Archive for September, 2013

What Is Diatomaceous Earth?

Friday, September 27th, 2013

What is Diatomaceous Earth? Simply put, Diatomaceous Earth (DE), a.k.a. Fossil Shell Flour, is a naturally occurring, somewhat soft, sedimentary rock made up of the fossilized remains of single-celled, hard-shelled algae called diatoms.

Highly porous, it is very light and, depending upon how finely it is ground, can feel gritty, similar to pumice powder, or extremely powdery, more like high-end talc. There are two forms of Diatomaceous Earth: crystalline (heat-treated and non-food-grade) and amorphous (food-grade).

In its crystalline form, D.E. is used in swimming pool filters, as a light abrasive in cleaning products, as an absorbent ingredient in commodities like cat litter, as a thermal insulator, and even as a stabilization agent for TNT. It is not safe for consumption; it's utilized in manufacturing processes and is regulated by OSHA.

what is diatomaceous earthIn its amorphous form, food-grade D.E. is used as a natural pesticide/insecticide. Very effective against a host of home and garden insects, including arthropods and nematodes, it controls fleas and ticks. It can even be ingested as an anti-parasitic for livestock, pets and their owners. It is used commercially, and is also used by homeowners and apartment dwellers. It is approved for organic gardening and, depending upon its intended uses, may be regulated by the EPA, the CDC or the FDA.

The list of diatomaceous earth benefits is extensive:

  • DE is remarkably safe for use around your family and pets.
  • DE contains 14 trace minerals, improving livestock and pet health.
  • DE eliminates worms & parasites in horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens.
  • DE is a natural and amazingly safe insecticide and repellent.
  • DE can be used topically on livestock and pets to control fleas, ticks and lice.
  • DE has been proven to be effective against bedbugs.
  • DE can be mixed with feed and/or grains to absorb moisture.

What is Diatomaceous Earth? It's what your neighbors, friends and family are reaching for to control life's most noxious pests.

Get Your Shovel Ready…

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

lynwood_forsythia_bushAhhhh…fall.  The time of year when the heat and humidity of summer give way to invigorating sweater weather and chilly, crisp nights.  The leaves start flashing their bright colors as harvest veggies begin showing up at the farmers’ markets.  Oh, and fall is the ideal time to plant bushes and shrubs.

New plantings will take root while the ground is still soft and warm but the cooler air temperatures allow the foliage to adapt to its new environment without risk of sun scorch.  For bushes and shrubs, fall planting allows the perfect rate of slow-down to winter dormancy.  And when spring arrives, your new plants will show their true beauty.

We recognize that not everyone gears up for landscaping projects as autumn rolls in, so we’re providing an extra incentive to get your yard looking great nowand for future seasons.  Just imagine your new flowering bushes perking up your spring and summer landscape!

GHS has more than 100 varieties of bushes and shrubs, with something to fit every space and sunlight requirement.  Through September 29, we’re offering 20% off of our entire inventory of shrubs and bushes!  So choose your favorites and save during this limited time offer.  Hurry to take advantage of this sale, while supplies last.

Use BS139 discount code at checkout.

How to Grow Asclepias Plants

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Blooming Asclepias PlantHere are some easy tips regarding how to grow Asclepias plants: These garden favorites grow well in several soils: normal, sandy, or clay. They prefer the soil to be medium to coarse in texture. Choose your location well; Asclepias plants have long taproots.

Pronunciation: uh-SKLEE-pee-us

Description: These showy but slow-growing perennial plants can reach 3-4 ft. tall and can grow 2-3 ft. wide. Asclepias plants grow upright and have colorful flowers with a strong, vanilla-like scent. The flowers can be red, yellow, or orange.

Common Name(s): Butterfly plant; Milkweed

Origin: Central and South America

Propagation: Self seeds (summer-fall)

Sun/Light Needs: Prefers full sun but will tolerate light shade

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-11 Asclepias plants are hardy in full sun locations.

Fertilizer Needs: Use a 10-10-10 feed that you work into the soil; do not use spray-on fertilizer. Apply as directed on package.

Maintenance: Low to Medium. They may need watering during a drought. In spring, put a thin layer of organic compost around these perennial plants; cover the compost with a 2-4 in. layer of mulch. In early fall, when bush flowers, pinch off several flower shoots from each stem. This way, Butterfly plants will send out more healthy flowers. Burn or prune plants in the fall to get rid of dead stalks and for new growth next spring.

Companion Plants: Purple Coneflower, Zinnia, or Black-eyed Susan

Display: Borders; Wildflower meadows (outdoors). Seedpods can be used in dried flower arrangements (indoors).

Wildlife: Deer and rabbit resistant; repels wireworms. Attracts both bees and butterflies. It's best known as a great attractor of Monarch butterflies. Drought tolerant.

Interesting Notes: In some New England states, Milkweed plants are on the endangered species list. Milkweed is grown to use as filling for hypoallergenic pillows.

Problems: Milkweed plants have a milky sap that can be toxic.

Why You Should Grow Your Own Strawberries

Monday, September 16th, 2013

How and Where Were Your Strawberries Grown?

When you grow your own, you have complete control over what you feed them to help them grow and over what kind of pest management you use. Commercially, due to the size and monetary value of the crop, the most economically feasiblenot always the safestfertilizers and pesticides are applied.  

When it comes to where they are grown, the largest producer in the U.S. is California, which is a good thing, because they are subject to inspection and control over the growing, harvesting and distribution process; however, California cannot produce all the strawberries we, as a nation, consume. That means we also import strawberries, not only to fill the demand, but also to get them competitively priced. If you look at the label on the strawberries in your grocery store, you are likely to see they come from Mexico, where they are not subject to the same type of standards for food safety.

When Were They Harvested?

In order to get them to grocery store shelves still looking good, they have probably been harvested early and then allowed to ripen in the package and during transport, which means they will not be as sweet as your homegrown and harvested-at-their-peak-of-flavor strawberries. They have also most likely been treated with something to enhance their color and have been sprayed with something in the grocery store to inhibit fruit flies. Yuck!

What Are You Paying For and How Much?

When you buy strawberries in the grocery store, you are paying for the people who plant them, cultivate them, package them and ship them, not to mention every single cost along the way, like the cost to maintain the farm equipment, processing plant maintenance and repair, packaging materials, pesticides, fertilizersyou name it and you are paying for it.

What is the average cost of a quart (2 pints) of strawberries? The answer depends on where you live, though our research shows you will pay between $2.50 and $5.00 per quart, the wide price range varying from big-box grocery stores to local farmer's markets and from commercially grown to organically produced. Per pound, that equates to somewhere between $1.65 and $3.35 a pound. Expensive!

More Reasons to Grow Your Own

It's fun and satisfying! You can grow strawberries in amazingly small areas, only growing what you need to feed your familyor just you. You can grow them in your choice of planters, in a raised garden bed or in a prepared garden bed large enough to feed everyone your heart desires. Take some to sell at the local farmer's market, too. And each year, as your strawberry plants come out of dormancy, produce blossoms and then bear fruit for you to enjoy, you will be smilingand smiling big!  

It's easy!  Once established, your strawberry bed will require very little work. You may have to cover your strawberries with straw in the winter to ensure they don't pop out of the ground with the temperature changes, but once your bed is well established, you won't even have a big battle with weeds. Strawberry roots and runners are much stronger than any old weed.

It's family-friendly! Everyone will enjoy tending and harvesting strawberries. Toddlers can identify the ruby-red ripe fruit and with a little coaching will make great strawberry pickers, while their strawberry-tending responsibilities can grow as they do. You'll look forward to the day when your children want a strawberry bed all their ownwhich is easy to accomplish, since every few years you'll be dividing plants to encourage the optimal fruit production.

They are healthy! You will know exactly what you feed your plants. You will control what type of pesticide and how much, if any, you choose to use. You will harvest them at the peak of flavor and at the peak of their nutritional value:

  • 1 cup of strawberry halves only has 49 calories, 7 grams of sugar, 12% of the DV (Daily Value) for dietary fiber, 149% of the DV for Vitamin C, 3% of your iron needs and 2% of your daily need for calcium, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.

  • 1 cup of strawberry halves has no saturated or trans fats, no cholesterol and 0% of your DV for sodium.

  • 1 cup of strawberry halves has 29% of your DV for manganese, 7% of potassium and 9% of folate, while having an estimated Glycemic Load of 3 and an Inflammation Factor of 28.  

To help you determine how many plants you'll need, you can read our article,

How Many People Will a Strawberry Plant Feed?

Why Are My Hydrangea Not Blooming?

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Varigated_Hydrangea_LeavesVariegated hydrangea, have had 5 years or so. Does not bloom. Have kept old wood, no bloom; cut off old wood, no bloom. Gets morning sun, shade in afternoon.  Soil is clay, but amended, and has good drainage. Very nice plant, lovely leaves, just no flowers. Thanks, Rose

Answer: Rose, there are several varieties of variegated hydrangea; some are two-color and some are three, but none of them are big bloomers, especially anywhere in Zones 5 or 6. They were developed primarily for the interesting foliage and not for their blooms. That said, mine did bloom a few years ago when we had an unusually mild winter here in the Midwest and the blooms are nice. It sounds like you have done most of the appropriate things to encourage it to bloom. Besides adding more compost to the soil around it, you might also add some Espoma Flower-tone to the soil this fall and again very early spring when buds are starting to form. This is also when you would add any soil acidifier if you want the blooms to be blue. I like the Espoma “tone” fertilizers because they are very mild and you can add significant amounts without damaging or burning the plant. You might also try wrapping it in the late winter, after December, to protect against the late spring frost. There are wraps out there that are supposed to zone up the plant by one climate zone. The down side with this method is getting an early warming spell and the plants getting too warm, then frost again. You could try just using burlap, which will protect the plant but it will still allow the cold and warming temperatures.

I’ve learned to enjoy mine for its foliage, and if I get blooms it’s a bonus.

Happy gardening,  Karen

Ridiculously Healthy Collard Greens

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Collard_Plant_In_GardenCollard Greens are considered one of the healthiest foods you can eat. A serving size is 1 cup, chopped, and has less than 50 calories, while providing 308% of the recommended daily value (DV) for Vitamin A, a whopping 1,045% of the DV for Vitamin K and 58% for Vitamin C. Additionally, raw collard greens have 15% of the DV for folate, 8% for protein and just over 21% of the DV for dietary fiber. When compared to the caloric intake, these numbers are phenomenal!

A dark green cruciferous vegetable, collards have a large, smooth leaf decorated with lightly colored venation and a wavy edge. The thicker part of the midrib is pretty tough and is usually discarded before preparation. (Add it to your compost bin or feed to your chickens.) Most popular in the American South, its nutritional value, versatility and flavor are prompting an increase in popularity around the world.

Collard greens are interchangeable in all of your favorite greens recipes. You can use collard greens in place of spinach, beet greens, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, dandelion greens or turnip greens.  The flavor is closest to kale, though a bit milder, and will normally require a little more cooking time than spinach. It's especially delicious in bean-based soups or stews and those made with spicy sausage.

How to Grow Collard Greens

One of the most cold-hardy vegetables, withstanding freezing temperatures into the upper teens, you can plant collard greens in the early spring or as a fall crop. In fact, south of zone 7 it is often grown throughout the entire winter season. Its flavor is somewhat sweeter when frost has touched its leaves.

Collard transplants should be planted 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost in the spring or 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost in the fall. If starting from seed, start them indoors about 8 weeks before you plan to transplant. You can also germinate in the garden; collard seeds germinate well with soil temperatures between 45 and 85°. When germinating indoors, the ideal soil temperature is between 60 and 70°. Indoors or out, the soil or planting medium should be kept consistently moist until the seeds have sprouted. A seed blanket or row cover will help maintain the ideal environment for germination.

Since collards are a leafy vegetable and are harvested often, these greens also need to be fed regularly for optimal output. We recommend you work nitrogen-rich soil amendments, such as blood meal, cottonseed meal or garden manure, into the soil prior to planting and then side dress with these same nutrients once a month or so to keep your collard crop at its healthiest.

Garden_Tunnel_CoverCollard greens will grow best with a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8 and should not be planted in the same place you planted other cole crops, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts or broccoli, in the prior year. In fact, a 2-year rotation interval is recommended to avoid soil-borne diseases common to cole-type vegetables from building up and affecting your crop.

Mulching with weed-free hay, finely ground leaves or bark will keep the weeds down, keep the soil cooler and moister and will also keep the leaves of your greens cleaner. Collard greens need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week.  A rain gauge in your garden will help to ensure your greens are receiving the water they need.

How to Harvest Collard Greens

Collard green leaves grow from the middle of the plant. As you start harvesting, usually when the leaves are under 10 inches in length, harvest the outside, or lower leaves first. Select leaves with good color and no yellowing or browning. The smaller leaves are more tender, while the more mature leaves may be bitter. As you harvest, the lower stem will become bare, making your plants look somewhat like little trees. Leaves will continue to grow from the top-center of the plant through cool weather; they can even be harvested when frozen, though they'll be brittle and should be handled gently.

Storing and Preparing Collard Greens

Collard_Sandwich_WrapCollard greens will store well in the refrigerator when kept in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible. If you've washed them, lay them out on paper towels to dry or spin them in a salad spinner. They should remain fresh for 3 to 5 days.

You can also freeze them, but do so as soon after harvesting as possible. Figure a handful or two of greens per serving and freeze them in the appropriate size freezer bag for family or individual meals. (Freezer-type bags are thicker-walled and will better prevent freezer burn during storage.) Wash the leaves well in cold water and let them drain in a colander. Cut off the woody stems and any damaged or yellowing edges.

By serving size, you will be blanching the greens prior to freezing. Collards require 3 minutes, while all other greens need to be blanched for 2 minutes. Drop each serving size into the boiling water and cover; start timing immediately. After three minutes, scoop the greens out with a large slotted ladle or screen, letting the water drain for less than a minute, and then put them into the iced water, chilling them for another 3 minutes. The ice bath will stop the cooking process. Keep adding ice during the entire process to keep the water as cold as possible. You can reuse the boiling water for about 5 blanchings, adding hot water as needed to maintain the right level.

Allow the greens to drain well and then bag and tag ‘em with the type and the date. Remove as much air from the freezer bag as you can. You can use a straw, zipping the bag closed around the straw which has been inserted at one end. Suck the excess air out of the freezer bag and remove the straw as you close the bag completely. Going one step further, packaging a number of smaller bags inside a gallon storage bag will more completely protect your produce from freezer burn and will extend the freezer storage time.

When it comes to cooking collard greens, the first and most important rule is: DO NOT OVERCOOK. Overcooking makes for a mushy dish and can even result in a not-so-pleasant sulfur smell. We suggest, if you have not cooked collard greens before, that you ask friends or family or search the Internet for recipes that sound good to you. Here are the Top 20 Collard Greens Recipes from one of our favorite recipe sites.

As always, we welcome your comments and would love for you to share growing or harvesting tips and recipes.

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