Posts

Community Service: A Spotlight on New England

We wanted to shine a spotlight on a few of our recent community service activities in New England.

Soggily Supporting Earth Day

On a soggy April day, our corporate office team helped spread compost and plant seeds at a local farm in Waltham, Massachusetts. Fun (and wet socks) was had by all.

Donating Compost, Changing Lives

Our customer service team at Harvest New England always goes the extra mile when it comes to delivering great products. More than that, we want the world to be a better place. Check out some of these awesome, local non-profits that we’ve supported for many years.

Herbs of Vision

A self-described “start-up social enterprise” called Herbs of Vision reached out for compost. Here’s what happened next, as described by Sharon in Harvest’s customer department:

“In January, I received a phone call for a compost order. When I discovered the compost was going to an Alternative School in Hartford, I offered it as a  donation. Yovel Badash explained who the students were and how they ended up at the program. This program is basically the very last option for these kids, the choices are slim, jail or there. Long story short, I decided to continue the relationship and basically offered the manpower and resources to help them expand the gardens. This year they will add outdoor gardens to grow the vegetables. We met with them, toured the school, spoke with the Principal and will send a donation next week. The students will be responsible for all the planning, layout, and all the hard work that goes in to creating them.”

Learn more about this neat Herbs of Vision program through Hartford Schools or through the Herbs of Vision Kickstarter campaign.

Growing Great Schools

This program – Growing Great Schools – is operated in West Hartford, Connecticut, and provides cooking classes for ages 5-11 that connect food, heath and the environment. Harvest New England has delivered soil to them for the last 10+ years, before they were even a non-profit.

New Britain Roots

Yet another awesome program, New Britain Roots makes healthy food accessible and affordable to low-income neighbors. Harvest New England has been donating soil for about 4 years, watching them grow and have an even greater impact in the community through partnerships with Connecticut farmers, food artisans and healthy food advocates.

Auer Farm

We were honored to provide Auer Farm with soil. They have a 4-H Education Center that connects people, agriculture, and the environment through education and recreation. Our relationship with their team goes back 18+ years. Our customer service team reports:

“They love our product and customer service so much that we were asked to supply the Hartford Court House with compost. They had the inmates build garden beds to grow food and donated it to the shelters.”

Haddam Garden Club

Local garden clubs such as the Haddam Garden Club benefit from our top quality soil products as well. Just in from a leader of a group:

“Well, we dodged the rain today while the Haddam Garden Club did our civic garden projects.  The compost you donated was a big hit – everyone commented how wonderful it was to work with! We probably used ¾ of the pile so far, and there are still a few small gardens to do. I helped out at the Library gardens where we expanded the butterfly garden, and amended the front garden; and also at the transfer station where we are gradually filling in the “island” with plantings.  I’ve enclosed a few photos of our work parties at these two locations.  There were many others working at the rest of the gardens around town…I just couldn’t get to all of them.” ~KC

It is so wonderful to hear the stories of how our soil improves spaces, and provides smiles!

Annie Fisher Montessori

The six-and-a-half acre campus at Annie Fisher Montessori in the northwest part of Hartford Connecticut provides fertile ground for students. It’s another excellent school program that keeps growing.

Seeds of Change

We’re a partner with Seeds of Change, a “seed to plate” organic company.

Raising the (Legal) Bar

Some of our community service comes in a different flavor than soils and mulches and recycling. For example, the Massachusetts Bar Association recently honored our Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Christopher Mirick, for his pro bono work with underserved communities seeking due wages and proper housing. We are so proud of you, Chris. Keep up the great work in and out of the office!

Five Steps for Successful Raised Bed Gardening

Benefits of Raised Beds

First, you might be wondering why not just stick plants in the ground; why bother with raised beds? Raised beds are an excellent design for a number of reasons.

  • Raised beds improve drainage. In general, while plants need moisture, they don’t appreciate “wet feet”. Raised beds ensure good flow and drainage.
  • Raised beds improve aeration. An important component of good soil structure is air. Indeed, air comprises 25% of an ideal soil composition (25% air, 25% mineral soil, 45% mineral soil, and 5% organic matter). A raised bed allows you to fluff up the soil each season.
  • Raised beds add a sense of containment and order. Whether or not you have a raised bed within a structure, or with a natural border, they add a sense of order and organization to your landscape.

Raised Bed Inspiration

Next, let’s get some raised bed inspiration. As you can see, you can create a raised bed out of many materials and in a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on your space and needs.

raised bed_0822

These raised beds, in the center of a community space, are thigh-high to keep animals out and ease harvesting of vegetables.

raised bed_1966

These raised beds, along the Fraser River in British Columbia, have benches around them to sit and enjoy the scenery.

raised beds within lawn

Not all raised beds have a border; these backyard beds were mounded up within the existing lawn.

This raised bed full of tasty herbs is located just off of a kitchen, making it easier to grab a fresh sprig of rosemary, thyme, sage, or whatever flavor is required.

This raised bed full of tasty herbs is located just off of a kitchen, making it easier to grab a fresh sprig of rosemary, thyme, sage, or whatever flavor is desired.

5 Steps for Creating a Raised Bed

Now that you recognize the benefits and are inspired, how do you go about creating a raised bed garden?

1. Pick a spot.

Full sun, or a mix of sun and shade, typically works best.

2. Pick your design / material. 

Use materials that are locally available to you. Wood (cedar typically lasts the longest), bricks, pots, and poured concrete are some ideas; the material should make sense for your space (and wallet!).

3. Fill the Space with Top Quality Soil

Generally speaking, a raised bed is at least 6”-10” higher than the existing soils. Also, you’ll want a soil blend that has both mineral soil (the existing soil) mixed with organic matter (e.g. compost or some other form of soil amendment). Harvest offers pre-blended mixes, such as Garden Soil in Connecticut, Garden Blend in British Columbia, and a range of bagged soil products (Potting Soil, Potting Mix, Soil Amendments, Peat Moss, and compost-based products) available from our retail partners.

4. Plant

Seeds or starts, veggies or flowers, plant what makes sense for you! Your local garden center will have tips. Our advice:

  • Start out small and build from your successes.
  • Have fun! Grow what you know. Also feel free to experiment! Gardening is a forgiving activity that provides an endless opportunity for exploring and learning.

5. Maintain

ON THE SIDE: It can be nice to maintain the border of your raised bed by applying a 2-3” layer of mulch, or rock, gravel, or pavers to keep down weeds.

SEASON TO SEASON: Your soil will get depleted over time. We suggest adding a 2-4” layer of soil amendment, such as compost or a potting mix, and mixing it into the top 6” of the bed every couple years. Of course, as with everything, remember to water.

NOTE: With watering, plants typically prefer a few long drinks (a couple deep water sessions per week) over short sips (many short sprays of water per week).

Let’s get back to some raised bed inspiration.

This raised bed is outside of a school: each class gets one plot. Also, check out the easy-to-maintain mulch that keeps the weeds at bay.

These raised beds are outside of a school: each class gets one plot. Also, check out the easy-to-maintain mulch that keeps down weeds.

Looks like the garlic (with a light mulch of straw) and kale (background) overwintered in these beds.

The garlic (in the foreground with a light mulch of straw) and kale (in the background) overwintered in these beds.

Yum: Strawberries, a great, simple snack on the way to class.

Yum! Strawberries, a great, simple snack on the way to class.

Ahoy! Who says raised beds need to be square.

Ahoy! Who says raised beds need to be square.

Looks like this gardener is going to try out square foot gardening.

Looks like this gardener is going to try out square foot gardening.

A raised bed at a Harvest site in Connecticut.  It's like a blank canvas waiting for gardening art.

A raised bed at a Harvest site in Connecticut. It’s like a blank canvas waiting for gardening art.

Note the weed deterrent strategy: cleared ground, covered with cloth, covered with a layer of mulch.

Note the weed deterrent strategy: cleared ground, covered with cloth, covered with a layer of mulch.

Simple, productive, orderly, and beautiful raised beds. What fun!

Simple, productive, orderly, and beautiful raised beds. What fun!

Do you have a raised bed?  If so, what style worked for you? What have you grown?

Videos of Your Favorite Mulches in New England

Watch Videos of Your Favorite Mulches, Available in New England Connecticut – Delivery Too!

Sometimes the best part of gardening is dreaming and planning. For all of you getting geared up to transform your landscape, here’s a summary – with videos – of our most popular mulches offered by Harvest New England out of Connecticut sites in Farmington, Fairfield, Ellington and Wallingford.

EcoMulch
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
Eco Mulch is a great all around mulch that is the perfect alternative to conventional bark mulch. It is a natural product that has been made from double ground and composted brush and yard trimmings. Decorative, easy to spread and very beneficial for both soil and plants.
Northwoods Bark
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
Available only in our Fairfield location. A True Premium Bark Mulch. An especially attractive blend of Pine, Fir, and Hemlock from Northern New England. Looks and smells great. Maintains its color better and lasts longer than other natural mulches.
Pine Blend
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
One of our most popular mulches. Easy to spread. An unbeatable combination of quality and value. Our special blend of Northern New England bark and aged ground softwoods makes it darker than our Northwoods Bark.
Hemlock Mulch
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
We carry a 100% Natural Hemlock. Straight from Northern New England. A beautiful reddish hue distinguishes this hard to find mulch.
Brick Red Mulch
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
We start with clean ground wood and then color it to a rich, red hue using a non-toxic, natural colorant. Adds a dramatic and long-lasting color statement to your landscaping.
Ultra Brown Mulch
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
Our most popular colored mulch. Generously dyed with a non toxic colorant. It holds its color longer than traditional mulches and features a consistent natural brown look. Most customers who visit our yards end up choosing Ultra Brown.
Midnight Black Mulch
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
Midnight Black looks great when you put it down and stays looking great. This colorized mulch provides great contrast for colorful plantings. If you’re looking for a dark mulch this is the mulch for you.
Fine Grind
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
A shredded and screened composted mulch that is easy to spread. Twice as fine as our standard mulch, it breaks down quickly adding valuable nutrients to the soil. If “mulch build-up” is an issue this is the mulch for you.
Canadian Cedar Mulch
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
100% Canadian Cedar. This brown mulch is superior in its resistance to decomposition and ability to repel insects.
Red Cedar Mulch
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
A colorized version of our Canadian Cedar. Great texture and color with all the benefits of Cedar.
Playground Carpet
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
Ground virgin wood chips for use under playground equipment. Also used for walking paths.This untreated mulch is safe for children and pets, of course.
Green Peet
Recycled Content:

Maintains Color:

Cost:
Green Peet is wood fines formally used in horse bedding that has been naturally aged. It is a rich dark chestnut color with a fine consistency that is easy to spread. Use it in the same manner as other peat products to enhance the garden.

Inspired?  Contact us today for a quote.