News

Plant CoversA Wise Investment

October 4th, 2012

Keep Frost Off Plants With Plant CoverIt's getting to be that time of year again. The temperatures are cooling down; the cold fronts are moving in, and it's time to get your yard ready for the winter. Most everyone will apply a good fertilizer now to help their lawn withstand the rigors of winter wind and ice. Most of us will have cleaned out the summer garden and either have a fall garden underway or will be preparing the garden spot for its rebirth in the spring. But, have you thought about the damage a severe winter could do to your shrubbery, hedges, bushes or young trees?

We are already hearing from our customers about how the spiders, ants, mice and other creepy crawly things are starting to invade their homes. These little signs can be the harbinger of an earlier-than-normal and colder-than-normal winter. Unfortunately, we can no more accurately predict the weather than can the experts, our esteemed meteorologists, Mother Nature being a fickle and ever-changing lady who can make the most knowledgeable weather person look like a fool. But, we can always hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

You have invested a lot in hedges, bushes and trees, the more permanent aspects of your landscaping, so it really doesn't make sense to risk their injury, or even their death, by not protecting them. Any bush, shrub or tree might be extraordinarily costly to replace, especially if it has grown significantly from the time you first planted it. Replacing a prized rose bush or well-established shrub could cost much more in terms of dollars, as opposed to what you paid originally, for the much smaller version, and is virtually priceless when it comes to the time and money you have already spentand emotionally, for many of us, losing a precious shrub or tree would be like losing a favorite part of our homes.

Fortunately, there is an economically sound and ultimately easy way to protect those living and breathing things that make your personal outdoor space so very special.

Bag to Cover PlantsWith varying levels of frost protection, most plant covers will also provide protection from other elements, such as fierce winds, heavy rain and damaging hail. One such cover is our 2-Pack-Decorative Plant Protector Bag. Measuring 40W x 45H, drawstrings at the top and bottom allow for a secure fit, while the decorative leaf pattern blends harmoniously with your landscape. For freezing temperatures, consider our reusable and indispensable Fleece Frost Protection Bag. Allowing light, air and moisture to reach the covered shrub or plant, it can be left in place for an extended period of time, trapping the plant's own warmth and assuring its continued survival when the weather does not allow your more personalized attention. In fact, we have a full selection of reasonably priced and easy-to-use plant covers and blankets to choose from.

The truth is, you never know what any season will bring. We have seen our share of extreme heat, freezing rains, hurricane force winds and flooding across this great nation of ours. The climate is in a constant state of flux, an unavoidable fact of life. We may not be able to control the weather, but we can certainly control the effects of the weather. Just as you would buy flood insurance to protect your home if you live in New Orleans, or hurricane insurance if you live on the Gulf Coast, a small investment in plant covers to ensure the survival of your valuable landscaping, is, indeed, a smart investment.

We wish you a safe, warm and memory-filled fall and winter season.

The management and staff at Garden Harvest Supply

Growing Garlic in the Fall

September 27th, 2012

Planting fall garlic bulbs in the gardenWhat to Do (Or Not to Do) First

When it comes to planting fall garlic, timing can be everything.

First, when you receive your garlic bulbs, do NOT separate them until just before you put them in the ground. Put them in a dark, cool spot until planting if you cannot plant them fairly quickly, so as to prevent premature sprouting. Separating the bulbs from the clove prematurely will allow the root nodules to dry out, meaning it will take longer for the bulbs to set roots.

Garlic, a remarkably hardy root vegetable, in most cases, will perform much better when subjected to severe winter conditions. In fact, many varieties prove to be the most flavorful following a harsh winter. So, the trick is to plant early enough for the seeds (cloves/sets) to establish a good root system, but not so early that the plants have time to send up mature shoots before the onset of winter halts growth completely. A little above ground growth won’t hurt, but you definitely don’t want the formation of bulbs to start. The experts suggest planting your garlic seeds 4 to 6 weeks prior to the time the first hard freeze is expected in your area.

What Next?

The soil where you plant your garlic sets should be loosened and well-prepared, with compost or organic material worked in to provide the suitable nutrition and to give your fall-planted garlic a healthy start. The root end of each garlic clove that is attached to the bulb should be planted facing down, about 4 to 8 inches apart and 2 to 3 inches deep. Garlic seeds planted closer together will produce smaller bulbs in greater numbers, while those planted farther apart will produce fewer bulbs but with larger cloves. Once the ground freezes, cover the entire bed with 3 to 4 inches of leaves or hay, avoiding straw, as mites found in straw can attack the garlic. This will conserve moisture, provide insulation and control weed growth until spring arrives.

Now What?

You just wait. Sit in front of the fire, make snowmen with the kids, indulge in evenings with hot cocoa and good moviesand just when you think winter couldn’t last any longer, spring will arrive and you will already have done all the hard part when it comes to your garlic crop.

garlic plants growing in the gardenNow you just gently rake the leaves or straw off the new sprouts popping up; apply some organic fertilizer and harvest when ready! In wetter areas, you may not want to mulch at all throughout the season, but if it dries out, re-mulching will help to conserve moisture, control weed growth and moderate soil temperatures. Garlic does not appreciate competition in the form of weeds or grass, nor does it care for hot summer temperatures, so adapt these suggestions as needed for your particular area.

As for wateringgarlic requires somewhat even moisture throughout the season, though it is better to let it dry out some during the last few weeks prior to harvesting. Not enough watering will result in undersized bulbs, while too much watering affects the storage quality of the bulbs, greatly shortening garlic’s shelf life. It is better to stop watering earlier than to overwater later.How To Harvest Garlic Plants

When Can I and How Do I Harvest?

The time to harvest will vary, depending upon your zone and the growing conditions of any particular season. The only sure way to know is to regularly check the bulbs, feeling for the bumps of the cloves through the wrappers of the mature bulbs. Most gardeners will harvest starting in July, with the lion’s share being harvested in mid- to late August. This is one crop with no set times; your experience, and trial and error, are the best gauges.

Amazingly, garlic does bruise kind of easily, so be careful when harvesting. We suggest a fairly flat, narrow-bladed shovel to loosen the soil around the plants, and then lift the plants by hand. If harvesting on a sunny day, the bulbs can actually become sunburned, with some varieties changing flavor in the sun. Move your garlic bulbs to a cooler location, out of direct sunlight as you harvest.

Hanging freshly harvested garlic plants to dry

Photo courtesy of lisascenic

Enjoy!

If you’ve harvested young or new season, immature garlic, you will want to store it in the refrigerator and use it within a week or so. These cloves will normally have a more subtle flavor and can be used just as you would leeks or onions. For mature garlic, you will want to dry it well, after washing the bulbs and roots. You can hang the bulbs from their stalks if you wish. The area should be dry, shady and well-ventilated, the drying process taking in excess of a week, but enabling you to store it for an extended period.

Okay, NOW you can enjoy!

Garden Harvest Supply Coupon

September 20th, 2012

We’ve heard you asking for Garden Harvest Supply coupons and discount codes in greater numbers and we are listening. Though we already have some of the best prices on garden plants, seeds and supplies, we know that today’s economy has everyone stretching their hard-earned dollars and looking for the best value possible. We want to make that easier for you.

So, bookmark this page, add it to your Favorites Menu Bar and check back regularly to find the latest Garden Harvest Supply coupons being offered. As always, the discount will be activated at checkout by using the Garden Harvest Supply discount code mentioned in the coupon. Simple and straight forward, you don’t even have to leave the site to search the web for Garden Harvest Supply discount codes. We will always have them listed right here! Just click on the comments link and scroll down to find the active Garden Harvest Supply coupon that most suits you, and then start shopping!

And tell your friends! There isn’t anyone who can’t benefit from saving a little more money!

As always, we sincerely thank you for your business and look forward to serving you often,

Garden Harvest Supply

GHS Guide to Staying Healthy in the Garden

September 17th, 2012

Tick crawling on a garden plantWe’ve written often about how to keep your plants and soil healthy, but much more important is that you stay healthy. Being out in the garden can mean being bitten by ticks and mosquitoes, and these can lead to Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or West Nile virus. In this newsletter, we’ll tell you the essential things about these insect-transmitted illnesses, and explain how you can protect yourself from getting them.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported insect-borne illness in the U.S. More than 90% of the approximately 30,000 cases each year occur in the Northeastern states, plus Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  As you’ve probably heard, Lyme disease is mostly carried by deer ticks. The bad news about deer ticks is that they are so small you might not notice if one latches onto you. The good news is that it has to remain on you for at least one full day before it can infect you. That means if you carefully check yourself after coming in from gardening each dayand have someone check the places you can’t seeyou don’t have to worry about getting Lyme disease.

Of course, if you find a tick on yourself, it’s crucial that you remove it quickly and correctly. That means: do not mess around with matches, Vaseline, or other folk remedies. And also, don’t just yank it out. To remove a tick you need a good pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick firmly, as close to the skin as possible, trying to clamp onto the head as well as the body. You then pull it straight out, away from your skin, slowly and firmly, with a steady motion. The object is to remove the entire tick, not just part of it. If you just rip it off, the head will almost certainly remain behind, and that disembodied head will infect you just as surely as if it were still attached to a body.

After you remove the tick, clean the area with anti-bacterial soap. Health authorities suggest that you circle the site with a permanent marker to help you to remember to keep an eye on it. If you see any rash or redness develop, especially a bulls-eye that looks like a red ring around the site with a red spot in the center, see your doctor immediately.

If you have a tick but fail to notice it, what will happen is that it will feed for several days and then drop off. Therefore you have to know how to spot Lyme disease early. The rule of thumb is that if you have flu-like symptoms plus an area on your body that has a red rash, especially the telltale bulls-eye, then see your doctor immediately. Lyme disease can be treated very effectively in its earliest stage, but if left untreated, you might be in for a long and difficult recovery.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is usually caused by dog ticks or wood ticks. There are about 2,500 reported cases per year. Despite its name, more than 60 percent of those cases occur in North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri, and the rest show up all over the country. Unlike Lyme disease, the flu-like symptoms come first when you catch RMSF, followed by the rash that consists of reddish-purple spots. More than half the people who come down with RMSF aren’t aware that they had been bitten. Therefore it’s very important that you check yourself carefully after a day of gardening, and that if you find any ticks, you remove them as described above. As with Lyme disease, it’s crucial to start antibiotics right away in order to treat it effectively, so be sure to see a doctor at once if you suspect you may have RMSF.

West Nile Virus Caused by MosquitoesWest Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is carried by mosquitoes and is less common than Lyme disease or RMSF: there have been fewer than 2,000 cases reported so far in 2012. Nevertheless, it’s something to watch out for, especially if you live in Texas, where 40 percent of this year’s cases occurred, or in South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan, where most of the other cases were found.

West Nile can cause flu-like symptoms so mild that some people mistake them for a common cold. The problem is that with 1 person in 150, those symptoms will go from being flu-like to life-threatening: the virus can cause meningitis or encephalitis, conditions so deadly they can kill in a matter of hours.

So how do you know if you’re that 1 person in 150? Watch out for flu-like symptoms plus stiff neck and/or severe headache and/or difficulty in opening and closing your mouth (lockjaw). If you experience any of these combinations, hightail it to the emergency room or an urgent care facility. Better safe than sorry is the principle to keep in mind here.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Another key principle is, Prevention is better than cure. This old saying is true to the max when it comes to Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and West Nile virus.

We suggest a two-pronged approach. First, reduce the number of ticks and mosquitoes on your property. Second, reduce the number of ticks and mosquitoes on you.

To Reduce the Number of Mosquitoes on Your Property

  • Remove, turn over, cover, or store equipment.
  • Remove debris from ditches.
  • Fill in areas that collect standing water.
  • Place drain holes in containers that collect water and cannot be discarded.
  • DO NOT use strong insecticides (esp. those with pyrethrins) that will kill off the mosquitoes’ natural predators.
  • DO use non-toxic products such as NOCDOWNIII Organic Mosquito Control or Dr. T’s All Natural Gnat and Mosquito Repelling Granules.
  • If you have standing water that must remain, use Summit Mosquito Dunks. This great product has an active ingredient that is a naturally occurring bacterium that infects the mosquito larva and kills it. Yet it is harmless to people, fish, and other wildlife. Use mosquito dunks wherever you have standing water, including in ponds.
  • Talking about ponds, stock them with goldfish and/or mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis), both of which are good mosquito predators. Most native fish of any kind will go after mosquito larvae.
  • Burn citronella candles or torches to repel mosquitoes. They reduce the number of mosquitoes in the immediate area by about one half.
  • Use fans, inside and out. The mosquitoes’ ability to fly straight and to follow human scents is significantly deterred if you have a fan going.
  • Last but not least, put screens up in your house so that inside areas remain, for the most part, mosquito-free.

Chickens Clean Ticks from Your Garden and YardTo Reduce the Number of Ticks on Your Property

  • Remove leaf litter.
  • Remove, mow, or cut back tall grass and brush.
  • Discourage deer activity.
  • Keep chickens, one of the natural predators of ticks. One study found that a single chicken will eat 10 ticks per hour, and yet chickens are in no danger of getting tick-borne diseases.
  • Encourage wildlife. Newly hatched tick larvae are disease-free, but if all they have to feed on are rodents, they will likely become disease carriers. If there are squirrels and other mammals to feed on, as well as birds and reptiles, they most likely will remain harmless.
  • Maintain mowed buffer zones. According to the Mother Earth News, Ticks are most likely to find you as you walk through tall grass, work around low shrubbery, or hang out in shady, mulched areas. Open lawn makes poor tick habitat, so a swath of lawn makes a good buffer zone between your house and the wilder habitats preferred by ticks.

Using Plants to Repel Mosquitoes

The following plants repel mosquitoes to varying degrees. We can’t vouch for how much of a difference they will make, but they certainly can’t hurt and will probably help some.

Personal Strategies to Keep Mosquitoes and Ticks at Bay

  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing (easier to see the ticks on), preferably long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into boots or socks. Avoid open-toed shoes, and consider using mosquito-net shirts or hoodies.
  • Use an insect repellent. Those with DEET are good, but note that 35 percent is the maximum effective concentration; those with more don’t work any better. We recommend herbal repellents that use lemon combined with eucalyptus; Consumer Reports found these to be as effective as those with DEET.
  • Avoid prime biting times, which usually means dusk and dawn.
  • Some people report that 100 mg. of Vitamin B1 per day keeps the mosquitoes away. See if it works for you.
  • If you’ve spent time in an area with ticks, you can kill any that might have clung to your clothing by putting your clothes (washed or unwashed) in a dryer for 10 minutes at the highest setting.

We hope this information helps you to stay healthy in the great outdoors. Happy Gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

Canned MeatBest Thing Since Sliced Bread!

September 10th, 2012

Grabill Country Canned Meat for SaleSo, what do you think of when you think of canned meat? Spam® and Vienna Sausages? By far the most recognizable, these brands pale when compared to high quality, nutritiously and safely prepared canned meats. Suitable for use with just about any recipe, canned meats have an extended shelf life, they take up a lot less space, and they are less expensive than their fresh or frozen counterparts.

So, why don't more people use them? Probably because there is just something about seeing that nice looking pork loin or thick, juicy steak, a fact we certainly can't argue with, and the fact that the canned meats of the past left something to be desiredlike texture and flavor. However, the past is the past, and today, when it comes to flavor, convenience, preparing economical family-sized meals, and storage, there is a lot to be said for using canned meats, if you understand the best ways to use them.

First, canned meat is already cooked, so don't add it until the very end of your recipe's cooking process. Canned meat just has to be warmed through and should be stirred as little as possible so it doesn't break up or turn to mush. When folded in and heated through, the tender chunks will literally melt in your mouth, being much more tender and less expensive than if you had bought fresh or frozen meat and then cooked it for an hour or two. If you are concerned about the meat flavor, drain the canned meat into your pot, reserving the solids to be added during the last few minutes. You can also use bouillon cubes to add flavor or use the liquid from drained canned vegetables, substituting either of these for water, ounce for ounce.

Secondly, don't overcook the ingredients. Carrots will usually take the longest to cook, with potatoes coming in at a close second. Add those two ingredients first and then use the texture of those two ingredients to judge when to add your canned meat. If you are using frozen or canned veggies, adjust your cooking time accordingly. These vegetables can quickly turn to mush and make what would otherwise be a great recipe, less desirable.

Finally, spend that little bit extra to buy quality canned meats. There is a difference! Just as you carefully choose a cut of meat or choose between brand name and store-brand products, you should choose your canned meat by knowing what you're getting. Try different brands and different types. You may like the canned chicken of one company but prefer your canned beef from someone else. Don't let just one less-than-perfect canned meat product ruin your perception. We've found canned meats to be just as flavorful, often less expensive and definitely more versatile when compared to fresh or frozen. They are safe to use, last longer in the pantry, don't require you to pay for the fat you will be cutting off anyway, don't need defrosting, and are already cut into bite-sized chunks, saving a lot of prep time.

Here are just a few ways we at Garden Harvest Supply use canned meat:
• A quick meal. Just add canned meat to mac and cheese or any quickie type meal for a better nutritional balance. It works well with Ramen noodles too and is a much better option than a frozen corn dog. Kids 10 and above can often make meals themselves.
• For use with frozen or box-type prepared meals that call for adding meat.
• To take on a camping trip.
• To stock the storm shelter.
• To stock the galley on your boat.
• Just for snacking. It is amazing what a little bit of mustard, ketchup or ranch dressing can do for canned meat. Some people just drain it and eat it right out of the can!
• Drain and use it for hot or cold sandwiches. Heat up some canned pork or chicken in BBQ sauce and enjoy! Or mix canned meat with mayonnaise or salad dressing, some pickle relish and whatever else may be handy for meat salad sandwiches.
• Make dump stew! Dump in a can of green beans, carrots, potatoes, chopped stewed tomatoes, corn, beans and some dried, chopped onions, along with whatever spices, except salt, and the canned meat. Use all or just some of the suggested veggies and all of the liquids in the cans. Adjust the number of cans of veggies and add enough boiled water with dissolved bouillon or chicken or beef stock to make the desired amount. Heat until hot and serve with bread or crackers! You can use our dried vegetables for dump stew, too!
• Wrap it in a tortilla spread with refried beans and cheese and heat it up. Add lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream or guacamole. If you use low-fat options, all the better!
• Add it to scrambled eggs or make an omelet; good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
• Make thin pancakes and wrap the heated, drained meat inside. You can reserve the meat broth to dip it in, use sour cream, cheese sauce or your own concoction.
• Mix canned meat with gravy and serve over rice or noodles. Add drained canned veggies for more texture, flavor and color.
• Sauté fresh or frozen vegetables in olive oil and spices, stirring in the meat last for a very quick stir-fry meal.

That's it! Of course, we are sure you will have some more ideas. We would love for you to share with us! And if you are looking for canned meat for sale, we have that, as well.

Growing OrganicStudies vs. Common Sense

September 6th, 2012

growing organic vegetablesYou have probably heard that nutritionally, studies have determined there is little or no benefit from eating organic produce or meats vs. conventionally grown foods. That may be true, according to their studies, though we firmly believe there are organic solutions to common production problems that increase the nutritional value of organically grown produce. For example, adding calcium to the soil to reduce blossom end rot, to enhance disease resistance and to produce higher quality fruits and veggies, results in a higher calcium content in the produce itself.

It is, however, a totally different story when it comes to ingesting the synthetically produced chemicals and pesticides used in your own back yard or in the farmer's field. Granted, the federal government has regulations regarding the amount of pesticides or chemicals allowable in your food, but it takes a long, long time to determine the enduring effects of ingesting even the barest trace of chemical pesticides or growth enhancers; many of these studies will not be complete for years. And who even wants to think about feeding your family the smallest amount of pesticide?

Almost every day you hear a report about the chemicals used to manufacture the products you use in your household and feed your families. Many of them have been found to cause cancer or some other damaging disease or affliction. It is estimated that about 1/3 of all produce you buy in the grocery store has measurable levels of synthetic chemicals! Even the advertised organic produce is affected, though at a much lower level of only 7%. It has gotten so bad that you don't know what is safe anymore and you have to question everything you buy, from the bottles you use to feed your baby, to the toys your toddler may be putting in his or her mouth, to the food you feed your family every day.

Unfortunately, the other side of this coin is that you tune out what you hear because you don't know what to believe anymore. The never-ending deluge of information is just too much to deal with. You pay attention to the high-profile recalls, but the rest of the information is filtered out, being outweighed by the other priorities in your life.

For most of what you purchase, there is no easy solution. You can be aware and try to make the right decisionand hope it is the right decision.

However, for what you feed your family, there is a very easy solution: grow your own organic produce. It's true that most individuals will not be able to raise cows, pigs or chickens on their property. But just about everyone has room for a garden, be it a small container garden or a huge backyard plot where you can grow enough to feed your family, preserve some and sell a little, or a lot, at the local Farmer's Market. You will be able to ensure your family is, in fact, not eating synthetic chemicals or pesticides in even the smallest increments.

We have made it both easy and less expensive for you to grow your own safe-to-eat produce! Starting with our ready-to-plant vegetable plants or our organic vegetable seed, you can be assured of healthy, thriving plants and organic seed produced by caring, family-oriented people just like yourself. You can count on us to provide the best advice, to answer your questions and to make available the best in organic essential nutrients and non-synthetic, chemical-free growing solutions at a most affordable cost.

We wish only the best for you and your family: Our goal is to help you make it happen.

Happy Organic Gardening from all of us here at Garden Harvest Supply!

Strawberries Next Summer-Plant Now!

August 28th, 2012

Fall Strawberry Plants Growing In The GardenHave a good crop of strawberries for next summer by planting now!

If you have in mind that you'd like to have your own strawberry patch, now is the time to plan for it, especially if you want to have fresh, red, juicy strawberries for next year.

Did you realize that if you wait until the spring to plant your strawberry plants, you will not be able to harvest until the following year? Many people make that mistake, not realizing how long it will take their strawberry plants to mature fully, and then are sorely disappointed to have to wait another whole year to harvest their berries, while still having to tend the bed, keep the weeds down and fertilize throughout a full growing season. Many people find that period of waiting and tending, with no immediate reward, unsatisfactory, resulting in their strawberry hopes and dreams being squashed, sometimes never to be reborn.

Don't let this be your story. Plant fall strawberry plants now, give them a little bit of TLC between now and winter, and watch them bloom away next spring with the promise of fresh strawberries on your plate this coming summer and more money to budget for other things, besides strawberries.

The strawberry plants you plant now will be shipped to you in pots with a healthy root system in place. With adequate water in a sunny spot, your fall strawberry plants will quickly become established and will start setting the buds for next year's strawberry fruits. If you live where you get regular snowfall, your new plants will be adequately insulated against the cold and will thrive with little additional care. In areas of the country where insulating snow cover is not ensured, simply cover your strawberry plants with a few inches of straw. This prevents them from heaving out of the soil with the winter temperature changes, this practice so ancient and effective as to be the foundation for the name strawberry. And then, come springtime, new leaves will appear, followed by those beautiful white blossoms and then by your first crop of much-anticipated strawberries! A most welcome and gratifying sight and flavor!

Now is the time to order your fall strawberry plants if you want to have a crop of fresh strawberries next year. If you aren't sure how many plants to order, read our blog post, How Many People Will a Strawberry Plant Feed? and then order your Fall Strawberry Plants and maybe some Neptune's Harvest Organic Fertilizer to get your strawberry plants off to the healthiest start.

Garden Harvest Supply Review

August 27th, 2012

After receiving someone else’s order, Garden Harvest Supply was quick to send me my correct order and even told me to keep the plants I had received in error. My correct order came and the plants looked relatively healthy considering their journey.  They are in the ground and seem to be thriving after a slow start (except for the two lettuce plants that I think were eaten by rabbits or some other critter!)  I will definitely order from Garden Harvest Supply again! From Monica G.

Answer: Monica, we hate it when we get something wrong, but we do our best to make it right and it sounds like we ended on a high note with your order.  Thank you for giving the ‘bonus’ plants a good home.  We hope you enjoy those, as well as the ones you chose.  Thank you for your trust in us and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with you!  Best regards,  All of us from GHS

GHS Guide to Growing Fall Cover Crops in Your Home Garden

August 24th, 2012

Farmers have long used cover crops to revitalize spent soil, but home gardeners can get just as much benefit from them. In times past, seed for cover crop was only available in big sacks, but that has changed, making the cultivation of cover crops something worth considering even if your garden is small.

In this newsletter we'll explain why growing cover crops is one of the best things you can do for your soil, and we'll help you choose the best cover crop for you. After that you just have to follow the directions that come with the seeds, and feel good about the harvest you're going to have after the cover crop has improved your soil's nutrient levels, structure, stability, drainage, and more.

Why Cover Crops

Soil literally wears out from having crops repeatedly grown in it because they leach the nutrients out until there is not much left. Those nutrients in veggies are a major reason why they're so good for you, but the soil that produced them also needs to be replenished. Fertilizer is not the ideal solution, especially long-term. For one thing, it gets washed away. But, more importantly, the growing process undermines soil structure and stability, and fertilizer can do nothing to fix that. By planting cover crops you will be able to restore both the nutrient content of your soil and also its structure and stability.

Other benefits of cover crops include improved soil drainage and aeration, decreased erosion, suppression of weeds, pest control, and reduced susceptibility to soil disease. Some cover crops break up compacted soil and attract beneficial insects. What's more, cover crops add valuable organic matter to your soil, similar to the enhancement you get from applying compost. You'll find that the veggies you plant in the future will grow bigger, taste better, and produce higher yields.

How Cover Crops Work

The way growing cover crops works is that after your summer harvest, instead of planting new veggies for the fall growing season, you instead sow a cover crop for the purpose of revitalizing the soil. You then mow it down at the correct time, or, in the case of radishes, you simply let them freeze over the winter, after which time they decompose under the ground. With all that rich, decomposed organic matter in your soil, it will be in terrific shape by the time you're ready for your next planting.

Varieties of Cover Crops

We sell nine different varieties of cover crops, five of which are a good choice to plant around this time of year: Sweet Clover, Hairy Vetch, Groundhog Radish, NitroRadish, and Annual Rye. The seeds we offer are available in quantities ranging from 5 lbs. up to 50 lbs., and we'd be happy to help you determine how many pounds of seed you'll need for your garden. We're always here, ready to answer these and other questions, so don't hesitate to drop us a line or call us at our toll free number: 1-888-907-4769.

Nutrient Adjustment Naturally

You probably know that doing a soil test is extremely easy and inexpensive these days, and is a vital step to making your garden grow optimally. It will also help you determine what cover crop to choose because if your soil is lacking in nitrogen or potassium, cover crops can be used to increase the amount of these key nutrients.

Through the use of cover crops, you can actually grow your own nitrogen. Sweet Clover, Hairy Vetch, Groundhog Radish, and NitroRadish will all increase the amount of nitrogen in your soil. These actually work far better than fertilizer to fix the nitrogen and make it fully available to whatever crops you'll be planting in the next growing season. By the way, both Groundhog Radish and NitroRadish grow well in drought conditions.

Annual Rye works differently: known as a nitrogen scavenger, it reduces nitrogen but increases potassium. It is therefore a great choice if you want to naturally shift the nutrient balance in your soil in the direction of more potassium (K) and less nitrogen (N). Rye also contains natural toxins that will suppress weeds and possibly even keep the pests away the next time you grow a crop. Farmers have long known that nematodes will not be found in a field where rye grass has been growing.

Be sure to at least do a simple NPK soil test so you'll know exactly where your soil stands in regard to those three essential nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. To learn more about soil testing, read the GHS Guide to Soil and Soil Testing.

Breaking Up Compacted Soil and Hardpan

Another special use of cover crops is to break up compacted soil, hardpan, and the like. Our two radish varieties, Groundhog Radish or NitroRadish, both do a great job of this. Sweet Clover is also effective for this purpose. Each of these cover crops will improve soil drainage and aeration, whether your soil is compacted or not. That's because when they decompose, the roots leave large holes in the ground that extend down as far as two feet and deeper. For this reason, these kinds of radishes are sometimes referred to as bio-drills.

Tips and Advice for Growing Cover Crops

  • Of those cover crops named, rye is the easiest to grow; sweet clover is probably the most difficult.
  • In the northeastern United States, annual ryegrass should be considered first as a garden cover crop. As the plant scientists at Cornell University explain, It is a vigorous grower with an extensive root system that occupies the same root zone as the garden plants.
  • Think about when you would next like to use your garden. With most cover crops, you'll be ready to go the following spring, but if you plant Hairy Vetch it may not be ready to cut until the following June, and then you have to allow time for it to decompose. In other words, your ground will remain fallow for one year.
  • Master gardener Diana Roberts suggests that you trade off cover crops on one side of your garden for vegetable crops every other year, changing the cover crops when necessary and rotating vegetable crops from one side to the other. In this way, she explains, you won't have to forego a garden for one whole year, just use a portion of it. As soon as you harvest your vegetable crop, plant a cover crop. Through this technique she has eliminated the need for fertilizer.

Moving Forward With Cover Crops

We've prepared the following chart for you to bring together the information you'll need in order to make a decision as to what cover crop will be best for you. When you're ready to order, just click on the name of the crop(s) you want, and you will be taken directly to our website.

Thank you for your business and happy growing from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

Comparison of Four Fall Green Manure Cover Crops

Crop
Planting Time
Notable Features
Time Needed Before Mowing
Growing Tips

Annual Ryegrass Seed

Aug-Sept;
End of August is ideal

Removes excess nitrogen; stabilizes soil and improves its structure, reduces erosion, controls nematodes and strongly suppresses weeds.

4–6 weeks, or wait until spring

Easiest cover crop to establish but needs to be kept moist. Will grow all right in compacted soil, and in other difficult conditions.

Groundhog Radish Seed

Late summer;early fall

Increases nitrogen; suppresses weeds,breaks up compacted soil.

No mowing necessary

Radishes are low maintenance, but roll ground after seeding to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

Hairy Vetch Seed

Late summer;early fall

Increases nitrogen even more than peas; suppresses weeds, controls erosion, stabilizes soil, reduces surface hardness.

When it flowers, which may not be until the following June

Can be combined with rye for more biomass. Does not do well in compacted soil. Does do well inclay soil; slow to establish.

Yellow Blossom Sweet Clover Seed

Summer

Increases nitrogen;breaks up compacted soil; attracts beneficial insects; helps attract bees.

Leave it and then cut it down in the spring

Can grow in wet, poorly drained, alkaline, salty and low-fertility soils.Grows well in clay soils.

Growing Begonias Not As Hard As You Think!

August 22nd, 2012

Growing Begonia Flowers in a PotIf  you have grown lackluster begonias and want to know why they haven’t dazzled  with beautiful blooms, this article is for you. A tropical plant, begonias are  one of the most versatile and hardy flowering plants, adaptable to being moved  from indoors to out and back inside as the seasons change. Somewhat drought  tolerant, most begonias will also thrive in heat and high humidity.

As a rule, almost all begonias will prefer at least partially shaded areas, the Bonfire® Begonia and the Solenia® Begonia being the exceptions to the rule. That does not mean they will thrive in full sun in the desert southwest, though! Your specific geographic location, as well as the type of weather you are having during any particular season, will determine the prime location for successfully growing your begonias.

My Special Angel Begonia PlantIn addition to preferring partial shade, most begonias will not tolerate even the slightest bit of frost. Wait until after all danger of frost has passed before moving them outdoors in the spring, and bring them in if there is the least chance of frost as overnight temperatures start to fall. Most people will tell you they have the best results growing begonias by keeping them potted and moving them indoors and out. However, some begonia growers with exceptionally green thumbs and plenty of time for their flower gardening will replant them directly into their flower beds, digging them back up and repotting them to bring indoors, with some of these plants thriving for years and years. In all of these cases, adequate mulching to retain moisture and warmth seem to be the key, as is afternoon shade in hotter environments.

Begonias prefer loose and fertile soil, as well as adequate air circulation and a well-draining location. If your begonia plants are in pots, ensure they do not sit in water. Allow the soil to dry somewhat between watering, and then water well, draining the Solenia Light Yellow Begonia Floweroverflow reservoir after the water has thoroughly soaked the soil. If your potted begonia plants are outdoors, do the same after it rains. Begonias will also grow best when not overcrowded, so repot or divide if they are crowded and appearing to suffer as a result. Moderate to heavy feeders, especially when in bloom, both your potted and bedded begonias should receive regular feedings, a liquid slow-release fertilizer working best. We recommend Neptune’s Harvest, an organic fish emulsion fertilizer. Fertilizers high in nitrogen should be avoided, since they resulting in lanky, fast-growing plants with few blossoms.

The ideal environment for growing begonias combines slightly acidic soil, between pH 5.5 and 6.5, with 60% humidity, though we’ve consistently found the begonia to be highly adaptable. The experts have determined that just the right pH and light seem to be the biggest contributing factors to color variations, these differences often having neighbors scratching their heads over why my begonias are so much redder than hers, or why is the foliage purpler on my neighbor’s plants? If prize-winning begonias are your goal, you can test the pH of your soil with an inexpensive soil test kit, and then adjust the pH as needed with the addition of garden lime or wood ashes to raise the pH, or aluminum sulfate or elemental sulfur to lower it, though this is usually only necessary in soils with very high clay content. It might just be best to grow your begonias in pots with a high quality potting soil, in this situation.

Begonias need only a bit of tending to be stunningly gorgeous. Remove the faded blossoms, leaves and stems, trimming off the extra long stems in order to retain the attractive, compact shape. This little bit of care will result in better branching, more lush foliage and additional blossoms. We also suggest, when moving your plants in or out of doors, a period of acclimation to help them survive the transition better. When bringing them indoors, put them first in a sunny window, gradually reducing the amount of sunlight they get, and doing the same when you move them outdoors again, gradually increasing the time outdoors. Significant leaf drop may occur during the transition period, but don’t despair, their adaptability will have them looking good in no time at all!

So, you see, growing begonias is no big deal! And they’re well worth the effort.  Many of our novice begonia growers will first try the Dragon Wing Begonia, one of the most adaptable varieties.

As always, we welcome your questions and comments. Happy Begonia Gardening from all of us here at Garden Harvest Supply!