Sunday, April 28, 2024

Everything you need to know to grow tomatoes

Summer tomato plant
Sunday, April 28, 2024

Tomatoes are Americans favorite vegetable to grow.  There really is no comparison between a home grown tomato and a store bought tomato.  There are just a few tips to know about growing great tasting tomatoes. 

The first is knowing what type of tomato to purchase
There are two types of tomatoes-indeterminate and determinate.  Determinate grow to a set height and the fruit sets all at once.  These can be a great candidate for canning if you would like to get your tomato canning done all at once.  Indeterminate continue to grow and yield fruits (yes, the tomato is actually a fruit) until frost.  These are the best for fresh tomatoes all season long.  Determinates height typically stays below 4'; indeterminates can grow well over 8' in a season.
Choosing which tomatoes to grow

I grow only indeterminates.  For what we don’t eat, I freeze whole in quart freezer bags for chili and salsa until fall.  Come fall, I start canning the surplus.  I like growing a variety of tomatoes, with different colors, salad tomatoes, slicers, and paste tomatoes.  I like adding paste tomatoes to each freezer bag as they give a silky sauce.  And colors are just fun!  I always have red and purple tomatoes in the garden.  Three that I have every year are Chocolate Pear for salads, heirloom Italian Pear Paste for sauces, and heirloom Cherokee Purple for slicers.
The Power of Purple

This year I am trying a medium red slicer, Red October, that is an early fruiting and storage variety, taking 55-68 days to produce ripe tomatoes.  I started all my tomatoes from seed a couple of months ago and planted them out this past week.  Fingers crossed it gives us some ripe tomatoes in June!

I overwintered 2 Tumbling Tom tomato plants.  They are dwarfs that do well in pots.  They have fruited on and off for the last month or so.  I have taken them outside with lots of small green tomatoes on them so should have some salad tomatoes in a couple of weeks.  The early ripe tomatoes didn't taste sweet.  With direct sun, this should greatly improve the taste.

There are several "storage" tomato varieties available.  You can pick these at frost and they will keep for up to 4 weeks longer than typical tomatoes.  Red October is a hybrid option.  The downside of hybrids is they will not come back true to the parent with seeds from this year's crop.  There are non-hybrid storage tomatoes like Evil Olive and A Grappoli D'Inverno that will grow true from seed.

Right before the first frost, I pick all the tomatoes left on the vine and put in a dark place for them to ripen.  We have fresh tomatoes into December.  They are definitely not the same as summer tomatoes, but better than anything you can buy in the store!  For more tips on preserving the tomato harvest:  Preserving the tomato harvest

Tomatoes kept in pantry at Christmas
All tomatoes are chock full of antioxidants and lycopene.  They contain vitamins A, C, E, K, and B-complex as well as potassium, manganese, and copper.  For a full listing of nutrition, SELF magazine has an informative nutritional database:  tomato nutrition

Tomato supports/cages
With indeterminate tomatoes, they definitely need something to help them grow upwards (although not required, it does make harvesting much easier, takes up less garden space and protects against disease).  A very sturdy pole can be used and the plant tied onto it as it grows.  The more popular option is a “tomato cage” that the tomato grows up in to.  This is what we use.  It is important to get the cage on while the plants are small or severe damage may ensue when you try to force the gangly plant into it’s cage.  Be sure to get a strong cage for large indeterminate types of tomato plants.  I also add a stake to the really big tomatoes to give extra support.  If using smaller cages, you can just pinch off the top when the plant starts growing too large.

In my garden, even the determinate benefit from a cage to keep them upright.  Determinates just don't need to be pinched to keep from outgrowing their cage.

If you grow dwarf or patio tomatoes, they may not need any support at all.  I did end up using a stake for each plant as they put on large tomatoes which caused the plant to lean when I grow the patio types.  
Staked dwarf tomato
Tips when planting
Tomatoes are susceptible to blossom-end rot and fungal diseases.  End rot is typically caused by not having enough calcium in the soil.  Fungal diseases remain the soil.  It is important to rotate vegetable plants and not plant them in the same spot every year.  You can use organic fungicides as a preventative.  You should spray when you transplant your seedlings and continue to spray every couple of weeks.  Organic fungicides are preventative so you have to keep the fungus from growing to start with.  Keeping fungal diseases at bay will greatly increase yields in late summer.  

Another preventative of disease is to provide the right fertilizer and nutrients when planting.  In each planting hole, I add a handful of worm castings, balanced fertilizer, and dust the roots with mycorrhizal life support which contains mycorrhizal, vitamins and minerals.  This blend improves soil fertility and the plants ability to take in the nutrition it needs.  It is not all about just the big 3-nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.  They are important but vitamins, minerals, and particularly living soil makes a huge difference in how healthy and lush the plants become.  I use fertilizer made specifically for tomatoes so that they get the calcium they need.  As your plants take up minerals, you will get these minerals when you eat your garden produce.  Every other year, I add Azomite to all my plants which contains over 70 minerals and trace elements just to make sure the plants have all the micronutrients they need.
The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

When you plant your tomato, make sure to plant it deeply.  I take off all the limbs except the top couple and bury the plant up to these stems.  Roots will grow from where the stems are removed.  This gives the plants a much stronger root system to support growth.

I also like to plant early in the season and then again in the middle of the summer.  When the new plants come on strong, the early planted ones are slowing down.  It keeps the harvest going strong.  Last year, we had 24 tomatoes and that gave me about 4 years of sauce.  This year we have 15 growing and I think that is more than enough for canning and freezing so I won't be adding extras in mid-summer unless several appear to be dying off.

Pruning tips
Now that your plants have the right start, pruning is the next step.  To get the highest yields, some say it is important to prune your tomatoes.  You want no branches below 12” (some recommend 18”).  You also want to prune the plant to only 2 branches, the center stalk and one side stalk.  You want to keep the “suckers” cut or pinched off as well as the tomato grows.

The amount of pruning is controversial among tomato growing connoisseurs.  Some swear by pruning, others say it makes no difference.  If you live further south, keeping the greenery helps protect the fruits from sun scald.  If your plants seem to get fungal diseases, doing some pruning to open up the plant for air circulation can be beneficial.  For plants up north, increased greenery helps the plant have more energy going to its fruits.  I have tried both and for my garden, very limited pruning has worked the best.  I prune out the suckers but leave all the other stems and leaves.

Watering and fertilizing
Now, to on-going watering and fertilizing.  Many think more is better when it comes to watering and fertilizing.  Not so for tomatoes!  What you end up with are tons of greenery, mushy tomatoes, and very few of them.  Some tomato afficiados recommend a deep watering and fertilizer at planting, then again at flowering, and that is it.  I do water when there is a long dry spell.  Overwatering or erratic watering can also cause the fruits to crack and blossom end rot.  I provide the same water to my tomatoes as my other veggies, trying to make sure they are getting about 1" of rain or watering each week.  

For the tomatoes in the garden, I fertilize when planting, again when the first flowers appear, and monthly thereafter.  If growing in containers, I fertilize every other week with a liquid fertilizer when flowering.  I also add Azomite every other season to make sure the plants are getting all the trace minerals they need.  The first time I added Azomite, my plants seemed to grow and bush out within a few days.  If they respond favorably, then they really needed those nutrients.  Kelp meal also contains alot of minerals and hormones.  Kelp will stimulate your plants to grow upwards.  If your plants are staying stubby, I would apply kelp meal.

If your plant will not flower and fruit with lush green foliage, quit fertilizing and watering.  Nitrogen stimulates green growth.  If you go overboard, the plant will be focused on its greenery instead of fruiting.  A little stress should jump start it into producing flowers and fruits.

Although tomatoes love hot weather (they will not flower until night time temps get above 55), they also don’t like it too hot.  If daytime temps get above 90 and nighttime temps above 76, the plant will drop its flowers.  Not to worry, as soon as temps come back down, your plants will begin flowering again.
 Summer garden tips

Growing in containers
If you want to grow tomatoes in a container, you need to either have a really big container for full size tomatoes (5 gallon) or plant varieties that are adapted for containers. Tomatoes for containers would be labelled as dwarf, patio, container.  Some varieties that fit this bill:  BushSteak, Patio Princess, Bush Early Girl, Tumbler, Bush Big Boy, Baxter’s Bush Cherry, Lizzano, Sweetheart of the Patio, Tumbling Tom Yellow or Red, Bush Better Bush, Balcony (look for bush/patio/container types), Husky Bush.
Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots

If you grow in containers, you will need to water weekly or maybe even more depending on the container and plant size combo used.  For more on container gardening and types to purchase for pots, Decorative container gardening for edibles

I have grown dwarfs in a larger container and have only needed to water weekly when I put a large catch pan under the pot so the plant can absorb water from the bottom.  They have grown and fruited the same as growing in the ground.  I have also grown indeterminates in extra large containers about the size of a half whisky barrel.  These plants did fine in the pot, but did not produce nearly what they do when planted in the ground.  My husband is trying the upside down 5 gallon bucket technique this year with any automatic watering system so we will see how that does.  Always fun to try something new! 

Seed saving
If you are growing open pollinated or heirloom tomatoes, you can save the seed from the best fruits and plants to grow for next season.  If you are growing hybrids, the seed will not produce a plant like the parent.  For very productive hybrids, I will save seed just to see what I get from them.

Why save seed?  Saving seed from the plants that produce the best fruits year on year will give you plants acclimated to your garden conditions and the best producers.  Save seed from plants that have the characteristics you want in future plants.  The ones with the best fruit, the largest fruit, the best tasting fruit, the earliest producer, the latest producer or the best producer.  You get to choose what you want in your future tomato plants.  Just do not save seed from any diseased plant as the disease stays in the seed.
Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Sunday, April 21, 2024

The summer edible garden

Early May garden
Sunday, April 21, 2024

A summer edible garden has the crops must of us associate with backyard vegetable gardening like peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and the fresh favorite tomato.  The summer garden is planted in May to early June.  Summer crops love warm soil and air temperatures.  Most are subtropical in origin so a frost can kill them.  Plant seeds or transplants after all danger of frost has passed.  Since summer lovers thrive in warm temperatures, they don't really grow until the soil has warmed up so starting early outdoors isn't an advantage.  You can start them indoors early and then transplant when conditions are right to get a head start.  

For the summer garden, you plant in late spring, early summer for the heat lovers and then in the middle of summer for fall and winter crops.  You will need to save space to plant edibles for fall and winter harvests in July through early September.  For more on timing and types for planting the fall and winter crops, Time to plant for fall and winter harvests!.  

 There are two categories of edible garden crops, cold crops and warm season crops.  Cold crops like lettuce, spinach, peas, radishes, carrots, cilantro, kale, chard, cabbage will bolt and become bitter as the temperatures start hitting the 80's.  For us, this is used to be the end of May.  Now, we can get 80's in April.

Warm season crops love the warm days of May through September and start waning in October.  Most will continue to have some production into November or the first hard frost of the year.  There are many herbs and vegetables that love the heat and humidity of summer, too.  Folks here in Kentucky say Derby Day week end is the time to plant out summer veggies.  The Kentucky Derby is always the first week end of May.

You can start your warm season crops indoors from seed or buy plants to get a jump start on getting harvests.  There are many options nowadays at the local hardware store, local nurseries and big box stores, from hybrids to heirlooms.

For indoor seed starting, here are some pointers.  Indoor seed starting tipsIdeal soil temperatures for starting your seeds

Crops that do well with just planting seeds directly into the ground outdoors are corn, cucumbers, melons, squashes, and beans.  They have large seeds and very sturdy stems.  Outdoor seed starting tips  Sweet potatoes are started using slips that you buy or start indoors and then plant directly into the ground.

Everyone loves to brag about their first ripe tomato, but tomatoes don't appreciate cold feet so resist the urge to plant too early.  Once it warms up, they will really take off.  If you just can't resist, use a plastic covering on the ground to get the soil warm to plant early or use something like Wall o Water around each tomato to give it a coat to keep it toasty in spring.

Be sure to fertilize when planting and then monthly.  Water during dry periods.  Even moisture is important.  Letting the soil get very dry and then giving a good watering can give you split tomatoes.  For more on summer gardening, Summer garden tips

Warm Season Crops for the Summer Garden-Vegetables
Beans (fresh and shelling)  Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer 
Cultivated Dandelions,  Grow Cultivated Dandelions
Edamame (soy beans)  Growing beans
Malabar Spinach  Growing summer salads
New Zealand Spinach

Mid-May garden
Herbs are the easiest thing to grow.  They thrive on heat and don't mind dry conditions.  If you are just starting out, this is a great one to start with.

Warm Season Crops for the Summer Garden-Herbs
Bee balm
Chives (Garden and Garlic) Add chives to your garden
Cilantro (heat tolerant variety)  Growing cilantro (coriander)
Egyptian walking onions  Egyptian walking onions
Lemon verbena
Salad Burnet
Summer savory

Mid to late summer is the time to plant for fall and winter harvests so be sure to have a spot for these tasty vegetables.  For more on late summer plantings for fall harvests, here is more information.  Time to plant for fall and winter harvests!

Crops Planted in Mid to Late Summer for Fall and Winter Harvests
Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower (for fall harvests)
Beets, Carrots, Radishes, and Turnips (for fall and winter harvests)
Escarole, Radicchio, and Frisee (for fall and winter harvests)  Fall and winter greens
Greens (Lettuce, Kale, Mustard, Pak Choi, Spinach)
Leeks (for fall harvesting)  Everything to know about growing onions

 You can procrastinate until June and still have a productive edible summer garden.  It is not too late to start a garden in June!

I always interplant my garden with flowers.  Flowers bring pollinators and other beneficial insects into the garden.  For fruiting veggies like tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, the more pollinators around, the more fruits you get.  If you want, you can grow edible flowers that are fun to add to salads.  Flowers that are edible

I use borage, amaranths, zinnias, marigolds, petunias, snapdragons, old fashioned Cock's Comb which is ruby red and grows 4 feet tall, red flowering Hummingbird Vine, Moonflower vine, Blue morning glory vine, heirloom sunflowers, and alyssum for annuals.  For perennials, there are spiderwort, delphiniums, hollyhocks in a variety of colors-Summer Carnival and Peach, day-lilies, irises, dahlias, fairy lilies, and gladiolas.  Three years ago I started a pollinator garden that is primarily natives like yarrow, echinacea, Black-eyed Susan bee balm, sedum, violets and many others.  It is finally starting to fill in.  Starting perennials from seed takes 2-3 years for them to really start filling out.

Summer is an exciting time in the garden.  Every day you go out, you can see things growing.  Just be sure to keep ahead of the weeds and provide even watering.  I garden in my flower beds so they are always mulched, providing protection against weeds and keeping even moisture.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

Saturday, April 20, 2024

What we're eating out of the garden now

April lettuce and chard
Saturday, April 20, 2024

This is the time for salads.  Many salad fixings are ready to be harvested from the garden.

The first to be ready to eat in the spring are all the cold hardy veggies that survived the winter and the edible perennials that are first up in the spring.

In our garden, the overwintering veggies were carrots, celery, lettuce, sprouting broccoli, chard, cultivated dandelions, chickweed, Egyptian walking onions, garden chives, garlic chives and mustard greens.  Edible perennials that are ready to add to salads are sorrel, tarragon, thyme, oregano, winter cress leaves and flowers, and cultivated dandelion leaves and flowers.  I'm harvesting from all of these.

I gave the greens a watering with liquid fertilizer, fish emulsion, which is high in nitrogen to get them the food they need for filling out.  Greens love nitrogen and cooler weather makes it less available in the soil.  A liquid fertilizer is an easy way to get usable nitrogen to the plant.

I started more lettuce and greens seeds indoors and transplanted them outdoors into a pot on the patio.  They are about 6" high and ready to be planted in their permanent home.   The spinach and snow peas I started outdoors in large pots are going strong.  I purchased some lettuce plants 3 weeks ago that I also put in large pots outdoors.  They are forming heads.  I'm using the spinach, snow pea greens and lettuce for salads.

I have greens that perform well in hot weather so I have salads all summer.  Sprouting broccoli, Red Malabar spinach, amaranth, New Zealand spinach, sweet mustard greens, Hilton cabbage and orach leaves thrive in the hot and humid weather and are tasty in salads.

If you want instant homegrown salads, visit your local nurseries and big box stores for ready to plant lettuce, spinach, chard, and other greens.  You get an unending harvest by taking only the leaves on the outside of the plants, leaving the inner leaves growing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Perennial fruit options for a small space

Lemon tree on the left, fig in the center, kumquat on right
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

There are many options for growing your own fruit in small spaces today and more come on the market every year.  You grow them in pots, as part of the landscape or garden bed.

We are growing apples, goji berries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, hardy grapefruit, and lemons.  The lemon trees are growing in the house during the winter and taken outside each spring.

If you are thinking of growing perennial fruit plants, now is the time to purchase them at your neighborhood nursery or big box store.  There are many shrubs and vines that you can buy bare root and different varieties of strawberry plants and live fruit trees you can get locally as well as mail order.  My raspberry, blackberry and strawberries were purchased bare root.  My kumquat, grapefruit tree, apple tree and fig tree were purchased on-line.   The Meyer lemon tree was purchased at TSC.  One lemon tree and the goji berry bush were grown from seed.

You have 3 options with apple trees.  You can grow columnar apple trees which do great in pots (this is the kind we have), you can purchase a dwarf apple tree that you can espalier against a wall, or you can put an apple tree in your landscape.  Apple trees require full sun and either a second apple tree or crabapple tree in the neighborhood to pollinate with to get fruit.  Apples are ready to harvest in summer, fall or winter, depending on the variety.  Our “Scarlet Sentinel” columnar apple tree ripens in late September.

A fig tree is cool looking and very easy to grow either in the landscape or in a pot.  We had ours in a pot for 5 years and then put it in the ground.  It did well for 3  years.  We got great fruit from it throughout the summer.  Last year, we have a record breaking warm spell in January and then a deep freeze in February which the fig tree did not survive.  
Ripe figs
If you decide to put your fig in a pot, this will lower the zone it can survive the winter in by at least one zone.  You can always bring the fig in for the winter, either into your home or a garage.  We have a a “Chicago Hardy” fig that is hardy to Zone 6.  It can grow to a height of 25 feet if planted in the ground.

You can eat your figs fresh, dry them or make them into preserves.  Growing “exotic” figs

“Maypop” is a hardy passion flower vine that survives down to Zone 5.   It is a very hardy vine so either grow it in a pot or make sure it is blocked off from being able to expand into other areas.  They taste a lot like guavas and their flowers are beautiful.

I grew the goji berry vine from seed.  Goji berries are high in antioxidants and easy to grow.  They are self fertile so only one is needed to produce fruit.  They are a vining shrub that can grow 8-10 feet at maturity.  If you keep them in a pot, they will remain smaller.  They are hardy down to Zone 5.  My potted goji berry survived outdoors this winter.

Strawberries are another easy to grow perennial fruit.  They prefer full sun and should be planted in the spring.  There are two types of strawberries, June bearing or Everbearing.  June bearing have one large harvest in early summer whereas the everbearing types produce berries from spring through fall.  They enjoy a rich soil so plant with lots of compost and bone meal.  If they begin to decline in production after 4 years, plant new plants in a different area of the garden.
Back yard strawberries  

There are a couple of blueberries that are compact and acceptable for small landscapes, “Draper” and “Tophat.”  Draper is a bush that grows to 3-4 feet.  Tophat is a nice little bush that can easily be grown in a pot.  It grows to a mere 16-24” high.  Blueberries require an acidic soil, a pH of 4-4.5.  Blueberries are self pollinating, but you will get a lot more fruit if you plant two bushes.  You get fruit in the summer.  If you have an extra, you can easily freeze or dry.

Honeyberry is another fruiting bush and they bear in late spring/early summer, as early as two weeks prior to strawberries.  They are a blue oval type berry and is hardy in Zones 2-8.  The “Smokey Blue” reach 3-4 feet in height, making them a good candidate for a pot as well.  They are high in antioxidants and taste similar to blueberries.  Two are needed for pollination for fruiting.  No special soil type is needed, but prefer partial shade.
Another fruit for small spaces is kiwi and they are hardy for Zones 3-9.  These are vines that can grow to 10-20 feet.  You can use these over an harbor or on a fence.  A male and female are required.  They prefer a part sun location.  The foliage of the Artic Beauty is beautifully variegated with pink, white and green leaves.  These vines fruit in September.

For raspberry lovers, the “Shortcake” variety is a thornless dwarf that grows to a 2-3 foot mound.  It can easily be grown in a pot and is self fertile so only one plant is needed to bear fruit.  It is hardy in Zones 5-9 and fruits in mid-summer.  Both raspberries and blackberries prefer full sun.

“Doyle’s” thornless blackberry plant can be grown in a pot and can produces enormous harvests of fruit.  In the ground it can reach heights of 7 feet.  It is hardy in Zones 3-10 and bears fruit in the spring to early summer.  Another option is the dwarf red blackberry which grows to 1.5 feet in height. 

A slow growing fruit tree that reaches a height of 12-15 feet is a native to North America is the pawpaw.  It tastes tropical with a banana/mango like flavor.  It is also high in protein, vitamins and minerals and hardy to Zone 5.  The fruits weigh around a pound each and are ready to pick in late summer/early fall.  Two plants are required for the tree to bear fruit.  Foraging for wild edibles

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Everything you need to know to grow potatoes

Drawing of a potato grow bag
Sunday, April 14, 2024

If you love potatoes, try growing some of the exotic varieties that are out there, like fingerling or blue potatoes.  You can find all kinds of great varieties in today's seed catalogs.  Along with the surprising number of different kinds of seed potatoes available, there are also many different ways to grow them without actually planting in the garden! Early spring is the optimal time to plant.

The potato is a native of South America and can be found in the wild from North America to Chile.  There is an amazing variety of potatoes grown in South America, many color and sizes.  The potato originated from an area in southern Peru/northwest Bolivia.  It was cultivated 7000-10000 years ago.  It took until the 1700’s for the potato to arrive in the colonies by the way of Irish immigrants.

Tubers are good source of fiber, B vitamins (B6, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folates), vitamin C, and minerals iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, and copper.  Potato nutritional info  Most of the nutrition is in the skin.  If you want even more nutrition, try some of the wonderful colors available today.  Nutrition info for blue and yellow potatoes 

Potato plants produce tubers along the stem so the more you can build up soil around the stem, the more potatoes you will harvest.  Since most of the action of potatoes occur underground, a light, well drained soil will give the highest yield of potatoes.  Adding sand and compost can be very beneficial.   

If gardening in a small space, there are lots of options of potato growing bags on the market now.  It follows the same concept as trenching or mounding in a garden bed.  They also do well in repurposed whisky barrels.  A pot 30”deep and 20” across is best.  Fill a third with potting soil, then add soil as the vine grows.  We are growing ours in a self-built box that we will add another tier to as the vine grows.
Here is the link to the plans that my hubby used to build the below box:  Potato box video

Potato box
To give your potatoes plenty of loose, rich soil in a garden bed, dig a trench down about a foot, mix in compost, put mixed soil and compost 4" in bottom of trench and place eyes up in the trench.   Adding bone meal gives the tubers the nutrition needed to produce large potatoes.  The pH of the soil is optimal in the 5.2-6.0 range but potatoes will grow in any soil.  Plant seed potatoes 3” deep and 10-12” apart.   When the potatoes have leaves showing, add another 3-4" of soil.  Continue to add as potatoes grow until trench is filled.  If planting in hard soil, you can mound the earth, mulch or straw around the plant as it grows. 

Seed potatoes can be planted 4-6 weeks before the last frost (when the early daffodils bloom).  You can plant successively to extend the harvest until the dogwoods bloom.  You can continue to plant until May, but may only get fingerling size potatoes before the vines die back in the summer.  You can purchase seed potatoes on-line from seed companies or pick them up at your local big box store.

Early potatoes can be harvested when the first flowers appear.  Dig the potatoes when the foliage has died back in the summer.  Do not allow the baby potatoes to be exposed to sunlight.  If your potatoes turn green, do not eat them as they are poisonous.

Seed potatoes in the sun to sprout before planing
You can grow potatoes from the “eyes” of store bought potatoes.  The risk is putting any disease they may have into your soil.  Many recommend to always buy sterile seed potatoes.  To be safe, I am sticking with sterile seed potatoes for garden beds.  

If you are growing in a pot or potato growing bag, you could try using store bought eyes.  Let your potatoes age and when they start sprouting, they are ready to cut and plant.  Be sure to cut out a sprout, or "eye", to plant.  A plant will emerge from each sprouted eye.  Cut seed potatoes leaving 1-2 eyes per section.  Let cut dry overnight, then plant.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

What to plant in the April edible garden

Saturday, April 13, 2024

April is a beautiful time of year with the leaves coming on, the grass turning green, the first flowers blooming and lots of plants poking their heads out of the ground.  There are many veggie and fruit seeds and transplants that can be put in the edible garden.  It is still too chilly for most of the summer lovers until the end of the month.  Big box stores, hardware stores, local nurseries, flea markets and farmers markets all have plants right now.  This makes it easy to get your garden going in the spring.  You can find many heirloom fruits and veggies transplants and seeds nowadays.  For the unusual plants, buying on-line from seed companies is the way to go.

In preparation for spring planting, I completed everything on my spring checklist except mulching for my garden beds to be ready for planting.  We are planning on doing this tomorrow.  Spring garden checklist

I have already started salad greens and snow peas in pots and harvesting for fresh spring salads.  What's happening in the late March edible garden

Now, I am looking for what to plant this month.  For us, the date of the last frost is April 2.  For some of the warm loving crops, this is the date that you can transplant outdoors or start your seeds outdoors.  I always look at the extended forecast to make sure we are not getting an unusual cold snap coming.  Check your seed packet for the best time to sow the seeds.  I like starting seeds in pots outdoors this time of year so they are already acclimated to the temperatures and strength of the sun.

Spring loving transplants are in your neighborhood stores that you can pick up now.  I almost always buy some lettuce and spinach transplants to get more plants to harvest from this time of year.  Veggie plants have arrived in stores!

Even though you will see summer lovers like basil, tomatoes and eggplant plants in the store, it is still quite chilly for them in April.  They do much better in the warmer temperatures that come in May. 

Starting seeds indoors is a great option too.  You can grow unusual varieties you may not find in stores.  Being inside let's you keep a very close eye on how they are doing, too.  You just need to make sure they are acclimated for the outdoors before transplanting.  "Hardening off" seedlings

Here is a list of plants and seeds you can put in the April garden: 
April-transplants or seeds into the garden or pot Zone 6/7
Asparagus  All about asparagus
Bee balm (monarda)
Brussels sprouts  Growing Brussel sprouts
Lemon balm
Mustard  Mustard greens
Strawberries  Back yard strawberries
Any of the above can also be started indoors and then transplanted outdoors into their permanent garden  spot or pot.

April-start directly in the garden or pot
These edibles do best when started directly in their permanent spot.  Almost all root vegetable do best being directly sown (onions and leeks can be started from seed then transplanted to their permanent spot).  
Beans (snap-bush & pole) at end of April  Growing beans
Corn at end of April  Growing corn
Fruit bushes (bare root or potted)  Fruit for small spaces and pots

April-start indoors for transplanting in early May
Lemon verbena
Summer and winter squash  Everything you need to know to grow squash
Sweet potatoes  Growing sweet potatoes

For tips on starting your seeds in the garden:  Outdoor seed starting tips  I also like to put a pot on our covered deck and start seeds there.  Once they are to a good size, I transplant them into their permanent pot or into the garden bed.  Vegetables you can grow in pots

The First Victory Gardens