Wow, such great plants!

April 10th, 2012

bandana lemon zest lantana plantI received my Bandana Lemon Zest Lantana today.  Wow, such great packaging and the plants looked great.  Not one leaf broken!  Thanks so much.  I got them planted this evening and look forward to growth and bloom time!!!!  Thanks for a great transaction.

RESPONSE: Thanks, Annette!  We hope you enjoy cheerful blooms all season long.  We love lantanas, too, for their profuse flowers and the immense variety of colors to choose from.

Reaping the Benefits of Container Gardening

April 2nd, 2012

gardening in containersContainer gardening is a great boon for people who would otherwise have no place to plant. It's also great for providing children with their first garden to tend, and it's wonderful for elders for whom an outdoor garden has become too much work. But did you know that container gardening offers advantages for all gardeners? In this newsletter we'll discuss those advantages, and also give you tips so that whatever containers you start will be sure to do well.

Why Plant in Containers?

The major advantages of container gardening are all the things you don't have to deal with: no weed infestations, no struggles with less-than-ideal soil, no soil-borne diseases, no nematodes, and no knocking yourself out digging new beds. What's more, containers can be much more productive than traditional gardens, and what a great thing to have a supply of fresh veggies and herbs right at arm's reach, all year 'round! Finally, container gardening can be a wonderful way to beautify your home. For example, you can easily grow lavender indoors, and your guests will not only enjoy its beautiful blue flowers but will also delight in its sweet fragrance.

Getting Started

So what do you need to get started with container gardening? Well, of course, containers. We sell some free-standing beauties, such as the Carolina Planter, the Charleston Planter, and the Chelsea Two-Tier Planter. Our nicest mounted planter is the Carolina Hanging Deck Planter, although the York Planter Baskets are also fine, and they come in either side-mounted or top-mounted versions. If you have vinyl siding, York also makes a model that will mount right onto your siding.  Another way to go is to use box planters such as the Bloom Master: you can place these next to each other and extend them to whatever length is ideal for your purposes. They're very durable and will last forever.

We realize that the cost of buying planters can add up, but we hope a tight budget won't deter you from trying your hand at container gardening. It's easy to build planters yourself for the cost of the wood, and even easier to use things you have around the house as planters. Some people go to auctions or garage sales and find items like old barrels that they take home and turn into planters. Some people even make planters from such unlikely objects as old tires.

What to Plant

If a plant will do well outdoors in your area, it will probably do well in a container, providing it gets adequate sunlight. Some people do not venture beyond growing tomatoes, but more adventurous gardeners discover that peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes parsley, and many other vegetables will thrive in containers. To learn the details about what to plant, which varieties grow best, how deep to plant, etc., a good place to start is this fine article from the AgriLife Extension at Texas A&M University. However, if you want all the information you need in one very-well-organized and convenient place, we highly recommend The Bountiful Container, a book widely celebrated as being the best available on the subject of growing edible cotton candy flowering combinationplants in containers. One thing that will surprise you when you read this book is that in addition to its coverage of veggies, it includes instructions for growing lemons, strawberries, gooseberries, figs, and even apples, peaches, and grapes in containers. There's also a section on growing edible flowers such as tart begonias, pepper nasturtiums, clove-spicy dianthus, and sweet daylilies.

Flowering Combos

Talking about flowers, we want to tell you about an exciting new option for those of you who like to buy flowering plants from us: we call it Flowering Combos and what it consists of are expertly chosen combinations of flowering plants grown together in the same tray.

We offer twelve different combos that range from the patriotic red, white, and blue of Bunker Hill, to the exotic, pastel tones of Bermuda Skies. By ordering a combo, you no longer have to figure out what plants look good together and grow well together, because the master gardeners who came up with these flower combos already have. Just take a look at the photos and choose the combos you like the most. It's never been easier to have a beautiful mix of flowers to grace the inside or outside of your home!

Premium Organic Fertilizer On Sale

Lastly, we'd like to sing the praises of the type of fertilizer that Rosemarie McGee and Maggie Stuckey most highly recommend for container gardening, and one that we can vouch for as being an excellent all-round soil amendment: liquid seaweed fertilizer.

We are pleased to be currently offering a 40% discount on the one-quart size of Neptune's Harvest Organic Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer, the best brand of liquid seaweed fertilizer we know of, and one that has become famous for its use by those who grow giant pumpkins and other outsize vegetables. We think you'll be very pleased with the results you get from the superior nutrition this organic fertilizer imparts to your plants.

Until next time, happy gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

Carrots-Clamping and other Useful Info

February 28th, 2012

Carrot Plants In Storage

A carrot a day…is a healthy habit. Carrots are crunchy, satisfying, and packed with nutrientsrich in vitamins A, C, and K, and high in dietary fiber and potassium. If you grow carrots and want to enjoy your “fresh” fall harvest right through the winter, this article will appeal to you. The Garden Harvest Supply Facebook page, has turned out to provide a wealth of helpful information, as well as being a forum where we can touch bases with our customers on a more personal level and even learn something new. For example, we heard from Sue, who talked about clamping her harvested carrots, which, of course, heightened our curiosity and led to Sue providing us and other Facebook fans with her tips on growing carrots, which she is obviously very good at.

Here is what Sue told us and taught us: We sowed the carrot seed really thinly in a mix of compost and sand in a slightly raised bed. To avoid the dreaded carrot fly we keep the tops of the carrots plants covered at all times to avoid too much damage… in doing this many more of the carrots were fly free when pulled. We lifted them and spread them onto trays to dry for a few hours before clamping them down.

When Sue mentioned covering them, we immediately thought of our Haxnicks Easy Tunnel Row Coversand how easy that would make the process for large carrot plots. For smaller gardens we have our Harvest Guard Row Cover that can easily be cut to size.

When we questioned Sue on what clamping down meant, she answered, Layered and bedded in sand preserves Carrots for many months keeping the lovely flavour of freshly dug Carrots! She also added, upon further questioning, We clamp by using sharp sand (dried out) and put in a layer of sand followed by a layer of carrots until the box is full. Thanks Sue for the great pic!

Another of our Facebook fans had a question for Sue, Sue did you build your own root cellar? Wondered if you had any tidbits…I want to build one with our next house…

And Sue was kind enough to answer, We made a deep box 30″ long 14″ deep 12″ wide, we then put in a layer of sand and carrots alternately, we have done this for several years now and it works really well the Carrots stay firm and sweet, we have kept them this way until the following spring . It can be done with Swede , parsnips etc 🙂

This led us to ask the question Where do you store the box after it is layered, to which she replied, We keep it in our Garage through the winter where it is cold but frost free.

Happy Gardening!

Supertunia Petunia’s from Proven Winners

February 22nd, 2012

vista silverberry supertunia petunia plantNew plants are introduced in what seems to be ever-increasing numbers.  It can leave a gardener wondering if it is really necessary to have 50 new marigolds or 100 new petunias added in one year.  I have to admit that sometimes one marigold or petunia is as good as the next.  But, sometimes a petunia isn’t just another petunia.  Sometimes you get something so outstanding it makes you rethink what you were sure you knew about that plant.  For me, Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia was one of those plants.

I’ll admit it.  I wasn’t really a fan of Petunias.  Sure, they could be really pretty, but they had to be deadheadedand who has the time for that?  They also didn’t really perform that great throughout the whole summer, at least partly because I didn’t deadhead.  Petunias weren’t really anything I was going to get too excited about.  Then in the spring of 2006, that all changed.  Proven Winners® introduced Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum and Supertunia® Vista Fuchsia and I’ve never viewed Petunias the same again.  Three years later, Supertunia® Vista Silverberry joined the group.

So why did Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum have such an impact?  First, it doesn’t need to be deadheaded.  The plant will bloom prolifically all summer long and I never have to pick off a single spent flower.  Second, the vigor of the plant is outstanding.  The first year, I used three plants in each of three 20-inch containers.  They grew like crazy, cascading onto the concrete around the planters and then kept on going.  The second year, I planted them in the landscapea single plant in several different spots.  They bloomed all summer, no deadheading, no supplemental water, just a good addition of compost prior to planting.  I planted in May and by September that one single plant was 3 feet by 5 feet and 18 inches tallburied in bright bubblegum pink blooms.

Both Supertunia® Vista Fuchsia and Supertunia® Vista Silverberry perform as well as Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum.

vista fuchsia supertunia petunia plant in containerAfter growing these in my garden every year since they were introduced, do I have any tips or tricks so that you, too, can be this successful?  First, they don’t necessarily need it, but I give my plants a light haircut when I’m planting them.  This encourages additional branching and helps the plant start growing strong in its new home.  Second, put them where they’ll get at least six hours of direct sun a day.  They will do much better with a lot of light.  Third, because they are such vigorous growers and bloomers, they use a lot of energy.  This means fertilizer is key to maximizing their potential.  Fourth, because the plants get very large, you will need to keep up your watering, if you grow them in containers.

I do treat in-ground and container plantings a bit differently. For containers, I add a controlled-release fertilizer when I’m transplanting and then mid-summer (usually in July for me) I start using a water-soluble fertilizer as often as I can.  This will really give your container plants a boost.  I also recommend larger containers (18-inch or larger), because they are much easier to keep hydrated.  If it is hot, be prepared to water every dayand potentially more than once.  In containers, I usually give a mid- to late-summer trim-back, since the plants can begin to look a bit open as the summer goes on.  That first year on a warm August lunch break, I trimmed back my three large containers by about 1/3. What was full bloom in the morning was green meatballs after the trim-back.  Within a couple of days, they were back in color and by a week later they were in full bloom.  That trim really reinvigorated the plants and improved the look of the containers as they headed into fall.

For in-ground plantings, things are a bit easier.  Before planting I incorporate a good dose of compost and then use a controlled release fertilizer.  The in-ground beds have never needed supplemental fertilizer beyond that.  I put the plants one to two feet apart, depending on how impatient I am for them to fill the spot.   I put soaker hoses in my beds and water only when things are very dryand then only once a week.  I find it is better to water deeply with a soaker hose once a week, versus a little bit of water more often.  For one thing, it encourages deep root growth.  I also don’t usually give my plants the mid- to late-summer trim-back.  The openness that I see in container plants doesn’t happen in the ground.  The only time I trim back is if the petunias have covered too much of the sidewalk and I need to make room for people.

vista bublegum supertunia petunia plantSupertunia plants are truly some of the best performing petunias you can buy.  Try them and you might find yourself rethinking what growing a Petunia means.

This article was written by Kerry Meyer. Kerry is the Project Manager at Proven Winners.

Patent info:  Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia hybrid ‘USTUNI6001’ PP: 17730 Can.: 2871; Supertunia® Vista Fuchsia Petunia hybrid ‘USTUNI8902’ PP: 17895 Can. Can.: 2875; Supertunia® Vista Silverberry Petunia hybrid ‘USTUNI6001M’ PP: 20903 Can.: 3866

Announcing Our Wholesale Program and New Varieties of Veggies for 2012!

February 16th, 2012

wholesale vegetable plants for saleBuy More and Pay Less Through Our Wholesale Program

In this newsletter we're excited to announce our new wholesale program that will benefit growers needing lots of plants, as well as those who would like to get together with neighbors or a growing co-op to place an order together. Here's how it works: you special order plants in quantities of 100; we do the initial planting, germination and thinning, and send you the seedlings in the Spring, just at the right time for planting in your zone. The minimum order is 100 plants of any single variety.

What you getbesides lots of plantsare huge savings. For instance, let's say you ordered 100 Packman Broccoli plants through the wholesale program. What you'd pay is a total of $20.58 as compared to $2.80 per plant if you ordered them individually. That means you get 100 hundred plants for what you would ordinarily pay for 7 plants! Plus, shipping comes out to be about the same: in both cases it runs about $15. The same super-low prices are in effect for dozens of our other vegetable plants when you buy them wholesale including Black From Tula Heirloom Tomato PlantsSweet Baby Girl Cherry Tomato Plants, Blue Curled Scotch Kale Plants, and Bell Boy Sweet Pepper Plants.

You're probably asking yourself, How can they afford to do this? The answer is that it's simply cheaper for us to grow plants in large quantities, and we then pass the savings on to you. Yet every single plant is guaranteed to arrive alive and healthy. So take advantage of our wholesale programit might be just the excuse you need to meet other growers in your community and help each other out.

Make Your Own Hot Sauce from Homegrown Tabasco Peppers

Do you like hot sauce? Think how much fun it would be to make your own! For the first time ever, we're offering tabasco hot pepper plants, the same medium-hot peppers that tabasco hot pepper plants for salethe McIlhenny Company uses to make its famous Tabasco Sauce®. Though your sauce won't taste exactly like theirsunless you age it according to these directionsit will have its own appeal, including a freshness you won't find on any supermarket shelf.

Our tabasco hot pepper plants and these recipes are all you will need to start making your own hot sauce come harvest time. (If you preorder now, we'll ship the plants automatically in the spring.) Because tabasco peppers are milder than habaneros, they can also be used to decrease the heat in recipes with habaneros, such as this highly rated vegetarian chili. By the same token, they can increase the heat in recipes that call for jalapeños, such as this very popular Avocado Mango Salsa recipe.

Another fun project we encourage you to try is making hot pepper jelly. If you substitute tabasco peppers for haberneros in this recipe, you'll end up with a medium-hot jelly with the distinctive taste that led Mr. McIlhenny to choose this variety of hot pepper over all others when formulating his famous hot sauce.

Other Exciting Veggie Plants

Our bestselling veggie plant is the Little Fingers Carrot, a Nantes-type gourmet baby carrot. It's sweet, crisp, and easy to grow, making it ideal for child gardeners as well as child snackers. Of course, these 4-inch fingers are a nutritious treat for anyone. We ship them in boxes of 4.

Every year we sell out of our Caspian Pink Heirloom Tomato Plants. And it's no wonder: in a recent survey of more than 10,000 home gardeners and tomato farmers, Caspian Pink was among the ten most popular heirloom varieties, along with the Brandywine Pink. Like most heirlooms, these varieties are prized for their flavor. In her book, 100 Heirloom Varieties for the American Garden, Carol Male offers perhaps the best description of the sublime taste of the Brandywine Pink: winey, robust, mouth-watering, sweet, tart, and complex. If you're interested in either of these tomato plants, we recommend that you preorder now because it's likely we'll run out of both of them.

grow your own goji berry plants for saleLastly we'd like to mention the Goji Berry Plant. Many health-conscious people are consuming goji berries, often in the form of expensive supplements. Unlike many health fads, however, goji berries have a long history of use in Chinese medicine. Though not as famous as ginseng or ginkgo, they're a whole lot easier to grow and harvest, and are very tasty, too. You might want to give them a try. We've even found an excellent cookbook, Goji and Wolfberry, Superfood Cook Book for Health, Flavor and Fun by Dr. Donald R. Daugs, with 93 recipes from breakfast to dessert, and even a section on appetizers and how to grow Goji Berries.

Until next time, happy gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

Summer and Winter Squash-The Differences Explained

February 8th, 2012

summer squash in basketsMost of you are aware of the existence of both winter and summer squash, but we continue to get questions asking us what the major differences are. The questions range from how to grow to how to cook to how do you tell the difference? We will attempt to answer the most common questions here, and if you find that you have more questions after you've read this article, please feel free to Ask Our Master Gardener.

The most simple explanation of the main differences between summer and winter squash is that summer squash bears fruit best eaten when it is immature and the skin is tender. Winter squash takes longer to mature with the skin being more rigid and tough, making winter squash the ideal baking or stuffing squash. Winter squash, such as Hubbard, acorn or butternut requires a longer growing season, typically between 80 and 120 days, while summer squash, such as yellow crook neck, zucchini or patty pan requires one third to one half of that time.

winter squash harvestGardeners in the northern climes of the U.S. may not have a growing season long enough to grow winter squash to maturity; they must stay on the vine to ripen. If this is your situation and you just have to have some winter squash, you can try germinating the squash seeds indoors in order to give you a jump start on the season and then babying, really babying, the transplants. Most recommendations call for planting squash directly into the ground, butif you HAVE to have itit is worth a try. We also have a few varieties of squash seedlings that will save you the time and expense of germinating your own. You will have to monitor the moisture level carefully, as squash will wilt with the smallest hint of drought, so we suggest mulching to retain moisture as well as to inhibit weed growth that can choke young seedlings. Once they have started spreading and are well- established, you can relax your vigil and be proud of your success.

Summer squash must be eaten or processed fairly quickly, lending itself well to inclusion in breads or soups, as well as freezing, frying, sautéing and steaming. Winter squash, on the other hand, can often be stored for months in the right conditions and can also be pureed for soups, but is most often served baked, cubed or sautéed with fall spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. The experts recommend storing winter squash in warm household temperatures for about 10 days and then moving to a cool, dim place, like a garage or basement, where the temperature ranges between 40 and 50 degrees. You can freeze winter squash once it is cooked, even if it is pureed, for use later in pies and soups.

But, how do you grow each of these varieties? Squash requires room to grow, so we suggest you are sure of the varieties you want to grow. Visit your farmer's market or your grocery store and try them. Ask your friends and family what their favorites are, and then grow only what you know you will eat, unless, of course, you sell your harvest at the local farmer's market or will be freezing it for use later.

Neptunes Harvest Gallon JugThe process is basically the same for winter or summer squash. Both winter and summer squash like warm soil, lots of sun and prefer loamy, well-drained soil that is rich in compost or fed with a fertilizer that is not too high in nitrogen. Nitrogen will encourage leaf growth, sending those vines scurrying near and far, instead of concentrating the energy on the fruiting process. Of course, composting at home is the most economical and eco-friendly way to fertilize your vegetable plants, but for those of you who haven't gotten around to it or who don't have the room for your own composting set up, there are a number of fertilizers, such as Neptune's Harvest, that are organically approved and will serve to provide nutrition to your plants while amending your soil, resulting in a better and healthier harvest. If you are short on space, you can train the vines to climb a trellis or support, even from a container, though container plantings will require more vigilance on your part when it comes to moisture and nutrients.

Pests are not normally a big problem, but for those of you in areas where the vine or squash borer is a springtime problem, we suggest you cover your young squash plants with row covers, uncovering them as they start to set blossoms; bees and butterflies are needed to pollinate the flowers in order for fruit to grow. At this point, the vines are also often thick enough and sturdy enough to thwart the efforts of even the most voracious pests. Check regularly under the leaves for eggs that have been laid and remove them. They are usually colored from white to amber and will be quite recognizable, being laid in sizable colonies. We don't recommend using chemical pesticides, but instead suggest you rely upon those proven organic methods that are safer for your pets and your family.

Keep track of the number of days from planting, that being the most reliable indicator of when your summer or winter squash harvest will be ready. Summer squash should be harvested when no larger than 6-inches long or wide, this being when they are at their most tender and flavorful. Harvesting at this size will ensure the skin will not become thick and hard or the flesh bitter. Winter squash are best when fully mature, so should be harvested at the end of the growing season. The fruit should feel solid and sound slightly hollow when you thump or tap it.

We hope we've answered most of your questions. Watching squash grow is satisfying, the plants are amazingly vigorous and the resulting harvest is always colorful and incredibly delicious.

Happy Gardening!

Average Last Frost Date Map

January 4th, 2012

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to gardening. If you plan your spring plantings around the average last frost date of your region, you're sure to have an ideal garden season. To optimize your harvest rewards, find your date on the map and then follow our weekly timing suggestions.

Average last spring frost dates are in the Map Legend.

Average Last Spring Frost Date Map

17 weeks before your average last frost date: you should think about doing the following; order your asparagus crowns, sow your parsley seeds, thyme seeds, and onion seeds.

16 weeks before your average last frost date: you should think starting your oregano, chive, basil and leek seeds inside. It is also a good time to turn your compost pile.

14-10 weeks before your last average frost date: you should think about starting these seeds indoors; dill, cilantro, celery, celeriac, collards, kale, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, and cabbage. Its also a good time to get your cold frame read to go.

9 weeks before your last average frost date: you should think about starting these seeds indoors; eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, parsley, savory, fennel, anise and chervil.

8 weeks before your average last frost date: you should think about sowing your parsnip seed into your garden soil (if it is workable), remove some of the mulch on your strawberry plants (if they are showing signs of new growth), check your earlier indoor starts for first set of true leaves; transplant into larger pots when that happens, and fertilizer any asparagus that is already planted in your garden.

7 weeks before your average last frost date: you should move your leek, onion, and lettuce starts from indoors out into your cold frame to harden them off before planting into your garden. It is also a good time to sow your carrot, beet, leaf lettuce, pea and spinach seeds directly into your garden soil. If you grew a cover crop, this is a good week to turn them under.

6 weeks before your average last frost date: you should move your onion transplants into the garden. It is also time to divide your rhubarb crowns and replant. Seeds that can be direct sown outside are lettuce, swiss chard, kale, endive, carrot, radish, beet, turnip, kohlrabi, and parsnip. Seeding is easy when using one of our garden seeders!

5 weeks before your average last frost date: you should start your tomato seed and basil seed indoors. It is also time to transplant the leek plants you started indoors out into the garden. If you already have your seed potatoes, now is the earliest you should plant them. Check out our video on how to plant seed potatoes. Weeding the garden should also be a priority this week as you get ready all the action!

‎4 weeks before your average last frost date: you should get the rest of your herb seeds started indoors. Mustard seed can now be direct sown into the garden. You should also start hardening off your cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts plants. Hardening requires your plants to be moved outside into a spot that is sheltered from direct sun and wind for 2 hours per day, do this 4-7 days before transplanting.

3 weeks before your average last frost date: you should start the following vegetable seeds indoors, squash, melon, cucumber, gourd, cilantro and dill. Out in the garden you can thin your beets, carrots, parsnip and onion plants. If you have not already done so, direct sow your pea, cauliflower, onion, lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, and root crops into your garden soil. You can also use this week to start another sowing indoors of cabbage and broccoli which will give you another planting later in the season.

2 weeks before your average last frost date: you should sow your leafy greens directly into the garden. Flea beetles could become a problem on the cole crops already in the garden, use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth to control them. Watch for your asparagus spears to start pushing through; only harvest the spears that are as big as your little finger. Leave small spears untouched. If you have potatoes growing, take a few minutes and hill them. This is also a good time to transplant strawberries.

1 week before your average last frost date: you can sow your first bean seeds. It is also a good time to harden off your tomato seedlings. The chard, spinach and other leafy greens would appreciate a thinning during this week.

The week of your average last frost date: you can sow sweet corn seed, cucumber seed, squash seed and melon seeds directly into the garden. If you have transplants for these vegetables, you can go ahead and set them out now. Pay close attention to the weather forecast, if it is going to frost or drop below freezing, cover the plants for the night. This is also a good week to sow an additional seeding of leaf lettuce, carrots, beets and radish.

1 week after your last frost date: you can direct sow Okra seeds into the garden and sow your second crop of bean seeds. It is also time to set out all your transplants. After this week, you should have all vegetables sown or transplanted for your spring garden.

Happy gardening!

Just About Everything About Asparagus

December 19th, 2011

asparagus plants growing through the garden soilAsparagus  can be grown in just about every state of the U.S. It is even grown in areas of  Hawaii that lack the frost to force the plants into dormancy. The following is  what you need to know to have a successful crop of this beloved perennial  vegetable. We cover choosing the location to enjoying your harvestand  everything in between.

Location! Location! Location!

When choosing the location for your asparagus bed, think and plan carefully. Being a perennial, your asparagus bed will most likely be producing for a minimum of 15 years. Take a walk around your property at different times of the day, noting the sunny and shaded areas. Don't despair if you work during the week and are a sports-parent on weekends. Just use one of our inexpensive light meters to test various parts of your property to determine the number of hours of sun it receives.

The recommended amount of sunlight to grow asparagus is 7 to 8 hours a day. Morning sunlight will be essential and 6 hours should be considered a minimum. If you live in an area of the country that has sweltering hot summers, such as Arizona, you might want to plant where your asparagus plants get shaded in the late afternoon. If you do not have an area that is shaded in the late afternoon, consider putting up a shade cloth for those days when you know your asparagus plants may be suffering.

It is also a good idea to look at the surrounding vegetation and landscaping. If you have young trees on your property, take into account how tall and wide those trees will be 15 years from now. Shrubs, bushes and even other vegetables, such as corn and tomatoes, can block the life-giving sun from your asparagus plants.

If your options are limited due to space or sunlight requirements, consider planting your asparagus as a border plant. You will only be harvesting the choicest spears, allowing the remainder to mature and develop the ferny headpiece that is critical to energizing the crowns for next year's harvest. They are quite beautiful, turning golden in the fall, and can be the perfect airy-looking border for taller annuals or perennials.

Asparagus can also be planted in a raised bed, allowing for at least a 12-inch depth. Otherwise, the process is the same.

Prepping the Bed & Watering

Now that you've chosen where to plant your asparagus plants, it's time to prepare the bed. Many gardeners will do this in the fall, prepping, adjusting the pH and feeding the bed in preparation for spring planting. However, you can be just as successful by doing a good job prepping your bed in the spring. We do recommend that you prepare the bed before ordering or buying your asparagus crowns, though. Our crowns are fresh, which means they were harvested just shortly before you will be receiving them; the quicker they are in the ground after you receive them, the better.

home soil testing kit for garden soilThe first order of business is to check the pH level of your soil. Asparagus plants prefer a soil pH right around 6.5 to 6.8. You can fudge a little on each side of those numbers, however, if your soil is too alkaline or too acidic, your asparagus plants will not grow as well. An inexpensive soil testing kit can determine the pH quickly, or you can take a soil sample to your local University Cooperative Extension office for testing. You also might check with your county's agricultural services. Our GHS Guide to Soil and Soil Testing, Part 1, will provide you with some pH basics.

Then, if you are starting from scratch, you will have to till the area that you will be planting. If there are grass and weeds present, loosen the soil with a shovel or with one pass of a tiller and get rid of as much of the grass and weeds as possible. The cleaner the bed to start, the less weeding and maintenance later on. You will also want to discard any rocks and then till the soil to at least 12 inches. Tilling with several passes should ensure that large clumps have been broken up and that there will be adequate aeration throughout the soil for your new asparagus plants. The well-prepared bed will enable the roots of your asparagus plants to reach deep and establish well.

The final step, just before planting, is to dig a trench, 6 to 8 inches deep, in which to plant your asparagus crowns. If you will have more than one row, the recommended distance between rows is 4 feet. If pinched for space, 3 feet will work, but never plant the rows less than 3 feet apart. This leaves you room to walk between the rows for harvesting and also allows adequate air circulation to dry the ferns after it rains. Leave at least 8 inches between each plant in the row if you are pressed for space, though the best results will be achieved when planting them 12 inches apart.

This is also a good time to decide how you will water your asparagus plants. The most recommended way is with a drip system or soaker hose, both of which are fairly easy to install and make more economical use of your water. This method also does not keep those ferny tops wet. Having your water source determined in advance keeps you from running to the store for hoses or sprinklers when you realize you need to water your freshly planted crop. Admit itwe've all been there!

Choosing Your Asparagus

Most people will opt to grow asparagus from crowns, rather than seeds. When growing from seed, you will get a mixture of both male and female plants. Female plants tend to be a bit lankier, not producing the plumpest spears that are the most desirable and palatable. They also produce seeds, which creates a situation where your asparagus bed can become too crowded. Over-crowded asparagus is not happy asparagus! The ferny tops must be able to dry out, which requires adequate air circulation so that disease does not take hold. Male plants, on the other hand, produce more flavorful, stout spears and will not result in the additional work of weeding seedlings or the female plants out of your asparagus patch.

So, we recommend buying male asparagus crowns. The crowns are one year old plants that have been carefully harvested, along with their roots. They will appear dried out, but you can rest assured they are very much alivejust dormant.

Planting Your Asparagus

how to dig a trench to plant asparagus crownsWhether you prepare your bed in the fall or in the spring, you should not plant your asparagus plants until springtime. In fact, even if you till, feed and amend the soil in the fall, wait until the spring to dig the trenches. Otherwise you will end up re-digging the trenches before you plant.

Our asparagus crowns are grown and harvested fresh just before shipping. Being harvested as soon as the ground is soft and dry enough explains why we do not ship our asparagus crowns until late spring. This should allow you plenty of time to prepare your bed as needed and have everything in place for when your asparagus crowns arrive on your doorstep.

Just before planting, you should soak the crowns in water for a period of 15 to 20 minutes. This will give those roots a badly needed drink and give them a bit of a jump-start on growing. Now, just lay the crowns in the trench, at least 8 inches between crowns, though 12 inches is highly recommended for the best performance. Then cover the crowns with only 1 to 2 inches of soil and water gently. Asparagus plants usually start sprouting when the soil temp reaches about 50°F, so you should be seeing those pretty green shoots within about 2-3 weeks of planting, depending upon where you live. Once you see the first shoots, you can again cover them with a couple of inches of soil, repeating the process until the trench is completely filled. View our short video on How To Plant Asparagus to see how easy it really is!

Feeding and Over-Wintering Your Asparagus  

When first planting your asparagus crowns, we recommend Hi-Yield Triple Super Phosphate be sprinkled in the trench just before planting. With an NPK value of 0-45-0, this soil amendment is pure phosphorous. Due to the way asparagus grows and its perennial nature, you do not want to feed with nitrogen, which tends to spur quick plant growth. When it comes to asparagus, slow, strong, healthy growth is best. Phosphorous, on the other hand, enables the transfer of energy throughout the entire plant, encouraging the healthiest root growth. It is also essential to the process of photosynthesis. Your asparagus plants will use the most phosphorous while the spears are first forming, and then again, when flowering, so another moderate application of phosphorous is prudent when the harvest is complete and the ferny tops are appearing.

Fall is the next time you will want to pay particular attention to your asparagus bed's nutritional requirements. Some gardeners choose to leave the ferny tops throughout the winter, cutting them back in the spring, but we recommend cutting your asparagus plants back to the ground right after the first frost. The reason for this is that fungus can grow, even in the winter, when the ferny tops don't get a chance to dry out. It is also wise, if you know you've got fungus on those tops, not to compost them, as the fungus can over-winter and be passed along to anything you use that compost on.

Once you've cut them back, cover the whole bed with 1 to 2 inches of well-composted manure or compost and sprinkle with Triple Phosphate or Bone Meal, which will leach down to the roots, providing that springtime pick-me-up as the soil warms and the spears start to grow again. This layer of compost will not only feed the plants but will help to insulate them. In the spring, the spears will grow right through that healthy layer. The same will hold true in places like Hawaii that don't experience frost, except that once the ferny tops have been in place about 4 months, you will want to cut the asparagus plants back to the ground and treat them the same as if they were growing where winter occurs.

Harvesting Your Asparagus

This is one of the most common questions we get. How do I harvest my asparagus?

As our crowns are already a year old when you receive them, you may not have to wait another year to start harvesting, though you should harvest prudently this first year so as to allow your asparagus bed the time to become well established and healthy. When harvesting you should only harvest the spears that are more than 3/8 inch in diameter (about the size of your little finger), allowing the smaller spears to develop that ferny top, which will, in turn, provide energy back to the crown, resulting in a larger diameter spear the following year. Your first two harvests should be limited to the first 2 to 3 weeks, allowing the asparagus crowns to continue to develop for the healthiest and longest living asparagus bed. From the third year on, you will most likely be harvesting every other day when the asparagus spears are between 4 and 8 inches tall, and for a period of 6 to 8 weeks, depending upon your geographical location. The weather will also determine your harvest. Asparagus is a cool weather crop and one of the first vegetables to be ready for harvest. Don't pick the asparagus spears if they are no longer tight at the top. Just let those open to display the ferns that will perpetuate next year's harvest. Nothing goes to waste!

How to use an asparagus knife to cut spears When it comes to actually picking, many people will just snap the asparagus spears at ground level, but we suggest that you invest in an asparagus knife and cut the spears 1 to 2 inches below the top of the soil. The reason for this is two-fold. First, there is less chance that you will damage the plant by pulling as you snap the spear; and second, that layer of soil helps to protect the crown after the spear is removed. It is also much quicker and easier to harvest with an asparagus knife and it results in a longer spear.

Also, do not believe the myth that the larger asparagus spears are not as tender. What IS true is that as the spear grows both in height and in diameter, the part below ground and sometimes about an inch above the ground will get a little tougher. Simply use a paring knife and cut off the tough part, leaving the tenderest part of the spear for your enjoyment. Just throw the part you cut off into the compost bin or feed it to the chickens.

Enjoying and Preserving Your Harvest

In our opinion, the best way to enjoy asparagus is grilled. You can grill it on foil, but having a pan with close-set holes to place over your grill will result in the best flavor. Simply spray the spears with a bit of olive oil and season with garlic, sea salt and pepper and then grill to perfection! Of course, that's not the only way to enjoy asparagus and we invite you to share your favorite recipes with us here or on our facebook page.

You can preserve asparagus by canning, pickling, freezing or drying.

Drying – Dried asparagus can be processed in a food dehydrator and then added to soups and stews throughout the year. You should wash the spears thoroughly and halve the largest spears. Either steam them 4 to 5 minutes or blanch in water for 3.5 to 4.5 minutes. Dry 4 to 6 hours in a dehydrator or oven. Of course, the drying time depends upon the initial moisture content of the asparagus tips and the type of dehydrator used. A conventional oven can take twice as long, while a convection oven with the fan going should take about the same length of time as a dehydrator. You will want to use perforated trays and allow 3 inches of clearance between the top and the bottom of the oven. Cheesecloth stretched over baking pans or over a frame will usually yield the best results, as it is guaranteed not to react with the asparagus and provides exceptional air circulation. Set your oven thermostat at 140° to 150° and prop the door open a little to allow moisture to escape. The asparagus tips are dry when they are leathery looking and brittle. Store in serving-size portions in airtight containers in a cool place and use in casseroles, stews and soups as needed.

pickling asparagus to canPickling – is self-explanatory and one of the most preferred methods of preserving asparagus. Due to its low acidity, asparagus requires a pressure canner for canning but can be processed with a water bath canner when being pickled.

Freezing – is one of the simplest means of preserving your asparagus in a close-to-fresh manner. Simply blanch small spears not more than two minutes and larger spears not more than three, then put in freezer bags or containers, removing as much of the air as possible. If you vacuum seal, you can skip the blanching process, keeping the texture fresh and the spears that gorgeous, just-picked green.

Canning – is preferred for long-term storage. Asparagus has low acidity, so it is necessary to utilize a pressure canner. You can either cut the spears to fit quart jars, or cut in smaller pieces, similar to green beans. Be sure to use a spatula to squeeze the air bubbles out of the jars before applying the lids and then process at 10 lbs. of pressure for 25 minutes.

We hope this answers all of your questions about how to start, establish and enjoy your own long-lived asparagus patch. In our opinion, nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the flavor of fresh, home-grown asparagus tips. The longer the spear is off the crown, the more the flavor and even the texture deteriorate. Eat it fresh or process it quickly. Store-bought asparagus tips, whether fresh, canned, frozen or dried, just can't compare.


Can I Replant My Dracaena Spike Plant?

November 22nd, 2011

I have a Dracaena Spike plant that I purchased 3 years ago and wintered indoors and replanted outside in a large pot on my porch. I use it as a centerpiece and put annuals around it. This year it is over 3 ft. tall and 3 ft. in circumference. Since I have two, I don’t think I can bring them indoors. Can I propagate them by removing the top portion and replanting it? Any other suggestions? Bev

Answer: The Dracaenas are a large family of more than 40 varieties, which in their native climate would be rugged, low-maintenance shrubs. As a houseplant the common varieties are sold as “lucky bamboo,” corn plant, and the most common dracaena, ‘marginata’. The ‘marginata’ is prone to becoming long and looking somewhat like a giant bottle brush but it does propagate well. However, spring is usually the best time to do this, although I’ve had some successes in the fall. Since you have two I suggest you try it with one now and leave the other until spring. Don’t throw away the mother plant. If you leave it potted it will sprout new growth around the top of the cane, sometimes two or three sprouts. For the top you cut off, be sure to remove any foliage that would be below the soil. If you have some powdered rooting hormone, dip the cane in some water and then into the rooting hormone to help it get started producing roots from the former leaf nodules. Keep it evenly moist and out of direct sun until it has started to set root. This process could take several weeks, so be patient. You can do this several times and really have a whole potful of nice spiky dracaena!

And if it doesn’t work well, we will have more in the spring!

Good luck~Karen

Thanksgiving Message from Garden Harvest Supply

November 18th, 2011

pilgrims giving thanks before a mealFood for Thought

There's a bit of folk wisdom that says, Who is rich? He who is thankful for what he's got. We've all seen people who have every material thing, and yet they're dissatisfied and discontent. And then there are people who have far less and yet, because of their thankful attitude, they're rich in smiles and gratitude. Thankfulness is surely one of the keys to happiness, and we don't mean just thankfulness over material blessings.

Most people count their family as the thing they most value in life, and Thanksgiving offers a great opportunity to spend time with those nearest and dearest. People also value health, freedom, friendship, community, creative expression, and of course, their relationship with God. All these things are incredible blessings, and yet we often take them for granted, focusing instead on disappointments, frustrations, and setbacks.

The Pilgrims were thankful just to know that they were not going to go hungry over the cold New England winter. The previous winter an alarming number of them had starved, but at that first Thanksgiving they rejoiced over having plenty of vegetables, grains, and game to sustain them.

Today our blessings far exceed those of the original settlers, and yet giving thanks is considered corny in some circles. Well, not to us: we give thanks for all the blessings mentioned earlier, and also to you, our customers, for sustaining our business this year, and offering us the opportunity to offer you the very best products we can find.

Food for the Hungry

Finally, we want to say that we feel our Thanksgiving would be missing something essential if we failed to reach out to those who are in need. Despite an abundance of food in this country that is beyond anything the Pilgrims ever dreamed of, the latest statistics are that 1 out of every 7 Americans don't know where their next meal is coming from!

feeding american children eatingOne charity that is doing great work to help feed America's hungry is Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest), a non-profit that distributes 3 billion pounds of food a year to more than 400 food banks. If you give before November 26, your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar by a corporate sponsor. Feeding America has consistently been ranked one of the best-run charities, allocating only 1.3% to administrative costs. Join us as we give financially in order to give hope to families, hope to communities, and hope for a happy holiday for all!