Your garden is ready for gardening. Now, what do you do? Grow veggies for the table, of course. Raising your own vegetables is an economic way to bring your family around to a healthier way of eating. Imagine the pride you will feel when your first crop of tomatoes and peppers come in. We’re here to help you get started.
So Many to Choose From – Where Do I Start?
When you first look at the over 700 different varieties of tomatoes available you may feel like throwing in the towel. Don’t panic – make your selection based on your growing zone and for the type you want to eat. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for the right variety to plant:
- Disease Resistance – Tomatoes are prone to numerous issues, so read the labels on the plants or seeds before buying.
- Growth Habit – This means how much space the plant will need to grow. There are two types of plants: Bush (determinant) and Vine (indeterminate).
- Time to Mature – If you have a short growing season, then you need a variety that will ripen quickly. Look for the number of days the variety takes to mature.
- Fruit Characteristics – Choose a variety that will best suit your needs – do you want slicing tomatoes? Do you plan to can or preserve them?
Bush Tomatoes – Great for Container Gardens
Determinate or bush tomatoes grow two to three feet in height. When they set fruit, they allow it to flourish before sending out more growth. They have a short growth cycle. These varieties work great for container gardens, but if you do plant them in a raised bed or regular garden make sure to mulch with plastic or straw mulch to keep the plants off the ground.
Vine Tomatoes – There’s No Stopping Them
Vine tomatoes are indeterminate varieties. They need lots of room to grow and spread out. Be prepared to support them with cages or ladders because these plants will continue to grow until the first frost. Some of the better known varieties, like Cherry and Beefsteak tomatoes, fall in this category.
Here are some of the varieties of tomatoes that grow well in our zone:
- Brandywine (I)
- German Queen (I)
- Cherokee Purple (I)
- Roma (I)
- Marzano (I)
- Silvery Fir Tree (D)
- Siberian (D)
- Rocket (D)
Watch Out for Diseases
Tomatoes suffer from a myriad of diseases. When buying a plant, taake note of whether the plant is resistant to some of the most common ones. This will be noted with a letter on the label. Here are some of the most common diseases for tomatoes:
- Verticillium Wilt (V on label)
- Fusarium Wilt (F)
- Nematodes (N)
- Tobacco Mosaic Virus (T)
- Alternaria (A)
- Gray Leaf Spot (ST)
Peppers – They Have Needs Too
Though peppers are often planted with tomatoes in a garden they have very different needs. Tomatoes can be planted after the last frost, but peppers prefer completely warmed soil, so it is best to wait a while before setting them out. Use black plastic mulch around peppers to help keep the soil warm overnight and to prevent heavy rains from damaging tender seedlings. Peppers have shallow root systems and mulch helps protect them.
Pick A Lotta Peppers
Like tomatoes, peppers come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They can be sharp flavored like green bell peppers or sweet like Pimentos. You can also find spicy peppers in different heat intensities, but be careful to check their maturity time. Hot peppers need a fairly long time to mature to develop that kick we love so much.
Some of the pepper varieties that are popular in our zone are:
- Melrose (sweet)
- Gypsy (sweet)
- Jimmy Nordello (sweet)
- Super Chili (hot)
- Banana peppers (hot)
A Little Farmer in All of Us
Vegetable gardening is a very rewarding endeavor. Not only will you have a plethora of fresh produce for your dinner table, but you can put up an abundant supply in your freezer for those long winter months. Tomatoes and peppers are just the beginning. Soon you will be ready to tackle asparagus and corn in your garden. After all, there’s a little farmer in all of us.
Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your garden projects. From small tillers and wheel barrows to shovels and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.