News

Hydrangea Plant Not Growing Well?

August 28th, 2011

I have hydrangeas which are in pots outside but the flowers have died and the leaves are green and look healthy. Would they survive being planted out in the back yard? Some of my neighbors have large hydrangea plants in their yards. Second question – will a kalanchoe plant (in a pot) grow if I plant it in my flower bed? Thank you.I have hydrangeas which are in pots outside but the flowers have died and the leaves are green and look healthy. Would they survive being planted out in the back yard? Some of my neighbors have large hydrangea plants in their yards. Second question – will a kalanchoe plant (in a pot) grow if I plant it in my flower bed? Thank you, Phyllis

Answer:

Phyllis,

You did not specify what variety you were growing: quercifolia, macrophylla, arborescens or paniculata. Most hydrangeas are hardy from Zone 5 to 9, with a few being even more cold hardy. Since you are in Zone 9B, the hydrangeas will do OK for you in the ground, but you are on the high end of the their tolerance range. If others are growing them successfully then you should be able to as well, if you give them the right conditions. Check the ones that are the most successful and see how much shade or sun they are receiving, and how much moisture they are getting. If you are growing the macrophylla (mophead) variety, then you will probably want to check the acidity level of your soil if you want them to be blue. Typically hydrangeas like some shade from the hot midday sun. They are heavy drinkers (of water, please!) and need soil acidification if your pH is too low. Even though you are in a warm climate, they will still most likely have a resting period, like the dormancy they undergo in colder climates. Don’t push them if that is the case.

The kalanchoe is technically a hardiness Zone 10.  Since you are 9B, you might try to find a well-protected area to see if it will survive. Keep it protected from any frost and keep it in a partially shaded location; it is not a full sun lover.

Happy Gardening!
Karen

Invasion of the Squash Vine Borer

August 25th, 2011

You might have fallen victim to the Squash Vine Borer, without knowing how they get inside your squash plants, or where they come from. You might not have even been aware they are there until your vines have wilted and died. The Squash Vine Borer attacks cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, melons and both winter and summer squashes. Blue and Butternut squash seem to be the most resistant, but Hubbard squash seems to be the castle most preferred by this voracious pest.

Recognizing the Squash Vine Borer Moth

So, how do you identify the problem to begin with? The best way is to be aware of what to look for. As your squash-like plants are just about to blossom, you may notice wasps flying around your vegetable garden, paying particular attention to your squash, melons or cucumbers. Look closely; these wasps may actually be the moth that lays the eggs of the squash vine borer. They will look somewhat like a giant hornet, having a wing span of about 1.5 inches. The wings will be translucent, but colored in shades of orange and black. These female moths will have a bright orange or red and black abdomen and femurs. They can be quite elusive, prefer daytime flight, are rather noisy and will lay their eggs at the base of your plants, right on the soil. In the south, this will usually occur sometime in April or May, but it may happen later in the north, normally in June and July. The eggs will be flat, brown circles about 1/10 inch across and nearly impossible to see.

The Destructive Squash Vine Borer Larvae

In one to two weeks, depending upon the heat and weather, the eggs will hatch and become larvae. The larvae are grub-like, about an inch long, white with a dark brown head and itty bitty brown legs. They bore into the stems of your plants and are gluttonous eaters, which is what ultimately kills your plants. Inspect the stems about an inch above the soil level for tiny holes through which the larvae have entered. You may even see a yellowish saw-dust looking material near the hole or at the base of your plants. You can confirm their presence further by using a knife to make a slit lengthwise along the stem, from the bore hole and about an inch up. You will see the worm and more of the yellowish excrement inside the stem. At this point you can kill the worms with the knife blade and then mound soil up above the wound to encourage root growth along that particular section of the stem. Be aware though, that this method will only work at the very earliest stages of infestation and can be quite time-consuming and messy.

Perpetuating Their Life Cycle

Once the larvae have matured, they can leave the insides of your plants' stems and start feasting on the maturing fruit. They will finally mature to the point where they leave the plant, burrow into the soil and spin a mahogany brown cocoon in which to hibernate until the following spring when the orange, red and black moths will appear once again.

Control with Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Now, how do you control them? I'm sure you've heard the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; and in this case, that is SO true. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is one of the best preventive measures. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a naturally occurring, organic pesticide in dust form that cuts the exoskeletons of the moths, both as they emerge from the soil and as they land to lay their eggs. A little goes a long, long way and it is easy to apply, especially if using a duster designed for DE, but the best part is that Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth will also deter and destroy a whole host of other garden pests with absolutely no ill-effects on your family, your pets or the environment. Dust with DE from the ground up, paying special attention to the undersides of the leaves, as this is where most insects will lay their eggs. Application is recommended once a month or after a very heavy rain, but as long as dust is evident at the base of the plants and under the leaves, you do not have to reapply heavily.

Deterring with a Plant & Seed Blanket

If, on the other hand, you've never had Squash Vine Borers in your garden, you may be able to get away with a simple cover. There are a number available, but the one that seems to work best is the Plant & Seed Blanket by Easy Gardener®. This lightweight, breathable blanket can be applied when you seed or first transplant seedlings. It allows essential air and moisture to reach your growing plants, but will prevent the Squash Borer moth from being able to lay her eggs. Just apply the blanket over your seed bed or transplants with plenty of slack to allow for plant growth and blooming. The ends and sides can be held down with garden stakes or with loose soil. Once the blossoms have wilted, giving way to the fruit, it should be safe to remove the plant and seed blanket.

Use Hot Pepper Wax Spray to Make Their Lives Miserable

Another preventative measure that is used very successfully is Hot Pepper Wax Spray. Made by combining capsaicin (what makes cayenne peppers hot) and a thin, food grade paraffin, the spray coats your plants with an unpleasantly irritating liquid that stays in place by being bound to the waxy paraffin. Apply to the bottom couple of inches of the stems to prevent the larvae from boring as they hatch, or apply to the whole plant, including the undersides of the leaves, to also deter aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, lace bugs, leafhoppers, thrips and many more pests. Be aware though, that when checking growth progress, weeding or harvesting your produce, the capsaicin can transfer to your skin and be quite irritating, especially if you have open wounds or you rub your eyes. It will sting, but warm water will wash the residue away. Young children who put their hands in their mouths will also experience an unpleasant heat.

Kill Them with BT

Finally, for the very worst infestations and to completely prevent the larvae from spinning cocoons that will produce Squash Vine Borer moths next year, we recommend using Bacillus Thuringiensis, a.k.a. BT. BT occurs naturally and is a soil-borne organism that has the ability to control squash vine borers and other insects that are in the worm or caterpillar stage of development. It can be applied to the foliage of plants on which larvae are feeding, but it can also be used as an injection to the insides of the stems to destroy the borers. Bacillus Thuringiensis effectively paralyzes the digestive tract of the larvae, which means they can't feed anymore, which causes them to die. BT is effectively used as a pre-emptive measure, when injected into your plants right after the first blossoms appear and then again in a week to 10 days. You simply mix it as you normally would for external application, and then use a disposable syringe that you can buy at any drug store. You can also use a wood worker's glue injector, but be sure to rinse the needle with a mixture of chlorine bleach and water between injections in order to prevent possible cross-contamination of other diseases that you are not yet aware of. Mix the BT just prior to use and inject the stem about 1.5″ above the soil line. The borers will eat it as they first start to feed, causing them to die. The recommended amount is about 1cc of BT for each injection. It will wash the hollow interior of the stem, but will flow back out of the stem through the injection site if you use too much.

We here at Garden Harvest Supply hope that we've provided you some much needed, valuable information about Squash Vine Borers and how best to deal with them. We are always available to answer any of your questions and concerns. You can contact us here, or contact our Master Gardener directly.

Happy Gardening, Everyone!

GHS Guide to Extending the Growing Season

August 20th, 2011

Wouldn't it be great if your garden were like a 24/7 farmer's market, providing you with fresh produce year-round? Sure, that would take a lot of work, but extended harvests are within every gardener's grasp. With a little planning, you can harvest at least one or two crops right through the winter.

In this newsletter we'll discuss ways to extend the growing season, starting with a review of fall planting and continuing with to how to cover and protect your plants in cold weather. Finally we'll discuss measures that serious gardeners take to ensure year-long harvests, such as the use of cold frames and greenhouses.

Late Season Planting

The simplest way to extend the growing season is to plant a second round of vegetable plants in late summer or early fall. Fall is an easier time to plant than spring: the critters and weeds decrease, there's less need to irrigate, and there are no heat waves to drive you indoors, panting.

There's also less prep work involved; consult our Guide to Fall Vegetable Planting for the details, but basically what you need to do is clear out the old debris and amend the soil.

In choosing what to plant, most gardeners like a mix of plants with varying degrees of hardiness. Tender and very tender plants need to mature before the first frost or else they'll be damaged.  Semi-hardy plants can weather a frost or two, and hardy plants can weather repeated frosts.

To plant tender and very tender plants, you have to find out what date they need to be planted by in order to mature before the first frost.  First find their growing times by looking at the product details section of the GHS web pages that describe them. Then find the approximate first frost date by looking at the Frost Chart at the Old Farmer's Almanac. Count backwards from the first frost date to determine your deadline for getting those plants into the ground.

With semi-hardy vegetables, you don't need to be concerned about the first frost date but you'll want them to mature before repeated frosts occur. Again, compare the growing times with the first frost date, and make your selection based on what will be ready soon after that first frost.

When planting hardy veggies, you don't need to worry about the cold weather at all. Just get them in the ground and mark on your calendar when they'll be ready to harvest.

Help Them Make It Through the Night

When temperatures drop, most plants need to be covered. Coverings also help them grow faster in the colder weather. Some gardeners simply throw old bed sheets or towels over their less hardy plants when the nightly news predicts a cold snap. To improve on this method, support such materials with stakes or wire. Individual plants can be protected with buckets or gallon milk jugs with the bottoms cut out. Put them on in the afternoon while it's still relatively warm and remove them in the morning after temperatures have risen again. Root crops can be covered with a thick layer of hay, straw, dry leaves, or pine needles.

We sell several products that have been engineered to provide optimal cold-weather protection. The most popular is the Wall O' Water Plant Protector, which is like a plant-sized teepee whose insulating walls can be filled up with water. The Wall O' Water absorbs heat during the day and releases it during the night, keeping your plants comfy on chilly nights. In fact, it will protect them down to 16°F!

For larger plants as well as sensitive shrubs, our Plant Protector Bags are great at keeping in the heat while still allowing for air circulation. Simply bag the plants when they are at risk, and remove as soon as the danger is past. The Fleece Frost Protection Bags offer even more of a defense against cold, maintaining your plants down to 20F. And for even larger plants, shrubs, and seedlings, use the 8'x 6' Harvest Guard Plant Protection Bag with an adjustable closure for a custom fit.

If you have many plants to protect, Haxnicks Easy Tunnel Row Cover is the way to grow. It offers shelter to an entire row, forming a barrier that retains humidity and warmth, while protecting against frosts and harsh weather. Made of polyethylene supported by galvanized steel hoops, you'll get years of use out of it, and the hoops can be stacked against each other for easy storage.

Cold Frames

A more solid way to protect your plants is by building a cold frame, which is like a mini greenhouse. You can get instructions on how to build and use cold frames from the extensions of Cornell University, the University of Missouri and Ohio State University. There are also do-it-yourself videos available on YouTube.

If you want to save time and don't want to search for materials, we sell a Cold Frame Mini-Greenhouse kit that is easily assembled and provides more than 5 sq. feet of growing space. Constructed of durable, UV-protected panels, the adjustable polycarbonate roof provides maximum light, adequate ventilation, UV protection, and easy access.

Its older brother is also on sale: the Cold Frame Double Mini-Greenhouse, which is the same design but twice the size. Measuring 41 x 41 x 21, it provides ample space to grow and protect at least 10 sq. feet of veggies.

Greenhouses

Serious gardeners will want to build or buy a greenhouse sooner or later. Actually, sooner is better, because you'll get so much benefit from a greenhouse that whenever you get one, you'll wish you had gotten it sooner!

Naturally, building a greenhouse is more involved than building a cold frame. If you're up for a project of this size, instructions and plans are available from West Virginia University Extension as well as from North Carolina State University Extension.

If you'd rather get a greenhouse kit, be sure that the kit itself isn't too difficult to assemble. As we said in 2009, the last time we had a greenhouse sale, The gardening blogosphere resounds with little yelps of frustration from people whose jubilant smile turned to a grimace worthy of a gremlin as they realizedafter bolting and unbolting, starting and stopping, moving forward and backtrackingthat ‘the instructions are rubbish.'

To spare our customers this kind of frustration, we sell only Snap & Grow Greenhouse kits made by Poly-Tex, a family-run business located in Castle Rock, MN. What we like about their greenhouses is that the parts snap together with SmartLockâ„¢ Connectors, a unique system that makes Snap & Grow kits the quickest and simplest on the market.

The other great benefit is that you're not limited to the greenhouse you started withyou can expand it whenever you desire, thanks again to those SmartLockâ„¢ Connectors. What's more, Poly-Tex produces a full range of accessories: automatic vent openers, shade kits, even plant hangers.

As with many of the best greenhouses, the greenhouse panels are made of polycarbonate, a polymer that is as clear as glass but offers 100% UV protection and is virtually unbreakable. The heavy-duty frame is molded out of corrosion-resistant aluminum, and the kit includes an innovative split-style door and window, both of which come pre-assembled, right down to the attached weather stripping.

If you've been thinking about getting a greenhouse, we know you'll love the advantages of Snap & Grow, and we hope you'll carefully consider each of the five models we offer, and perhaps give us a call at 1-888-907-4769 to discuss which one would best meet your needs. Just think: you can keep gardening all winter, and have as much space as you want to do it in!

Always More to Grow and Know

To learn more about extending the growing season, there is one book we particularly recommend: Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch. This book has gotten rave reviews from beginning gardeners and veterans alike. It gathers together a wealth of information and presents it in a really fun and interesting way. The authors' enthusiasm for gardening really shines through as well, and you might find your own gardening spark rekindled as you hang out with the authors by reading this refreshing and informative book.

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

What Does A Tomato Horn Worm Look Like?

August 2nd, 2011

tomato horn worm on a tomato plantThe tomato horn worm is the biggest pest your tomato plants will have. You will know one has moved onto one of your plants when you notice leaves being eaten off of the stems.  They will also eat into the side of your tomatoes. Tomato horn worms have large appetites.  It will not take too many days before you will see the damage they create. Once you see the signs, start looking very carefully on the bottom of each leaf stem until you spot the worm.

After you hand remove the horn worm, kill it by cutting it in half. You can smash it; just beware that it will make a bit of a mess this way.

tomato horn worm with parasitic eggs on its back

If you find a worm that has white sacks hanging onto its back, do NOT remove it! Leave it right where it is on your tomato plant. The white sacks are the eggs of the parasitic wasp, one of nature's beneficial insects. These eggs survive by sucking the life out of the horn worm. Once these eggs hatch, the wasp will go out looking for more horn worms to lay eggs into and kill.

 

Blossom-End Rot How to Recognize and Prevent It

July 25th, 2011

tomato plant with blossom end rotYou’ve heard about blossom-end rot, but have you seen it? Or, maybe you’ve experienced it and didn’t know what it was. Hopefully this article will arm you against one of the most common tomato diseases, and you may be able to prevent it from happening, even though the most experienced gardeners have seen it on their tomato plants. (It also occurs on pepper plants and on eggplant, though it may start on the sides, near the blossom end, on these vegetables.)

First, you need to be able to identify it, and the name itself creates no small bit of confusion, especially for novice gardeners. The blossom end of the tomato is so-called because as the tomato grows, it actually emerges from under where the blossom was. The fruit grows between the calyx and the blossom, the calyx being the modified leaves you see at the top of the tomato. You will see the brown end of the blossom at the bottom of the growing tomato, not at the top where it is attached to the stem.

Blossom-end rot will start as a small beige or tan patch on the blossom end of the tomato while the fruit is still green, often appearing water-soaked. And then it becomes sunken and turns leathery and dark brown or black as the fruit matures. It looks rather disgusting, but you can eat the parts of the tomato that are not affected, as long as no secondary pathogens or pests have invaded the lesion and spread throughout the rest of the fruit. In severe cases, the whole fruit is a loss and it is not uncommon to lose 50 percent of the fruit on your tomato plants to this curse. I wouldn’t recommend giving these unattractive fruits away, even if the upper part of the tomato is edible. Better to use them in salsa, make tomato sauce, or at least slice them before anyone can see what they look likediscarding the rotted portion, of course.

To prevent a disease, you need to know what causes it. Blossom-end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency, which affects normal cell growth. Blossom-end rot results when the demand for calcium exceeds the supply, which can be caused by

  • Moisture fluctuation, which can reduce a plant’s calcium uptake.
  • Low calcium levels in the soil, often the result of improper soil pH.
  • Drought stress.
  • Over fertilizing with nitrogen-based fertilizers.

and which can be prevented by:

  • Tomato Grower's Soil Test KitMaintaining the pH of your soil right around 6.5. An inexpensive soil tester can quickly give you the pH of your soil, and then you can take the necessary steps to adjust it. This is not only good for preventing blossom-end rot; it is beneficial to the majority of your garden plants. 6.5 is the recommended soil pH for successful organic gardening.
  • Maintaining consistent moisture for your tomato plants. All garden plants require about one inch of moisture per week. If you are fortunate enough to have plenty of rainfall, this will not be an issue, unless you are getting way too much. Otherwise, irrigation is necessary, and I recommend a drip irrigation hose. A drip irrigation hose ensures that the moisture is going to the roots where it is needed, not landing on the leaves (especially in a crowded garden) and then evaporating.
  • Avoiding nitrogen-based fertilizers as your tomato plants start to fruit. There are actually two kinds of nitrogen fertilizer available. Nitrate nitrogen is preferable to ammoniac forms. Excess ammonium ions can reduce the calcium uptake of your plants. All nitrogen fertilizers should be used lightly and with the knowledge that the run-off from synthetic fertilizers can pollute water sources, including wells and ground water and are not entirely safe for use around your family, children and pets.
  • Ensure adequate calcium levels in your soil. Applying lime to your soil is one way to add calcium, but it will also lower the pH. This would be the ideal solution if you also need to adjust your pH down. Additionally, you can use a product, such as Nutri-Cal® Liquid Calcium supplement. Highly concentrated, it is applied in a fine spray every couple of weeks, though root absorption of calcium will be the most beneficial. Some gardeners crush egg shells and mix it into the top inch or so of soil, right around their plants, experiencing quite a bit of success, though the exact amount of egg shell needed is not really known.
  • Using good, rich soil is the ultimate way to prevent blossom-end rot from occurring. Soil rich in organic matter is naturally rich in calcium, and is also much more able to retain moisture, which means maintaining your soil’s moisture content is much easier. You can mix compost into your soil prior to planting or you can even top-dress your soil and as you water and cultivate, the compost will become mixed with your soil. Worm Castings are also a source of the richest organic matter and can either be mixed in, top dressed or side dressed.Earthworm Castings

These are fairly easy steps to making sure that all of your garden plants grow healthy and strong. Good gardening habits go a long way to ensuring not only a productive harvest, but less effort on your part, in the long run. In particular, it will mean your tomatoes are not lost to blossom-end rot. We all know how scrumptious fresh, homegrown tomatoes are. A few extra preventive measures will make the difference between a modest tomato harvest and an extraordinary one!

Happy Gardening Everyone!

Kale Juice – Some Real “Great Stuff!”

July 22nd, 2011

My son Jim  ordered 10 Blue Curled Scotch Kale Plants for me, his mother. I am 91 1/2 years old and for many years I have had a backyard garden where I grow tomatoes, beans, peas, celery, peppers, parsley and kale. In addition to eating all the vegetables I also juice. That’s where kale comes in. I have a wonderful juicer which Jim gave me, and I drink some juice every day. My mix for the juice is:

  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Celery
  • Parsley
  • Other “greens”
  • Oranges, apples, grapes or other fruit for sweetness

This is “great” stuff!

I thank you for being so careful with my Blue Curled Scotch kale. It arrived in perfect condition because of your expert means of packaging – great stuff!

For some reason I have trouble finding kale plants each year for my garden. I even have neighbors driving around various nurseries for me. This was a particularly bad year. So, I am very appreciative of your speed and efficiency in getting this kale to me.

“Old ladies do go on” but I want you to know the value of juicing each day to the human body. Last year I overheard a voice in my next door yard. It was a young worker building a wall. He said to one of his associates “how tired he was.” At the time I was ‘juicing’ and I took a fresh juice glass to him for energy. He asked first “what was in it” and I told him. Then he drank it down, one half hour later he came back to me to again ask me what was in my juice. I repeated it all to him. Then he said “you put a kick in this stuff didn’t you?” I assured him the “kick” came from the veggies, etc in the drink. He said he felt “a kick” in the mix. Hooray kale!

Thank you again for your care!

Dorothy G.

“Incredible Delicious!”

July 18th, 2011

Garden Harvest Supply vegetable plantsI am very pleased using Garden Harvest as my main source for all my vegetable plants. All my plants came very well packed and shipped in a timely manor. I am so amazed to watch their growth. Ears of corn looks so tempting to pick now, but when they are ready, can’t wait to say Incredible Delicious…..thanks Tina for going the extra mile.

Lawrence J.

Worm-Made vs. Man-Made

July 14th, 2011

Before I tell you about the benefits of using worm castings or vermicompost, you need to know why you should not be utilizing chemicals.

If you watch the news at all, you are well aware of the environmental crises that occur around the world involving hazardous materials and chemicals. The components of chemical fertilizer have even been used to make life-destroying bombs, which should be a big hint to all of us that they are not the best thing to be using on our lawns; and especially on our vegetable gardens that supply the food we feed to our family.

Chemical fertilizers are considered potentially harmful to both humans and to our planet. They are completely inorganic, synthesized to mimic the minerals and nutrients that plants need to grow. Yes, they work; but at what cost? Chemical fertilizers can pollute wells and ground water and eventually ends up in the rivers, lakes and oceans as rain washes it to these water sources. How many times have you seen someone overwatering their lawn to the point that it is running in the gutters? How many times have you stopped to think that whatever he or she has used to kill weeds on their lawn or to make their lawn grow is being washed, along with the wasted water, into the storm drains? Where do you think the water from the storm drains ends up? Yep, I’ve been guilty too, but I’ve made learning about the best ways to garden while leaving the world a better place for my children, my personal goal and my business, and that does not involve using harmful chemicals.

I’m sure you’ve heard how important it is to wash your fruits and vegetables Strawberry Plantsthoroughly; in fact, in some instances the experts are now recommending that you remove the skins completely. The same skins that your Mom always told you has so many more healthful vitamins and nutrients than the flesh of the fruit, is now being contaminated. Some of the most common fruits, such as strawberries, have some of the highest concentrations of fertilizer-borne chemical concentrations.

And if that isn’t enough, chemical fertilizers can actually, over time, cause mineral depletion of the soil, a loss of humus content and fertile top soil, as well as increasing pest problems due to the destruction of beneficial bacteria and microbes that help the plants to defend themselves against diseases and pests. Long-term use of chemical fertilizers may mean that you have to water more and that you also may have to use more chemicals to destroy the pests and diseases that have been enabled by the use of chemicals to begin with.

This vicious cycle has been perpetuated, not only by us, but by the chemical companies that heard our demands for the “instant” picture perfect lawn. That was the American Dream, after all. But the perfect lawn takes time, which is something we all seemed to have run completely out of as the race was on to keep up with the Joneses and then with the Rockefellers and the American housewife put shoes on and started carrying a brief case. It was all we could do to raise our 2.5 children and bring home the bacon, but we still wanted that perfect lawn. Necessity is the mother of inventionwhich is how chemical fertilizers came to be.

Growing produce togetherNecessity is the Mother of Invention againas we now know at what cost our “instant” green lawn was achieved. Today, as more and more Americans are out of work or struggling to make ends meet, the return to gardening is like a tidal wave spreading across this country of ours. Even vacant city lots are becoming community gardens to feed the citizens, but the by-product of this movement is that people are learning to care again. They are getting to know their neighbors as they band together so that more can eat. They are getting to know their children as they opt out of the movie theater and opt in for family gardening. The dancing shoes are being put away and being replaced by a hoe; after all, who can afford to go out AND pay a babysitter? The backyard garden is becoming what the sit-down family dinner used to be in the 60’s.

And people care. They care more about the environment because they are thinking twice about what they put on the home-grown vegetables that they will put in their mouth. They see our natural resources shrinking, right along with their bank account, and hope that we are all not doing too little too late. And they are looking for solutions.

Worm casting fertilizerHere is a HUGE solutionan army of people working together to raise an army of worms that can supply the U.S. with all the natural, organic and chemical-free fertilizer that is needed to rebuild our tired soil and to fertilize every backyard garden, every community garden, every farmers’ crops and every acre of produce commercially grown.

Worm castings, worm compost, vermicompost and organic fertilizer are all terms for the same thing. It is the result of different types of worms, usually earthworms, particularly red wigglers, and white worms, being used to create nutrient rich compost. The worms break down organic matter, passing it through their digestive system, the end result being an organic fertilizer and soil amendment with 60 different minerals and nutrients essential to growing healthy plants. No dairy, meat, fats or oils are fed to the worms and what IS fed to the worms also determines the quality of the worm castings, as does the worm itself. Regular earthworms are not generally utilized for vermicomposting. The common earthworm cannot survive the heat that is necessary for the efficient decomposition of the organic materials. The Red Worm, on the other hand, has a voracious appetite, often eating one-half to one times their own weight in food every day, and thrives in the temperatures necessary to help their composting. Well fed worms also reproduce quicker, which means even more compost.

And what is fed to these worms? Every type of organic matter available. A lot of it would end up in landfills or down garbage disposals if it was not rescued for worm food. For example, the leaves removed from the outside of the head of lettuce and the core. Any type of perishable fruit or vegetable, even breads can be bound for the worm’s gullet if it is going to waste or has become overripe. And then some bedding material is added, to make the worms comfortable and to get things started. We have a selection of compost bins designed specifically for worm composting if you’d like to try this at home, but we also sell Earthworm Castings, made by that army of people and worms that I mentioned earlier, and which will require much less work on your part.

So, now that you know how the worm castings are created, let’s get to the benefits of using them.

Where chemical fertilizers destroy, the worm restores. Completely 100% planet-friendly, this whole process is naturally-occurring. Man is just here to help the worm do their job better, to distribute this worm-made black gold and to spread the word that worms can save the world! Okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but I made my point.

Growing an organic gardenNaturally rich in microbes, humus and nutrients, vermicompost improves and then maintains the fertility of your soil. Humus is quite complex, and I won’t even attempt to explain it, but to say that humus is what allows the roots of your plants to access the necessary nutrients from the soil. It allows your plants to feed themselves, rather than having to be “force fed” with a chemical fertilizer. The humus aides the soil’s ability to hold more moisture, air and nutrients, which then feeds all of the microbes that bring the nutrients to the plants’ roots. Wikipedia does a much better job of breaking it all down, but suffice to say that humus is the key to the most successful organic gardening.

You also won’t find humus in most manures or compost for sale commercially. Most of these products are simply dried manure or composted organic matter and once it looks like dirt, it can be sold to fertilize your lawns and gardens. The trick is to build the compost up to contain a high level of humus, which is exactly what the worms do!

And the list of benefits goes on:

  • Many fungal diseases are suppressed, such as phythium, fusarium, dollar spot, etc.
  • The use of worm castings reduces algae in lagoons, ponds and greenhouses because there is no nitrogen run-off. Using worm castings will not contaminate ground water.
  • You can reduce water consumption up to 50% and increase drought-resistance.
  • Worm castings improve the structure of the soil, allowing for better aeration, root development and nutritional uptake.
  • Worm castings can even be applied to phosphate sensitive areas.
  • Beneficial enzymes are produced by the plants that are fed by the worm castings, enabling them to naturally repel many of the pests that feed on the juices of the plants.
  • It is odorless. You don’t have to wear a mask while applying it, indoors or out.
  • You can even dissolve it in water and use it as ‘compost tea’.

The worm restores what chemicals have destroyed. I can’t think of any better reason to quit using chemical fertilizers and switch to worm castings.

Poopeas Compost-What It Is!

July 12th, 2011

Composting at homeHave you ever passed by a large cattle operation and grumbled at the smell? Some of those feedlots and dairies look like a never-ending field of manure. Their owners will argue that it’s a necessary by-product, which it is, but in reality it is a huge problem that feedlot and dairy owners have to deal with, while they go about the business of feeding and clothing America. Cows poopplain and simplebut what do you do with all that poop?

Yes, some people will gladly spread fresh, or not so fresh, manure all over their lawn. It is a fantastic fertilizer! But it is messy, it is clumpy, it takes weeks to finally work its way into the soil supporting an established lawn and landscape plantsand it stinks! Just ask your neighbors!

Poopeas Granulated Manure CompostPoopeas compost is the answer to having a beautiful landscape without the smell and the clumps, and also without resorting to chemical fertilizers.

In today’s world, instant gratification has become a way of life. Patience is a virtue, and we may have developed that trait with our children and coworkers, but when it comes to our lawns and gardens, we want instant beauty with as little work as possible. We just don’t have the time to devote to the slow nurture of our personal outdoor spaces. So, we resort to chemical fertilizers, which even as we apply them, many of us are having pangs of guilt over the fact that we know the runoff is not good and we worry about the harm that may come to our children and pets, so we keep them off the lawn that is supposed to be a place to play, not just a neighborhood fashion statement, and we experience another guilty pang when we hear a report about how chemical fertilizers have gotten into the ground water and over time the concentrations of chemicals will make the environment extremely unhealthy, threatening even our way of life, as our water supplies are polluted. We then justify it by the fact that “I am just one personmy little piece of real estate is not going to spell the end of our single most valuable resource.” Or”What am I supposed to do? Everyone else is doing it. It must not be that bad” Or”Just more scientific mumbo jumbo to confuse us.” Sound familiar?

Well, you can quit having this conversation with yourself and you can quit feeling guilty about the way you fertilize your lawn, landscape plants and gardens. Poopeas to the rescue!

Poopeas has solved both the agricultural feeding operators’ problem of what to do with all that poop, while also solving your problem of how to have a guilt-free, lush lawn, at about the same price you’re already spending on chemical fertilizers and with the same amount of effort.  Poopeas has made it easy for you!

Earthway Ev-N-Spread 1950A special process of aerobically (relating to, involving or requiring free oxygen) composting and processing manure products into a more usable product that can be spread using any broadcast fertilizer spreader, has provided a solution to the chemical fertilizer conundrum and a means to be an “earth healer” while also getting that ‘perfect’ looking landscape.  These little, dry peas made of poop are part of the solution; not a part of the problem!

Poopeas is dry, easy to spread, an all organic fertilizer solution and it does NOT smell! No more wearing a medical mask as you spread (and maybe for days afterwards); no more ticked off neighbors, no more “stay off the lawn kids” over and over and. Instead, you can spread it and forget it! You don’t have to test your soil and you don't have to worry about giving your lawn or plants too much of anything. This all organic fertilizer has everything they need, in just the right amount, just as nature intended. You can even use it on your houseplants. Either mix it with your potting medium when planting new plants, or dissolve it in water and feed as you normally feed your house plantsand it does NOT smell!

Growing the Best Tomatoes

July 8th, 2011

Tomatoes ripening on the vine So, you've planted your tomatoes, you've been watering them religiously and you've left plenty of room for big growth, because those tomato plants won't stay little for long.

Tomato plants LOVE warm soil! (If you put down plastic mulch for a few days or up to two weeks before you transplant your tomatoes or peppers, they will love the extra warmth, and you can transplant right through the plastic if you want to!). Mulch will shade the soil mid-summer and keep it cool, as well as deterring weed growth, conserving water and looking pretty. Mulch also helps to keep soil-borne diseases from splashing onto the plants when they are being watered. It is well worth the little bit of extra effort, and the rewards more than pay for the cost. If you are planting a fall crop, the soil is already warm enough, so you can mulch as you plant. Another option is to use the Gardeneer Tomato Tray. It also prevents weeds right around the plant but with the added bonus of being able to add a fertilizer like Tomato-tone® directly to the roots where your plants can more efficiently use it. Just use the recommended amount and add water to the reservoir to gently feed. Tomato-tone® will not force rapid growth, but will provide the essential nutrients necessary to optimize the production and quality of your tomatoes.

Once your tomato plants are 2.5 to 3 feet tall, remove the bottom set of leaves using a sharp pair of scissors; you don't want to tear them off, leaving a wound for diseases or pests to enter. These leaves get the least amount of sun and will eventually yellow and die anyway and are almost always the first to develop fungus.

sucker stem growing on a tomato plantYou may also start to see tiny stems and leaves (called suckers) starting to grow at the joints of the main branches and/or from the bottom of the main stem. Pinch these off; they will take energy away from the rest of the plant and prevent your tomatoes from growing to their full potential. If, after fruit starts to develop, you notice that your plants are exceptionally bushy, it is also okay to prune a few leaves in order for the sun to reach the fruit, but go easy. The leaves, through the process of photosynthesis, are providing valuable sugars to your tomatoes, giving them that wonderful flavor.

Watering regularly, both when your plants are becoming established and once they mature, is one of the tricks to having beautiful, blemish-free tomatoes. Irregular watering is a contributing factor to blossom end rot, dropped blossoms and cracked fruit.

Keep tomatoes moist, but not wet, during the first 2 to 3 weeks, then start a regular deep-watering regimen. Watering deeply allows the roots to take better hold. It all depends upon your soil conditions, whether or not you mulch, and of course, the moisture you are receiving from Mother Nature, but a good rule of thumb in an average year is to thoroughly soak sandy soils every four to five days, soaking heavier soils and clay every seven to ten days. You want the soil to be moist at a depth of 6 to 8 inches.

Rapitest Moisture MeterIf you are growing your tomatoes in containers, the watering requirements will be very different. Your containers should have good drainage. You can still water them deeply, but the time-span will be shorter between waterings. The absolute easiest way to determine the moisture content of your soil at any given time is with a moisture tester. They are really inexpensive and you can get one that tests for pH, moisture, fertility and sunlight, or one that tests just for moisture. Many people new to gardening have found these to be an invaluable tool.

It is perfectly normal for the leaves on your tomato plants to wilt a little in the hottest part of the day. They will normally perk up overnight. If they are wilted first thing in the morning, water them quickly. And always water early in the day. Tomato plants should not be wet overnight and watering during the hottest part of the afternoon results in evaporation, a real waste of our natural resources.

If you make it a practice to check your garden regularly, you will get a quick jump on eliminating tomato horned worms or discovering a fungal infection.

Blight, the most common fungal disease for tomatoes, is actually preventable with the application of Serenade Garden Disease Control. Approved and recommended by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), it safely controls many fungal, foliar and bacterial diseases on your tomatoes and in your garden with absolutely no harm being done to you, your family, your pets or livestock, or the environment.

Serenade Blight ControlYou might benefit from reading The 10 Most Common Tomato Plant Problems, in our blog section. This article covers the 10 most common problems, how to recognize them, how to treat them and most importantly, how to prevent them.

Once your tomatoes start to turn from green to yellow, some fruits will ripen very quickly, especially the cherry or grape varieties. If air temperatures are over 100, you may want to pick the fruit before it is completely ripe. Sometimes extreme heat can cause cracking, and although that doesn't mean the fruit is no good, it will look much better if you let it ripen on the kitchen counter. Don't refrigerate tomatoes, if you want them to retain that just-picked sweetness!