Your tomato plants are in the ground, the weather is warming up and the plants are growing! What’s next? While not all tomato plants need to be supported, most will benefit from it unless you are growing dwarf or short bush varieties of plants. For tomatoes that will grow to taller heights, we recommend that you take the time to stake them. While it does take some extra work there are many benefits:
It saves space in your garden. You can grow more plants in the surrounding area.
It helps keep them clean, avoid rot and disease.
You’ll get an earlier harvest with larger tomatoes.
It’s easier to pick the tomatoes and work around staked plants.
How to Stake
When you stake a tomato plant, try to put the stake on the prevailing downwind side so the plant will lean against it when the wind is blowing hard.
Six-to eight-foot-high stakes are good for most tomatoes, although you can make do with shorter four- to five-foot stakes, if necessary. Put the stakes in the ground right after you’ve set out the plants. Drive them about a foot into the soil, three to five inches away from the plant. Remember not to put the stake on the root side of trench-planted tomatoes. As the plant grows, tie a strip of cloth, nylon stocking or coated wire tightly to the stake and loosely around the plant in a figure-eight fashion. Leave at least an inch or two of slack. Add more ties as needed as the plant grows up the stake.
Stop by our store for your gardening supplies. We options available for your plants including stakes, circular cages or trellises. We also have fertilizer, hoses and everything you need to keep your garden growing!
J & N Feed and Seed can special order a variety of “beneficial insects” to help clean up garden pests. These insects are an excellent, non-chemical way to help control pests in your garden or landscaping.
Lady Bug Beetlesare excellent aphid predators. They will also feed on whiteflies, mites, and other scale insects.
Beneficial Nematodes control pests that develop in soil. An effect way to control fire ants, termites, grubs and more.
Praying Mantis eat a wide variety of insects including aphids, mosquitoes, caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers and crickets. There isn’t much these bugs won’t eat.
Trichogramma Wasps are effective in controlling webworms, canker worms, tent caterpillars and other vegetarian worms.
Stop by our store to order any of natures fab four and control pests in your garden this summer.
Yes, you heard us correctly. We know it’s only mid July, and it’s hot. But it’s also time to start thinking about your fall garden and preparing your beds.
First, take a look at your beds. Pull out the summer plants that are done producing and look for weeds. Take the time now to remove all weeds and grass that may have invaded your beds. Every time you prepare the soil to plant a new crop, always mix in compost. Add fertilizer and work into the soil.
First up are tomatoes and peppers. They should be planted soon – by the first of August – if they are going to make a good crop before first frost. Timing is key for a fall garden. To be successful heat tolerant and cold sensitive crops should be planted in time to mature before the cold weather arrives. The cooler weather slows and stops growth. Cool season, heat sensitive crops should be planted late enough to avoid the heat, but early enough to survive the first few frosts.
Consider fast maturing tomatoes for the fall harvest. Varieties with less than 75 days to maturity are ‘Merced’, ‘Bingo’, ‘Celebrity’, ‘Whirlaway’, and ‘Carnival’.
The following are optimal “windows of time” for planting fall vegetables:
It may seem early but now is the time to start thinking of starting fall tomatoes and peppers from seed. July 15th is the start date to plant fall tomatoes. It takes 5-6 weeks to get them germinated and mature enough before you can plant them in the garden. The keys are good loose planting mix, consistent moisture and temperatures. The hard part is keeping the planted seeds in the 75 – 85 Fahrenheit range.
Come visit us and pick up seeds for your fall garden!
The application of herbicides (plant killers) can be as damaging as it is beneficial, depending on the method of application. The goal is to apply a properly mixed solution on the proper plant and to avoid damage to other plants. It is all about control of the product. Whether you are applying a synthetic or an all-natural, for us homeowners, the pump-up sprayer is the tool of choice. Products have been developed to replace the pump-up sprayer but none have passed the test of time. The hose-end sprayers are ok for fungicides and fertilizers but they are to susceptible to wind drift and non-targeted plants may be damaged or killed. Pick up a sprayer at our store.
Looking for a more precise method? After reading the directions, mix up your herbicide. Put on a new (no holes) dish washing glove. Put on a cotton glove over the dish glove. Dip your gloved hand in the mixed solution and wipe the offending plant. You can substitute a paint brush for the glove method. Yes, it will take longer before you’re completed but consider it quality time with the lawn.
Have those cute little bunnies become your enemy because they’re chewing up your garden? There are some plants that they don’t like. In fact, if you plants these around the plants they do like, you have a better chance of keeping them away.
Plant rosemary around the edges of your garden, or around the plants rabbits target. The leaves of the plant can be toxic to rabbits. Not all rosemary varieties will poison a rabbit, but the smell warns them away.
Sage leaves are poisonous to rabbits. In fact, it goes well with rabbit. So, plant some sage in your garden to help deter rabbits,
Begonias are a flowering perennial plant that numbers more than 1,500 species. There are several major groups of begonias that are helpful with ridding your garden of rabbits since they will not eat them. While the begonia is not likely to hurt the rabbit if it nibbles the flowers or leaves of a begonia, they simply appear not to be on the menu. The sight or smell of these plants must be unappealing to the rabbit since they will avoid them as a source of food.
Rabbits like carrots and other mild flavored crunchy snacks and tend to enjoy eating new leaves that are very tender. Meanwhile, bigger, thicker, strong flavored plants, such as habanero peppers,repel rabbits.
After 9 years of commercial use by golf course, nurseries, sod farms and top landscapers, Hydretain is now available for home use. This product allows homeowners to water up to 50% less and maintain healthy, great looking plants and turf. Hydretain is a patented blend that attracts and hold moisture like tiny water magnets within the soil. This extends watering intervals of both indoor and outdoor plans and grasses by as much as 2 to 3 times. Each application reduces watering for up to 3 months. It not only helps keep plants clear of daily wilt cycles and drought, but also contributes to more complete usage of water applied by rainfall and irrigation.
Like the human body, plants will limp along despite poor nutrition, but they will thrive and grow best with optimal nutrition, which is why we fertilize—to add nutrients. Fertilizers typically include the soil-supplied nutrients that plants use in largest quantity. Ideally, all these nutrients would be in the ground, but perfect soil is rare. If you improve your garden plot over time, you may eventually achieve an ideal soil, but in the meantime, you can supplement your plants with nutrients from a bag or a bottle.
The Three Main Nutrients That Aren’t in the Bag
Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are the three largest components of plants, but these are not available from fertilizer. These come from the air and from decomposing organic matter. That’s one reason why it is important to have good, rich soil with enough pore space to hold water and air (for hydrogen and oxygen) and enough organic matter to break down and supply the carbon.
The guaranteed analysis on the bag is where you can get a close look at what is in the bag, how much is in the bag, and what sources it is derived from.
The Three Main Nutrients That Are in the Bag
A fertilizer has three numbers printed on the package that state the percentage (by weight) of the three main plant nutrients—nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K). For example, you might see a bag labeled 4-7-6. The first number (4), refers to nitrogen, the second number (7), refers to phosphorous, and the third number (6), refers to potassium. Common fertilizer formulas you may see sold for vegetables are 4-6-6, 10-10-10, or 14-14-14. Until recently, these three numbers were required by law to always be prominently placed on the front of the package; however, the law changed, allowing manufacturers to move these numbers to back or side panels of the package, so you may have to look a little harder for them. Often they are listed in a section called “Guaranteed Analysis,” which is required by law to list each and every nutrient in the package and the percentage of each. This is where you can dig deeper to see all the nutrients in the bag, allowing you to compare products and prices.
Look for the three-number formula on every bag of fertilizer. Just remember NPK, which stands for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). The formula represents the ratio of these three ingredients always in that order.
What Nutrients Do
Nitrogen (N) fuels new growth. All vegetables and herbs need some nitrogen. Some, like corn, need more, while others, like sweet peas, need very little.
Phosphorous (P) promotes root development, which helps strengthen plants. It also increases blooms. This is a very important nutrient, especially as plants start out.
Potassium (K) is essential to many plant functions and their overall health. It also helps plants withstand stressful weather and defend against diseases.
Calcium (Ca) improves general plant vigor and promotes growth of young roots and shoots.
Magnesium (Mg) helps regulate the uptake of other plant foods and aids in seed-making. It is also important to the dark green color of plants.
Sulfur (S) helps foliage maintain a dark green color while encouraging vigorous plant growth.
Minor, or trace, elements are nutrients used by plants in very small amounts but that are still essential to plant health. Iron (Fe) is the one you will commonly see added to fertilizer because it is often lacking in poor soils; it aids in the conversion of sunlight to energy and helps plant foliage maintain a dark green color. Manganese, boron, zinc, copper, and molybdenum are sometimes present in fertilizer, too. Chlorine and cobalt are also needed for plant growth but are rarely added to fertilizer.
How do you know if a fertilizer is organic? Most of the time, the package will say organic, and you can be sure if you see the OMRI logo, which stands for Organic Materials Review Institute, a body that certifies products as organic. This is voluntary and involves extra paperwork and expense for the manufacturer, so not all organic products will have this certification.
One of the benefits of adding compost made from a variety of garden and kitchen scraps to your garden is that it is likely to supply many of these trace elements.
HOW TO USE THIS INFORMATION
In a nutshell, it is wise to know what your plants need and what you are buying when you purchase fertilizer. If your soil is too low in one of the essential nutrients not included in the fertilizer that you buy, you will still have problems. You can get your soil tested through a service offered by your regional Cooperative Extension service to analyze the nutritional content of your soil. This is not always necessary, but it is a good thing to do for a “baseline” reading of your garden.
The needs of most vegetables are usually met by a complete fertilizer containing a good balance of the three major plant nutrients and often a few other nutrients. Fertilizers with higher N-P-K numbers, such as 14-14-14, indicate a more concentrated product, which means that you need to use less of them than you would use of a fertilizer with a lower number such as 8-8-8. Organic fertilizers usually have low numbers, such as 4-7-6, but they often contain plenty of other nutrients, and they support the health of soil microbes and other components of the soil food web.
When using organic fertilizers, always mix them into the soil thoroughly and then water the prepared site before you set out your plants; this is essential because organic fertilizers depend on soil microbes to break them down into a form that can be taken up by plants. In contrast, most synthetic and liquid fertilizers are quickly available to plants. Most blended organic fertilizers that you buy in packages at garden centers will not burn plant roots when applied correctly, but high-nitrogen sources such as alfalfa, cottonseed meal, feather meal, chicken manure, and other “hot” agricultural by-products can injure plants if they come into direct contact with their roots.
Finally, don’t forget to add compost to your soil each time you plant. Over time, the fertility of your soil will improve, and you will need less fertilizer to grow a healthy, productive garden.
As we continue to deal with drought conditions, it’s important to know how to keep your yard and plants looking good without wasting water. Here are 8 options to consider:
1. Soaker hoses put water where you want it. Lay out a soaker hose alongside rows or through beds to deliver water gradually without waste. Soaker hoses can be damaged by sun, though, so cover them with a layer of mulch. Also keep in mind that soaker hoses are more efficient than overhead sprinkling, but not quite as efficient as drip irrigation. In the winter, take up your hose and protect it from freezing weather, again to avoid damaging the material. It sounds odd, but the soaker could spring a leak; then too much water might ooze out in one place and keep it from moving through the entire length of the hose.
2. Try drip irrigation. This is a little more trouble because you have to run a tube to every plant, but it works great in small gardens and pots. The tubes and emitters deliver water where you place them (at the base of each plant) and nowhere else. This is the most efficient method of watering.
Use a distributor to section off parts of the garden so that you can water them independently of each other. The distributor allows you to control the flow to whichever hose you choose.
3. Water in sections. Some parts of the garden may get thirstier than others, depending on the soil, amount of sun, and how the crop grows. For example, deeply planted tomatoes (two-thirds underground per Bonnie instructions) may have access to deep soil moisture while the pole beans are hurting. In this case, it helps to water the garden in sections, connecting more than one soaker hose to a distributor that provides adjustable outlets off one faucet. This lets you turn on one section and turn off another. Most soaker hoses and drip systems are sold in varying lengths.
4. Water deeply. Let water get way down into the soil. Frequent, shallow watering is tempting, but it’s not good, as it encourages roots to stay near the surface and makes plants more susceptible to drought. It is better to water plenty (which means deeply) once or twice a week than to water a little every day. By deep watering we mean applying at least an inch of water at a time. You can measure this by placing a container where it can catch the water. When it is filled to an inch, you’ve applied enough. Standing in place while you water with the hose, although tempting, is not usually a way to water deeply. Time or patience usually run out and water runs off. Use soaker hoses, drip, or sprinklers.
5. Mulch around plants. A 2- to 3-inch layer of straw or other mulch around your plants helps keep the soil moist longer by providing a barrier between the soil and the drying effects of sun and hot air. The mulch also helps keep weed seeds from sprouting. You can mulch with straw, pine straw, homemade compost, or even sheets of newspaper (4 sheets thick).
6. Use a timer. A timer on your spigot will turn off the flow of water without your having to depend on your memory or schedule. You can buy these at garden centers and home improvement stores at prices starting about $20. They’re worth every penny, as they make it easy to have a garden and a job, too!
7. Add compost to improve the soil. Heavy clay can hold lots of water, but it really does get as hard as a brick when it dries. So compost makes it easier on plants in heavy soil. It also helps sandy soil, which absolutely does not hold water. Sand is actually tiny grains of rock that are impervious to water, so adding compost, which sponges up moisture, increases the ability of a sandy soil to hold water from the hose or the heavens. If you don’t have a compost pile going, it is never too late to start one. You can also buy bagged mushroom compost (a byproduct of mushroom farms) that makes a good soil additive.
8. Collect water in rain barrels. Rain barrels are an increasingly popular way to collect rainwater to use later in the garden. You can buy official rain barrels with spouts or you can fashion your own from many types of barrels or large containers. Use these to collect water from gutter downspouts or other areas where water runs and is easily collected, then save the water for a not-so rainy day. Just be sure that whatever container you use can’t be reached by small children, and place screening over the opening to keep mosquitoes and litter out.
Stop by our garden center for all your gardening needs!