White Harvest Seed Blog

  • Roots, Shoots, Buckets, & Boots

    Times have changed. I grew up on a dairy farm where hard work was just a way of life for us. Go back even a generation before that and look how children during the 40s and 50s grew up. It is not the same today.

    How can we instill the importance of gardening in our children? After all, they are the ones we are saving that seed for, are they not? Despite the hard work, we must teach them how growing your own food can also bring you great joy. They must learn that it is a privilege, not a chore.

    In reviewing this month's book, I discovered some excellent ideas! Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots, written by Sharon Lovejoy, is filled with ways for you and your children or grandchildren to use and learn to garden together. It includes several “theme garden” options to teach and inspire your children not just about gardening, but also about the world around them. There are complete instructions and advice on how to plant and care for each garden. Lots of extra tips and tidbits are included.

    My favorite was the “Living Hideaways”, such as the Sunflower House. What a great place for children to have a tea party, read, have a picnic, or just daydream. Imagine this “living classroom” with growing vines and flowers for walls. Not to mention all the little creatures they will attract. Don't be surprised if you find yourself drawn out there from time to time.

    Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots will certainly teach your children to look at plants in a different way. You too will look at your garden through fresh eyes, I guarantee it. Open up the garden to your kiddies and they'll find a bright and beautiful world at their feet.

    How I wish my three children were young again!

  • Soil Builders

    Effort should be made every year by every gardener to improve their soil structure.  Although it might seem like an overwhelming and time-consuming task, it is a vital step in the success of your garden.  And I know that each of you gardeners out there want to provide every necessary means to make those precious seeds reach their potential.  Only then will you find the provision you are looking for.

    So today I thought I would give you ten suggestions on organic ways to build your soil and add that much-needed fertilizer for those plants.

    1.Bone Meal – Basic type used is steamed bone meal made from bones that have been steamed or boiled to remove fat content.  They ground up easily and will greatly condition your soil by adding nitrogen and phosphorus.  Work into your soil in the spring or fall or use as a mulch around your plants. Easily available at your local garden center.

    2.Fresh Manure – A basic fertilizer for many years.  On our small farm here in the Ozarks, we have had access to manure from our cows, horse, chickens and pigs.  This dried manure has proven very beneficial to feeding the soil.  Adds nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash.  Simply broadcast over the garden and work into the soil.  Apply early enough to be rotted into the soil, approximately 8-10 weeks before your planting season.

    3.Peat Moss -  Although it does not add nutrients to your soil, it works to improve air circulation and assists in water drainage which will help your plants to absorb those nutrients from other sources.  Remember that your soil needs nutrients AND proper air circulation.  Excellent as a mulch.  Can be worked into the soil in the spring or fall. Easily available at your local garden center.

    4.Wood chips – They carry a larger nutrient content than sawdust.  It has excellent abilities to air-out the soil and help it to retain moisture.  Apply early spring or fall or use as a mulch.

    5.Grass clippings – Easily available and rich in nitrogen.  Work into your soil or us as a mulch. Great for that compost  pile as well.

    6.Cottonseed hulls – Decays easily and can be worked into the soil.  Also makes for a great mulch.  Rich in potash and easily available.

    7.Leaves – An abundant source for calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Apply directly to the soil, to that compost pile or as a mulch.  Easily available.

    8.Dehydrated Seaweed – High in trace elements and potash.  Either work it directly into the soil or use as a mulch.  Can also be put into your compost pile.

    9.Blood-meal – Source for phosphorus, potash and  nitrogen.  Use sparingly because of the high nitrogen content.

    10.And (last but not least) Compost – Build that compost pile with leftover kitchen scraps, leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, sawdust and even wet newspapers.  Giving it plenty of air and water will make it break down and will be ready to use when it turns black or dark brown and crumbly.  Dig it well into your soil.

    As we learn more and more about successful gardening, we realize that gardening is not only a seasonal project.  It really becomes a year-round adventure.  So many helpful things to do in the “off-months”. Enriching the soil is certainly at the top of the list.

    Enjoy the fruits of your labor.  May they be abundant!

  • Start Your Seeds Right

    For those of us here in the Missouri Ozarks, winter time offers a great opportunity to make our plans for the upcoming gardening season. Deciding on what to plant, when to plant and where to plant is a vital part of a successful gardening experience. And as January is now upon us, we would like to offer you some considerations for starting those seeds indoors.

    While many varieties can be seeded directly into your garden, others require a sooner start inside. Some of the easiest to try are tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, okra, and onions.

    Choosing the right container is important. While biodegradable pots are extremely convenient, there are many other affordable options that will work just as well. Look around the house for any extra cups or flowerpots. Whatever you choose, the container should be no less than 3” deep. The seedlings' first roots will need proper space to grow, so you don't want anything too shallow. Your containers must also have good drainage holes in the bottom in order to save your seeds from getting waterlogged. If you secure this, your seeds will find themselves in a home away from home.

    Soil is an underestimated key element to bedding your seeds properly, particularly your indoor seedlings. One visit to your local garden center will provide you with multiple choices of already-mixed soil-less combinations. A good soil-less mix can be made from 50% peat moss and 50% vermiculite. Potting soil mixed with 50% peat moss will also do the trick. Basically you don't want a texture too heavy or compact. The seeds won't have the strength to sprout within such an environment. Because of this, garden dirt is not recommended.

    For ideal germination, the temperature of your soil must be noticeably warm. A propagation mat or hot pad provide nice consistent heat. A very warm spot, such as the top of the refrigerator, may suffice.

    Moisture is also important from the get-go. When planting, first moisten your soil with water, enough that a small drop of water could be squeezed out of it. Once the seeds are sown, cover immediately with plastic to keep in the moisture. At this stage we usually spray ours with a soft mist from a water bottle. Once they sprout, set them in a tray with “room-temp” water and water them from the bottom. This method puts less stress on the plants and keeps you from drowning your seed or causing them to rot. The line between excessive and lean watering is very thin and often will decipher your plants longevity, so take your time here.

    Lighting is another factor that is essential for your plants once germination has begun. Light from the nearest window can offer a decent amount. However, the seedlings will likely gravitate towards the light, so be sure to turn your trays around every day or so. We recommend a fluorescent light, suspended in the air 3-4” directly above the plants. Sixteen hours of light is recommended followed by 8 hours of darkness.

    And finally, after your last frost, your young plants can be transplanted into your garden. However, allow a transition period beforehand for your plants to gradually adjust to their new environment -  process gardeners call “hardening off.” Set your trays outdoors in indirect sunlight during the day. Make sure they are protected against strong wind and heavy rain and bring them inside at night. After a week of this practice, your plants should be officially ready to transplant.

    Most of all, remember to have fun! All the hard work will be worth it once you reap your harvest! Happy Planting!

  • Growing Your Plans

    Don't worry, the title is not misspelled. Garden plans – not plants – are our focus this week. It's time to get organized!

    We're a few short weeks from starting our seed indoors. And we're only a few short months from transplanting those same seedlings outside. We'll all be out in our gardens before we know it, so we mustn't let the time slip away from us now.

    Utilize these snowy days for something worthwhile. Grab your books, your dream list of seeds, and a reliable pen – the rest will follow. I did just that yesterday myself. The afternoon seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye. In my head, I was picturing lush pepper plants, crispy lettuce, and flowers all the colors of the rainbow. It would have been lovely to linger in such thoughts had that been possible. However, the “small print” details couldn't be neglected.

    I started with the easy part. I drew up a rough list of the seeds we wanted to grow – considering what we'd eat fresh, what we'd need to can and freeze, what we'd save for seed, and what I'd like to get pictures from. Some varieties hold multiple purposes, while others specialize in one field, so to speak. From my experience, it's best to consider all this beforehand. Plan ahead to stock that pantry full.

    Then came the more tedious part – deciding what to put where. Our particular gardens include not only wide open spaces, but also raised beds, containers, and even tires. We must think what varieties need more sunlight than others, which plants will require proper separation to save seed from, which demand extra space, and so forth. This is the point when extra resources, such as an experienced friend or gardening book, comes in handy.

    Seed by seed, I penciled in every variety accordingly. Of course, some of this is destined to be erased at some point – probably more than once, but it's a step in the right direction at the very least. Next on the agenda comes checking the companion planting list. No reason to make an avoidable mistake. Then, I must look to our planting guidelines. See what needs started first and make a flow chart from there until my last seed is in the ground. Piece by piece, you'll see your dream getting clearer. Just like I did.

    The work can still get overwhelming at times, though, despite its great incentives. In case of weak enthusiasm or plum confusion, the remedy you seek is simple. Ask for advice. Anyone who's spent a day in the dirt will help you. Ask them if they've tried the Federle tomato. See where they think you should plant your Blue Hubbard squash. Who knows, they might even know how to fight those pesky cucumber beetles.

    We created the Designing Gardens Program with the same sole reason in mind – to help. We all need it at some point along the way. It's better to seek it first rather than later run after it in despair. We want to encourage those who need a second opinion or a tried recommendation. We want to offer what information we can to help you prevent – or, in some cases, endure – what disappointments and failures might arise. It's a team effort, right?

    Speaking of which, don't think it will be entirely my plans that make our final 2011 garden blueprints. I'm definitely not the only one tending the garden and neither will my ideas stand alone. Some evening here soon, my family will be sitting down to talk it all over and together form a game plan. If every previous season is any indication, I know we'll have many more ideas than we have the space for. I'm sure you're familiar with that.

    Happy harvests, everyone. May all your plans grow!

  • The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book

    January's Book Review

    No matter how long you have been gardening, it is always fun and helpful to learn more “tried and true” ways to grow. At a gardener's fingertips lies so much more than soil and seeds – there lies knowledge to be harvested.

    This month's book provides extensive answers to practically every question you could think of. It is formatted in a way that provides easy referencing. The answers are quick and simple to find. Perfect for the busy gardener!

    The advice and ideas are prolific throughout. Tell me, have you ever thought of doing more than simply creating a mound for your melons? Go the extra mile and first dig a hole, add compost, then make your mound on top of that. This will offer much-needed extra nutrients to be soaked up by your thirsty and hungry plants.

    The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book, written by Barbara W. Ellis, contains 432 pages of fun and factual information for us to glean from. For example, are the garden pests you commonly deal with larger than your average cucumber beetle or tomato worm? If you struggle keeping deer or rabbits from your garden, learn how to solve this fixable problem quickly. Growing your plants is one thing. Protecting them is yet another responsibility and just as important.

    In addition to its 100% organic wisdom, this book is very easy to carry with you wherever you go. For that matter, just stuff it in a pocket on your way out. Then when you're trying to identify what's chewing holes in the leaves of your plants, you'll be able to decipher the culprit and find the solution then and there.

    Do you have questions about planning and planting accordingly? Any questions about your soil and how to properly compost? What about wanting to know how to daily care for your garden? Some of these questions may seem simple, but each holds their own merit.

    It's no surprise that I fell in love with this book rather suddenly. It didn't take long for me to start wishing it were June rather than January. That tends to happen this time of year. Needless to say, I'm anxiously awaiting a few weeks more before I can start some seedlings inside. I'm ready to begin it all over again with this handy helper in tow, of course.

    The best part of the book in my opinion, was the “Crop by Crop” section in Part 2. The author gives “Secrets for Success” for each individual veggie. We promise you that even your favorite vegetable has secrets left to share and teach you.

    Have you ever asked one of these questions?

    My tomatoes are rotting on the bottom, but the tops look great. What's going on?

    What is the best way to dig potatoes?

    What causes cucumbers to be misshapen?

    Why are my carrots always green on the tops?

    I planted a big row of corn and the plants grew beautifully, but the ears only had a few kernels. What happened?

    When I'm harvesting broccoli, is there a way to encourage side shoots to form?

    Don't worry – just start digging for the solution. If you're in need of a second opinion, the Veggie Gardener's Answer Book makes a great companion! It may be small in size, but it is big on answers. If you have it in hand, you'll never be gardening with another excuse again!

  • Tall Tale Weather Watching

    How can you tell good weather lore from just plain superstitions, misconceptions, and “tall tales?”  We've all heard this one:  “Washing and waxing your car or hanging your clothes out to dry will make it rain.”  Or this old one: “Killing a snake will bring the rain to your place.” These are just a few of the “tall tale” kind – colorful, but not accurate at all.  How can you decipher between what's true and what's false?

    Ever since the beginning, as man has moved about the world, he has had to adapt to many challenges along the way. Unique climate environments was one of them. Our ancestors realized such important matters could not be taken lightly and left behind them a legacy of remedies, suppositions, methods, and theories. Blended together, their knowledge and their curiosity was passed down through the generations, by word of mouth and in written form.

    Unfortunately, we all know that things sometimes get lost in translation. Things get added or deleted to enhance a story. And local superstitions and legends are mixed in. Just like that, “tall tales” are spun. What about those which were simply made up for fun and don't hold any validity to them? These are those which never successfully prove what the memorable words promised. (The above snake one is a likely candidate.)  I'm sure people didn't mean harm by these. They just weren't as “weather-wise” as they could have been.

    Most of our weather lore today originated in Europe or has Native American roots. Since both have things in common – weather speaking – those are the ones to truly consider. (Always with a scrutinizing eye, of course.)  For example:

    “A bad winter is betide,
    if hair grows thick on a bear's hide.”

    “Bad winter is ahead
    if muskrat lodges have more logs.”

    These indicators in reality point back to a more pleasant summer than predicting bad winters. What do you think?

    How about this one:
    “If it rains on St Swithin's Day, (July 15)
    It will rain for forty days straight.”

    This story was based around the history of the delay in burying Saint Swithin for forty days. Once he was buried, the rain stopped. Interesting story, but not based on any recurring consistency. Weather lore based on religious superstitions usually can be discarded pretty easily.  Besides the calender today has been modified through the years so that actual date is no longer July 15th.

    One more example, from the Zuni Indians:
    “When the hair is wet in the scalping tent, surely it will rain.”

    Even though this one has some scientific truth to it, how many of us have scalping tents anymore?  It loses it's usability in a modern world.  Does that mean throw them all out?  Of course not!  Just make new observations for yourself.  Research things.  Keep track of your data collected.  See if there are consistent patterns that develop.  Don't expect 100% accuracy.  Sometimes signs fail.  Sailors say “Anything can happen in unsettled weather,” and farmers add “All signs tend to fail in times of drought.”  Even the Weather Bureau covers their backs by using words like “possibility” or  “probability” and they only own a 85% accuracy record.

    I'll let the poet Richard Inwards sum it up:
    “Well, Duncombe, how will be the weather?” “Sir, it looks cloudy altogether, And coming across our Houghton Green I stopped and talked with Old Frank Beane. While we stood there, sir, Old Jan Swain went by and said he knowed 'twould rain; The next that came was Master Hunt, And he declared he knew it wouldn't. And then I met with Farmer Blow, He plainly said he didn't know, So, sir, when doctors disagree, Who's to decide it, you or me?”

    Next time we'll look at some specific scientific facts which back up this weather lore stuff. Till then, happy weather watching!

  • Dos and Don'ts to Gardening

    In gardening, there always comes a point – it's happened more than once to me – where every gardener sighs in exasperation. In that moment, you wish you could know the lesson without having to make the mistake, without having to lose a dear plant, or without having to start over. However, that's not the way of a gardener. His beloved work demands much patience and extra seed. He must both succeed and fail along the way to fully learn. After all, people never fully forget their own mistakes.

    With the new year before us, it's the perfect time for looking ahead and making plans. And for putting last year's lessons to the test. I can't offer you every secret to prevent every problem for I don't know them all myself. However, I can share some of the things we've learned along the way and hopefully help you in the process.

    There's one recommendation I never forget to mention. For any of you who love company and color in your garden, hold flowers in high esteem. There's nothing like my zinnias and Mom's marigolds to make our garden glow and invite beautiful butterflies and other helpful insects. I will always save soil for them, for I consider them my friends. Herbs are just as beautiful. Both the Purple Opal Basil and the African Blue Basil make a stunning display, as does Borage with its blue flowers.

    Growing tomatoes is both a joy and a job for us every season. This vegetable is always in high demand around here and we love trying new varieties. One of the first we ever tried was the Fox Cherry. Every year following that first crop, we've been greeted with innumerable volunteers in our soil. In fact, I suspect this hardiest of tomatoes to probably outlive me. It requires next to nothing. Growing the Fox Cherry is simple – keep a quick eye for harvesting and a stubborn eye to the strays.

    The first few years, we mostly let the countless volunteers go and they grew up in overwhelming numbers, swallowing each other's resources, weakening their root systems, and offering only meager harvests as a result. We eventually learned our overcrowded raised beds needed some help. We selected only particular volunteers to live and destined the rest for the compost pile or for transplants. Allowed to succeed, these favored tomatoes grew abundantly, branched out in vibrant health and gave us over-prolific, bountiful harvests.

    Another tomato tip to remember is if you've ever had problems with blight, as we have, trim the lower branches of your tomato. Blight is commonly caused by water splashing soil onto the vine and can be greatly prevented with a careful attentive eye. If you use a tomato cage to keep the rest of the tomato vines off the ground, this frustrating disease will be highly discouraged. And it also helps if you water at the base of the tomato.

    How many of you trellis plants? It is one method I love to play with. Every year, it seems more things in our garden are climbing up rather than crawling out. This past garden, I trained our Charentais and Honeydew Green Fleshed melons up a trellis. At first, I was worried they wouldn't hold their weight, but their vines only strengthened and prospered as they grew. Before long, the trellises were hidden beneath plush green vines and beautiful melons hung softly underneath. They matured without blemish or disease. I only regret the Banana Melon that I didn't get trellised. It's beautiful ripening fruit got eaten by a sly turtle before me. I was sick when I discovered it. So save yourself the disappointment and trellis. Believe me, it'll be worth your time!

    Giving your plants enough space is another something I can't stress enough. Our family has their yearly discussion over this subject every spring. It seems like we've been on both sides of the fence – some years giving our plants too little breathing space and other years practically giving them their own “rooms.” As you can likely guess, somewhere in between these two extremes is best. When planting a meager seedling outside in late winter, it's hard then to imagine how large it will get. It's easy to plant the individuals too close and end up bringing more damage upon them. Once, I planted some lavender in the same raised bed as my basil. The basil grew up quicker and shadowed the lavender, hindering it from ever growing to its potential. You must consider each plant's needs. Some can handle closer quarters than others, but overall, let your plants breathe. And remember they each need their own share of sunshine. They'll thank you for it with armfuls of delicious produce!

    One of the most unique plants we've grown so far is the Rat's Tail Radish. With beautiful flowers and a very prolific crop, it's one variety we hope every gardener gets the chance to grow. But remember this, you only really need to sow a few seeds. The fast germinating radish quickly turns into a full plant with more Rat's Tails than you could imagine. The plant itself will keep on flowering and producing long into the season, providing you with more than you'll ever need. So share your joy by passing on a few extra seeds to a friend and watch their fascination grow.

    A great thing about being a part of the gardening community is having the opportunity to share your experiences with each other. How can we not wish our friends' and neighbors' gardens to prosper? May one of our little lessons make a difference in yours.

    If you have any of your own to add, we'd be delighted to hear how you've worked to succeed. After all, where would we be without our mistakes? May we each have this fresh and healthy perspective in the coming year.

  • This Season of Joy

    Its that time of year
    For festive, holiday cheer,
    To greet friends new and old
    And the Christmas story to be told.

    The snow’s already falling
    And family is calling
    To plan the holiday feast,
    The turkey down to the least.

    The fireplace is aglow,
    Helping ward off the snow.
    The night is filled with peace
    Though the carols never cease.

    Each sound of the night
    Gives the feeling all is right
    Each sound is on cue
    As if all nature knew

    The significance of this night
    When the stars are our light.
    The sense of peace and love
    Is a treasure from Above.

    War becomes obsolete
    On the night of Christmas Eve.
    Hate becomes the past
    When Christmas comes at last.

    It brings a healing joy
    Forever in our hearts employ.
    So don’t forget the true reason
    Of this special blessed season.

    So let us ring aloud and right
    in the orchestra of the night!

  • An Heirloom's History

    We love heirloom seeds for many reasons. They're praised for their purity, their consistency, their strength, and their quality, to name just a few. But it's their historical heritage we treasure the most. By growing an heirloom vegetable, in some way, we feel connected to those who've come before us and grown these same vegetables. For their goal was to provide for their family and ours is as well. What better foundation could we ask for our gardens than one based on the history of the food we eat?

    The lineage of peas, for example, spins a fascinating tale. They're believed to have originated in either Egypt or China, having been unearthed in ancient tombs. Historians and Archaeologists have found many dated pictures and writings discussing the virtues of this vegetable.

    Nomadic tribes traveled into the countries of the Mediterranean carrying the crop. The Greeks and the Romans cultivated this legume about 500 to 400 BC. During that time, street vendors in Athens sold hot pea soup. In the Middle Ages, it was dried and saved in case of a famine. Up to the time the American colonists set sail, dried peas were considered the norm. They were what we would call “field peas” today, usually being dried for later use in stews and soups. In this form, they contained longevity, remained nutritious, and required little storage space. This cool-season vegetable was one of the first crops planted in the new soil. Fresh peas finally became a fashionable delicacy for the Europeans around the late 17th Century. President Thomas Jefferson loved gardening and particularly peas so much that he had 30 varieties of them planted in one plot. In 1870, the Campbell Soup Company first began canning peas. Slowly, but surely, the pea has finally earned its respectful place as a garden staple.

    Another vegetable – the radish – was domesticated in Europe in pre-Roman times. The Greek name of the genus Raphanus means “quickly appearing.” We all know about that wonderful trait. The common name “radish” comes from the Latin word Radix, which means root.

    Squash, in other English-speaking countries besides the United States, is generally called “vegetable marrows.” 17th Century Europeans considered them another kind of gourd, due to its resemblance to Old World gourds. Squash only grew in popularity through the generations. And today, both European and American gardeners grow substantially the same squash strains as those grown by early native Americans.

    The Connecticut Field Pumpkin traces its roots back to the early Iroquois settlements. Another beautiful squash, likened to Cinderella's pumpkin, is the Rouge Vif D'Etampes. In France, its name means “vivid red.” The White Bush Scallop is one of the oldest cultivated, with records dating to the 1500s. Northern Indians called them “Squantersquash,” from which comes the name “squash.”

    The wild carrot is native to Europe and southwestern Asia. Early on, this biennial was grown for its aromatic leaves and seeds, instead of its root. Relatives of the carrot, including parsley, fennel, dill and cumin are still grown for those original reasons today. One thing's for certain – people love their carrots!

    Tomatoes originated in the Americas amidst the Spanish colonization and from there was carried to the Caribbean, the Philippines, and throughout the rest of the world. Wild species grew in parts of the Andes Mountains, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Many historians believe the Spanish explorer Cortes may have transferred the small yellow tomato to Europe after having captured the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan in 1521. Others say Christopher Columbus was the first European to take back the tomato in 1493. Its worth was recognized from the beginning. The Pueblo people, for one, believed any who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with divine powers.

    An Italian physician and botanist named Peitro Andrea Mattioli wrote in an herbal in 1544, calling it the “golden apple.” In British North America during the mid-18th century, some thought tomatoes to be poisonous and grew them mostly as ornamental plants. The strong, unpleasant smell of its leaves and stems further contributed to this mistaken idea. However, as the cultures continued to blend together due to immigration, new light revealed the tomato's true value. The earliest cookbook discovered with tomatoes as one of the ingredients was published in 1692 in Naples, but we know the Spaniards consumed this crop far earlier. In 1876, when Henry J. Heinz bottled the first tomato catsup, tomatoes widely increased in popularity.

    As for particular favorites, have any of you ever grown Hale's Best Jumbo Melon? Did you now this old classic cantaloupe dates back to the 1920s? It was discovered in a California market in 1923 by I.D.Hale.

    The Serrano pepper hails from the mountains of northern Puebia and Hidalgo in Mexico. For this reason does it derive its appropriate name Serrano, which interpreted means “from the mountains.”

    One of our favorites, the Old German Tomato, claims a Mennonite heritage, originating in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

    Every gardener should know what depths of history they are sowing in their soil. Before you plant your favorite veggies, learn more about their individual stories. Doing this will truly make your plants come to life.

  • Carrots Love Tomatoes

    December Book Review

    Every gardener has a large assortment of tools they never go without. The list is usually long and varying, depending on the gardener. When I think of my gardening tools, many come to mind – a spade, hoe, rake, shovel, and wheelbarrow are just a few. However, there is another wonderful tool a gardener must not forget – books!

    A handful of helpful, gardening books have served as a lifeline for us many times. Whether we needed a quick fix for another pest problem, information on how to save our seed, or more ideas for our expanded garden layout, we always turned to a book for answers. The internet may offer quick solutions, but for old-fashioned folks like us, we much prefer having a book with the answers right there in our hands.

    The first time I read “Carrots Love Tomatoes” by Louise Riotte, I discovered just how much I still had to learn. That tends to happen, doesn't it?  The saying really is true that the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know!

    This great book was what initially introduced me to the importance of companion planting and to the easy and countless methods there are for growing practically anything in your garden! Learn how to do it right! I look back to years ago when I would plant my tomatoes near my corn and then wonder why I had such trouble with corn earworm and tomato fruitworm.

    Find out which plants grow well together, which plants repel insects, and even which plants repel other plants. Harvest as much information you can from this book before you start outdoors and the improvements will be impossible to miss!

    Many gardeners grow more than just veggies, adding herbs and flowers to their soil. This is even better! Certain types can compliment your vegetable garden so nicely they should be considered family. Did you know that basil helps tomatoes fight insects and disease and helps to promote growth and flavor?  So does Bee Balm! Did you know that when peppermint is planted among cabbage, it will repel the white cabbage butterfly?  And one more, geraniums are known to help against the Japanese Beetle. (Every June, these beetles plague us here in Missouri.) Also learn what herbs andflowers can create a problem, instead of a cure. For example, those of you who want to grow fennel, be sure to plant this herb far away from the garden as it will inhibit growth on such veggies as tomatoes and bush beans.

    Carrots Love Tomatoes is certainly a book I believe needs to be in every gardener's library. Other helpful chapters include medicinal advantages of particular herbs, gardening techniques, suggested garden plans, pest control, and soil improvement. If you're planting grasses, field crops, blackberries, fruit trees, black walnut, or even oak trees, you will find valuable information to grow all these things in harmony.

    Did you know that weeds can be an asset to your garden?  I know many of you are thinking I must be crazy here! But weeds can be our most important companion plant. Weeds can help condition the soil, help determine what your soil may be deficient in, help accumulate nutrients in which the soil is lacking, and assist in breaking up the subsoil to allow the roots of crop plants to dig deeper for water and nutrients.

    I'm like you. If I see a weed growing in my garden, I pull it up.  But this book tells us if they are properly managed and never allowed to overtake our food plants, they can actually benefit us. Cindy, our featured gardener for the month, says, “There are no such things as weeds, only misplaced plants.”  Our task is to discover the virtues of these plants and thus improve our gardens.

    The 224 pages make Carrots Love Tomatoes an easy-to-read and “take-with-you” book. Around here, it's one that never gets too far away. Don't let it get away from you either.  Remember, a gardener can never have too many tools!

    So next time you're ready to sow, plant those tomatoes next to your carrots and enjoy the healthy harvest that follows.

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