« Back to all News

Archive for 2017

Creative Companions: How Companion Planting Increases Harvests through Natural Pest Control

February 20th, 2017

companion planting

We all know that certain foods taste delicious together, like basil and tomatoes. But did you know that basil and tomatoes grow well together, too?

Companion planting—combining different species of plants to benefit one another in the garden—is a long-practiced organic gardening technique. Remember U.S. history class? Native Americans grew food for a balanced diet in a single plot of land. By planting corn, beans, and squash together on a hill, they maximized their harvest in minimal space. The practice became known as a “Three Sisters Garden.” The plants proved mutually beneficial: the tall corn supported the climbing beans; the beans added nitrogen to the soil, providing nutrients for the corn; and the low-growing squash vines served as a living mulch, preventing weeds while retaining moisture.

Companion planting is a great way to pack lots of veggies into a small space, but it also serves many other purposes in an organic garden.

Companion Planting Deters Pests

beneficial insects, useful insects

Scent attracts many pests to their host plants. Insects lay eggs on the host plant, knowing that the plant will provide food for the newly hatched larvae. By interplanting strongly scented herbs and flowers among crops in the vegetable garden, pests become confused, leaving your future dinner in peace.

If you want to protect your harvest, try these companion plantings that repel pests:

However, French marigolds win the prize as companion-planting champs. They deter Mexican bean beetles, aphids, potato bugs, squash bugs, and nematodes (microscopic roundworms in the soil that damage many plants). Plus, they add a beautiful burst of color to the garden. After all, an organic edible garden should be lovely to look at, too.

Companion Planting Attracts Beneficial Insects

bee, pollinator, pollination

Not all insects are bad. Along with repelling pests in the garden, it’s also important to attract beneficial insects. Beneficial insects serve many purposes. Bees, butterflies, and some beetles provide pollination, which increases harvests.

Besides pollination, many beneficial insects feast on pests, making your work easier. For instance, when you find a tomato hornworm happily snacking on your beautiful heirloom tomatoes, have you noticed small white spikes on its back? Those small spikes are actually killing the hornworm—organically. Parasitic wasps lay eggs on the hornworm, and as the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the hornworm, eliminating your garden nemesis without an ounce of pesticide.

Nature is amazing, isn’t it?

As gardeners, we can minimize pests and eliminate pesticides by encouraging beneficial insects to visit. The trick is to know which insects are the good guys, and what plants to include in the garden to attract garden helpers.

Some beneficial insects include:

  • Ladybugs: both the larvae and adults eat aphids, small caterpillars, and pest eggs.
  • Braconid wasps: a parasitic beneficial insect, it lays its eggs on host insects. When the larvae hatch, they consume the host insect, killing it.
  • Hover fly: larvae eat mealybugs, small caterpillars, and aphids.
  • Lacewings: larvae eat aphids, small caterpillars and caterpillar eggs, small beetles, and insect eggs.
  • Ground beetles: consume many pests, from asparagus beetles to squash vine borers.

How can you recruit an army of organic helpers to keep your garden pest-free? Adding flowering plants to your food crops attracts beneficial insects that will keep the pest population low, while also encouraging pollinators to boost your harvest. Plus, some of the recommended plants serve a dual purpose: attracting beneficial insects and providing flowers and food for you, too. A few recommended plants include:

  • Dill
  • Yarrow
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Asters
  • Fennel
  • Feverfew
  • Angelica
  • Cosmos
  • Sunflowers
  • Golden Marguerite
  • Butterfly weed
  • Tansy
  • Lemon Balm*
  • Mint*
  • Also, allowing parsley, carrots, and celery to overwinter in the garden produces blooms the following year, which are attractive to many beneficial insects.

(*Plant mints and lemon balm (also a member of the mint family), in containers, as the plants can overtake a garden with their vigorous growth.)

Remember to include a succession of blooms so that beneficial insects visit your garden spring, summer, and fall—and winter in mild climates. Feed your flowers and crops with Espoma Flower-tone 3-4-5 to keep plants healthy and productive.

Companion Planting Increases Harvests and Improves Flavors

companion planting, marigold

While we often think of companion planting primarily as a method of pest control, companion planting also improves harvest flavors—and even yields. For instance, in a limited-space garden, combining tall, sun-loving crops, like tomatoes, with shorter plants that enjoy a bit of shade in the heat, like lettuce, allows maximum use of space in a 4′ x 4′ raised bed. Add nasturtiums to your bed, and now you have beautiful, edible flowers to brighten your meals. Place a trellis for cucumbers along the back edge of the raised bed, and you’ve added another treat for your organic salad. The nasturtiums entice pollinators to visit, increasing the yield of your tomatoes and cucumbers, plus they serve as a trap crop for aphids, protecting your harvest.

Add a few radish seeds near the lettuce. Not only do radishes and lettuce grow quickly, but the lettuce protects the flavor of radishes in summer when they can turn bitter. Add a dill plant or two in the corner, and encourage braconid wasps to hunt tomato hornworms for their nursery. You’re protecting the tomatoes while growing an ingredient to add to a homemade salad dressing.

Perhaps you want to create a pretty, edible container garden. For a cool season combination, plant kale as a “thriller”—the central, taller plant in the combination. Add aromatic herbs, like sage, to protect the kale from cabbage moths as your “filler.” Finally, plant pollinator-friendly violas along the edge of the container as the “spiller.” The violas will tumble over the edge of the container as they grow, attracting pollinators and adding aesthetic appeal—and the flowers add a lovely, edible ingredient to meals.

companion planting, marigold

Companion planting packs many benefits into a small space. It does require a bit of thought about your garden. What crops will you grow? What pests also enjoy the same food you do?  Which plants can help you fight off the bad guys while attracting the good insects? The time spent planning your companion plantings is worth it. Adding beautiful, beneficial flowering plants into your garden plan is much tastier than eating a toxic dressing of pesticide on your produce, don’t you agree?

Besides, creating an organic garden filled with blooms is a beautiful way to eat healthfully while saving money, too. Enjoy!

All About Clematis

February 6th, 2017

Clematis are loved both for their ability to climb and for the lovely flowers they produce.

All you need to enjoy the beauty of clematis is to provide them with a minimum of 6 hours of sun, well-drained soil, and proper support, such as a wall, fence, trellis, rocks, tall shrub or another vine. Once these requirements are met, they are happy planted in gardens or in containers. If planted in full sun, keep a heavy layer of mulch around the roots.

Jackmanii purple clematis plant growing on a bamboo trellisIf you are a first-time clematis grower, here are a couple of short videos that will take the guesswork out of planting.

Clematis grow best if these watering, feeding, and pest control instructions are followed:

  • Watering: For newly planted plants, keep the soil moist for the first few weeks. After that, watering only needs to be done during hot dry periods. Its better to do a deep soak rather than a few light waterings.
  • Fertilizing: Feed the plant with a fertilizer that’s rich in potassium. Look for a fertilizer that has an N-P-K ratio with the third number being the highest value. Feeding can be done each spring and fall.
  • Pest Control: Slugs are the main pest, and they can be kept away by putting down a slug barrier each spring. Sluggo® works very well.

Clematis plants require pruning, but how you prune depends on the variety and the planting location.  The amount of cutting and the correct time to prune is determined by when your clematis blooms and other factors, such as your preferred growth habit.  Some clematis bloom only in the spring, others later in the summer, and a third variety can bloom both early spring and late summer.  Once you’ve chosen which clematis is right for your growing conditions and bloom-time preferences, you’ll want to do some research to find the pruning method that fits your circumstances to ensure you get the maximum amount of blooms the next season.

With the proper care, your clematis will provide you joy for many years!

New Varieties of Grasses for 2017!

January 31st, 2017

Ornamental grass growing next to a benchWhat’s not to love about ornamental grasses? These easy-to-grow plants bring multiple seasons of movement, sound and color to your gardens and containers.

Their dramatic form provides a distinctive look and offers a good contrast for your other landscape plants.

Not only are ornamental grasses very adaptable and low-maintenance, they also have very few pest problems. They’re just about the perfect plant!

The first thing to think about when selecting a plant is its mature size. Because there are many different sizes and structures, finding the correct one for your space will make all the difference. Once you have your size, you’ll want to choose the color and texture that will provide the best look in your landscape.

View our fantastic grasses here:

When you purchase plants from us, it’s more than just buying something for yourself: you’re helping to feed someone who’s hungry! We are accomplishing this by partnering with community gardens across the nation. We will provide them with free plants to grow and then they will distribute the produce to the needy. So, from everyone who will benefit, allow us to say, “Thank you!”

We appreciate your business and look forward to continuing to serve you in the future.

Joe Stutzman and Everyone at GHS!

Feeding The Hungry, One Plant At A Time

January 3rd, 2017

Garden Harvest Supply is excited to announce the launch of our service project to help alleviate hunger in our communities.

The idea behind our community service project can be summed up by the famous old saying: “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime”.

We are helping the hungry, one plant at a time

Photo compliments of Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger (BSCAH)

Poverty exists all around us, including among some veterans and senior citizens. Churches and other organizations have started creating community gardens, and they often designate part of the garden as a place where needy people can learn to grow their own food. They give them a plot and teach them how to get started.

We are partnering with these types of community gardens and also with those whose main purpose is the donation of their harvest to the hungry, as well as with the community gardens that allow those with special needs to participate. Come harvest time, there are a lot of smiles all around, and plenty of good, nutritious veggies for people who really need the nourishment. And pretty soon after that, it’ll be planting time again.

We think this is a great idea, and we want to promote it. Therefore, Garden Harvest Supply is going to provide the plants for outreach programs at community gardens around the country. We have already started forming partnerships and are planning to do so with many more gardens in the future.

We love growing plants and we have always wanted to do something that will have a continuing positive impact on the world. We are very thankful that we have now found it, and we want to thank our esteemed customers for being a part of this. With your continued support of our business, you’ll be participating with us in feeding the hungry!

If you know of a community garden that could benefit from our plants, please email us at gardens@gardenharvestsupply.com

We appreciate your business!
Joe Stutzman & Staff,
Garden Harvest Supply

Feeding the hungry, one plant at a time.

Discount Coupons
Ask a Master Gardener