Berry, Berry Good!

May 18th, 2009

Have you ever wandered upon a patch of wild raspberry bushes and picked fresh fruit to enjoy while you hiked?  There is no more refreshing summer treat than fresh berries, and as long as you have the room to grow a large bush, you can easily become a backyard berry grower.

Cool down on a hot day with fresh fruit smoothies made from a blend of red, blue and black berries picked from your own shrubs. Or, meld the flavors of different berries together in a glaze to top turkey, chicken or fish fresh off the grill.  Berries are as nutritious as they are colorful and zingy tasting.  Antioxidants, which help prevent cancer and other diseases, are plentiful in berries.

Brambleberries include blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries and loganberries.  They're called brambleberries because they all grow on shrubs with prickly (bramble-covered) stems, also known as canes.  They can all be planted together, and they complement each other in flavor and a variety of color.

A large space with the right soil, full sun and some good pruning shears is all anyone needs to grow berries.  It's a great idea to plant an assortment of plants, so you can harvest a colorful medley to top your ice cream sundae, yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal.  For the jam and preserves aficionado, you'll have trouble keeping any of the mixed berry jars on your shelves.  Oh, the single-berry varieties won't last long, either, but there is something extra-addictive about mixed-berry toppings.  A bowl of fresh-picked berries on their own are irresistible, as well.

Brambleberries require well-drained soil with a relatively high pH, but blueberries need a lower pH, or more acid soil, between 4.5 and 4.8.  These berries can all occupy a close proximity on your property, as long as you pay close attention to their soil and pruning needs. All berries will appreciate a good dose of organic material mixed into the soil.

Blueberry bushes take up less space and they're relatively low-maintenance plants that even thrive in containers.  Just make sure you provide well-drained soil and maintain the pH to the proper acid level for whatever varieties you grow.  There are early, mid-season, and late season fruit bearers, which enable you to have fresh blueberries throughout the summer and into fall. It's recommended that you plant at least two different varieties to ensure cross-pollination.  Also, blueberries need to have all the blossoms removed the first season to prevent fruiting and to encourage strong root growth.  The second season, fruit yields will be abundant.  The third season is when you should begin pruning.

Brambles respond well to training and trellising. They do, however, need pruning attention, and at the right stage in their growth and season. Raspberry and blackberry varieties are available in bright red, yellow, black and purple fruits.  Combine some summer and fall fruiting plants, to ensure your entire season is berrylicious!

How to Fertilize Pepper Plants

May 15th, 2009

how to fertilize pepper plantsIf you are serious about the quality of your garden’s produce, you know that fertilizing properly is paramount to your success. It isn’t difficult, as long as you understand some basic principles. Pepper plants, in particular, will respond well to a little extra attention at the beginning of their growth stages. And like most other garden vegetables, they will do a happy dance with some high quality organic compost mixed into the soil.

Pepper plants require very little special care. However if you follow these fertilizing instructions, you will have all the peppers you care to eat! Before transplanting into the garden, soak the root ball in fish emulsion. Then once a week for the first three weeks, fertilize with only fish emulsion. After four weeks, apply ¾ cup of Hyr-BRIX Tomato & Pepper Fertilizer in a two foot radius around each pepper plant. Do this again when the plant has been in the garden for 8 weeks.

Be sure to not set young plants out until the last chance of frost has passed. All types of peppers like the weather hot, so keep them indoors or in a cold frame until the time is right. Also, make sure to provide a full-sun location for growing all varieties of peppers.

If you have grass clippings from an untreated lawn, these not only make a good mulch around the plants but the slow breakdown of the clippings will provide extra nutrients to the soil. This is also a wonderful way to maintain control over pesky weeds and to keep moisture in the soil around your plants.

Pepper plants are popular in home gardens because you get a lot of bang for your buck. The plants have a compact and neat upright growth habit, and they take up very little space for the amount of fruits they bear. Peppers are available in nearly every color and size, and from super sweet to fiery HOT! There is even a scale, called the Scoville Scale, to classify the heat intensity of different varieties of hot peppers.

Peppers are versatile in the kitchenserved on raw veggie trays, sliced in fresh salads, stir-fried, or cooked into nearly every imaginable dish. Sauteed along with onions, bell peppers are requisite ingredients in fajitas, Western omelettes, and sloppy Joes. Pico de gallo and salsa verde would be nothing without jalapeno peppers. And the beautiful part of peppers is that they’re one of the easiest plants to grow in a patio container or directly in the ground.

Stuffed bell peppers are great with ground beef, cheese, or chopped mixed vegetables combined with bread crumbs. Marinated peppers in vinegar, salt, sugar and water are a delicious wintertime appetizer. And, roasted peppers fresh off the grill are among summer’s best offerings.

Are You a Basket Case?

May 12th, 2009

hanging basketHave you viewed your neighbors' flower baskets with envy, wondering how they get those windowsill and potted arrangements to look like they're straight off of glossy magazine covers?  Well, keep reading to find out how easily you can have the same beauty in bloom around your home's exterior.

AquaSav basket liners are made in sizes to fit most wire flower baskets, whether for windowsills, deck-rail planters, patio pots, hanging planters or wall hangers.  These organic coco fiber liners are not only economical and ecological, they're beautiful.  They come in natural tan or dark green, so you can choose to make them blend in or contrast with your foliage and wire enclosures.

What makes Aquasav flower basket liners so practical is the built-in reservoir that maintains the perfect amount of moisture for your plantings.  It takes all the effort and guesswork out of watering by preventing water from pooling at the root bottoms. This not only keeps the roots from being oversaturated and dying of root rot, but it also locks in the moisture they DO need.  AquaSav's reservoir system also prevents moisture and nutrient run-off, which happens with plain, generic coco liners.  That prevents wasted water and saves on your H2O bills! These AquaSav liners are formed to fit perfectly into your wire-mesh enclosures, and they are ready to create plant arrangements in seconds.

Simply fill about 3/4 full with high-quality potting soil.  Ideally, use soil with high organic content, then arrange your favorite flowers and foliage.  For planters that fit against a wall, follow the simple rule of planting the tallest foliage and flowers in the back, then mid-height plants in the middle, and trailing flowers in the front.  For free-standing planters, consider planting a tall spike in the middle, with medium-size plants around it, and trailing plants all around the edges.  You really can't make any mistakes.

These AquaSav coco liners are well-suited for plantings of foliage only, if you like to make textural and colorful arrangements without blooms.  They work equally well for mixing flowers and foliage.  Flowers alone are beautiful but the seasoned flower gardener knows the mixing of flowers and assorted greenery will make the most eye-catching arrangements.

There are a few plants that won't work well together, such as succulents and non-succulents.  Choose plants that have similar water and sunlight requirements to partner in the same planters.  AquaSav liners will do the rest of the work for you, as long as you provide at least the minimum amount of water needed for your plants.  Overwatering is no longer a risk.  AquaSav will keep just enough moisture in the soil to help your plants thrive.

If you're undecided about which AquaSav liners will work best for you, or you're tired of your old wire-mesh planters, pair AquaSav liners with AquaSav baskets.  There are sizes and styles to fit nearly every spot around your home's exterior and landscape. There are single planters and even tiered planters to offer height as well as color to your patio and deck areas.  These add classic elegance that no other planter can match.

Lantana ‘Son’ Series

May 6th, 2009

The Lantana has become a landscaping staple due to their heartiness and willingness to grow in what many plants and flowers would consider unsuitable soil.  They prefer partial to full sunlight in an area that drains well.  Lantanas are a perennial bloomer and grow indigenously in the Tropical South, as well as in the Desert Southwest; though they adapt well to northern climates.  You may well recognize these colorful border plants or bushes, as they grow prolifically in Florida and Southern California, two of the main vacation spots in the U.S.  Their brilliantly colored blooms and the pleasing citrus aroma of the foliage would be at its height during the summer months when you might have traveled to one of these destinations.  You can bring a little bit of these sunny destinations right into your own garden.

Garden Harvest Supply presents a wonderful collection of the ‘Son' series of Lantana Plants.  These plants are all hybrids and are said to be the most beautiful of all the 150 species of Lantana flora.    Their vivid blossoms provide a wide array of colors all through the growing season.  Blooms emerge in bright shades of yellow and orange, then age to remarkable hues of deep orange, bright red and royal purple.  As the Lantana blooms from early spring to late fall, you may experience this entire rainbow on one plant at one time!  It is truly a sight to behold.

You will also enjoy the fact that once the Lantana is established, it will require very little water to maintain its beauty.  As they are very heat and drought-tolerant, they are the perfect specimen for xeriscaping.  In the northern climes, they are also cold-tolerant, as long as the roots don't drop below 20 degrees.  Just fertilize with a balanced fertilizer like Flower-tone, as you would the rest of your garden, and sit back and enjoy the show.  The ‘show' will include the gem-like hues and fascinating antics of the hummingbirds and the myriad colors adorning the many species of butterflies that the Lantana will attract to your garden. 

Use the versatile Lantana (sometimes called Verbena) as a border plant or ground cover.  Heavy trimming will produce even bushier blooming.  They are extremely resistant to salt, both in the soil and the spray that results from living in a seaside community, so there are few places where they will not grow.  Even though they can have a five foot spread and height, Lantana are often grown in hanging baskets and mass planted in containers; they would make a striking, fragrant natural privacy barrier.

We grow our Lantanas in large containers in order to encourage the growth of a healthy root system.

Excellent Service, Thanks

April 28th, 2009

I just received my ornamental sweet potato vines from you. I'm very, very happy.  Your service was excellent, very responsive when I had emailed a question about the plants. Shipping was very fast, plants arrived in excellent condition, and were nice, big, healthy and bushy looking.  Also, your prices are great. I will definitely keep your company on my A list of garden companies I buy from. Thanks! Coyote

Terra-Sorb® Soil Amending

April 28th, 2009

Terra Sorb watering saving crystals will reduce how often you have to water your plantsTerra-Sorb® Medium Hydrogel is a high-quality, long-lasting gel that absorbs up to 150 times its weight in water and slowly releases it into the root zone for use by plants.

Terra-Sorb Medium is used as horticultural soil amendment for planting, seeding, sodding, flower bed preparation and potted plants. Terra-Sorb significantly increases the water-holding capacity of soil and will repeatedly absorb and release water for several years until it biodegrades. Terra-Sorb does not contain sodium.

Directions for Use:

  • Tree and Shrub Plantings: Mix Terra-Sorb evenly with the backfill soil at a rate of 2 ounces (by weight) per inch caliper for balled & burlapped trees and shrubs, or 1 ounce (by weight) per 5 gallons for containerized trees and shrubs. Volume rates are shown in adjacent chart.
  • Flower Beds and Vegetable Gardens: Terra-Sorb is mixed into the top 4 inches of soil at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet prior to planting or seeding. It can be broadcast by shaker, spreader or hand, then raked or rototilled into soil. Not recommended for topdressing already established beds.
  • Sodding, Seeding or Sprigging: Terra-Sorb is mixed into the top 2 inches of soil at a rate of 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet or 150 pounds per acre prior to seeding, sodding or sprigging. Apply by shaker, drop spreader or hand, then rake or rototill into the top 4 inches of soil. Not recommended as a top-dressing on already established turf.
  • Potting Mix Amendment for Containerized Plants and Hanging Baskets: For machine or hand mixing, add 2 pounds of Terra-Sorb per cubic yard of potting mix. Blend thoroughly throughout mix. For small batches, add 1 ounce (by weight) of Terra-Sorb to each cubic foot of growing or potting mix.
  • Compatibility: Terra-Sorb can be used on trees, shrubs and grasses, literally on all terrestrial plants. Terra-Sorb is most effective over a range of soil pH from 6 to 8. At pH extremes, its ability to absorb water is reduced.

Terra-Sorb must be mixed into soil. It is not designed for surface applications.

Terra-Sorb® Soil Amending Analysis:

Active Ingredients % by Weight Potassium Polyacrylamide/Acrylate Copolymer………………….93%

Inert Ingredients: Water* …………………………………………7%
*Water content is derived from atmospheric humidity absorbed during storage.

Container Size Terra Sorb Needed
1-gallon 1/2 ounce
3-gallon 1 ounce
5-gallon 1-1/3 ounces
7-gallon 2 ounces
10-gallon 2-1/2 ounces
15-gallon 4 ounces
20-gallon 4-1/2 ounces
35-gallon 6-1/2 ounces
Tree Caliper Terra Sorb Needed
1-inch 2-1/2 ounces
2-inch 4 ounces
3-inch 1 cup
4-inch 11 ounces
5-inch 1 pint
6-inch 21 ounces
7-inch 27 ounces
8-inch 1 quart
Box Trees Terra Sorb Needed
24-inch 1 cup
30-inch 12 ounces
36-inch 1 pint

Soil Preperation Needs

April 26th, 2009

I’m not an experienced gardener and I would like, if you would, some advice on soil prep. The garden spot I have does have decent topsoil and at least 5-6 hours of direct sun.

The question I have is that the garden’s soil ‘packs’ very hard over time (maybe due to ubiquitous Missouri clay), what should/could I mix in the soil, in the area with the peppers, to try to assure good growth and would it be ‘good’ in general for other types of pepper plants. Thank you for your time, Wilson

Growing Sweet Corn

April 18th, 2009

How to grow sweet corn plantsYou’ve heard the expression “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” Well, you also can’t tell sweet corn by its color.

That’s because the summertime favorite can be found with kernels that are white, yellow, or both. The sweetness comes from how quickly the corn converts sugars to starches. The slower the process, the sweeter the corn.

For most, corn is something that’s bought from supermarket bins or farmer’s market tables. But the truth is, it can be grown with relative ease in your backyard garden. Sweet corn is easily labeled for a clear understand of what you’re getting. There’s SU, which refers to normal sweet corn. SE, SE+ or EH, which means that the normal process of the conversion of sugar to starch has been decreased. SH2 slows that change down even further and indicates super-sweet.

Moisture is key, as is nitrogen in the soil (You’ll probably want to fertilize for a strong crop and again when the stalks are about a two feet high.), we recommend using HyR BRIX® Sweet Corn Fertilizer. As important, though, is room. You’ll be best off planting a few seeds of corn about an inch deep, a foot apart, in rows about three feet from each other. Avoid single long rows. Keep the weeds out, being careful not to damage the stalks in the process.

You’ll know they’re ready when a thumbnail puncture produces a milky discharge. But that doesn’t mean the work is done. You still have to harvest your crop, whether it’s a few ears or a few bushels.  Grab the ear, bend it downward while twisting. Watch our video on how to pick Sweet Corn.

Take advantage of the fact that the corn is coming from your home garden and plot your meals so that the ears can go right from picking to cooking. If not, you can always freeze. But, really, is that what you’ve been growing corn for?

Do you have raccoon problems around your sweet corn patch? Planting some cucumber plants between the rows when you plant the sweet corn will keep them out! Raccoons hate the vines and the cucumbers love the extra shade the corn brings.

Soil Testing 101

April 15th, 2009

4-way analyzerIf you have problems getting plants to grow and perform as they should in spite of using plenty of fertilizer and lots of tender loving care, something may be wrong with your soil’s pH. You must know the pH of your soil before you know if the plant food you're using contains the right combination of nutrients. Otherwise, you're wasting your money.

Now is the time to test your soil and get it ready for the spring. There are several tests that can be done on soil, but by far the most important is the one for acidity. Rain is slightly acid and gradually makes your soil more acid. This may be good for hydrangeas and rhododendrons, but it’s bad for most other plants.

Scientists measure acid in pH numbers – any number below 7 is acid and any number above 7 is alkaline. Most flowers and vegetables grow best in slightly acid soil with a pH number between 6 and 7. By the way, pH stands for potential hydrogen.

Serious gardeners can be conscientious about compost, mulch and fertilizers, and then completely neglect to check the pH of their soil. Rapitest is one of the best-known names in the soil testing market, and you can easily use one of their soil testers to determine the pH and other properties of your soil.

There are several home testing kits or instruments available to check the soil yourself. The quickest and simplest method of is to use the Rapitest Electronic Soil Tester for readings in less than one minute.

Rapitest makes a range of soil testers in every price range and for many different types of soil analysis. The kits are inexpensive and simple to use. Most kits come with chemicals necessary to perform several tests over more than one growing season and have readily available refills.

Soil checks should be done annually because conditions occur which can change the soil analysis. For example, lime is easily leached from cultivated soils. Excessive use of peat moss, pine needles or oak leaves may make the soil more acid. Too many wood ashes in the garden could make the soil too alkaline for many crops.

After having your soil tested, you may need to reduce the acid level. This is done very easily by adding lime. The amount of lime required is indicated on a chart included in the testing kit. Clay soils need more lime than sandy soils. Lime helps to break down organic matter in the soil, and for this reason lime and manure should never be applied at the same time. Organic gardeners can use lime because it’s a natural product. Lime consists of powdered rock formed from the shells of sea creatures that lived millions of years ago.

Today, when food and crops are so important, when the landscape is an important part of the market value of a home and when maintenance of plant materials becomes a costly investment, it pays to know the acid alkaline balance of your soil and to correct it if necessary.

WOLF-Garten Tools are Too Cool!

April 14th, 2009

soil crumblerConsidering how much technology has changed the way we work inside our homes, it's a wonder that yard and garden tools haven't changed much in a century. That is, until now.

WOLF-Garten has revolutionized outdoor toolsand the benefits are huge. These implements are interchangeable, and they're designed to meet every landscaper's and gardener's needs. Here's how they work: You choose the length and style of handles you'll use, and then choose the attachments you need. You economize by not buying a separate handle for each tool, and you save space by not having duplicated long-handled and short-handled tools to store. It's the efficient way to manage your tool collection.

The 14-inch short handle is perfect for working close to the soil. It's made of lightweight aluminum with a comfortable and secure handle grip. It works with all of the interlocking attachments. Long handles come in wood and aluminum, as well as telescoping, so you have the ideal length to match every job.

The attachments securely and easily lock onto the handles. So, with a couple of handles and your chosen attachments in tow, you can work outdoors with all of your tools at your side. Your garden cart will be lighter and easier to take along as you switch from tool head to tool head, accomplishing all your tasks without having to return to the garage or shed to exchange entire tools. This system will eliminate all the duplication and wasted space taken up by your old, worn-out tools.

WOLF-Garten has designed a 32-inch-wide tool holder to hang on the wall with hooks that work with both handles and tool heads. It will declutter your storage space better than any system you've ever used before. This holder organizes your tools so well, and keeps everything so visible and accessible, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

The tool heads include: a wide push broom, soil cultivator, seeder, heavy-duty garden rake, soil crumbler, weeder, garden fork, lawn edge trimmer, tree lopper, fruit picker, half-moon edger, and two styles of hoes. Every tool you've ever needed is compacted into just the attachment to be used with the ideal handle length for each job. How smart is that?

Besides being extremely economical to use interchangeable handles, the WOLF-Garten tool system is ecological. Why have a separate handle for each tool when 2 or 3 will cover all your requirements? This WOLF-Garten Multi-Star interlocking system is comprised of parts machined for long-term use, and constructed of durable materials and weather-resistant coatings. Its ergonomic designs will take the work out of your gardening and landscaping. It's the smart way to maintain your home's exterior spaces.

Just like conventional yard and garden tools, you can purchase only the attachments you need, and you don't have to choose them all at one time. You can add to your Wolf-Garten attachment collection as your needs change.