Brandywine Red – Heirloom with huge tomatoes that produces extremely well all season. They are a bit misshapen but don’t let that discourage you. The shape is weird but the flavor is great! Considered one of the best-tasting heirlooms that are great for slicing.
Early Girl – Just like the name says… this is one of the shortest times to harvest tomatoes. The fruit is medium and an all-around utility player, good for salads, sandwiches, and slicing.
Grape – What’s the difference between cherry and grape tomatoes? Grape tomatoes are shaped just like a grape, longer and oval, while the cherry is perfectly round. Grape is meaty and crunchy with the classic tomato taste.
Patio Red – This small package packs a big punch. The plant is small but the yield is not! Perfect for small-space gardening or growing in pots. The plant reaches only 2 feet tall on a sturdy stem. It is common to get 50 small/medium tomatoes from one plant.
San Marzano – THE ONLY TOMATO for sauce. They are longer and skinnier than regular plum tomatoes. Juicy yet meaty and thin-skinned with a complex flavor make these a must.
Sungold – This is a cherry tomato that ripens to an orange color. One plant will yield LOTS of small tomatoes, which is good because everyone at my house pops them in their mouth every time they walk by because of their exceptionally sweet flavor. These do not ship well because they tend to pop, so get them while they last off the plant! Roast these with some garlic and basil, then blend it all up for a sweet and healthy sauce.
Super Sweet 100 – An improvement on the original, this plant produces a LOT of perfectly round bite-sized fruit. Long branches with clusters make them easy to pick quickly so you can eat them quickly too. They are high in sugar making them very sweet, and high in vitamin C so they are good for you!
Super Steak – Jerry our retired fig and tomato master used to say this was the best hybrid tomato hands down! They have excellent flavor and can get as big as TWO POUNDS! If you love a summer tomato sandwich, this is the one for you: all you need is one slice!
Quick Tomato Tips
IT’S ALL IN THE SOIL: Prevent Blossom End Rot with Calcium and Magnesium. SOILution has a lot of both from their ingredients… mix some SOILution in with your soil to keep them healthy!
FEED ME: Fertilize fertilize fertilize… they are producing a LOT of food… they need food too. Use Van Wilgen’s Controlled Release, VW Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer, or BOTH; they will help your plant thrive and produce!
WATCH THOSE TEMPS: Make sure you wait to put your tomatoes out till the coast is clear and nighttime temps don’t drop below 55 degrees.
I SEE THE LIGHT: The more sun the better… tomatoes are using the sun for energy and they need a lot! Ensure they get a MINIMUM of 6 hours.
CHUG CHUG CHUG: Make sure you keep your tomatoes watered well! They have a very fibrous root system to soak up as much water as possible… sometimes they need water in the morning and in the evening.
Spring is here! There’s no better time to get outside and get your hands in the dirt!
Now is the ideal time to plant some cool weather vegetables and herbs. Go time is when you can work the ground and the daytime temperature is approximately 40 degrees during the day.
Early spring cold hearty vegetables:
Early spring cold hearty herbs:
As spring slowly turns into summer it is now time to think about planting your summer vegetables.
While there’s no set time as to when to plant these, here are a few rules of thumb to follow:
Do not plant until the last chance of frost has gone by, usually the last full moon in May.
Soil temperature needs to be 65 to 70 degrees. There’s an old saying that if you did a hole and you can’t comfortably put your hand in that hole and leave it there without pulling it away because of the cold then you shouldn’t be planting your plants just yet.
Early isn’t always better. Your plant doesn’t start growing faster just because you planted it early, it’s just the opposite.
Your plant will just sit there and not grow at all until the soil temperature warms up. And by chance, the plant gets hits with colder temps you can risk losing the plant altogether or at the very least cut your yield in half.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to lose any of those delicious summer vegetables.
Don’t forget to feed your plants all summer long as they will be feeding you!
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. Enjoy!
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.
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.
Whether it’s practicing yoga, writing a journal, going on vacation, or taking an art class, everyone should have their release – something you can turn to when you feel stressed or need to clear your mind. Well, for us, spending some time in the garden does the trick. The greenery, the sun, and the fresh air are just a few of the reasons we love unwinding in the garden.
Here are some of the ways gardening can improve your well-being.
Let’s Get Physical –Exercising not only improves your physical health but your mood, too. A healthy body is a contributing factor to a healthy mind. Think about all of the diggings, pulling, moving, and bending that takes place in the garden. This type of physical activity improves your flexibility, strength, and endurance, as well as your immune, respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Green is Good – Simply being around nature has its proven health benefits, too. So even if you’re not working on the garden, just enjoying its beauty, you are still improving your well-being. Biophilia is the theory that all humans want to have a connection with other living things, and what better place to feel connected to the world than in the great outdoors?
Fresh Produce – If you have fresh food in your own backyard, you are more likely to eat it. Growing your own vegetables not only encourages you to eat more of them, but it also provides a sense of achievement. Gardening can be difficult, and nothing boosts your pride like a beautiful, homegrown tomato plant or blueberry bush.
Sensible Sunshine – Gardening often means long hours in the sun. It is extremely important to take care of your skin, so always wear sunscreen and perhaps a hat. That being said, the sun is also a great source of Vitamin D. Sensible sun exposure not only improves your physical health, but it can also actually help with depression and other mood disorders. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
What benefits – well-being or other – do you receive from your garden? Let us know in the comments below!
Eat your veggies! They are so good for you. It is nice to get them from your local grocery store but even better to pick them out of your own garden. Nothing like the smell and taste of fresh veggies! Nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you grew them on your own! Nothing like the joy of sharing with family and friends! Nothing like a good ole’ disease to rain on your bountiful vegetable parade! It’s just like me to be a “Debbie Downer”, isn’t it?! It would be great if we could just yell at the disease and it would go away. It is not quite that simple but I do have some solutions for you.
Cercospora Leaf Spot:
The disease lays dormant in old affected leaves left in the soil of the garden bed.
It spreads quickly by wind, splashing water, and leaf to leaf contact.
Water is necessary to activate the disease.
Lesions on leaves are somewhat circular, yellowish at first, and have a white to tan center with a dark halo around the spot. Spots will dry up and turn into holes.
Bottom leaves will be affected first, turn yellow and drop off the plant.
Cercospora Leaf Spot Control:
Remove infected leaves & throw them into the garbage.
Do not overcrowd plants.
Avoid overhead irrigation. Water spreads the disease.
Spray immediately with Copper Fungicide by Bonide. Make treatments weekly.
Fertilize monthly with Espoma’s Garden-Tone + Van Wilgen’s Fish & Seaweed weekly(especially in this heat) to keep plants healthy.
Clean garden beds thoroughly in the Fall. Do not leave any dead leaf debris in the garden.
Throw infected plant debris away in the garbage, not into your compost pile.
Septoria Leaf Spot:
It begins on the lower leaves of the tomato plant.
The disease remains living in old tomato plant leaves.
Spots appear as water-soaked circles with grayish centers, a dark brown margin, and little black spots in the middle.
Spots will eventually dry up and leaves will drop.
It is spread by wind, rain, insects, cultivating, etc.
Septoria Leaf Spot Control:
Remove infected leaves and throw them away in the garbage.
Avoid overhead irrigation.
Fertilize tomatoes with Espoma’s Tomato-Tone monthly + Van Wilgen’s Fish & Seaweed weekly to keep them strong.
Spray weekly with a fungicide, such as Daconil, Copper, or Serenade.
Do a complete garden clean-up in the Fall and remove all infected vegetation.
Rotate your crop yearly to a different location in the garden.
SQUASH & CUCUMBERS:
This disease shows up on leaves of squash and cucumbers in a blotchy form or a full covering.
The fungus is white to gray in color.
It weakens the plant significantly to the point that you may not get any maturing fruit.
If the fungus completely covers the leaf, photosynthesis will stop, the leaf will turn yellow and drop off the plant.
It remains to overwinter in affected cucumbers and squash.
In the Spring, it is spread by wind, insects, rain, birds, etc.
Powdery Mildew Control:
Be sure plants have good air circulation and are not too crowded.
Water plants at the base, not from the top.
Pick off and throw away infected leaves.
Treat weekly with a fungicide. Daconil, Safer’s Garden Fungicide, and Copper will all do the trick.
Fertilize monthly with Espoma’s Garden Tone monthly + Van Wilgen’s Fish & Seaweed weekly to keep plants healthy and strong.
Clean up the dead plants in the garden at the end of the year. Fungal spores will remain in the dead leaves and reinfect plants next season.
Hopefully, I was not too much of a “Debbie Downer” in this tip. Let’s look at the bright side of things. Rarely do these diseases kill the plant and you will still enjoy some delicious vegetables as long as you follow some of the control measures above. Now I am more of a “Penelope Positive”, don’t you think?!
Come see us at VanWilgen’s. We would love to help!
Big or small, that patch of earth in your backyard is a part of the planet we live on. Celebrate Earth Day by being kind to it. Like you, all of us at the garden center enjoy digging in the dirt and outdoor living. Here are a few of our favorite ways to “go green” this week and year-round.
• Plant a Tree. So for us, this is a no-brainer. Aside from the fact that we love beautiful the green canopy they create, they produce the oxygen we breathe. The amount produced by an individual tree is dependent on its species, maturity, and health. They also assist in filtering pollution from the air, and in reducing erosion.
• Mulch your Garden. Applying a layer of mulch to your flower beds not only limits erosion, but it also reduces the need to water. Mulching also means less weeding, and that’s a win/win
• Plant Milkweed and Fill a Planter with Annuals. Though it may be a weed to some, this plant is the only food eaten by the kind of caterpillars that become monarch butterflies. While you’re at it, fill one of your annual planters with flowers that welcome pollinators. The results will be beautiful and beneficial!
• Grow Your Own. Nothing tastes like vegetables that you’ve grown yourself. Whether you just grow a pot of tomatoes on the patio or you expand your large vegetable garden, you’ll be able to say, “I grew this, and it’s delicious!”
These are all kinds of practical ways to be kind to the earth 365 times a year. In the Garden is a great place to start.
My wife had a moment of panic last week, she had to dig deep down in our chest freezer to find the very last batch of tomatoes from last year’s garden. She and I spent hours processing and freezing as many vegetables as we could to use throughout the winter. It’s a sad moment when we finally run out of our own veggies from the garden but hopefully, it means we are closer to warmer months ahead.
Speaking of warmer months, my Dad is already busy planning out the garden and finding ways to make it better. We have been combating everyone’s arch-nemesis, WEEDS, by putting a VERY thick layer of mainely mulch in-between the rows and it has helped keep the weeds down and let the veggies thrive. Last year my wife taught me how to flash freeze green beans and one night while she was out with some friends, she left me in charge of processing a whole bushel that my daughter and I had harvested earlier in the day. Nora and I paid extra attention to keep the purple beans separate from the green beans. That evening after I trimmed the whole pile of beans, again being careful to keep the purple separate from the green. I worked in batches boiling the beans for a few minutes and then dunking them in a large bowl of ice and water. I finally get to the big batch of purple beans and that’s when I discover that purple green beans turn GREEN after cooking them! All that work separating and they all end up green. The boiling water cooks them just enough to kill any of the bad stuff and the ice water stops the cooking process so that the beans won’t be mushy when we use them later in the winter. After the green beans cooled, I spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and stuck them in the freezer. An hour or so later I separated them into freezer bags, labeled them with the date, and stack ’em in the chest freezer. Even though the purple beans didn’t stay purple, it was so nice to have a small piece of summer with our dinners throughout the winter. We can’t wait to get started!
Ryan Van Wilgen
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