Planting and caring for a veggie garden can be quite a game. It can be challenging, relaxing, frustrating, rewarding, educational, but most importantly…delicious! Who or what is to blame for the problems we may encounter with our veggie gardens? Let’s blame someone or something, shall we? Let’s blame some of the key players in the veggie garden game. The key players that we are going to use as scapegoats are; temperature, soil, light, and water. Sometimes it’s an insect, sometimes a disease, occasionally Mother Nature plays a part, and often the gardener is the guilty one. Let’s face it, folks, none of us are perfect gardeners! We try. We try so hard but sometimes our schedules get in the way or we are just not sure what to do. Should this stop us? Never! Gardening is one of the healthiest and rewarding hobbies we can ever have.
Let’s place some of the blame for a poor performing veggie garden on temperature. Temperature is a key player in the veggie garden game. If it is erratic, too cold, or too hot, it can foul up the game.
If the soil and air are too cold…
•Vegetable seedlings may grow very slowly and turn yellow.
•Tomatoes may stay “greenback” and fail to ripen at the stem end.
•Flowers may prematurely bolt and bloom.
•Leaves may brown and melt away at the tips due to frost.
If temperatures are too hot…
•Leaves may turn brown along the edges and tips from leaf scorch.
•Crops may be stunted.
•Produce can be strongly flavored.
•Beets can develop a bull-eye pattern.
•Onion bulbs may turn gray on the outer layers.
•Flowers may prematurely bloom.
Gardeners don’t have any control over temperature but we can pay attention and be sure not to plant veggies too early in the season.
Soil is a very important player in the game. Without good soil, you will not have good vegetables. Soil deficiencies can throw the veggie garden game completely off.
Here are some examples of what you may come across…
•Lower leaves turning yellow and not falling off the plant may be a sign of low nitrogen.
•New leaves turning yellow while the veins stay green is often an iron deficiency.
•A potassium deficiency shows up as yellow leaf edges with brown spots.
•Purplish leaves and veins indicate a phosphorus deficiency.
•Black circular lesions on the blossom end of veggies is usually due to a lack of calcium.
•Forked and twisted carrots and potatoes mean the soil is too rocky or compact.
Veggie gardeners, you have a lot of control over your soil. Start out right and you will be rewarded with beautiful produce. Simple steps such as; turning over your soil, alleviating compaction with Encap’s Gypsum, fertilizing with Espoma’s Garden-Tone, adjusting your pH with Limestone, and adding rich compost can make all the difference in the world.
Do not downplay how crucial of a player light is to the veggie garden game. Without proper sunlight, issues can occur.
Issues such as…
•Vegetables get sunburned just like people. If you see larger brown, burnt patches on your leaves and/or fruit, the culprit may be too much sun.
•Leaf scorch will cause leaves to turn brown at the tips and edges.
•If leaves are pale green and plants are spindly, they are not getting enough sun and they are desperately reaching for it.
We obviously cannot move the sun but we can help our veggies get the right amount of light. As a rule of thumb, most vegetables that produce fruit can bake in the sun. Veggies such as; tomatoes, peppers, and squash love it. Consider putting your leafier vegetables in the less sunny part of the garden. Salad greens, broccoli, peas, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, beets, radish, chard, collards, spinach, and mustard will all tolerate a little less sunlight.
I don’t know if I can label water as the star player of the veggie game but it sure is one of the most important.
Here are some examples of water-related problems:
•Wilted veggies & bone dry soil means too little water.
•Wilted plants & soaking wet soil means too much water.
•Wilted vegetables in a container that recover quickly when watered & wilt quickly again are root-bound.
•Wilted veggies in the ground that have soaking wet soil are poorly drained.
•If leaves turn yellow & drop at the base of the stems first, the plant is getting too much water.
•If leaves turn brown at the tips & edges, they are getting too much sun and too little water.
•Stunted and strongly flavored vegetables may not be getting enough water.
•If tomatoes look scabby they probably received too much water.
Gardening friends, you have so much power when it comes to watering. If Mother Nature is not giving your veggies enough water, it is your job to take over. Plants need consistent, even watering to keep them healthy. Your vegetables would be happier if they were watered at the base as opposed to overhead and please do not let them dry out for too long.
Take good care of your veggies and they will take good care of you.
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
Nothing is healthier and more satisfying for your body than fresh-picked veggies from your own garden. Growing your own vegetables is not only healthy for your body but great therapy for your mind. I don’t know about you, but every time I harvest a fresh vegetable that I grew myself, I feel mentally and physically great!
Here are 5 tips that you may not know to get the most out of your summer vegetable garden:
You only need these vegetables for one season, so fertilize & push the heck out of them. What have you got to lose? Fertilize every two weeks with granular, slow-release food, such as Espoma’s Garden Tone but don’t stop there! Use Van Wilgen’s Organic Fish & Seaweed every two weeks too! Fish & Seaweed fertilizer used on your veggies in the hot summer is the best. They drink it up without burning AND it makes your veggies taste better!
Add a little Garden Lime to tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and squash. All of these veggies are prone to Blossom End Rot due to a lack of calcium. Lime gives them the added calcium they need to stop the rot! If it’s too late and your poor tomatoes are already showing signs of rot, use Bonide’s Rot Stop as your quick fix. It’ll work, I promise!
Keep soil as evenly damp as possible but don’t water overhead. Contrary to popular belief, your veggies do not like to have their foliage watered. Always water slowly and at the base of plants. Don’t let the soil dry out too much between waterings and no puddles! Overhead watering leads to many more disease problems, so keep it low.
4. DISEASE CONTROL:
Start spraying disease-prone plants before the disease actually shows up. Use organic Fungicides such as Copper by Bonide. Fungicides used weekly two to three weeks before the disease usually shows up could stop it altogether. By being proactive, you can stop Septoria Leaf Spot on tomatoes & Powdery Mildew on cucumbers and squash before it even starts. This means less spraying in the long run and much healthier veggies all summer.
5. INSECT CONTROL:
If you’re looking to go organic, there are many choices, but one organic product may not kill them all. To get all types of veggie garden bugs, you have to sometimes mix it up or be sure to pick the best active ingredient. Neem oil is best for sucking types of insects such as aphids and leafhoppers. Pyrethrins are best on leaf chewing beetles. Insecticidal Soap kills Plant Bugs such as Squash Bugs. Spinosad, such as Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew, is best at controlling leaf-eating caterpillars. When in doubt, just pay us a visit and we’d be happy to recommend a product that will work best for your needs. You can’t go wrong!
Follow these steps now, and you’ll be enjoying delicious, fresh veggies in no time!
So your beautiful veggies are all planted or are just about to be. You’re feeling proud of your initial accomplishment, as you should be — but don’t get too comfortable! Your work isn’t done yet! Before you can sit back and enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor, I have a quick checklist of continued care for your newly planted vegetable garden.
VEGGIE GARDEN CONTINUED CARE:
- Water regularly. Do not allow Your garden to dry out completely. Keep the bed evenly damp daily.
- Water at the base of the plant, preferably in the morning to keep diseases down.
- If you have not already added Garden Lime to your newly planted tomatoes, it is time. A few tablespoons per plant will do.
- Side dress plants/rows with fertilizer regularly throughout the growing season. If using an organic fertilizer such as Garden-Tone, a few tablespoons per plant, every 2 weeks will keep your veggies happy. If using conventional fertilizer such as VanWilgens Slow Release, 1 time per month should do!
- To keep diseases at bay, spray vulnerable plants, such as squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes with an organic fungicide weekly. Start sprays now with Copper or Garden fungicide.
- Keep a bottle of all-natural insecticide on hand, such as End All. This way, you will be ready to stop bad bugs as soon as they appear.
- Put down a 2 to 3-inch layer of Mainely Mulch straw to keep weeds from taking over. Top it off with a sprinkle of Preen Vegetable Garden and weeds have no chance.
- Just as your beautiful tomatoes, strawberries, etc start to ripen, keep an eye out for furry friends who love them just as much as you do. Store a bottle of Go Away all-natural animal repellent in your shed. It can be sprayed right on the fruit to keep critters away.
A gardener’s work is never done but the end results of your continued care are well worth it. From your garden to your table, you will feel pride with every juicy tomato, crunchy cucumber, and sweet pea you pick.
(Products that are good for your lawn and garden in the summer heat!)
“It is sooo hot!” This is what I have been hearing a lot of this summer. Fellow employees are hot, customers are hot, dogs are hot, kids are hot, everyone is hot! We are able to express our feelings and even whine about the heat. What about our poor lawns and gardens. They are hot too. They are just a little quieter about it. Sure, hydrangeas may droop in the afternoon sun, herbs may not be standing at attention, tomato leaves may be curling a bit, and our lawns may be looking a little crispy but at least they are not making a lot of noise about the hot agony they are in. Since they are being such troopers, shouldn’t we give them a little summer treat?! Van Wilgen’s has some delicious treats that will really help your plants make it through this hot, dry spell.
Let’s talk about our newest Van Wilgen product…ROOT BOOST. Root Boost is great any time of the year but its’ summer benefits are off the chart. Root Boost is as organic as you can get. It is an organic powerhouse filled with every essential plant element, beneficial bacteria, and mycorrhizae (beneficial fungus). It is also a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 6-5-5. I do not want to get too nerdy, technical about this product but I do want you to know how great it really works to increase the root system of any plant. The beneficial fungus and bacteria literally attach themselves to the roots of plants and increase the roots network system. Roots, in turn, can absorb more water and nutrients. Here is the kicker! Root Boost will never burn a plant even in this summer heat. In fact, the added kelp will actually help plants to retain moisture and give them a little breather from the hot sun. Use it on every plant from veggies to houseplants. They all will benefit from all it has to offer. Give your summer plants a boost with Root Boost!
Let’s move onto a little smellier but awesome summer product…FISH & SEAWEED. This is another awesome summer fertilizer that can be used any time of the year. Root Boost has no odor and comes in a powder form that you mix with water. Fish & Seaweed is in a liquid form that gets diluted with water. It works really well in a hose-end sprayer if you have a lot of gardens to cover. Fish and Seaweed is a nice balanced fertilizer that keeps plants strong, helps them retain moisture, and keeps them productive even under the stress of heat. Van Wilgen’s Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer can be used in conjunction with Root Boost and WOW! your plants will be beyond happy.
Do not forget your lawn. Love your lawn this summer with DR. EARTH SUPERNATURAL LAWN FERTILIZER. It comes equipped with a hose-end sprayer so all you do is attach it and go. One bottle covers 5,000 sq. ft. and fills your lawn with prebiotic microbial food, humic acid, and aloe vera to moisturize that stressed summer lawn. This can be used in conjunction or alternating with the tried and true Milorganite. Milorganite is a mainstay for lawn fertilizers that will not burn your lawn even when everything and everyone is suffering in the summer sun.
It is okay to complain about the heat but remember your plants can’t utter a word. Give them a summer treat.
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
(FISH & SEAWEED THAT IS)
I hope things are a little bit fishy around your house this summer. If not, you need to get your sea legs working and start using Fish & Seaweed fertilizer in your garden. Van Wilgen’s has our own Organic Fish & Seaweed and despite its slightly smelly disposition, it is awesome for your garden. The benefits of using Fish & Seaweed during the hot summer months definitely outweigh the drawbacks of the very temporary fishy smell. In the summer months, plants can get super stressed due to heat, drought, insects & disease. Fish & Seaweed is one of those hidden treasure fertilizers that help your plants thrive instead of saying “Argh”!
Fish & Seaweed is a gem of fertilizer with an ocean full of advantages. I’m going to reel myself in and start with just the Fishy part of Fish & Seaweed. Who knew fish could be such a great fertilizer?! Fish protein gives plants an organic nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium source that not only helps plants thrive naturally but brings our soil to life. The bottom line is “living soil, makes living plants.” Fish adds biological life to the soil, promotes beneficial bacteria, relieves compaction, and keeps microbes swimming. You will be amazed by the growth and yield of your plants when using fish-based food.
Seaweed is quite a catch itself! Seaweed is the perfect compliment to Fish. No garden would be complete without the combo of the two. There are so many major & minor nutrients in Seaweed, I stopped counting at 50. The growth-promoting substances in seaweed add great color to plants and extra taste to herbs and veggies. Adding Seaweed to your fertilizer routine will help plants bask in the summer heat with joy. Seaweed adds moisture and keeps diseases at bay even in the extreme heat of summer.
Van Wilgen’s Organic Fish & Seaweed comes in a really easy-to-use liquid. If you do not start using Fish & Seaweed now, I just might make you walk the plank. It is that good! Apply Fish & Seaweed weekly in your garden beds and your plants will be doing the cheer wave in no time!
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
*Van Wilgen’s Organic Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer
Winter is Coming… and that is not just for all you Game of Thrones fans. It is that time of year and the veggie growing season is drawing to a close. Fortunately, we do not have to prepare for The Night King or his army of White Walkers heading from the north but it is really nice to prepare for winter and enjoy as much of your garden as possible. For tomato lovers it is tough to watch the fruits of your labor go to waste so you pick everything you can, but what about all the tomatoes that will not have a chance to ripen? Some of them might ripen on the counter but for a lot of them, they will stay firm and green. My family, particularly my wife, stores as much as possible and she can’t stand to see anything go to waste so even though those tomatoes are green, we are going to use them!
Have you seen or heard of the movie, “fried green tomatoes”? Yep, you know where I’m going next. For a guy who is not a huge fan of “raw” tomatoes, the first time my wife placed a plate of fried green tomatoes in front of me I raised an eyebrow. I will say I was pleasantly surprised! Although who am I kidding, it’s fried, throw a little sriracha mayo for dipping and now we are talking. It kind of tastes like a tangier version of fried eggplant so go ahead and make it “Parmesan style” with sauce and cheese.
Give this recipe a shot and let us know what you think!
Best Fried Green Tomatoes
Recipe By: Diana Swenson-Siegel
“You can also fry up red tomatoes with this recipe but make sure they are not overripe or they will be mushy. Serve these tomatoes outside with a glass of iced tea one summer night and enjoy the sunset with someone you love.”
- 4 large green tomatoes
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1-quart vegetable oil for frying
- Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick. Discard the ends.
- Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium-size bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.
- In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over medium heat. Place tomatoes into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain them on paper towels.
So you just finished harvesting all of your crops, you have tomatoes in every drawer in your kitchen and your garden is cut back. What now?
With enough time left before the first frost, you can still get another crop in the ground.
Whether you are a planner or a fly by the seat of your pants kind of gardener, succession planting is something to try.
What is Succession Planting?
Succession planting is a way of planting that maximizes your harvest. You plant one vegetable right as another one finishes. There are a few ways to do this:
- Harvest Crop – Using the same plot for another set of vegetables after harvest. When a crop is finished, plant another, with a shorter maturity date, in its place. Leafy greens, followed by potatoes, are a great example of harvesting and replanting.
- Companion Crop – Plant two or more crops with varying maturity dates around each other. After the first crop is harvested, your garden will continue flourishing. Radishes next to cucumbers are great companions. Radishes will be harvested before the cucumbers start to produce too much shade.
- Staggered Crop – Plant the same crop every few weeks in order to not be bombarded by the entire crop at once. Tomatoes and peas are crops you’d want in small batches throughout the whole season.
- Same Crop – Plant the same crop with different maturity dates. Seed packets will display the days to maturity on the packets. Broccoli is an example crop with various maturity dates.
Now you know what succession planting is, here are a few steps to send you in the right direction.
5 Tips for Succession Planting
- Plan Accordingly – Growing based on maturity can be a little tricky if you aren’t planning for your region. Make sure to check the seed packet or plant tag to find out how long the plant will take to mature and what temperature it will grow best in. Make sure you have enough seeds to keep you going through the season.
- Plant Transplants – Speed up the growing process by starting seeds This will allow you to harvest and quickly plant to keep your garden at an optimum level all the way up to those winter months. Or, purchase plants as seedlings from your local garden center.
- Feed Regularly – Add Espoma’s Garden Tone to the soil between plantings to keep the soil rich and crops thriving.
- Don’t Hesitate – As you see plants starting to reduce or cease harvest, don’t hesitate to pull them to make room for a new crop.
- Rotate Crops – Try not to plant the same vegetable in the same spot year after year. This causes the soil to lose essential nutrients and increases the likelihood of diseases developing. Rotate crops every three years.
Succession planting can ensure your garden is in working production all season long. Learn what veggies it’s not too late to plant.
(Why beneficial insects really are beneficial!)
Release the hounds! Not literally, but I do want you to release the Ladybugs, Lacewings, and Nematodes. They are fantastic hunters and a huge benefit to your lawn, flower garden, and veggie garden.
These beneficial hunters have many things in common. They are meat-eaters. They never eat your plants. They only eat bad bugs. Ladybugs and Lacewings will eat aphids, whitefly larvae, mealybugs, scale, mites, and many other soft-bodied insects. Ladybugs can easily eat over 50 aphids a day. Lacewings are voracious and eat as many as 1000 per day. Nematodes are power eaters of bad bugs in the soil. They will eat over 200 insects such as cutworms, armyworms, Japanese beetle grubs, sod webworms, fleas, fungus gnats, etc. They are the best hunters ever because you do not have to care for them, feed them or train them. Their instinct is to go where the food source is.
There are a few things you can do to make these beneficials even more beneficial. Be sure to release them all at night. Ladybugs fly away in the day. Lacewing eggs and nematodes can dry up in the hot sun. Water the garden. The first thing Ladybugs do when you release them in your garden is drink. Lacewing eggs like the moisture for hatching. Nematodes spread more quickly when kept damp. Release these hunters at the source of their food. Place Ladybugs and Lacewings at the bottom of plants. Ladybugs naturally crawl up. Lacewing eggs will hatch and the larvae will immediately eat insects dwelling on the plant. Nematodes need to be in the soil, where they can attack their unsuspecting food source.
Ladybugs don’t always stick around for a long time but this is ok! Ladybugs will feed for a little bit but most importantly, they quickly begin laying eggs on your plants. Those eggs will hatch and give you voracious Ladybug larvae. The larvae are very cool. They look like mini black alligators with orange spots and they are hungry for bad bugs in your garden. When the Lacewing larvae hatch from the eggs you released, these Aphid Lions have serious munchies and eat over 1000 bad insects per day. Lacewings can have multiple generations in one season. How awesome is that!? Nematodes have been known to hang around in the soil, eating plant damaging insects for 2 years straight.
These hunters are so easy to have around the yard. You will barely notice them but they will be very busy helping you eliminate plant damaging insects. Let them go and they will reduce your need to use pesticides in your gardens, they will keep your plants healthier, and they will become an integral part of your garden community.
Note: The Ladybugs that you buy from Van Wilgen’s are not the ones you see inside your homes. The beneficial Ladybugs are native to the USA and do not invade homes.
It’s never too late to start an edible garden. Different fruits and vegetables thrive in all types of conditions, so you’re bound to find the perfect fit for your garden, regardless of the season.
In fact, some summer favorites can be planted now for a delicious late summer or early fall harvest. Make sure to use Espoma’s Organic Garden-tone when growing veggies this summer.
Consider these options for late June – early July planting.
These little red veggies thrive in conditions with warm days and cooler nights, making them perfect for areas with a mild summer climate. They can also adapt to grow in cool weather, making your harvest last through the fall and winter. Beets prefer full sun when possible, but still, produce leafy greens in the shade.
Aside from being delicious, beets also have a ton of nutritional benefits. With loads of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, and calcium, beets can help protect you from heart cancer.
Nothing says summer flavor like a delicious, crisp cucumber. Cucumbers serve as a perfect addition to any summer salad or cocktail, or they can stand on their own as a yummy snack. Cucumbers thrive in warm weather and that hot summer heat will give you delicious sprawling cucumbers in as little as 50 days.
Harvest cucumbers before they get too big to encourage continued growth.
Sweet, crisp, and crunchy – what else could you want from a summer vegetable? Sugar snap peas need at least six hours of full sun every day and thrive in sunny spots. As sugar snap peas grow up, support them with a trellis or stake. They will be ready to harvest within 60-90 days of planting, which will give you a delicious late summer – early fall treat.
Zucchini is definitely a fan favorite when it comes to summer squash. This fast-growing vegetable will be ready to harvest within 45-55 days after sowing seeds. Zucchini tastes best when it measures around 4-6 inches. If it grows much bigger, the flavor will become bitter.
Be sure to give your zucchini plants plenty of room to grow as they often produce lots of vegetables very quickly.
If you live in a climate where the hot summer heat lasts well into the fall, try planting watermelons in your vegetable garden. Watermelons are extremely pest and disease resistant, making them perfect for an organic garden. Watermelons typically need 80-100 days of hot, humid weather to develop their delicious sweet taste, so only plant if you live in the right climate.
For those in climates a bit milder, try planting honeydew or cantaloupe. These melons prefer warm weather but don’t require the same amount of heat as watermelons.
Now that we are starting to see and enjoy some nice weather, my family’s container gardens at our house are starting to take off. My wife always requests that we have at least one big pot of herbs growing on our deck each summer and this year we have two. My daughter, Nora, planted an herb bowl for Mother’s Day
at our Kids Klub event and Kirstin potted up a great assortment for us a few weeks ago. My wife uses a lot of fresh herbs when she cooks and this time of year it is so convenient to walk right out on the deck and snip some herbs. We all have our must-haves but on our list is definitely: BBQ Rosemary, Genovese Basil, English Thyme, Flat leaf Parsley and Mojito Mint. If you are looking for something fun and different, try Pesto Perpetua Basil. It is a variegated leaf, great grower, EXTREMELY pungent and flavorful as well as looks great in containers even amongst flowers. A bonus for all you foodscaping enthusiasts. This past weekend she made one of my favorites, Turkey Meatloaf that she has adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. Give it a whirl, let me know how you like it!
Turkey Meatloaf with fresh Thyme:
Pre-heat oven to 325
Olive oil for sautéing
2 medium sweet onions chopped up
3 tablespoons fresh thyme (pull the little leaves off of the woody stems)
3-4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup (we use Heinz Simply Ketchup)
2 LBs lean ground turkey meat
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1 large egg beaten
Ketchup for topping.
Heat the olive oil on low/medium in a medium sauté/frying pan and add the chopped onions. Sauté until slightly translucent. *Hint* In our house we always start the onions with a few tablespoons of olive oil but usually use a little water if they start sticking to the pan to cut down on the amount of oil we use. After the onions have been sautéed for a few minutes, add the Worcestershire sauce, 4 tablespoons of ketchup, and the fresh thyme leaves and cook for about 5 minutes. Pull the pan off of the stove and let it cool.
Line a large cookie sheet (with sides) or a Pyrex cooking dish with a sheet of tin foil for easy clean-up later.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, egg, and cooled onion mixture. Make sure to take off any rings you have on because we are about to get messy! Using your hands, mix all ingredients together. Once everything is mixed, form a “loaf” on the cookie sheet. Grab your ketchup bottle and pour a generous amount of ketchup over the top of the “loaf”. Using a spoon, spread the ketchup evenly across the top.
Slide your cooking sheet into the oven (middle shelf if you can) and let it bake for about an hour or until the internal temperature of the center of the meatloaf reaches 165.
Not only does this make a great dinner, but even better is leftovers on a sandwich for lunch the next day!
Ryan Van Wilgen