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How To Protect Your Plants This Winter!

October 21st, 2013

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With winter fast approaching and forecasted colder than average temperatures, not necessarily accompanied by insulating snow and life-giving moisture, it's time to be thinking about how you can protect the considerable investment you've made in your landscape.

First, it helps to know what types of plants you have. If you have a yard full of annual plants, then you obviously love the spring, summer and fall ritual of planting your flower beds with the color and flavor of the year. Annuals need no protection since they are not meant to overwinter, though some, like Begonias and Coleus, are often potted and moved indoors for the winter and then replanted into beds in the spring.

On the other hand, if you have perennial flowers, vegetables, ornamental grasses or shrubs, you will most likely want to offer some kind of winter protection. You will at least want to be weather-aware and stock up on those items you might need in order to protect your plants in the event of a severe weather occurrence.

wild flowersFurthermore, it will help to know the specifics about the types of plants you have, such as when they should be pruned, whether they should be cut back, whether they are evergreen or deciduous, and what their temperature tolerances are. Some plants require a dormant stage in order to bloom the following year; some shrubs bloom on old wood, while some bloom on new growth. Some plants are subject to heaving, which means temperature changes will cause them to lift out of the ground, exposing their crowns and roots to freezing temperatures and wind. Strawberries are famous for this. You can research your plants online or you can Ask Our Master Gardener. Bear in mind it can be extremely difficult to identify a particular type of plant from a photograph, especially if it is no longer in bloom.

So, what should you have on hand for winter plant protection?

Mulch: You've probably heard us say this over and over again, but mulch can be a life-saver, not only for protection during the winter, but also during extreme high temperatures and drought conditions. You should always have a supply of mulch in your garden shed or garage. The bags will not survive outside well, so if you don't have out-of-the-weather storage space, then buy it in the early spring or fall when it goes on sale and plan to have enough for the winter if needed.

Cloches: You might call it a garden dome or Victorian bell. Available in glass, plastic and even inexpensive Styrofoam, a cloche will cover an individual temperature-sensitive plant. For example, if you've planted a new perennial and have a sudden cold-snap, a cloche may be the answer. Or, if you have a Begonia that normally survives as a perennial in your zone but you experience a sudden cold spell, having a cloche on hand will make it easy to protect your baby. Ensure the cloche you use has a means of venting it for air circulation and be sure to remove it promptly if temperatures rise. It will be much warmer inside a clear glass or plastic cloche; just think of how the temperature rises in a closed car.

Bag_To_Cover_PlantsPlant Blanket: These are to cover larger areas, like a flowerbed or vegetable garden plot. You can use burlap, which provides good air circulation, though you will want to have some way to keep it up off the plants if it gets extremely wet and heavy, and you may need to find a way to tether it to the ground so it doesn't blow away. Burlap, though biodegradable, can be quite expensive and you don't want to lose it. Old bed sheets are also an option, but they have the same limitations as burlap. There are also plastic plant and seed blankets that are light enough to float over your plants, trapping heat and moisture in order to protect them. In the spring you can use them to help in germinating flower or vegetable seeds.

Row Covers: These can be of the floating type or more structured, like our Haxnicks Easy Tunnel Row Cover, which has an accordion-folding system of galvanized steel hoops that allows for versatility and easy storage, while the drawstring ends can be closed or opened as the weather dictates. These are fantastic for extending your vegetable-growing or blooming flower season, but they are also exceptional winter protection for those more tender perennial flowers or vegetables. And they are sturdy enough to last year after year after year.

Plant Protector Bags: Available in a number of sizes, these are ideally made from woven fabrics, allowing your shrubs and bushes to breathe and allowing light, air and moisture to filter through. Usually reusable, you will find plant covers ranging from the cheapest plastic versions that will probably only last one season and which may not provide air and moisture circulation, vital to the health of your shrubs and plants, to what we consider the Cadillac of frost protection bags, our Bosmere Fleece Frost Protection Bag.

We are here to answer any questions you may have once you've browsed our selection of Plant Covers. Call 1-888-907-4769 or click the link above to Ask Our Master Gardener about how to protect your winter plants from frost, wind and extreme cold temperatures.

 

Fill Your Pantry with Dried Vegetables

October 17th, 2013

dried_vegetablesDehydrated (dried) vegetables are simply thatvegetables that have been dried, either using heat, the sun or air, and then packaged. They are easily RE-hydrated by placing in boiling water for 2 minutes and then can be incorporated into your favorite recipes. You can use them dry, right out of the package in soups or stews, or rehydrate them for use in casseroles, dips and other dishes. They taste so good you can rehydrate them and eat them all by themselves!

You may be scrunching up your face at the thought of using dried vegetables, but you would be amazed at the benefits:

  • Lower Sodium: unlike canned vegetables, sodium is not used for preservation
  • Long Shelf Life: dried veggies are not subject to freezer burn; no waste; always fresh
  • Nutritious: nutrients are not diminished, as they may be when canned or frozen
  • Time Saving: no more washing, peeling, chopping; use as is or rehydrate quickly
  • Space Saving: uses no freezer space and very little shelf space
  • Flavorful: dried veggies, when rehydrated, taste almost like garden-fresh

Our vegetable flakes, available in 3-lb. or 15-lb. bags, are perfect for stews and casseroles. Dehydrated potatoes, carrots, red and green bell peppers and celery saves you the time of shopping, storing, washing, peeling and chopping, as well as cooking time. Just add meat, your favorite stock, some spices and the dried or rehydrated vegetable flakes.

Use our jalapeno chips just like you would fresh jalapenos. Make jalapeno cornbread, add to your favorite bean dips, make jalapeno queso or spice up any side or main dish.

Our All Natural Soup Greens, also available in 3-lb. or 15-lb. bags, are a mixture of onion, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, celery, tomatoes and spinach. You can use them right out of the bag in your favorite soup recipe, or rehydrate them to use as a flavorful side dish. You can make a complete vegetarian meal when you serve them on a baked spud or mixed with mashed potatoes.

Imagine how much time you can free up. Imagine how much money you'll save. Imagine how your family will love the new lip-smacking-good concoctions you'll be serving. You'll have more time and more dough (pun intended) to get creative in the kitchen.

Try any one, or more, of our dried vegetables and we're sure you'll come back for more!

How to Control the Spotted Wing Drosophila

October 16th, 2013

Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is working its way across the country, and it's one of the most recent and largest infestations occurring in Indiana.

A type of vinegar fly first believed to have reared its ugly head in California, probably a hitchhiker on imports from Japan, this pernicious pest has effectively expanded its population and is becoming quite the nuisance.

The first signs of an infestation you may see are soft spots on the bottoms of your soft-skinned fruits like grapes and berries, though peaches, cherries, apples, apricots and tomatoes have also been infested. Vinegar flies are also called fruit flies; however, the Spotted Wing Drosophila, unlike other fruit flies, is able to puncture the skin of healthy, soft-skinned fruits with its serrated ovipositor, something the average female fruit fly doesn't have. Prior to the discovery of this particular fruit fly, only over-ripened or rotting fruit was at risk. This short video will show you how to identify the Spotted Wing Drosophila.

SWD first caused serious crop damage in California in 2008 and since that time has spread throughout numerous states in the U.S., making its appearance in Michigan in the fall of 2010, the first indication the infestation had reached the North Central region of the United States, its easternmost sightings at this time.

That being said, if you've discovered unexplained mushy spots on your soft fruits, explore further by cutting the fruit open and then peeling or smashing the fruit in order to look for the larvae. They'll be white and small, about 2 mm long and .5 mm in diameter (about the width of the lead in a mechanical pencil). They are relatively hard to see, especially in seeded fruits like raspberries, but patient watching will detect their movement if they are, in fact, there.

One way to determine if these nasty critters are visiting your garden is to build a trap. This video will show you how easy it is to build a Spotted Wing Drosophila trap. Being able to detect their presence ahead of time will enable you to take proactive measures in order to avoid their laying eggs in your produce, which will save the majority, if not all, of your fruit. Once you have an infestation, it will be harder to get rid of them and a lot of the damage will have already been done.

There are several insecticides registered for use, but one of the safest for use around your family and pets is an organic insecticidal spray with spinosads. Spinosads do no harm to beneficial insects, such as green lacewings, pirate bugs or ladybugs, but they will effectively suppress, kill or control a whole host of noxious garden pests, including SWD. A bacterial treatment, formulated through fermentation, spinosads can be used right up to the day of harvest on some fruits and it's a fast-acting and odorless product. Due to the bacterial nature of spinosads, pests have not shown any inclination of becoming immune to it and it is approved for organic gardening by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute).

You should spray as soon as you know there are adult flies (but not while plants are still flowering), or when larvae are present in ripening fruit. Then follow these treatment guidelines for the most commonly infested fruits:spinosad is an organic solution for lawn and garden pests

  • Applesreapply every 5 days, up to 6 times per season; wait 7 days to harvest

  • Peaches, Plums, Cherries, Apricots, Grapesreapply every 6 days, up to 6 times per season; wait 7 days to harvest cherries and plums, 14 days for peaches and apricots

  • Raspberries, Strawberries, Blackberries and Tomatoesreapply every 4 days, up to 6 times per season; wait 1 day to harvest

You should always refer to the product label on the container for specific mixing and usage directions.

As always, we wish you happy gardeningand NO SWDs!

 

 

Organic Lawn Care Part 2

October 15th, 2013

Soil Amendments

Garden_Lime

Now that you've read how to test your soil in part 1, you'll know exactly what your lawn needs to be at its best. Generally people add fertilizer, but before we discuss that, let's take a look at a couple of soil amendments that will help to adjust the pH of your soil if it needs adjusting.

Lime is the supplement of choice for soil that is too acidic. Lawns grow best when the pH is between 6.0 and 7.0. The ideal is between 6.2 and 6.5. If your soil's pH is below 6.0, an application of lime in the late fall or early spring will help to move it into the perfect pH range. To learn more about the use of lime, see our previous newsletter Strengthen Your Soil with Agricultural Limestone.

The most economical method of applying lime is NutriLime Pelletized Lime. It can be applied with any garden spreader, and, unlike pulverized lime, it will not generate any lime dust and is not messy at all. Each bag covers 4,000 square feet.

If you have a small lawn, smaller bags of Hi-Yield Agricultural Limestone or Espoma Organic Traditions Garden Lime, will get the job done. Each of these smaller bags of lime will cover approximately 100 square feet.

If your soil is too alkaline, the treatment of choice is to add sulfur. This has the additional benefit of being a natural insecticide and fungicide. It is also helpful to add acidic organic matter such as pine needles, shredded oak leaves, or our BioMax 3-in-1 Garden Mix, which contains sphagnum peat. Such mulches will help to slowly lower the pH of your soil, but don't expect immediate changes.

Fertilizer: Organic vs. Inorganic

spreading_lawn_fertilizerFall is an excellent time to fertilize, and if you're starting a new lawn, you'll certainly want to add fertilizer before seeding. At Garden Harvest Supply we endorse using organic fertilizers, and we'll take this opportunity to try to explain some of the reasons why.

Chemical fertilizer quickly releases necessary minerals into the soil but some of those minerals inevitably get washed away or leached because chemical fertilizers are concentrated and highly water-soluble. Besides being wasteful, this runoff causes problems wherever it goeseven once it finds its way into the sea.

Did you know that the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is a direct result of chemical fertilizer runoff from the fifty million tons of chemical fertilizer that are applied to lawns each year? The phosphorus in the runoff caused algae to bloom and then it died and decomposed. The resulting blanket does not allow anything else to grow over an area the size of Connecticut.

In contrast, organic fertilizers slowly release their minerals because they contain natural substances that break down into those minerals rather than being a direct concentrate of the minerals themselves. Once in the soil, microbes act on these natural substances and they slowly break down and supply the nutrients that your turf needs.

There are many advantages to this. First of all, your turf continues to receive nutrients over a period of time rather than all at once at high levels. Second, you don't have to worry about burning your turf, which is something that chemical fertilizers will do if not applied exactly according to instructions and in the correct amount. Third, the problem of leaching and runoff is greatly reduced. Considering that more land is devoted to maintaining lawns than to growing corn, if more homeowners went organic, it would greatly benefit the eco-system.

We are excited that one of the most trusted names in organic gardening, Espoma, has launched a line of organic lawn fertilizers. Need another fertilizer for your fall lawn care plan, we also recommend Neptune's Harvest, a marvelous organic fertilizer made from substances from the sea. One gallon will cover 8,000 sq. feet.

Some final advice about fertilizer is to not use too much. Many homeowners think more is better, and it simply isn't true. Besides the ecological consequences, over-fertilization encourages the development of lawn diseases such as leaf spot and brown patch. Also keep in mind that a shady lawn will require less fertilizer than a sunny lawn.

Natural Insecticides

As you can imagine, insecticide runoff also spells trouble, especially for birds, bees, and fish. What's more, it's often over-applied or used where it's not needed.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension gives this wise advice: “Healthy turf may (and should) contain a variety of beneficial or neutral (neither pest nor beneficial) insects.  Some of the beneficial insects include ground beetles, rove beetles, predatory and parasitic wasps, non-pest ants. Some insects may be beneficial and prey upon harmful ones or just be neutral to the turf environment. Predatory beetles and some small flies can be predatory on turf-consuming caterpillars. Unnecessary pesticide use may reduce the insects that are actually suppressing the pest caterpillars”.

Homeowners often fear that the presence of a pest insect requires treatment. However, insect pests are often found in a lawn at population levels below what would produce damage or be worth treating.

If you are having a pest problem with your lawn, take note as to whether it is all over or contained in one spot. To save money and save the environment, you only need to treat the problem area. For advice about choosing a natural insecticide, consult our previous newsletter on Natural Pest Control.

Seeding or Reseeding

Organic_Lawn_FoodYou are now ready to apply the grass seed. Grass seed grows well in fall because the temperatures are perfect for cool-season grass and because it has less competition from annual weeds. Just be sure to give the lawn enough time to establish itself before winter weather hits.

We sell a variety of spreaders. When you're ready to sow your seed, make sure your spreader is adjusted to the right setting. Generally what you want to do to ensure even coverage is to spread the first half of the seed by walking in one direction and then spread the second half crisscross.

After you sow your seeds, it's a good idea to top-dress the seed with a light application of peat moss or BioMax 3-in-1 in order to retain moisture.

After that, it's time to irrigate. The first watering should penetrate at least half a foot, but be careful not to wash away or drown the seed. From there on, irrigate lightly and frequently until you see that the seeds have begun to sprout. These irrigations only need to penetrate an inch or so but they should be done frequently to ensure the soil around the seeds will not dry out. Moisture is essential at the very beginning because seeds will not germinate without it.

As the grass starts to come up, reduce the frequency of watering but be sure to keep people, pets, and other animals from trampling your tender grass shoots. As the grass becomes established, you can cut down to watering twice a week, and later once per week, but be sure that when you water, you water deeply (6-8 inches).

When your grass is 3 to 4 inches high, it's time for the first mowing. Choose a day when your grass needs watering and mow it first, then water it afterwards. Mowing is always better done on grass that is not too moist.

That's all for now.  Happy Gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

How to Grow Barberry Sunjoy Cinnamon Plants

October 14th, 2013

Here are some easy tips on how to grow Barberry Sunjoy Cinnamon Plants: These colorful, easy to care for shrubs do well in average, well-draining soil. They have normal water needs, and do best in a sunny spot. These shrubs offer a long-lasting, three-season display of eye-catching color.

Description: This yard and garden standout is easy to grow and easy to care for. The Barberry Sunjoy Cinnamon plant is a deciduous shrub with half-inch yellow-white flowers that bloom in April and May. The attractive dark orange foliage grows on compact, thorny branches. It grows 4-5 ft. tall and just as wide.

Origin: Native of Japan

Propagation: Semi-hardwood stem cuttings cut in mid-July or mid-September.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8

Companion Plants: Place Barberry Sunjoy Cinnamon shrubs 6 ft. apart to make a natural privacy hedge.

Fertilizer: Generally, none needed. For new plantings, use a slow release liquid feed.

Sun/Light Needs: Full sun is best

Maintenance: Low.

Display/Uses: Hedges; foundation planting

Wildlife Value: Deer resistant; attractive to birds

Diseases/Pests: Root rot, if soil does not drain well; rust and wilt

How to Remove Urine Smell from a Mattress

October 10th, 2013

Urine_Smell_From_MattressHow many times have you tried to remove a urine smell from a mattress? There's no need to be embarrassed. We know there are many reasons for this to happen:

  • Pets
  • The Elderly
  • Children/Grandchildren
  • Illness
  • Incontinence

And now there is something that really works. Really, really works! It is even utilized by pest removal experts to destroy the odor of skunk, bat guano, and yes, urine, that they encounter as they perform the duties of their profession. We have to applaud them for doing a job most of us would not even consider. In fact, we're pretty sure their parents didn't encourage them to become a pest removal expert, unless they are following in a parent's footsteps. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

D-Molish NOW! is an all-purpose household cleaner that happens to do a fantastic job at not only removing odors, but at destroying the cause of the most foul smells. The Spring Fresh or Orange Scent gives you immediate relief from the offending odors, while the naturally occurring enzymes work to digest the source of the odor, most often nasty bacteria.

Amazingly safe, you can use D-Molish NOW! to remove stains and odors from most fabrics, including your mattress. It is extremely safe for use around your pets and family. Non-acidic, non-alkaline, with no solvents, it is even safe to use around vegetation and water features, indoors or out. If you've ever read a warning label that says not to use a product around birds or aquatic life, you should think twice about using it anywhere in your home; warning labels are written for a majority of the general public, though no one can say for sure how any person might react to a particular product. It's much better to be safe than sorry, especially when you or your family will be sleeping on a treated item.

To clean your mattress, simply wipe the area with a wet cloth and then spray D-Molish NOW! Mist with water (which helps to activate the enzymes) and let it dry completely. If the stain persists, you can reapply in 48 hours, though most of our customers have found it to work on all but the most stubborn stains the first time. By the way, it will also clean blood stains.

Don't even think about buying a new mattress because you can't remove the urine smell from your current one. Try D-Molish NOW! first. There is a reason we have it in our Home Necessities department. It truly works.

How to Grow Coreopsis Plants

October 9th, 2013

Here are some easy tips on how to grow Coreopsis plants: Loosen average, well-drained soil to a depth of 12-15 in. Add 2-4 in. compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot.  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. Space them 2-3 ft. apart, depending on variety.

How To Grow Coreopsis PlantsPronunciation: ko-ree-OP-sis

Common Names: Tickseed; Calliopsis

Description: These dependable, colorful, easy-to-grow perennial plants have a long bloom time. The flowers are yellow or pink and they look like daisies.  Coreopsis plants grow from 9 in. to 4 ft., depending on variety. The fruits are flat and look like bugs.

Origin: N. America; Central and South America

Propagation: Division every few years in spring

Sun/Light Needs: Full sun is best

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9

Fertilizer Needs: Generally none, once established. Too much fertilizer will make Tickseed plants too tall and floppy. Apply a thin layer (2 in.) of compost each spring.

Maintenance: Low. After the first killing frost, cut these perennial plants back to 1-2 in. above soil line.

Companion Plants: Coneflower, Lavender, and Salvia

Display: Borders, cutting gardens

Pests/Diseases: Coreopsis plants can have problems with snails, slugs, and fungal disease

Wildlife Value: Food source for moths and butterflies; tolerates dry soil (Xeriscape ready)

Shelf Life of Canned Meats

October 7th, 2013

Shelf_Life_Canned_MeatFirst, you should take note that we are talking about the shelf life of commercially canned meat, in particular, our Grabill Country Meats, which we consider to be the highest quality canned meats you can buy. We only carry this one brand of canned meat for a reasonbecause we think it has the best flavor and is the most wholesome product available. We would not sell any product that we would not feed to our own families.

Home-canned food, particularly meats, and depending upon the canning method used, will usually be considered safe for 1 to 5 years, though the recommendation is to use it within a year. Storage is critical when it comes to home-canned food safety. Preserved in clear glass, the amount of light the jars are subject to and temperature fluctuations can greatly affect the quality. Basically, as long as the seal is still intact, it should still be good to eat. You can test the seal on home-canned foods by pressing gently in the middle of the lid. If the seal is still intact, it will not pop back up against your fingeryou should not hear a metallic popping sound when you depress the center. The color can change somewhat, which is even true of commercially canned foods, with no microbial contamination taking place. The flavor may suffer a little and over time some of the vitamins may be diminished, but the food will be safe to eat.

Studies over the last number of years have discovered that commercially canned food found on a sunken steamboat in the silt at the bottom of the Missouri River is still safe for human consumption, something the chemists at the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) did not expect to find. The canned foods found on the Steamboat Bertrand included canned oysters! There is also an example of the same organization analyzing a 40-year-old can of corn found in the basement of a California home. It was found to be contaminant-free, with very little nutrient loss, while the kernels looked and smelled like recently canned corn.

All canned foods will have a best by or a use by date on them as required by Federal regulations, but we are throwing away an awful lot of food that is still flavorful, healthy and perfectly safe to eat, just because of the date on the can. The FDA and other food experts have suggested that we use our common senses (sight, smell and taste) to determine the safety of our canned meats, which includes looking at the condition of the can. Dented, punctured or rusted cans should be discarded.

Stop throwing your hard-earned money away unnecessarily. Canned meat shelf life is much, MUCH longer than we might think.

Organic Fall Lawn Care: Part 1

October 2nd, 2013

lawn grass growing in healthy soilWant a beautiful lawn? We're going to tell you how to do it, and if you use the organic methods we recommend, you'll also end up with healthy soil. Plus you'll help maintain the balance of nature downstream by not contributing to the problem of pesticide and fertilizer runoff.

So, let's take a look at six essential steps to creating a terrific looking lawn the organic way. In this first part, we'll discuss soil testing, grass seed selection, and soil preparation. In the upcoming part two, we will discuss fertilizer selection, fertilizer application, and the seeding process.

Test Your Soil

Fall is one of the best times for soil testing. If you test before doing anything else, you'll know exactly what your soil needs to be at its best. If there is a deficiency, you'll know how severe it is so you can apply just the right amount of fertilizer. It's amazing how many people apply fertilizer when their soil doesn't even need it. Or they overfertilize, thinking more is better, when that excess will cause thatching. By testing you avoid this kind of waste, and you will make up the modest expense of testing many times over.

We offer a variety of testers and testing kits, starting with the Rapitest Soil Tester Kit 1609CS. Or we have the Rapitest Soil Tester Kit Model 1601 which is good for 10 tests, and if you want unlimited testing capability, get one of the electronic soil testers such as the Rapitest Electronic Soil Tester Model 1860.

For more about soil testing, including how to interpret the tests, read the GHS Guide to Soil and Soil Testing.

Choose the Right Grass Seed 

Hand_Reseeding_LawnIf you're planning to seed or reseed your lawn, the next step is to decide what grass variety or mix of varieties would best meet your needs. Fall is not the time to plant or reseed warm season grasses such as Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, or St. Augustine varieties. However, if you're looking at any of the cooler season grassesfescues, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrassyour timing couldn't be better.

We like the Execu-Turf line of grass seed because Cisco uses the best varieties and they have formulated a grass blend for nearly every type of lawn: sunny, shady, sports use, no useyou name it.

To determine which blend is best for your situation, Cisco provides this Execu-Turf Mixes Information Chart.  If you want to know the specific grass varieties contained in each mix, click here.  Once you've chosen the best mix for your needs, go to our turf grass section to order.

We also sell ground cover grass seed including annual ryegrass. Though typically used for field and pasture, annual ryegrass will keep your lawn green all winter if sown now. Some gardeners simply throw it onto their existing grass; it takes hold quickly and will leave your soil enriched when it comes time to reseed in the spring. For more about planting annual ryegrass, check out our GHS Guide to Growing Fall Cover Crops.

Prepare Your Soil 

aerating_yard_with_forkBefore you plant any seeds, you will want to aerate and, if necessary, de-thatch your lawn. The health of your soil is directly related to its beneficial bacteria, because that good bacteria breaks nutrients down into a form that your grass can absorb. If your soil can't breathe or is suffocated by thatch, that bacterial action slows way down and the grass you plant won't do as well. Aeration and de-thatching also improve drainage, leading to healthier root systems.

Many lawn owners consider it worthwhile to de-thatch and/or aerate once a year around this time, either by doing it themselves with rented equipment, or by hiring a lawn service. Hollow core aerators that pull slugs of soil out of the ground are the best kind to use. Don't aerate soil if it is wet, but it is good for it to be slightly moist.

If your lawn is small and you want to do the job manually, aerate with a broadfork. Or, you might want to try out our aerating sandals.

One way to get a double benefit from aeration is to shred the leaves that have fallen on your lawn and then distribute them in a thin layer. If you have no leaves, use compost, manure, pine needles, or any other organic matter. Drop small piles intermittently around your lawn and then rake it out to approximately three-eighths of an inch. When you aerate, the slugs of the aerator will push the highly beneficial organic matter deep into your soil, even as the aerator punches cylindrical holes that will allow oxygen and water to enter.

In the second part of this series, we'll be talking about the different amendments your soil may need. So stay tuned, and Happy Gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

How to Grow Heliotrope Plants

October 1st, 2013

How to grow heliotrope plantsHere are some easy tips for how to grow Heliotrope plants: These annual plants like a rich, loamy soil and six hours of full sun each day. Put plants in a hole twice the size of the root ball, to the depth of the soil mark on stem. Fill with organic matter, tamp down, then water.

Pronunciation: HE-lee-oh-trope

Origin: South America, Europe, and Asia

Description: These annuals also grow as tender perennial plants, depending on climate. Heliotrope plants have beautiful flower clusters of deep purple, blue, or white.  These tropical flowers can smell like cherry pie, vanilla, or grape Popsicle. The leaves are dark green and very attractive. They normally grow 1-3 ft. tall and 1- 2 ft. wide.

Common names: Turnsole; Cherry pie plant

Propagation: Seed or stem cutting

Sun/Light Needs: These annual plants do best in full sun. In very hot, dry areas, they need afternoon shade to stop the leaves from scorching.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-11 (tender perennials) but annuals elsewhere

Fertilizer Needs: Cherry pie plants are heavy feeders. Every 2 weeks or so, use a liquid fertilizer made especially for flowering plants. It should have a lot of phosphorus.

Maintenance: Early in the season, pinch stems back to encourage bushy shape. This will delay the first bloom, but you'll have a steady show of blossoms after that.

Companion Plants: Angelonia, Licorice plant

Display: Borders, beds, or containers

Pests/Diseases: Usually, none

Wildlife Value: Deer resistant; drought and heat tolerant. Cherry pie plants are also a food source for the Grass Jewel butterfly caterpillar.

Herbal/Medicinal Use: All parts of these annual plants/tender perennial plants are highly poisonous. Keep children, pets, and livestock away.