Garden & Landscape Tips

Seed merchants report increased sales of 20 to 30 percent in 2009, and recent research from the National Gardening Association says about 7 million more households will grow their own vegetables this year, an uptick of about 19 percent. Altogether, about 43 million U.S. households grow their own veggies.

Many vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, are easiest to grow from transplants and others, such as lettuces, squash, melon, beans, peas and eggplant, are easy to grow from seeds.

Vegetable gardens need eight or more hours of full sun a day for the best production. Adequate water also aids vegetable production. Mulch beds to help the soil retain moisture and suppress weeds; apply about one inch of water every week from the hose if there’s no rain.

Just like other plants in the garden, vegetable plants do better when they don’t have to compete with weeds for nutrients and water. Besides mulching, apply Preen Natural Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer according to label instructions, to keep weeds from sprouting in your garden.

Apply Preen Natural Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer every four weeks for the most effective control. This product is natural and safe around children and pets. Because Preen Natural Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer keeps seeds from sprouting, apply only around plants that are about 2 inches tall.

And, if you’d like help planning your vegetable garden, Gardener’s Supply offers several free, downloadable Kitchen Garden Planners.

Here are three new veggies to try:

Tomato 'Basket Boy Yellow'

‘Basket Boy Yellow’ tomato
Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

This tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) plant, which produces 2-inch round, 3-ounce cherry-size yellow fruit, was bred for growing in hanging baskets. It would grow best in a 12-inch wide basket that is at least 6 inches deep. ‘Basket Boy Yellow’ also could be grown in a container on a deck, patio, porch or balcony. A five-gallon bucket works great for this. Just make sure to punch holes in the bottom for drainage.

Do not use soil from the garden in containers because it may contain insects or disease. Use a high quality potting mix, which is light weight and promotes good drainage.

Be sure to check the soil in any container daily. Hanging baskets and pots in full sun tend to dry out quickly. During really hot, dry weather or in windy conditions, the pots may need to be watered twice a day. If the first inch of soil feels dry to the touch, water the pots. The best tomato production comes with regular watering from rainfall or the hose.

'Hansel' and 'Gretel' eggplant

Hansel eggplantGretel eggplant
Eggplant ‘Hansel’ and Eggplant ‘Gretel’
Photo courtesy All-America Selections

‘Hansel’ and ‘Gretel’ eggplant are All-America Selections eggplants (Solanum melongena), which have been tested in gardens throughout the United States and found to be winners because of their production and taste.

‘Hansel,’ an All-America Selection in 2008, is a miniature eggplant. It produces finger-sized clusters of shiny purple fruit. Harvest when fruit is about 3 inches long. If left on the plant, the fruit will grow to about 10 inches, but it does not become bitter like other eggplants that are not harvested immediately. There also are few seeds in this variety.

‘Hansel’ gets about 3 feet tall and 30-inches wide, making it ideal for containers. The container should be at least 16 inches deep. In the garden, space plants about 2 feet apart. This is considered an early variety, which can be harvested about 55 days after transplanting to the garden.

‘Gretel,’ an All-America Selection for 2009, also is early and can be harvested in about 55 days from transplanting outdoors. It has glossy white sweet fruit with tender skin. The ideal size for harvest is 3 to 4 inches long.

The highly productive ‘Gretel’ will get about 3 feet tall and wide, making it ideal for containers. This eggplant also has few seeds in the fruit.

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