Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

210 Mid-Summer Tomato Planting Tips. Parsnips. Sleep, Creep, Leap!

July 12, 2022 Fred Hoffman Season 3 Episode 210
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
210 Mid-Summer Tomato Planting Tips. Parsnips. Sleep, Creep, Leap!
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Yes, it is the second week of July, but it’s not too late to plant tomatoes, especially early maturing varieties in large containers. America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture Professor, Debbie Flower, has the mid-summer tomato planting tips.

And mid-July is not too early to think about getting ready for your fall garden. Maybe try something different this year, something that could spend the winter in the ground, and actually end up sweeter and better tasting. We’re talking about an old American and European fall planted root crop that is regaining popularity, the parsnip.

Everyone wants things faster: faster internet, faster drive thru restaurants, faster maturing plants. Ha! You can’t rush Mother Nature. Give that plant at least 3 years to get growing. We explain the time honored garden saying: sleep, creep, leap.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!

Previous episodes, links, product information, and transcripts at the new home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, GardenBasics.net. Transcripts and episode chapters also available at Buzzsprout

Pictured: Tomato in container

 Links:
Subscribe to the free, Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter https://gardenbasics.substack.com
Smart Pots https://smartpots.com/fred/
Dave Wilson Nursery https://www.davewilson.com/home-garden/

FF Rant Fast Maturing Tomato Varieties (Also Winter Tomatoes)
Growing Parsnips
GrowingWithPlants.com
Book: “Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening” by Matt Mattus

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GB 210  TRANSCRIPT Summer Tomatoes, Parsnips, Sleep-Creep-Leap

Farmer Fred  0:00  

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. it's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.


Farmer Fred  0:32  

Yes, it is the second week of July, but it’s not too late to plant tomatoes, especially early maturing varieties in large containers. America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture Professor, Debbie Flower, has the mid-summer tomato planting tips. 

And mid-July is not too early to think about getting ready for your fall garden. Maybe try something different this year, something that could spend the winter in the ground, and actually end up sweeter and better tasting. We’re talking about an old American and European fall planted root crop that is regaining popularity, the parsnip. 

Everyone wants things faster: faster internet, faster drive thru restaurants, faster maturing plants. Ha! You can’t rush Mother Nature. Give that plant at least 3 years to get growing. We explain the time honored garden saying: sleep, creep, leap.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!


Tips for Planting Tomatoes in Mid-Summer


Farmer Fred  2:55  

We like to answer your garden questions here on the Garden Basics podcast. Debbie Flower is here, our favorite retired college horticultural professor. And we get a question from Laura, who writes in and says, “I picked out my three tomato plants for my pots. I'm doing this a little bit late though in the season. The person at the nursery chose the ones that look good. They even had some tomatoes on them. He told me to put dry leaves or bark around the plants, and also put egg shells and coffee mixed in the dirt. I have a couple of questions about that. Any other advice you can give me so I might be able to get a nice supply of delicious tomatoes this year? Thank you for your patience on that.”

 Well, I like the idea of putting mulch around newly planted plants in the summertime. And by the way, it is summertime, especially for short season tomatoes, it’s not too late. Right? 


Debbie Flower  3:47  

For a lot of tomatoes in California. It's not too late.


Farmer Fred  3:48  

I would think I would stretch that, and say that even in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you could plant a cherry tomato in July and still get tomatoes before your ice skating.


Debbie Flower  3:57  

in July. Okay. My son lives in Minneapolis, St. Paul area. And so I watched the weather there and they're having some perfect tomato growing weather, the nights are warm enough. But do they have the 75 to 90 days to grow tomatoes? Three months?


Farmer Fred  4:12  

Like I say, if it's a cherry tomato variety that matures through 55 or 60 days.  That's not an issue. So yeah, don't give up on gardening. Just choose your varieties carefully.


Debbie Flower  4:24  

Yes, pay attention to that the tags or the names. If it's not on the tag, you can Google the name and it will tell you how many days and that's the day is between typically when you planted it and you'll get a ripe tomato. All right.


Farmer Fred  4:36  

Now Laura and her letter also talked about washing the egg shells. She said, “Is it okay when I'm just breaking them. But when I do hard boiled eggs, I can't wash the small cracked pieces. Well, I normally wash the membrane out that sticks to the inside of the shell. Do I have to do this?” No, you don't have to do anything, Laura.


Debbie Flower  4:57  

That's true. Well, the reason people will worry about eggs, and washing out the egg shells - though this would not apply for hard boiled eggs - is that they can carry a disease called salmonella. So sometimes you're told not to eat the certain kind of salad dressing because it has raw egg in it. And that's what people are worried about. But egg shells are recommended because they contain calcium, and plants need calcium, and tomatoes need calcium. And sometimes tomatoes get a disease. It's an abiotic, meaning it's not caused by a living organism. It's caused by an environmental condition. And it's called blossom end rot. And it's technically due to lack of calcium. And so there's been some stories that you should add egg shells which contain calcium to the soil around tomatoes so they can get that calcium and they won't get blossom end rot. Number one reason for blossom end rot is really due more to irregular watering. In order to get calcium, calcium has to be carried to the roots of the plant in water. And if the soil dries out, or the plant droops severely and is no longer working on pulling up water, the calcium doesn't get to the plant. And so that causes a lack of calcium in the plant. Another way you can get lack of calcium is to have an improper soil acidity. Or, you can knock it off by adding too many fertilizers,  especially ones containing magnesium. That can throw off the ability of the plant to get calcium.


Farmer Fred  6:28  

Sandy soil, too, can cause blossom end rot because of going back to your regular watering, because the water drains so fast in sandy soil.


Debbie Flower  6:35  

Right. And in containers, they dry out very quickly. So you can often end up having too dry of a soil. So there's typically enough calcium in the soil, it's just not getting to the plant. Number two, in order to use egg shells as a source of calcium for plants, they need to be ground into a powder. If you've ever put them in the soil and happened to go back, even years later, and dig that soil, they're still there. They even put them in your compost pile, and you turn your compost pile, you regularly will see pieces of eggshell in it, it takes literally years for them to break down. So if you're willing to keep your egg shells and then grind them, people say if you dry them first a little bit in the oven, they crunch up finer, faster. I have not done it. I can't attest to that. But if you grind them, and you have to have some sort of a pepper grinder or something into a very fine powder, then you can use them as a source of calcium. But does your soil need calcium? Typically it does not.


Farmer Fred  7:37  

What about coffee grounds? What does that do for a plant?


Debbie Flower  7:41  

they've done an analysis of coffee grounds and they do have some nutritional value, meaning the three numbers on a fertilizer bag: the N, P, and K. But all tests on coffee grounds indicate that they have no effect. People think coffee grounds will change the pH , acidify the soil, make it more acid. And that can be helpful if your soil is but only if your soil is too alkaline. However, all controlled experiments about that have not proven that coffee grounds can lower soil pH.


Farmer Fred  8:15  

 Alright, so we can cross off coffee grounds. And frankly, using eggshells if you've got enough calcium in the soil, it's just a matter of really the correct watering and the right pH to release that calcium that’s already in the soil to be absorbed by the plant. And then you will see on many sites recommendations for like sticking Tums in the ground. And it's really for stomach upset.


Debbie Flower  8:39  

 And that's because it’s a source of calcium. And then the other thing that is commonly recommended for tomatoes is Epsom salts, and Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. Calcium, magnesium and sulfur are all needed by plants but it's needed in very, very, very, very tiny amounts . They are called micronutrients because they're needed in micro amounts, tiny amounts, if you use Epsom salts that can throw off the calcium, and then you can end up with blossom end rot.


Farmer Fred  9:06  

And if you use calcium that can throw off the magnesium.


Debbie Flower  9:09  

yeah, so it's best not to add anything unless you see a deficiency. And the number one deficiency in plant growth is nitrogen. Nitrogen is seen as dying old leaves so there'll be at the bottom of the plant, they'll turn yellow, and fall off, accompanied by - and this is important  - that it's accompanied by a small new leafs. all new leaves are small, but give them a few days, see if they stretch out to be a mature sized leaf. If they do and you're losing leaves at the bottom then the leaves at the bottom are just probably in too much shade and it's time for them to fall off because they've stopped doing anything for the plant. Plants shed parts when they are useless for them. But that's the number one deficiency in plants.


Farmer Fred  9:59  

and all these homegrown recipes with Tums or coffee grounds or eggshells really aren't necessary. Mulch is good. Mulch is great. And regular watering is good, and if the plants are in containers, they're going to need more water more often. Right?


Debbie Flower  10:19  

And depending on where you live, if you're in a very dry climate, they'll need water very frequently, maybe twice a day, if you're in a very moist climate, avoid those self watering tomato planters, because they'll drown.


Farmer Fred  10:32  

And what about fertilizers? Now? I think we've discussed this a lot on the program. And I think we're both in agreement that people tend to over fertilize,  but I think with containerized plants, you have to be a little bit more judicious about fertilization, because that fertilizer, the nutrients that are in the soil can get washed out so easily. 


Debbie Flower  10:52  

Yes they can. But it's easy in a container to go from too little to too much very quickly. So the rule of thumb I go by in containers is:  I do put some fertilizer, I use a time release, when I put the plant into the container. The time release fertilizer, it's kind of pricey, but it means I don't have to tend the plants quite so closely. But the bag gives directions how much for the size of container I'm using. It's not much. it's not much. And you got to measure it.  And I was put in less than they say, because you can always add fertilizer but once it's in there, you cannot take it out.


Farmer Fred  11:31  

I believe it was Debbie Flower who once said, “fertilize weekly, weakly.”


Debbie Flower  11:35  

Yes, yes, that's another technique. There are people who love their water soluble, it's usually the blue stuff. Again, I used to do that, even to my outdoor garden. But I would use one quarter of the strength that the label says I should use and it will tell you an amount per gallon. And I apply it with every watering. Not quite every watering, periodically having a clean water one with no fertilizer in it. Just to help wash out any excess salts.


Farmer Fred  12:02  

 I like fish emulsion just because it's a weak fertilizer to begin with, the NPK content - the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium content  - is 5-1-1 Or five two two. And I love the smell of fish emulsion in the morning.


Debbie Flower  12:18  

Well, I've gone for the chicken manure route. I found a fertilizer of pelleted chicken manure, its analysis is 4-3-1. And I've been using that this season on ra ecommendation from the local master gardeners and so far I've had great success.


Farmer Fred  12:32  

Yeah. pelletized chicken manure, because it's aged , there's no danger of burning the plant, right. And it is pricey.


Debbie Flower  12:41  

It is pricey. It does have a bit of an aroma. The aroma can sort of if you use chicken manure whether I've used it before, when it's not pelletized the aroma can tell you how well aged it is or not.


Farmer Fred  12:54  

So yes, you can plant when it's warm out, Laura, and as long as you mulch it and water it.


Debbie Flower  13:01  

And use big containers. Yeah, shade those containers so that they don't burn the roots. Water . Water is going to be your number one issue in a container.


Farmer Fred  13:14  

So it's always a good idea that if you're planning your garden and you're going to have containerized plants, make sure there's a hose bib near nearby to remind you to give your plants a drink of water.


Debbie Flower  13:24  

And that makes it easy. It's not a chore.


Farmer Fred  13:27  

Right, exactly. So Laura, good luck with your summer garden. Debbie Flower thanks so much. 


Debbie Flower

Oh, my pleasure, Fred. 


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Farmer Fred  13:37  

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Farmer Fred  15:33  

 like vegetables? Do you like unusual vegetables? Do you like pretty vegetables? Of course you do. There's a new book out on the subject called Mastering the Art of vegetable gardening. It's a book by Massachusetts gardener Matt Mattus. He's an American visual designer, an artist, horticulturist and futurist, a third generation gardener of his family's property in Massachusetts. He runs the very popular gardening blog, growing with plants. You can find it as website growing with plants.com Matt has traveled the world looking for unusual vegetables for you to try in your yard. And he has a wonderful saying: treat your vegetable garden As your own private fantasy supermarket. and Matt in your book, in talking about all the various vegetables you can grow, you come back to a very important point that what you grow in your home garden is gonna taste better than what you find in the supermarket.


Matt Mattus  16:17  

Oh, absolutely. And I'm kind of a foodie so you know why we had why we keep vegetable gardens today is different than let's say why our parents or grandparents or great parents may have had a vegetable garden, you know, then it was so it was a victory garden or we need to save money. And I think today it's more like let's grow something that tastes better and ultimately taste better. It's a better quality and for me, it's often something I can't find that at, you know, the local supermarket. 


Farmer Fred  16:43  

In the last year I've discovered the joys of such things as pak choi and joy choi, and Malabar spinach. He has unusual edibles that are common in some cultures just not common to us, but they're certainly very enjoyable. What are some of the I won't say unknown, but some of the vegetables that are unfamiliar to most Americans that you would like to see them try,   


Matt Mattus  17:03  

you know, in seed catalogs. Now there are new vegetables showing up all the time. And they're not really new. They're just you know, being reintroduced, if you will, many of the Asian greens in here in New England, of course, it's you know, we have to grow them as a fall crop. And they're done by Christmas but anything any of the Asian brassicas, so anything in the cabbage family that's grown for its green, so the black choice and the tatsoi isn't anything in the mustard or cabbage realm is is grows best here. And I would assume for you as a fall winter even early early spring crop until it gets too hot. They do find right there are fewer insect problems and the cool weather.


Farmer Fred  17:41  

Let's talk a little bit about some root crops that are popular to grow in our area and they're probably popular with you because you've written about them in your book, Mastering the Art of vegetable gardening. And one of my newly found favorites is probably something that I didn't like as a child but I've grown fond of it now especially this time of year and that's parsnips. 


Matt Mattus  18:00  

Yeah parsnips are in here in New England has a long history of parsnips, you know, they basically with these go back to the pilgrims. So if you're growing food festivals, you know, we all know carrots we all know beets. But parsnips are very interesting because I would assume most of us have tasted parsnips now but I think few people have grown them. And if you have grown them, they seem to be prone with some problems. They look fine, the plant looks fine, but then you you attempt to pull the root out and you end up with something looks like a baseball and not you know, a foot and a half long parsnip with trained I think to know to be familiar with parsnips by what we find in the supermarket, which you know crops that are designed to fit in a polybag so They're a foot long and they trimmed on the edges but I think a lot of people maybe don't know and I encourage you to look on YouTube for exhibition parsnip growing is that in the UK, in England, parsnip growing, is competitive parsnip growing is a sport and they can grow parsnips, you know, three four feet long. So I took some of those tips that these crazy guys they use like which they might be throwing them in pure sand or potting mix in a hole drilled into a barrel in oil barrel and they grow them from seedlings, I tried to, to use that method in the home garden and switch makes a lot of sense for root vegetables, especially here in New England where we have rocky soil. So I lay it out in the book but in the few steps you're drilling a hole and you're filling the hole with a very soft soilless mix like a promix or any soilless potting mix and then laying in the seed carefully on the surface or I even try with the with the British do is lay in a seedling which seems crazy For a root vegetable, but if it's grown perfectly well and you ensure that the seed root that taproot is perfectly straight when you set it in and lay the soil around it, you can and I have ended up with you know, three foot long parsnips if you so need one that long. 


Farmer Fred  20:01  

and you mentioned in your book that sometimes you'll start them in long narrow pots pots that out here we call tree pots, but I think back there, they're called Root trainers and it basically just long narrow pots that allow for a root crop to get some length to it before you transplant it.


Matt Mattus  20:18  

Yeah, it's it has to be done very carefully, like I said, but I mean you will find on the internet and in some gardening blogs that people pre germinate their seed on paper towels or they people go to great lengths with parsnips as long as you're very careful and you ensure that that root is perfectly straight. When it's set into the soil. You You're better off you certainly don't want to say plant seeds and then transplant a seedling from the garden. But it can be done if you grow carefully in the Good soilless mix, I would imagine you can do it also by setting the seed on the, you know the ideal method of setting a seed on the soil in the garden and covering it lightly. The problem with that is parsnips can take, you know weeks to germinate.


Farmer Fred  20:59  

Let's talk about harvesting parsnips, I would think you would have to be very careful digging the root out.


Matt Mattus  21:04  

Yeah, you do. In fact, if, if you've done it properly, your root can. The root tip is you know it all it's a thick root but it'll turn into almost a hair like root. So I think the British on their rules for measuring they want to extract the entire root, but I go down about two or three feet with a root shovel and then carefully dig around the root as if you're digging a tree and you can feel by tugging on it. That it's an a parsnip that is not as brittle as a carrot. It's a little more Woody. So we'll extract carefully. 


Farmer Fred  21:34  

Is a root shovel the same thing as a trench shovel?


Matt Mattus  21:37  

Yes, yes.


Farmer Fred  21:39  

And then what do you do with parsnip? I know we like to eat it raw in a salad.


Matt Mattus  21:43  

Oh really? I've never had it raw. Now we have something on knowing that farmer would have kept in a root cellar through the winter. Our house is 150 years old. So we have a root cellar cork-lined root cellar it built into our cellar. so fortunate there that I can lay them in, in beds of sand where it's dark, and it's about 35 degrees. But no, you know, when a refrigerator door washed off and trimmed, it should last, you know, a few months. 


Farmer Fred  22:08  

Wow. You just need a deep drawer to hold it.


Matt Mattus 22:11  

yeah, right.


Farmer Fred  22:14  

What are some of the good parsnip varieties to try?


Matt Mattus  22:17  

Well, Gladiator is a classic. I always laugh at the names of the varieties because they always sound like something that's very large or massive and certainly, people wanted a large parsnip back in the 19th century, but most of them are British variety, some Half Long Guernsey  was an heirloom variety. White Spear is a good one, but the Gladiator is an f1 hybrid and Javelins f1 hybrid and both of those you should find like good seed catalogs, like Johnny's seeds or even some of the larger names like a Burpee catalog. 


Farmer Fred  22:46  

You mentioned some of the heirloom and open pollinated varieties in your book like Half-long Guernsey and white spear. Do they have problems that the hybrids don't have?


Matt Mattus  22:56  

No, there may be a problem with some of the crowns being hollow, but most of them are pretty because it's a root vegetable, There are less problems with root damage, like anything in the in apiaceae family. So that would be all of your umbelliferae as what we used to call it right, your dill, your parsley and an even parsnip, if the problem would be with caterpillars, so it would be with you know, butterfly moth larvae.


Farmer Fred  23:21  

What's nice about growing parsnips here is you can plant them from seed three times a year here in the valley. You can plant them in April, and then in July and then again in October.


Matt Mattus  23:31  

Yeah, I'm a bit envious. They're here. You can plant them in the northeast, let's say zone five they're sown in late March and April, or seedlings sent into the ground later, but certainly the ideal way is seeds. Direct, but it's a long season crop we can keep them through the winter and often they get, they get sweeter with the ground freezing and they can handle ground freezing, but we'll throw a straw on them so we can dig them up in under a snow cover. 


Farmer Fred  23:58  

 The name of the book is Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening. It's by Matt Mattus and Matt profiles many of your favorite vegetables in the book, such as onions, garlic, asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, Swiss chard, the lettuces, carrots, beans, okra, and of course the standards tomatoes and peppers, as well as cucumbers and squash. It's really a beautiful book well written. And like I say his philosophy is outstanding. Treat your vegetable garden as your own private fantasy supermarket and check out his blog as well. GrowingWithPlants.com is where you will find it. growing with plants dot com, and the name of the blog is growing with plants. Matt Mattus, Thanks for a few minutes of your time today. 


Matt Mattus

Thank you, Fred. 


“BEYOND THE GARDEN BASICS” NEWSLETTER


Farmer Fred  24:48  

On Friday’s Beyond The Garden Basics Newsletter and podcast, we get your nose twitching. Garden shows for the nose. Plants with enticing aromas. It could be the flowers, it could be the leaves. There are plenty to choose from. Plus, we explain why familiar scents immediately transport us back in time to recall hopefully fond memories from years ago. It’s the way the nose is wired to the brain, which takes a different pathway than our other senses.


It’s in the next Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. It’s out Friday, July 15th. Find a link to it in today’s show notes, or visit our website, Garden Basics dot net, where you can sign up to have the free Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter delivered to your inbox each Friday. Also at Garden Basics dot net, you can listen to any of our previous editions of the podcast, as well as read a transcript of the podcast episode you are listening to now. That’s at Garden Basics dot net. For current subscribers, look for the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter on Friday, July 15th in your email. Take a deeper dive into gardening, with the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. And it’s free. Find the link at garden basics dot net.


Farmer Fred  26:02  

we got a quick tip for you. Debbie Flower is here a favorite college horticultural professor and she must be hanging out in nurseries too because when I visit nurseries, it's not uncommon to hear the three words sleep, creep and leap. And it's usually in reference to plants. What's that all about Debbie Flower.   


Debbie Flower  26:18  

 Yeah, that's about those plants that you're putting from a container or ball and burlap into the landscape, or even bare root. And what they do in the years that follow. the first year, when you put them in the ground, they just sleep, they're just getting adjusted. They're getting their roots to grow and expand and run into places where there's good water and nutrition. And most of the growth that's happening that first year is underground, and the second year, they start to show more above ground growth. It's not a lot. So they creep. The growth above ground is creeping and the third year, typically They're much better established, you got a great root system, and they just take off so they leap. So this is applied to perennials, things that live three or more years in the landscape. And it varies in how much the sleep how deep asleep is, I guess I'd say and how slow the creep is and how big the leap is, that varies by species. But it's a very good rule of thumb. And it really says to me, I have to be patient and put it in the ground the first year, it's not going to do a whole heck of a lot. I just have to be patient.


Farmer Fred  27:35  

I would think this would hold true for shrubs and trees as well.


Debbie Flower  27:39  

 Absolutely. shrubs and trees are technically perennials because they live they live more than three years. And that's a I had a student take me to task on that. So I'm a little sensitive about that. woody plants, shrubs and trees being woody plants do live more than Three years if you know or have a life span more than three years, hopefully for you, they will live more than three years. But they are. If you're looking at a book or you're going to the garden center, they're going to be in a separate place than the perennials. The perennials are typically the herbaceous perennials, the things some of those herbaceous perennials may die to the ground and disappear all winter long and then reappear in the spring. Others will have a presence above ground, but it tends to be a smaller plant and then it springs to life and does its flowering the next year. So those things are called perennials. If they form wood, they're typically in the tree or shrub section.    


Farmer Fred  28:39  

There you go, sleep creep and leap and if you have any doubts before you yank a plant out, if it's going too slow for you put a stake in the ground next to it at exactly the height it is and then walk away for a few months and come back the following spring. I bet that plant will be taller than the stake. 


Debbie Flower  28:57  

Good point. The other is take pictures. everybody's got a smartphone right?


Farmer Fred  29:03  

Yep. Or we take your old smartphone and stick that in the ground and when the plant gets taller, than the smartphone, you know it's growing.


Debbie Flower  29:09  

Well that drawer full of old phones I can do that with.


Farmer Fred  29:14  

all right. Well then, we have slept ,we have crept ,we have leapt.  Debbie Flower thanks again.


Debbie Flower  29:19  

Oh, my pleasure. Thank you Fred.


Farmer Fred  29:23  

Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.



Mid-Summer Tomato Planting Tips
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