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Tomatoes are such a staple in the modern diet that it is hard to believe there was a time when this versatile fruit was once thought to be poisonous. Thankfully this member of the nightshade family has been known for centuries now to be a delicious and healthful addition to our diet and is now one of the most popular garden vegetables.

For many people, tomatoes are the most challenging, yet desirable, vegetable crop to grow. But a ripe, juicy homegrown tomato is so delicious and nutritious, people will go to great lengths to produce as many as they possibly can in their gardens. One look at the pale, hard, orange baseballs that grocery stores pass off as tomatoes will also explain why so many gardeners eagerly await the first ripe tomato from their gardens.

Considering that tomatoes are a tropical fruit native to South America, it’s amazing that we can grow them at all in northern climates. Yes, the tomato is technically a fruit since it grows on a vine. There are literally hundreds of tomato varieties out there to choose from but there are only two types of tomato vines; determinate and indeterminate.

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Sowing edible greens and sprouts indoors, reading seed and plant catalogs, and growing peace lilies, are some of the gardening activities for this month.

If you have a set of grow lights or bright windowsill, you can grow mesclun or other quick-growing greens to add to early spring salads.  Fill a tray with moistened seed-starting mix and sow seeds thickly, then cover with one-quarter inch of soil and mist the surface.  Don’t let the surface dry out.  As soon as the first seeds germinate, keep the lights about 4 inches above the tray.

You can start your own sprouts for salads easily under even lower light, buying seeds for this at garden stores or online from catalogs.  You can buy special sprouting trays that stack, or simply sprout seeds in a jar covered with cheesecloth.  Moisten seeds overnight, then drain and place a layer in the container.  Rinse and drain daily.  Many seeds can be used such as beans and peas, mustard and other similar greens, grains such as wheat, grasses such as oats, lettuce, and even onions and their relatives.

Whether you use warm-white and cool-white fluorescent tubes or special plant lights to start seedlings, they lose light intensity after

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Native Plants for the Home, Garden and Landscape

Native plants are among the best new plants for American gardens, yet they have been growing in North American prairies, woods, and deserts for hundreds of years. However, the term native is often misunderstood and misused because all plants are native to some region of the world. The term is used here to identify a plant that was growing naturally in what we now call the United States, Canada and Mexico before European settlement. A plant that was originally discovered growing in southern Florida is native even though it doesn’t grow in Minnesota or California. A native plant may also be called an indigenous species. Other plants, often referred to as exotics or aliens, were originally brought here from another part of the world, but have become established as part of a local environment. They are not native but often have become naturalized.

Many of these beautiful yet hard-working plants are equally at home in garden beds and borders as they are in larger wildflower plantings and prairie restorations. In fact many North American natives may already be growing in your garden. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica),columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), butterfly weed(Asclepias tuberosa), Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and black-eyed or brown-eyed Susans(Rudbeckia triloba and R.

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Lawn and Garden


Sooner or later, plant disease will enter your garden. However, there are ways to reduce disease in your garden and in some cases, even prevent plant disease. Knowing how to tell if a plant is healthy, picking disease resistant plant varieties and being able to identify the primary types of plant disease are all ways to help control plant disease.

Plant diseases are either a fungus, bacteria, or viral. Symptoms like stunted growth, spotted leaves, wilting, and yellowing leaves are all indications of possible trouble. Not all diseases can be treated, and yet others are effectively controlled with organic or synthetic methods

Browse articles about garden diseases

Eco-Friendly Ideas

There are multiple ways we can practice environmental stewardship and go green in our own little corner of the world. Eco-friendly ideas and suggestions come to the forefront every day. Many of those ideas can be applied to gardening. As we strive to offer smart resources for better gardening we will accumulate those ideas here.

We welcome your input as well. Please feel free to use the contact us form to share your eco-friendly practices. We will post as many as we

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Planning Your Garden

Key Planning Tips

Start Small. If you decide to plant up some new areas this year, start small so that you can test for success and appearance. You can always make it bigger next year.

Consider water access. If you are planting an area far from a water source, figure out how you are going to get water there. If a long hose isn’t practical, you may have to carry water there, or plan on carrying the plants (assuming they are in containers) to the water source.

Try something new each year. If something in a seed catalog or in the garden center captures your imagination – try it. Starting on a small scale and a new spot, you can test the plant without a lot of expense or disappointment if it doesn’t please or doesn’t succeed.

Go for variety. Even within the confines of a color family you can achieve a pleasing mixture of different flower forms, heights and textures. While large displays of a single flower can be awesome, too much of a good thing can be boring.

Keep a “cookbook. In a notebook, write down which classes and varieties you

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Gardening in an Unpredictable Climate

Climate change is putting more and more stress on world ecosystems. As gardeners, we face these challenges daily as we struggle to adapt to unpredictable weather patterns and changing seasons.

Climate change is affecting every region of the world a little differently. Some areas are getting hotter and drier, others warmer and wetter. Changing rainfall patterns mean that gardeners can no longer depend on the seasonal showers we depend on. Instead, those rains could come down with enough force to wipe out not only our gardens but our homes.

As growing seasons lengthen and cold seasons grow shorter, gardeners will have more time to plant. On the surface, this might look like a good thing. However, changing seasons and shifting hardiness zones come with their own set of challenges.

Sustainable agriculture groups are spending a lot of time and energy researching the ways in which our farms and gardens can adapt to these challenges. Here are some of their suggestions.
Embrace New Varieties And Diversify

One of the ways we can mitigate the impacts of climate change in gardening is embracing new varieties. Unfortunately, this might mean saying goodbye to old favorites in exchange

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Control of Grass Weeds

Witchgrass, quackgrass, goosegrass, dallisgrass, and true crabgrass–it doesn’t matter what you call them, these grass weeds are tenacious invaders of our lawns and flower beds. For control in turf-grass, the best method is maintaining a healthy, vigorous lawn that crowds out these unwanted relatives. In a lawn that is sparse and poorly, the only method that gives results is application of species-dedicated post-emergent herbicides (such as those containing clethodim or fluazifop) or pre-emergent products such as Dimension® (dithiopyr) or Tupersan® (siduron). Most turfgrass experts recommend the pre-emergent products as the best method.

Pre-emergent herbicides prevent weed seeds from germinating. The products are applied usually in the fall and again in spring to catch both annual weeds and perennials. Post-emergent herbicides are require contact with the growing portion of the weed and do not prevent seeds from germinating. Each product is different, so be sure to read the instructions, warnings, and proper handling details.

The biggest problem when dealing with these grass weeds is their vigorous reproductive capabilities. Many of them spread by both underground rhizome systems as well as seeds. When digging clumps of these weeds, chopping up the rhizomes into smaller pieces simply generates that

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What Does A Seed Need

Seed is the least expensive component of gardening, so it makes good sense to buy the best quality seed you can obtain.

Start With The Seed Packet

The packet usually gives you a great deal of information about how to grow the seed successfully. Whether you purchase the seed packet from a retail store or a mail order catalog, the packet is the first place to look for guidance.

The Miracle of Seed

Seed is the botanical equivalent of an egg. It contains the very beginnings of a plant, along with enough “food” to get the seedling started. But a seed won’t sprout and grow unless four things are provided: light, heat, air and water.

Light. Once sprouted, all plants need sunlight to grow. But some seeds germinate better in darkness, and some seeds germinate better in light. Again, the seed packet should indicate this, or a good garden reference book will tell you. Germinating seeds that like darkness is simply a matter of covering them with the growing mix or germinating mixture you sow them in. For complete darkness, put the seed flat in a black plastic bag after you have watered

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You Can Have Your Garden and Eat It, Too

Somewhere, sometime, someone started a pesky rumor that growing vegetables is more work and trouble than growing flowers. Let us now lay that rumor to rest – it isn’t so. Keeping a vegetable garden is no more trouble than a flower garden and, for many gardeners; the rewards are even greater because (in one sense) you can have your garden and eat it too.

The Seven Joys of Vegetable Gardening

If you haven’t tried growing vegetables in your garden, you don’t know what you are missing. Not only does a neatly tended vegetable garden look great, but you can enjoy many of the fruits of your labors well into the winter months. Here are seven reasons to start or continue a vegetable garden

Exercise: Gardening does require some work, but this can easily be considered exercise. Stretch to pull that nasty crabgrass…dig to remove that dandelion root…breathe deeply to fill your lungs with fresh air. All of these gardening activities help to burn up calories and increase your physical well-being.

Food: An obvious benefit to vegetable gardening is that it results in good things to eat. And fresh vegetables always taste better than any

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Tropical Visions

The words tropical vines conjure up many image

s–Tarzan swinging though the jungle, warm islands with lush vegetation, brilliant flowers attracting butterflies and birds–but always plants that are exotic, colorful, and king-size. However, if you don’t live in Hawaii, parts of coastal California, or southern Florida (humid parts of USDA Climate Hardiness Zones 10 and 11), you’ve probably dismissed the possibility of growing tropical vines. But think again: provided you have a greenhouse or large south-facing window and are willing to give these plants a little extra care, these breathtaking beauties can be yours. Grow them in pots, and you can move them outdoors for the summer in many areas.

Here are 10 choices, all but one grown for their showy flowers over a long period, and one grown for its unusual leaves. Try one or two, and you may want to try more. See below for planting and care.

* Golden trumpet vine (Allamanda cathartica). This vine from the South American tropics bears 4-inch-wide sun yellow flowers at the branch tips. The funnel-shaped flowers are produced from summer to fall. This vine is easy and almost pest-free, perhaps because the leaves are poisonous. Left