Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ #7: What are some easy-to-grow veggies for containers?

Most garden favorites can be grown in containers as long as they are provided with plenty of soil, good drainage, light, and fertility. It is important to remember that container plants require more regular watering than plants grown in the ground since their roots cannot seek out water by growing deeper. The same goes for nutrients - fertilize at least every two weeks during the growing season. Some varieties have been bred especially for container growing, such as the “Tiny Tim” tomato.  

  • Tomatoes should be grown one plant to a five-gallon bucket or similar container with holes drilled in the sides 2” from the bottom to create a water reservoir. Determinate varieties can use a  small stake, whereas indeterminate varieties need heavy stakes in the ground or screwed to the container.
  • Peppers and eggplants require are least 8 inches of soil, so choose a nice deep container for them. Staking is recommended for plants that produce large fruits.
  • Cukes, squash, and other vines can do very well in containers at least 12” in diameter provided there is plenty of room for their vines. Varieties with smaller fruit can be staked or trellised to save space.
  • Greens such as lettuce and spinach can be grown in containers, but it is more challenging because they prefer cool conditions. Try growing them in a window box where they will be in shade during the hottest part of the day and make sure they get plenty of water.
  • Herbs can very easily be grown in containers (since most are drought-tolerant)  and can be overwintered indoors in a sunny window.

FAQ #3: I'm new to gardening - what's the best use of a 10x12' raised bed?

Decide what you'd like to grow and eat, considering the space requirements and growth habit for each.  Vine veggies like cucumbers and squash can be planted on the periphery to spill out onto a lawn and not crowd the other plants; or they can also be trellised.

Give tomatoes at least 3 square feet, eggplant and peppers 2 square feet.   Also, consider rate of maturity; plant lettuce in one area, then after harvesting, plant beets or herbs. Planting a few edible flowers, such as nasturtium or gem marigold gives the raised bed a flower planter look. For ease of maintenance, make sure space or a path is made to reach all of the plantings.

Plants in a raised bed tend to yield more than plants in the ground because their roots are in lighter soil that is easier to grow in. It is important to only use good quality top soil and compost in the raised bed. The bottom layer can be filled with some rotted horse manure and yard waste like leaves and grass clipping.

Choose varieties that do well in smaller spaces and keep re-using the space once you harvest something.  Small patches of green beans can be replanted multiple times, a small trellis with a few snap peas can be a nice addition that leaves room for summer lettuce or fall broccoli. Just keep in mind that a few plants that are well cared for will yield as much as many plants that are poorly cared for!

FAQ #6: How do I grow asparagus?

The ideal method for growing asparagus is to prepare the area at least one season in advance by tilling and planting a cover crop to suppress weeds. This will help reduce stress on the asparagus plants during their first few years, ensuring a healthier and more vigorous crop. A cover crop turned into the bed also increases the organic matter in the soil which is good for the plants. Since asparagus is a perennial that can last for many years, choose a well-drained site that can be dedicated to asparagus for the foreseeable future.

Asparagus is usually grown by tilling an area and then digging trenches 6-8” deep and 3-5’ apart. The crowns (roots) are placed in the trenches 8” apart for narrow spears and 14” apart for thick spears. Cover the crowns with 1-2” of soil and fertilize heavily with compost or other phosphate-rich fertilizer. Add soil to the trenches three times during the next few weeks until the soil is mounded somewhat to avoid water pooling around the plants. Keep the plants hand-weeded and fertilized until midsummer, then mulch heavily with straw or leaves to suppress weeds. The asparagus “ferns” should be allowed to grow, since they feed the plants, then cut back after they die in the fall. A moderate harvest is usually possible the first year after planting, followed by full harvests every spring thereafter.

Red and black asparagus beetles are nearly always present in summer and can be treated with organic pesticides but are better removed by hand to minimize harm to the plants. Just drop the beetles and larvae into a can of soapy water to kill them. Larvae can also be killed by gently brushing the ferns with a soft broom - they die quickly after falling to the ground.

Although asparagus is not quite as simple to grow as annual crops, it is well worth the effort! Fresh, juicy asparagus spears are unrivaled in texture and flavor.

FAQ #5: Is “days to maturity” on veggie plants from when the seed germinated or transplant date and what may affect the rate of growth?

Days to maturity is from seed germination for direct seeded crops and from transplant time for crops that traditionally transplanted. However,  this determined by seed companies from  averaged seed trials under controlled (and somewhat ideal) conditions.  Normally, there is some variation from the stated maturity date.  As long as plants are healthy, have not been shocked at transplant and have received the right amount of light, temperature, moisture and fertility, plants will grow to maturity  within our growing season. On the plant signs at Red Wagon “days to maturity” indicates the number of days from transplanting to maturity. Seed catalogues also use the days from transplanting if it is a crop that is normally transplanted, such as tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants.

FAQ #4: How do I keep pests (rabbits, deer, slugs, woodchucks, etc.) out of my garden?

Physical and chemical barriers and pesticides are used to control or kill garden pests. The following are some physical methods of control: Rabbits hop, but do not jump, so a 3' chicken wire or hardware cloth fence will work to keep them out. However, woodchucks, moles and voles burrow, so one needs to bury fencing at least 1 1/2 feet underground. Another deterrent to above-ground critters is electrified wire running above ground across gate openings.  There are chemical repellents used on stakes or fencing to keep deer away.  For slugs, use diatomaceous earth around plantings, or trap with beer in pie plates or place a wide wooden plank on the garden surface, and next morning, remove slugs that congregate beneath it.

Try not to locate bird feeders too close to your veggie garden as they attract rodents such as voles, chipmunks and squirrels. Consider a cat as a pet!

FAQ #2: How do I know if a tomato is determinate or indeterminate? How do I support my tomatoes? Can I grow them in containers?

A determinate tomato is a type of tomato that has all of its fruit ripen at once. They usually grow to about 4 to 5 feet tall, and then stop growing while they spend all of their energy on fruit production. They are great for canning since they ensure you have a large harvest all at once. They can be grown without staking, but the fruit quality will be better if cages, stakes or a small trellis are used.  Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing until they succumb to frost or a disease. In a warm climate, they are actually perennials and can grow into trees. Indeterminates ripen all season long and give you a more sequential harvest with one or two tomatoes ripening a day during peak harvest.

In general, space tomato plants at least 2' apart, preferably 3' or more apart.  Support both kinds; pea fences or hardwood stakes work nicely on determinates; indeterminates keep growing up and out and need more support, such as hardwood stakes positioned so that as the tomatoes grow, trellising can be added with hemp twine.

Check out this video to see a method we like for trellising tomatoes:

Weaving Tomatoes

Round tomato cages are great for peppers and eggplants.  One of our customers designed a portable one-tomato planter with a five gallon bucket, drilled 3 holes about 2 inches from the bottom for a water reservoir, and screwed two hardwood stakes to opposite sides of the bucket for plant support.

FAQ #1 - Late Blight on Tomatoes and Potatoes

1. Can I do something to avoid the tomato blight (early and/or late season) and what should I do if my tomatoes (or potatoes) are infected?

For tomatoes, try growing blight resistant varieties and space plants 30" to 36" apart for good air circulation. Destroy infected plants ASAP to limit spread of the disease which needs living tissue to survive - plants should go into trash bags and taken to a land fill - not the compost pile. Organic treatment requires that a copper fungicide be applied before the disease appears and every 5-7 days in persistent wet weather.

Each year, plant breeders come out with varieties that are more resilient to blight. Of the varieties we grow, we recommend Juliet and San Marzano Gigante III. They both seem to have naturally occuring resistance to the disease.

For potatoes,  try planting potatoes in hills, rather than trenches for better air flow around foliage, and cut off infected leaves on a hot, dry day before the blight moves to the stem. Wait 2 or 3 weeks to dig tubers to reduce the chance for spores in the soil from infected foliage and in potentially nicked tubers. Also, make sure that you are buying potato seed that is certified disease free and comes from a reputable source.

Thanks to Ann Hazelrigg, Plant Pathologist, UVM Extension,  above adapted from "2011- Late Blight Reappears in Vermont".

Websites: for disease ID and webinar. to submit samples for LB confirmation for info on fungicides labeled for late blight control

New Plants for the 2012 Line Up

We have been busy at work with ordering seeds, deciding on what plants to grow for the coming year, and which ones to discontinue. We usually add about 10% new varieties each year - enough to keep it interesting, but not so much that we risk having bad inventory or unwanted expenses for a plant no one loves. This is really, really hard since the seed catalogs and plug listings each year show more and more varieties that look tempting. Not to mention the world of heirloom seeds which is so vast and so alluringly historic and charming. If the pressures of pleasing customers and breaking even were eliminated, I would probably have the type of nursery where every plant has a sign that is 12" x 12" with lots of text describing some arcane knowledge about how the variety was bred or discovered, how it was cooked in 15th century Sicily and  how it came to be a Red Wagon variety. My winter job at Red Wagon is part business manager, part HR department, and part curator. Guess which is my favorite. Take a look at the list of new plants and give us some feedback. Our favorite new variety is the kind that comes by way of a customer recommendation, so you get a vote in this process.

Happy garden planning, and check out the rest of the website for the complete plant list, we are updating it this week,


Plant Category Genus Variety or Cultivar
Annuals African Foxglove Ceratotheca triloba
Annuals Amaranth Oeschberg
Annuals Angelonia Adessa White
Annuals Balsam Impatiens Balsamina
Annuals Begonia, Tuberous Illumination Peaches and Cream
Annuals Begonia, Tuberous Non-Stop, Bright Rose
Annuals Begonia, Tuberous Pin Up Flame
Annuals Browalia Endless Flirtation
Annuals Browalia Endless Illumination
Annuals Calibrachoa Saffron
Annuals Calibrachoa Superbells Dreamsicle
Annuals Calibrachoa Superbells Peach
Annuals Calibrachoa Superbells Trailing White
Annuals Calibrachoa Tequilla Sunrise Improved
Annuals Calibrachoa Yellow
Annuals California Poppy Milkmaid
Annuals Celosia Chief Mixed Cockscomb
Annuals Celosia Cramers’ Amazon
Annuals Coleus Amora
Annuals Coleus Big Red Judy
Annuals Coleus Fishnet Stockings
Annuals coleus Glennis
Annuals Coleus Sedona
Annuals coleus Wedding Train
Annuals Cosmos Cosmic  Orange
Annuals Cosmos Cosmic Mix
Annuals Cosmos Cosmic Red
Annuals Cosmos New Choco
Annuals Cosmos Sonata Dwarf Mix
Annuals Cosmos Sonata White
Annuals Dahlia Happy Days Cream
Annuals Dahlia Happy Days Pink
Annuals Dahlia Happy Days Purple
Annuals Dahlia Happy Mystic enchantment
Annuals Dahlia Mystic Haze
Annuals Dahlia Mystic Wonder
Annuals Dahlia Salvador
Annuals Dusty Miller Silver Lace
Annuals Euphorbia Mountain Snow
Annuals Exclusively  Echeveriaa Collection
Annuals Fern Montana
Annuals Fern Collection
Annuals Floering Cabbage Osaka Mix
Annuals Four Oclock Marvel of Peru
Annuals Gaura lindiheimeri Whirling Butterflies
Annuals Gazania New Day Mix
Annuals Geranium Firestar Purple
Annuals Geranium Firestar Salmon
Annuals Geranium, Ivy Mini Cascade Red
Annuals Geranium, Ivy Sunflair Fireball
Annuals Geranium, Ivy Sunflair Neon Pink
Annuals Geranium, Ivy Sybil Holmes
Annuals Geranium, Ivy Vancouver Centennial
Annuals Geranium, Scented Lemon Fizz
Annuals Geranium, Scented P. querquifolia
Annuals Geranium, Scented Sweet Mimosa
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Brocade Happy Thoughts Red
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Brocade, Mrs Pollock
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Candy Fantasy Kiss
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Madame Salleron
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Patriot Cherry Rose
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Patriot Lavender Blue
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Patriot Salmon Chic
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Pillar Purple
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Rocky Mountain Lavender
Annuals Geranium, Zonal Rocky Mountain Magenta
Annuals Gomphrena QIS Formula Mix
Annuals Hedera Golden Child
Annuals Hedera White Mein Hertz
Annuals Hypoestes Splash Rose Select
Annuals Impatiens Super Elfin Salmon Splash
Annuals Impatiens Super Elfin XP pink
Annuals Ipomoea Desana Bronze
Annuals Juncus Blue Arrows
Annuals Juncus spiralis Unicorn
Annuals Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate
Annuals Lantana Evita Rose
Annuals Lantana Bandana Cherry Sunrise
Annuals Lantana Bandana Rose Improved
Annuals Lantana - bandana Peach
Annuals Larkspur Sublime Formula Mix
Annuals Leycesteria Jealousy
Annuals Licorice Lemon
Annuals Lisianthus Echo Lavender
Annuals Lisianthus Echo Pink
Annuals Lobularia Silver Stream
Annuals Marigold Antigua Orange
Annuals Marigold Antigua Yellow
Annuals Marigold French Janie Primrose Yellow
Annuals Marigold French Single Marietta
Annuals Marigold, French Durango Tangerine
Annuals Melampodium Derby
Annuals Morning Glory Grandpa Ott’s
Annuals Morning Glory Moonflower
Annuals Nasturtium Trailing
Annuals Nemesia Angelart Almond
Annuals Nemesia Angelart Pineapple
Annuals Ornamental Corn Field of Dreams
Annuals Ornamental Millet Purple Majesty
Annuals Osteospermum 3-D Silver
Annuals Osteospermum Astra Orange Sunrise
Annuals Osteospermum Cape Daisy Fireburst
Annuals Osteospermum Cape Daisy Purple
Annuals Osteospermum Sunset Orange
Annuals Osteospermum Zion Copper Amethyst
Annuals Oxalis Allure Burgundy
Annuals oxalis triangularis Charmed Velvet
Annuals oxalis triangularis Charmed WIne
Annuals Pansy Delta Mix Buttered Popcorn
Annuals Pansy Delta Premium True Blue
Annuals Pansy Freefall Golden Yellow
Annuals Pansy Matrix Sangria
Annuals Pansy Panola XP Mix baby Boy
Annuals Pansy Panola XP Mix Blackberry Sundae
Annuals Pansy Panola XP Mix Citrus
Annuals Pansy Ultima Blue Chill
Annuals Pansy Ultima Morpho
Annuals Petunia Bouquet Salmon
Annuals Petunia Littletunia Sweet Sherbert
Annuals Petunia Mini Strawberry pink veined
Annuals Petunia Whispers Star Rose
Annuals Petunia Cascadias Cherry Spark
Annuals Petunia Littletunia Sweet Dark Pink
Annuals petunia multiflora prostrate Easy Wave Plum Vein
Annuals Petunia multiflora prostrate Easy Wave White
Annuals Poppy White Linen
Annuals Portulaca Happy Hour Mix
Annuals Portulaca Sundial Chiffon
Annuals Portulaca Sundial Mix
Annuals Portulaca Sundial Pink
Annuals Rudbeckia Autumn Colors
Annuals Rudbeckia Cherokee Sunset
Annuals Rudbeckia Prairie Sun
Annuals Rudbeckia Denver Daisy
Annuals Salvia farinacea Victoria Blue
Annuals Sanvitalia Cuzco Yellow
Annuals Scabiosa Black Knight
Annuals Snapdragon Montego Mix Sangria
Annuals Snapdragon Rocket Mix
Annuals Snapdragon Rocket White
Annuals Spectacular Succulent Collection
Annuals Sunflower Sunny Smile
Annuals Sweet Potato Vine Bright Ideas Rusty Red
Annuals Thunbergia Arizona Dark Red
Annuals Thunbergia Lemon
Annuals Thunbergia Orange
Annuals Thunbergia Sunny Suzie Yellow Dark Eye
Annuals Thunbergia Sunny Suzy Red Orange
Annuals TRIXI COMBO Ayers Rock
Annuals TRIXI COMBO Caribean Cocktail
Annuals TRIXI COMBO Gold and Bold
Annuals TRIXI COMBO Lemon Sorbet
Annuals TRIXI COMBO Lollipop
Annuals TRIXI COMBO Sunrise
Annuals Verbena Chambray Royal superbena
Annuals Verbena Estrella Salmon Star
Annuals Verbena Lanai Twister pink
Annuals Verbena Royal Peachy Keen
Annuals Verbena Tukana Scarlet star
Annuals Viola Penny Orchid Frost
Annuals Zinnia Dreamland Mix
Annuals Zinnia Dreamland Red
Annuals Zinnia Sunbow Mix
Annuals Zinnia White
Eggplants Globe Rosa Bianca
Ferns Matteuccia struthiopteris Ostrich Fern
Foliage Alternanthera Brazilian Red Hot
Foliage Alternanthera Red Thread
Foliage German Ivy Green
Foliage Muehlenbeckia Wire Vine
Foliage Setcreasea Purple Queen
Herbs Basil Amethyst Improved
Herbs Basil Sacred, Tulsi
Herbs Basil Sweet Genovese, Aroma II
Herbs Basil Sweet Genovese, Aton
Herbs Bee Balm Wild Bergamot
Herbs Epazote
Herbs Feverfew
Herbs Flax
Herbs French Sorrel
Herbs Lavender Fern Leaf
Herbs Lemongrass West Indian
Herbs Mint Emerald and Gold
Herbs Oregano Mexican Lippia
Herbs Papalo
Herbs Red Shiso Britton
Herbs Red Shiso
Herbs Rosemary Prostrate
Herbs Sage White
Herbs Thyme Lime Golden
Herbs Thyme Orange
Herbs Thyme Wooly
Herbs Zaatar Marjoram
Peppers Hot Fish
Peppers Ornamental Hot Pepper Chilly Chilly
Peppers Sweet Pepperoncino
Peppers Sweet Round of Hungary
Peppers Sweet Sweet Banana Pepper
Perennial Adenophora Amethyst
Perennial Alchemilla Lady’s Mantle
Perennial Sedum Blue Spruce
Perennial Sedum Floriferum
Perennial Sedum Oracle
Perennial Sedum Picolette
Perennial Sedum Voodoo
Perennial Thyme Wooly
Perennials Achillea Pretty Belinda
Perennials Achillea Saucy Seduction
Perennials Achillea Strawberry Seduction
Perennials Achillea Sunny Seduction
Perennials Achillea millefolium Colorado
Perennials Acorus ‘Ogon’
Perennials ajuga Dixie Chip
Perennials Alcea rosea Chaters Double Purple
Perennials Alchemilla Molis Lady’s Mantle
Perennials Anemone sylvestris
Perennials Aquigelia Cameo Rose and White
Perennials Aquigelia Origami Mix
Perennials Artemesia Silver Brocade
Perennials Astilbe Delft Lace
Perennials Astilbe Deutschland
Perennials Astilbe Fanal
Perennials Baptisia Solar Flare Prairie Blues
Perennials Bellis Daisy Bellissima Rose
Perennials Bergenia cordifolia ‘Winter Glow’
Perennials Campanula glomerata ‘Freya’
Perennials Centranthus Cocineus
Perennials Chrysanthemum Samba
Perennials Coreopsis verticullata Early Sunrise
Perennials corydalis sempervirens
Perennials Delphinium Magic Fountains Dark Blue w Dark Bee
Perennials Delphinium Magic Fountains Sky Blue w White Base
Perennials dianthus Pomegranate Kiss
Perennials dianthus Zing Rose
Perennials Dicentra Gold Heart
Perennials Echinacea Harvest Moon
Perennials Echinacea PowWow Wild Berry
Perennials Echinacea Sundown
Perennials Eupatorium dubium ‘little joe’
Perennials Fern Barne’s Male
Perennials Gaillardia aristata Arizona Sun
Perennials geranium Rozanne
Perennials Geranium cantabrigiense ‘Bergarten’
Perennials Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Album’
Perennials Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’
Perennials Guara Pink Fountain
Perennials Helleborus Pink Parachutes
Perennials Hemerocallis Alabama Jubilee daylily
Perennials Hemerocallis Always Afternoon
Perennials Heuchera ‘Snow Angel’
Perennials Heuchera Obsidian
Perennials Heuchera Plum Pudding
Perennials Heuchera Raspberry Regal
Perennials Heuchera Silver Scrolls
Perennials Hibiscus Luna Red
Perennials Iberis sempervivens Snowflake
Perennials Iris ‘Before the Storm’
Perennials Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’
Perennials Iris sibirica Pink Haze
Perennials Joe Pye Weed
Perennials Juncus effusus ssp. Twister
Perennials laminum Beacon Silver
Perennials Lamium Orchid Frost
Perennials Lamium maculatum Beacon Silver
perennials Lathyrus latifolia Perennial sweet pea
Perennials Liatris Floristan White
Perennials Ligularia dentata Britt-Marie Crawford
Perennials Ligularia dentata Little Rocket
Perennials Lychnis arkwrightii Orange Gnome
Perennials Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’
Perennials monarda Petite Delight
Perennials monarda Purple Rooster
Perennials monarda Raspberry Wine
Perennials monarda didyma Jacob Cline
Perennials myosotis sylvatica Royal Blue Carpet
Perennials paeonia Duchess de Nemours
Perennials paeonia Felix Crousse
Perennials Papaver Flamenco Dancer
Perennials Penstemon digitalis Dark Towers
Perennials Perovskia Longin
Perennials Persicaria Darjeeling Red
Perennials Phlox glabberima ‘Morris Red’
Perennials Phlox paniculata David
Perennials Phlox paniculata David’s Lavender
Perennials Phlox paniculata Flame series purple ‘Barfourteen’
Perennials Physostegia Pink Manners
perennials Physostegia virginiana Alba
Perennials Phystostegia Crown of Snow
Perennials Primula Ronsdorf Strain
Perennials Salvia Caradonna
Perennials Salvia Sweet 16
Perennials Scabiosa Beaujolais Bonnets
Perennials Scabiosa Vivid Violet
Perennials Sedum Autumn FIre
Perennials Sedum Matrona
Perennials Sedum Neon
Perennials sedum kamtschaticum
Perennials sedum sieboldii
Perennials Sedum spurium Summer Glory
Perennials Tanacetum Robinsons Red
Perennials Tiarella ‘Delaware’
Perennials Tiarella ‘Lace Carpet’
Perennials Tiarella ‘Susquehanna’
Perennials Trollius chinensis Golden Queen
Perennials Veronica Giles van Hees
Perennials Viola Labradorica
Perennials Viola Striata
Perennials Salvia aregentea Artemis
Shrub Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer
Shrub Hydrangea paniculata Limelight
Shrub Amelanchier Autumn Brilliance Service Berry
Shrub Ilex verticulata Southern Gentleman
Shrub Ilex verticulata Winter Red
Shrub Viburnum Trilobum Alfredo
Small Fruit Blackberry Black Satin
Small Fruit Gooseberry Titan
Small Fruit Strawberry Jewel
Small Fruit Strawberry Sparkle
Tomatoes Cherry Gold Nugget
Tomatoes Cherry Green Envy
Tomatoes Cherry Isis Candy
Tomatoes Cherry Lizzano
Tomatoes Cherry Sweet Treats
Tomatoes Cherry Terenzo
Tomatoes Cherry Sweet Black Cherry
Tomatoes Container Red Husky (Patio)
Tomatoes Determinate Orange Blossom
Tomatoes Determinate Oregon Spring
Tomatoes Heirloom Black Prince
Tomatoes Heirloom Cosmonaut Volkov
Tomatoes Heirloom Costoluto Genovese
Tomatoes Heirloom Dona
Tomatoes Heirloom Earl of Edgecombe
Tomatoes Heirloom Paul Robeson
Tomatoes Heirloom Pineapple
Tomatoes Heirloom Wapsipinicon Peach
Tomatoes Hybrid Brandymaster Yellow
Tomatoes Hybrid Park’s Whopper
Tomatoes Paste Amish Gold
Tomatoes Plum San Marzano gigante III
Vegetables cantaloupe Sarah’s Choice
Vegetables Cantaloupe, French Charentais Savor
Vegetables Italian Dandelion Clio Chicory
Vegetables Lettuce Mottistone
Vegetables Lettuce Nevada Summer Crisp
Vegetables Lettuce Red Batavian Cherokee
Vegetables Lettuce Red Cross - Red Butterhead
Vegetables Lettuce Red Oak Paradai
Vegetables Mei Qing Choi (Baby Boc Choi) Boc Choi
Vegetables Mustard Greens Ruby Streaks
Vegetables Okra Millionaire
Vegetables Onion Mini Purplette
Vegetables Onion Redwing
Vegetables Radicchio Virtus
Vegetables Summer Squash Magda
Vegetables Vertus Radicchio
Vegetables watermelon Sunshine



What Can I Plant for a Little Early Color Around the House?

It's been a pretty cold spring in Vermont this year. I cannot remember a spring like this in recent memory, with night temperatures dipping into the twenties in mid-April and day time temperatures hovering in the low 40's. Many of our customers are ready for some color around the house, and it's still not safe to put out hanging baskets, or most annuals for that matter.

What I suggest for early spring containers is a selection of cold hardy plants, especially the ones that seem unusual in containers, but will feed the need for signs of life around the yard!

The following plants are just great for a year like this and look really cute mixed together.

  • Violas and pansies
  • Allysum
  • Cold hardy herbs such as parsley, chervil, mint (ginger mint cascades down the side of the container), cilantro, dill. The textures and different greens at dimension to the arrangements. Plus you can snip at them and bring them into the kitchen for some spring time flavor boosts.
  • Colorful kales such as Redbor and Red Russian.
  • Fennel - the bulb kind or the bronze herb kind
  • Lettuces - especially the green oak, red oak, and cherokee red batavian
  • Frisee endive - it has a lovely frilled edge, and an unusual lime green color.

The beauty of this kind of planter is that it is multi-purpose. The violas and pansies and their "companion" foliage are all edible. What a nice gift for someone special, or a treat for yourself to celebrate the slow unfurling of spring.

Enter at Your Own Risk: DIY Wedding Flowers. Part 1

Last summer, I must have helped at least half a dozen customers who were looking for some help in planting a garden specifically for home-grown wedding flowers. I often warn people that growing for a specific date is fairly technical and requires weekly plantings, regular harvesting all summer long to keep the plants blooming until the event, and most of all, a very flexible attitude. People who have a specific color scheme or variety in mind are not always good candidates for home grown wedding flowers since those types of flowers may be very hard to grow and getting the right color on the right day means planting about 10 times more than you think you will need in hopes that one of the plantings will be just perfect on the correct day. For those who are planning an event and are willing to look at the flowers as a fun and flexible component, then growing your own is a great option. I have listed below some varieties that are particularly well suite to a DIY flower program.  Full disclosure: I have talked about as many people out of growing their own wedding flowers as I have talked into doing it. It really is not a good fit for everyone, but for those who are willing and able, here is a little help to get you started....


Verbena bonariensis - reliable and a lovely purple bloom with long wiry stems that hold up well to handling and mixing into all kinds of arrangements. Zinnias - come in all shapes and colors, are best suited for August or later. Require deadheading all summer long, but will branch out and be very productive once well established. Sunflowers - there are lots of sunflower varieties that are designed specifically for cut flowers. Some of our favorites are Giant Sungold Teddy Bear, Sunbright Supreme and Soraya. The only tricky thing is getting the timing just right. They only are perfect to harvest for about 10 days, after that their single blossoms start to drop their petals. Ageratum - blue,  can be tall if planted correctly - a little closer together. Needs deadheading all summer long if you are planning for a late summer or fall event. Very productive if well established and well taken care of. Agrostemma has a lovely, floating quality that gives a lot of life to mixed bouquets. It's airy and delicate, comes in purple or white and produces lots of good, long stems all summer long. Again, needs constant picking and deadheading to produce all summer long.

Ammi - this is a beautiful filler in mixed bouquets or in all-white arrangements. Easy to grow from transplants and produces, nice, tall stems.

Cosmos - come in a variety of textures and lengths, best suited for mid-August or later. While they are beautiful, they do take up a lot of room for not always a lot of stems.

Snapdragons - another multi-colored option or can also be grown as strains of single colors. We offer many options of snapdragons. The stems can sometimes be a little short, but with good fertility and 6" spacing, they will grow straight and tall.

Celosias - come in many shapes, sizes or colors. These are a hardy, easy to grow and more forgiving than others. And they can be dried for long-term keep sakes.

All of these annuals will give you a good place from which to start. Do-it-yourself flowers can always be supplemented with florist purchases the week of the event  if the budget allows it. We will cover more on home grown flowers in subsequent posts, so if this peaks your interest, please stay tuned. Part two will be about which perennials are easy to grow and use for cut flowers. Part Three will be about different tactics to make your cutting garden as prolific as possible.

Impatient Tomato Tastings

The first tomatoes of the season are always a bit of an anti-climax. We wait all year for the fruit to come out of the back yard as opposed to some distant clime, and then take a bite. It's not as sweet as the memory, not as drippingly hot and gushy as the movie running through my brain. The first tomatoes aren't the best ones. That is all there is to it. I tend to pick them a little early, eager for a bite and am met with a disappointing crunch when there should be a mush. In a week or two, I won't be so impatient, the vines will be dripping with ripe fruit, and I will eat them three meals a day, going from scarcity to abundance in a flash. Soon, every slice of bread will be adorned with a smear of mayo (the junky kind, not the healthy kind. Sorry) a thick, red, juicy slice of tomato and a sprinkle of good salt. This will be all I eat for a while. I know it's coming. But for now, I decided to document the earlier tomatoes and taste them, giving them a ritualistic importance of sorts. I try to put blinders on in the face of their slight un-ripeneness and photograph them, carefully laid out on the counter. Soon there will be baskets of tomatoes, heaping, unnamed and tangled together. But for now. We will carefully label, taste, and report. Here goes.

Pink Beauty is just an iconic tomato - it always perfectly shaped, blemish free and has an almost electric dark pink hue. The Purple Russians tend to crack a little, but nothing too detrimental (their good sides are showing for the photo shoot). The Juliet, as many of you know, is my favorite all-around tomato. It has huge yields of oval fruit that are great raw, for snacking, salads, sandwiches, and salsa (not too watery); but the real charm is that they work really well as a cooked sauce tomato too. The Viva Italia is a very pretty paste tomato - early and blemish free and very disease resistant. The Glacier is an heirloom, super early, does well in very cold climates (Huntington, Lincoln, Ripton - no problem), and is the one tomato you will be eating weeks before others ripen.

We tried them all, carefully slicing, chewing, thinking.....

All were slightly under-ripe and slightly lacked that "I've been baking in the hot sun" flavor and texture. We have had some rain the past couple of days, and the flavor is affected by that. But they were good - not middle of August good, but good. The Pink Beauty has a really nice balance of sweet and acid flavors, a slippery, silky texture and makes beautiful shiny slices.

The Purple Russian was a winner, flavor wise and texture wise. It is juicy, especially for a paste tomato, and has the most buttery complex taste that lingers on the tongue and leaves me wanting more. The plants are nothing pretty - they always look shaggy and stringy somehow, so I have never gotten too excited about putting them in my garden, but customers rave about them, and now I know why. Sweet, unctuous and complex. A new favorite and you will hear me raving about this one in the greenhouse next year. It would be perfect raw or cooked, and I am sure any sauce made from these would be a deep purple red color.

The Juliets were a little bland compared to the first two, but still full of good, bright flavor - lively on the tongue and a nice meaty texture.

Viva Italia were lacking in distinctive flavor (a little too acidic for my taste), but in all fairness,  they are much nicer when cooked. We will have to do another taste test with just paste tomatoes, cooked simply in some olive oil and lightly salted.

The Glacier is cute as a button: plump little orbs, slightly mis-shapen and full humble darlingness. The flavor is great for an early tomato - they are a little bigger than a cherry tomato, can be sliced for salads or sandwiches or cooked down for a quick sauce. They tend to ripen 3 or 4 at a time, a nice feature since they are so small and just one of them won't take you far. I would put this at the top of the list for early tomatoes. But if you only have room for a couple of plants, there could be some better choices.

I would love to hear what you are loving or not loving in your tomato selections. Any varieties you want to recommend for next year? Any you think should be discontinued? Let us know. And we love pictures! I will do this taste test again, later, when the plants are loaded and the fruit is at peak flavor!

Planning for a Full Harvest all Season Long

Growing vegetables in your backyard, community garden or in some containers by the kitchen door is a great way to feed yourself -- whether it be just a few ripe tomatoes in August or a full fledged homesteaders garden, you are on the right path to feeding yourself and your family.  Gardening is a great way to improve how you eat while spending some contemplative time outside. With all of these benefits in mind, it is easy to jump into gardening enthusiastically, and you will reap even more rewards with a little bit of planning. In Vermont, our gardening season seems short but can be stretched year round with a few simple tips.  I always recommend that people take a look at how their vegetable gardens have been in the past and find just one or two things they would like to improve so that they can grow more of it for a longer season.  For example a common questions I hear is "how can I keep cilantro from bolting?"  Well, in short, you can't! But with a few changes in your gardening practices, you can grow it all spring, summer, and fall without ever seeing it go to seed.  The trick is to understand the life cycle of each food crop and how to best plant it to maximize it's harvest.  With certain crops, like zucchini, it is best to understand how prolific they are and to plant them conservatively so that the entire garden (and thereby your diet and your neighbors' diet) is not taken over with just one thing.  It is also helpful to plant things seasonally so that the harvest is not so overwhelming in August with little to eat before or after. Succession Planting for Successful Gardening Certain crops should be planted multiple times throughout the season to ensure a continuous harvest.  How often you plant is a matter of taste and space and time. The following list describes the maximum you could do with each crop, but adjust according to your needs and priorities -- this is just a guide.

Lettuce can be planted from seed or from transplants.  Seed grown lettuce is often grown in a row that can be cut and will re-grow a few times.  Transplanted lettuce can be grown for full heads like what you find in the store.  Both methods require regular planting every week or two for a continuous harvest.  It can be planted from seed in mid-April to mid-August for cut greens and transplanted for full heads from late April through early August.  Some people will transplant a few plants and plant some seeds at the same time in a different area; this method provides two generations of lettuce.  Once the cut lettuce becomes bitter in the heat of summer, it is best to pull it up, recondition the soil and plant something else.  If the goal is to always have fresh lettuce and it is very simple to do if you remember to replant.

Cilantro is very similar to lettuce in its growing habits.  It will grow up to a point and then goes to seed, or bolts.  It i will bolt more quickly in summer heat and, conversely, will stand ready to harvest for many weeks in the cool weather of spring and fall--even early winter.  It can be transplanted or grown from seed.  Like lettuce, it is simple to do both at the same time, thereby giving the gardener two generations.  Cilantro seed is coriander, so it does have a use if you enjoy that flavor.

Dill can be treated just like cilantro, and like coriander seed, dill seed heads have a use in the kitchen, so it is fine to let some of the dill patch go to seed.

Basil can be planted multiple times for best results.  Plants can be pinched to slow down the flowering, but best flavor will come from newly replanted basil plants.  Heat loving. Should only be planted once soil temps are in the upper 50's.

Cucumbers, cantaloupes, and zucchini and summer squash are best in quality when well tended. Just a single plant or two of any of those is usually enough for the home gardener, but by planting it three different times, the quality will always be good. The dates are: June 1st (or last week in May if you are in a warm spot), July 1st and July 15th.  This method will ensure a continuous harvest of prime looking vegetables.  Just remember to pull out and discard the pest and disease prone plants.  If your compost gets very hot and is well managed, it is okay to compost these plants.  Pest problems will diminish when the older, less healthy plants are removed.

Arugula, Cress, and other cutting greens for salads are best if sown or transplanted on a weekly or biweekly basis.  Again, a small amount can be seeded next to the transplanted crops in order to give you 2 generations at once.  This way you can have smaller quantities coming in at various times. Broccoli gives the gardener a couple of options.  It is best if transplanted and can be planted 3 dates in the spring and 3 dates in late summer for a continuous harvest.  I would choose late April, early May and mid May for the spring plantings and then Early August, mid August and early September for the fall plantings.  Full heads can be harvested and the plants can stay in the ground to produce side shoots. Green Beans -- are best when fresh and young.  The seed is relatively cheap, so it is better to rip out old plants and have new ones coming along regularly.  Having multiple plantings also means that no on is stuck picking beans for ours on end.  Sow new seeds when the previous or first generation is about 6 inches high.

Boc Choi, Cabbage, Scallions, Cauliflower -- these can also be planted multiple times.  Cabbage holds well in heat and can be planted every couple of weeks late April through early August.  Boc Choi and Cauliflower are not as heat tolerant and should be planted around the same dates as broccoli (see above). It is best to use row cover like reemay on these young transplants so that flea beetles do not destroy the plants. Spinach is another one that does not do well in the heat, but can be planted multiple times in spring and late summer.  It can also overwinter with a little straw mulch for very early spring eating.  Date to plant are (up to every week) mid April to early June and then early August to mid September. The last plantings in September are the ones which will be over-wintered and eaten the following spring.

Beets, Carrots, Turnips can be planted every two or three weeks from mid-April until about the third week in July.  Summer carrots are not the same as fall carrots and certain varieties do better in summer than in fall. Celery and Celeriac are slower growing and can be planted 2 to 3 times during the season.  Mid May until early July.  These need lots of water and benefit from straw mulch.

Bulb fennel and radishes are similar to lettuce -- they can be planted each week if really loved, but they bolt in the heat and do best in cooler temperatures of spring and fall.  Best if planted late April to early June and then again late August to mid September.  Very cold tolerant and hold well in late fall,  radishes are sown from seeds and fennel is best transplanted. Corn -- it is possible to do multiple plantings over different weeks, but an easier method is to plant all at once, but with various varieties that have different days to maturity.  There can be a 40 day span between early and late varieties. Peas -- can be planted every week, but this requires a lot of harvesting, irrigating, trellising, and variety research.  It is possible though.  More practically, the home gardener can sow 2 or 3 varieties in late April with various days to maturity.  Fall plantings are sometimes successful but weather dependent. These should be done in mid August.

The following are generally planted just once a year, but the harvest can be staggered with a few tricks: Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant -- try a few varieties of each in order to not have everything at once.  Determinate tomatoes will provide you with a big harvest all at once which is a good thing for people who make big batches of sauce for canning or freezing.

Onions and Potatoes are generally planted all at once, and again a few different varieties will provide you with a longer period of fresh eating.  Both onions and potatoes can be stored for long periods of time in cool and dark conditions.  Both can also be eaten fresh. Winter Squash is another crop that is just planted once and stored.  Best if cured for a week or two in a warm spot before eating.

The Autumn Garden: Time to Gather and Restore

With these colder days also come a chance to produce a few more late season greens in the vegetable garden. These include lettuce, kale, parsley cilantro, arugula, mustard greens and spinach. Here is a simple system that can be followed by anyone wishing to extend the fall and winter harvest.

Don't Fear Frost! Extending Your Growing Season

Here in Vermont, we can count on just a few frost-free months. But with a little bit of planning, strategic planting, and getting the right tools, you can harvest through a bit of frost and snow. But by planning out crop planting so that crops are mature before the short days and cold weather hits, you can then protect them and harvest them well into winter.

Row covers such as reemay are usually used with hoops made of #9 gauge wire so that the fabric does not rest right on the plants. These covers breath and come in various weights. They allow light and water in, but raise the temperature of the soil and air inside the cover.

Cold frames are simple boxes that are filled with good quality soil and are covered with windows (called "lights") or clear plexiglass or sometimes plastic. They are used for season extension, plant protection, as mini-greenhouses, and as a place to overwinter tender perennials. The covers are closed at night and opened on sunny days. Lettuce, spinach, hardy greens, and herbs can be grown most of the winter in a hot bed with a south facing light. "Hot beds" are deep cold frames that hold a thick layer of manure below the soil. As the manure decomposes, it lets out a tremendous amount of heat which keeps the frame very warm at night even in the winter. Cold frames can be made out of wood, straw, stone, concrete with old storm windows on hinges. The windows must be small enough that they can be opened and closed easily by raising them up and propping them with a stick.

Straw mulch is a great way to extend the season for vegetables such as kale, spinach, carrots, beets and other root crops. Once the crops are matured, a very thick layer of straw around the base of the plants will keep the ground from freezing so that the roots may still be harvested. The straw also keeps the top of the crops from freezing in extreme temperatures. Spinach can be overwintered under straw so that an early spring crop can be eaten. Kale lasts well into winter and is also helped by a deep straw layer so that the cold wind does not completely dessicate the leaves.

Every home garden has microclimates. It is a good idea to take advantage of these when planning the fall garden. A south-facing foundation wall is a great place to prep a small area for greens and herbs that will be well sheltered from cold, northern winds. It's a good place to situate a cold frame as well and to plant it with radishes, greens, and other crops that will benefit from the micro climate.

Containers are another great way to extend the season. Herbs, greens and lettuces can be planted in pots, apple crates, milk crates, or window boxes and moved inside when the weather gets too cold. While they might not last all winter long, they will certainly give you some fresh eating for a few months longer...all you need is a sunny spot or some simple grow lights. Thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage all do well in containers in the home and will last all winter. Kale and lettuce will last up to 5 or 6 weeks longer than they would outdoors.

Photograph by One Green Generation . Creative Commons license.