News

Survive in Style with Grabill Farms Canned Meat

May 12th, 2011

Have you ever thought about what you would eat if weather conditions or some other emergency kept you housebound for an extended period? Canned meat is a great thing to stock up on as a protein source to balance out all the easily stored carbs like rice and pasta.

But canned meat isn't just for survivalists: it's for anyone who runs out of Canned Porkbeef, chicken, turkey or pork and doesn't have time to rush to the supermarket. It's for busy people who wants the convenience of a heat and serve meal. It's for the chef who wants to prepare a gourmet dish without all the prep work. It's for people who want to solve the problem of their overstuffed fridge or freezer, and save energy in the bargain. It's also for campers, boaters, RV owners, and anyone who will be away from the usual sources of sustenance for a while.

Someone once said that buying canned meat is like buying batteries. Sure, the electricity out of the wall is cheaper, but batteries serve so many useful functions that most of us find the cost of canned electricity totally worth it.  The thing about canned meat, though, is that it actually might wind up being cheaper than fresh meat when you factor in the cost of gas, fuel, and electricity.  And, amazingly, canned meat lasts even longer than batteries!

The Grabill Farms canned meat that we sell is guaranteed for five years, but has been known to last at least twice that and still retain its original flavor and texture. So let us tell you a little about this fine company and their products.

Grabill Farms: Canned Meat Perfection

Grabill Farms is a family owned operation that prepares, cooks, and cans their meat in a USDA-inspected facility in Grabill, Indiana. The beef is chuck tender cut; the pork is cushion cut; the chicken is half dark meat and half-light; the turkey is entirely from the breast and thigh.Canned Beef

The Grabill Farms products that we carry are chicken chunks, beef chunks, turkey chunks, pork chunks, and ground beef. All are boneless, low-salt, low-fat, free of preservatives, and cooked in their own natural juices. They come in either 13 oz. or 27 oz. sizes. If you buy them by the 12-pack, you'll get an additional savings of up to 17%.

Add Dehydrated Veggies and You're Ready for Anything

While you're stocking up on canned meat, you might want to pick up some dehydrated veggies as well. Then if you're housebound for any length of time, you'll be all ready to cook up some tasty meals. These dehydrated veggies come in bags of 3 lbs. or larger and, like the canned meat that we sell, they have a very long shelf life.  They all rehydrate after two minutes in boiling water.

We offer veggie flakes that contain potato carrot, red and green bell pepper, and celery. They rehydrate after two minutes in boiling water. We also have dehydrated soup greens that contain carrots, onion, red bell pepper, celery, green bell pepper, tomato, and spinach.

Dried VegetablesIf you just want a particular vegetable, we offer individual bags of dehydrated carrots, double diced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes halves, sweet green bell peppers, sweet red bell peppers, and a red and green sweet bell pepper combo. Last but not least, we have dehydrated spicy jalapeno pepper chips on sale this month for 30% off. And, to repeat, if you order a case of canned meat, we'll give you an additional savings of up to 17% off our already very competitive prices.

We hope this newsletter has convinced you that quality canned meat is a good way of keeping you and your family well-nourished whatever the weather. And perhaps its opened the eyes of some of you that canned meat isn't necessarily the same as luncheon meat.

Just as there used to be only Maxwell House and Folgers on the shelf in the grocery, and Budweiser and Miller used to chill out together in the refrigerated beer section, the canned meat industry used to consist mostly of SPAMnot the junk in your email in-box, but tinned pork formed into a solid block. Now even SPAM comes in nine varieties and quality canned meats such as those made by Grabill Farms have become available. It's a great time to start using and enjoying canned meat!

Cooking with Canned Meat

To introduce you to the pleasures and convenience of quality canned meat, here are a couple of recipes that come to us courtesy of allrecipes.com. Enjoy!

Boyfriend Bait Beef Strogonoff

Yield: 3 servings

Prep time: 15 min. Cook time: 15 min.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, well-trimmed, meat cut bite-sized pieces (about 1-inch square)
  2. 4 tablespoons butter
  3. 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  4. 2 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
  5. 2 cups canned beef broth
  6. 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  7. 1 cup sour cream
  8. 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Directions

  1. Over medium high heat, gently cook beef tenderloin in 2 tablespoons of butter for about 2 minutes, until just seared on all sides. You will still be able to see red. Remove from pan and set aside in a rimmed dish or baking sheet so that you collect the juices.
  2. Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook the shallots and mushrooms in remaining butter until soft and wilted, about 5 minutes. Mix cornstarch into cold beef broth, whisk to blend. Pour into pan, and stir together with shallots and mushrooms until thickened, two or three minutes.
  3. Add sour cream and mustard, stir to blend. Add beef and juices from dish; stir over medium just till warmed through. Salt to taste. Serve over noodles or rice.

Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 747 | Total Fat: 59.2g | Cholesterol: 190mg

Chicken Pasta Salad II

Prep Time: 30 Min Cook Time: 10 Min

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 pound rotini/corkscrew pasta
  2. 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  3. 1/2 cup sliced green olives
  4. 1 stalk celery, chopped
  5. 1/4 cup minced onion
  6. 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  7. 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn kernels
  8. 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  9. 3/4 cup Italian-style salad dressing
  10. 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  11. 1 cup canned chicken meat – drained and flaked
  12. Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse with cool water. Pour into a large dish.
  2. Combine mushrooms, olives, celery, onion, cheese, corn and green bell pepper with pasta; mix well.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing and mayonnaise; pour dressing over salad and toss again to coat.
  4. Gently mix in flaked chicken; refrigerate for a few hours or serve.

Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 458 | Total Fat: 33.3g | Cholesterol: 48mg

The Scent of Lilacs

May 11th, 2011

lilac plantThe syringa plant, better known as a lilac bush, has been a favorite shrub of homeowners and landscapers for eons, and for good reasons.  In the spring, it becomes densely covered with colorful blooms, and they smell like a slice of heaven.  Not many flowers are as heavily perfumed as lilacs.

The proper name is syringa (pronounced si-RING-uh), and there are varieties to suit nearly every taste and growing condition.  There are numerous colors of blooming lilacs available, from white to pale yellow to lavender to the deep, intense hot pink hues of the Redwine Syringa Plant. The Redwine also has a slightly spicier scent than most other lilacs.

The Bloomerang® Purple Syringa Plant is unique in that it blooms like most varieties in the early spring, but then it re-blooms after the summer begins to turn to fall. It has a mounding habit, full green foliage throughout the warm months, and two seasons of luscious deep lavender flowers in abundance. 

In a full sun to mostly sunny location, the Bloomerang® Purple Syringa will grow 4 to 6 feet tall.  It has normal watering requirements, and will thrive in most soil types.  It's a very low-maintenance shrub that will even grow well in a container.

Syringa plants create an intoxicating fragrance outdoors, and the cut flowers will scent a whole home interior when used in arrangements for centerpieces or placed in bud vases.  Syringas produce plenty of blooms, providing you all the cut flowers you need without diminishing the beauty of the shrub. Just make sure to clip them with high quality bypass pruners, so you don't crush the stems and prohibit healthy future growth.  Also, dead-heading the spent blooms will increase flowering production the following spring.

Lilacs can become leggy, so it's a good idea to prune branches back at the end of the growing season.  They'll come back bushier and with a more balanced shape and healthier foliage and flowers.

If you like plants that have a graceful weeping habit, the Lilac Sunday Syringa Plant is a lovely shrub.  It has an unusual stem design, with flowers produced both on the stem tips, called panacles, and also laterally growing buds farther down the stems.  The weight of all the flower clusters causes the branches to grow downward instead of upward, giving this unique lilac a very flowing shape.

When planning landscaping, it's a good idea to consider the best seasons of your plants, and try to achieve year-round beauty in your spaces, no matter what your growing climate. Lilacs are a welcome sign of spring in most regions, and they continue to provide full foliage throughout the summer, for hedge rows or single focal-point planting.

Canned Meat? A Time-Saving Miracle!

May 9th, 2011

I can hear some of you thinking, Really? or Right!, but don't knock it until you've tried it!

This is not your Grandma's canned meat, unless she happens to stock Grabill Country Meats. The meat is processed at a USDA inspected processing plant. Each can is hand-packed and then is fully cooked, right in the can, with all of the meat's natural juices. You don't even have to worry about cooking it properly to avoid things like botulism or E-coli. Grabill Country has taken the worry and the time out of preparing wholesome, nutritious and quick meals for your family.

Stressed and time-starved Moms are just now discovering what hunters and sailors have known all alongcanned meat is really convenient, has exceptional flavor and lasts almost forever on the shelf! Though Grabill Country puts a 5-year expiration date on their products, the truth is that they can last twice that long, losing none of their flavor and being perfectly safe to consume.

Keep some on hand for when you've just run out of time and don't want to go out for fast food or stock up for those unexpected weather events, such as flooding or blizzards, that may keep you confined to your home for an extended period. Watch our short video for even more ideas on how to use this fantastic product and then stock up on Grabill Country Meats canned meat products.

Ride The Wave – Grow Like a Pro

May 5th, 2011

easy wave, easy wave petunia, petunia plant, pink petuniaThe Wave family of petunias has made growing and displaying luscious petunias easier than ever before. Easy Wave™, purposely bred to be easy to care for, have bold colors, grow fast, bloom profusely and are more heat and cold tolerant than your ‘garden variety' petunias. Most Easy Wave petunias will be from 8 to 12-inches tall and can spread up to 3-feet, which makes them perfect for hanging or tall standing containers, spilling over retaining walls or out of window boxes and for flowering ground cover applications to brighten up a fading perennial garden.

When it comes to care, they were aptly named. When you receive your potted Easy Wave Petunia plants, we recommend that you set them in a shady place, maybe under a tree, to recover from the rigors of shipping for two or three days and to become acclimated to your climate before transplanting. We have also found that allowing them to soak in the pot, set in a shallow container with Neptune's Harvest for a few hours, gives the already vigorous root system a bit of a boost, ensuring they will take hold in your flower beds quickly.

Easy Wave Petunias are sun-lovers, so sun is a MUST! The bed where you plant these beauties should have at least 5 to 6 hours of sunlight daily. If you work and are unable to watch the bedding area to make sure it gets that amount of sun daily, you might want to purchase an inexpensive 4-Way Analyzer or Sun Calculator to ensure that your Easy Waves will thrive and bloom their best throughout the season. And of course, you can use these handy tools over and over for every part of your landscape or vegetable gardens.

When transplanting Easy Wave Petunias to flower beds, you should maintain the same depth as the original pot. In a prepared bed, dig a hole almost twice the size of the pot and about an inch deeper, then add loose soil back to the bottom of the hole to bring the pot back to the proper depth, in line with the top of the soil. If you have soaked your petunias, they should come out of their shipping pot easily by just squeezing gently to loosen the soil from the pot. Then, simply tip the pot upside down, supporting the plant and the soil in your palm and between your fingers. Set the shipping pot aside and gently set the plant in the hole, double-checking to make sure the original soil is level with the bedding soil. Replace the soil around the plant, gently tamping as you go, and then water well.

We recommend that you space Easy Wave about 12 to 24-inches apart. This will ensure enough room for luscious growth and will fill in nicely for uninterrupted color. You are welcome to mulch to retain moisture, but once Easy Wave takes hold and starts growing, they quickly create a living mat that shades the soil, retains moisture and keeps the weed population at bay.

In containers, we recommend 3 plants for every 10 to 12-inches of container width. Keep in mind that containers will dry out more quickly than your garden beds and that petunias of any kind don't like to go to bed with wet leaves. Water in the morning and don't allow them to dry out completely between watering; you'll be rewarded with healthy growth, prolific blooms and gorgeous color.

Easy Wave also does not require pinching or deadheading. The faded blooms will just dry up and drop off on their own, providing valuable nutrients back to the plants from which they came; and more blooms will continue to appear all season long. As for pinching, that is not necessary either, unless they are not getting the recommended amount of daily sunlight and become leggy.

Finally, Petunias are heavy feeders and though they will perform well with little care, they will reach their full potential with regular feeding. The Easy Wave breeders recommend using a liquid fertilizer very 10 to 14 days, or you can use a combination of liquid and a slow-release fertilizer over longer intervals. Jobe's Drip Feeder for Flowering Plants is an easy solution for your containers, or use Jobe's Organic Container & Bedding Plants Fertilizer Spikes in your flower beds!

We hope this has answered all of your questions about how to plant and care for your Easy Wave Petunias, but in the event that you have further questions, you are invited to contact our Master Gardener, Karen.

Happy Gardening!

Wonderful Plants!

May 4th, 2011

Just a note to let you know that I was really impressed with the wonderful and healthy plants and herbs that I had orderd from your website. I shall continue to use this site for my all my plants. The packing was also quite well done!

Many thanks, Mary

No Blooming Magnolia Trees

April 29th, 2011

Hi, I have a Magnolia that is not blooming this year (I have noticed that other Magnolias have bloomed).  I’ve had the tree for 7 years, and this is the first year it didn’t bloom.  Do you know what my problem might be?  Thank you, Cathryn J.

Answer: Cathryn,

I do not know any specifics about the tree’s location, so it’s hard to guess the cause, but generally lack of blooms is environmental or pruning related. Did you perhaps do any pruning last fall? Any blooming shrub or tree should be pruned immediately after it has finished blooming, as it will start setting buds very shortly after it has finished blooming. These buds lie dormant over the winter, then early in the spring as the sap starts to flow within the tree, they begin their development again. If you have an early warming spell causing a slight acceleration of development, and then have a cold spell, this could cause harm to the developing buds and they will fail to flourish. It will not harm the developing leaf buds which are later in development. If you were affected by the droughts last summer, then the tree could be slightly under-nourished and just failed to develop flower buds, reserving its strength for the development of leaves.

If there are others around you that are blooming or you haven’t pruned it, then you might consider having it fertilized by an arborist who can provide the right balance of nutrients to aid in its development of bloom buds this summer. An arborist can also check to make sure it doesn’t have any insect infestation or disease.

Best of luck with your Magnolia. They are beautiful when they bloom.

Karen

Brussels Sprouts-Good Eatin If Grown Right

April 29th, 2011

Brussels Sprouts have long gotten a bad rap, being shunned and delegated to the garbage disposal or the compost heap by all but a few of the die-hard sprouts connoisseurs. It can be true that Brussels sprouts that are not grown properly can be loose-leaved, called blown by those in-the-know, and as a result have little to no flavor or can be bitter and nowhere close to the flavor of their larger cousins, the cabbage. But, if grown properly, these mini-cabbage heads are firm, chock full of flavor and may even become a family staple, if not a favorite.

The first thing that you need to know is that Brussels Sprouts plants grow best when you time their planting for a cool-weather or fall harvest. In fact, in milder climates and where heavy snow cover can act as an insulator, Brussels sprouts can be harvested throughout the winter months. A check with your closest university extension office should be able to tell you if that's possible in your area. Warm days and frosty nights only enhance the flavor of home-grown Brussels sprouts, which bear absolutely no resemblance to what you'll find in your grocery store produce aisle. It is really quite amazing to bundle up and go out to the garden in the dead of winter and uncover these green gems, so consider yourself very lucky if you are able to make that happen!

A good rule to growing the best Brussels sprouts is to count back three months from mid to late fall, or the first heavy frost, for planting. Brussels sprouts are also much easier to grow from plants than from seeds; if starting from seed; start them indoors, allowing 10 to 14 days for germination and then once the first two leaves (seed leaves) appear, you'll want to transplant them to a deeper seed bed or containers, replanting them to a depth of just below the seed leaves and watering in well. Wait until they are strong and tall enough (4 to 6-inches or 4 to 6 weeks) to be transplanted again into their permanent bed. It is important to note that transplanting Brussels sprouts is always necessary for optimal growth to occur. Transplanting encourages the growth of a much stronger root system that funnels essential nutrients to the plant and supports the weight of the plant. (If purchasing our plants, we have already done this part, which eliminates that necessity for you!)

The second most important aspect to growing firm, tasty Brussels sprouts is the texture and quality of your soil. They prefer a heavy, firm soil and one that is fertile, so mixing in generous amounts of manure or compost is highly recommended. Expert sprout growers have a mantra they live byfeed the soil, not the plantwhich they consider essential to growing yummier Brussels sprouts.  Also, once you've dug in your compost or manure, allow time for it to settle in before planting. Remember that sprouts like firm soil, so watering the bed and allowing it to settle for a few days is preferable to planting right away. And if you live in an area with hot summers and early falls, your Brussels sprouts will grow better with afternoon shade. If your garden area is in full sun, plant your sprouts where they are protected by the shade of taller plants or trees in the afternoon or where you can put up a shade cloth to protect the tender plants.

Brussels sprouts also prefer a pH of 6.5 to 7.0, which is considered neutral. A simple, inexpensive soil tester can quickly give you the results and we have both Espoma's Organic Traditions Garden Lime (to raise the pH) or High Yield Aluminum Sulfate (to decrease your soil pH). Organic mulch can also raise the pH and sulfur will do just the opposite, but both of those will take more time than the lime or aluminum sulfate, which adjust the pH rather swiftly.

Once you have properly prepared the bed, you can either rake very lightly and sow your seeds about 1/2-inch deep and 6-inches apart or transplant your ready seedlings about 24-inches apart. Remember to firm the soil around the plants and if you hoe to keep down the weeds, don't hoe too deeply. In fact, if you regularly mound a bit of the soil up around the stalk and firm it down, you will ensure the best support as the Brussels sprouts grow taller.

Summer heat can stunt Brussels sprouts growth and cause bitter flavor, so to keep the plants growing vigorously during the heat of the summer, give them an application of Vegetable Fertilizer when transplanting, then a feeding of nitrogen-rich fertilizer when they are about 12-inches tall and water regularly. Supplemental feedings with Neptune's Harvest or Jungle Flora soil conditioners every 6 weeks is an easy way to further enhance production and to ensure a flavorful harvest. If you are faced with a hotter than usual late summer or fall, you can ‘top' your Brussels sprouts plants, which simply means removing the growing point, as a way to force the sprouts to mature faster, enabling you to harvest while the heads are still firm and sweet.

There you have it! It sounds like a lot of work, and the first year or two may be a time for learning what works best in your area, but as you become more experienced, it won't seem like work at alland the reward of firm, moist, tasty Brussels sprouts is well-worth the little bit of additional effort that you put into it. Trust me!

Cooking brussel sprouts on the stoveWhen preparing, overcooking is the death of Brussels sprouts. You don't want to boil away their flavor or turn them to mush, and they are best hot, right out of the oven or pan. There are many exceptional recipes that involve roasting or baking them, sometimes with a bit of olive oil and fine-grained sea salt, or adding your favorite grated cheese; one recipe even uses toasted hazelnuts for crunch! Surf the web to look for an inspiring recipe. They are all simple, with few ingredients and have converted some of the most adamant Brussels sprouts haters.

To learn how to harvest what you've grown, refer to our blog on How to Harvest Brussels Sprouts.

Happy Gardening!

Sweet! Easy to Grow, Amazing to Eat

April 26th, 2011

sweet potato plants, sweet potato, sweet potato plantIt's hard to find a more rewarding plant than the sweet potato. Easy to grow with a result that is amazing to eat, the sweet potato plant, a root vegetable, has long been a diet staple all over the world.  It was cultivated in the tropics of South America 5,000 years ago.

The warm-weather vegetable is native to Central and South America, but is eaten daily in Africa, Polynesia, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, India, North America, New Zealand, Vietnam, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and in some European countries.

In the United States, it's most commonly grown in the South. And it's in the U.S. where there is the issue and confusion between the sweet potato and the yam. When Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, and landed in what was to become America, Europeans had their first taste of the sweet potato. After decades of variations on the name, sweet potato appeared in the 1775 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Yam Controversy

It's also here where the sweet potato became commonly referred to, interchangeably, as a yam. In reality, the yam and the sweet potato are completely unrelated. The sweet potato (Convolvuaceae) is from the Morning Glory family, and the yam (Dioscoreaceae) is a tuber or bulb of a tropical vine. The sweet potato is primarily grown in tropical North America and the yam is grown in Central and South America, West Indies, Africa and Asia. The sweet potato is moist and tastes sweet. The Yam is drier and has a starchy taste.

Yummy Benefits

Sweet potatoes are not only extremely tasty, but they are an excellent source of nutrition. Fat-free, they are high in fiber (there are four grams in a medium-sized sweet potato). Sweet potatoes are also low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat. They're a terrific source of Vitamin B6, Manganese, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. A small (100grams) sweet potato has 2 grams of protein, .5 gram of fat, 233 grams of carbs, 20 mg. of calcium, .9 gram of Iron, 8100 I.U. of Vitamin A, .7 mg. of niacin, and 22 mg. of asorbic acid.

How to Plant

  1. You can begin to plant when foliage turns yellow and the ground has warmed.
  2. Choose a slightly acidic soil, one with a pH between 5.0 and 6.5
  3. Sweet potatoes are grown from small rooted pieces of tuber, which are called slips. Make your own: slice a sweet potato in half (lengthwise) and lay it on top of dampened potting soil. Top slices with a few inches of soil; keep moist and warm. Small roots will develop in a few days and will be ready to remove and plant when the foliage reaches 4 to 8 inches tall (this will take about six weeks). To avoid disease-free roots, buy slips from a reputable supplier.
  4. If you live where there's a short winter, you can start new slips from 6″ vine tips, and cut before frost. The cuttings are placed in water. When they develop roots, plant them in soil in a sunny location until it's time to plant outdoors.
  5. In regard to spacing, remember that the vines spread and need plenty of room. Space the plants about 12″ to 18″ inches apart and 3″ to 4″ between each row. Keep the area around the planting clear and make sure weeds don't start to grow.
  6. Foliage is usually the result from feeding sweet potatoes. So experts suggest you simply plant in soil high in organic matter.
  7. Water regularly, but during the final three to four weeks before harvest, don't water. This will prevent the mature tuber from splitting.
  8. Pest-y problems: Avoid disease by using certified disease-free sweet potato plants, and by choosing disease-resistant varieties. Experts suggest you change the location of your sweet potato garden annually because it's a way to avoid wireworms and root-knot nematodes. Mice may be an issue, too.

Variety of Colors

Sweet potatoes usually have orange flesh, but sweet potatoes can be white, yellow and even purple on the outside.

Suggested Sweet Potato Plant Varieties:

* Beauregard – Pale reddish skin with dark orange flesh. Popular commercial variety. (100 days)

* Bush Porto Rico – Copper skin with orange flesh. Compact vines with big yields. Good for smaller gardens. (110 days)

* Centennial – Good disease resistance and relatively quick maturing. (90-100 days)

* Georgia Jet – Reddish skin with orange flesh. Good choice for shorter season. (90 days)

* Patriot – Copper skin/Orange flesh. Great pest resistance. Good choice for organic gardens. (100 days)

* Ruddy – Better pest resistance (insects, diseases and nematodes) than Beauregard. (100 days)

Very Vinca Pretty Periwinkle

April 25th, 2011

Trailing Vinca Vine plant growing in a window boxVinca, also known as Periwinkle (a much cuter and more illustrative name), is a beautiful, fast-growing, prolific plant from the family Apocynaceae, or Dogbane. It is a drought-tolerant annual and is recommended for hot, dry planting areas in need of some gorgeous bursts of color. Vinca vine has six different species. The Vinca's flowers are usually blue or blue-ish purple and are solitary, and funnel-shaped. They are found in 43 of the 50 United States. They're native to North America (that's the U.S. and Canada), as well as Europe, China and India.

Their beauty is enhanced by shiny, glossy green leaves. The flowers bloom from seeds from late spring to early summer in moist, well-drained soil, but vinca tolerates soil that may even be poor and dry. Vinca fares well in part shade to shade, and will tolerate a Northern sun if they're given sufficient moisture.  Space plants 12 to 15 apart, water well when planting, and after, only water when there are extended droughts. They'll grow one to two feet tall. A general fertilizer needs only to be added once or twice a season. Mulch around dry areas to keep soil moist.

Vinca vine is popular with landscapers who use it in their designs for everything from cascading from containers, in  woodland gardens, on slopes for erosion control and as vigorous aggressive ground cover.  Vinca should not be chosen as a plant in a garden or yard where containment of it is preferred, because it will spread quickly.

Vinca major and Vinca minor, two of the six Vinca species, are extensively cultivated as a flowering evergreen ornamental plant, but they are also sometimes considered invasive species and weeds. Because the plants are low-growing and spread quickly, they are often used as a ground cover in garden landscapes and container gardens, or, specifically, fire-retardant ground cover. They are available with different plant, leaf, and flower colors, sizes, and habits.

Maculata Vinca VineThe Vinca major species come in deep blue (with green-edged, gold/white centered leaves) and blue (with large furry leaves). There are more variations with the Vinca minor, which are available in white, double white, white with creamy variegated leaves, blue (with white variegated leaves), reddish-purple, blue (with deep-yellow, variegated leaves), light blue, light blue (with less-diseased leaves), white/pink blush, double blue, light blue (with golden margin leaves), lavender blue (with chartreuse leaves), light blue (with green edges, gold/white centers), pure white, sky blue (with glossy, wide white-margin leaves), pink, dark blue (with white-margin leaves) and pale blue (with yellow variegated leaves).

Vinca's other four species are Vinca herbacea, Vinca difformis, Vinca erecta, and Vinca pubescens. Other pseudonyms the Vinca goes by are Periwinkle, Madagascar Periwinkle and Myrtle.

Extracts from Vinca are used medicinally. Of the 86 alkaloids extracted, there are some that are used as chemotherapy to treat leukemia, lymphoma and several other types of cancer. It's also used for lowering blood pressure, sugar levels for diabetics, and treatment for coughs, colds and sore throats, as well as treating eye and lung infections.

Vincas are hardy and not often plagued by bugs or illness. In humid or wet weather, fungus can occasionally occur. If either bugs or ailments/disease attack, treat immediately with repellants or fungicide.

What Are The Best Combinations For A Small Garden?

April 24th, 2011

I’m starting with a small organic garden.  What are the best vegetable combinations for a small garden?  I have read that there are certain combinations of vegetables that will help keep insects away. Jennifer G

Answer: Jennifer, My first suggestion to you is to do some research, especially on the types of vegetables you want to grow. Some plants actually have companion insects that are vital to their production, so for each variety that you decide you would like to grow, research and find out what are the good bugs and what are the bad ones. Many novice gardeners often are confused by this and think all insects are bad. As you mentioned, companion planting can also be good but there are also some plants that should not be planted near each other. One of the best resources for this is a book we carry called Carrots Love Tomatoes, which discusses which fruits, vegetables and ornamentals are beneficial or detrimental to each other. Extension offices will usually have good print publications about Good Bugs/Bad Bugs.

Good luck with you new garden,

Karen