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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA, 94549

Life is Beautiful Blog

Growing Onions, Garlic & Shallots

jennifer carroll

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For all your veggie plantings, we recommend mixing in a bag of Master Nursery's Paydirt. (Now on sale thru October 31st, buy 3 get 1 free, mix and match with Gold Rush!) A blend of 45% chicken manure, 55% mushroom compost and redwood sawdust, Paydirt is great for loosening our native clay soil and improving moisture retention.

To keep not only your onions, garlic, shallots but all other edibles healthy, fertilize with Master Nursery's Tomato & Vegetable Food 5-10-10 or E.B. Stone Organics Tomato & Vegetable Food 4-5-3 both available in our outside shop. 

ONIONS

Our onion bulbs are due to arrive in the next few weeks, stay tuned for what varieties we'll have in store! Remember when planting to choose a site with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight for a healthy crop. 

SETS

Sets are just tiny bulbs that were started from seed the year before. Onion sets should be about the size of a marble. Larger sets don’t always adjust well and could bolt or split. For similar reasons, don’t buy sets that have already sprouted. And as with all bulbs, onion sets should be firm and healthy looking.

Sets can be planted early in the season, before the last frost, but after the soil has dried and warmed up a bit. Plant onion sets pointed end up and cover with about 2" of soil. Depending on the mature size of your variety of onion, space about 3-4" apart.

TRANSPLANTS

Transplants generally result in larger onions than sets. You can buy transplants or start your own indoors from seed. Start onion seed about 8-12 weeks before your transplant date. Plant onion seed about ¼ - ½" deep. You can plant thickly and thin at transplant time. Keep the soil moist. As the tops grow, keep them trimmed to about 4".

Transplants or onion seedlings will need to be hardened off before planting outdoors. Wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting. Don’t bury transplants too deeply. Plant them close to the surface of the soil, spaced about 4” apart. Keep onions well watered throughout the season. The bulbs need regular water to swell in size. Transplant-grown onions are the type you see pushing up out of the ground. 

Water stressed onions are stronger in flavor and more pungent so water scarcely. 

HARVESTING

You can harvest onions at any stage. The plants you thin from a row can be used as green onions. However, onion bulbs are ready when about ½ the tops have fallen over and the bulbs’ skins have a papery feel. Bulbs allowed to remain in the ground until 50% or more of the green tops have fallen over will store longer.

Once you see ½ the tops are down, very gently coax the remaining leaves down, without breaking them off the bulb. Then allow the bulbs to sit in the ground and cure for a couple of days before you lift them. You’ll have better luck digging the onion bulbs, rather than pulling. You don’t have to go deep, just enough to loosen the remaining roots.

Shake and brush off any loose soil and let the bulbs finish curing in a warm, dry place with good air circulation. Leave the leaves on. You can use fresh onions at any time now.

For storing onions, wait until the outside onion skins dry and the neck - where the leaves meet the bulbs, starts to shrivel. Then you can store them in a cool, dry location, like your basement. Onions keep longer in cool temperatures (35-40° F.) but should not be allowed to freeze. Store onions in mesh type bags or by braiding the tops together and hanging. Just make sure they are not piled on top of each other and not getting any air.

GARLIC

Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow. You plant the individual cloves within the bulb. Plant the largest cloves you have, to get the largest bulbs. Plant each garlic clove two to three inches below the soil surface and about 6" apart.

WHICH END IS UP?

A common novice dilemma is not knowing which end is up. It’s the pointed end. Your garlic will still grow, planted pointed side down, but the shoot will have to curve around and you will wind up with a malformed bulb.

PLANTING TIME

Fall is garlic planting time. Depending where you are gardening, this could be September to November. Here in California, we can get away with a bit later. Once the soil temperature has cooled off to about 60° F, the roots of the garlic clove will start to germinate and begin to take hold and anchor the plant. Mulch around the plant with straw for moisture retention and weed compression. 

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GROWING CONDITIONS

Your garlic should grow well if given the following conditions:

• Well-drained soil

• Soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0

• Minimal weed competition 

• Plenty of organic matter

• An inch of water while the bulb is forming – mid-May to July

BE WARY OF RODENTS

Garlic is relatively pest free, if you use good seed cloves. It is, however, popular with some rodents, especially gophers. If you have gophers, we recommend planting in one of Digger’s Root Guard Heavy Duty Baskets. Available in one, three, five and 15-gallon sizes, the wire baskets are galvanized for increased durability and corrosion resistance. Easy to plant in, they allow generous room for root-growth and up-sizing. For more information, check out our Protecting Your Garden From Gophers

HARVESTING

Dig, don’t pull garlic out of the ground. You may have planted a small clove, but the bulb is now several inches deep with a strong root system. When to harvest garlic is a judgment call, but basically it’s ready to go when the lower leaves start to brown. About the only way to be sure is to actually dig a few bulbs and slice them in half. If the cloves fill out the skins, it’s time. Harvesting too soon will result in smaller cloves that don’t store well. Leave the bulbs in the ground too long and the cloves may be bursting out of their skins, making them unstorable and open to disease.

STORING 

Brush off any soil clinging to the bulbs. Allow the bulbs to cure or dry for three to four weeks in either a well-ventilated room or a dry, shady spot outside. Once the tops and roots have dried they can be cut off or braided. You can also further clean the bulbs by removing the outer skins. Just be careful not to expose any of the cloves. Garlic likes to be on the cool side, 32-40°F.

The softneck varieties may last 6-8 months. Hardnecks should be used soon after harvesting. Hardneck varieties may dry out, sprouting or go soft within 2-4 months. Keeping hardnecks at 32°F sometimes helps them survive for up to 7 months without deteriorating.

SHALLOTS

One of the easiest members of the onion family to grow, shallots not only mature faster but require less space than their counterparts. Growing shallots in your garden is very easy.

Many people wonder “what is a shallot?” Although they’re often confused with green onions (scallions) and the like, shallots are quite different. With their mild onion and garlic flavor, shallots are considered an essential ingredient for flavoring nearly any dish. The most distinguishing factor that sets shallots aside from other members of the onion family can be found by close examination of the bulbs. Unlike onions or leeks, shallots are made up of cloves—much like that of garlic. To get the most from these tasty plants in the garden, it may help to practice some important tips for growing shallots.

GROWING 

The best way to grow shallots is in loose, well-drained soil that’s been amended with organic matter. They also prefer areas receiving full sun. Shallots are often planted in early spring or as soon as the soil is manageable in warmer climates. Plant them about an inch or two deep with the tips slightly protruding from the soil’s surface. Space shallots about eight inches apart to prevent overcrowding.

Some tips for growing shallots are that they require thorough watering once planted but will require less as they mature, with exception to overly dry conditions. Once mid-spring arrives, you may want to expose shallot bulbs to aid in the ripening process, as they develop better on top of the ground. However, a light layer of mulch will help retain moisture while keeping weeds to a minimum. 

HARVESTING

When to harvest shallots can be tricky for some, as this usually depends on when planting took place. Generally, fall plantings are ready to harvest in winter or spring while those planted in spring may be harvested in mid-summer to early fall. Harvest shallots when the bulbs are about ¼ inch around but wait for the leaves to yellow before lifting. For an extended harvest season, plant and harvest the largest shallots first, replanting smaller bulbs in their place for harvesting later.

STORING

Once shallots are harvested, any unused bulbs should be stored. Dispose of any bulbs that appear soft or bruised. Shake off soil once lifted from the soil and allow shallots to remain in a warm, dry area for about a week prior to storing. Then place them in a mesh bag and store them in a cool, dry place.

Growing shallots is easy and require little care, other than occasional watering. These hardy little bulbs are seldom affected by problems; however, you should practice crop rotation every other year or so, especially in areas where other onions have been previously grown. 

Questions? Stop in today and talk with one of our nursery professionals! 

The History Of Orchard Nursery, Florist & Lazy K

jennifer carroll

The land where our nursery sits today was originally a pear orchard and fruit stand owned by the Kergan family. The "Lazy K", our gift house, was the family home of the original ranch owners and sat where the freeway is today. The name, "Lazy K" comes from the cattle brand, a rocking "K", used by the Kergan family way back when. 

Orchard Nursery & Florist was established in 1946 by the original owners Jack Schneider and his partner Stewart Wade. The entire nursery was originally conceived and designed with the help of  the renowned landscape architect, Ernest Wertheim

Ernest Wertheim created a seating area including the pond, inviting customers to stay awhile. 

Ernest Wertheim created a seating area including the pond, inviting customers to stay awhile. 

In the middle of the nursery, we created a picturesque patio surrounded by plants. There were a dozen or so comfortable chairs around tables that invited customers to sit, relax, converse, and take in the lovely flowers around them. Jack and Stewart hosted fashion shows, parties and occasions of all sorts on this patio...Sundays at Orchard Nursery became a routine, a weekly social event enjoyed by the whole neighborhood.
— Chasing Spring by Ernest Wertheim with Linda Hamilton 
An Orchard Nursery & Florist fashion show, 1958. 

An Orchard Nursery & Florist fashion show, 1958. 

Ernest is still greatly respected in horticultural circles and is active in the U.S. as well as Europe.  Over the last 35 years there have been many changes throughout the nursery and it is felt that the metamorphosis of the business over time is one of its biggest assets.

In the late fifties the florist department was opened. Our Florist department became famous for its great selection of African Violets that were grown in our upper greenhouses on the hill. Today our florist is filled with gorgeous orchids and many other varieties of blooming houseplants. 

The view from where Highway 24 sits now. 

The view from where Highway 24 sits now. 

In the late fifties Highway 24 was built and the Lazy K was moved to its current location. (That's why you feel like you drive into "the back" when you visit.) The main store was also enlarged to accommodate the increase in business due to the rapid growth in the surrounding area.

Our original store was 1/3 its current size.

Our original store was 1/3 its current size.

In 1972 Tom Courtright bought Orchard Nursery and used the Lazy K as his family home. He's owned the nursery for over 45 years now and been in the nursery business his entire life. His father Gordon opened one of the first retail garden centers in our area, and Tom's sister and her husband own East Bay Nursery in Berkeley. Additionally Tom's wife, Jacquie, owns Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, which is also an institution in that part of the East Bay. 

Tom has always supported the nursery industry in every way he possibly can. He believes that you only get out of it what you put in. A past President of many nursery state and national associations and lifelong member of Rotary and Chamber of Commerce in Lafayette, he was named Lafayette's Citizen of the Year in 1989.

Our November 1981 newsletter. In those days Tom Giantvalley, the nursery's manager in the fifties and sixties, hand wrote our newsletters from his office on the second story of the Lazy K House. 

Our November 1981 newsletter. In those days Tom Giantvalley, the nursery's manager in the fifties and sixties, hand wrote our newsletters from his office on the second story of the Lazy K House. 

This year we'll be celebrating our 68th Christmas show. In 1949 Orchard Nursery presented its first and over the years we've become well-known throughout the state and among garden center peers for our extensive inventory and extravagant displays. If you stop in today you'll see our team of elves hard at work getting all of our stunning trees decorated and on display in the shop. Stay tuned to find out when Santa will be pulling up in his sleigh at the nursery! 

Persimmon Salsa Recipe

jennifer carroll

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Their botanical name Diospyros roughy translating to ‘fruit of the gods’ in Greek, so it's no wonder why we can't get enough of persimmons! Whip up this simple recipe and enjoy a zesty side to any and all of your fall platings! 

INGREDIENTS

3-4 ripe Fuyu persimmons, peeled, and diced

2 Tbsp minced yellow onion, cipollini onion, or shallot

Juice of one lime

1 Tbsp minced fresh basil

1 Tbsp minced jalapeno

1 Tbsp minced fresh mint

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Season. Serve at room temperature over a grilled, broiled, baked, poached, or a pan-roasted protein source.

VARIETIES

Incorporating so many fresh ingredients, there's nothing quite like cooking from your garden. Plant a persimmon tree in your own backyard orchard and enjoy seasonal color and flavor. Adorning the tree like vibrant orange jewels until ripe, bite into a persimmon as sweet as candy. 

We carry two of the most common varieties, Fuyu and Hachiya available off of our 2018 Bareroot Fruit Tree List. (Order before December 1st and receive 20% off your order!)

It's easy to identify the difference between Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons; Hachiya are recognized by their acorn-like shape with pointy bottoms while Fuyus are shaped like a flattened tomato.

The way you eat them differs as well, Fuyus are eaten like an apple, ripe when firm. On the other hand, Hachiyas are only sweet when ripe, and we're talking even over ripe. The Hachiya persimmon should feel squishy like a water balloon. Cut into the top and enjoy the sweet, gooey texture as a spread on morning toast. 

In addition to our regular stock, our supplier Dave Wilson Nursery has opened their entire inventory to you. Choose from varieties including Chocolate (bright red skin, brown flesh and a sweet and spicy flavor), Izu (harvests 3 weeks before Fuyu and ready to eat off the tree) and Giant Fuyu (larger and less round with a crisp, crunchy flavor). Orders from the Dave Wilson Fruit Tree List must be prepaid and placed no later than November 5th. 

Questions? Stop in today and speak with one of our nursery professionals! 

This recipe is from the Kaiser Permanente website, Food for Health, Recipes for Life.

Fall Is For Planting: Our Hillside Landscape

jennifer carroll

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Wondering what we're up to on our hillside? We’ve been waiting for the opportunity to re-landscape and now that it’s fall, it’s the perfect time to plant! Fall is the best time for planting just about anything and everything. Warm soil helps roots take hold and establish themselves while winter rains water in the plants for us!

Before...and our progress so far! 

Before...and our progress so far! 

We have chosen statuesque conifers and placed them dependent on size, color and texture. Our taller conifers have been strategically placed in the back while low-growing junipers, like our ‘Mother Lode’ variety and Jakobsen Mugo Pine are planted in the front.

To create focal points that draw the eye, dark and light colored foliage have been paired. Notice a few Crimson Ruby Japanese Barberry among electric evergreens. It’s easy to find conifers to plant among perennials to create a cohesive and lush garden. We have chosen perennials like Salvia and Lavender Lady Lilac (Spot it at the top of the hill!) to complement these stately gymnosperms. 

Golden Mop Threadbranch Cypress and Crimson Ruby Japanese Barberry. 

Golden Mop Threadbranch Cypress and Crimson Ruby Japanese Barberry. 

Inaba Shidare Maple and The Blues Colorado Spruce 

Inaba Shidare Maple and The Blues Colorado Spruce 

Hot Lips Salvia and Irish Bell Bosnian Pine 

Hot Lips Salvia and Irish Bell Bosnian Pine 

Ice Breaker Korean Fir and Green Wave Cedar

Ice Breaker Korean Fir and Green Wave Cedar

Upon planting we’re amending the soil with Master Nursery’s Gold Rush. A natural ground fir bark blend with 15% composted chicken manure, this adds vital long-lasting organic matter to the soil improving both soil aeration and water penetration.

Our tools for garden goodness! 

Our tools for garden goodness! 

Luke and Jacob working it! 

Luke and Jacob working it! 

For each new planting, Master Nursery's Iron Plus is applied to encourage healthy foliage and new growth. Any plant would benefit from Iron Plus, its blend of iron and sulphur keep leaves nice and green while a mix of micronutrients help with nutritional uptake. 

We’re also applying Master Nursery’s Master Start 5-20-10 to aid in our plant’s root development. A vigorous root system enables the plant to absorb water and nutrients critical for foliage, flower and fruit development. High in phosphorus, we recommend feeding all your newly planted ornamentals and lawns Master Start to aid in healthy growth. 

Stay tuned, we’ll be updating you on our next steps and how the hillside is filling out!

And be sure not to miss our sale starting this Sunday, October 1st thru Saturday, October 7th, shop 30% off conifers for this limited time only!

For more information, stop in and be sure not to miss Sara of the American Conifer Society and our very own Luke Vaughn at our Harvest Festival this Sunday, October 1st as they discuss why conifers are a high impact addition to your landscape!

Planting Bulbs

jennifer carroll

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No matter the size of your garden, there’s always a place to plant bulbs! (Don’t forget, they do great in pots!) After a long winter, there’s nothing like having your garden bursting with spring color! It’s the prettiest effect to plant bulbs in masses, a sea of purple iris or cheerful daffodils.

As far as planting time, as long as you put your bulbs in before Thanksgiving, you'll have spring bloomers. We don't foresee another heat wave so now thru mid-November is a great time to get them into the ground! When storing bulbs, keep them in a paper bag in a cool environment until planting time.  

Bearded irises need the most time in the ground to get their root system developed and established. As far as planting time, the earlier the better! 

PLANTING DEPTH

Ensure that your soil has good drainage, bulbs don’t like to be standing in water. We recommend loosen the soil before planting and work in either our Eureka Planting Mix or Pro-Pot for containers.

A general rule of thumb for planting depth is twice the height of the bulb. Plant large bulbs an average of 5 inches apart and small bulbs roughly 2 to 3 inches apart, pointy side up. For Fritillarias, because of their size and shape, plant them on their sides to keep them from collecting water and rotting. Mother Nature will take care of the rest!

FERTILIZER

Before placing the bulbs, fertilize with either Master Nursery’s Bulb Food 5-10-5 or E.B. Stone Organics Bulb Food 4-6-4, adding an amount in each hole dug, underneath the bulb. And don’t forget your bulbs from last year as well, this will help to maximize flower production for another year of stunners! Both fertilizers contain bone meal but for the old-fashioned gardeners out there, we have Master Nursery’s Bone Meal 1-15-0 in stock. High in phosphorus, bone meal is great for strengthening roots and stems on not only your bulbs, but sweet peas and bareroot too!

Cover bulbs level with the surrounding soil. Don’t “hill up” over the bulb or leave a sinkhole for a water pocket to form. After planting, water in your bulbs. A thorough watering encourages deep root growth and the sooner the roots develop, the faster your bulbs can tolerate cold and frost.

Certain bulbs, when flower and leaf stalks emerge, are a favorite snack of slugs and snails. Protect your budding bulbs with Sluggo or Sluggo Plus, both available in our shop.

BULB LASAGNA

One technique we love in our gardens and in containers is planting in layers AKA bulb lasagna. As the bulbs overlapping in flowering time, you’ll have a constant stream of blooming beauties. Choose late bloomers like tulips for the lowest layer and muscari, daffodils and other mid-season blooms for the middle. For the top, plant earlier flowering bulbs like crocuses and irises.

New and unusual bearded irises! 

New and unusual bearded irises! 

We’re really excited about our new and unusual bearded iris rhizomes that have just arrived from Holland. 'Attention Please' might just take the cake for the name alone! For specific instructions on planting bearded iris, check out our Gro-Sheet


While we’re talking bulbs, have you RSVP’d for our Container Planting with Bulbs demo? It’s free, led by Shawna, head of our Custom Container Department, and will give you tools to plant your own stunning bulb lasagna container! 

Part 2: Cool Season Veggies

jennifer carroll

Don't forget! Right now is the best time to plant your cool season veggies! Check out our selection and get planting!

If you want to grow Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, be sure to get these in the ground ASAP as they need as much time as possible in the ground to form their crop! 

As a reminder, for all veggies, we recommend mixing Master Nursery’s Paydirt into your soil.  A blend of 45% chicken manure and 55% mushroom compost and redwood sawdust is great for loosening clay soils and improving moisture retention. Don’t forget to feed them too! Fertilize with Master Nursery's Tomato & Vegetable Food 5-10-10 or E.B. Stone Organics Tomato & Vegetable Food 4-5-3 to ensure your best harvest. 

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SWEET PEAS

Although not edible, we love sweet peas for their candy-like scent! Sweet peas like sun or light shade; choose a site with rich and moist well-draining soil. A hardy, winter to spring annual vine growing 10’ tall, they are ideal for a temporary screen. Provide a trellis, string or wire and watch as these beautiful climbers create a lush focal point.

Colorful, fragrant Sweet Peas make magnificent cut flowers for vases in large, long lasting quantities. Cut flowers at least every other day and remove all seedpods to maximize blooms.

PEAS

Peas like a soil that retains moisture yet drains well. Provide support for climbing peas and do pick often or the plant might stop producing! The three main types of peas we get in stock are Garden or English, sugar snaps, and snow peas:

1. English, green, or garden peas are bright green, bulging pods are tough and inedible. The peas need to be shelled. The peas can be very sweet and should be eaten soon after harvest.

2. Sugar snaps are curved, plump deep green pod with tender sweet peas. Everything is edible. Pods are crunchy filled with peas. These can be eaten cooked or raw having a very sweet flavor. Be careful not overcook them.

3. Snow peas are wide and flat green with very small peas. Everything is edible. They are very crunchy with a sweet flavor. Can be eaten raw or cooked. Be careful not to overcook.

CARDOONS

Cardoons, like their close cousins artichokes, are members of the Thistle family and native to the Mediterranean. Some food scholars believe that the relationship is more than simply close, insisting that the artichoke was born in 15th century Europe as a result of cardoon cultivation. Still relatively unknown in the United States, cardoons look like gigantic, overgrown celery stalks with artichoke tendencies, and tasting almost like a tangy cross between artichokes and celery. While the artichoke plant is prized for its edible flower, the cardoon plant holds its promise of pale, cloudy gray-green stalks.

Preferring a damp and mild climate, they are grown as a food crop in Italy, France, Spain, Australia, and Northern California, among other places, and primarily as ornamentals in England. Very cold weather is said to make the stalks tender.

A hardy herbaceous perennial growing 4 feet high and 5 feet wide, cardoons are great for a border or accent with handsome spiny foliage and purple thistle-like flowers in summer. Plant in sun with well-draining soil and water regularly. Be sure to feed once in fall and again in spring for healthy growth.

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SPINACH

Spinach is a wonderfully versatile vegetable, popular worldwide, with nearly every cuisine featuring spinach somewhere in its repertoire. The Italians are particularly partial to spinach and have hundreds of dishes using this vegetable. The words à la Florentine mean the dish contain spinach.

Spinach requires rich, fast draining, soil. Give plants plenty of water and 1 feeding to encourage lush, full foliage. Popeye's addiction to this "power-packed" vegetable comes from the fact that it's a rich source of iron as well as vitamin A and C.

ARTICHOKES

A perennial, make sure you prepare your soil well. (Be sure to pick up a few bags of Master Nursery’s Paydirt to work into your existing soil!) Growing up to 4 feet tall with a spread of 6 feet in diameter, allow plenty of space for them to grow. Keep your ‘chokes heavily watered, about once a week during their growing season. Any moisture deficiency will result in loose buds.

COLLARDS

Collard greens are very popular in the American South, where most of the American crop is grown. Plant in full sun with ample and deep watering. We recommend fertilizing before heads begin to form. 

Upon harvest, remove the oval leaves from the stalk before cooking. It is important to cook collards for a length of time or the leaves can be chewy. A good source of vitamin C and K, the flavor can be mild and a little bit stronger than cabbage. 

Part 1: Cool Season Veggies

jennifer carroll

Now is the best time to plant your cool season veggies! We have so many delectable varieties available, stop in and get your winter vegetables planted today! 

Be sure to start with Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli first, these plants need as much time as possible in the ground to form their crop. 

For all your veggies, we recommend mixing Master Nursery’s Paydirt into your soil.  A blend of 45% chicken manure, 55% mushroom compost and redwood sawdust, it is great for loosening clay soils and improving moisture retention. Don’t forget to feed them too! Fertilize with Master Nursery's Tomato & Vegetable Food 5-10-10 or E.B. Stone Organics Tomato & Vegetable Food 4-5-3 to ensure your best harvest. 

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KALETTES

A brand new vegetable! (And quickly becoming the new superfood!) This cross between Kale and Brussels Sprouts has the best flavors of both parents, sweet and nutty! The little miniature Kales are borne along the thick stem, like sprouts. The small, kale-like leaves are ruffy green and purple. 

Plant in full sun and successively to ensure a steady availability. Water deeply and fertilize before heads begin to form. Harvest mature mini-heads when they reach one to one and a half inches wide. 

CELERY

Choose a sunny location and keep in mind that celery requires ample moisture and a heavy feeding of nitrogen. The crop is ready to cut in 90 - 100 days after transplanting. Harvest by cutting below the ground through the taproot. A cut-and-come-again crop, just harvest a few outer stalks at a time and enjoy! 

FUN FACT: Before the sixteenth century, celery was used exclusively as a medicinal herb. For hundreds of years now Italians have been using it in salads and these days, it is one of the most popular vegetables in the world.

KALE

All hail Kale! One of the most popular veggies in the last few years and for good reason, it ranks very high in vitamins and minerals. It's a great plant to have in the winter garden due to its ornamental qualities as well! Boasting great textures and color, it can be used in mass for beds, as accents and in pots.

Plant in full sun and water deeply and frequently. Be sure to fertilize before heads begin to form. We recommend planting successively to ensure a steady availability. Pick individual leaves or harvest entire plant, either way you'll have a nutritious garden-to-table delight. 

BROCCOLI

The word broccoli comes from the Italian word for ‘Cabbage Sprout’ and indeed, the plant is a relative to cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

Plant in fertile, well-draining soil and water deeply. It is best not to plant Brassica family crops (cole crops including cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips, kale, collard and mustard greens) in the same spot year after year. Disease and insects may build up in a particular area, so be sure to rotate crops in your garden.

One planting may produce for as long as three months in fall in winter from auxiliary shoots after the main head is removed. Feed 1-2 times before heads begin to form for a healthier, more abundant crop.

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BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Said to have been cultivated in 16th century Belgium, plant Brussels sprouts in a sunny spot where they won't be disturbed. Because they do get taller than the average veggie, be sure to choose a site where they won't shadow other plants. When watering, be mindful of the rains, any dry period of a few days and your Brussels Sprouts will need moisture. (Especially when planting in a raised bed.) Like Broccoli, fertilize 1-2 times before sprouts begin to develop.

KOHLRABI

 Kohlrabi looks like a cross between a cabbage and a turnip and is often classified as a root vegetable, even though it grows above the ground. A member of the Brassica family, but unlike cabbages, it is the bulbous stalk that is edible rather than the flowering heads.

There are two varieties of kohlrabi. One is purple and the other is pale green. They both have the same mild and fresh tasting flavor, not dissimilar to water chestnuts. Kohlrabi is neither as peppery as a turnip nor as distinctive as cabbage, but easy to see why people think it is a little of both. Although kohlrabi is not a very popular vegetable in North America, it is commonly eaten in Europe, as well as in China, India, and other parts of Asia. The bulbs are often sliced and eaten in salads and the greens are cooked in mustard oil with garlic and chilies. It can be served as an alternative to carrots and turnips, nicely steamed and whipped.

Plant kohlrabi in full sun and water deeply. Fertilize at planting and 1-2 times through the growth cycle. Rich in potassium and vitamin C, grow as you would cabbage and enjoy!

Italian Parsley Pesto

jennifer carroll

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This quick and easy garden-to-table recipe from Randall, our Bedding Manager, will complement any plating and not to mention - a great way to use your fresh herbs! 

INGREDIENTS

1 cup de-stemmed Italian Parsley

2 tbsp. Lemon juice

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat pine nuts in a dry pan on medium heat until browned, being careful not to burn. Cool on a plate.
  2. Remove parsley leaves from stems
  3. Once pine nuts have cooled, combine all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.
  4. Serve! 

Can't get enough pesto? Check out Randall's classic Basil Pesto recipe here

Old Fashioned Hollyhocks

jennifer carroll

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Hollyhocks are a quintessential old fashioned garden favorite. Growing up to 10 feet tall, their stalks of single, free-seeding blooms adorned our grandmother's backyard.

They were also planted in the 19th century to screen outhouses. Abundant and long-blooming hollyhocks would signal to women where the facilities were without having to inquire. Thus prim ladies would state they were "going to see the hollyhocks" rather than announce their true intention. 

Our 'Outhouse' variety includes pink, white, red, and burgundy flowers, some with contrasting centers. Fairly drought tolerant, although Hollyhocks will perform best with ample moisture and rich soil. Plant these pollinator attractors and deer resistant flowers in full sun.

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Don't miss our other outstanding varieties now available in our outdoor shop. 'Chater's Double' boasts tall, elegant spires of gorgeous peony-shaped double blossoms that are stunning in fresh or dried bouquets! Plant 'The Watchman' along your fence and enjoy stunning blooms in a black satiny hue, and we love the unusual fig leaf-shaped foliage of the 'Happy Lights' variety with richly colored petals!

A biennial, now is the best time to plant for foliage this fall and bountiful blooms this spring. We love Hollyhocks for their prolific reseeding, a bonus that will ensure your garden is full of beautiful flowers year after year! Stop in and sow your seeds today! 

Cover Crops 101

jennifer carroll

Fava Beans in bloom

Fava Beans in bloom

What are Cover Crops? 

Cover crops are fast growing plants, usually grains, legumes or grasses, that are utilized by farmers and gardeners for one or more of their beneficial qualities and not usually intended as food crops. These crops are usually worked into the soil or removed before they set seed. The use of cover crops has taken place since ancient times. Over 2500 years ago the ancient Japanese and Chinese noticed that many crops grew and produced better when following the growth of certain plants. This practice continued with the ancient Greeks and Romans and continues up to the present.

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Additional Benefits:

  • Weed Control: Because of their fast-growing nature, cover crops are often able to out-compete weeds for resources like water, light, and nutrients. In some cases this competition suppresses weeds to a manageable level. In other cases it stops weed growth altogether. When used in this manner, they are referred to as "smother crops."
  • Disease and Pest Control: When used as part of a healthy crop rotation, cover crop plants displace disease organisms by replacing their preferred hosts. The same can be said for their ability to prevent insect pests. Weeds often harbor insects that prey upon garden plants. By suppressing weed growth, cover crops can suppress pest insect populations as well.
  • Soil Flora and Fauna: Some of the best know benefits of cover crops are their effects on the soil. When cover crops decay and leave behind organic matter, they act as a food source for earthworms and beneficial soil microorganism. Increased diversity of soil life usually leads to healthier soil and therefore healthier plants.
  • Physical Effects: Many cover crops, like buckwheat, oats, and crimson clover have very fine roots that are able to penetrate tough soils. They loosen the hard soil as they penetrate and when the roots die they leave behind looser soil and organic matter. When cover crops are incorporated into the soil, their decay provides organic matter that lighten soil, improves its texture and aeration, and can equilibrate its water holding capacity.
  • Nutrients: Cover crops are often referred to as "green manures". This is because, like manure, they add organic matter to the soil. But, also like manure, they can increase the fertility of soil. The humus that they add to soil helps hold nitrogen for plants to utilize and prevents it from leaching away. Some cover crops are legumes, like peas, and have the ability to, with the help from soil microorganisms called Rhizobium, take nitrogen from the air and turn it into a form that plants can use as food. Some others, like buckwheat, are adept at gathering phosphorus from the soil and making it available to other plants upon their decomposition. These two nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus, are major contributors to plant health and production and are also often added as fertilizer. 

Our Planting Tips:

Cover crops are easy, fast growing plants that anyone can grow. Cultivate the soil to a depth of about 1 inch and rake out any large debris or weeds. Check your seed packet for the recommended planting depth. Cover crops can usually be scattered evenly and it is unnecessary to sow careful rows or thin crowded plants. After sowing, tamp down the soil lightly to create good contact between seed and soil. Water immediately after sowing and keep the area moist until your plants emerge. After establishment, most cover crops require minimal additional water.

Our cover crop seed packets are available in the outside shop, pick up a few today and get planting! Questions? Stop in today and be sure not to miss our Sheet Mulching and Cover Crop Demo led by Mercy on October 17th! RSVP today! 

Excerpts of this article are take from Botanical Interests, our seed supplier.