News

How Our Gardensand YoursGrow!

April 23rd, 2011

starter plants, garden plants, vegetable plants, vegetable plantWhen it comes to vegetable plants, we feel confident when we say that we have the healthiest vegetable plants and one of the largest selections of any of our competitors; which has been our goal from the very beginning. We know that you have a choice on where you buy your vegetable plants and we want to give you a really good reason to buy them from us, and then continue to do so!

For example, we know that having a healthy root system is critical to their successful growth.  When vegetable plants are shipped and then transplanted into your garden, a healthy root system will help them to survive the rigors of shipment and will enable them to take firm hold in your garden. This is why we grow our seedlings in larger pots and ship them to you in a manner that guarantees their survival. We have also suggested that you put your newly arrived seedlings in the shade, maybe under a tree, for a couple of days and that you sit the pots in a shallow container to soak in Neptune's Harvest Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer before transplanting. Young plants need a little time to recover in order to be transplanted without further trauma, and we have found that by following these suggestions, our customers experience almost 100% success and go on to have highly productive gardens.

We also know that you expect the best for your family, just as we do for our own. This is why we start with only the best seeds and then grow our vegetables in our own greenhouses, under our personal supervision. Another blog article, We've Taken the Safe Seed Pledge, also addresses the danger of genetically modified seeds, which further emphasizes our commitment to offering the healthiest and safest plants.  Also, in case you are unaware, many of the seedlings and seeds that you buy from varied retailers are imported from foreign countries. As we've learned with Chinese-made toys, you cannot always be sure that what you see is what you get. The simple truth is that foreign countries just don't have the same strict requirements for gardening that the United States does. It's very easy to import unwanted pests and diseases. We want you to be able to order with confidence, knowing that we do everything in our power to ensure a quality product, their safe arrival and your gardening success. We guarantee safe arrival of all of our live plants as long as you select a shipping option that allows arrival on your doorstep within three days, which is our standard shipping rate to more than half of the U.S.

In addition, we offer, in a one-stop shopping experience, the ability to purchase everything you could possibly want to help you to become more self-sufficient, more knowledgeable and to make your outdoor space a welcome retreat. We employ a Master Gardener to answer all of your questions; we offer, whenever possible, products that are made right here in the United States, always ensuring that they meet our very high standards for quality and value. We seek your feedback and your personal experiences in order to better serve you. Beyond that, we also extend our Guaranteed Satisfaction policy, which is extended to every single item that we carry, even our live plants.

And finally, we take the guesswork out of planting. Just as retailers start stocking Christmas items before Thanksgiving, garden centers are anxious to start making a profit, even though it may be too early to safely plant in your area. This is becoming even more common as more and more novice gardeners take to their yards as a means to stretch the family's food dollar. Unfortunately, the failures, as a result of planting too early, have left a bad taste in some people's mouths (pun intended) when it comes to growing their own produce.

We ship according to a Shipping Schedule that has been carefully coordinated for your particular geographic area. This gives you plenty of time to properly prepare your garden plot and also lets you know exactly when your plants should arrive. But, if you have a greenhouse or would like to get your plants earlier, you only have to let us know, and we will comply. We strive to offer the best advice, be you an experienced gardener or someone just learning. We know that our success as a garden retailer is directly linked to your success as a gardener.

We appreciate your stopping by and invite you to get to know us better.

Happy Gardening!

Million Bells Calibrachoa-Grow a Million Smiles!

April 22nd, 2011

million bells, million bells calibrachoa, million bells calibrachoa plant, purple calibrachoaThe Million Bells® flower is a registered trademarked series, but as a whole, the calibrachoa is also commonly called million bells and has been likened to a tiny petunia on steroids. In fact, one is often mistaken for the other, but once you grow the prolific calibrachoa, all confusion will end. They literally burst upon the scene, making a huge, colorful and happy splash regardless of where you plant them, as long as they have the benefit of plenty of food and water.

Perfectly at home in containers, along borders or in beds, Million Bells spill out and over to create magnificent displays of blooming color. In warmer climates they have even been known to blossom right through the winter months!

Calibrachoa absolutely thrives in acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6. At this pH level you will see the unqualified best performance in terms of growth, the number of blooms and the rich color of both the blossoms and the foliage. If you are unsure of your soil pH, an inexpensive soil tester can solve that problem and simple soil amendments can either raise or lower the pH of your soil. If your pH needs to be increased, you can try a layer of organic mulch or apply a limestone based soil amendment, such as Espoma's Organic Traditions Garden Lime. If you need to lower the pH of your soil, you can use sulfur, which takes a little time to convert, or High Yield Aluminum Sulfate, which will result in a pH decrease as soon as it dissolves into the soil.

Million Bells Calibrachoa plants love the heat and perform very well in fully sunny beds, but will tolerate partially shaded areas with at least 4 hours of full sun daily. They also don't like wet feet, though they need to be kept moist, so they should be planted where soil drains well or in a container that has adequate drainage. You can mulch to retain moisture or utilize a soil conditioner, such as Jungle Flora, which will not only enrich your soil, making it more water-retentive, but will also perform double duty as a source of natural nutrients.

When transplanting your Million Bells flowers, the top of the soil the plant is shipped in should be level with the top of the soil in your bed or container. Dig a hole that is about twice as wide and an inch deeper than the original pot, then put enough loosened soil in the bottom of the hole to bring the pot level with the soil it is being planted into. Then, simply squeeze gently to loosen the soil and roots from the shipping pot, turning it upside down in your palm and allowing the plant to dangle between your fingers. Set the pot aside and gently place the calibrachoa plant, in its original soil, into the hole you've prepared. Double-check that the depth is right and then push the soil back into the hole, gently tamping it down as you go. Water really well.

Yellow Million Bells CalibrachoaWhen planting in a bed, you should plant them between 12 and 15-inches apart if a mounding variety and 18 to 20-inches if they are a trailing variety. This will allow for plenty of room for growth while enabling the plants to fill the bed completely. When planting in a container you will want 3 or 4 plants for every 10 to 12-inches of container width. This will result in a well-rounded, full container that will overflow with sumptuous blossoms and foliage. In a bed, some gardeners prefer to use mulch in order to retain moisture, but as the Million Bells series has a well-defined growth habit, they will fill in, creating shade beneath their foliage that retains moisture and will inhibit weed growth. Hanging or standing containers will show Million Bells off to perfection. Pinching early on will encourage fuller growth and more blossoms, but deadheading is not needed. Million Bells is self-cleaning and will bloom non-stop from April through Octoberand sometimes longer!

As is the case with any rapidly growing, prolifically blooming plant, they will look their best when properly fed. Regular feeding with a liquid fertilizer or a slow-release fertilizer over longer intervals will ensure healthy blossoms and vibrant color all season. Use Jobe's Container & Bedding Plants Fertilizer Spikes in your flower bed or baskets!

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

Happy Gardening!

Easy-Peasy Tomato Plants

April 21st, 2011

Tomato plants are among the easiest and most common vegetable plants you can grow. The many varieties of tomato plants can make it hard to choose, but most gardeners have their favorites and then usually add one or two new varieties, just to try them out. Our tomato plants produce fruits in all shapes, sizes and colors, so add interest and new flavors for your summertime palate. You just cannot have too many tomatoes (wellalmost). Friends and neighbors will gladly accept your excess, or you can preserve them in the form of sauces and salsas or chopped and frozen to add fantastic fresh flavor to wintertime dishes.

Tomato plants stand up remarkably well to being transplanted and are adaptable to both container and in-ground applications, provided there are at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. If you are a novice gardener, you may want to watch this video for some valuable tips on transplanting and feeding your tomato plants in order to give them a healthy start. Then, in an amazingly short amount of time, you'll be enjoying fresh-picked fruit from your own tomato plants!

The GHS Guide to Ant Control

April 20th, 2011

Ant ControlAnts are amazing creatures. If you could pile all the insects in the world onto a scale and weigh them, ants would make up two thirds of the load! Their reputation as hard workers is entirely deserved: they are the principal turners of the soil, even more so than earthworms. They are also the principal predators of other insects, as well as the main scavengers of dead insects. In the words of world-renowned scientist E.O. Wilson, Ants are one of the main balancers of the world's ecosystems. If there were no ants, you would really see bugs.

Yet we all know that ants can be a nuisance. More than a nuisance: they can be a force of destruction, at least from our human point of view. We hope you never have to face anything like the man vs. ants drama recounted in the short story Leiningen versus the Ants. Yet, even a small ant infestation can quickly become serious. Once ants have established a colony on your property, they can be very hard to get rid of without the use of toxic chemicals. Therefore, if you start to notice an ant invasion, it's important to act quickly.

Ant Bait: The Best Method of Ant Control

When you think ant control, think ant bait. Dusting some ant-killing powder around or spraying some liquid will get rid of some ants but won't kill enough of them to prevent the colony from regenerating. It might even cause the colony to split so that you then have two colonies to contend with.

The way ant baiting works is you present the ants with poisoned food that they take home and share with all their comrades as well as their queen(s). You use a slow-acting poison mixed with something yummy that the whole colony will want to feast on repeatedly. In a matter of a week or two you have gotten rid of every single ant.

You can put together ant bait at home, but it's a bit tricky because you need the right proportion of yum to poison. Too much poison and the ants that eat it will die before they carry it back to the colony. Too little simply won't be effective.

Ants also vary what they eat depending on what time of the year it is and even depending on what they have already eaten. Unlike humans, they somehow know enough to eat a balanced diet: if they've been feasting on peanut butter for a while and a piece of fruit becomes available, they will switch over to the fruitand vice-versa.

DEThe first step then, if you want to create your own ant bait, is to put out swatches of several different foods that could potentially be mixed with poison and see which ones the ants are most attracted to. Then take the preferred food and mix it with diatomaceous earth.

DE is lethal to ants but entirely non-toxic to humans and pets when used according to the directions. The exact ratio of bait to DE is hard to say because it depends on the food you're using. But a good start would be to mix it 50/50 with confectionary sugar and place a teaspoon or so in some key areas. Before you put out the bait, though, try to cut off the ants' other food sources. The idea is to get them to concentrate on the bait.

Boric acid or borax powder can be substituted for diatomaceous earth (start with one part boric acid or borax to ten parts sugar) but these substances are slightly toxic to people and pets.  And, of course, there are highly toxic pesticides that can be used against ants, but we like to avoid these, both because of the risk of accidental poisoning, and to protect the environment.

Terro to the Rescue

For those who prefer the convenience of ant bait that is premixed and ready to go, we carry an excellent Borax-based family of products made by Terro. Testimonials abound for Terro all over the Internet, such as this one by blogger J.D. Roth, which 166 people have commented on, nearly all of them confirming his praise of its effectiveness.

Terro bait stations come in both indoor and outdoor versions, and are exceptionally safe because pets and kids can't get into them. Terro liquid can be used as the ant poison that you mix with the bait of your choice, but it is being marketed for use on wood-loving carpenter ants: you spray it on woodwork, joists, baseboards, and into any cracks and crevices where they are congregating.

Extra-Tough Ants

This brings up the issue of some extra-tough ant species, namely carpenter ants, fire ants, and Argentine ants. To determine if you have any of these extra-tough species, view this page on the Orkin Exterminators website.

As stated above, carpenter ants can be controlled by spraying with a borax or boric acid–based solution, and also by dusting diatomaceous earth around. By the way, to learn more about the wonders of DE, check out our earlier newsletter on natural pest control.

Fire ants can sometimes be taken care of by using the ant bait tactics described above, but it might be necessary to flood their colony with an insecticide. The safest one we have found is Monterey Garden Insect Spray with Spinosad, which has been approved by the OMRI (Organic Materials Review Board). One or two applications should take care of your fire ant problem, especially if combined with some strategically placed baits as discussed earlier.

Argentine ants have particularly large colonies, sometimes numbering in the millions, with multiple queens. Nevertheless they will succumb to the ant baits described earlier made with DE, boric acid or borax. You will just have to use more of them, so if you're ordering Terro, stock up!

The Water Cure

Finally, we'd like to tell you about a simple way to kill ants that, according to the University of Florida Extension, works 20% to 60% of the time: you boil at least three gallons of water and pour it slowly into the mound. For best result, the UF Extension recommends this be done, on sunny, cool mornings when the majority of ants and brood are closer to the surface of the mound, and explains that a mound may need several treatments to reach and kill the queen and brood.

You can try this as a stand-alone method, but we believe it is best used as an additional measure to increase your chance of success. The thing you have to watch out for, of course, is the boiling water: please be careful! Note also, that boiling water will probably kill nearby plants if it makes contact with them.

Knowledge Is Power When It Comes to Getting Rid of Ants

There's more to say about killing ants with ant baits and by pouring insecticide and/or boiling water into their coloniesbut we'll stop here. To learn more about ant baits we recommend this fine article from the University of Florida Extension titled Ant Trails: A Key to Management with Baits. For controlling carpenter ants in your home, consult this pamphlet from Utah State University Cooperative Extension. For dealing with fire ants, the Alabama Cooperative Extension has a number of articles and streaming videos online. And for controlling Argentine ants, read this article, also from the Alabama Cooperative Extension. For more information about using diatomaceous earth to kill ants, check out this forum at the GardenWeb.

Ants are very persistent creaturesperhaps that's why they've been around since before the dinosaurs. But if you are also persistent and follow the advice given in this newsletter, we're confident your ant problem will become a thing of the past. Not that you might not have to go through the same routine again in a year or two, but we'll cross that mound when we come to it.

And the Best Supporting Plant Goes To….

April 19th, 2011

The first award to be issued at The Academy Awards (or Oscars to you insider-y types) is the Best Supporting Actor. There's a reason for that: without the skill of a supporting actor, you're not likely to get a good, if not excellent, performance out of the main attraction, the very best actor. In our universe, we deem it the very best plant, fruit or vegetable.

And what can greatly contribute to a beautifully grown plant, fruit or veg is a support system. If you think about it, families, organizations, businesses, clubs and groups all operate with a heavy emphasis on a support system.

Think of your live growing plants, fruits and veg in that way and you'll quickly realize the relevance, important and critical role a support system plays.

An initiate might not realize just how many plant supports are available. To name a view, (all available at Garden Harvest Supply) there are decorative trellises, garden trellis netting, spirals, wall of waters, plant covers, tomato cages, garden helpers, garden stakes and plant hoops.

Whether you are just starting to grow plants or whether you are a seasoned grower, you'll find why plant supports are considered one of a gardener's little essentials, a gardener's little helper if you will.

While a blooming plant is a beautiful accessory on its own, for your home or office, the addition of a pretty support can only enhance the natural beauty and oxygen you're bringing into your space.

Wren Scroll Pot Trellis

The beautiful scrolls which rise from the soil in the pot create an illusion of layers and movement, swirls and twirls, if you will. The scrolls are made of sturdy steel and covered in a plastic green coating. The green coloring both blends and enhances whatever plants you chose to grow in the container from which the trellis protrudes. The styling of the trellis can be considered both modern and vintage, depending on the setting in which you use it. Wren makes a high-quality product with an innovative design. They are very practical as well, as terrific starters or trainers for the vines.

Walls of Water

Just the name of this classic plant support conjures up images of nature and health. Seasoned gardeners look to Walls of Water to extend a grow season and to start one quickly. Here's how it works: the Walls of Water create a heated soil, so that planted seedlings will nearly instantaneously begin to grow! You can harvest sooner and produce more, because everyone knows that seeds placed in cold soil stunts and slows growth. You also want to avoid the shock of replanting. Gardeners can actually begin planting six to eight weeks before the final frost. While it's an ideal product for many types of plants, it's especially noteworthy and good for tomatoes, peas and peppers.

Garden Stakes

Well, sure, you can keep one of the wooden stakes GHS sells on hand, just in case of a possible vampire attack, or you can use it for its intended purpose – to help your plants grow to their full potential. In addition to the traditional wood stake, there are also steel stakes. GHS' steel stakes are vinyl-coated and have aesthetics in mind – they're green to blend and enhance the actual plant they support. The aforementioned wood stakes are made from selected North American hardwoods trees, noted for their beauty and strength.

Plant Hoops

These clever and popular plant supports, Plant Hoops, should last through several seasons. That said, it's smarter to opt for quality over bargain; look for strong, plastic-coated metal. In addition to providing support through several seasons, a plant hoop should be sturdy as it prevents your precious plants from breakage and, importantly, as it withstands the heaviest rain. Like a support garment, that works without showing, a good plant hoop will eventually blend into the plant and the garden.

GHS offers a variety of flower frame grid sizes, in diameter and height, to accommodate your beautiful  blooms. The other types of plant hoops are semi-circular supports, single hoops and wraparounds. Semi-circular supports are available in three sizes, and offer versatility.

Let's face it, we can all use a little support – and that includes the plants in your garden.

AhhhhThe Lantana FlowerInvasive No More!

April 18th, 2011

LantanaIf you haven’t heard the news, the Lantana flower has grown up a lot and is no longer the fairly invasive, considered by some to be “a weed”, albeit a beautiful one, that it used to be. The careful cultivation of this semi-tropical plant that is native to the more tropical regions of Africa and the Americas has resulted in hybrids which have evolved to include those that can be potted, grown as both perennials and annuals, some that are more shrub-like and some that are even being grown as flowering, brilliant ground cover. However, what most gardeners consider the best part is that these hybrids do not have viable seeds! They’ll still be eaten by the songbirds, who absolutely love the seeds left when the Lantana flowers have bloomed their last for the season, and they will still spread them all over creation, but the seeds will no longer germinate and take root; which means your neighbors across town won’t be cursing the gardener who dared to plant the Lantana flower. You can plant Lantana to your heart’s content and enjoy the butterflies, hummingbirds and honey bees that will make your yard their home, guilt and trouble-free!

Let me introduce you to some of the best of the newest series of Lantana flowers:

  • First are the Bandana® Lantanas. (Firstonly because the name is cool and because, alphabetically speaking, they are displayed first on our site.) Unlike the “wild” Lantana plants, the Bandana series has perfected the plant’s shape and done away with the characteristic lankiness. At the same time, the size of the blossoms is much larger than its native cousins, while some absolutely stunning quadruple color combinations and virtually unheard of saturated single colors have been introduced. Check out the Bandana Cherry Sunrise or the Bandana Trailing Gold Lantana plant for unusual un-Lantana-like coloration and behavior.
  • Next, we have the Carolina Lantana series. Much more heat and drought tolerant than the native species, the Carolina Lantana flower has become very popular in the more arid regions of the U.S. Once established, they perform admirably, while their tropical essence is enjoyed where rainfall can be somewhat of a rarity. Many of these varieties, like the Carolina Confetti and the Carolina Lavender Lantana flowers not only have a wonderful trailing habit that makes them perfect as a ground cover or trailing from planters or retaining walls, but has the most un-Lantana-like colors.
  • Finally, there is the Sonâ„¢ Lantana series. These are the most shrub-like of the hybrid Lantana flowers. Prolific bloomers, they can reach heights and breadths of three to five feet! They are also the most cold tolerant of the species, which has extended its perennial range. Many gardeners in the “border” zones have taken to heavily mulching and covering their Son Lantanas in the winter and have been successfully rewarded with that Lantana beauty coming to life again in the spring. The tallest of the Son series that we carry are Son Sonrise and Son Sonset.

Lantanas have always been salt tolerant, but now they are more heat and drought tolerant than ever, with some even being grown as perennials where they haven’t been grown before. Though no longer invasive, I guess the Lantana flowers still have a “stinky” reputation; the truth is that the foliage is what is considered a little aromatically challenged, not the flowers. (And the foliage only emits a strong citrusy smell when trampled or bruised). The flowers are quite fragrant, as are all tropicals.

We have to thank the talented breeders that have made it possible for all of us to enjoy the tropical Lantana in our own backyards. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Soaking Seed with Neptune’s Harvest

April 14th, 2011

Hi, I was wondering how long to soak seeds in Neptune’s Harvest fish/seaweed emulsion? Thanks.

Answer: How long to soak will depend on what type of seed.  Some seeds have a tougher outer shell and are definitely aided by soaking. Beet, corn and pea seeds are notorious for this. Smaller seeds like carrots or spinach can benefit from soaking, with expedited germination.

The length of time can be as few as 2 hours for smaller, softer seeds, or up to 12 hours for harder seeds. Never soak over 24 hours or until they begin to sprout. Smaller seeds will be tougher to plant after soaking. One method might be to soak them in a small squeeze bottle and to spread the seeds with the squeeze bottle.

Happy gardening,

Karen

To Cage or Not To Cage: I Know Why the Caged Tomato Sings

April 13th, 2011

Tomato Cage“I Know Why the Caged Tomato Sings.” We’re borrowing from Maya Angelou and being metaphoric, of course. In this circumstance we’re referring to a singing tomato as a particularly blemish free, delicious tasting and lovely to look at, vine-ripened tomato.

Like dresses and roasted chicken, you can make ’em or you can buy ’em – we’re talking about the often much-maligned, but still wholly viable Tomato Cage.

Since tomatoes are a leafy vine fruit, quite heavy (some weighing up to two pounds) support can be essential. There are varying kinds of tomato cages available, from the more economical tower cages, to those resembling a large tube, with two heavyweight plastic hoops and strong netting; the tomatoes growing within. This is probably the most traditional variation, with the stake-able metal variety available all over. Garden Harvest Supply offers a Veggie Cage Tomato support, which is a super cool, expandable weather-proof coil to use within whatever cage you choose, the support is flexible and even stores flat.

Tomato growers can consider the strong vinyl Ultomato cage, with its fully adjustable support brackets, or a set of the Heavy Duty Folding Tomato Cages. The latter fold flat, which makes for easy storage when you’re not utilizing them. They’re also heavy-duty, designed to support the more hefty varietals with the most tenacious vines. The American-made cages can be used side-by-side or even stacked.

Not every veg grower loves the tomato cage. Gardening forums are filled with complaints that wind topples them, that the subsequent weight of the lusciously ripe and full fruit creates a lean, and even occasionally, a bent cage. Still others disdain the fact that some tomatoes are occasionally positioned so deep within the cage, amongst the wily curving and twisting vines, that tomatoes can be hard, if not impossible to reach.

And then, there are those who are of the mindset to forgo cages, trellises, chicken coop wiring, fencing, or any of the variations used to create a cage. Those tomato growers who say nay to a cage prefer to let their tomatoes grow free. That is to say, they let them grow and develop in whichever and whatever manner the vines opt to venture. Those who choose this method – au naturel, if you will – point out that the tomatoes ripen on the ground to preserve the moisture within, and also bear a good deal of fruit. Certainly there are issues or potential issues (some would say pending issues) with letting tomato vines grow and bear unencumbered in whichever form they choose: varmints.

Field mice and the ubiquitous rabbits are likely to wander into the tomato garden and help themselves to breakfast, lunch or dinner – or for just a little nibble of a snack.

One way to combat the problem and keep the unwelcome visitors at bay is to place traps within the vines, hidden from varmint view. It’s important to remember that if you elect to do this, you're going to want to check/follow-up on the traps often. Not to be too terribly graphic, but who wants a deceased and potentially rotting animal carcass amongst their beautiful tomatoes? The plan, after all, is to eat the fruit yourself, no?

Some varieties of tomatoes just don't fare well without some kind of support; these include tomato varieties with tendencies to rot, or those slow-growing large varieties. Then again, there are some areas where slugs, rodents and crickets (all of whom love the tang of tomato) are simply prevalent. In those instances, a cage won't seem so annoying and your tomatoes will be singing beautifully!

 

The Versatile Varietals of Herb Plants

April 12th, 2011

The giant rosemary bush outside the kitchen door may have choked out the lavender that was planted at the same time, but it serves a dual purpose: not only is fresh rosemary a terrific addition to chicken and home-baked bread, but it's a great natural deodorizer for when the dogs, wolfing around with each other and rushing around and out the door, fall into the pretty (and harmless) bush. Your friends will soon be saying, Gee, your dogs smell terrific. (For those of you who are too young to remember, Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific was an actual shampoo, popular in the late 1970s; it's still sold by the Vermont Country Store and online auction sites.)

The bottom line is that having your own herbal plant patch or garden, whether it's in ground or on your windowsill, is a terrific addition to the kitchen and a must-have for the serious cook.

Even in the dead of winter, if your view outside is more high rise than hillside, you can still grow herbs. An herb plant garden may be sweetly placed in a bay window, but you don't have to undertake home renovation to create your own indoor herb garden. If you have a window that is either west- or south-facing you're very likely to get the required five hours of daylight to keep an herb plant garden flourishing.

As you're considering what kind of herbs to plant, think of the type of herbs you'd actually use in your cooking.  Here are some suggestions, citing herb plants that are ideal for an indoor herbal garden.

Thyme: the four ingredient in the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & song, thyme is a an herb that not only grows well, but is extremely versatile. Historically, the Egyptians used it for embalming and ancient Greeks used it as a bath soak and as an incense. Romans sprinkled (metaphorically) thyme throughout the European continent and used thyme for flavoring liquers and cheese. Thyme was said to be a sleep aid. It also staved off nightmares and was used in the cleansing of rooms. Thyme was popular amongst soldiers who carried leaves with them because it was alleged to bring them courage. It also aided, purportedly, in permanent sleep – that is to say it was added to coffins/death receptacle to ease passage into the afterlife. For those interested in Culinary pursuits, it is used in soups, meats and stews. It's very closely associated with lamb, tomatoes and eggs. Middle Eastern cooks often use thyme in their dishes, as do the Indians, Italians, French, Greek, Carribean and Apanish. Another reason to have thyme in your herbal garden is that fresh time doesn't have much of a shelf live, usually only a week. To be able to reach over or step out and over to grab some is idea.

Mint:  easy to grown, a very  hardy and tenacious herb, mint is used as a garnish for lemonade, flavoring for soups and desert, and, of course, in toiletry products (toothpaste, mouthwash, bath soaks, etc.). It grows well in shady to slightly sunny areas in moist, rich soil. Mint is a popular ingredient in too-many-to-name medicinal concoctions. It allegedly has a calming effective, not unlike a sedative. Your own grown mint can spruce up the water you're using to boil your favorite vegetable, added to potatoes, rice, ice cubs, salad dressing and tea. It's popular and often used in southern Austrian cooking. And don't forget, it's the absolutely critical must-have in a Julep.

Rosemary: Already mentioned above, it, like mint, may take over your other herbal plants as it is tenacious.

Dill, basil and oregano are available in seeds – be sure, if you're using them inside, you ask for compact seedlings, otherwise you run the risk of the vines roaming to far afloat in your household. Fill your pot or area with regular potting soil, put the seeds in (as specified on the label of the envelope the seeds came in) and then mist with water. Don't over water, and while plenty of light is welcome, don't subject them to extreme temperatures or temperature changes.  Basil is the main ingredient for pesto. Dill is great to use in pickling, and in dips, eggs and potato salad. Fresh dill is the very best way to use and serve the herb. Oregano has been dubbed the pizza herb because it is the predominant spiced used in the popular pies. It's also popular in most Italian recipies. Oregano, like the other herbs mentioned here, can be used in alcoholic beverages, meat, condiments, relishes, snacks and sauces. It's used on fragrances as well as soaps and detergent. Some people clam that the oil from oregano can be used as an anti-fungal.

Garden Harvest Supply is a good place to start creating your own herb plant garden. You'll find you'll be reaching for it often as you tinker away at your recipes in your kitchen.

Don't be Chicken to have a Garden!

April 11th, 2011

Thinking about getting chickens? Chickens and beautiful garden go hand in hand. With a little flock maintenance, chickens can be very beneficial and valuable to your garden.

The first and most important thing your chickens can do for your garden is provide organic manure fertilizer. The key is to let the manure decompose and break down before mixing it in your soil. Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen and can burn your plants if not broken down first. Poultry owners refer to chicken manure as black gold because it is the best kind of manure for raising any kind of garden. So before you purchase chicken manure compost, just know you already have all you need, right in your backyard coop! There are many ways to age chicken manure. The hotter the temperature, the faster it will decompose. Here are a few tips to make your own organic Chicken Manure Compost:

  • Gather manure with the shavings from your chicken coop.
  • Make a pile of the manure on the ground or in a compost bin.
  • Add equal amounts of other organic carbon materials such as topsoil, grass clippings, dry leaves, shavings etc.
  • Lightly wet the pile (cover the pile if on the ground.)
  • Rotate if you are using a compost bin every week and let it cure for 45-60 days or if on the ground, stir every so often and let it cure 6-12 months.
  • Compost is cured and ready when it is dry and falls apart easily, it will have a slightly sweet smell and be nice and dark.
  • Another tip is to wait until your garden is dormant, sprinkle fresh manure on garden beds and let it cure through the winter. In the spring, till it into the soil!

Another great way chickens are helpful for the garden is they eat harmful bugs that might be present. If you monitor your chickens, when vegetable plants are at least 6 high, you can let them in your fenced garden to look and scratch for bugs. Chickens aerate the soil and look under leaf plants for insects. They also eat little weed seedlings that might be coming up. Once most of the bugs are gone, chickens can be let out of the garden. Be careful not to leave them in too long that they start eating your plants! Occasionally, let your chickens peck around the yard, under bushes and trees and around fence lines. Your spiders, slugs, earwigs and caterpillars will be held at bay. With a little supervision, you can enjoy a garden and your chickens too!

Visit CleanCoops.com to learn more about the benefits of raising your own backyard flock and building your own chicken coop.