We’re not sure if there’s anything that tastes more like summer than a delicious, garden-fresh tomato. The supermarket can’t even touch the quality of these gems fresh from our gardens. When you bite into a sun-ripened tomato straight from the plant, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would bother buying them from a store.
Tomatoes are simple and easy to grow, but if you want that knock-out flavor without the frustration, our pros have some recommendations for how to make your plants thrive this summer. Garden success has never tasted this good.
Tip #1: Do Some Research: There are so many delicious tomato plants to choose from, so it can be daunting to make a decision on which one(s) to include in your garden. When it comes to annuals and pretty blooms, we advocate for falling in love with your favorites and letting some creativity flow. But when it comes to the more practical tomato plant, a bit of research ahead of time is important. Ask yourself what kind of tomato crop you want — small cherry tomatoes, big beefy tomatoes or something in between, and what kind of plant you want to be growing — determinate or indeterminate.
Think seriously about your garden and what you want from it: are you willing to put in more hours of work for the tastiest of heirloom tomatoes from more challenging plants? Or would you rather spend your summer relaxing and enjoying a beautiful garden with determinate plants that mostly take care of themselves? Thankfully it’s not an all-or-nothing game, you can plant as much of however many types as you want! A bit of research is all you need to start on the right foot and avoid any summer surprises as you grow.
Tip #2: Some of Our Favorites: Picking a tomato variety can be difficult because there are just so many good choices to pick from! To make it easier, these are some of our favorite tomatoes for all garden needs.
Roma is a great jack-of-all-trades tomato that doesn’t require much maintenance. For a simple and straightforward garden, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Beefmaster is an indeterminate variety that requires some work like pruning and staking to keep it in line, but the resulting harvest is worth the effort. Consider staking these plants, as their tomatoes are so heavy that they can bend or damage the stems!
Early Girl is another indeterminate, requiring a modest amount of maintenance. But with an early maturity, you’ll get to enjoy tomatoes sooner in the season and for longer with this plant.
Sweet Million has it all in the name, an indeterminate with millions (ok, hundreds) of tasty little tomatoes — perfect for snacking!
Green Zebra and Black Krim are heirloom tomatoes for those that are both adventurous and traditional. Heirlooms are varieties that have been passed down for decades, and these tomatoes offer unique looks for their heritage. You’ll also be impressed by their delicious taste.
Tip #3: Start Off Right: Whether you’re growing from seeds or buying starter plants, at some point you’ll be taking small little seedlings and planting them outside into your garden or containers. Only stocky plants, ones that aren’t lanky and floppy, should make the final cut and be planted in your garden. These are going to be the most successful at growing with the least amount of work from you.
Tip #4: Sun and Heat: Tomatoes thrive with some warm weather and soil, so choosing a spot with maximum heat and sun exposure is the best way to get the tastiest tomatoes. We promise that with a good location, you’ll be able to taste the difference that sunshine makes.
If you have the option, the best places for many tomatoes are in big containers or raised beds, where their soil and roots are easily warmed by the sun. Pass on the traditional bed with one of these methods, and you’ll have your friends and neighbors begging for your secret when they have a taste of your tomatoes.
If you plant in a traditional bed make sure to plant your tomatoes in a different spot than the previous year. This will help prevent disease and insect problems that can lay dormant in the soil until the following year.
Tip #5: Drainage: Tomatoes don’t like to have wet feet, so make sure your soil drains well. If it naturally retains water, you don’t have to give up, though. Simply add some peat moss into the mix before you plant, giving them the structure, nutrients, and drainage that they crave.
These plants are heavy feeders, too, so make sure you establish a fertilizing schedule to give them the nutritional boost they need to produce delicious crops. Use an all-purpose fertilizer for the best results.
Tip #6: Planting: Tomatoes will sprout roots wherever the soil touches the stem. Start by submerging a third of the stem when you plant — you’ll get a head start on developing a healthy root system! Just make sure you take off any leaves that will be buried so you don’t invite rot.
If your tomato plants got a little lanky while you were waiting to plant, simply plant them a little deeper than normally would. This technique transforms that lanky and floppy stem into a healthy root system, saving the plant and encouraging successful crops.
When you plant consider adding an organic fertilizer to your planting hole to give your plants an extra burst of nutrients. You can also consider adding a handful of egg shells, which contain calcium and will help deter blossom end rot.
Tip #7: Mulching: Mulch is a fantastic tool in the garden, as it suppresses weeds and insulates the roots of your plant keeping heat and water in. Your tomatoes will benefit from keeping more heat and moisture at their roots, which is exactly where they want it! Perhaps the best part about mulching is how much it cuts down on garden work by stifling weeds, which also leads to less competition for nutrients for your plants. Spread a natural mulch in a generous layer around your plants and reap the benefits!
There are lots of options for natural mulch that work fantastic in the garden. For your edibles, we suggest something that isn’t chemically treated. You can choose from all kinds of naturally-occurring woods and barks to find something that satisfies both your practical and design needs.
Tip #8: Proper Staking and Tying Up: This tip is for indeterminate tomatoes primarily, because the determinate types have a bushy habit and generally take care of themselves.
When you’re tying up your more wild-growing indeterminate tomatoes, try to use something soft and flexible so that their stems aren’t broken by the ties. You can purchase ready-made ties for your garden that are designed for the task, or even use something like strips of old pantyhose to keep things tidy. Tie it loosely but secure with a knot to keep your plant in order and off of the ground. Sturdy tomato cages can also be used to stake your tomatoes.
Tip #9: Pruning is for Suckers: Tomato plants, especially indeterminates, send out “suckers” during the growing season. These growths don’t help you and your tomato crop very much and actually pull nutrients away from the fruit that you are trying to grow. Prune away these growths, keeping all of the nutrients and hard work that your plant is doing focused on important things, like growing fruit!
Near the end of the season, pruning can also be useful for other parts of the plant that are wasting energy. As you near the first frost of the season, start thinking about cutting your losses and discarding some tomatoes that simply won’t make it to maturity so that your plant can focus its efforts on the last few crops of the year.
Tip #10: When to and Not to Refrigerate: The ideal temperature for ripening tomatoes is at room temperature. Place fresh produce that you plan to consume right away on the counter to get the most out of their superior, from-the-garden taste. Trying to ripen tomatoes in the fridge is likely to leave you with tomatoes that lose their fantastic flavor and could end up mealy and lacking in texture.
While you might want to refrigerate some tomatoes if they are already ripe and you won’t be eating them quite yet, you can still end up losing flavor and quality this way. Instead, think about all of the fantastic dishes that you can cook them into now that you can save for later. Things like pasta sauces or salsas will help you make the most of your garden produce.
Growing tomatoes is popular and easy, but there’s more to know than just putting your plants in the ground and watching them grow. With a couple of simple tips, you’ll have all the tools you need to have phenomenal crops all summer long, to be enjoyed by you, your friends, and your family. If only we had tips for what to do with all of your bountiful harvests!
Some of most difficult spots to fill in your garden are those that are shaded – but they don’t have to be. Many of the most popular classics that we love to fill up our yard with are sun-loving blooms, but there are just as many beautiful plants that thrive with a little more protection from the sun’s rays. Whether you’re looking for some fabulous foliage to fill up a sheltered spot beside the house or you’re trying to find a splash of color to plant in a darker area in your yard, there are lots of options to make every part of your yard and garden lush and beautiful.
Although there are just as many options, shade loving plants enjoy different conditions and as a result, play by some different rules than their relatives that love to soak up the rays. Here’s some advice from our plant and landscaping experts on filling your garden’s shaded areas with color.
Ted Lare Tips for Growing in Shade: Shade-loving plants will have a few different things to keep in mind when growing than plants that prefer to bask in the sun. No matter what type of shade growing plant you choose, keep these things in mind to make your shady spot the best fit for your plants as possible:
Identify Your Shade Type – Each shady location is just as unique as the rest of your yard and home. To pick the best plants, you’ll want to know the conditions of your chosen spot. Types of shade range from deep, to partial, to dappled shade. While the deep shade areas get no direct sunlight at all, less shaded locations could have sun for part of the day or filtered through leaves. There are plenty of options of plants that will thrive in each type, but pairing them up well with the right conditions is the best way to have low-maintenance and beautiful plants.
Soil Type and Quality – Taking note of your soil type before you plant gives you the opportunity to amend the soil quality. Soil ideally has nutrients and structure to support your plants as they develop and grow, giving them the foundation that they need to thrive and grow beautifully. Here are some amendments to consider to modify your soil:
Add organic fertilizer – Adding compost is the perfect way to add nutrients to support the long-term growth of your plant. While you can always use chemical fertilizers after the plant is established to give them a boost, starting with some organic nutrients will give your plant the long-term fuel it needs to continue to thrive. Typically, just adding a inch or two of compost goes a long way, then till the new compost into the soil before planting.
Making Room for Roots – Aerate the soil with a pitchfork before planting to help make the air pockets that your plant will need to grow root systems. A good foundation is important for shade-loving plants especially to find nutrients and water.
Mulch Well – After you plant, use mulch to help lock moisture into the soil. Shade from the sun often means shade from other elements like rain, meaning that keeping water near the roots is vital for shaded plants. Mulching to a thickness of about 3 inches is usually sufficient to protect the roots of your plants.
Popular Perennial Flowers for the Shade: There are hundreds of popular perennials to choose for that shady spot in your yard. These are some of our favorite popular choices for the shade that will keep returning to thrive each year:
Hostas – An elegant classic that has graced protected corners of backyards for decades, and for good reason. These plants come in many varieties that boast different shades and shapes, but they all provide gorgeous ground cover in shaded and partially shaded locations. Hosta are still the tried and true plant for dense shady areas.
Christmas Fern – Ferns have a delicate style that catches the eye and captures the imagination. Not only good ground cover, these plants offer some drama and a little bit of texture and height to a shady spot in your garden. Christmas Fern is a quick grower that will easily take up whatever shaded spot you have in mind for it, but isn’t invasive and is easy to control with just a little trimming.
Bleeding Hearts – A beautiful and traditional shade decoration, bleeding hearts have delicate pink flowers that are their namesake, adding a pop of color to shady areas. This classic flower is long-lived, mild-mannered, and will fit in well with other shade loving perennials.
Ligularia Dentata – These attractive annuals have fun lily pad-shaped leaves that can vary in color and provide contrast to other plant foliage. During the summer, they burst to life with a yellow flower display. Ligularia Dentata are usually vibrant growers, but they can lay down during hot summer days.
Astilbe – Astilbes give great height to flower beds and come in a wide range of shades. For shady spots, we recommend the ‘Maggie Daley’ variety. Maggie Daley shows off stunning feathery magenta blooms during the summer. This variety also has a reputation for good performance.
Shade Loving Shrubs: Shrubs are great options for filling large empty spaces and adding structure to your overall garden design. These shrubs thrive in shady patches.
Hydrangeas – Hydrangeas often become the crown jewel of any garden, making it clear that plants in the shady parts of your yard can also be in the spotlight. We love how vibrant and how much life a hydrangea shrub can pack into a spot in the shade, and find them the ideal choice for lining the shaded spots along fences or walls. Our favorite varieties for shade include Little Lime, Mystical Flame, Quickfire, and Endless Summer.
Japanese Yew – These evergreen shrubs have great texture and look a little more interesting than other shade-loving foliage plants. The Everlow variety keeps a low-profile and looks fantastic
Rhododendron – Rhododendrons add an elegant shape and gorgeous pink flowers to your shade garden. Our favorite varieties are the Korean rhododendron and PJM rhododendron.
Azaleas – Like rhododendrons, the shape of azalea shrubs look magnificent in shade gardens, with bold blooms in some lovely jewel tones. Try the deep fuschia Orchid Lights variety, the hot pink Northern Lights variety, or vibrant orange Mandarin Lights variety.
Shade Loving Annuals: Annuals lack the lifespan of perennials, but they pack a lot of enthusiasm, color, and life into the one season that they do have. While some of our favorite annuals love to bask in the sun, there is no shortage of popular options that will thrive with a little less exposure.
Begonias – With shiny foliage and beautiful cheerful flowers available in every shade of the rainbow, there’s a Begonia out there for any landscape style and taste. Most begonias thrive in full or part shade, offering pretty colors to most sheltered corners of your yard.
Lobelia – These plants are dainty and delicate that have delightfully cheerful pastel colors that thrive in partial shade. Offering great ground cover, this is a great way to have some beautiful color over every inch of your yard.
Impatiens – These multi-colored annuals are the gorgeous poster children for shady locations. While they have a “wildflower” look that adds some whimsy to your garden, filling up shady or partially shady spots with beautiful color.
Sweet Alyssum – These dainty white flowers bloom for the whole summer season, offering a unique and intoxicating fragrance, even into the cooler temperatures of fall.
Bulbs in the Shade: The classic option for those that want stunning flowers but like the “plant it and forget about it” method, there are many bulbs that will thrive in the shade. Many of these flowers create a natural focal point in your garden, despite being in the shade.
Crocus – Crocus are an always-elegant option that offer a classic late spring look. Try them in delightful shades of white, purple, and yellow.
Galanthus – Also known as Snowdrops, these white flowers stand out against their shady home and offer color surprisingly early in the season.
Daffodils – If you’re looking to brighten up the shaded spots in your garden, these flower’s signature yellow flowers add a little splash of sunshine where there is none.
Tulips – For a classic springtime look, there’s nothing that impresses quite like the tulip. Adaptable and able to bloom nearly anywhere from full shade to partial sun, they offer a truly stunning array of colorful options and styles.
The sun-filled spots in your yard and garden don’t have to be the constant spotlight of your landscape and garden design. With so many different varieties of shade-loving plants to choose from, the lighting conditions don’t have to limit your options and design for your outdoor space. With shade loving plants this stunning, there are options for everyone to enjoy that are the right fit for their home, lifestyle, and landscape design.
If you’re looking for more guidance on planting a shade-friendly garden, visit our garden center, just 10 minutes South of West Des Moines.
Some gardeners are intimidated by the idea of planting a tree in their yard. While it can seem like a big project, planting trees is actually quite simple, and a great investment in a living legacy that will continue to grow in your yard and with your family for years to come. Trees are the ultimate statement-maker in outdoor decor, providing a number of benefits to your yard and home, while providing a dramatic, stately look that will endure the seasons and years.
The best time to consider adding a new tree are the temperate seasons of spring and fall. With autumn fast approaching, we’re getting close to tree-planting season, making this the ideal time to start planning for your new addition. Back-to-school season is full of new beginnings, why not start your property with a gorgeous upgrade, too?
Trees can manage in our mid-summer heat waves, but they truly thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. Planting when it’s cool gives your tree all the low-stress weather it needs to get established before the mercury drops further.
Planting isn’t complicated, but approaching it with the right steps is a sure way to succeed. If you’re nervous about taking the project on yourself, though, our landscaping teams are always happy to help make your property dreams come true. For the do-it-yourself crowd, follow these simple steps to get your yard looking perfect with the ultimate classy upgrade.
1. Getting your yard ready:
You’ll want to plant your tree as soon as you get it home, so preparing your planting area beforehand saves time and will have your tree looking its best sooner. If you can’t plant right away, you’ll want to make sure the tree is shaded and that the root ball stays moist until you do plant.
2. Pick the perfect location:
Choosing a spot for your tree is a compromise between your tree’s needs and your aesthetic vision. Match your location to the needs of your tree so it will get the moisture and light it craves – and make sure you plan for your tree to grow over the years, too.
Your house relies on an amazing foundation to stand the test of time and your tree does, too. Start your tree right with a good hole and you’ll be sure to have a healthy and vibrant addition to your home. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball, making sure that you’re planting in good soil. If by chance the hole is dug out deeper than the root ball, make sure to add more dirt to the correct level and tamp or pack down the dirt. This will ensure the tree does not sink past the existing soil level. If your dirt isn’t up to the standard, add some black earth, compost, and peat moss to help it get established. If your yard doesn’t have ample soil on top of a largely useless layer of clay or rock, just dig the hole for your tree wider to give it the space it craves to perform its best.
Once you’ve planted, water generously to help the roots get established as quick as possible. Water near the edge of the root ball and be sure to pack the dirt down as you water. This will help to remove any air pockets that are near the root ball. A sufficient amount of water should saturate the dirt and begin to puddle near the surface
A layer of mulch – a simple wood mulch, like cedar – is an absolutely crucial step. Not only does it look polished and professional, but the mulch will help to regulate temperature at the roots for your tree, providing shelter in the cold months of winter, and shading from the hottest days of the summer. Take care not to let the mulch directly touch the tree’s trunk, though. Leave a space between the two to prevent any rotting.
Planting a tree is simple and doesn’t have to be a chore. Choosing a tree to be your home and family’s companion for years to come is an investment in your future that will grow with you. It’s the ultimate classy addition to your home’s aesthetic and will weather everything to come with your family – promotions, new schools, graduations, new pets, new family members – all with a lush and green flair of style.
If you would like more detailed instructions or have any questions, make sure to contact our experts at Ted Lare Garden Center and we’d be happy to help with any concerns!
Ted Lare Design Build specializes in Des Moines Landscaping Design and Installation.
We cover a wide range of Central Iowa. We have installed landscapes for many years in all areas of the Des Moines metro, including West Des Moines, Des Moines, Waukee, Clive, Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny, Altoona, Indianola, and Norwalk.