5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Garden Right Now.

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5 Reasons You Should Prune Your Tomato Plants

tomatoes from garden

The gift of harvesting a juicy, ripe tomato straight from the garden is one of the reasons why many people have a garden in the first place. For many gardeners, the homegrown tomato is the perfect illustration of how the taste of the food we grow ourselves far surpasses anything we could buy at the grocery store.

The tomato is the symbol of what a summer garden harvest means to many of us.

And tomatoes are known for being one of the easiest vegetables to grow – plop them into the ground, slap a trellis on them, and then come back a few months later and start harvesting bowls full of glorious ripe fruit.

In most climates, tomato plants will produce lots of tasty fruit without a lot of assistance from the gardener. While it’s true that there’s nothing you have to do to your tomato plants except water them and keep them off the ground, what if I told you there was something more you could do to increase your harvest, reduce diseases, and overall have a much better tomato harvest?

This magic task is a simple one – it’s called pruning. I first learned about pruning my tomatoes when I worked on a CSA farm. The farm planted thousands of tomatoes, and for a few days each summer the whole staff would line up and down the tomato rows and prune the plants.

Seeing the results of pruning at the farm convinced me to try it on my own plants at home. And, since that fateful day, I’ve pruned my tomatoes every year.

If you’re not a practicing pruner yourself, I’m hoping to convince you with this blog post!

Early June in My Front Yard Garden: Video Tour

front yard vegetable garden

The awesome thing about having a front yard garden is that I get to interact with my neighbors on a daily basis. On many summer mornings I rise early and head out to my garden. I snap photos as the sun starts to hit the plants and veggies, pull a few weeds, and harvest anything I want to eat that day. I often get involved in a chore that’s on my list because I just can’t help myself – I love gardening so much!

All around me my neighbors are waking up, walking their dogs, taking a jog, or biking to work. I get lots of waves, honks, and greetings of “Good morning, Megan! The garden looks great.”

Sometimes I stop to chat or answer questions, at other times I just smile and wave. My garden (and this gardener!) are definitely on display, and I have to admit, it makes gardening more fun. Instead of toiling away in my back yard by myself, I feel like I’m surrounded by my community.

What Happens When a Plant Bolts?

White cilantro flowers mixing with colorful annuals in the summer garden.

In most gardening climates there’s a transition period when the cool temperatures of spring start to give way to the warmer days of summer. For those of us who love summer, it’s a time to rejoice – our favorite season of the year has finally arrived. We revel in the heat and sun! But, for those of us who prefer cooler temperatures, we might start to get a little cranky with the arrival of hotter days.

Did you know the vegetables in our gardens have weather preferences just like us gardeners? Some vegetables grow best in the mild temperatures of the early season – lettuces, cilantro, radishes, and spinach. And others seem to sit and sulk in the garden until the thermometer starts creeping over 80 degrees F – eggplant, peppers, basil, summer squash.

You may notice that when your particular garden hits this change from spring to summer some of your cool weather vegetables start to bolt.

How to Choose Which Tomatoes to Grow

Whether you grow your own tomato plants at home or shop for seedlings at your local farmers’ markets, you’ve probably felt overwhelmed when trying to decide which tomato varieties to grow in your garden. Don’t feel bad about that! There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes in cultivation and reading the plant descriptions doesn’t help much – they all sound like the best variety ever!

Each of us gardeners have our own top five list of favorite tomato varieties. You can ask ten gardeners for their picks and not hear the same tomato twice. So, in an effort to help you make the best decision for you, I’m going to have you take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Instead of trying to make your decisions on the fly when you’re standing in front of a table of plants in the hot sun, here are some things to think about before you buy.

Your Garden Should Make You Feel Good

vegetable garden

In one of the classes I teach we start off with a garden visualization. We close our eyes and imagine ourselves sitting in our summer gardens.

(Come on, play along!)

It’s one of those crystal clear, blue sky days with no humidity and no mosquitoes (and no weeds?!). Just a perfect summer day.

When everyone has transported themselves into their gardens, I ask them the following questions:

What do you see?

What do you hear?

What do you smell?

How do you feel?

Then, I give them some time to reflect on and write down the images and sensations they experienced.

Adding Beauty to Your Garden with Flowers

front yard vegetable garden

A common complaint about vegetable gardens is that they’re not very attractive. I couldn’t disagree more! You can have a garden that produces a lot of food and is also a beautiful part of your home landscape.

The simplest thing you can do to elevate your garden from a place where you grow food to a garden that draws in and wows visitors and passersby on the street is to add flowers.

And the easiest place to add flowers is on the ends of your garden beds. (Don’t have garden beds? Here’s why you need them.)

When to Start Planting in Your Spring Garden

spring vegetables in garden

Timing is everything in the garden, especially if you live in a region that has a short gardening season like mine in Wisconsin. Planting vegetables at the wrong time can mean the difference between them flourishing and providing you with a delicious bounty and their complete and utter failure.

The good news is that you have a lot of control over the things that contribute to a vegetable’s success in your garden. And one of the most important factors is timing.

Below are a few examples of things that can go wrong if you don’t plant each vegetable at the right time.

5 Fabulous Cut Flowers for Your Garden

flower book on table with flowers

Last year, when my blog was nominated by Better Homes and Gardens as one of the Top 10 Garden Blogs of 2016, I found myself in the company of many amazing bloggers. I love expanding my virtual gardening community, so after learning about the nomination I emailed the other nominees to congratulate them and introduce myself.

I quickly learned that Erin, the owner of Floret Flowers, was kind and generous when she asked for my address to mail me a little care package of flower seeds to try in my garden.

I’ve been following her business journey ever since and am continually inspired by the gorgeous photos on her website and Instagram. Her photos of the dahlia harvest at her farm last fall convinced me that I must order dahlias for my garden this season. And I did – from her seed company!

Floret recently released a new book, Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal BloomsLast Friday I treated myself to an afternoon at my local coffee with the book and all of my flower seeds for the season. I happily read through the whole thing and planned out how I’m going to incorporate more flowers into my garden this year.

Favorite Seed Starting Resources

hand holding plant seedlings

It’s snowing here in Wisconsin as I write this blog post. Living in a northern climate can be tough because of our long winters. Long winters mean a short gardening season, which can be challenging if you love gardening as much as I do.

Right around this time of year I start to get a little impatient for spring to usher in the first days of getting my hands dirty in the soil. My fingernails have been far too clean for the last few months!

That’s why each year it feels like seed starting season arrives at the perfect time. I usually start my onions around the end of February and then work my way through my seed starting calendar over the next month.

Little by little my seed starting rack fills up with tiny, baby plants that I can fuss over and check on every day. Seed starting signals to me that the gardening season has officially begun and that I’ll be back out planting these little green vegetables very soon.

I breath a big sigh of relief when I break out my seed starting supplies each February. Spring is coming, I just have to hold on for a few more weeks.

If you’re a new gardener who’s just embarking on the seed starting journey this year, or a seasoned seed starter who wants to pick up some new tips and techniques, this is the time to do it! I thought I’d share some of my favorite resources from around the internet so you can dig in and get motivated to add to your skills and improve your seed starting process.

Energize Your Garden Planning With These Great Resources

vegetable garden planning resources

If you’re a gardener who cares about your success and wants to grow lots of food in your garden this season, you probably have a sense that you should be doing some advanced planning so you’re prepared when the season hits.

But, when you hear everyone else talking about how they’re planning their gardens and ordering seeds, you feel a little confused because you’re not sure exactly where to start and what to do.

You’re not alone. Garden planning can feel overwhelming for gardeners who’ve never tried it before.

But, I’ve learned over the years that the most successful gardeners are the ones who give some thought to their gardens before the season begins.

Luckily, I’m a big proponent of keeping things as simple as possible when it comes to all things gardening, so “garden planning” to me doesn’t mean sitting for hours on end attempting to figure out exactly what I’m going to do each week of the season.

Instead, it’s about spending some time thinking about my goals for the year, getting clear on what new skills I might want to learn, experiments I’m hoping to try in my garden, and new varieties and vegetables I want to plant.

I aim to have this accomplished by mid-February most years so I can order my seeds and be ready to go when my seed starting schedule begins at the end of the month.

This timeline forces me to sit down and delve into some garden planning during January and early February. And even I, the person who teaches about how important it is to plan your garden, find it difficult to carve out the time with my busy speaking and teaching schedule at this time of year.

A case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes? Possibly. This garden educator sometimes has trouble making time for her own garden.

If this sounds like you, too, I’m hoping to help you jump-start your own process with this roundup of vegetable garden planning resources. Block out a few hours of time in the coming weeks to really delve into and savor the beginning of the gardening season by engaging in some light and fun planning.

5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Garden Right Now.

Discover these very common mistakes and start receiving my best advice for free!
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