Edible Gardening

Time to Refresh Tired Containers

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Time to Refresh Tired Containers

By Jodi Torpey

Many annual plants start to look a little ragged by August—just like the gardeners who tend them. So this is a perfect time to give annual flower containers a little pick-me-up so they’ll look good until it’s time to put the garden to bed.

Here are some top tips for refreshing your annual container display:

Remove annuals that are past their prime. Some plants just fall apart in summer heat and can’t be revived to their former glory. Use a trowel to carefully lift plants from the container and toss on the compost pile.

Fill in bare spots. If containers look a little lean, add some new plants. Late season annuals will carry the garden through the fall. Look for marigolds, cosmos, zinnia or fill in with cool-season vegetables.

Replace droopy plants with ornamental grasses. Annual and perennial ornamental grasses will add some height and interest to containers until the season ends.

Pinch back spent flowers to help plants continue blooming. If stems have gotten too tall and leggy, use hand pruners to snip them back about 1/3 to ½. Plants will grow back quickly.

Remember to water according to the plant’s needs. Sometimes plants can wilt from having soil that’s too dry, but they can also wilt if they’re overwatered. Use your finger as a gauge and water deeply when the soil has dried to your second knuckle.

Fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer. Whether you use Miracle Gro or an organic fertilizer, dilute according to the label instructions and water to give plants a quick boost. If you have hanging baskets or containers, use a diluted solution every watering or keep up the fertilizing every few weeks through the season.

Pinch back culinary herbs. Herbs like basil, sage and mint respond well to pruning and fertilizing, too. Be sure to use the clippings to flavor salads, make iced teas or dry to use this winter.

Keep up with the harvest. If you planted containers of cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or eggplants, be sure to clip fruits as they ripen. Plants will keep producing as long as you keep picking.

Shop the sales. Late summer is a great time to plan for next year’s garden. Stop at Nick’s for sale items that you can easily store for winter, like containers, seeds and tools. Once spring hits next year, you’ll be glad you did.

Solving Tomato Problems

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Solving Tomato Problems

By Jodi Torpey

If you’ve struggled with your tomato crop this season, raise your hand.

It’s been a tough tomato-growing year because of the long months of cool, wet weather. Tomatoes are tropical plants and they grow best with warm temperatures during the day that carry over into night.

This season tomato crops may mature later than usual, so let’s hope for a few more months of warm weather into fall. Until then, here are some common tomato problems you might see in your vegetable garden and what to do about them:

Leaf problems:

Leaves are curled with purple veins? The plant may be infested with psyllids, tiny insects that feed on the plants, causing leaves to yellow and curl. In extreme cases, psyllids can stop the plant from growing and producing fruit. Look for the pests on the underside of leaves and wash off with a blast of water from the hose or apply insecticidal soap as a control.

Missing leaves? Look for tomato hornworms, the large green caterpillars with white markings and a horn on one end. Hornworms are hard to spot, so look for large areas where leaves are missing. Pick off the pests or use a trowel to knock them into a bucket of soapy water.

Irregularly shaped watery spots on leaves? If the spots are on the younger leaves growing at the top of the plant, the likely problem is late blight. This is a fungus that infects tomato plants in the late part of summer when the weather starts to cool. Avoid late blight at planting time by spacing tomatoes as far apart as possible for good air flow, water only at soil level and removed diseased plants from the garden right away.

Fruit problems

Tan or dark soggy spots? This is blossom-end rot that can ruin tomatoes. It’s not a disease but a problem with low calcium in the soil and inconsistent soil moisture (see picture below). To prevent, keep soil evenly moist to help the plant take up calcium, especially when the weather is dry. A thick layer of organic mulch (like straw or dry shredded leaves) will help regulate soil moisture.

Cracks? Cracks usually form in tomatoes along the side starting at the stem. Cracking is usually caused by rapid growth because of wet weather followed quickly by dry weather and hot temperatures. Use a soaker hose for consistent moisture and apply more mulch.

Holes in fruit? One big hole could signal a squirrel enjoyed a bite of tomato; smaller holes may have been caused by a fruitworm that may or may not remain in the fruit. If you see only one tomato affected, remove it from the plant; if there are holes in many of the tomatoes, you may need to apply Bt. Keep in mind that worms already inside tomatoes won’t be affected.

Even if the tomato crop doesn’t measure up this season, there’s always next year!

Edible Flowers

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The Edible Flower Garden

Many of us are working on planning our gardens right now, and we’re also eating at home a lot (except for meals that we’re ording-in to support local small businesses!). We thought it would be fun to share some plants with edible flowers that you can grow at home to add flare to your cooked-at-home meals.

Any time we’re consuming flowers and plants that are not our obvious fruits and veggies, we want to be very sure we’ve identified the correct plant, so always check and double check before adding these things to your plate. After we’ve properly identified our plant, and confirmed no pesticides have been used on them, it’s time to give them a quick rinse and get creative!

Here are a few of our favorite edible flowers…

  1. Nasturtium is one of the most useful plants you can have in your garden. They are easy to grow, make a big statement with brightly colored flowers, round leaves that resemble lily pads, and trailing vines. Plus, every part of the above-ground plant is edible – leaves, flowers, and seed pods! They are also great for natural pest control. Plant these next to squash, especially, to keep the squash beetles at bay. Nasturtium flowers and leaves make a gorgeous showing in salads and add a peppery flavor.

  2. Pansies and violets are a popular flower for adding to cakes and baked goods. They can be dried or candied to add a decorative flair to your desserts, but they also look beautiful placed directly onto your dessert with no modifications. Pansies also look lovely in a salad, and can add color and decoration to home made spring rolls as well – just place the pansy face-down on the rice paper before you add filling, and when you roll it up, the pansy will be visible inside the roll.

  3. Snapdragon may not have as noticeable a flavor as other flowers, but they make a great addition to ice cubes. Place the flower in your ice cube tray and fill with water, then freeze. Any portion of the flower within the water will retain its shape and color, but any part left out might turn brown, so try to submerge the entire flower.

  4. Rose is a long-time favorite consumable flower. Roses come in many different types of scent, and therefore many different flavors. For a sweeter rose, try the Sugar Moon variety. Rose petals can be used dried or fresh. They can also be dried and used as incense or potpourri, or added fresh from the stem to water for a relaxing bath.

  5. Begonia is one of the most surprising edible flowers. Tuberous Begonias (Begonia X tuberosa) have a taste similar to sour citrus candy! This author keeps begonias on her patio all summer long and snacks on them! Just pluck the petal off of the flower and nibble away for a delicious treat that’s sugar-free.

Looking for ideas on how to use these flowers? Check out our Pinterest board called “Projects and Recipes”!