Posts Tagged With: yard tools

Fresh Garden Idea – Planting New Varieties of Tomatoes & Peppers

Grow New Tomato and Pepper VarietiesYour 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:

  1. Disease Resistance – Tomatoes are prone to numerous issues, so read the labels on the plants or seeds before buying.
  2. Growth Habit – This means how much space the plant will need to grow. There are two types of plants: Bush (determinant) and Vine (indeterminate).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Expert Advice

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.

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Keeping Critters at Bay Part 2: Solutions for Moles & Raccoons

Rid Yard of Moles & RaccoonsWhile admiring your recently groomed landscape, you notice a raised dirt trail snaking its way through the yard. No mole is going to destroy your lush sea of green grass or ruin your veggies. But before you go into combat mode and start acting like Bill Murray in Caddyshack, take a breath. There might be a simpler (more natural) way to battle moles and other pests without having to resort to land mines.

Know Thine Enemy

Bill Murray’s plan for troublesome rodents works fine – especially for laughs. Why not learn a little bit about the pesky mole, first? They are insectivores and from the same family as bats. Their main diet consists of insects, grubs and larvae like earthworms. They are around 4-8 inches in length with paddle-like front feet and have little to no vision. What moles are best at is digging. They can tunnel up to 100 ft per day. Only one other mole skill may rival this – they eat day and night.

Traps Aren’t the Only Way

How do you battle this underground critter? Experts say that traps work the best at eliminating moles, raccoons and other pests, but we’d prefer to go a more humane route first. Home remedies have had spotty success, but they are worth a try. Many of these measures need to be taken before you plant your gardens. However, if your yard consistently has moles and other pests then you may find them helpful.

  • Trench around your garden – Dig a trench around your garden to force moles and other burrowing pests to tunnel in a new direction. Keep in mind though, this isn’t practical for a large garden or lawn and the labor is intense.
  • Line your garden bed with wire – Dig down deep enough to place a layer of wire mesh in the bottom and along the sides of your garden area. This will force the pests to seek easier food sources.
  • Eliminate grubs – Getting rid of one of the mole’s favorite foods will cause them to seek elsewhere. The only problem is that earthworms are still available in your garden and you need them to keep your soil healthy.
  • Sprinkle kitty litter – By spreading kitty litter into the mole holes the smell will deter the moles from returning to the tunnel. Unfortunately they will dig alternate ones.

Plants that Chase Pests Away

A natural way to eliminate a wide variety of pests including moles, raccoons and even the heinous mosquito is to practice companion gardening. For years farmers have been planting “companion” plants in their vegetable gardens to create a vegetative barrier that deters insects and pests. Companion plants are ones that pests have a natural aversion to like marigolds, daffodils and Crown Imperial (Fritillarias). Adding these plants around your lawn or garden may help deter moles, raccoons and squirrels from eating away at your veggies or flowers.

Here is a short list of plants and the pest/s they repel:

  • Calendula (pot marigold) – raccoons and dogs (not a true marigold, so moles will not be repelled)
  • Castor beans – moles (poisonous, so keep away from small children and pets)
  • Crown Imperial – rabbits, mice, moles, voles and ground squirrels
  • Daffodils – moles and deer
  • Garlic – aphids, Japanese beetles and rabbits
  • Lavender – moths, fleas and mosquitoes
  • Mexican Marigolds – insects, rabbits and moles
  • Mole Plant – moles and ground squirrels (poisonous, so keep away from small children and pets)
  • Oregano – pests in general

Put Down the Dynamite

Keeping critters at bay doesn’t have to be a war of wills. There are natural solutions you can try before you turn to setting traps or using chemicals. Surrounding your garden or lawn with plants that naturally repel pests looks great and won’t poison your soil. It’s a win-win. Besides, if you do go all “Caddyshack” and dynamite the mole holes, you will eventually have to fill them back in. So leave the explosives alone.

If you are determined to go with a chemical deterrent, then check out our blog post Protecting Plants from Pests, for the lowdown on safely using pesticides to ward off unwanted visitors to your lawn or garden.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From trenchers to wheel barrows and shovels, 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.

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Fall Checklist Part 1: Garden Clean-up & Winterization

Fall Garden Checklist - Part 1

Welcome to our Fall Checklist for Winter 2014! While fall weather is still crisp but cool – and the ground is not yet frozen – we’re going to help you tackle cleaning up your garden.

Step 1. In addition to removing spent blooms and shriveled leaves, cut back, break up and remove any foliage that looks diseased. How do you spot foliage that’s been attacked by disease? Look for bugs, leaves that are eaten away as opposed to succumbing to fall color or lint-like growth and coatings on stems and foliage. Cutting out any disease, or the entire plant, will prevent the offending condition from staying viable, known as “overwintering,” and making it less likely to attack in the spring.

Step 2. During a dry fall, water trees, shrubs and especially evergreens deeply, so they stay hydrated during the dormant winter season.

Step 3. Amend the soil in your garden beds by spreading them with a couple of inches of organic compost, which breaks down over the winter to reveal healthy, nutrient-rich planting material when the snow melts. This is especially effective for sand or clay soils.

Step 4. Apply a layer of mulch to perennial plants, after the soil freezes and daytime temperatures dip below 32 degrees. The winter mulch protects them from chilly air, fast freezes, wind and weather.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with wintering your gardens. From wheelbarrows to shovels and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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