Help needed with my Viburnum plant

July 16th, 2009

blue_viburnumI hope to get your advice about a Blue Muffin Viburnum that I planted in my backyard about 5 years ago.  I live in Brooklyn, NY.  This is the only viburnum growing in my garden.  And it is receiving southern exposure light, so it receives lots of sun.

Here are my two problems:

1) In the first 2 years, it produced lots of beautiful white flowers that turned into little unripened green berries but which never reached its maturity.  I would see the unripened berries for a few days, and then the next day, most would disappear and whatever remained seemed to have broken off.  We get many sparrows and a few mockingbirds visiting our garden.  Perhaps the birds are responsible…I can’t be sure because I have never caught any of them eating the berries.

2) For the past 3 years, the viburnum did not produce any flowers, just lush green leaves and lots of them.  This past spring, it produced not more than 4 clusters of flowers which then turned to unripened tiny green berries that eventually disappeared.  

I am befuddled about this and would sure appreciate any advice you can give.  I am so disappointed that my viburnum has never reached its full potential and hope there is some solution to rectify this problem.

Thank you,

Is it okay to use old car tires in the garden?

July 15th, 2009

There are a number of different views floating about and there seems to be no definitive answer to your question. The majority seem to be in favor of the use of tires as planters, hot beds, composting bins and insulating walls for greenhouses.  There are quite a number of other projects you can create. 

Some people are skeptical, as you are, that there are still toxins left in the old tires that might leach out into the soil and be absorbed by the plants.  However, the negative reports focus mainly on the chipped rubber mulch and astroturf made from old tires.

There are quite a few folks who love their tire planting beds. There are downsides and upsides, depending on what area you live in.  The black rubber tends to superheat the soil. One solution is to just paint them a light color, or you can use it to your advantage like a cold frame. Quite a few people have perfected the method of creating towers of tires for growing potatoes, creating a compost bin or growing tomatoes. 

If you decide the risk of growing edibles is too great, there are a number of other uses.  Save your old tires, or go out and rescue a couple from your local landfill, find some bright paint, and create some funky yard art.  Then plant some colorful flowers in them!

Bats: Nature's Mosquito Destroyer

July 10th, 2009

bat_houseWorldwide, there are some 1,000 species of bats. Don't worry: vampire bats don't hang around these parts. North America is home to around 40 different species and they are predominantly insect-eating, although bats in other geographic regions also feed on fruit, plants, and other animals.

Bats are the only mammal that fly.  They are tiny and very lightweight, measuring only 3 to 5 inches in length, and they only weigh up to an ounce.  Nocturnal creatures, they usually are most active at dusk and they fly around until dawn.

Bats are thought to be blind, but they see just fine.  However, the insect-eating varieties find their food through echolocation, meaning they bounce a high frequency sound off of insects to determine their size and location, and then they go in for the catch. Bats are a necessary and welcomed part of the food chain, keeping insects and other pests under control. The common small brown bat can consume up to 1,200 insects each hour!

Not the most beautiful of animals to look at, with their tiny faces, oversized ears, and huge thin wings, bats do a beautiful job of keeping our environment in harmony. They are good plant pollinators and are revered for their ability to control the insects that can destroy crops, as well as for keeping pesky mosquito populations down. During cold weather some species of bats relocate to warmer climates, but many hibernate until the spring.

Bats roost during daylight in hollow trees, under bridges, in caves, and in man-made structures such as old buildings and bat houses.  They tend to cluster in colonies, but they do need shelter and you can lure these natural mosquito controllers to your yard or farmland with houses designed specially for attracting these curious creatures.

Bat houses will draw bats to your property and keep them there.  Bats like dark, tight spaces and an area to keep their young warm and protected.  If the inside surfaces of the bat house are roughened, they will resemble tree bark and the bats will feel right at home. The textured walls give bats something to grasp as they perch.

Bat houses come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials such as cedar, redwood, and recycled plastic.  A bat house kit is also a great project for Scout troops or other young people to build, as it teaches them about the environmental value of bats.  More than half of the species in the U.S. are now endangered.

Hang bat houses by late winter, because the bats will come seeking shelter in the spring. They should be 15 to 25 feet off the ground, on the side of a building or chimney, and away from power lines and tree branches. The bat house should face south or southwest and the opening and ventilation vents should be free from obstructions.  It can take 6 to 12 months or more to attract bats to bat houses, but be patient.  When you hear chatter in the bat house or find bat droppings nearby, you know you have provided a home to a colony of mosquito eaters ready to keep those little biters at bay.

Attracting Wrens the Easy Way

July 6th, 2009

house_wrenWrens are not particularly colorful. They're small, plain brown birds but they have one particularly endearing quality: they eat insects!  These songbirds also have a distinct high-pitched, bubbly voice and are one of the most popular invited guests to backyards all across North America.  They favor suburban yards and man-made birdhouses.

Commonly called the house wren, this bird is attracted to residential yards, brush piles, low tree branches and clusters of bushes, for habitat and protection against the elements, and also because those dense, low-lying areas provide great insect hunting.

In order to attract wrens to your property, you only need to supply three things:  food, clean water, and shelter.  The food is in abundant supply in most natural areas, in the form of insects like grasshoppers, spiders, crickets, flies, beetles, and caterpillars. Water can be supplied using countless ways. Wren houses provide the shelter and come in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and colors.  What they share in common is the opening size, usually about one inch, which will allow entry by wrens but not larger birds.

Wrens are attracted to houses made of most any materialwood or plastic resins. Among green-thinking birders, the wren houses constructed of recycled plastic bottles are a huge hit with both the homeowner and the wrens themselves.

Wren houses can be hung from low-lying tree branches, posts, outbuildings, the side of the house, or even from a rose bush.  They sometimes contain roughened interior floors, to give the birds traction as they enter, and to emulate tree bark.

Since birds aren't known for housekeeping skills, look for easy-opening, low-maintenance wren houses for your yard or birding sanctuary.  Make sure you have access to the birdhouse interior, so you can keep it clean.  Regular removal of dropped feathers or dirt that the birds might have tracked in will keep your wren house a welcoming quiet place to rest for future visitors.

Wrens are also happy if you provide water features nearby, so keep a birdbath or clean pond available to them as a source of drinking water and a place to splash their feathers.  They'll find the birdhouses easily and want to stick around, if the accommodations are clean, well-stocked, and inviting.

Garden Harvest Supply knows that most wren houses will attract wrens, but not all birdhouses will be attractive to all homeowners. That's why we have many different wren houses available. Each one has its own unique look and features. Some are rustic, some are classic Americana, and some are contemporary. There is a style to suit every taste and budget, and with so many wren houses to choose from, it might not be a bad idea to try a few, to attract as many of these insect-eating beneficial songbirds as possible to your yard.  We hope you enjoy the music!

How should I water my garden?

June 30th, 2009

Hello, I live in Boise, Idaho where our summers tend to get hot and dry. There are a few summer thunder storms but nothing we can count on. I've always watered by just turning on the hose and slowing filling my trenches. It could be daily for the cukes and 2-3 a week for the tomatoes. That was for a 10×20 garden that I puttered in and it worked fine – always had enough tomatoes, beans, peppers and cucumbers to share with family and neighbors.  This year I've gotten serious and increased that plot to 12 x 30, and added another plot that's about 15×40 and added corn, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkins, basil, onions, carrots and artichokes. Plus I have separate strawberry, raspberry and blueberry patches.  So, I've been researching watering options. I can't install a sprinkler system.  Too expensive, plus I don't understand how you would keep your leaves dry.  In my research I've come across many articles that mention, one inch of water per week.  I just discovered Garden Harvest Supply and yours is the first site/blog that has given me the opportunity to learn/share/ask questions. I'm sorry this is so long. I do have 2 questions:

  1. What is/how do I measure one inch of water per week. I'm familiar with the tuna can method when using a sprinkler  and watering your lawn, but don't think that's appropriate because of wetting the vegetable leaves and getting water into places in the garden that don't need watering and causing weeds, etc.
  2. I planted my melons near my sweet potatoes, then learned they are not good companions. What do I do? They are separated by marigolds and watering trenches, but is that enough?  Should I maybe add some other flowers (nasturtiums) or herbs (sage, thyme, oregano)?

Thank you for any insight that you can provide.  Best regards and may all your blossoms bloom. Kathy

My Brandywine Pinks

June 25th, 2009

brandywine_groupDear Garden Harvest Supply: Last year I grew some Brandywine Pink heirloom tomato plants and was very satisfied, I have included a photo. This year I’m experimenting with Brandywine Pink, Brandywine Black, Caspian Pink, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Pineapple Heirloom, Red Delicious, and Big Beef tomatoes. There should be no shortage of tomatoes at all this year! Thanks for your wonderful selection of heirloom tomato plants. Alton S

Natural Pest Control

June 22nd, 2009

If you believe that diet pills are the best way to lose weight quickly, you probably also think that the most efficient way of getting rid of garden pests is to use powerful chemicals. It's the same mindset: wanting a quick fix without regard to long-range consequences, or even long-term effectiveness. Here at Garden Harvest Supply we can't advise you on how to best shed pounds, though gardening will help keep you fit, but we do believe in a moderate, safe approach to getting rid of pests.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM), the approach we recommend, is actually an umbrella-term that refers to a variety of sensible and sustainable gardening practices that are highly effective when implemented together. You don't have to be a serious gardener to follow IPM; it's really just common sense, or, rather, the kind of earth sense you would develop if you lived close to the land and had worked it for years, observing and learning. To help you get started with IPM, we're going to focus on four of its main pillars, which we will discuss individually in the sections that follow.

Go Native

Did you know that by planting native species you will be much less likely to run into pest problems? As the gardeners at Growing Hope explain, Native plants are better protected by their own ‘immune systems' and their relationships with other plants and animals in the area. Thanks to websites like or, it's easy to find which plants are native to your region.

Within the native plants, you can zero in on those that are the most pest-resistant. Toronto Master Gardeners have compiled a list of the most pest-resistant flowers. To learn about the most pest-resistant varieties of fruits and vegetables, try this Wikipedia list.

The Buddy System

Companion planting is based on the principle that plants can complement each other in mutually beneficial ways. For example, aphids will tend to stay away from tomatoes if chives are planted alongside them. Likewise, planting marigolds next to your pansies will help to keep slugs away. Companion planting can even help to discourage big pests like raccoons. As David Beaulieu explains, if you plant corn and squash together, pesky mammals wanting a sweet corn treat will be discouraged by the prickly squash vines crisscrossing their path. To learn more about companion planting, check out this article from Organic Gardening Magazine, or, if you just need to know what goes well together and what doesn't, try the Home and Garden Site. For personalized attention, don't hesitate to ask a master gardener.

If You Plant It, They Will Come

If you encourage good critters such as ladybugs, lacewings, ground beetles, birds and bees, they will help to take care of some of your pests for you. In Ecological Gardening, Marjorie Harris writes that the larvae of the ladybug can down 25 aphids a day, the adult 56 a day. And one coupling will produce from 200 to 1,000 offspring. They can get into areas no spray could possibly penetrate. To create an inviting environment for this most welcome garden guest, plant one or more of the following: alfalfa, angelica, caraway, cilantro, clover, dill, fennel, marigolds, nasturtiums, or yarrow.

Songbirds will go after many of your beetles, grubs, and flying insects. To attract them, gardening expert Theresa Forte recommends a border of fruit-bearing shrubs such as serviceberry, dogwood, viburnum or rosa. Since birds also look for sheltered spots to nest, they will use evergreen shrubs such as spruce, cedar and juniper if you make them available. Bluebirds will be happy to both sing for you and eat your pests but they are cavity-nesters so you'll need to provide them with a house, such as this popular top viewing model. Ms. Forte's final suggestion is to get a birdbathsomething that birds as well as bees will love. We sell some beauties, such as these bird baths.

Natural Pesticides

The IPM approach allows for the prudent use of organic biodegradable pesticides because the interventions discussed above won't always solve pest problems completely. However, the use of inorganic pesticides can harm your pets and even you and your family. The larger picture is that when these substances find their way into the groundwater, they contribute to the pollution of land and water. On the other hand, natural pesticides can be highly effective without doing any damage.

Our favorite natural pesticide is diatomaceous earth (DE), sometimes referred to as fossil shell flour. It could also be called microscopic razor wire because when magnified 1000 times, each particle is shown to have extremely sharp edges. When insects eat it, it cuts up their insides and simultaneously dries them out. If they get dusted with it, it also cuts into them when they scratch themselves, and, again, dries them out. Yet it will not harm pets, in fact, food grade DE (which is what we sell) is often given to animals as a parasite treatment. It is so pure that it can even be given to children for this same purpose: a teaspoon a day should do the trick.

DE works on just about everything ants, aphids, whiteflies, loppers, mites, leafhoppers, cockroaches, silverfish, bedbugs, fleas, box elder bugs, crickets, ticks, slugs, snails, even scorpions. Just be careful to use only food grade DE for gardening or internal consumption. There is another kind used in swimming pool filters that is treated with harmful chemicals. We sell food grade diatomaceous earth in five or fifty pound bags. You can apply it yourself (use that mask you bought for Swine Flu), but for larger area you might want to buy a Dustin-Mizer Garden Duster. This duster works great for spreading DE, and is well worth the $35 investment.

If grubs are what's eating you and your plants, we recommend a product originally developed by the USDA: Milky Spore Powder. Though nontoxic to humans and animals and harmless to the beneficial insects in your garden, one application will do away with grubs for a guaranteed 10 years, and possibly up to 20 years! These results are possible because Milky Spore Powder infects the critters with a bacterium to which only grubs are susceptible. After two or three weeks they die, but the spores remain in the soil, ready to infect future generations of grubs that might happen to find their way into your garden.

Keep your Mind on the Roses, Not the Thorns

We'd like to leave you with the thought that there are 200 million bugs for every human being on the planet. This puts things into perspective doesn't it? Consider also that 95% of the animal species on the earth are insects. So pest control is really a matter of peaceful coexistence, isn't it?

Make your garden a happy place for the good critters, use IPM to keep the pests away, and try to enjoy yourself despite the problems, big and small, that inevitably come to us, even in our gardens. As someone once said, “Don’t grumble that roses have thorns, be thankful that thorns have roses.”

Garden Memorial Plaques

June 19th, 2009

garden_plaqueNature has a unique way of calming and centering us.  Outdoor spaces are ideal for contemplation, relaxation, and meditation.  They can also serve as living memorials, places to be mindful of life cycles and to remember those we've loved and lost.

Placing an inspirational garden plaque among your living plants adds beauty to your garden and anchors your landscape design with a focal point that's warm and inviting.  It is a lasting memorial to cherished relationships, honoring those living or deceased, each time you enter that quiet space. 

Garden Harvest Supply has a wide variety of plaques that relate spiritual, inspirational, or motivational sentiments.  Whether you are recognizing the bravery of a public servant, seeking solace, grieving a recent loss, or giving a gift that says you share in someone else's joy or sorrow, a garden plaque is a gentle reminder of all the richness in life.

All of the garden plaques carried by Garden Harvest Supply are made of durable and weatherproof cast concrete materials, and most come with stands.  They are designed to look rough hewn and to blend into any natural space such as landscape borders, at the base of an ornamental tree, or along walkways, flower beds and vegetable gardens.  They are a great way to express yourself and they make an excellent lasting gift that says you care.

How to produce strawberries on a raised bed through plastic

June 17th, 2009

I would like to know how to produce strawberries on a raised bed through plastic. I thought you had to let berries run and set new plants to produce a crop the next year. The pictures I looked at seemed to have the plants close together and there weren't any runners. Also, what kind of plants is best suited for this. I would appreciate any information I can get.  Thanks very much, Jim

Will turnips grow after cutting off their tops?

June 17th, 2009

If I cut the tops off the turnips before the turnips get big enough to harvest, will the turnips still develop? No one seems to know the answer to this!  Hope you can help! Brenda