6833 Whitneyville Ave SE, Alto MI 49302 * (616) 868-6676 * CountryHarvestGreenhouse.com

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pizza Kits - a fun, fresh gift

Looking for a unique and useful -- and super-easy -- gift to give this spring? How about a "Pizza-to-Grow Kit", complete with tomatoes, spices and a box to hold it all in?

It's a great gift for kids to assemble and give, and it would make a fun, practical, and tasty present for teachers or for Mother's Day.

1) To start, visit your favorite local pizza joint and ask for a box (you may have to pay a small fee).

2) Then, purchase the fresh "ingredients" for your pizza -- lots of plants. Good choices for the pizza theme would be tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and herbs such as oregano and basil. For a fun play on words, include a flower plant to represent "flour" for the pizza dough.

3) You can transfer the plants into small pots (or styrofoam cups) if need be, then cut holes in the lid of the pizza box and place the plants in each.

4) For final touch, if you choose, include a gift certificate to the pizza place you got the box from.

A Pizza-to-Grow Kit is sure to be a big hit with recipients, and, assembling it will give your kids a chance to learn more about plants and the foods they make. For a great list of tomato, herb and flower options for your kit, visit our website at http://www.countryharvestgreenhouse.com/ and we'll help you find the plants for an awesome kit.

PS: Don't forget to let your kids plant their own pizza garden!

source: Family Fun magazine

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mulching your vegetable garden

You can use organic or inorganic materials to mulch your garden. Here is a list of some options and usage tips.

Organic mulches:

Compost: You can use fully or partially decomposed compost (it is better if the compost is fully decomposed). Compost makes a great mulch and soil conditioner.

Lawn Clippings: Don't use clippings from a lawn that has been treated with a herbicide or weed killer because those chemicals can kill your vegetable plants. Let untreated clippings dry before putting them around your garden; fresh grass gets to compact and smells bad while it's decomposing.

Leaf Mold: Leaves are cheap and prolific, but they can blow around and be hard to keep in place. Ground up, partially decomposed leaves will stay in place better. Nitrogen should be added to leaf mold. Note: Don't use walnut leaves. They contain iodine, which is toxic to some vegetable plants.

Sawdust: Sawdust is often available for the asking, but it requires added nitrogen to prevent microorganisms from depleting the soil's nitrogen supply. If possible, allow sawdust to decompose for a year before using it as a mulch.

Straw: Straw can be messy and hard to apply in small areas, but it is an excellent mulch. Just don't use hay, which many weed seeds.

Wood Chips or Shavings: Wood chips, like sawdust, decompose slowly and should be allowed to partially decompose for a year before being used as mulch. Additional nitrogen will be needed to supply bacteria during decomposition.

Inorganic mulch:

Landscape fabric: used in small gardens for plants that are grown in a group or a hill, typically vining plants such as cucumbers, squash, or pumpkins.

It can also be used for individual plants such as peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. Because the fabric is black and attracts heat, it should not be used for crops that need a cool growing season -- cabbage or cauliflower, for instance -- unless it's covered with a thick layer of light-reflecting material, such as sawdust.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Small-space gardening

If you have a small yard or a simply want to garden on a small scale, there are some great ways you can enjoy a delicious, compact and attractive garden.

You can take advantage of decks, patios, porches, and window boxes to grow fresh vegetables and herbs. Even hanging baskets will work for some plants.

Container garden "beds" can be made to fit your needs and space -- and your style. Barrels, wood crates or boxes, baskets, urns, clay or plastic pots, basins... all offer fun and attractive ways to set up your garden.

A few simple rules are that the containers must be large enough to meet plant spacing requirements, deep enough to develop roots (about 6-8 inches deep), and provide adequate drainage, which may involve drilling a few holes in the bottom.

Many vegetables can be grown in containers. Tomatoes, always a popular favorite, offer several varieties bred specifically for containers and hanging baskets. Of those special varieties, at Country Harvest Farm we sell Micro Tom, Maskotka, Tiny Tim and Tumbler tomatoes.

Other good container vegetable choices include carrots, radishes, spinach, lettuce, and all peppers. Herbs and edible flowers are excellent additions to the garden and your dinner table.

The key to container gardening is to be creative with your space, ask questions if needed, and experiment with your needs and tastes. With just a little bit of dirt and space, you can grow the vegetables, herbs and flowers your family loves.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Know your zone!

Not your time zone. Your plant hardiness zone. That is an important part of plant survival.

Most of west Michigan falls in Zone 5 according to the USDA Map.

That means when selecting perennials, the plant must say it is hardy to Zone 5 or below in order for it to survive a Michigan winter. Anything listed for 6 or above needs a warmer climate than we can offer. (Plants listed 6 might make it on the lakeshore, where the lake keeps things a little warmer).

It also means that when sowing your vegetable garden and planting your annual flowers, you need to be sure you plant when it is safe to plant for Zone 5. After the last spring freeze/frost dates. The weather forcast can help you determine when that date will be this year. Or, a rule of thumb followed by many in Michigan is to wait until after Memorial Day before planting tender annuals and vegetable gardens.

This spring find your zone and enjoy the fruits of your labors!