional kick from your kalelike any other produce you grow at home. We challenge you to grow your own!

Growing Kale

You may have heard that kale prefers cold weather, but the truth is that you can grow it during any season and in almost any climate. Kale is an exceptionally hardy crop that can withstand temperatures as low as 20°F and can be grown in hot weather as well, though we recommend harvesting it young when temperatures rise above 80°F. More mature kale growing in hot temperatures may become a little bitter and a bit tough (though massaging the leaves well with your favorite oil will result in a tender, tasty dish). Some gardeners grow kale well into the winter by heavily mulching around the plants just before or after the first hard freeze.

You can grow kale in pots, moving the containers to a partially shaded area when the temperatures rise; or you can grow it in your garden and provide shade with a shade cloth if you want a non-stop, tender, scrumptious and flavorful supply. We recommend full sun if garden growing during a cooler season and a partially shaded spot if growing kale in the garden during the hottest days of the summer.

Kale isn't super picky, but it will grow best with a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. It does not like a nitrogen-rich growing medium, preferring a loamy, well-drained, somewhat moist (not consistently wet) soil. However, sandy and clay soils will also yield good crops with proper watering.  Kale seeds will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40°F, though the ideal soil temperature for germination is about 70°F. You can also buy kale plants already growing and guaranteed to arrive alive and ready to thrive.

Inspecting_Kale_PlantIf planting a fall crop, your best bet is to rely upon NOAA's (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Freeze/Frost data. Just click the link and select your state. Once the PDF for your state comes up, locate your city (or the one closest to you), and find the date under the Fall (Date)/50 column. That is the ideal date for harvest in your area. Count backwards from that date the number of days from planting to harvest (i.e., if your variety of kale takes 55 days to mature, count back 55 days), and that is the approximate date you should plant. You can, of course, plant earlier and you can also plant up to 10 days later. This is true of any fall crop, including kale.

Harvesting Kale

First, avoid harvesting the terminal bud found at the top center of the plant. Harvesting around this bud will keep your kale plants productive for a much longer period of time. The smaller, more tender leaves are ideal for eating raw in just about any type of salad you can imagine or right out of the garden, while the more mature leaves are usually used for adding to soups or stews, for sautéing, or prepared in the same manner as you would any type of cooked greens, like spinach or collards. If you harvest more mature leaves that seem a bit tough and/or bitter, remember that massaging them with a tiny bit of olive oil will restore the tenderness and dilute the bitterness.

Storing Kale

If you plan to use your kale within 5 to 7 days, you can simply refrigerate it in a plastic bag. Don't wash it until it's ready to use; or if you wash it, make sure it is completely dry before putting it in the bag and into the fridge.

If you'd like to stock up on fresh kale, it can be frozen for up to 12 months without sacrificing quality or nutritional value. Wash it thoroughly, cutting off the larger, woody stems, but keeping it in serving-size bunches. Then blanch it in boiling water for 2 minutes, immediately plunging it into ice water after the boiling water bath. Drain or spin off the excess moisture and package in airtight plastic containers or freezer bags, with as little trapped air as possible. If you have a deep freeze (consistently at 0°), you can store just about anything indefinitely.Preparing Kale Leaves In The Kitchen

Finallyto answer the question, How Do You Prepare Kale?

There are, of course, numerous resources for tried and tested kale recipes. Here are the Top 20 Kale Recipes from one of our favorites. However, once you have the basics of kale preparation down-pat, you can experiment, adjust and create your own recipes to fit your lifestyle, your tastes and your garden.  And then share them with us!

We challenge you to be creative and to dream up new, innovative and delicious ways to serve this super veggie.

We wish you happy and healthy gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply.

 

 

 

How to Grow Centaurea Plants

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Here are some easy tips for how to grow Centaurea plants: In average, well-drained soil, dig a hole twice the size of the pot. The top of the root ball should be level with the soil. Fill in the hole and tamp down to prevent air pockets. Water well. If planting multiple Centaurea plants, space them 3 ft. apart.

Description: These easy-to-maintain perennial plants grow naturally in meadows or pastures. They have hardy grey-green foliage (often spiky) and showy, thistle-like flowers. The blooms range in solid or mixed colors of intense blues to reds, yellows, and white.

Pronunciation: sen-taw-REE-uh

Common Name(s): Mountain bluet, Knapweed, Basket flower

Origin: N. America; the Middle East

Propagation: By seed. Centaurea plants self-seed easily.

Sun/Light Needs: Full to part sun

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8

Fertilizer Needs: Knapweed plants generally need no fertilizing.

Maintenance: Prune by 1/3 after bloom. Divide roots every couple of years.

Companion Plants: Poppy, Russian sage, Butterfly weed

Display: Meadows, pastures, cut flower and dried arrangements

Pests/Diseases: Knapweed plants have no serious pests or diseases

Wildlife Value: Attracts butterflies and honeybees; drought tolerant

Herbal/Medicinal Uses: Both the roots and the greens of these perennial plants are eaten and also used in folk medicine.  Laboratory tests show Knapweed plants have anti-cancer properties.

Note: Knapweed plants are not digested by livestock and can be toxic to horses

Why Are My Delphinium Plants Not Growing?

Monday, July 15th, 2013

How to grow delphinium plantsNo fault of yours, but this is the fifth Delphinium I have planted in the past three summers and it didn’t make it past a week in the ground. Must be something in my soil, because everything else is growing beautifully. The first year, two flowered and didn’t return. Second and this year they just died within a short period. Maybe they don’t like Long Island.

Answer: Dear Long Islander, Growing Delphiniums can be a challenge even for the advanced gardener. They are a finicky, short-lived perennial with flower stalks up to six feet tall sporting blooms ranging from midnight to royal to sky blue, and even some in pinks and white. They are often called Larkspur, a member of the Ranunculaceae family.  They prefer a climate that has cool and moist summers, not the hot, dry summers we have been experiencing lately. The soil needs to be moist, well-drained, and not heavy clay, and they want full sun to light shade. It’s often best to put them in a raised bed. When planting them, dig a hole that is at least twice the size of the root ball, and mix in compost to help keep the soil well drained. If you can get them established, then you will want to cut the stems back after the killing frost to an inch or so above the soil line. Divide plants every three to four years.  Good luck with your flowers.

How to Grow Coleus Plants

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

How to grow Coleus plantsHere are some easy tips for how to grow Coleus plants.

Coleus grows well in moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Give Coleus a sheltered spot and lots of water during dry spells. If planting by seed, scatter on surface of soil; seeds sprout in 72- to 75-degree weather. If planting by stem cuttings, first put a cutting in a 4 in. pot. Allow 1-2 wks. for roots to grow. Then put these new plants in the ground 12-24 in. apart. If growing in a container, put 3 or 4 plants in a 10-12 in. pot (or a single plant in a 6-8 in. pot). Indoors, use a soil-based potting mix; put Coleus in bright to medium filtered light. Water freely. Fertilize about every 2 weeks during active growth. In winter, keep soil just moist; repot in spring.

Description: These hardy, fast-growing plants are grown not for their flowers, but for their leaves. Mound-shaped Coleus plants have leaves in almost every color, solid or variegated. These evergreen perennial plants are also grown as annual plants. Coleus grows 18-36 inches tall and 9-12 inches wide. Flowers in late summer.

Common Name: Coleus (KO-lee-us)

Origin: Asia, Africa

Propagation: By seed or stem cuttings

Sun Needs: Newer varieties do well in full sun; other types will have better color in shade.

USDA Zones: Hardy in 10-11

Companion Plants: Coral Bells, Pig Squeak

Diseases: Downy mildew (causes curled, twisted leaves); Thrips (make shiny, silver-colored leaves); Mealy bug; Scale; Whiteflies

Maintenance: Low. Coleus gets leggy as it ages; pinch off flowers to keep mound shape. If allowed to go to seed, the plants will start dying.

Fertilizer Needs: Time-release fertilizer (follow package directions). Soil additives (crystals that swell into a jelly-like shape) will hold water and help on very hot days; add these about 2 in. below the soil. Root-stimulating products that add mycorrhizae (healthy fungus) may help these annual plants. Your nurseryman can help you choose the best products for your Coleus plants.

Display: Hanging baskets, containers, flowerbeds

Wildlife Value: Attracts butterflies and bees

We’re Happy When You’re Happy

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Your company is wonderful and your plants are perfect when they arrive here. Consistently perfect. If ever I need anything from Garden Harvest Supply, you'll be the first one that I contact. I have bookmarked you for all of my garden needs. Thank you very much for everything, and I appreciate all that you have sent me in the past, and hopefully all that I receive in the future. Have a wonderful summer.   Sonya