Vegetable gardening and vegetable seed buying are at an all time high. The number one crop for home gardeners is still the tomato. Seeds should have been started inside in late winter or early spring and set out about mid-May.If you missed the seed-starting window, buy one of the large plants at your local nursery. Tomatoes grow in pots or in the ground. Pot grown tomatoes tend to ripen earlier because the roots heat up faster and help feed the fruit. Tomato plants like maximum sun, adequate water and vegetable fertilizer every 2 weeks. You’ll be rewarded with a potential salsa explosion.
It IS Your Grandma’s Peony
“Old-fashioned” used to be bad. Now, “old-fashioned” means reliable. You can’t get much more reliable than the peony. Peonies are, hands down, the longest-lived herbaceous perennials. One hundred year old peonies are not uncommon. They improve with age and can thrive with some neglect. Plant a peony. Leave it alone. Throw a little fertilizer and bone meal on it once a year and you have a century of fragrant flowers.
Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
Now is the time mulching pays off.Vegetable gardens and flower gardens are easier to maintain if they have a couple of inches of mulch. Spread a couple of inches of compost, partially composted grass clippings, commercial steer or chicken manure or even layers of newspaper covered with enough other mulching material to keep the newspapers from blowing away. Mulch holds in moisture and holds down weeds, saving water and gardener’s knees.
Hori Hori Knife
The most useful tool in the gardener’s arsenal is the Hori Hori knife. It is an ancient Japanese all purpose knife that gardeners have commandeered for daily backyard chores like weeding, transplanting and root cutting. Japanese garden tools like the Hori Hori were originally farmer’s tools. In the eighth century these farmer’s tools were adapted by Ninjas as weapons of war. And now…they’re back to the garden.
If you’re looking for solid no-nonsense information about vegetable gardening, try one of these basic books. You’ll get enough information to be successful and not feel completely overwhelmed by too many details. You’ll become that annoyingly successful vegetable gardener with too many zucchini.
“Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades: The Complete Guide to Organic Gardening” by Steve Solomon
“How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine” by John Jeavons
“All New Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew
Books and Tools available at The Garden Shop at Lakewold Gardens (253-224-2300), www.gardenshoponline.com
Column reprinted with permission, Premier Media Group, South Sound Magazine, Tacoma, WA