spring showers bring summer flowers, June is the
official start of the season for warm-weather crops like
tomatoes and peppers.
June? By the time June rolls around, the soil is toasty
warm, a condition that tomatoes and peppers need in
order to establish good root growth before flowering and
and peppers, which can be planted in large pots or in
the ground, are popular among all types of gardeners,
including people who have little yard space, according
to garden centers. Succession planting, or staggering
your plantings for extended harvests, means you can have
tomatoes and other veggies into late fall. Tomatoes,
which need full sun and regular water, are easily
planted into mid-July.
vegetable garden is a great way to spend quality time
and harvest quality food for the table, according to
retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Jim Orband.
are minimum requirements when growing vegetables such as
tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, the salad vegetables
– eight-plus hours of sun, access to water and routine
monitoring of the plants," says Jim.
needs to be done early in the day and the water needs to
be applied around the base of the plant and NOT on the
plants foliage. Use porous mulch around your plants,
such as pine needles that will help conserve water,
reduce water evaporation, and reduce the spread of early
we meet gung-ho gardeners with some of their tips on
growing great veggies in any season:
Hampton, Va., master gardener Larry Nisley suggests
adding a thin layer of compost to recharge your soil for
summer crops. This can be done before or after your
plants have been placed, and are growing.
lime is important especially for tomatoes, peppers,
squash and watermelon plants, he adds. Lime helps
prevent blossom end rot that occurs later into the
summer growing season.
use and recommend Bio-Tone by Espoma when you plant
tomatoes," he says.
also recommend planting tomato’s in a slanted angle
into the ground but also use Bio-tone to encourage
greater root development."
the growing season, Larry uses a top dressing of
Tomato-tone around the plant stem every two weeks.
Tomato-tone has lime in the fertilizer which helps
prevent blossom-end rot.
use a palm size or three tablespoons sprinkled around
each plant," he says.
deter diseases and pests in the veggie garden, Larry
recommends proper spacing for good air circulation and
gardeners tend to crowd too many plants in a small space
which can create an environment for bugs and
diseases," he says.
spacing of 24 inches between tomato plants and proper
staking systems helps eliminates problems, especially
when growing indeterminate tomatoes. The use of basil,
garlic, marigold and alyssum help prevent bad bugs and
invite good bugs."
worm-like caterpillars bother tomato plants, he
recommends the use of Dipel dust with Bacillus
Thuringiensis, sometimes known simply as Bt; it’s also
available in a liquid form called Thuricide, he says.
can be controlled organically with iron phosphate, which
is found in a product called Slug Magic by Bonide. Neem
oil is an earth-friendly solution for fungus, he adds.
your crops regularly to help prevent and solve
problems," he says.
Gardeners demonstrate several simple and easy ways to
grow vegetables at their Learning Garden in Poquoson,
Va., according to master gardener Noel Talcott.
someone who would like an easy, high yield way to grow
vegetables, consider raised bed or square-foot
gardening," he says.
of raised beds include:
digging or tilling is required. The beds are 18-inches
high, but they are built with false bottoms that sit on
cinder blocks and are only filled with 8 inches of soil.
In low areas or areas prone to flooding, this prevents
beds are filled with an appropriate soil mix that almost
guarantees success; at the Learning Garden, seeds
germinate and sprout within days.
beds are topped with a decking board, which makes it
convenient to sit while planting, watering or
growing tomatoes in raised beds, the Learning Garden
uses a novel trellis concept that connects two
3-by-10-foot planting beds. The trellis supports the
tomato plants and enables a gardener to pick from the
inside of the trellis too!
more information on square-foot gardening, see .
bale gardening is another simple and easy way to grow
vegetables, and a fun way to introduce kids to edible
gardening – something master gardeners are doing with
of straw bales:
technique requires no digging and costs little to get
bales can be placed on any surface, and added to the
compost pile at the end of the planting season.
bale gardening is simply a different type of container
gardening," says Noel.
main difference is that the container is actually
the straw bale itself, the outside crust of the bale
serves as the container. During a 12-day conditioning
process, the straw inside the bale begins to decompose,
creating an extraordinarily productive, warm, moist and
nutrient rich rooting environment for young seedlings.
Once conditioned, you plant directly on or in the
more information on Straw Bale Gardening see
Dodson, a master gardener in Yorktown, Va., loves
tomatoes and plants lots of them.
for tomatoes – I love ‘um! I have 12 different
varieties planted this year (and I told my wife I was
cutting back) with over five dozen plants in the garden,
all of which I started from seed," he says.
favors one determinate Roma tomato that does not need
staking because it grows to a moderate size. He
describes it as a tried-and-true Italian paste-type
tomato, one that pretty much ripens all at once and he
and wife, Merrilyn, quick can it for sauces.
addition, he has 11 different indeterminate tomatoes
that grow large enough to require staking – a mixture
of hybrid and heirloom types, which ripen at different
stake these tomatoes, as-opposed-to putting them in wire
cages," he says.
doing it this way, I check the plants more frequently
than if they were in cages, constantly looking for the
overall well-being of the tomatoes, as to insects pests
you’re into gardening books, Steve recommends two on
tomatoes – "100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the
American Garden" by Carolyn J. Male and "The
Great Tomato Book" by Gary Ibsen with Joan Nielsen.