Vegetable Gardening

Growing vegetables is extremely rewarding. Here are some factors to consider before you begin:

  • How big do you want your garden to be? Remember you will need to feed it, weed it, and water it before you get to harvest.
  • Do you want to do a full-blown garden or a raised bed that you can easily manage?
  • How much produce do you need? Are you planting for snacking, for canning or to feed the neighborhood?
  • What is the condition of your soil? If you aren't sure, you need to test it. Soil that does not drain properly, is too sandy or too heavy with clay can impact your gardening success. Organic compost can be added to improve any of those conditions.

An organically balanced garden soil will crumble in your hand, and a deep, organically rich soil encourages the growth of healthy roots that are able to reach more nutrients and water.
To get maximum yield from each garden bed, pay attention to how you place your plants. Be careful not crowd plants. Plants won't reach their full size-or yield-when crowded. Overly tight spacing can also stress plants, making them more susceptible to diseases and insect attack. If you sow seed, remember you will likely need to thin out as seedlings begin to poke their heads through the soil.

No matter how small your garden is, you can always grow more by going vertical. Grow space-hungry vining crops (such as tomatoes, pole beans, peas, squash, melons, cucumbers) straight up, supported by trellises, fences, cages, or stakes.

Vegetables need to be fed and protected from garden pests. There are many different products available. Check out our fertilizers to see what works best for your plants.

Asparagus and Rhubarb

These are perennials that fall under the vegetable category. Once planted, asparagus should not be moved! A well-prepared bed will produce spears for approximately 15-20 years. Rhubarb also should be planted where it can remain undisturbed. If you need to divide or move it, do it as soon as it breaks the surface in early spring.

Timing is everything

Timing is everything

The annual minimum temperature for zone 5 is -15ºF. Use your last and first frost dates to calculate your planting schedules. In zone 5, May 30 is generally considered the first frost-free date and October 1 the last frost-free date. Using the planting schedule below will help you get the most out of your garden. If you are sowing from seed, start seeds indoors before your last frost date to get a jump start on the growing season. If you are purchasing plants, you should still follow the planting schedule. It will save you the aggravation of tender plants being lost due to frost.

Timing is important for harvesting as well. Pay attention to suggested days to ripe, so you are not harvesting too soon. For instance, yellow peppers are green until they are fully ripe, at which time they turn yellow.

Tomato Problems

Tomato Problems

Nothing tastes better than fresh, home-grown tomatoes, and every gardener has a favorite that they grow year after year. Problems growing tomatoes are often the result of weather conditions. This is something that is out of the gardeners' control. However, if you know your area is prone to a certain disease, you should look for varieties that are listed as resistant.

The following varieties are our top picks for problematic gardens: Beefmaster, Better Boy, Big Beef, Celebrity, Champion II, Chef's Choice Orange, Jet Star, Juliet, Matt's Wild Cherry, Mountain Fresh, Mountain Pride, Parks Whopper, Patio, Rutgers, Sweet 100, and Sunsugar.

Tomato diseases normally do not kill the plant, if proper management is employed. It is important to catch any tomato disease early, before it spreads to all of your tomato plants and possibly other plants in the same family, such as potatoes, eggplants and peppers. Here are some common tomato diseases, their symptoms and what to do if tomato diseases threaten your home vegetable garden.

Tomato Diseases - Foliage

Tomato Diseases - Foliage


Early Blight can affect the foliage, stems and fruit of tomatoes. Symptoms: Dark spots with concentric rings develop on older leaves first. The surrounding leaf area may turn yellow. Affected leaves may die prematurely, exposing the fruits to sun scald. Management: Early Blight fungus overwinters in plant residue and is soil-borne. This is one reason why thoroughly cleaning fall garden debris out of your planting area at the end of each season is so important. Wet weather and stressed plants increase likelihood of attack. Copper and/or sulfur sprays can prevent further development of the fungus.


Late blight affects both the leaves and fruit of tomatoes. Late Blight spreads rapidly. Cool, wet weather encourages the development of the fungus. Symptoms: Greasy looking irregularly shaped gray spots appear on leaves. A ring of white mold can develop around the spots, especially in wet weather. The spots eventually turn dry and papery. Blackened areas may appear on the stems. The fruit also develops large, irregularly shaped, greasy gray spots.
Management: Copper sprays offer some control. The Late Blight fungus can overwinter in frost free areas. Since it spreads to potatoes, it also overwinters in potato debris and seed, even in colder areas. Remove all debris and don't save seed potatoes.


Septoria Leaf Spot is sometimes mistaken for Late Blight. With Septoria leaf spot, the papery patches on the leaves develop tiny, dark specks inside them. Older leaves are affected first. Management: Copper sprays can help halt symptoms.


When tomatoes, peppers, melons, and eggplant develop a sunken, rotten spot on the end of the fruit, the cause came long before you found the problem. It's called blossom end rot, and here is why it happens. Vegetables need calcium for healthy development. When tomatoes, peppers, melons, and eggplant can't get enough from the soil, the tissues on the blossom end of the fruit break down. The calcium shortage may be because the soil lacks calcium, or calcium is present but is tied up in the soil chemistry because the pH is too low. Also, drought stress or moisture fluctuations can reduce its uptake into the plant. Another reason is that too much fertilizer causes the plant to grow so fast that the calcium can't move into the plant quickly enough. Management: Rot Stop, a tomato blossom end rot concentrate by Bonide©, is available in our store, and can be applied to help control calcium Deficiencies.

Other Tips for Success:

  • Keep a close eye on your plants, to catch problems early.
  • If you're having a rainy summer and late blight has been reported in your area, you can gain some protection by spraying plants with a fungicide. These fungicides will help prevent late blight infection, but they will not cure plants that are already infected.
  • Water your plants at the base. Using soaker hoses are a convenient way to not splash soil and water onto the leaves.
  • Mulch and landscape fabric are also ways of covering the soil, so spores have a more difficult time spreading and contaminating plants.
  • Caging your tomato plants will help support the plant and avoid breakage, which can weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to disease.

Not sure what type of tomato is right for your garden?

K Drive Greenhouse always has staff available to help and answer questions!