tomato

Blight Resistant Tomatoes and Prevention

All fresh tomatoes are great but those of you who are looking for tomatoes that are blight resistant, look no further!

Brief description of blight:

Blight causes sudden yellowing, wilting, spotting, or browning of new leaf growth, fruit, stems, or the whole plant, depending on the severity. It spreads by fungal spores that are carried by wind, water, tools, and insects from infected plants, and then deposited on the plant or dead plant matter on the soil. The disease requires moisture to progress, so when moisture or rain comes in contact with fungal spores, they reproduce. The spores thrive in humidity and the spores can then be transmitted through the wind easily.

Blight can infect many different plants, i.e.  apples, potatoes, and cucumbers, and can be caused by various fungal strains like Alternaria solani, a.k.a. Early Blight, or Phytophthora infestans, a.k.a. Late Blight.

Prevention is key, even for blight resistant tomatoes. Copper fungicide, or Fung-onil can help slow the growth once you see signs of blight or spray on the plant prior (about 2 weeks) before predicted hot and humid weather.

earl blight on tomato leaf

Example of early blight on a tomato leaf. Source: Univ. of MN Extension

Best practices to prevent blight:

  • Healthy plants are less effected by blight. Provide proper water and nutrients. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Tomato Tone or Plant Tone are good options when you are first planting your tomatoes. If you get a lot of foliage growth, fertilize with less nitrogen and more phosphorus, 5-10-5.
  • Mulch around your plant to prevent soil from splashing up onto the foliage.
  • Water your plant at the base and avoid the foliage. Morning is best so it can dry throughout the day.
  • Provide proper spacing between plants and air flow but using cages.
  • Sanitize all garden tools between plants
  • Clean up any dead infected foliage around the plant and either burn or put into the trash. Do not compost!
  • Prune the lower branches of tomatoes a foot above the ground to help reduce water splashing on the leaves.  Prune further if you see any disease spots on lower leaves.

Don’t let diseases deter you from certain plants since many plants can get blight without proper care, prevention, or crop rotation. If you have been effected by blight, we understand the frustration, so try one of these blight resistant varieties listed below. If we have especially hot and wet weather, we recommend having a fungicide on hand so if you start seeing blight, you can treat a.s.a.p.

BLIGHT RESISTANT TOMATOES

Variety

 Best Used For

Location*

Growth Habit

Beefmaster Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Better Boy Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Big Boy Slicer Container Determinate
Big Daddy Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Heirloom Brandywine Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Brandywine Yellow Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Champion II Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Cherokee Purple Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Early Girl Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Rutgers Slicer Garden Determinate
Supersteak Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Gladiator Slicer/Paste Garden Indeterminate
Juliet Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Sunsugar Snacking Garden Indeterminate
SuperSweet 100 Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Yellow Pear Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Big Beef Salsa Garden Indeterminate
La Roma Paste Container Determinate
San Marzano Canning/Chopped Garden Indeterminate

 

*All listed container plants will also do well in the ground. These tomato plants tend to have a more compact size.

Determinate = Plant grows to a certain size and stops, bearing most of it’s fruit within a one month period. Great for small spaces or containers. Some will grow tall and still need tomato cages.

Find pictures to help identify blight, from University of Minnesota Extension, as well as more management information.

carrots pulled from the garden

Starting a Garden & Resources

Congrats on starting a garden! There has been a huge increase of people wanting to grow their own food as well as flowers, pollinator plants, and converting lawns to native species. This post will hopefully help bring some info together and be a place to update and share resources you have shared with us!

First, I’d like to link to our Resources page. For example, this is where you can find more info from Bonide, our recommended disease and pest control brand, or from Espoma, the plant fertilizers and amendment product line we have most of in store. Also info on maintenance of plants, or starting a victory garden.

New to gardening? Here is a Vegetable Gardening Estimated Sowing Dates (PDF) and our Seed Starting Indoors (PDF).  We try to host a seed starting simplified workshop every year to help new gardeners with questions or issues they are having. 

This is a great video and article on what you should do when starting a garden. It covers everything from where to put your garden and down to soil health. It links out to other resources as well if you want to learn more. Space choice, soil health, etc can not only be used for vegetable gardening but perennials, native, and other gardening you’d like to do!

Hope some of this helps as a jumping off point to start your own garden this year! We have our greenhouse grown plants like annuals and produce starters, quality plants shipped from vendors so you can get mature perennials, as well as annual flowers for baskets and filling in landscaping, native plants, shrubs and trees for a living privacy fence, sun and shade perennials

It’s time to embrace your outdoor living space!

lettuce

Seed Starting

Welcome new gardeners!

Late winter and early spring is the time to start seeds indoors. Our last frost date is projected as May 1- May 15th. The last frost date is what you work from when planting your seeds indoors. Keep your eye on the weather and it will help you know when you can acclimate your seedlings and then transplant outdoors.

First let’s talk about some of our early sowing seeds, cold hardy vegetables like the brassicas family which includes cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage can be seeded in early to mid-March as well as lettuces. These cold-weather crops can be put outdoors earlier and do well in a cold frame or hoop houses as well for an earlier start.

Important seed packet info:

Best time to plant for our zone
How deep to plant the seeds
Days to germination gives an idea how long it takes the seed to sprout
Days to maturity = the number of days from planting to harvest
Seedling thinning & spacing directions
Check if it’s a perennial or annual to help determine where you are placing the plant

Examples of plants sowing times before transplanting outdoors:

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Cold Season Crops ( Early spring or late fall )

Broccoli 4-6 weeks
Brussels Sprouts 4-6 weeks
Cabbage 4-6 weeks
Cauliflower 4-6 weeks
Onion 10-12 weeks

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Warm Season Crops (Late spring through early fall)

Eggplant 8 weeks
Parsley 8-10 weeks
Pepper 8 weeks
Tomato 8-10 weeks

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These crops are best when sowed directly into soil outside ( plant according to packages recommended soil temps and timing ).

Beets, beans, carrots, corn, kohlrabi, lettuce, radish, peas, potato, spinach, and swiss chard

What you need to grow your own plants – Water, Light, Growing Medium, and SEEDS!

 

Get to know the plants you are trying to grow!

Use your seed packet to guide you. Look for information such as:

-When to start the seeds, seeding depth, germination temperature, light and water             requirements, nutrient requirements, mature size and final plant spacing

 

Should you start the seeds indoors, or direct sow them in the garden or planter?

-Use the “date to maturity” as a guide.

– Some plants have sensitive roots and/or mature fast enough in our climate to be direct sown    ( ex. Sunflowers, Nasturtium, Beans, Radishes, Peas, Dill)

-Some plants have a LONG growing season and should be started indoors to reach maturity

( ex. Peppers, Tomatoes, Cole Crops, Lemongrass, Rosemary)

**Hardy perennials may require cold stratification or scarification for proper germination

 

What type of growing medium is best?

AVOID using soil from your yard/garden if possible! It is an easy way to introduce unwanted pest and disease problems. *Most at home compost piles do not get hot enough to kill harmful pathogens.

Some plants may require specific soil/drainage requirements.

 

Seed Starting Mix

-Fine textured, soiless medium

-Sometimes heat sterilized

-No nutrients, intended for germination only

Standard Potting Mix

-Easily sifted to achieve a fine texture for seed starting

-Available with or without added nutrients

Make your own!

-Many recipes online for DIY germination mix and potting mix

 

Materials you may need:

Plug Trays

– When choosing a size: How many plants do you want to grow? How big is the seed, and how             much room do the roots need?

-Provides a controled environment for proper germination

 

Soil Pellets

-Soak in water to expand the pellet

-Plant entire pellet into your pots or garden

-Plastic-free option

 

Open Flats

-With drainage holes: Fill with seeding mix and scatter seeds. Divide and up-pot/plant out

-Without drainage holes: Use under plug trays to catch water/soil

 

Humidity Dome

-Fits over most plug trays and open flats

-Short dome for seed starting

-Tall dome for cuttings

-Helps keep soil moist

 

Pots

-Use various sizes to start seeds if desired. Divide and up-pot/plant out

-Choose the RIGHT sized pot when up-potting! Too big and it may not dry out fast enough,             causing root rot. (Can up-pot again to a larger size if needed.)

-Plastic, Coco Coir, Biodegradable options

 

Watering Can/Spray Bottle

-Stream from watering can may be too harsh for seedlings

 

Heat Mat

-Most homes are not warm enough for proper germination

-Raises soil temp 10-20 degrees above room temperature

-Be careful when using in combination with dome and lights!

 

Lights & Timer

-Supplimental light is essential to growing happy seedlings indoors!

-Prevents weak, leggy plants

-Full Spectrum/Daylight. T8 & T5 Florescent, Standard Bulbs, LED

-Use a timer to make life easier! 14-16 hrs. of light per day

Fans

-A light breeze helps grow strong plants!

 

Caring for your seedlings.

Proper watering is essential.

-Allow tap water to sit out overnight to dechlorinate. Avoid using soft water.

-Keep soil evenly moist until germination

-Know your plant’s specific needs

-Find a routine and water early in the day.

-After germination, allow soil to dry slightly between watering. This encourages root growth!            (Avoid “loving your plants to death”, aka over watering)

-Bottom watering keeps foliage dry

 

Fertilizer

-Seedlings do not need nutrients right away. Wait until they have a few sets of true leaves before feeding

-Know your plant’s specific needs

-Half strength, balanced fertilizer works well for most

-Granular soil amendments

 

Hardening Off

-Allows your plants time to adjust to light, temperature, and environmental changes

-Start in the shade on a calm day, for an hour or two. Slowly increase time outside and sun  exposure over several days

 

Here is a pdf version of instructions on seed starting indoors and some guidelines on when to start certain crops!

We carry grow lights, seed starting kits, seedling potting soil, fertilizer, and seeds. Later in the spring we will have vegetables and herbs that we have grown for you to purchase if you don’t get to starting your own seedlings.

bloomstruck hydrangea

Acidic Soil Loving Plants


Three Plant Needs

Water, Sun, and Soil (Nutrients).

Where does soil pH level come in?

Plants need nutrients and have a balanced relationship with elements in the soil which will contribute to the health of plants.

Plants also have pH level preferences. The soil pH level can affect the uptake of nutrients. Depending on the plant, if the soil pH is not ideal then you may have a stunted and unhealthy plant and it’s not because there isn’t nutrients in the soil.

Put Away the Fertilizer For Now

If you are noticing any issues like yellowing leaves, no fruit production, growth seems stunted, and not blooming, checking the pH is highly recommended first before using fertilizers.

For example, you may add fertilizer to your garden but it still has little effect on your plant health if for some reason your soil pH is off. Too much fertilizer can also inhibit nutrient uptake because of soil nutrient imbalances. In addition, nitrogen and phosphorous runoff is a huge environmental pollutant, especially to our waterways and lakes.

Testing your soil nutrients is good gardening practice and could save you money in the long run. If you know your soil pH is within the proper range and your plant is showing nutrient deficiency symptoms, use a slow release fertilizer (like Bio-tone) for in-ground plants to avoid excessive nutrients and run-off.

What is Acidic Soil?

The range of pH is from 0-14. Acidic soil is considered anything below 7.

Acidity ranges:
Slight  6.0
Strong  5.5
Very Strong 5.0
Extremely 4.5

Many plants like to grow within the 6-7.5 pH range for optimal nutrient uptake.

In Southern MN, you may notice a lot of clay soil with lime, which tends to be more alkaline 7 pH or above. Water coming from hoses in this area are usually more basic, which increases soil alkalinity.

Other factors that affect soil acidity are rainfall, nitrogen fertilizers, plants (like pines), and subsoil acidity. The best way to know your soil acidity level is a quick home test.

Acidic Soil Loving Plants

Plants that prefer slight acidity, 6.0-7.0 range:

Most plants! Each plant has a pH range it can tolerate and many plants can handle down to 6.0.

Plants that prefer strong acidity, 5.5:

Trees and Shrubs: 
Raspberry 5.5-7.0, Pears 5.5-7.0, Peaches 5.5-7.0

Vegetable and Fruits:
Potato 5.5, Squash 5.5, Garlic 5.5-8.0, Carrot 5.5-7.0, Sweet Peppers 5.5-7.0, Tomatoes 5.5-7.5, Cauliflower 5.5-7.5, Cucumber, 5.5-7.0, Pumpkin 5.5-7.0, Eggplant 5.5-6.5, Sweet Potatoes 5.2-6.0, Rhubarb 5.5-7.0

Flowers:
Begonia 5.5-7.0, Black-Eyed Susan 5.5-7.0, Clematis 5.5-7.0, Marigold 5.5-7.5, Nasturtium 5.5-7.5, Pansy 5.5-6.5, Snapdragon 5.5-7.0, Zinnia 5.5-7.0, Fox Gloves 5.5-6.5, Cyclamen 5.5-6.5

Plants that prefer very strong acidity, 5.0:

Trees and Shrubs:
Spruce 5.0-6.0, Juniper 5.0-6.0, Blackberry 5.0-6.0, Apple, 5.0-6.5, Serviceberry 5.0-6.0, Fothergilla 5.0-6.0, Magnolia 5.0-6.0

Fruits:
Strawberries 5.5-6.5, Grapes 5.5-7.0

Flowers:
Coneflowers 5.0-7.5, Cosmos 5.0-8.0, Gladiolus 5.0-7.0, Lupine 5.0-6.5

Plants that prefer extremely strong acidity, 4.5:

Trees and Shrubs:
Azalea 4.5-6, Blueberry 4.5-6, Hydrangea-Blue flowered 4.0-5.0, White Pine 4.5-6.0, Rhododendron 4.5-6
Flowers – Lily-of-the-Valley 4.5-6.0

Plants have a range of pH that they will grow in and thrive. Those plants that have very strong and an extremely strong acidic soil needs, may need additional amendments to keep soil pH down.

Changing Soil pH

The best way to improve soil pH is through addition of amendments and adding organic material. To increase acidity add sulfur and to decrease acidity add lime. Add both of these amendments in small stages and increments as to not shock the plant if it’s already planted. Read the instructions on any product you use to properly adjust the pH.

Favorite supplements to adjust the soil pH that will not shock the plants
if used as directed:

Epsoma Soil Acidifer – Organic, Safe, long-lasting, and won’t burn the plants if used as directed. Repeat in 60 day intervals if needed.

Epsoma Berry Tone for Berries – Organic, Good if you need to slightly increase acidity, Use early and late spring, Use on blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, Will help produce bigger plants and more berries.

Adjust Soil pH with Organic Matter

Add any type of compost to your garden beds. This is best to do in the fall since it takes more time to adjust the soil pH using this method but feel free to feed plants with top dressing of compost during the growing season. Reach for compost first when wanting to add nutrients, improving soil aeration, improving water retention, and adjusting pH.

Modifying your soil’s pH will take some time. Depending on the type of soil you are working with, the addition of supplements and organic material may be needed year-after-year.

If you test your soil and notice you’re having troubles with keeping your soil more acidic, don’t fight it! Choose plants that will tolerate more neutral or alkaline soils. There are plenty out there!