Neighborly Garden News
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Pruning tomato plants for better harvests!
You may not realize that tomatoes are actually a vine. Through extensive breeding, we are fortunate to have many different varieties of tomatoes available to us. But essentially tomatoes can be classified as either indeterminate: these remain naturally vining and can grow fairly tall (or long if not staked) or determinate: these are sometimes called bush tomatoes because they do not continue extending in height/length through the growing season. The category is usually stated right on the plant tag, or seed packet of your tomatoes.
Determinate types such as ‘Roma’ will produce fruit all at the same time, which is a benefit if you want the tomatoes for freezing, canning or making sauce. You don’t need to prune these types. Indeterminate types, like Beefsteak, Brandywine (heirloom varieties) and many cherry tomatoes will continue to grow and extend all summer long, and pruning these types will help keep the vines under control, and encourage the plant to produce larger fruit.
Fewer leaves will also create a plant that is less dense, which will allow for better airflow to pass through the plant. The airflow will promote faster drying of the foliage after rain or heavy dew, which will make your tomatoes less susceptible to diseases which develop from prolonged wetness. Fewer leaves also help to spot insect pests that like to hide in thick groups of leaves.
Pruning tomatoes at the right time also will direct their energy into making and ripening the fruit, instead of putting out more leaves. You may find you have a few less tomatoes, but these will be bigger and of higher quality. Another benefit is that you may be able to set your tomato plants closer together, as they will be growing more vertically than horizontally, and have more tomato plants in your garden plot. When a tomato plant has less fruit to care for on each plant, these fruits will ripen faster. This can be a real boon if you grow in a cold climate with short growing seasons.
Identifying the tomato sucker
Removing the tomato sucker
Look for the tomato ‘suckers’ that will grow as side shoots in the ‘v’-shaped space between the main stem and the branches of the plant. If you leave the suckers, these will grow into full-sized branches, adding lots of unwanted foliage that the plant will need to supported and nourished by the main plant. You can easily pinch off any of these unwanted suckers smaller than two inches big, with your fingers. Anything larger can be lopped off with your garden clippers, just be sure to disinfect them with a swipe of alcohol as you move from plant to plant. This will help prevent the spread of any disease from plant to plant. It’s best to try and remove any suckers as they emerge, removing large amounts of foliage all at once can be stressful to the plant. Stake up or remove any low hanging branches that may be touching the soil. Soil splashing up onto the foliage is a source of contamination for fungi, bacteria and viruses that can infect the tomato plant, as many of these inhabit the soil waiting for a susceptible host. Another very good reason to use mulch around and under your tomatoes: helps limit the spread of disease, and helps conserve soil moisture.
July’s ‘to-do’ list
I think 2021 will be another season for early harvesting of cherry tomatoes; I’m growing ‘Apero’ cherry/grape hybrid tomatoes again this season. They performed so well for us last year. There are dime-sized fruit set on the plants right now, and I’m looking forward to having red tomatoes by July 4th weekend! The tomatoes, and their cousins, really do love the warm weather, but it’s still much drier than normal-so be sure to keep up with watering all your transplants, seedlings and new trees and shrubs.
I’ve learned my lesson; not to put off weeding chores. As long as the weeds are small you can effectively cultivate them out with a good sharp hoe or soil knife. Last week I spent a long morning hand pulling the now too-tall weeds growing between my garlic rows. Unless you enjoy all that extra work, don’t give up on weeding yet! We are still receiving more than 15 hours of daylight, and plants are very much in active growth, especially weeds! Many annual weeds will begin to set seeds soon, so it is important to keep up with weeding chores; to prevent the next cycle of weeds. If you have a weedy area you are thinking of clearing, consider using the solarization method:(https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/library/gardening/soilsolarization/)
utilizing the heat of the sun to cook (and kill) the weeds right down to the roots.
Resist pruning spring flowering shrubs after July 4th or risk losing flower buds for next year’s bloom. It’s helpful to remove spent flowers, to keep your garden border neat. Now is a good time to prune heirloom and rambling roses, now that they’ve finished their bloom period. Some heirloom roses will have a second flush of bloom, so applying a fertilizer for roses, after pruning, would nourish the new growth.
Potted plants need extra TLC to keep looking beautiful all summer.Pots in the sun need deep watering (saturate the pots until water drains out) daily, and regular feeding to replace what you flush out with daily watering. We like to use a timed release fertilizer in the potting soil, and a weekly dose of water soluble fertilizer to keep our client’s plants looking good.
Raise your mower height to 4” to conserve your lawn through the hotter and drier days of July. The added height will help shade out lawn weeds too. If you can, water your lawn through prolonged dry spells, so it won’t go into dormancy. Watering deeply once a week, is far more effective than multiple shallow watering; and will promote better root development.
Are slugs becoming a nuisance? A home-made slug solution that works is: 9 parts water to 1 part household ammonia. Spray on the affected plants just at dusk, before the slugs emerge for their nightly feed. When they touch this solution, they will vanish! Be on the look-out for mosquito hang-outs! Besides being annoying and persistent, mosquitoes can be infectious agents of some very nasty diseases. The will breed in very minute amounts of standing water, so be aware of plant saucers, watering jugs, kids sand buckets etc. anything that may be holding water and providing a home to these pests.
Have you seen any Japanese beetles in your garden? Rather than spray these voracious insects, (they will really chew on almost any plant in the garden) adopt the very low impact method of ridding them via drowning. Simply pluck them off your lovely plant, and plop them in a container of soapy water. If you’re squeamish, wear gloves. You may also want to consider a grub reduction program; grubs being the immature phase of the beetle. If you have a large infestation of grubs, you may recognize this by the disturbance to the lawn, as many creatures like to dig them up and feed on the grubs. Contact Scott Higley for more information about grub and beetle control. email@example.com
Need and hand with weeding and pest control? Send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org or call today! (413) 458-5586
Creating an edible garden can increase your home’s value
According to those in-the-know-realtors, having an established edible garden, especially an attractive one, can boost your property value. Buyers love the idea of home-grown veggies, but not the reality of starting a garden from scratch. A well intentioned home buyer can see the dream of having their own garden already attainable in a great garden that is neat and showcases a mix of yummy crops.
Attractive veggie gardens add to your home’s value
Even if a buyer moves in during the winter when annual veggies like tomatoes and peppers are out of the ground, just knowing a clean and well maintained garden will be ready to plant first thing in the spring is a big selling point. Keeping cold tolerant veggies like kale in the beds will ensure the beds stay weed-free and ready for planting.
Established blueberry bushes, or raspberry canes provide immediate gratification to new buyers, because the fruit will be ready to harvest when their season arrives. It is important to showcase the features of your edible garden during the harvest season. Be sure to take some enticing photos of your bounty, to show when you prepare to list your house. Good photos may also show the sun angle, and plant placement; which can provide insight to potential gardeners. Even if the potential homebuyer is not a gardener; a good image can highlight how they may utilize the space.
An enticing photo of your harvest makes a good sales strategy
Little finishing touches can showcase the potential of having an outdoor retreat. Create a pathway with compacted stone to lead homebuyers through the garden space. Add a bit of 2” x 6” trim to the tops of wooden planters to give them a tidy look. Make sure any permanent fixtures are in good shape; repair any rotting wood, and patch cracked mortar; stage your edible garden as you would the inside of your home. All these finishing touches help to create the perfect outdoor retreat for the homebuyer.
Diversity in our landscape is an important step towards cultivating a healthy ecosystem. A mix of different tree species promotes a healthy environment. Native trees are also a boost to our pollinators and songbirds. Planting native tree species assures that the plant will thrive in your home environment, as it has evolved to grow in our region. Here are a few alternatives for native shade trees that offer beauty and hardiness.
Ostrya virginiana-American Hophornbeam is a graceful tree that has gray exfoliating bark. It grows to 25-30 feet tall X 30 feet wide, and sets texturally interesting hop-like fruit. Branches of this small, broad-spreading tree are fairly horizontal and may be slightly weeping in character. American Hophornbeam develops a broad and rounded crown with age. Leaves are dark green in summer and become yellow in fall. It prefers cool, moist soil but tolerates a wide range of conditions. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade.
American Hophornbeam flowers
Tilia Americana-American Linden or Basswood has a mature height of 60 feet tall X 40 feet wide. Fragrant, creamy yellow flowers bloom in June. This tree is sometimes called the ‘bee-tree’ as it is very attractive to pollinators. Honey produced from the Linden is highly prized. The tree can also be tapped to produce sweet Linden syrup. American Linden prefers moist soil, and full sun.
American Linden flowers
Quercus coccinea-Scarlet Oak has lustrous deep green leaves that turn brilliant flame red in the fall. It has a softly pyramidal shape in youth, maturing to an upright spreading shape. Scarlet Oaks are very adaptable, & will thrive in moist, well drained, acid soils. Oaks are known to be one of the top 5 trees for promoting wildlife in the Northeast. Grows to 60 feet tall X 40 feet wide.
Oxydendrum arboreum–Sourwood is a slow-growing pyramidal tree with lustrous, leathery foliage. Sourwood has drooping panicles of fragrant white flowers that are produced in midsummer. The brilliant scarlet autumn leaf color is one of the most vivid fall colors in any tree species. Yellowish fruit capsules offer a contrast with the fall leaf color, but gradually turn brown late in the season. Will grow 20 to 30 feet tall at maturity, and prefers part sun to light shade conditions.
Sourwood tree in bloom
Chionanthus virginicus-White Fringetree is a small tree that develops into a wide-spreading crown. Both male and female plants are attractive in flower. Female plants produce dark blue fruits that are attractive to wildlife. Fringe-tree can be grown in light shade or full sun and is tolerant of many conditions and soils. Fall color is usually bright yellow and very showy. Grows 15 to 20 feet tall.
White Fringetree in bloom