How Can I Save My Tomato Plants

October 17th, 2008

I have been growing a couple of tomato plants. Now that it is getting cold outside, and my tomatoes are still blooming. What can I do? I was told to pull them out of the ground or pot and hang them up side down. To save them…Is that what I’m supposed to do?

How To Harvest Zucchini

October 14th, 2008

Summer Squash is one underrated vegetable. It only takes a couple of plants to supply a family with enough ripe squashes to last through summer, with plenty leftover at season end to freeze or save for fall and winter meals. Its mild flavor and soft texture make it an incredibly versatile food. Unlike winter squashes such as acorn or spaghetti, zucchini is a summer squash, with tender, edible skin. Best of all, it’s easy to grow and can be planted in gardens in every U.S. growing zone!

Zucchini plants produce a bountiful harvest throughout the summer months and sometimes into fall, especially in warmer climates. There are several varieties available, with different colors, shapes and sizes, and different harvest times. What’s left on the plant when frost time approaches can be frozen or dried for winter use.

Harvest plants when they’re approximately 7 or 8 inches long. They should be firm but not hard to the touch, with glossy skins. Wear gloves, as some varieties have prickly stems. Regular harvesting will promote continual production throughout the warm season.

Cut the fruit off at the stem with a sharp knife. Make sure to wash the squash well, to remove any traces of dirt from the soft skin, before readying it for cooking or storing.

You can prepare your dishes containing zucchini ahead of time, like soups, stews and casseroles, then freeze in individual serving sizes for quick re-heats of side dishes or entrees throughout winter. Or, you can prepare the squash cooked or uncooked, and freeze in the exact required quantity to be ready to thaw and add to future recipes.

Freezing zucchini couldn’t be simpler. There are many ways to do it, but the easiest is just to poke with a fork and then blanch or cook in a microwave for a minute to remove some of the moisture content, which prevents it from becoming mushy when frozen. Uncooked or blanched zucchini can be shredded, diced, cut into strips or sliced into rings for freezing and later use. Freeze in freezer bags, plastic containers or vacuum-sealed packets.

For some dishes, it’s preferred to remove the skin before freezing, like for deep frying. The breading sticks better to the flesh than the skin. However, the skin is where much of the nutrient content is, and if your vegetables will be mixed into other dishes, the skin also adds color.

Traditional canning works well with zucchini. It can be canned alone, either in chunks or pureed, or it can be combined with other ingredients to make zucchini marmalade, and tomato or mixed vegetable relishes. It adds the perfect background flavor to onions and bell peppers. For canning, many cooks prefer to remove the seeds, for a smoother, creamier consistency when cooked.

Zucchini is a staple in many ethnic cuisines, like Mexican and Korean soups that are served as entire mealsor parmesan-topped Italian casseroles. Combine squash with wheat flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and you can bake one of the world's most popular dessert breads. Tiny diced squash can be turned into a sweet compote, or canned with pineapple juice to make a sweet treat, or preserved like traditional dill pickle spears.

Squash can be dried in a food dehydrator for later rehydration in cooking. Zucchini cut into thin slices can be dried then lightly salted, and make excellent chips to serve with dips.

Zucchini is one of nature’s finest offerings for a healthy diet. It is fat-free, low in calories and high in fiber, Vitamin C and potassium. There are countless ways to make your squash harvest last throughout the cold, blustery months, without a single, boring meal!

How to pick green beans

October 9th, 2008

This short video will show how easy it is to pick green beans.

Deer Repellent

October 9th, 2008

Deer are among the largest of the common garden pests.  They’re also carriers of deer ticks, and deer ticks carry Lyme disease. So, preventing deer from invading your space not only saves your precious landscape and garden plants, but it could be good for your health, too!

There are several ways to keep deer away.You can plant landscape and garden plants that aren’t attractive to deer. Like all mammals, they are attracted to vegetation that smells and tastes good. You can apply scents on or near your plants to deter deer. There are both natural and man-made chemical repellents available in powder, liquid, oil and solid forms. And, there are electronic devices that keep deer heading the opposite direction. Physical barriers, like fences and bushes, are a good defense, but it is not always practical to provide a physical barrier around a large piece of land.  Sometimes, a combination of deterrents is your best bet. Plot Protector is both a physical barrier and a scent barrier that is primarily designed for use in protecting foraging plots until they’re fully established, and are ready to intentionally attract deer.

By using products that smell like the natural predators of deer, such as coyote and fox urine, they’ll want nothing to do with foraging on your plants. Other products work by just making your plants taste and smell rotten to deer, such as Liquid Fence and Plantskydd, which are available in several sizes. Using a foul-smelling deterrent has its downsides, though. Obviously, it’s tough for the person spraying the product to avoid the smell. And, they only work after the pest has tasted it, meaning you’ll lose a flower top or a few delicate hosta leaves before the foraging diner says Yuck! and moves on to your neighbor’s plant buffet.

Homemade liquid repellents can be a cost-saving and effective method, but they’re not always very efficient. Commercial products are carefully designed to be easy to apply, to adhere to plants, to be safe to use on edible gardens, and to be long-lasting, so the product doesn’t have to be reapplied after each rain. One of our favorites is Plantskydd, which repels deer, elk and rabbits. Liquid Fence’s scent is repulsive to both deer and rabbits.

Pre-mixed commercial products are always ready to use, so you won’t need to have a variety of ingredients on hand, and you don’t have to constantly mix smelly concoctions in your kitchen. Also, commercial products are safe for garden use, are tested and are proven to work!

Electronic devices like the Electronic Deer Repeller and the DeerChaser can keep deer away from a large area, with no smell and no mess. One downside is they need some type of power, either electric or battery. The Electronic Deer Repeller applies a shock to the curious animal’s nose when it’s approached, to train it to stay away. The DeerChaser uses sound and light to scare away approaching animals. Deer are skittish, so these devices work well, when they’re within sound and sight distance of the intruder.

Deer in the wild are lovely to look at, but when they’re trampling, invading and ingesting the plants you’ve worked hard to grow, they are a pest and a hassle. It takes only a small effort and investment to find the right deterrent to repel or repulse deer, and it’s well worth the effort, if it means saving your garden and greenery.

Watch how easy it is to pick sweet corn

October 6th, 2008

This short video will show how easy it is to pick sweet corn.

Mums the word

October 2nd, 2008

Chrysanthemums steal the show this time of year, when their abundant blooms make gardens as colorful in fall as they are in spring and summer. They're a traditional symbol of fall and one of autumn's most indelible images, along with carved pumpkins and falling leaves.

Two of the most popular varieties are Belgian hardy mums and Yoder mums. The European-style Belgian mums came onto the retail scene in recent years and were immediately popular due to their high bud count, with upward of 1,000 blooms on some plants. They also require no pinching or trimming, which makes them easy to grow, and their stems stand up to abuse without breaking. Their rounded habit looks gorgeous in containers or in a flower bed.

Yoder mums are another option. This American classic garden mum has long been a premier fall plant. Created by the Yoder Brothers company in Ohio, they are low-maintenance plants and will thrive and flower for several weeks in full sun and fertile soil.

There's a kaleidoscope of colors available in all mum varieties, including yellows, golds, oranges, bronzes, reds, pinks and purples. They'll add a festive touch to your landscape and your mood. Mums create a spectacular splash of color to any garden or front porch. Pot them, hang them in baskets or add to a window box.

When winter approaches, if you prefer to overwinter your mums instead of treating them as annuals, cover with a thick layer of mulch as they hibernate until spring.

Whichever mums you choose, this is a great time to be a gardener with the range of mums available, bred for their prolific blooms, long-lasting colors and exceptional tolerance to both hot and cold temperatures.

Face it, fall without chrysanthemums is like spring without tulips or summer without roses. Shapes and colors abound, with puffy and round bouquet pompons, or lacy spider mums or even daisy mums with button centers in tight clusters of color. You'll find a range of bloom dates, from very early to late season, so with a bit of planning, you can keep your gardens in living color throughout the fall months.

Can I Transplant My Lantana Bush

September 21st, 2008

I was wondering if you could take a root from a Lantana bush and transplant it somewhere else. My daughter wanted a start from mine and I was not sure how to do it. Also can you transplant in the fall if at all possible or should we wait until spring to transplant. I hope you can help me in my quest to give my daughter a start from m beautiful Lantana bush. I live in TN and was not sure if it would survive the transplant in the fall. Thank You Mrs. D

How to Cover Plants for Frost Protection

September 16th, 2008

plant_cover_bagIn areas where a late spring frost or even an early fall hard frost can threaten garden and landscaping plants, there are ways plant lovers can protect them. Weather is unpredictable, even in those areas where plants are suitable for their growing zone. You can protect plants from frost if you are both prepared and aware of the pending weather.

Soft woods, actively blooming plants, and potted plants are the most susceptible to frost damage. The greatest threat of frost usually occurs overnight when the temperature drops enough to freeze the moisture on plant leaves and buds. The signs of frost damage are usually visible within two to three days and include browned and mushy leaves and buds. To protect plants from frost, you will need to cover them to keep the moisture from freezing.

Plastic can be used to protect plants from frost, but it’s not the best or most effective material, and some expert gardeners warn against it. Plastic or vinyl materials do not breathe, causing moisture to get trapped inside. If the temperature drops low enough, the increase in moisture presents a greater threat to the plants. Instead of plastic, try using natural fabrics like cotton or linen, an opened burlap bag, or newspaper, as a covering to protect plants from frost.

A fabric covering will allow moisture to escape but will still protect plants from frost by preventing the freezing air from coming into direct contact with the moisture. Bed sheets work well for covering large plants and shrubs, as well as young sprouts. Newspaper can be used on low-growing foliage, but won’t stay on top of larger plants well.

In a pinch, you can use plastic sheets, but be sure to remove the plastic covers early in the morning to let the increasingly warmer daytime air reach the plants. If the threat of frost is prolonged and temperatures remain low during the day, be sure to use a fabric covering. When there is a threat of frost, cover your plants before sunset.

You can also purchase commercial coverings designed to protect plants from frost. These may be more attractive than other methods, but usually bed sheets or burlap work just as well. If your efforts to protect plants from frost fail, you will have to allow nature to take its course. Early spring perennial flowers like the daffodil, tulip, and crocus may be damaged for the current season, but they should return in good health the next spring.

Depending on the weather, some plants may peek out earlier than normal, only to be threatened by a late frost. In some cases, they will bud again but often they will die and you’ll have to start over. Typically, the more established a plant is, the better it will fare. If you have vulnerable plants that would be expensive to replace, it’s best to try to protect them.

The cold, cloudless evenings in the fall, winter and spring may be harmful to your plants. During the day, your plants and the soil absorb and store heat from the sun. As the day turns into night, your plants quickly begin to lose all of their stored heat. Clouds will help to insulate and slow the loss of the heat, but a cloudless, wind-free night will afford no protection from frost. The temperature within the soil and in the plant’s cells may even drop to a few degrees colder than the air.

As the temperature decreases, the moisture in the air condenses into dew, which then freezes when the temperature reaches 32 degrees F. on the plant surfaces. At 32 degrees, damage to most plants may be minimal and only affect a small amount of leaves. However, if the temperature drops far enough for the plant cells to freeze, non-hardy plants will die.

Frost can occur even in supposedly frost-free areas. It is important to heed the weatherman’s warnings of “a chance of frost,” and take precautions to protect your garden. It is possible to extend your growing season by several weeks if you are able to keep your plants alive through a single early frost!

Vole problem around our plants

September 15th, 2008

My husband and I started using Jungle Flora this year according to directions which meant fertilizing with the product every 2 weeks for 6 weeks and then fertilizing monthly until Fall. We stopped fertilizing mid-August (we live in the Portland, Oregan area) and about 2 weeks later we noticed small holes in the soil and that the plants seem to be ‘standing still’. After doing some research it appears that we have voles. Since we have lived at this home for 7 years and have never noticed these holes or vole activity before, we’re wondering why this product seems to have drawn voles as they have only appeared where JF was used and not where it hasn’t been used. I can understand that by using JF, root formation has increased in response to the fertilizer, so maybe because the root systems are larger it drew voles to these new, abundant roots. But I would also think that by using a product that has predator fecal material in it, it would chase small critters away. We also cannot find any poison for voles and amazingly we are told by the garden centers in our area that “we” don’t usually have vole problems (yet, according to various web-sites on voles, this area has both above-ground and below-ground voles and as plentiful as moles). Do you have any answers as to JP usage and vole activity?

We appreciate your time and hopefully you can tell us if JP actually kept the voles away while we were using it due to predator odors or what could have possibly have now drawn voles to these areas. Thanks again! Deatra

Diatomaceous Earth, How Do We Love Thee?

September 1st, 2008

We’re letting YOU count the ways. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is one of our favorite products at GHS, and we’d like for the entire world to know about this natural wonder. If you’ve already had success using our Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, we hope you’ll add your comments to this blog and tell others of your experiences.

If you haven’t tried it, feel free to write with questions or comments.

Diatomaceous Earth is an all-natural fossilized rock, and when it’s ground into a fine powder, it kills insects by physically destroying them, rather than chemically. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is a mild abrasive used in human facial scrubs, metal polishes, and toothpaste. But our product is most commonly used as a safe, effective insecticide: pests dehydrate and die after coming in contact with it. It works against slugs and grubs without adding dangerous, toxic chemicals to your environment.

Tell us and others why you love Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth!