Sunday, May 16, 2010

Here Birdie Birdie Birdie

We've had an unusually large bird population at the feeders this spring. Not unusual birds, they are all common to this area in the summer.

Hours before the big rains, most all of our birds have been feeding on the sunflower seeds. This is rather surprising because they typically would rather eat insects and seeds from the yard in the spring.

I had once read if it's going to be a long and severe storm, birds would come to the feeders for their fill. If it was going to be a short-duration storm, they would wait it out. Apparently, the person who observed this behavior was spot on.

It's also been a hard spring on the baby birds. I've seen several, after storms, that were apparently blown or washed out of nests. And even though birds' feathers naturally shed water, they've looked pretty soaked to the skin after the rain finally stops.

When the wind gusts to 40 - 50 mph even our big old trees do a lot of whipping around. Birds who build in the top of trees must have a thrilling, or more likely scary, ride.

Birds at the feeders this month:
Blue Jays, Cardinals, Red Headed Woodpeckers, Gold Finches, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, wrens, House Finches, nuthatches, American Tree Sparrows, Dark-Eyed Juncos, White Crowned Sparrows, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, and I'm sure others I've not identified. The robins, doves and Brown Thrashers feed in the seed catcher or on the ground under the feeders if it's really going to be a nasty storm.

I've seen more blackbirds and starlings stay around the yard this year. Usually they move through and out in early Spring. Fortunately, they're pretty much staying in the fields with the Killdeers and hawks.

I've always kept seed in the feeders near my computer room window year round because I enjoy watching them but the amount they eat drops considerably in the summer. It started that drop until the heavy rain storms began.

Other nesting activity:
A Brown Thrasher couple has built a nest in the honeysuckle that twines over the end of my clothesline. When they started, it was a relatively quiet area but it's a mere five feet from the edge of the screened back porch and close to the area I've been landscaping. Brown Thrashers are pretty shy birds and this has been a hard adjustment for them.

The "little in size but big in personality" wrens are not shy and often nest near porches. They seem to have a particular fancy for porch wreaths, hanging baskets, and other man-made decorations. Most often it works for me as I enjoy watching their parental skills and hearing their large vocabulary of songs.

Other activity:
The bats came out of hibernation only to be greeted by cool nights and storms.

I've already seen several types of moths and butterflies in the gardens. Last night we had a "June Bug" on our screen. Not only are the flowers blooming about fifteen days early but apparently all nature is on warp speed this spring.

Friends shared the prediction that once we get past this wet spring, drought will set in for the rest of the summer. If that happens, those of us who get everything planted or transplanted during the wet spell will be glad they at least are getting an easy good start. New perennials will still need regular deep watering the first year, especially trees and bushes. Potted and hanging planters may need daily watering if rain becomes scarce.

But today, the yard is lush with greenery and things are growing bigger than ever before. Even the most skimpy transplant appears to be taking hold. Today, all things look bright. Isn't it great to have the optimism of a gardener??

Friday, May 14, 2010

Staying Beautiful All Summer

This old copper boiler contains sage, a small cherry tomato plant, parsley and petunias.
This is a tomato plant by the back door.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” - Erich Fromm

Recently, I did a garden presentation for the Kewanee Business and Professional Women. I had some herbs & discussed how to use them in garden pots. Potting generated quite a few questions and I thought I’d share some of the answers with you.

I focused on using pots for herbs and vegetables because of the diverse ages and time constraints of the group. Most health and time limitations still permit enjoying some basic fresh vegetables and herbs if done in pots.

Following are suggestions for those who can’t do hard labor or take a lot of time with a large garden.

The Pots:
· Don’t use little pots because they won’t allow root growth and will dry out too fast.
· If you don’t want to purchase a flower pot, re purpose a copper boiler, old canner, etc.
· Unglazed pottery will need more watering.
· All pots should have drainage holes.

To Fill:
· In large containers, fill about 1/3 with crushed aluminum cans, plastic milk jugs, or shipping peanuts. (The exception: tomatoes do better with all soil.)
· Next a thick layer of newspapers touching all sides.
· Add potting soil that contains fertilizer and some kind of moisture-retaining substance.

The plants:
· It takes less work if you use vegetables that won’t get huge or need staking.
· Herbs may be planted with a few flowers.
· Leaf lettuce forms a nice border.
· USE the herbs & vegetables to keep them producing and bushy.

The process:
· Add a one inch layer of wood mulch after planting.
· As the season and roots progress, the plants will need more water.
· Water until it runs out the bottom, then stop until next time.
· Fertilize with a liquid type three months after planting and continue monthly until frost. Fish emulsion is my favorite (Don’t use if you have cats-they may dig in the pots.)
· Pick your produce as soon as it’s ripe to keep the plant producing.

· Add color to your pots by adding peppers, curly or colored leaf plants, a Wave petunia, sweet potato vine, varieties of herbs, or a geranium.
· A small glass ball, statue or other garden ornaments can brighten all green plants.
· Pots sitting in full sun produce more.
· Pots placed near a water source & where they’re seen helps you remember to tend & use.

Creatively potting your favorite food allows you to eat well even if you aren’t up to tending a large garden.

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” Edwin Way Teale

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Midwest Monsoon

From the WQAD Facebook page. I doubt anyone reading this isn't aware of major flooding because of the rain last night.

Although we had a little over two inches, most everyone around us had from 4 to 6 inches and upwards. Storm sewers, creeks, rivers and ditches have overflowed. Fields, again, have gullies with topsoil loss. Burlington (in purple) had serious flooding. Geneseo has businesses flooded and evacuated a trailer park. The entire town of Monmouth had serious water in basements due to storm sewer overload. The interstate and several state and county roads were closed earlier today because of water. Check out the WQAD pictures for more on mudslides, road sink holes, and especially if you're thinking of driving around. Any place low has standing water whether a parking lot, road or yard.

Not sure what this will do to crops and gardens. If the weather warms, a little wind and no rain, they might do alright. Otherwise, anything standing in water for very long will have the roots smothered and the plants will die.

Those who have organic mulch in standing water will eventually have to assess if it needs to be removed because of mold.

Plants with rhizomes and bulbs may be at the most risk of rotting.

Every area of the world has their dangerous and destructive weather events - the Midwest is no exception. Historically, these events have been happening forever. Historically, they are no worse in recent times. I tend to be of the group that believes we simply know more about these events, the access to on-site and minute-by-minute reporting and more people to talk about them is making it seem worse. Each new generation experiences these events for the first time and are usually taken by surprise and equally amazed at the power of weather forces.

Of course, knowing it is typical doesn't make it any easier to clean up the mess, ride out the storm or, at it's worst, deal with the loss of life and property.

Here's to a sunny dry weekend, folks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Daylily Photo Contest

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin are in the Great Lakes - Region 2 Division of the American Hemerocallis Society.

Region 2 members are invited to participate in a photo contest promoting daylilies and photography. What a better twosome!

Most of us who have daylilies in our gardens or simply enjoy them wherever we see them, find it difficult to resist taking photographs. I've finally stopped making so many prints and now store my photos on an external PC hard drive.

Granted you must be "into" daylilies to belong to the AHS but the benefits are many, including this photo contest.

Contest hint: Read the directions carefully because most garden photo contests have little particulars or specifics that must be included to be considered. This one wants daylilies in the landscape with a place to sit. And although the yellow daylilies below make a pretty picture, according to the rules, they would not qualify.

Don't be afraid to enter garden or flower photo contests IF they are associated with reputable groups. Don't enter any contest where you must pay something to enter, where you loose your rights/ownership of your photographs or where you must submit any financial or secure data.

If a contest, which is otherwise secure, would like to retain sole use or future ownership of your pictures, I suggest you weight the pros and cons of their stipulation carefully. Sometimes this is alright for what you're doing and at other times it is basically stealing your photographs.

Many contests only offer the photographer and gardener satisfaction that others appreciate their efforts by publishing the picture or by awarding prizes. For most, that's good enough!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dancing With the Stars

We had a very wet growing season in 2009, as a result some things prospered (such as pine trees) and others drowned and died (such as some iris). Pines were definitely the perfect dance partner for rain.

Once you think you know exactly what a plant needs, the weather turns and it's a different dance entirely.

The spot you worked so hard to make it drain, has to be continually watered the year of the drought. The music plays, the song has changed.

The year of the early warm spring allows planting fields and gardens in April. We all know we'll have crop maturity early enough to fill our baskets and grain bins. That's when Mother Nature waltzes through with hail in her eye and wind in her dance steps.

For farmers, it's the reason for crop insurance. For those of us who garden for beauty or to add to our recipes, it can make or break a good year.

Unlike those who depend on their crops for livelihood, we can fill our dance card with a different partner every song. Do you realize there's a whole lot of people out there that have never heard of a dance card, let alone know it's use? But, back to crops and weather.

The key to a successful yard is diversification. If I had a yard full of only pines, there would be years when my yard would be very bare because of continued drought or disease. I've lost pines but since I've planted many different varieties of trees, I never loose everything.

Same with flowers and garden plants. A variety will not only keep a weather or disease problem from eliminating all outdoor enjoyment, it will enrich the ecosystem to sustain a more diverse group of plants, animals and insects.

So, even thought you may be madly and totally in love with one plant type, I wouldn't bet my prom shoes on just that one kind. It's a sure way to have to sit out the dance.
You know how fickle dancers - aaa - er - I mean plants can be.

Photo of Maxim Chmerkobskiy from ABC's "Dancing With The Stars".

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fun in the Sun

Had a good laugh after church when we were discussing our new supply of manure and the joke evolved, "You know you're from a small farm town when you stand around after church discussing manure."

My husband put aged manure down in the new bed that developed after we had to have the foundation in that part of our old house replaced. That meant tearing up and moving everything, letting it settle over winter, putting down edging and now improving the soil. Today, it's in pretty good shape and everything moved into place.

Through a series of events, I found multitudes of flower seed I'd gathered or been given over the past several years. I decided to throw all of them (except the hundreds of apricot pits - what was I thinking) on the manure bed among everything I'd transplanted. They're all seeds from annuals I really love and if even one comes up I'll be amazed. It does give them a better chance of living than sitting in plastic bags in the garage...

I'd also bought a bag of a dozen canna bulbs at the Salvation Army last week for $3. They appeared to be healthy and was able to get those in the ground today - I'm betting on lots of rain next week to get everything started.

It didn't get cold enough last night to do any damage to plants - very thankful. It means the farm crops that are already up didn't get damaged either - double thankful.


Check out the Sunday Peoria Journal Star's garden contest. To enter, it costs three photographs and a drive to Hoerr Nursery in Peoria. The info and application are also on their web site.


There's a new flower / antique shop in Galva owned by Abby Hathaway and her grandparents. It's in the vicinity of the grocery store/vet offices.


Others in the near vicinity:

Diane Nelson's Prairie Country Gardens has plant sets. Sunnyfield Greenhouse always has hundreds of choices. Dew Fresh Market has plants until they run out - some pretty awesome asparagus ferns among others.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Frost and Freeze Warning Tonight

OK, let me start by saying this entire weather informational note came from Anthony Peoples' Blog, weatherman (do they still call them that?) for WQAD. I thought it important enough for all area gardeners to put it here just in case you miss it other places:

SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: Saturday, May 8, 2010, 7:06 a.m.

"Things are not looking good for area farmers and for people, like me, that put our crops, plants, and flowers out early this season.

After the warmest April on record in the Quad Cities, record or near record low temperatures are expected tonight and a frost and freeze is possible early Sunday morning. (The official record low in the Quad Cities is 32 degrees tonight.)

With high pressure building in overhead Saturday night, skies will clear out and temperatures will drop into the 20s and 30s.

A “Freeze Warning” is in effect from 3-8 a.m. Sunday for the following Iowa counties: Cedar, Clinton, Dubuque, Jackson, Johnson, Jones, Muscatine, and Scott, and the Illinois counties of Carroll, Jo Daviess, Rock Island, and Whiteside.

Temperatures under the “Freeze Warning” could fall into the upper-20s Sunday morning.
To the east and south of those counties, a “Frost Advisory” is in effect for the Iowa counties of Des Moines, Henry, Lee, and Louisa, and the Illinois counties of Bureau, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, La Salle, McDonough, Mercer, and Warren. Temperatures under this advisory could drop to 30-35 degrees by Sunday morning.

The “Freeze Warning” and the “Frost Advisory” means that temperatures will be primed for frost to develop or for tender vegetation to freeze for several hours in the pre-dawn hours Sunday. Any plants not covered are susceptible to being damaged or killed.

However, there are two things that could work to our advantage and keep temperatures up a few degrees. First, and most importantly, the winds will have to subside to almost calm tonight. Also, some computer models are indicating some high cloudiness, which might work to keep temperatures from really bottoming out tonight.

I’ll continue to monitor the trends today and have an update later. However, it doesn’t look good. I would definitely cover whatever plants you can by sunset to help hold in some of the heat for the plants from today."


Side Note:

A new little garden shop opened in Galesburg on Seminary Street almost across the street from Innkeepers Coffee Shop. It's called the Garden Station. We had only a short time to stop and browse but it has very healthy affordable annual plants, very friendly, and some unusual things.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bouquets of Love

Happy Mothers' Day!

For all of you who have birthed children and made their lives better by your care or allowed others to love & care for them;

For all of you who have mothered not only your own children, but also, your grandchildren, your stepchildren and grandchildren, your adopted children, your foster children and other children just because.

For mothers and the days when you didn't feel appreciated, when you received sharp or discouraging comments, when you were told everything you do or say is wrong.

For all the mothers and grandmothers who have nursed a child, who have lost a child or who don't know where your child is today.

For mothers who keep and treasure the handmade cards, the sunflower seedling, the 50 cent gift, and the sloppy kisses & hugs.

For all the mother's tears you've shed, the sleepless nights and the real or emotional band aids you've applied.

For every mother who wouldn't be complete without those kids:

God Bless You

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Here Today ~ Gone Tomorrow

This early blooming beauty is the heirloom Germanica Iris "Eleanor Roosevelt". Germanica Iris are the large bearded iris. This one was named after Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933 in honor of her efforts to plant vegetables at the White House.
Another heirloom iris, Germanica Iris "Mme. Chereau" registered by Lemon in 1844. Although it has tall stems, it is a very small flower.

The registered name for this is Germanica Iris "#10 Maroon". It's very large and looks like velvet.

This pretty medium-sized iris is called Irdaceae "Red Zinger". It was the first to start blooming in my garden this year. All my flowers/bushes/trees seem to be about fifteen days earlier than last year thanks to the early warmth and lack of late frosts.

This is the first year this iris has bloomed although I planted in 2008. It's particular needs are very much the opposite of most iris because it likes wet bog conditions. I planted where rainwater from the downspout runs over it's feet.
This unusual iris is Germanica Iris "Synergy" and was introduced by Keppel in 2004. The form and coloring are what attracted me to this version. It is a small gold/buff, has lilac brushing and veins, an orange ruff and heavy ruffling. It is pearled and glistens in the sun.
As I've mentioned before, I keep rather detailed information on my plants. One of the things this allows me is to realize when something has died. That may sound crazy that I might not know when a plant (especially a beautiful one) dies, but, with as many packed-full beds as we have, it can slip by my summer thoughts.
Germanica Iris are considered pretty darn hardy and that perception is reinforced by the many growing along roadsides, in abandon yards and old cemeteries and the fact they are about 7,000 years old. I use the word perception because they have definite likes and dislikes and are all too willing to die for their preferences.
Unless specifically described otherwise, Germanica Iris rules are:
  • They do not want to sit in water or "sticky" compacted soil.
  • They will not bloom in full shade.
  • They must sit with part of the rhizome at ground level or exposed.
  • The old middle of clumps will usually die and need to be discarded.
  • They will do better if they are divided every few years. (see my articles "Divide and Conquer" (10-30-08) and "Iris Perfection" (5-23-09)
  • They have a few pests that will eat the rhizomes and deer may find them yummy.

And then, they may die even when you do everything perfectly right. This seems to be directly related to how much is paid for the plant. Seriously, the pressure of buying an expensive iris only to have it disappear is more than I can stand.

I often swear I'll never buy another iris - when I realize how many have disappeared. Then comes May and the beautiful flowers start their show; I catch myself cruising the on-line Schreiner's Iris or Hornbaker Garden's catalogs.

Monday, May 3, 2010

So Happy I Could Sing

A mix of petunias, bachelor buttons, perennial daisy and cleomes.

"I'm so excited and I just can't hide it
I'm about to lose control and I think I like it
I'm so excited and I just can't hide it
And I know ~ I know ~ I know ~ I know ~ I know ~ I want you!"
Lyrics from "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters

Honestly, these lyrics are me about ten minutes after entering a local nursery on my quest to buy a "few" annual flowers. I go in with the self discipline of a rock. But then, my heart starts beating faster and I look like one of those crazed game show contestants rushing from bounty to bounty.

That adrenaline rush, the glazed eyes, lack of self control, sensible principals and self discipline go out the window as I rush from beauty to beauty. "I know ~ I know ~ I know ~ I know ~ I know ~ I want you!"

As we've entered the phase of our life called "retired" otherwise known as "watching your finances so you don't outlive your savings", I've employed more control. I stop and breath and consider priorities. OK, that's out of the way, "I'm so excited and I just can't hide it"!

A few old garden favorites that always draw me: Zinnias, nasturtiums, snapdragons, bachelor buttons, cleomes, marigolds and four-o'clocks. I've planted these from seed for as long as I've been gardening and now nurseries are carrying them in plant set form. Whoohoo, instant gratification. I did mention the whole instant gratification thing didn't I???? "I'm about to lose control and I think I like it!"

I've always said a gardener can rationalize a purchase faster and better than the most hard line addict. I'm just thankful my addiction is flowers; it at least puts a respectable covering over my issues and isn't nearly as hard on the body and mind (although that's debatable.)

Fortunately, varieties of the old garden annuals are usually reasonably priced and I never need lots. Just a small four-pack to place here and there. A gentle reminder of the simplicity of the old flowers and the continued beauty.

When walking through my gardens, I often pick just a couple of flowers from these heirloom annuals and put in a little vase. I use the word "sweet" as I walk by or get a whiff of their fragrance.

I haven't bought my annual flowers yet, but, it's getting close and "I'm So Excited!"

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pack the Place

This is the cottage and gardens at Bidawee in the UK. It's a public garden located on an old sandstone quarry.
Located on 2 acres, it has been in existence for 26 years.
These photos are from an article on Dave's Gardens by Sue Taylor.

"No one ever said gardening was easy" - unless you have a staff of hundreds - which I'm betting doesn't apply to my readers - in that case "no one ever said gardening doesn't take thousands of dollars" and if that's not you either "no one said gardening didn't take a lot of work!"
As you can see from the Bidawee Gardens photos, their English garden planting mode of operation is to pack plants very tightly for a lush look. Where you might think packing plants tightly eliminates weeds (and it does help), it also takes a lot of maintenance to keep plants in check.
Thin out the bullies and pinch back the reach-for-the-moon types. Keep the walks clear from spreading invasions. Manage the turf grass without killing the flowers.
You may also notice they have good bones, IE: evergreens, stone structures, paths, little scenic hide-a-ways, abundant color and texture.
The more casual the look, the more labor intensive. But, don't be misled, casual doesn't mean accidental. Everything in this garden is there for a reason and put there on purpose.
There are people who find English gardens too chaotic for their taste. While the English garden has purposeful structure, it seldom has formal symmetry - something some gardeners need.
I appreciate both, but I find in my own garden I gravitate to the more informal. It's probably from living in a home where the shrubs had to be trimmed every few weeks to be neat and tidy. Something I vowed never to revisit.
I do appreciate beautifully trimmed hedges, such as the row at a farm house on Route 17 leaving Galva IL, on the right. As for me, I will simply enjoy that person's work and the fact that he does it without me.
A word of advice: Make sure the plants you use to pack the place are not invasive or you will forever hate the day you brought them into the bed. Make sure you understand the exact height and width the plant will achieve when mature and how often it must be divided to maintain the look.
Today is a beautiful day, the birds are building nests and keeping up quite a chatter this morning. I've seen a Brown Thrasher building in my honeysuckle and a little wren inspecting a hanging pot.
From the artist who captured an English garden better than anyone:

"What I need most of all are flowers, always, always."
- Claude Monet, 1840-1926, Impressionist painter and life-long gardener
Mark you calendars:
14th Annual Glorious Garden Festival in Bloomington-Normal IL
Jun. 18 & 19, 2010 - 18th 1-8 p.m., 19th 9 a.m. -5 p.m.
David Davis Mansion, 1000 Monroe Drive, Bloomington, IL 61701 309.828.1084
Take a self-guided tour through at least 10 of the most beautiful, private gardens in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois.
Cost: $12/adult; $7/child in advance; $15/adult; $7/child day of event. Event Type: Family Friendly

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Location Location Location

All three of these pictures were taken today and they are taken from inside the house. This tree lilac is is outside the dining room bay window.

This is outside my living room picture window.

This view is off the back porch.

This is an opinion or taste thing and may not be your opinion or taste. However, it's an option you may want to consider as you develop more flower beds around your home.

In the Midwest, the majority of our year isn't conducive to walking in the garden and admiring flowers up close. Most of us are so busy, we simply haven't the time to take that leisurely stroll every day to admire the blooms. That being the case, having flower beds planted so you can enjoy them from your windows makes sense.

I'll allow you must enjoy flower beds more than you enjoy turf grass to want this idea to work.

Although my beds are "random" or more English garden, the more formal design works as well.

Some of my techniques and reasoning I've used when locating beds within window views:

I'm anxious to get rid of as much turf grass as possible. Mowing takes time and turf grass takes work, chemicals, and time to maintain. Once large flower beds are mostly weed free and planted and mulched, they become much easier than turf grass.

Consideration to the four seasons is essential to a pleasing window view. Evergreens, ornamental grasses and seed pods are good for winter. Bulbs, iris, fruit bushes and trees grace the Spring garden. Summer needs plants that bloom early, mid season and late. Fall is all about phlox, mums and leaves that change color. Having focus that melds between seasons is a plus.

Walkways provide for smelling, observing and maintenance. They also add structure in the winter.

Ornamentation (bird baths for instance) can add grace and help attract birds and butterflies.

The outside venues don't need to be large or expansive to work. A simple round bed may be all you want or can manage. Placed at the right spot for viewing from inside the house, it will still bring joy. A few pots placed where you can view them outside your window or as you walk to and from the garage may be just perfect.

Another plus for city living, planted beds can also bring privacy without having to pull the shades. Add outdoor lighting (such as solar lights) and it discourages prowlers and adds another level of viewing.

One caution in developing a garden close to your home is to make sure you keep the water draining away from your home's foundation, keep biodegradable mulch away from your siding, and maintain air circulation.

“In the hope of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.”
- Albert Schweitzer

Tomatoes Made Easy (Easier)

Thought I'd share some of the items available to enhance tomato growing.
Grow Bags: This is designed mostly for limited spaces. The Grow Bags are double-layer polypropylene fabric (felt-like), breathes, different sizes, flat bottoms, folds flat in off-season, tear-resistant, can use cages w/ them, and made in the USA. A tomato Grow Bag is about $13.
Tomato Cages for Potted Plants: They fold w/ square corners and may have extensions added to the top. Easy to store flat. Average around $12.
Self Watering Containers: Have easy fill and drain ports, a reservoir that hold several gallons of water, most have optional casters, and come in different sizes, shapes, and most in Terra Cotta or green colors. Average $40-70 depending on the options.
Tomato Trolley: This is a metal support system to hold oblong pots (24 x 18 1/2 x 28 ins), has a shelf under the pot, locking casters and is great for those that can't bend over or get on your knees (or anyone). Average $50.
Hanging Tomato Bags: The benefit is you don't need a garden at all. They are heavy to lift into place. There are all kinds, sizes, prices and qualities for these bags. Try the cheaper varieties if you want for one plant this year and see how it works for you. It may be just perfect. For those that want more options, these are available: Swivel hook to let you rotate sun exposure, water delivery reservoir (typically they take alot of watering), breathable zippered liner allows for easier handling, planting and storage, reusable steel cage, reinforced fabric, iron plant hangers for several & sunlight. These run about $20. There are others made from plastic instead of fabric; cheaper but requires more watching for water needs. Lastly, there are those made from natural coir fiber (looks like shredded coconut shells). They dry out quickly and need wire support. The ones that have a lining to limit drying run about $8.
Tomato Supports: There are all kinds, sizes and decorative supports. The one piece of advice I have about supports is make sure you can reach inside them to pick your tomatoes. Also, make sure you use posts for support of large plants. I use 4 foot wooden stakes on three sides. Supports can be trellises, wire frames, ladders, cages, and other re-purposed supports. The tough basic supports work in gardens, you may want something "prettier" in pots and flower beds. The point of support is to keep air circulating around the plant, takes less room, and makes picking easier. It also allows watering the soil not the leaves, helps prevent diseases, and makes picking easier.
Tomato Teepees: These work well if you like to get your tomato plants in the ground really early. It's basically a mini green house. These insulating cloches are water filled and soak up heat during the day and release during the night hours. Some believe the red ones do a better job for tomatoes. They run around $5.
Tomato Automators: Red plastic devices suppress weeds, protects from cutworms, catches water and directs to root zone and the red color is suppose to boost harvest. It works much like making your own catch basin, mulching, etc. but they are a hot item right now. Priced at about $4.
Tomato Potting Soil: Formulated with the nutrients specifically mixed for tomatoes, it is available in regular or organic. Most also have "self-watering" items to hold and slowly release water. Prices vary widely by where you shop, the brand, and quantity.
Tomato Varieties: Every year new hybrids are introduced. Specific attributes are usually plant and fruit size, disease resistance, days to maturity, eating/preserving qualities, and sometimes taste. I often try at least one new hybrid each year along with the tried and true old standards and a few heirlooms. This allows so much more diverse possibilities in all categories. Most really new varieties can only be found in catalogs or on line.
Reminder: Buying a large tomato plant set usually doesn't get tomatoes any faster than the smaller ones. Larger ones seem to take longer to adjust to transplanting and often need to be planted deeper whereas the smaller ones settle in and take right off. I've experimented with this several years in a row and it has always proved true. Save your money for more plants not bigger ones when it comes to veggies.
My mouth is watering with all this talk of tomatoes out of the garden - a BLT calling my name! Sliced tomatoes on anything!