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Archive for 2014

How To Make Your Yard An American Goldfinch Haven

November 19th, 2014

American goldfinch on a purple coneflower

 

The brilliant color and sing-songy voice of the American goldfinch makes it one of the most desirable backyard birds. However, the elusiveness of these wild canaries makes them a bit of a challenge to attract. Providing the basic needs of food, shelter, and water is essential in making a goldfinch haven.

The ideal goldfinch habitat is, of course, a natural one. The more attractive the habitat, the more likely you are to have frequent visitors and nesting pairs. Because goldfinches feast almost exclusively on seeds, back yards filled with their favorite seed-producing plants will invite their colorful splashes of yellow all year long.

 

American goldfinches eating sunflower seedsSome of the favorite flowering plants of the American goldfinch:


Planting a variety will ensure blossoms and the resulting seeds from spring through the winter, in some climates.

An American Goldfinch sitting on a tree branchIt is also beneficial to have trees and shrubs in your yard to attract goldfinches. These not only supplement the American goldfinch diet, but they will provide safe nesting areas. Here are a few favorites, though many native trees or shrubs also attract goldfinches:

  • Arborvitaeoffers exceptional shelter within the protective evergreen foliage and yields small seed-bearing cones
  • Barberryis not only appreciated by the Goldfinch, but has stunning fall coloration
  • Boxwoodhas a neat appearance with little maintenance and is evergreen for year-round shelter
  • Elderberrythey bloom from late spring to early fall, depending upon the cultivar

Hanging baskets filled with nesting materials, such as wool or cotton, will encourage nesting pairs to stay. Keep in mind American goldfinches nest later than most other songbirds: it's best to leave the nesting material up until late summer. American goldfinch sitting on a snow covered birdbathBackyard feeders are an acceptable alternative for goldfinches if a natural habitat is not an option (or as a supplement if food is in short supply). Thistle seed, a.k.a. Nyjer seed, and black oil sunflower seed, are their favorites. They won't eat old seed, so make sure it's not in the feeder for more than 3 weeks at a time. Patience is the key here, as it can sometimes take weeks or months for the birds to discover a new café. Goldfinches are somewhat picky about what they eat; they are not picky about where they eat. They will gladly pick up the fallen seed on the ground or will dine out of a fly-thru or dish-type feeder.

Most importantly, don't forget to keep fresh water available for both drinking and bathing. A clean goldfinch is a happier goldfinch and though they get a lot of moisture from the seeds they eat, a dependable source of water is a must. Birdbaths with fountains or drippers with their splashing sounds are the most attractive. For those in climates that reach freezing temperatures, heated bird baths should be considered. There is definitely nothing wrong with pampering these little ones a bitand they are so worth it.

Now sit back and enjoy your beauties!

How Do I Grow My Pampas Grass Seeds Indoors?

November 4th, 2014

Pink Pampas Grass PlantHi, can you please tell me the best way to plant and grow my Pampas grass seeds indoors this winter in order to get a head start and also be able to select the hardy ones for transplanting outdoors in the spring? Thank you, Scott

Answer:

Pink pampass grass can easily be started from seed. Depending on your location, you might want to check if it's listed as an invasive plant.

Use a mixture of equal parts peat moss and sand or a sterile seed-starting mixture in a 4-inch container. The soil needs to remain evenly moist, loose and well-drained. In the 4-inch container, plant five evenly spaced seeds on the soil surface, and leave the seeds uncovered. Seeds will require 4-6 weeks before the last frost of the spring for complete germination.

Moisten the soil and then cover the container with a clear plastic bag, leaving enough room for sufficient air circulation. Straws can be inserted around the perimeter of the pot to help hold the plastic up off the soil.

Place the container in a sunny location receiving around 6 hours of sun, and with an average temperature of 65-70 degrees. A seed warming mat or a spot near a vent will work. Water or mist daily to keep it evenly moist. Seeds should germinate within a week or two.

Grasses can be transplanted outside after they reach 3 to 4 inches and the last chance of frost had passed.

Good luck on your seedlings.

Karen

Overwintering Annual Plants Indoors

November 3rd, 2014

Potted_Verbena_PlantThere are many reasons to want to overwinter annuals indoors. You may have grown some new plants that you want to preserve for next season, or you may want the challenge and the sense of pride that comes with being able to say, I did it! Some gardeners simply want to save money, while many more just can’t stand to be without plants for the entire fall and winter, therefore moving as much of the garden indoors as possible.

The plants that adapt best to indoor container life are tender perennials, which are the perennial plants that won’t survive the winter in your climate Zone; therefore you typically grow them as an annual. These plants include, but are not limited to: Coleus, Cuphea, Delosperma, French Lavender, Gaura, Geraniums, Geum, Hardy Hibiscus, Heliotrope, Herbs, Impatiens, Monarda, Salvia, Sedum, Sempervivum, Swedish Ivy, True Geranium and Verbena. The fun is in the trying, so even if you’re unsure, you have nothing to lose by experimenting.

What will your outdoor plants require to survive inside?

They’ll need sunlight and moisture, just like they do outside. The problem most gardeners face is not enough sunny windows. Southern facing windows are ideal, though many gardeners rely upon grow lights to provide the necessary hours of artificial sunlight. Moisture is also critical. Winter air is very dry to begin with and heated winter air is the worst. Most plants will not tolerate such low moisture levels, even if you have a whole-house humidifier, though a room-sized humidifier and a regularly closed door may do the trick. Most experts will recommend using clean gravel with water in shallow containers under the plants. The gravel allows the plant to sit above the water, keeping the roots from being constantly too wet, while its evaporation provides the necessary humidity. Some gardeners simply mist the leaves a couple of times a week, while others house their overwintering plants in small, interior greenhouses.

The first step:
Start with clean pots. Take inventory of how many plants and the pot sizes you may need. If you are purchasing new pots, plastic ones will need no more than a quick rinse. If using terra cotta pots, soaking them in a container of water for about 10 minutes before planting will keep the pot from wicking the moisture immediately from transplants, ensuring the soil does not get overly dry during that first critical day.

Used pots, whether you’re using your own, ones you’ve purchased at yard sales or pots you’ve been given, will usually have salt deposits and old, possibly contaminated soil. Use a stiff brush, old toothbrush or butter knife to remove as much as you can and then soak the pots in a large container filled with 1 part unscented household bleach to 9 parts water. Be sure the pots are entirely submerged and let soak for 10 minutes. This will kill any diseases that may be lurking. Plastic pots can then be rinsed with clear water and air dried. Terra cotta pots should be re-submerged in a container of clear, clean water for another 10 minutes to remove the bleach from the pores of the clay, and then air dried. Performing this task each spring as you move the plants back outside will prevent cross contamination and make the fall transplant easier.

Plants or cuttings?
Indoor_Coleus_PlantYou have your choice of digging plants out of the garden to overwinter indoors, or taking cuttings of existing plants. Rooting the cuttings from late-season or frost-damaged plants is most likely an exercise in futility. Planning ahead, taking your cuttings from healthy and vigorously growing plants in midsummer, will provide the best opportunity for success. Avoid attempting to transplant or root cuttings from any plant that has symptoms of disease or pests. If you just have to have that plant for next season, quarantine it well away from any others until you are sure the problem is resolved.

Also, avoid taking cuttings that are actively blooming. If you must, pinch the blossom or bud as you take the cutting. Use a clean, sharp pair of scissors or knife, cleaning it between each cutting with soapy water or rubbing alcohol. This prevents spreading any possible disease from one plant to another. Take cuttings of three to five inches and remove any leaves from the lower half of the cutting, inserting the bottom third of the stem into a pot of fresh, very moist potting soil. Make a mini-greenhouse by placing a plastic bag over each pot, supporting it with stakes, twigs or skewers to keep the plastic from coming in contact with the plant. Place the pots in a bright place, but not in direct sunlight, as this can cook your cuttings. Some gardeners use rooting hormone when taking cuttings, but it is not a necessity. In three to four weeks the cuttings will have rooted; you can remove the plastic bag and move your pots to a sunny window.

If transplanting whole plants, you must accomplish this before frost has damaged any of the foliage. Choose only the healthiest and inspect them carefully for signs of mold, mildew, a virus or damage from pests. Use a sharp trowel or shovel to dig around and under the roots, loosening the soil and removing a good portion of the roots along with the soil. Gently shake off most of the excess soil and place in a pot with fresh potting soil, watering them well. A small amount of water should come out of the drain hole, after which the drain tray should be emptied.

Since you will be moving your plants into a lower light environment, it is best to acclimate them first. Move them to a shadier outdoor spot for a couple of weeks and watch for signs of stress. If frost is expected, cover the plants to protect them, or move them into the garage or another protected area overnight during this time of acclimation. Once acclimated, it is best to prune your plants before bringing them indoors. Most plants can be cut back by half without threatening the health of the plant. Again, you will want to use clean shears or a sharp knife, cleaning the utensils after cutting each plant. Inspect them one last time for debris and dead or dying foliage, removing these before bringing them inside. Visible bugs should be removed and the plant thoroughly soaked with a mixture of one tablespoon of all-natural soap to one quart of water.

Food and water

Indoor_Annual_PlantsMost plants being overwintered will not require regular feeding. If so inclined, feed them right after you’ve acclimated them and before bringing them in. Vigorously growing plants can be fed lightly once a month or so, if necessary. Your plants also may not need as much water as they did outdoors. Only water when the top inch of the soil is dry and then water until a small amount exits the drainage hole, letting the top dry again before watering. Never let your pots sit in excess water; most plants do not thrive well with wet feet. In fact, indoor plants are killed from overwatering more than any other type of neglect or tender loving care.

As spring arrives

As the days grow longer again, your overwintered annuals will most likely start putting out fresh growth. This is the time to feed lightly with a water-soluble plant food and to prune back any long and leggy stems that have been reaching for the sun. Monitor water requirements more carefully now as new growth means thirstier plants. Lightly pinching the first signs of new growth will encourage more branching and a more beautiful plant.

You will want to re-acclimate your plants over the next couple of weeks, after the last frost date for the season. Put them out during the day, gradually moving them from a shady spot to where they will reside for the season over a period of two to three weeks. Bring them in at night in the beginning, slowly leaving them out for longer periods as the sun goes down until they are acclimated to the nighttime temperatures. Once the soil temperature reaches 50°F and the nighttime temps are regularly 50 or above, it should be safe to put them back in the ground. Simply loosen the soil and transplant, soil and all, into a hole that is about twice the size of the pot and at the same depth. Backfill the planting hole with garden soil, water well, and mulch to discourage weed growth and to retain moisture.

Above all else, enjoy! Every plant may not survive, but the fun is in the trying. Learn from both your failures and your successes, and share what you learn with us, on our Facebook page, or with your family and friends. Gardening and plant care are an enjoyable way to connect with people from all walks of life.

 

How to Winterize Your Garden and Prep It for Spring

October 21st, 2014

Fall_Tree_PlantingTo Plant or Not to Plant

While winterizing your garden (well in advance of winter), you may want to consider planting perennials, shrubs and trees. If you have at least four weeks to the first frost date in your area, the moderate temperatures and adequate moisture of fall make it the ideal time to prepare a more beautiful landscape for the spring. Note: Trees with burlap root balls need to be in the ground six to eight weeks before the first frost date. Even potted perennials and shrubs can be planted now, but remember the additional requirements for closer moisture monitoring.

Throw Out the Old

We think one of the most depressing jobs is cleaning out the ‘dead’ garden; and yet we grumble even more loudly when we have to clean up the mess in the spring. Once the vegetable plants have quit producing, you can pull them up. You can do this while they are still green or wait until they turn brown, both of which are ideal for starting or adding to your compost bin or pile. Do NOT compost anything that you suspect is diseased. For example, if you had tomato blight, pull those plants out by the roots and burn or dispose of them elsewhere. In fact, it is best to pull out all of the plants by the roots, including the weeds. Leaving the roots in the soil provides ideal overwintering shelter for bugs that will plague your garden in the spring. Leaving possibly diseased plants almost ensures the same result for next season. The same is true of your annual beds. It is so nice to start with a clean slate for next year!

Tidy It Up

After the first frost, cut your perennials back according to what is recommended for the type of plant you have. In almost all cases, cutting them back to about two inches above the soil level and removing the debris will assure you have a healthier plant next spring. If you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of snow but is liable to have exceptionally frigid winds with little moisture, mulch your perennials, shrubs and newly planted trees well. This will insulate the roots and maintain moisture throughout the winter. (This goes for strawberries, too; mulching prevents ‘heaving,’ which occurs as the soil warms and freezes over and over.) Avoid pruning new shrubs or trees the first year; this can overly stress them, making them more susceptible to winter kill.

fall_garden_cleanupPlan Ahead

Waiting until the weather forecast calls for extreme weather will likely mean you’ll be rushing around trying to find stuff with which to protect your plants (along with everyone else in your area). Stocking up ahead of time means you’ll always be prepared for the worst. These items don’t take up a whole lot of room but are priceless in case of the next blizzard of the century. Here are just a few things you should always have on hand:

  • Plant covers
  • Old sheets
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Mulch
  • Old newspapers
  • Plant ties
  • Plastic milk jugs (They’ll stack in the off season, with the bottoms cut off. Use like a cloche.)
  • Straw or hay bales

What you stock up on will depend upon what plants you landscape with. Take inventory and think ahead about what you may want to use to protect your plants. It is much less expensive to protect them than it is to replace them, especially if they are well-established and of substantial size.

Other Chores to Save Time & Money

Clean and store your garden tools: wash them, dry them well, and oil them. Rusted tools are dull, less efficient and even dangerous to use. Take the time to wash the entire tool, including the handles. Air dry if possible, even after hand drying. Then, use your favorite oil to preserve their finish through the winter. Some gardeners use a mixture of mineral oil and sand in a large bucket to store their tools, while simply spraying with WD-40 or any kind of light machine oil will also work. Store your tools where it is dry. If you notice your tools are too far gone to last another season, consider shopping for new garden tools now.

Disconnect, empty and store hoses: do this before the first hard frost, making sure to drain the hose entirely and then roll it loosely and hang or store it in a protected area. Note: if the hose is still connected and has frozen water in it, do not make the mistake of turning it on to ‘push’ the ice out. The likely result will be the water not having anywhere to go but back into your house by way of the stressed, and now broken, pipe. A good, inexpensive investment is to purchase faucet covers for your outdoor spigots.

Turn your compost one last time: Compost will continue to decompose over the winter, though much more slowly. Turn your compost pile one last time and add moisture if it is dry. If it is not covered, it will benefit you to cover it with dark plastic during this time. This will help it retain heat through the cold months, so it will decompose faster, and it will also help to jump-start the process in the spring. Your compost pile is the perfect place to put organic lawn and garden debris.

Fall garden clean-up and planting is an excellent family activity. At the end of the day, serve hot apple cider or chocolate with marshmallows. Got a fire pit? Break out the S’mores supplies! And then, take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

 

 

 

 

Why Buy A Lawn Sweeper?

October 9th, 2014

Lawn Sweepers for SaleOwning a lawn sweeper may seem like a guilty pleasure, at least to the young whipper-snappers out there, but it is money well spent and simply priceless in terms of the wear and tear on your body and the time you save on those clean up chores around the yard. With few moveable parts and no motor, a lawn sweeper will last you, literally, for years.

Lawn Sweepers Save Time & Money

You don't walk the area to be mowed first? How many times have you run over a toy or got a wire stuck in the mower blades or flung a rock and counted your blessings because that rock didn’t break a window, or worse? Pushing a lawn sweeper around your property prior to mowing will quickly and effortlessly pick up all those branches, rocks, pieces of metal or ropes, and a myriad of other items that end up on your lawn and can become a deadly, fast-moving projectile or, at the least, wear, chip, dull or become tangled in your mower blades. And you know mower blades are not cheap or easy to replace.

Lawn Sweepers Make It Easy

Do you compost? If so, a lawn sweeper is simply worth its weight in gold. Making quick and easy work of fallen leaves and grass clippings, the time it takes to clean your lawn and add to your compost pile is so greatly reduced you can spend more time lying in your hammock, fishing, playing with the grandkids or otherwise pursuing more enjoyable hobbies or interests. Not only does it save time, composting saves money and is much more earth-friendly, recycling waste that would otherwise be thrown away, making rich, organic fertilizer with which to feed your flower or vegetable gardens. Owning a lawn sweeper will make composting almost as easy as driving to the garden center, but oh-so-much less expensive!

The Truth About Lawn Envy

Lawn sweeper to push in your yardAnd finally, do you drive by that place around the block and wonder how their lawn always looks so clean and gorgeous? Are you envious? Most of us are! The truth is, most people who have such a beautiful, spotless yard either have a lawn service, a gardener or a lawn sweeper! We all know a gardener can be quite expensive, and a lawn service is only a little bit less so. A lawn sweeper, on the other hand, is relatively inexpensive, often
paying for itself in just one use if you employ a lawn service or a gardener. Even if you normally do the yard work yourself; if you paid yourself $10.00 an hour, your lawn sweeper would pay for itself in as little as 10 hours! How many hours a month do you spend on your lawn? How much would it be worth to cut that time in half, or more?

So, we invite you to browse our lawn sweepers. They are all proudly made in the U.S. and come with a one year manufacturer's warranty.

Happy Fall! And here's to your beautiful yard with less work!

Fall Flower Bulb Planting Schedule

September 23rd, 2014

Planting fall flower bulbs is an ideal gardening project for the novice and a never-ending source of joy for the more experienced. Planting is easy and pretty much goof-proof, with the outcome so predictable as to allow you to design flowerbeds that your neighbors will be in awe of. (You might be a little impressed, yourself). So, get out your colored pencils or crayons and start designing. You don't even need to know how to draw! Just sketch the shapes you'd like to see in your yard and experiment with filling them in with small colorful circles (the flowers). There are also numerous websites with planting and design ideas. Click here for some really good information, including the recommended number of bulbs per square foot of landscape. You are welcome to contact our Master Gardener with questions, or visit this page for detailed flower bulb planting information.

The following map is a representation of generally the best time to plant fall bulbs for spring blooms in your area. Order bulbs when you're ready and we will ship them to your doorstep according to the Fall Bulb Planting Schedule.

Fall_Bulb_Planting_Schedule

Keep these things in mind:

  • Bulbs can be stored for a short time in a cool, dry place. However, plant as soon as conditions are right. Bulbs do not store well for the following season.
  • You can begin to plant fall bulbs when the soil temperature drops to 55°F.
  • Bulbs do not like wet feet, even in winter. Plant bulbs in well-draining soil.
  • Bulbs like sunny gardens. Remember though, when fall-planted bulbs bloom, many trees are not putting on leaves yet. Your flower bulbs may grow really well under that birch or aspen.
  • Planting clusters of color, rather than single bulbs and/or single rows, is recommended by professionals.
  • Bulbs prefer to be planted with the pointed side up, but will, if planted wrong, figure it out anyway.
  • You are only limited by your own imagination. Have fun!

Fall's the Ideal Time to Fertilize Your Lawn

September 15th, 2014

Fall's the Ideal Time to Fertilize Your Lawn

and we'll make it easy for you

Backyard_Fertilizer_BlogFall is the ideal time to inspect your lawn, to strengthen it before winter sets in, to correct any problems you prefer not to put off until spring, and to ascertain its need for feed.

Summertime may have seen you raise your mower deck to lessen the amount of heat stress on your lawn. A longer lawn has a healthier root system, maintains moisture longer and is able to withstand times of drought and heavier foot traffic. It may also enable you to spend a little more time doing the things you'd rather be doing, instead of the things you have to do, like taking care of your lawn.

Fall is approaching and it's time to get in an ‘autumn state of mind,' when it comes to your yard. If the weather patterns this year have been any indication, fall may totally take you by surprise. It's also possible that winter will be completely unpredictable; the better prepared you are for the unexpected, the prettier and healthier your lawn will be next spring. (Which means it will need even less care!)

After the stresses of summer, your lawn is starved for nutrients. But, before you fertilize, we suggest you take these steps:

  • Take a walk. That's right. Just take a stroll around your yard, and look down. You want to take stock of your lawn. Is it thick and full, or is there a lot of space between the blades where you can see the thatch? Do you have bare spots that need overseeding? Does it look like it's struggling to survive or does it fit your idea of the ideal, healthy lawn?
  • Adjust the mowing height. If you adjusted your lawn mower height as the summer temperatures climbed, you will want to readjust the height down for fall mowing. Did you know that mowing your lawn too short will actually help weeds grow? It's true. The shorter you cut the grass, the fewer roots; therefore, the easier it is for weeds to take hold. Even though you may be tempted to lower that mower waaaay down as the daytime temperatures dropdon't do it! The ideal fall height for most turf grasses is 2 inches. This makes it harder for weeds to take hold and will prevent the turf from matting down under the leaves and snow.
  • Continue to water as needed. August, September and October can be particularly dry months. The temperatures may not be stressing your lawn, but the lack of water is. Monitor the soil moisture and soak your lawn once or twice a week, allowing the water to penetrate several inches. Watering in the early morning will give your lawn plenty of time to dry out during the day, preventing the fungal diseases that can occur when lawns remain wet overnight.
  • Dethatch if needed. Thatch is the layer of dead organic material mixed with living grass, but lying on top of the soil. Too much thatch can lead to disease and insect infestations, and it also makes it much harder for your lawn to breathe and absorb the nutrients it needs. If you have more than 1/2 inch of thatch, you may want to consider dethatching. It can be accomplished with a stiff rake, if you have a small lawn, or with a tow-behind dethatcher for larger yards. Always remove the thatch prior to overseeding and fertilizing. Thatch is an ideal ‘brown' component for your homemade compost.

NOW you can fertilize!

Now you can feed your lawn. Just as your body requires nourishment, so does your lawn. However, you have some choices to make about the type of fertilizer you use. If you've watched the news lately, toxic algae blooms have been making life difficult for some areas. In Toledo, 500,000 people had to avoid tap water for three days. Vacationers are being warned about swimming in lakes with blue-green algae. Every state with a body of water is testing for toxic blue-green algae blooms. You wouldn't necessarily think of algae as toxic, but some do produce toxins poisonous to humans, pets and livestock. Blue-green algae can produce both neurotoxins and hepatotoxins. Neurotoxins attack the nervous system, while hepatotoxins attack the liver. Simply coming in contact with the toxic algae can result in a nasty skin rash. We mention this because these toxic algae blooms have been scientifically linked to fertilizer runoff, especially to high levels of phosphorous, in conjunction with warmer temperatures and summer sunlight. Our article on Organic Lawn Care, Part 2, explains the difference between organic and inorganic fertilizers. We urge you to read it and to choose organic. If you are not part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. We strongly believe that just one person can make a difference.

Chemical_Free_LawnWe offer a selection of organic lawn foods we know to be exceptional. They are all perfectly safe for your family and pets. Their organic nature means they are absorbed over a period of time, providing nutrients as your lawn requires it. They will not contribute to fertilizer runoff, which means you are not only doing your part for the environment, but you're saving money. And with the comparable price point for these organic fertilizers, you are not washing your hard-earned money into the gutter, the lakes, and, ultimately, into the oceans. In fact, our sale makes it even more economically smart to stock up now.

All of our organic lawn foods are by Espoma Organic®, a trusted name in natural gardening solutions. All 30-lb bags will cover 5,000 square feet and all are safe for your family, your pets and the environment.

Espoma Organic All Season Lawn Food – This all-purpose lawn food has an NPK of 9-0-0.

Espoma Organic Fall Winterizer – Features Slow Release Nitrogen and an NPK of 8-0-5.

Espoma Organic Spring Lawn Booster – 100% corn gluten meal with an NPK of 9-0-0.

Espoma Organic Summer Revitalizer – Amended with Bio-tone® microbes and an NPK of 8-0-0.

*N stands for Nitrogen, P for Phosphorous and K for Potassium

Reseeding and overseeding can be done at the same time as applying organic fertilizer. We carry seeds for every type of lawn, to provide a carpet of lush green grass or turf anywhere.

Got Questions? Ask Karen, our Master Gardener! Or call us at 1-888-907-4769

5 Benefits of Planting a Radish Fall Cover Crop

August 27th, 2014

5 Benefits of Planting a Radish Fall Cover Crop

jhn5 Benefits of Planting a Radish Fall Cover CropThe majority of backyard gardeners will not plant a fall cover crop. Though this practice is frequently used with overwhelmingly positive results by farmers producing cash crops, the benefits are yet to be widely recognized by the backyard gardening community.

One of the most beneficial rising stars in the world of cover crops is the radish. We aren't talking about the garden variety, globe-shaped radishes; we're talking about the open-pollinated, large-rooted, daikon-type radishes. You may recognize the formlarge, white, long radishes commonly used in Asian cooking. However, many of these culinary radishes are hybrids and prohibitively expensive, at least when being utilized solely for purposes of soil enhancement. The cover crop radishes we will discuss are not the products of formalized breeding and are relatively inexpensive. Not grown to be harvested, when used as a cover crop, these radishes will be left in the ground to die and decompose over the winter, with the beneficial results extending into the spring planting season:

Biodrilling is the name given to the robust growth, soil aeration and improvement of compacted soils of this root crop. Nature's aerator, the roots of these radish plants can grow to more than three feet deep in as little as 60 days. The largest part of the root, what you may know as the tuber, can be more than one inch in diameter and extend more than 12 inches into the soil. Once the root withers, it leaves holes, often extending into the subsoil, which will improve drainage, and air and water infiltration. The biodrilling effect also improves the root growth of your spring-planted vegetables and even allows the roots better access to subsoil moisture, resulting in less water usage, especially noticeable when drought conditions exist. The naturally perforated soil dries out and warms up more quickly, enabling you to plant both seeds and plants earlier than normal.2jhn5 Benefits of Planting a Radish Fall Cover Crop

Weed suppression is also a natural result of cover cropping with radishes. Studies have found that if you plant radishes early, at least 6 weeks before the first frost, and plant them in high concentrations, with at least five plants per square foot, weed suppression will be almost total into the month of April. This is not the result of bio-chemicals produced by the radishes, but is due, instead, to their rapid and weed-competitive fall growth. What that means for you is less preparation for springtime planting.

Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK) production. Early springtime nitrogen, the result of radish residues, will give your vegetables an early growth boost. The nitrogen boost attributed to radish cover crops has been compared, by researchers, to that of planting a legume cover crop or of nitrogen fertilizer application. The result was shown to be most effective on sandy soils. Regardless of your soil type, however, planting a radish fall cover crop will save the time and money associated with a more labor-intensive cover crop planting and/or application of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Radishes have also proven to be exceptional sources of P and K, further reducing your reliance upon commercial applications.

Soil erosion, runoff and organic matter are all improved with radish cover cropping. The leafy canopy, which can be established in as little as three weeks, significantly reduces the effect that rainfall, even if heavy, will have on surface impaction and subsequent runoff. Even after the radishes have been killed by a hard freeze, usually happening when temperatures drop into the mid-twenties, the layer of dead leaves on the surface throughout the winter and early spring serves to control erosion. Researchers also noted the water runoff and the resulting sediments were captured by the holes left by the rotting roots before it was able to leave the field. And though minimal, due to radish's highly decomposable nature, some increase in soil organic matter is inevitable.


GroundHog Radish growing in garden soilRootknot Nematodes
(Meloidogyne incognita), the parasitic culprit responsible for many vegetable deaths, especially the susceptible tomato, have proven to be sensitive to radish residues. Rootknot nematodes' numbers were found to be drastically reduced or completely obliterated. Researchers in eastern Texas planted radishes 58 days prior to planting sweet potatoes, with exceptional results. On the other hand, the beneficial nematodes, those which help to control disease and cycle nutrients to the plants (the ones we hardly hear anything about), were benefitted by the nitrogen-rich radish decomposition.

To learn even more, you can read GroundHog Radish – A Smart Choice Cover Crop. All in all, the combined positive effects should result in a higher crop yield with less work for you. Cash crop farmers have long known the benefits of cover cropping with radish; we think it's time you realize the same benefits.

Photos are compliment of Josh Gruver of Western Illinois University and Ampac Seed Co.

Thanks For A Great Start To My Herb Garden!

August 26th, 2014

I just wanted to say thanks for everything! I planted the cilantro seeds and they are growing like crazy!

Cilantro seeds growing in a container

The rosemary and the English thyme have overcome transplant shock and they, too, are growing like crazy!

Thyme plants growing in a container

I want to thank you for the attention and service, and for getting me started on a great herb garden. I plan to expand my herb garden and will be ordering from you in the future. I plant to tell a couple of friends about Garden Harvest Supply and the great service I got! Ray D.

Rosemary  herbs growing in a container

RESPONSE:

Ray, we sure appreciate your nice note and the photos showing how healthy and vibrant your new herb plants are. We look forward to seeing your future herb growing successes, too. With herbs, you can’t lose: They’re pretty plants, they’re easy to grow, they’ll be happy nearly anywhere, and they can kick up your culinary skills by many levels. Thanks for your business, and keep us posted! GHS

7 Reasons Fall-Planted Strawberries Are Best

August 13th, 2014
  1. chandler strawberriesYou will receive potted plants with well-established root systems
  2. You can harvest strawberries next spring and summer
  3. You will know your strawberries are chemical and pathogen-free
  4. Your strawberry patch will come back year after year
  5. You will save money over the ever-rising cost of grocery store strawberries
  6. You can soak up the benefits of Vitamin D while tending and harvesting your strawberry patch
  7. You can spend quality outdoor time with loved ones

You will receive potted plants with well-established root systems. Unlike bare-root strawberries (most often planted in the spring), these are live, potted strawberry plants. The already-established root system enables them to take hold quickly with a minimum of care, which makes it possible for your fall-planted strawberries to survive the rigors of winter. These plants have already set next year's strawberry buds.

Container-Grown Strawberries

You can harvest strawberries next spring and summer. When you spring-plant strawberries, whether bare-root or potted plants, you will not be able to harvest until the following spring and summer. (That's a whole year you have to wait!) In fact, harvesting strawberries the first year can reduce your harvest substantially for the following year. It's best to pluck the first spring flowers and let the plant use its energy to grow roots and produce more buds. Strawberry plants set the buds that will be next year's strawberries during the early fall months. The plants you will plant this fall are already setting next year's strawberry buds; this means you'll be able to harvest fresh, juicy strawberries the very next spring and summer.

You will know your strawberries are artificial chemical- and pathogen-free. When you buy strawberries in the grocery store, you may be putting your family at risk. Strawberries are often imported from other countriesMexico being the most common. Regardless of where they are grown, you cannot be sure they haven't been sprayed with pesticides or have been picked and packaged under unsanitary conditions. As they are a soft-skinned fruit, even proper washing may not be entirely effective. Planting your own is the only way to know for sure.

Why You Should Grow Your Own Strawberries

Potted Strawberry PlantsYour strawberry patch will come back year after year. Strawberries are perennial, even in areas with cold and snowy winters. If your temperatures get below freezing, simply cut your strawberry plants back to the ground in the fall and cover them with a few inches of straw. This will protect the roots and keep the plants from ‘heaving' as the soil thaws and freezes. Then, as you start to see new shoots in the spring, simply push the straw off the plants, leaving it between them, which helps to retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.

You will save money over the ever-rising cost of grocery store strawberries. The costs of all foods continue to rise. Even in a good year, with the climate just right and bumper crops of produce, inflation ensures you will be spending more next year than you did this year, in perpetuity. By the same token, growing your own perennial strawberry patch will ensure the cost will go down. And, not only will the cost per pound of strawberries decline over time, but the amount of care you will have to invest in your strawberry patch will decrease. Your initial outlay will be the most you will ever spend for strawberries again, both in terms of money and time. After the first year, as runners grow and become new plants, your strawberry yield will increase and weeds will decrease. Then, as newer plants fill in, simply take out the older plants; this will provide a constant heavy yield.

Asparagus and Strawberries: Growing Tips, Fun Facts

sweet charlie strawberriesYou can soak up the benefits of Vitamin D while tending and harvesting your strawberry patch. The results of studies on the benefits of Vitamin D speak for themselves; and the most common advice is to get it naturally, not from a supplement. As little as 10 minutes of sun exposure daily can provide many of the health benefits of Vitamin D. You can start with a small strawberry garden, and then expand as you become more comfortable with the process. Many of us need an excuse to get out in the sun. What better excuse than growing your own strawberries?

You can spend quality outdoor time with loved ones. This may be the last reason given, but it is certainly not the least reason. In fact, it may be one of the most important. Children love to see the results of their labors and they love the attention they receive when spending time with their family members. Even the most prickly sibling rivalries can be put to rest in the strawberry patch. Don't have children? That's okay. Take some quiet time solo or with a partner, and pick out errant grass, count the number of strawberries, or harvest, prepare and/or preserve your strawberries. A strawberry patch can be a solitary or group endeavor with the same benefits to be had by all.

How Many People Will a Strawberry Plant Feed?

Have you been thinking about planting your own little piece of strawberry heaven?

Now is the time.

Everyone at GardenHarvestSupply.com looks forward to serving you!

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