Archive for March, 2014

End Of Season Tips For Harvesting Herb Plants

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Herbs that have been harvested in the fallWhen you think of herbs, you probably don’t consider harvest time, since most gardeners clip herbs throughout the growing season for culinary use. But as the end of the summer nears, and the first frost threatens to kill less hardy herbs, consider clipping the remaining leaves for drying, freezing, or preserving in oils and infusions.

Herbs can be either annual or perennial, and some behave differently in different growing zones. Perennials should come back each spring and they require very little care during growing or dormant seasons.  Annuals can be dug out of the ground and potted in containers to extend their seasons in a sunny windowsill.

Some perennials, like parsley and chives, will continue growing well into the chilly temperatures, and they’ll be among spring’s first sprouters, too.  The more tender-leaf varieties like cilantro, marjoram or the mint family will wilt as the temps fall.  However, their remaining leaves shouldn’t go to waste.

Most herbs can be dried for kitchen use and some are as flavorful in cooked dishes as fresh cut. Oregano, especially Greek oregano, is slightly less bitter when used dried, which is the method preferred by many chefs. Dried chives have a much more sweet, delicate, and less sharp flavor.  Many small-leaved herbs can be dried in a day or two in the sun or in a food dehydrator.  For chives, snip or cut into 1/8-inch pieces and store in a light-blocking, airtight container for use up to a year.  Most other herbs have leaves that will break into perfect shaker-size bits when pinched off of the dried stems and crumbed between fingers or in a plastic bag.

Dill usually dies out before the end of summer but the remaining ferny leaves can be used dried, as long as they’re stored in airtight jars.  Again, most chefs prefer to cut dill into small 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces. Dill seeds are a pungent staple in many baking recipes and often they’re dried to perfection in the sun and only need to be shaken off the dead flower tops.  Stalky herbs like rosemary and lavender are commonly left in the ground, unharvested, to add interest to winter landscapes.

If you choose to cut lavender back in the fall, cut close to the ground.  Bunches of dried lavender stalks look great in a tall vase and add a clean fragrance to any room.  Or, the flower heads can be pinched off of the stalks and used in sachet bags, potpourris or teas.

Citrus-scented herbs like lemon thyme or lemongrass dry easily and not only add a nice bright flavor to chicken, lamb, and vegetables, but they also smell fantastic as they cook.  Like most herbs, whatever spikes or leaves remain on the plant at the end of summer can be cut back, brought in and stored in the refrigerator for several days up to a couple of weeks, or dried immediately and stored for months to provide fresh-tasting recipes all winter long.

Happy gardening from GHS.

Sunny Sunpatiens: Bursts of Color

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Sunpatiens ImpatienFor adding color and life to shaded areas, impatiens can’t be beat.  But now, they’ve been bred to withstand the sun and heat of mid-summer.  Sunpatiens come in brilliant hues and even their foliage is strikingly pretty.

Annual Sunpatiens were developed from Impatiens by Sakata to thrive in the hottest summer weather and have grown in popularity. In fact, healthy and properly watered Sunpatiens will thrive in temps into the 90s. They have a generous bloom period and flower from spring until the first frosts in fall. Their heat tolerance and their brilliant colors do much to substantiate their popularity.

Categories of Sunpatiens

Sunpatiens are available in three growth categories. Each of the three are hardy and flower generously. They will also thrive in partial shade.

Vigorous Sunpatiens: This is also referred to as the tall series. Flowers come in coral, lavender, pink, magenta, orange, red and white with deep green leaves, with the exception of the coral, which has variegated foliage. This line can grow three to four feet tall and wide. Experts suggest they be planted in the middle or back of the border and this plant is terrific for filling in larger landscape beds.

Compact Sunpatiens: Choose these for flowering combination containers. They need little/infrequent pruning and the plants are tight-branched. Planted in the ground, these grow two to three feet tall and wide, and when they're planted in containers, they grow from 18 to 24 inches tall. The flowers bloom in blush pink, deep rose, coral, white, lilac, orange and magenta, all with dark green leaves.

Spreading Sunpatiens: These are available in white and salmon and both have green with gold-centered leaves, variegated. The foliage of these is quite lovely, a buttery yellow with bright green edges. Spreading Sunpatiens are designed for containers. They grow two to three feet tall and wide. Experts recommend them as an ideal spiller plant for hanging baskets or solo in a large container.

Blooming Salmon Spreading Sunpatiens PlantSunpatiens: How To

Know your local region, but in general, it's recommended to plant the Sunpatiens in your garden in the late spring. The goal is for a well-established root system. It will increase the Sunpatiens' tolerance to the high temps of the summer sun. Choose an area with as much light as possible.

If you are planting in containers, make sure you choose quality potting soil and, if you do choose containers, it is preferable to place seeds directly in the container (as opposed to replanting later). For planting in the ground, be certain to have good, loosened soil. If the ground you're planting in is high clay soil, it must be amended with good quality compost to increase drainage. When setting the plants out (be sure the plants are set adequately spaced), take some slow-release fertilizer and sprinkle the equivalent of two tablespoons around each. For the first 10 days to 10 weeks, crop temperature should be 68 to 70 degrees. Keep humidity below 70 percent to avoid mold.

It is important to water the Sunpatiens well, and use a 20-10-20 or 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer as recommended on container.

If they are grown in partial shade, they may grow unruly, but they are easily trimmed to maintain a bushy habit. They are not without natural enemies: be wary of aphids, caterpillars, fungus, gnats and thrips. In the wrong conditions, they can also be susceptible to bacterial leaf spotting virus, botrytis rot and stem rot.

How Much Sunlight Do Growing Vegetables Need?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Gardening_In_Full_SunHow much sunlight do growing vegetables need is one of the most frequently asked questions, since not everyone who wants to grow a vegetable garden is blessed with an area that receives full sunlight all day long, or with an area large enough to allow the adequate separation of taller plants to keep them from shading shorter plants. Such an example would be corn or tomatoes; these taller plants tend to shade anything planted east of them. Large-leaved plants will also provide shade if planted too closely to other crops.

You may also have to take into consideration the existing trees, fences and architecture that can affect the amount of sunlight reaching certain areas of your vegetable garden. For example, some trees have a high, open canopy, allowing dappled sunlight to reach the garden during all times of the day. On the other hand, trees with a lower, denser canopy can mean your garden area is plunged into full shade for more than all but an hour or two a day, a situation impossible to grow almost any vegetables in. Sometimes it is a simple matter of trimming the lowest branches of the tree, in many cases improving the health and overall appearance of the tree, but also enabling more sunlight to reach your garden plot. In extreme cases, gardeners have been known to cut down the offending tree, using the stump to mount a birdbath or birdhouse, instead. It's all a matter of priorities and what matters most to you. When it comes to existing architecture or a fence, the fix can often be as easy as applying a coat of white paint in order to reflect the sunlight and to help dispel some of the shade. You will also want to take your garden site into consideration when planning on planting trees or installing that new garden shed or privacy fence. These projects are often completed in the fall, after the active gardening season is over, but will directly affect your garden come spring.

So, for the purpose of describing shade or sunlightit is not an exact science; it can depend on where you live. For instance, full sun in the northern part of the country can be 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day. However, in the desert Southwest, full sunlight can mean at least 6 hours of morning sunlight, but almost full shade in the afternoon hours in the heat of the summer. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the middle, in Zones 4 through 8, with any adjustments being made up or down in he amount of sunlight depending upon the area:

  • Full Sunat least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day
  • Partial Sunat least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day
  • Partial Shadeat least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day
  • Full Shadeless than 2 hours of direct sunlight per day. If your prospective garden area experiences this type of shade, we do not recommend planting vegetables

sunlight calculation meterIt will be necessary to observe your garden area throughout a sunny day as spring approaches, and to take a look every couple of hours or so, to determine the total hours of sunlight different areas of your garden will receive. An easier solution, one that doesn't require your taking that walk out to the garden, and which is definitely more precise, is to use our SunCalc® Sunlight Calculator to accurately determine the amount of sunlight reaching any particular area of your yard.

As an easy-to-remember rule, leafy vegetables are the most adaptable to low light conditions, with root vegetables being the next in line and fruit-bearing vegetables requiring the greatest amount of sunlight. Most vegetables will grow in lower light conditions, except for fully shaded conditions, though their productivity could be adversely affected. When in doubt, err on the side of more sun.

As a solution to a garden site with less than desirable sunlight, consider planting your garden in two separate areas or think about planting your tomatoes and other fruit-bearing crops in containers on your sunny deck or patio. Bear in mind that you can also use shade-cloths to provide shade to overly sunny areas where you want to grow leafy vegetables.

As a guide to the amount of sunlight required for specific vegetable plants, you can use the following recommendations, making adjustments as needed for your particular situation:

Crops requiring at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day (Full Sun):

  • Asparagus (perennial)Tomato_Plants_Container
  • Beans
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cantaloupe
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Goji Berries (perennial)
  • Honeydew
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Rhubarb (perennial)
  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Watermelon

Crops requiring at least 6 hours but can grow with less than 8 hours of sunlight per day (Partial Sun):

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb (perennial-can also grow in full sun)
  • Swiss Chardyoung rosemary herb plants

Crops requiring at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day (Partial Shadeideally midday sun):

  • Asian Greens
  • Herbs
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach

 

What Are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Young Girl Holding Sign Saying She Is Not An Experiment
GMOs: Here to Stay, For Better or Worse

Do you like the idea of a strawberry with a fish gene spliced into it? We don't either. But genetic engineering is here to stay, and we feel it's important that our customers understand a little bit about it so that, as informed citizens, we can try to prevent things from getting out of hand.

Last newsletter we talked about the traditional techniques of crossbreeding to produce better varieties. But as time went by, plant scientists started to do everything on a microscopic level. At first they were doing the same thing they'd done before, such as taking one type of tomato and splicing a gene into it from another type of tomato. But then they started splicing together genes of different plants. Then things went even further, taking a gene from a bacterium and splicing it into a plant, so that every cell of the plant produces an insecticidal toxin. And some went further still.  As The Sierra Club explains.

Genes from an animal, say, a fish, can be put into a plant, a strawberry for instance. An attempt to improve strawberries by inserting a gene from an Arctic fishis supposed to make the strawberries more resistant to frost by causing the strawberry plant to produce a form of antifreeze which the fish normally produce to endure cold ocean conditions.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

This became known as genetic engineering and the seeds and plants that resulted from it were called genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. But if we are going to mix up genes, how do we know what the ultimate effects will be on the people who eat the GMOs and on the environment in general?

Genetic engineers assured the public that they had nothing to worry about. And they managed to convince the USDA that GMO crops were substantially equivalent to those found in nature. When demands were made that testing be done, they assured the public that they themselves had tested the GMOs extensively.

Citizen groups pointed out the obvious: having GMO producers test GMOs for safety is like having Phillip Morris test cigarettes for safety. What's more, GMOs have not been around long enough for any long-term testing to be carried out. Like the splitting of the atom seventy-some years ago, genetic engineering opens up a Pandora's Box and we don't know what will eventually come out of it. What we do know is that whatever comes out will be difficult if not impossible to put back in.

Around the world, concerned citizens asked government agencies to err on the side of caution before allowing GMOs to be grown or sold. In Europe, this approach was adopted and the production and sale of GMO crops there is quite restricted.  In the United States and Canada, that did not happen, in part due to the immense lobbying efforts of Monsanto, the main GMO purveyor.

At this time, GMO corn, soy, and sugar are being grown and eaten extensively, along with a growing list of other crops. Only time will tell if they all prove to be safe. However, reports are already coming in that GMO cultivation is leading to the emergence of herbicide-resistant super weeds, that GMOs are setting off new allergic reactions in people, and that GMOs are changing the environmental balance. For example, milkweed has been dwindling as a result of GMO cultivation, a plant that species such as the Monarch butterfly depend on.

The anti-GMO movement has become popular among young people because they will be inheriting a GMO-laced world. Recently an eloquent 14-year-old named Rachel Parent successfully debated a pro-GMO TV host arguing that GMOs should at least be labeled so that consumers can choose whether to buy them. However, Monsanto has fought even that.

At Garden Harvest Supply we're all for better living through science, but this kind of science takes us into unknown territory. Though genetic engineering holds infinite promise for improvements, it also holds infinite possibilities for unforeseen negative consequences. Until long-term studies have been done, we will stick to selling tried-and-true varieties of seeds and plants. We know that these grow well, make great eating, and pose no risk of any kind. We don't think the same can be said of the strawberry that is part fish.