The Garden Digs

Always Look for Plan B

by Liz Sheehan

Rainy, windy and cool happened to be the weather trend here in Western NY at the beginning of this garden season. It's a blessing and a curse that I happen to be a self-professed weather nerd and a crazy gardener. If I only had a direct line to Mother Nature, the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation), or at least The Weather Channel to warm the soil... 

We have recently started experiencing warmer weather and not so much rain, but I honor the tenacity of professional growers who battle the weather each and every season as it had certainly slowed my garden preparation. I try to focus on each task, each moment and each day rather than fret about the things I cannot control. I'm certainly not an expert with fretting, but I keep trying! Memorial Day weekend was the first opportunity to clean out the gardens, add 4 yards of wet topsoil and begin rototilling.

Vegetable Gardening

There are now 47 pepper plants and 54 tomato plants in the ground! My wife Candy did most of the planting as I prepped the other vegetable garden beds. The pepper plants are 2 feet tall and many tomato plants are close to 3 feet tall. Hopefully this will offset any growing "slow down" due to the cooler nights. Vegetable seeds and plants in the ground include: 4 varieties of squash, cucumbers, carrots, celery, pumpkins, and tons of bush green beans. Onions will be going in as soon as we have an opportunity.

Garden from Tomato Seeds

Early season lessons: 

  • Remember to buy Super Phosphate before planting tomatoes.
  • Stock up on a balanced 20-20-20 plant food (N, P, K- Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium)  and use as directed.
  • Stake tomatoes before adding the tomato cages for extra support in windy areas.
  • Water at the base of your plants whenever possible.
  • Whenever possible, wear fashionable chicken boots in the muddy garden.

Fashionable Chicken Boots

Liz Sheehan has been an active vegetable and flower home gardener for 19 years, utilizing a backyard greenhouse for 7 years. She has worked seasonally at a Rochester, NY area garden center as well as a nursery and is currently a full-time employee at Harris Seeds/GardenTrends. Liz has a Master’s Degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies and completed a Gardener’s Certificate Program at the Rochester Civic Garden Center.

5 Favorite Plants that Blur the Line between Ornamentals and Edibles

by Sue Guglin

Ordinary? Hardly! A fresh green, grassy clump of perennial chives offers textural contrast in the garden. Pretty magenta-rose, globe-shaped blooms make sturdy little cut flowers or a spicy onion-flavored garnish on your summer salads. Leaves and flowers are edible, but take out the flower stalks – they are too tough to chew.

There are many lovely basil varieties! One of my old favorites is the statuesque Thai Basil Siam Queen. At about 30” high, it is taller than most, but more refined and graceful with a licorice aroma. More attractive basil varieties to try include:

Cardinal – dark maroon flower heads.
Pluto – grows like a carefully pruned little shrub!
Red Ruby – large 3” burgundy leaves.

Pluto Basil from Seed Cardinal Basil from Seed
Pluto Basil and Cardinal Basil

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum)
Hot hues of orange, scarlet and gold flowers will spice up your presentation with their bright colors and peppery flavor. Whirlybird and Jewel are mounded plants, less vining than other types. Spicy flowers and leaves are edible, though older leaves can become bitter. Easy to grow from seed, they prefer a sunny spot and well-drained lean soil (low fertility).

Jewel Nasturtium from Seed
Jewel Nasturtium

Pansy, Viola
Lovely blossoms are mild in flavor, but bold in personality with their incredible range of colors. Flowers may be picked fresh and used immediately, or coated in a sugar solution to make “candied violets”. As violets are smaller than their large-flowered pansy counterparts, they are easier to work with as candied flowers. Both grow best in cooler weather; in warmer climates they excel in spring and fall. 

Pretty Pansy Cupcakes
Pretty Pansy Cupcakes

Swiss Chard Northern Lights Mix
Brightly colored stalks in red, yellow, magenta and white bear large, wavy, glossy green leaves. At about 2’ high, these jumbo size plants fill in flower or vegetable gardens and hold up better in the heat than many other greens. Stems and leaves are edible.

Swiss Chard Northern Lights from Seed
Northern Lights Mix Swiss Chard

Sue Guglin Sue Guglin is the Plant Program Product Manager at Harris Seeds and GardenTrends in Rochester, NY. Sue is a Cornell University graduate with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. Sue’s fruitful career in horticulture spans 30 years and has provided her the opportunity to work around the country in many climates and growing environments. Sue has experience working with plants, bulbs, seeds, and plugs and she is looking forward to sharing her vast product knowledge and growing wisdom.

How to Create a Successful Vegetable Garden with Limited Space

by Mark Willis

Whether you live in an apartment, condo or small patio home, don’t let your small space discourage you from growing an amazing vegetable garden! Many kinds of vegetables can be grown easily in containers on a deck, a terrace, a veranda or in your window sill.

Be sure that your chosen space receives six or more hours of sunlight. With the correct amount of light, the right container for the crop, good quality soilless mix, fertilizer and water, you can produce a full abundance of produce in most tight spaces.


Choose your container wisely


Cayennetta Pepper Seeds Lizzano Tomato Seeds

Consider drainage

  • Be sure there are holes at the bottom of the container for proper drainage. Drainage is reduced when the container is set on a solid surface, such as a patio or a deck.  

Choose your vegetables

  • Most vegetable seed varieties that are grown in traditional gardens can be grown in containers. Click here for great products that can be grown in containers.


Pinstripe Eggplant Seeds Vegetable Seeds Container Gardening - Large Patio Raised Bed

Choose the right soil

  • Soilless mixes are lightweight and free from soil-borne diseases. There will be quicker drainage and some even contain a slow release fertilizer to feed your plants. 

Feed your plants

  • Plants are hungry too! Be sure to feed your plants regularly throughout the season using a complete fertilizer at the recommended rate on the label.
  • Containers can dry out quickly so be sure to check your soil moisture daily. Keep the soil uniformly moist, but do not saturate, over-watering can be just as harmful as under-watering!
Give your plants some room
  • Planting and spacing requirements for most vegetables can be found on the vegetable seed packet and should be followed carefully for best results. Limit the number of plants based on spacing requirements and container choice.


Simply Salad Alfresco Mix Lettuce Seeds

If you follow these guidelines, you are on your way to creating a successful container vegetable garden that will have you eating fresh produce all summer long. Don’t let small spaces hold you back from achieving your best garden ever!

Mark Willis
Vegetable Seed Product Manager, Harris Seeds/GardenTrends 

Mark Willis has managed the vegetable seed division at Harris Seeds for 22 years. He is responsible for vegetable product development and has a strong passion for trialing and discovering new varieties that will make our customers more successful. Mark has 42 years of experience in the seed industry and enjoys working with both our professional and home garden customers discussing varieties and cultural practices that will benefit them.