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Archive for May, 2012

Grape tomatoes.

It’s time, it’s finally tomato time!

Are you planting tomatoes this year? If so, it won’t be long until you’re picking the very first fruits off your own tomato plant and I bet you can almost taste it.

Here are a few tips for making this your finest tomato harvest ever:

1. Plant in full sun. Tomatoes need 10 hours of sunshine a day to grow at their best.

2. Don’t plant too close together. Leaving some room for air to circulate around and between plants is a great way to fight diseases.

3. Rotate crops. You know this. Planting your tomatoes, or any crop,  in the same spot year after year is an invitation to disease and pest problems.

4. Plant deep. Plant your seedlings with just the top leaves above the soil. The stem will develop roots, and you’ll have a sturdier plant with a deep, well developed root system.

5. Water deeply and regularly. Don’t over-water, but try to keep the soil moist. Even watering lets fruit develop at a healthy rate, and prevents blossom-end rot.

6. Use a slow release fertilizer. New plants don’t need much fertilizer, but when they begin to set fruit they need more. A slow release plant food stays in the soil over many weeks instead of washing away, so the plant can absorb them as needed.

7. Stake or cage your plants. This is another tip to reduce infestations by keeping leave and branches up off the groung.

8. Prune Suckers. By pruning away suckers that sprout between the stem and branches, you re-direct energy back into the main plant and fruit production. Use caution in pruning your tomatoes, as the leaves provide shelter from the scorching sun, so don’t strip away too much.

Try these products made just for tomatoes:

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English: Chairs in Reims Cathedral

Not a fun party

I had 16 people over for a barbecue yesterday.

A cook-out is a pretty easy, low key way to host a party. If the drinks are cold, the grill is hot, and it doesn’t rain, you’re pretty much guaranteed a successful party.

But if I’m hosting more that 8 people, it’s always B-Y-O-C (bring your own chair).  I just don’t have chairs for 16.

And half of the chairs I do have are the stackable resin kind that NO MATTER how you try to prevent it, collect water and leaves and bugs and mildew and have to be scrubbed every time you un-stack them.

Which is why I am enthralled with these new “Quik-Fold chairs from Adams Manufacturing.Quik-Fold Chair in Sage

  • They are made of easy-care UV treated resin.
  • They fold up so I can store them inside.
  • They come in 3 colors- sage, clay and white.
  • They are comfortable
  • They look nice

It’s enough to make me want to throw another party!

In addition to the chairs, there are also Quik-Fold side tables and Quik-Fold dining sets.  If, like me,  you are lucky enough to have more friends than furniture, check them out!

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English: Illustration showing the anatomy of a...

True or False- Mosquitoes need water to breed.

TRUE- Mosquitoes lay their eggs in shallow, still water. That’s why it’s important to empty ALL standing water on your property. Buckets, planter trays, tools, toys, even mud puddles can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

True or False- Mosquitoes can detect a human from 75 feet away

TRUE-Mosquitoes find their prey by detecting CO2  as you breathe, and other chemicals in your sweat. Although they can’t see you until they are very close, remember that any mosquito in your yard knows when you come outside, and will come looking for you!

True or False- A mosquito can produce 3000 offspring in a season. TRUE.

With much of the country experiencing a wet spring, it could be a bad year for mosquitoes. Protect yourself by being vigilant. It only takes 4-7 days for a mosquito to hatch and become an adult, so don’t let water stand for any length of time.

Protect ponds and birdbaths with Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Bits. They are all natural, perfectly safe for birds, wildlife and livestock, but will prevent mosquito eggs from maturing.

Protect your yard with Bonide Mosquito Beater. It uses essential oils of geranium, cedar, garlic and others to repel mosquitoes for 3 weeks. Just sprinkle granules around your deck and other outside areas for a barrier of protection.

Browse All Our Mosquito Control Products

 

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We talked about stink bugs last year, but maybe you weren’t here, or you didn’t have a stink bug problem, or you just don’t remember. Since spring is sprung, and I saw my first stink bug last week, I thought it would be worth re-visiting. If you know all you want to know about them, you can go ahead to your favorite recipe blog.

English: Close up view of a Brown marmorated s...

“Need To Know” Facts About Stink Bugs

There are many types of stink bugs, but it is the Brown Marmorated Stink bug that has quickly become a devastating pest to farmers and home gardeners. Because it has no natural predators, it has quickly spread and multiplied un-checked, ravaging orchards and crops in many states.

  1. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was first seen in the US in the 1990′s.
  2. It is now found in 33 states, and expected to spread.
  3. Stink bugs do not bite, or carry disease.  
  4. Stink bugs devastate food crops by sucking out plant juices.
  5. Stink bugs seek shelter in attics, basements, and anywhere they can enter your home.  
  6. Stink bugs stink. Avoid squashing them.
  7. This bug has no natural predators in this country, allowing for the current population explosion.
  8. They are resistant to many pesticides.  

Battling Stink Bugs In The House

  1. Don’t squash them, unless you want to know how they got their name. They will release their characteristic odor if squashed.
  2. Use the vacuum to collect bugs inside, then put the vaccuum bag in the outside trash. 
  3. Caulk cracks or openings in basements, and around vents, pipes, and other openings. Make sure all windows and doors seal tightly. 
  4. Use screen to protect vents and openings that need air flow.  

Battling Stink Bugs In The Yard

There aren’t any quick fixes when it comes to stink bug control, but here are some things that are working for other gardeners:

  1. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on garden soil and plants.
  2. Remove bugs by hand and drop into soapy water or alcohol.
  3. Protect fruits and vegetables with  Surround WP. It’s an organic clay coating that keeps fruit from being pierced.

More Stink Bug Control Options:

St. Gabriel’s Stink Bug Killer Spray

Bonide Beetle Killer- Ready to Spray

Bonide Household Insect Control


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Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) - detail ...

Annuals

Annual flowers complete their life cycle in one growing season. They sprout in the spring, grow foliage, then produce flowers and finally seeds. Once they have produced seed, usually at the end of the season, the plants begin to die. You can prolong the flowering and life cycle by deadheading flowers. The plant will continue to bloom until it is allowed to produce seeds that mature. After a certain number of seeds are produced, the plant will cease blooming. If you have great performers that you want to re-seed themselves, then don’t deadhead everything. Towards the end of the season, leave some flowers to produce and scatter seed for next year.

Biennials

Biennial plants complete their life cycle over two growing seasons. The first season they produce only foliage, no flowers. The second growing season they form flowers and produce seeds; then, the mother plant dies. Common biennial flowers include Canterbury bells, Forget-Me-Nots, Foxglove and Hollyhocks. Biennials should be planted every year, so that there are always year old plants to produce flowers.

Perennials

Perennial plants have a life span of more than two years, some may live for decades. Tender perennials die back in the winter, and produce all new growth, and flowers and seeds, every season.  Perennials are a great investment. You will plant once, and enjoy them year after year. Many of them will become fuller and fuller until you can divide them and have even more plants!

An interesting note, many of the plants we grow as annuals are really perennials when grown in their native climates. Examples include petunias, geraniums, tomatoes, and peppers. If not killed by cold winters, they would live for many seasons.

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Bumble Bee

It’s not news that bees are in trouble, and have been for several years.  Honeybees and bumblebees are disappearing in frightening numbers. There is much speculation about the cause. It may be a new parasite that’s been introduced; it could be linked to pesticide use, a reduction in habitat, or a combination of these and other factors.

We need bees!

In fact, there are some plants that cannot survive without bee pollination, including apples,  almonds,  soybeans, strawberries, many melons and citrus fruits, cucumbers and others.  Imagine life without all those fruits and veggies!

What Can We Do?

You can invite these pollinating heroes into your yard by providing food sources and living space for a new colony to grow and thrive.

How to make a “bee friendly” yard:

Plant a wide variety of blooming plants. Bees are attracted to areas with a diversity of flowering plants.  Try to have things blooming all season from spring through fall.

Plant natives. Experts say that bees are 4 times more likely to frequent native plants than exotics.Plant a native wildflower garden. You and the bees will both enjoy it!

Remember those food crops that need bees. Well, bees need them too, so plant flowering crops, fruit and nut trees, and berries.

Provide water.  A shallow bird feeder, fountain. or butterfly puddler will be a welcome stopping point for bees.

Avoid chemical pesticides. If you must spray, apply after dusk when bees are not active, or use a bee friendly product like Neem Oil.

Tolerate weeds. Bees just know flowers, they don’t discriminate against what we call weeds. Leave a few dandelions until after they bloom. C’mon, do it for the bees!

Finally, try a bee house.

Interesting that many of the things that attract bees also give us more beautiful and productive gardens.

What will you do to attract bees?

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What Are They?

Polymers are synthetic crystals that are made to hold hundreds of times their own weight in water. They are hard when dry, but swell and soften to a gel when wet. They absorb whatever water comes their way, and hold it, releasing it as needed when the surrounding soil dries. Soil Moist holds 200 times its own weight in water, and releases it gradually into the soil as needed.

Why Should I Use Soil Moist Polymers?

  • Because of their ability to absorb and hold many times their weight in water, polymers can provide much needed moisture to plant roots in times of drought.
  • They will also absorb nutrients, and slowly release them back into dry soil as they release water.
  • They will reduce the need for watering up to 50%
  • Addition of polymers helps plants maintain their vigor in all types of conditions
  • In addition, as the polymers expand and contract, they loosen and aerate soil, making it easy for plant roots to grow deep.
  • Polymers are completely safe and non-hazardous to use.

Where Should I Use Soil Moist Polymers?

  • Potted Plants
  • Hanging Baskets
  • Vegetable Gardens
  • Trees
  • New Plantings
  • Flower Beds
  • Turf

How Do I Use Soil Moist?

Simply mix into soil according to the package directions. Dispense into the bottom of new planting holes, spread with a spreader before laying sod or grass seed.

Anything Else I Should Know?

Yes! You should know about Mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi improve the ability of plants to utilize the soil resources by ten to hundreds of times.

Mycorrhizal fungi are found in undisturbed soils with other beneficial soil organisms. Today’s common practices such as tillage, site preparation, road and home construction, minind and removal of topsoil can degrade the mycorrhizal forming potential of soil. The fungi improve the ability of plants to utilize the soil resources by ten to hundreds of times.

Soil Moist Transplant contains Mycorrhiza, and is ideal for giving transplants their best start, strengthening them by helping them to fully utilize the soil’s resources.

Check Out Our Selection of Soil Moist Products, for your Healthiest Plants ever!

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A single week's fruits and vegetables from com...

A single week’s fruits and vegetables from community-supported agriculture share: peppers, okra, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, garlic, eggplant, squash. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are You a “locavore?’

You’ve heard of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores, but do you know what a locavore is? It’s someone who consumes food that is grown and produced locally in his or her area.

I know, what in the world are you going to eat that’s made in your area. It sounds impossible, but it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.  You don’t have to limit your diet, but try to choose local foods when available.  It takes a little thought, and maybe a change in your habits.  Here are some ideas for getting started, and some of them look a lot like fun!

Visit your local farmer’s market. In addition to fruits and vegetables, you may find eggs, bread, canned goods, and even meats that are produced locally.

Grow your own food.  In your own garden, grow the things you and your family enjoy. Eat them fresh, then freeze and can for the winter, and you’ll always have a supply of local food ready.

Frequent small, independant businesses. You may find locally produced wine, beer, coffee, jams, jellies, cheeses, baked goods and candy and more, produced in your area and offered by businesses in your town.

Ask questions at your grocery store. Find out where the produce comes from. How about the meats? Tell them what you’d like to see. If more customers speak up, it drives stores to re-think how and where they purchase.

Join a CSA (community supported Agriculture). These farms usually charge a monthly or seasonal membership fee, and provide you with a box of whatever is harvested that week.

Why eat local? Lots of reasons:

Better for your body. Produce in your grocery store may have been shipped 2000 miles to get to you, losing freshness and nutrients during the journey. Local food is eaten sooner, so it’s fresher, tastes better, and is more nutritious.

Better for the environment.  Did you know most food is trucked 1000 miles or more before it hits your grocery shelves? That’s a lot of fuel and a lot of polluting emissions

Better for your community. Spend more of your dollars supporting the businesses right in your neighborhood.

Better for your tastebuds. Fresher food tastes better, and local providers often take extra care in producing the best quality food they can, instead of the cheapest, or most efficient.

Better for your air. By supporting local farms, you help ensure their success, thus keeping greenspace green!

What steps are you willling to take to eat locally?

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There are 16 essential elements that plants need to grow. Oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen are used in the largest quantities, and the plant derives them from air and water. The remaining 13 nutrients come from the soil, and can be added through fertilizing.

Fertilizers are labeled with 3 numbers, separated by dashes, for example: 24-8-16, the analysis on Miracle Gro All Purpose Plant Food. This is called the analysis, and it refers to the percentage of the 3 macronutrients by weight.  The macronutrients are: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  So the example above would include 24% nitrogen, 8% phosphorus, and 16% potassium. A fertilizer does not have to have all 3 macronutrients. For example, a label reading 20-0-0 would include 20% nitrogen, and no phosphorus or potassium.  These 3 elements are the ones that are usually deficient in soil.

As you’ve probably already noted, the 24-8-16 fertilizer in the example only adds up to 48%. So what else is in the fertilizer?

 There are 3 additional macronutrients which are not included in the analysis. They are calcium, sulfur, and magnesium.  These are present in adequate quantities in most soils, and only need to be added if a soil test indicates.  If included, the percentage will be shown on the full list of ingredients on the fertilizer container.

We’ve now accounted for 9 of the 16 essential elements. The remaining 7 are referred to as micro nutrients, or trace elements. They are boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. These micronutrients are just as vital to plant health as the macro nutrients, but they are needed in very small quantities.  They are present in sufficient quantities in most soils, but may leach out of very sandy soils.  A more common problem is that the elements are present in the soil, but factors like incorrect pH inhibit uptake by the plant. A soil test is recommended before adding these elements, as overdose can be toxic to plants.

The last ingredient in your fertilizer is filler. This is inert matter that makes it easier to apply the fertilizer.

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Wildflower Butterfly & Hummingbird MixLook what I just got…

I have the perfect spot in my yard for a wildflower garden. Now, I’m ready to plant.

Encap has a whole line of Wildflower mixes, including:

I’m a big fan of Encap products, because they make them so easy and foolproof.

These wildflower mixes are a complete kit, including seed, mulch and fertilizer. All you have to do is sprinkle the seeds and water. Each one has a blend of annual and perennial flowers, so something will be in bloom all season long.

Encap also has 2 unique technologies that help ensure success.

Advanced Soil Technology- It’s a biodegradable addition that:

  • Reduces soil & nutrient loss
  • Provides better water infiltration
  • Improves soil structure & root mass
  • Enhances seed establishment

Seed Watering Technology (Sparkle)

  • Crystals absorb water and release it slowly to the seedlings
  • The crystals sparkle until they are dry-when there is no more sparkle, you know to water
  • Helps you avoid guessing at amount of water needed
  • Conserves water
  • Saves time

I like everything about that. Nobody wants to be disappointed, and Encap has put everything in their Wildflower mixes to ensure that you wind up with a beautiful patch of flowers. In fact, they guarantee your satisfaction. You can read it RIGHT HERE.

Which one will you try?

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