Author Archives: Avant Garden Decor

About Avant Garden Decor

Avant® Garden is the premier brand of innovative outdoor living décor. From stylish coco planters and baskets, to flower boxes, plant stands, and fire pits – it’s the one stop brand for all outdoor décor needs. Avant® Garden also offers garden helpers, such as garden stakes, accessories, and various plant saucers that meet the demands of both gardening hobbyists and enthusiasts alike.

Why Are Earthworms Good For My Garden?

5 Ways Earthworms Benefit Your Garden

While they may not get credit for being the world’s most attractive creatures, earthworms are essential to soil and garden health. They play an important biological role in the soil’s natural ecosystem and their functions benefit humans directly. If you understand the advantages that earthworms bring to your garden, you can help them thrive and your garden will flourish.

Recycle organic material

Earthworms consume organic matter, and then they digest it and mix it with soil. Poor crop growth results when the organic matter on the surface doesn’t get mixed in with the soil.

Increase available nutrients

Earthworm casts, or excrement, add more nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium back into the surrounding soil. The casts have a higher available amount of these nutrients.

Improve soil structure

While plant roots produce carbon dioxide that needs to leave the soil, they need oxygen to grow. It is important for the soil to be porous for these gases to exchange. Earthworms burrow in the soil and create stable tunnels to increase air flow in the soil.

Reduce soil compaction

Because earthworms are burrowing and tunneling through the soil, they weaken the effects of compaction. The steady structure of their excrement prevents the soil from compacting and improves its overall tilth.

Water infiltration

Earthworms can build both vertical and horizontal burrows in the soil. Worms seal the top of these burrows with residue and excrement, but vertical burrows are typically open. These burrows become places where water can infiltrate the soil.

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7 great CSA farm programs in New Jersey

New Jersey is known as the garden state, and predictably, they have a lot of great stuff going on as far as gardens and farms go. Farming is one of their most prominent industries, focusing on potatoes, tomatoes, and peaches.  Here are some of the best of the best community supported agriculture programs we found in New Jersey.

1. Catalpa Ridge Farm

Catalpa Ridge Farm’s CSA is in its 19th year. They deliver to Mahwah, Franklin, and Hoboken, as well as the employee cafeteria at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.  Members are encouraged to participate in farm events such as helping with harvest or attending the annual Heirloom Tomato Tasting in Hoboken each summer. Each week, members get a newsletter with recipe ideas for their weekly harvest. An example of the variety in their baskets from 2013 can be found here.

2. Genesis Farm

Since 1988, the Community Supported Garden at Genesis Farm has provided an opportunity for a community of people to take responsibility for supporting a farm. They practice many forms of stewardship, utilizing compost, cover crops, crop rotation, biodiversity, and seed saving. They also have a kids’ farm camp in the summer to give the next generation hands-on farm experience.

3. Good Tree Farm

Good Tree Farm prides itself on offering a variety of price points so they are affordable for people in many situations. They also ship their produce so that those who can’t visit the farm still have access to organic local produce. They manually control weeds, encouraging customers to volunteer and be involved in the care of their plants. Good Tree utilizes beneficial insects and naturally pest-resistant strains of heirloom produce in order to minimize bug damage. They have strong values and objectives that revolve around fresh, sustainable produce.

4. Honey Brook Organic

Honey Brook Organic Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program started in 1991 with 3.5 rented acres and fifty members.  It has now grown to include 350 acres (some rented and some Organic Community Farm Programowned) and over 4,000 members. Owners Jim Kinsel and Sherry Dudas have demonstrated that it is possible to farm successfully by employing environmentally sound and sustainable production techniques, providing the highest quality organic produce at a reasonable price, providing safe working conditions, comfortable housing and livable wages to the people working on the farm, preserving the genetic diversity of food crops, and providing members with a healthy, sustainable connection to the farm where their food is grown.

5. JAH’S Creation

JAH’S Creation Organic Farm is out to prove that it’s possible to provide a continual flow of fresh organic produce year round. Their CSA covers a chunk of southern New Jersey and the farm also grows for numerous local restaurants and grocers. JAH’S CSA items are all exclusively from their fields, which yield over 150 crop varieties annually.

6. Westfield

John Krueger of Circle Brook Farm provides produce for many New Jersey CSAs, one of which is the Westfield Area CSA. This is one of the only single-farmer certified organic farms in this part of New Jersey, and Kreuger’s large membership of many CSAs allows him to grow an exceptionally large variety of produce. CSA members are always welcome to visit and get to know the farm and farmer, and get to help out on pea picking days and other harvest events.

7. Z food Farm

If you want variety, Z Food Farm is a great place to look! They attempt to grow over 350 varieties of produce every year. Z’s mission is to promote food as a powerful cultural force for interacting with the environment and in our communities by providing high quality and flavorful vegetables, herbs, and fruits.

Z food Farm is located on land leased from Cherry Grove Farm, a dairy that makes farmstead cheeses and raises pasture animals.  This farm also leases land to another CSA, Cherry Grove Organic. Obviously this land does some wonderful stuff! In Fall 2014 Cherry Grove was looking to start a cheese CSA with a local wine shop, so look out for that!


These are just some of the awesome CSAs that New Jersey has to offer.  There are lots of others, so be sure to check out what options for local produce are in your area!

Pennsylvania Farm Produce

Pennsylvania CSAs We Love

In our goal to find some of the best CSAs in the US, we’re exploring Pennsylvania this week! The Keystone State has a lot of CSA options, most including much more than fruit and vegetables. A lot of them also take “community” to heart, involving members in all aspects of the growing process, should they desire. Here are a few of our favorites:

Delaware Valley Farm Share- An extension of Common Market Philadelphia, Delaware Valley Grown Farm share is a collaboration of farmers and food artisans in the Philadelphia area. Members can choose from shares including fruits, veggies, eggs, cheeses, bread, coffee, and yogurt. These are sourced from different local providers and can be picked up at various locations in Philadelphia and its suburbs. They share some great tips for saving money and eating healthy on their twitter, check it out!

Goodwill at Homefields Farm- The Goodwill ® thrift store in Keystone, PA has teamed up with Homefield farms to provide a farm share program for the community. Pick up is at the farm, and families build their own boxes by taking the suggested amounts out of clearly labeled boxes. Members are also encouraged to pick herbs and flowers from the farm. The farm and Goodwill ® also partner in a vocational program where trainees learn to plant, grow, and harvest fresh vegetables. One CSA member commented on their site celebrating the educational aspects of their program, and how happy she was that her son could see and experience where their food comes from.

Greensgrow Farms- When structuring their CSA program, Greensgrow made sure to model their boxes after people’s actual cooking and eating habits. They avoid filling their packages with too much of one item, and therefore source their fare from several local farms and food producers.  Their winter package offers a local meat option, and year round they have coffee and cheese shares available. Greensgrow has a lot of other programs going on as well, including their community kitchen, a nursery, and a farmstand. This is truly an all-encompassing food and lifestyle experience.Local crops

Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative- Lancaster’s CSA program not only has options for vegetables, fruit, eggs, cheese, and flowers, but they also have a Community Supported Medicine program that provides fresh and dried herbal products and information on how to utilize them.  Shareholders can also contribute funds to help make csa shares available to low-income area residents, so that the CSA can provide fresh healthy food to a larger reach.

North Star - North Star Orchard believes that sustainability means three things- People, Planet, and Profit. They use a combination of organic, integrated pest management, and new solar technologies to farm in an environmentally friendly manner.  Their CSA has a Plant start option for those wanting to grow their own food, and their blog is maintained by a super cute stuffed sheep named Zippy.

Quiet Creek- Quiet Creek’s coolest CSA feature is that membership includes access to their U-pick garden, which includes flowers, cherry tomatoes, snap beans, edamame, and more depending on the season. They also have some great intern and apprenticeship opportunities, making it a very community-centric farm.

Taproot – Taproot farm focuses on healthy food and sustainable farming. They are Certified Naturally Grown, and deliver to several cities in the Philadelphia area. Their CSA has a bread share to add to the typical egg, cheese, and veggie options that many Pennsylvania farms offer. Read about their growing methods and explore their site to learn more about their beliefs about food, nutrition, and sustainability.

There’s no way we could include all the great CSAs Pennsylvania has to offer. Did we miss one that you love? Share in the comments!

Locally grown vegertables

6 Awesome CSAs in Washington

Community sustained agriculture (CSA) is a growing trend all across the United States. There are several ways CSA programs (also known as farm shares) can work, but they all boil down to the same principle, which you can read about here.

The Northwest is full of people who love organic produce, so we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite CSAs in Washington. Most of these are organic or natural farms. If you’re in the area and interested in joining, don’t worry about it being late in the season! Many of these have pro-rated options, or you can get on the list for next year. Even if you’re not in Washington, lots of these websites have recipes and other great content you’ll find useful. So check them out and see what the Evergreen state has to offer.

(It was hard enough to narrow our list down to these, so we saved ourselves some trouble and did not put them in any order of preference. It’d be too hard to decide!)

Abundantly Green, Poulsbo, WA

Abundantly Green is a farm with simple goals. They provide food that doesn’t use herbicides, pesticides, or GMOs, and hasn’t traveled the interstate. They have a summer CSA as well as a year-round program. They also offer a chicken share, where you can get 8 whole chickens, either all at once or spread throughout the year. In addition to produce and chicken, the farm raises and sells pork, lamb, beef, and eggs.

Boistfort Valley Farm- Curtis, WA

Boistfort Valley Farm seems to have everything figured out. They are certified organic, have both a summer and a winter CSA, and are featured at several farmers markets and stores throughout Washington. Their website features a community recipe page, and they’ve just started a video series that offers great insight into the “behind the scenes” of the farm.

Of course, the CSA is our main focus. Boistfort not only has a variety of share sizes throughout the year, but they have drop sites from Portland to Seattle, so if you’re in the Northwest, there may be one near you. They’ve also started a CSA scholarship fund, so that those who otherwise couldn’t afford the large lump sum payments can have access to fresh organic produce.

Growing Things Farm- Carnation, WA

Nestled on the Snoqualmie River, Growing Things Farm has been partnering with their animals and the land to provide their customers the best tasting and most nutritious produce possible since 1991. They work with minimal machinery, and incorporate their animals into a holistic management system. They raise vegetables, berries, fruit, eggs, pastured meat birds and pork, and grass-fed beef.  They’ve chosen to be certified naturally grown instead of USDA Organic (mostly paperwork differences), and emphasize the importance of knowing your farmers and reading labels carefully, whether the sticker says the food is organic or not.

The Growing Things Farm CSA program runs for 16 weeks, beginning in June. Their early crop includes greens such as spinach, baby salad, and a lot of Asian greens. Later in the season, there is more variety, including beats, tomatoes, peas, beans, broccoli, and much more. They also have options for fruit and egg shares, so you can get a lot of your food in the same place! They operate on a weekly pickup schedule and do offer payment plans to fit different budget needs. Our favorite part is that they sell veggie starts too, encouraging people to start their own gardens.

Hedlin Farms, Mt. Vernon, WA

Hedlin Farms grows both organic and conventional produce on their almost-400 acres. Their CSA boxes feature mostly their products, but occasionally, items from other local farms with the same ideals. Accounts are managed online, making it easy for members to schedule vacation weeks, which they can make up at the end of the season. They also share recipes to spark inspiration for how to use the items in their boxes.

Klesick Family Farm, Stanwood, WA

The Klesick Family Farm has a passion for doing good, hence their tagline “a box of good”. There are a variety of options for their CSA shares, including a “juicer” box full of juicable produce. They source their offerings from their own farm and several local ones, and deliver all throughout Washington. Members can choose to donate boxes or money to several charities, expanding the reach of the good the Klesick CSA does. The Klesicks also offer coaching and consulting on agricultural and business solutions.

Nash’s Organic Produce, Sequim, WA

Nash’s Organic Produce is another CSA that seems to have it all. In addition to the recipes available on the website, members get access to a weekly newsletter with recipes, health tips, and news from the farm. Farm share membership is also accompanied by a 10% discount on Nash’s products at their Farm store and Farmer’s Market stands. Pick-up is available at several Farmers market in several Washington towns.

So those are some of our favorite CSAs and Farm shares in the state of Washington. What are your favorites?

Assorted squash

ALL ABOUT SQUASH: Squash Varieties

Squash Varieties

Originating in Mexico and Central America, people have been eating squash for more than 7,500 years. Native Americans shared squash seeds in different varieties with European explorers, who then took the new crop back to their lands to grow. Continue reading

Growing Gourds

‘Tis the season for collections of beautiful pumpkins, squash, and gourds surrounded by overstuffed hay bales and tall corn stalks. Did you know that growing your own gourds is as easy as growing your own tomatoes? We’re here to walk you through the simple process of growing your own and you’ll have them in time to showcase them for fall!

Before you begin planting, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Choose a location in the garden with full sun
  2. Make sure your soil is rich and well drained. Check out our composting tips to get your soil packed with nutrients!
  3. Place stakes in your garden for the gourds to grow on. They appreciate having their fruits off the ground.

Time to plant:

  1. Gourds grow best when planted directly from seed. You’ll want to group about four seeds and plant them 1-2 inches deep in the soil. Space these little groups about 5 feet apart to form a row. If you want to plant multiple rows, space the rows about 6-8 feet apart.
  2. When leaves begin to develop you will want to thin the seedlings to about 2 or 3 in each group.
  3. Gourd plants can end up overtaking your garden, so employing stakes such as Gardener’s Blue Ribbon Ultomato Tomato Stakes helps to keep the plants from spreading throughout the garden bed and grow vertically.
  4. Keep plants watered according to the seed package you used. Squash plants will need more water than usual during periods of dry and hot weather.
  5. Protect bug infestation on your gourds by keeping an all-purpose insect killer handy, like Safer® Brand End ALL Insect Killer. You will be able to kill bugs on contact before they take over your plants.
  6. Harvest gourds when they are hard to the touch and have developed their color. Small gourds tend to dry and preserve better than large gourds.

Get creative:

Gourds, like other vine plants, are awesome for growing on stakes, trellises, fences, and other tall supports. Check out the photos below to see how some people used outdoor spaces to grow gourds!



Herbed Macaroni and Cheese

Herbed Macaroni and Cheese Recipe


  • Salt
  • 1 pound macaroni (regular or whole grain)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • About 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup basil, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chives, cut into small bits
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup Gruyère cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided

Continue reading


Great Holiday Gifts from

Do you have an outdoor entertainer or gardener on your holiday shopping list? With the holiday season moving quickly we thought we’d give you a hand and tip you off to ten great gift options. Check ‘em out!

CobraCo® Embossed Leaf Copper Hose Holder – The CobraCo® Embossed Leaf Hose Holder with Copper Finish decoratively holds a garden hose up to 150 feet in length. Drain holes are situated at the base of the holder to prevent leftover water from making a mess. Embossed leaf design and powder-coated copper finish.

CobraCo® Canterbury Basket Plant Stand - The CobraCo® Canterbury Basket Plant Stand has three curved legs to give it sturdy support.  It comes in an all-metal textured black finish and includes a coco liner.

CobraCo® Diamond Mesh Fire Pit and Bench Set – This all-inclusive set features a sturdy CobraCo® fire pit with a 39” black, steel-meshed bowl with an attractive diamond pattern. This fire pit has a convenient 5” wide table edge, and is seated on pit base with integrated air flow risers that maximize airflow to your fire.

CobraCo® Plant Sitter® Water System - The CobraCo® Plant Sitter® Water System is an automatic watering system that provides a healthy well-balanced diet of water & fertilizer for your plants. The CobraCo® Plant Sitter® provides drip irrigation for a houseplant up to 3 weeks, so it’s ideal for when you are away from home on vacation.

Gardener’s Blue Ribbon® Rolling Plant Caddy - Gardener’s Blue Ribbon® Rolling Plant Caddies are sturdy, durable and so easy to use! With four heavy-duty castors, they give strong support when you move heavy potted and container garden plants, while they protect your carpet, rugs, and floors.

Stocking Stuffers:

CobraCo® Ceramic Watering Sensors – The CobraCo® Ceramic Watering Sensors provides automatic watering of house plants.  The sensors come in a 3-pack and will work with any container of waters.  The drip time is approximately 6 to 10 hours per water sensor.  Keep your plants at the proper moisture level with these ceramic water sensors.

Gardener’s Blue Ribbon® 12″ Cork Mats – Twin Pack – Gardener’s Blue Ribbon® Cork Mats prevent surface stains and scratches on your furniture, counters, and floors. These tough, durable cork mats have so many uses in your home.

Safer® Brand Sticky Whitefly Trap – The Safer® Brand Sticky Whitefly Trap is ideal for use in the home or garden. This trap offers an economical and convenient solution to the annoyances of whiteflies, aphids, thrips, leaf miners, gnats and fruit flies.  This natural pest control product is fully disposable.

Gardener’s Blue Ribbon® Sturdy Vine Supports – Twin Pack – Gardener’s Blue Ribbon®sturdy vine supports are perfect for training and supporting all of your climbing vines. The kit contains 25 6” plastic-coated wire twists, 16 plastic discs and a tube of adhesive.

CobraCo® Fire Pit Chef’s Kit - Make cooking dinner a fun, family activity on your CobraCo® Fire Pit with the CobraCo® Fire Pit Chef’s Kit. This kit includes two 36” galvanized steel CobraCo® S’Mores Forks, that will allow you and your family to easily cook food on your Fire Pit from a comfortable distance.


Plant of the Month: Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum indicum)

Commonly known as a mum, the Chrysanthemum is a hardy plant has become the standard fall flower for many gardeners in cooler climates. The mum’s ability to be winter-hardy in zones 5 and up, and, with a little extra care, in zone 4, makes it a very versatile and reliable addition to any garden. However, make sure to plant your mums in the spring to ensure that they are well-established, in order to have them survive the winter. Mums even work well in container gardening!

Mums typically are anywhere from 2-4 feet high, and are available in a large variety of different colors. Choose blooms in bright reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and pinks! Exhibition varieties of chrysanthemums can also be found in a variety of different flower types as well, but these may not be has hardy as the the non-exhibition type, so be sure to read your label to check zone hardiness. Make sure and dead head these as well so that you can enjoy a healthy plant.

Do you have any experience with mums in  your outdoor living space?


Fall Flower Boxes

Enhance your fall outdoor decorating and extend your gardening season with fall flower boxes and hanging planters.

The first brisk fall evenings crash through summer’s warmth and abruptly awaken our senses to the season’s arrival. It seems like one day we are enjoying long days and cookouts, and the next day it’s football and early morning frost. Those crisp nights also tend to foretell the end of our gardening season.

Fall mumsThe thought of all your hard work disappearing steadily with each falling leaf, though inevitable, is a disappointing end to the summer. So don’t let it be the end of your garden season! Take back the fall with your flower boxes and hanging baskets, because they are a great way to extend your gardening season past Halloween and even continue to have garden color into Thanksgiving. Once your summer annuals are done blooming, its time to start to research some plants and flowers that will last a little longer in your hardiness zone. Don’t forget that there are some plants that will look great in your flower boxes even after the first frosts, and will provide color late into the year.  Less hardy plants start to wither up and die and your garden starts to turn brown.

Chrysanthemums, or mums, are a very common and colorful fall flower. There are many different variety’s available to today’s gardener, including some very hard plants that can be perennials all the way in to Zone 5! Mums also make excellent container plants, and will work superbly for a flower box. Select 2-3 different colors to provide a nice, diverse showing. If you prefer, use a palette of fall colors like orange, yellow, and dark-red. They match up superbly with your traditional Halloween and Thanksgiving decorating.


Pansies are an excellent way to add some vibrant color to your fall flower boxes. While pansies are not hardy enough to last as perennials in winter zones, they thrive in the cooler weather that fall provides, with some varieties even being able to survive light snow. The incredible color variety that is available with pansies make them a great option for filling in empty spaces in your flower boxes or hanging baskets.

Ornamental cabbages and kales provide nice leafy centerpieces to build your fall flower boxes and hanging baskets around. There are a handful of different varieties, all with different shapes and sizes. As the weather gets colder the color in the center of these plants become brighter and really provide a nice base of color for fall flower boxes and hanging baskets.

Don’t let fall be the end of your beautiful gardens. With a little research, and a little extra care, you can have flower boxes and hanging baskets that will extend your growing season, and give your outdoor decorating an extra touch of color and beauty at a time of the year when most people have given up.