Friday, June 29, 2018

Tomatoes...Are they in YOUR garden?

Tomatoes...Are they in your garden?

To be completely honest I never realized the diversity, as well as the value of a delicious fruit/veggie until I started working at Veseys. This possibly challenging, yet delicious, fruit/veggie is now one of my favourite crops to continue with further research, source new varieties and also to grow. From my years of working with Veseys, I have seen this proven time and time again as many gardeners also feel the same love in growing them as I do.  I aim to continue to offer as much information as possible to continue with improved growing successes. You may be wondering why I refer to a tomato as both fruit and vegetable?  This question has been discussion for many gardeners for years, however in the botanical world it is considered a fruit simply because it has seeds.

Tomatoes are packed with multitudes of nutrition value, versatility in recipes when cooking sauces, soups,canning, or simply chopped fresh into a salad.  I fondly recall many days at harvest walking through our trials and picking a sweet cherry variety and popping it right in my mouth. Yummm!... and they taste better then candy!  Gardeners are amazed and "get a kick out of" some of the varieties such as "Tomato BerryGarden" that is actually shaped like a strawberry as seen below:

or our famous beautiful glossy, brown tomato called "Chocolate Cherry". Yes this tomato is better then chocolate..., at least to some gardeners!

Now don't get me wrong, there are many medium and larger varieties that serve great purpose in the garden as well, just be sure that if you are going in for a taste test, that you try the larger varieties first!

Of course the tomatoes just can't magically appear in our gardens without a little bit of "leg" work first.  Being in a cooler climate such as ours, tomato seeds need to be started indoors first.  Taking into consideration of how quick they can grow be sure to follow proper timing of planting.  If planted to soon, tomatoes can possibly result growing in a leggy form. This can especially happen if new seedlings are without an opportunity to grow with proper light conditions. I would recommend planting tomato seed indoors no earlier then 4-6 weeks before last frost. Gardeners have their favourite method and type of containers or seed trays to grow them in when starting indoors.

I have tried many different sizes of trays, but what I found is most important in growing tomato seedlings successfully is with using a quality growing medium as well as providing proper temperatures and light. It makes perfect sense, that if you choose to grow them, it is worth the effort of these methods right from the start. Since I bought my own grow light stand and learned about proper watering techniques, my tomatoes are much healthier and better able to stand the transplanting and introduction to the outdoor world. 

Of course with all the excitement and enthusiasm in growing tomatoes, I could keep going on, and trust me, many people who know me would agree!  I'm going to promise that I will make this short and sweet but informative to help you also further share the success of growing tomatoes. 

I'm sure you all have you been faced with a few challenges with growing these plants prior to harvest and please don't despair or give up is the challenges that make growing them so fun and worth it.  If you have any questions further to this blog, please feel free to comment below.
While browsing through the catalogue, or on the Veseys will find that there are so many different types, sizes, colours and with question of what indeterminate/determinate tomato might be referring to.  Basically, and long story short, that's just what we grows tall(indeterminate) and will require more care when growing.  You can harvest from this type all season long and is ideal for growers that enjoy tomatoes consecutively all season especially for fresh eating.  This type will also need proper staking/pruning to enable optimal fruit set and comes in all different shapes, sizes and colours. The video link below, that is also found on our Veseys YouTube channel, will explain in more detail tomato differences, staking and pruning procedures as well as introducing you new late blight resistant varieties.

When we refer to determinate tomatoes, this just simply means that the plants are non-staking, shorter, bush types that will set a great yield of tomatoes within a two to three week period. Determinate tomato varieties are ideal for growing if you prefer to include them for cooking in soups, sauces and ever delicious and popular salsa. This type of tomato is available in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours as well. Both indeterminate and determinate types include heirloom/open-pollinated varieties that are also so yummy!

Tomatoes can also be hungry little guys,but be sure not to overdo by applying too much nitrogen.Too much of a good thing for "these guys" will result with gorgeous, dark green foliage but little to no fruit. I like to use earthworm castings mixed in with growing medium when first incorporated outdoors. By adding this at planting time, it seems to grow tomatoes quite successfully. Once they start setting a bloom, they can also benefit from a side dress of compost. Gardeners may find that even as seedlings start to grow and have established their first and second set of true leaves before being transplanted, application of fertility added at seedling base will encourage a thicker and stockier stem. Please try not to "overdo it with kindness" when it comes to over fertilizing or over watering.  Allow them to slightly dry between waterings, as well as water at base of plant instead of overhead, is best.

As I mentioned, tomatoes enjoy the heat and will benefit best when planted once night time temperatures have consistently reached double digits. Many gardeners have their own successful way in how they prepare them for being planted outdoors such as "hardening off", light preferences, fertility as well as other methods. In our trial gardens right here on our own Veseys property, we find our tomato crops grow best in a full sun location that is sheltered.  We first apply a good amount of fertility to the soil and cover it with biodegradable mulch such as Bio-mulch.  This will increase the temperatures as it draws the sun to the plant, maintains moisture at root base and no weeding is required, a gardeners dream...right?!?  The right amount of moisture will continue to reach the plant at the root where transplant was first inserted through the mulch.

I know that many of you are aware of the risks, mostly disease pests such as late blight, that can occur when growing tomatoes. This tends to be a more common issue then insect pests, but please don't let this deter from growing tomatoes as each year will vary.  I am happy to list excellent lateblight resistant varieties that are so tasty and reliably available in all sorts of shapes, sizes and types.

Another attribute that I love about tomatoes is how easily they can be grown in containers. Taller tomato varieties can certainly make quite a statement as an ornamental, edible mini tree to grow right on your very own deck. Makes harvesting so easy and close at hand, and you can get more creative by adding solar lights!
There are even types of tomato varieties that are bred for containers for hanging baskets. You could trade in your flower baskets for a hanging tomato plant that can serve both purposes, or at least mix your containers half and half!

So let me know what you a tomato a fruit or vegetable?  What are your favourite types and how do you prefer to grow them? Please comment below and be sure to contact us at Veseys anytime as your reputable and reliable gardening resource.

Thanks for reading and FYI, I totally enjoyed writing this blog at my favourite coffee shop,  a place that always inspires me! Thanks guys!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Companion Planting

     Quick Guide to Companion Planting- Friend or Foe

     When referring to companion planting, we aren't just referring to planting your garden with your spouse or fellow gardening friends, we simply are stating that plants also tend to have "friends" that encourage improved growth and all over better health.

     One very popular example that you may be familiar with or have heard is that growing onions next to carrots is a great benefit. The aroma from the onions deters carrot fly infestations, this is thought of as companion planting.

Another planting that you may have heard of before is the "3 Sisters" which consists of a harmonious trio of Corn, Beans and Squash. The ancient technique of growing these three veggies together is companion planting at its best!  The combination of these 3 Sisters growing together benefits each others growing capability by supporting-corn, tall sturdy stalks, feeding-beans, being a benefit to replace loss of nitrogen in the soil and protecting-squash, large leaves impede weeds and also are prickly keeping pests away!

And...while on the topic of beans...Soya beans(Edamame) are said to be ideal for replacing lost nitrogen in the soil, acts as a mulch against weeds and wards off Japanese beetles and Chinch bugs. Excellent companion plant for Corn! Yummy!

Hopefully I'm not boring you with all of these planting scenario's, but as a gardener I find them very interesting and if it means healthier plants, then we have more yield and kinder to the environment, so everyone benefits! 

Nothing goes better together then tomatoes with basil and the same applies when growing your garden as well. Apparently growing basil next to tomatoes will improve each of their flavour. Hard to believe you can do more to improve this delicious veggie and herb combo, but you can. Pesto here we come! 

This will create a very harmonious garden and get it growing in the right direction. Gardens, when using companion planting will succeed.  

Unfortunately along with companions there are also foes. :( It is a good idea to avoid the following combinations that will impede each vegetables growing capabilities.
Take for example: 


Beets when grown with Beans will stunt each others growth, not just coffee beans!

Another foe combo...Carrots planted near tomatoes may have stunted roots too! We all appreciate our carrots with a long tap root, so this is one to avoid for sure.
Companion and foe planting lists and combos can take all day to list, but these are just a few basics to get us all prepared for the exciting season of vegetable gardening once again. Enjoy!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Spring at Veseys!

Awe my favourite time of the year has arrived again! Days are becoming longer, temperatures are slowly warming, the re-birth of our plants and trees and of course that famous spring smell that we fondly remember, at least most days!

Even though spring can challenge us with temperature fluctuations and dampness, it still doesn't crush our spring fever as the weather is only going to get better, and this happens every year.  The promise of warm sunny days and the excitement of seeing all of our plants return for a new season is a big part of what makes everyone so cheerful this time of year. 

Some parts of Canada already are enjoying consistent double digits and into spring planting already!  I know this for sure as my brother Darren lives in Ontario and texts me the weather report each day. This is part of a blessing and a curse when weather determined how we spent our days on our family farm. This practice just never leaves you no matter how much time has gone by.  Weather has always been an important part of anyone's day whether you are an urban or a rural resident.

In the midst of left over stocks of perennials from last season, grows our early bulbs to remind us of all the good things that are coming. If some of your bulbs don't surface or tree limbs are broken, these are signs of nature looking after itself. No matter what type of winter you had, backyards and towns always seem to manage to transform so quickly as we watch the beauty grow from late winter to early spring.  If you have lost a few plants from one year to the next, that's OK because it gives you an excuse to make new additions to your garden.

Veseys has quite an array of new selections for 2018 as well as new trends to spruce up your garden for another season.  Why not renovate your garden just like you do with the inside of your home.
Whether its trees, shrubs, fruits/berries,veggies or flowers, we have you covered.
Garden bed rejuvenation can take a lot of work, but make it fun! Keep in mind that if time doesn't allow to get it all done in one day or even one season, just choose one section at a time.
As with interior design, exterior design trends change too...One of my favourite plants in the 2018 Veseys Line up is:

As you can see by this picture above, is it any wonder why Snaggle Tooth Daylily is one of my fav picks for this year!  The stunning purple shades are enlaced with a unique icy edging, and eye-catching lime green centre.  Along with the beauty of each bloom, it is a reliable "re-bloomer" as well. This will sure make your landscape stand out each season!

I have always been a fan of "collecting" new varieties of perennials each year, however we only have so much space and as the saying goes, more is less.  It also takes a lot of time and dedication to keep your beds in good shape so keep in mind that they will be a size that you can manage before you begin.

Are you looking for a new shrub to add to your garden this year?  We have listed a new shrub known as Winecraft Black Smokebush pictured below.
Cotinus coggygria.  'Winecraft' is a far superior variety. Plants are more compact and less unruly than old-fashioned varieties. Best of all is the colouring of the charming round leaves. They start out a deep purple, deepen to almost black purple as the summer wears on, and finally come fall they'll turn a reddish orange.

Veseys supplies many types of perennials, trees, shrubs, vines and even fruits and berry plants along with our multitudes of flower and vegetable seed and hardgood items.  We have you covered no matter what your project will be this year.  You can check out our handy YouTube video on how to plant each individual plant as well as our online growing guide.

There are so many new varieties again this year that could all be my favourite picks, no matter what one you choose, I'm sure you will be very happy as you watch it grow. I have posted a few others below that would look stunning in any garden right from early spring to fall.
Windflower Mix-Early Spring
Beyond Perfection Hardy Orchid Blend- Early Spring
Winky Blue Columbine-Mid Spring

Sugar Candy Clematis Vine-Late Spring and Late Fall

Pictured above are a few ideas for your spring colour, and as I mentioned there are many selections to choose from for early summer all the way up to late fall.  You will find a few beautiful plants shown below. Many gardeners love to achieve a garden that will provide colour right from start to finish once spring bulbs have faded.

Sparkling Stars Astrantia-Early to Late summer
Let's Dance Diva Hydrangea-Early to Late summer

Mandarin Double Coneflower-Mid Summer to Early fall
As you can see, we have a wide assortment of beautiful, healthy plants that are ready to find a new home and give your yard colour all season long!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Before the attack...


     All plants have a defense system against any type of disease, however, they can also be easily stressed by disease/insect pests and may not be able to withstand unfavorable environmental conditions if its health is not optimal. 

       Abiotic factors in an environment include such factors such as sunlight, temperature, wind patterns, and precipitation. Sometimes all it takes for a plant to regain its health is to move it to a different location or even "top it up" with some extra fertilitizer . I have always found that plants are more resilient than we think, so we shouldn't jump to conclusions that there is a pest problem.

     When initiating a successful  control measure plan for any plant and/or pest issue, proper plant identification needs to be first established. This will help with factoring what type of disease or insect pest could be effecting your plant/plants or possible effects from the environment. The life-cycle each pest should be considered. Regular monitoring routines are also important to successful control. Monitoring should be documented when carried-out and this data will be helpful for years to come where plants and pests will be experienced with from year to year.  This will give you a plan that you can expect to factor in before a growing season even begins. 

     Keeping consistent records of your observations can help develop a more successful IPM (Integrated Pest Management) as well as enable you to identify other possible issues as well. 

       Close attention to how weather affects plants is also useful data to collect. This will also help you to determine how much damage a plant can resist without treatment.

      Determining information of pest’s life cycle, and monitoring their presence is most important.  Regular monitoring will allow you to ensure that the best approach and informed decisions are made.

     Why bother using treatment with a chemical if issues are not going to result with further damage, this would be considered a waste of time, money and unnecessary exposure of chemicals to the environment. 
      In my own experience as a professional, I have made numerous decisions on various plants whether being a tree, shrub, vegetable or perennial flower and not always an ideal decision. In some cases I have jumped to conclusion much too quickly.  All issues with plants need time to be studied and to collect data. When we define monitoring, we don't just refer to looking at a plant, but getting down to examine the root system where plant growth begins. Taking daily strolls through your garden is beneficial for monitoring, besides we grow our gardens to walk through and enjoy. Weekly walks through your garden is recommended even during dormant times, the earlier the detection, the better. 

     Collectively plants and pests need a certain amount of these factors when going through stages. These temperature data days are referred to as GDD, growing degree days as some professionals make numerous references to. To come to these values, use a formula that calculates the maximum and minimum temperatures over a period of 24 hours.  This number is calculated further with the base temperature which is most often 10 degrees C. Add maximum and minimum temperatures, then divide that figure in half, then the base temperature is subtracted from that value, which will provide you with a final number value known as a growing degree day. Sound complicated?...It really isn't...! 
Please see formula for calculation of this data below:

Temperature(Max)+Temperature(Min)/2= __ - 10(TBase)= 
This would equal 8 as the growing degree day

*This process is in conjunction with all other research and not meant to be the only way of determining control.
     When monitoring, use information such as date(time/day/year), location, plant, pest(disease/insect), effect on hosts, signs and symptoms, number of pests present, how many GDD have been calculated plus if there was or wasn't need for an action threshold to be crossed. Monitoring times will stretch out in between visits as pest life cycles comes to completion.
   Calendar dates can be used to determine when a control is issued, however as I mentioned, growing degree days each year, when calculated properly, will be more accurate. We also attribute combinations of temperature, weather and plant Phenology-(recurring seasonal plant life cycle stages such as leaf development, setting blossoms and fruit development) as part of the make up for the growing degree days to help with our IPM.


     The value of this process that I have gained, during course of time, will help in many ways whether it will be put to practice in my own yard, on a professional basis as well as a way of sharing an improved management of pests with fellow gardeners as well as advice to clients.