What planting zone is baltimore md

You wouldn’t expect bananas to grow in the desert, apples to grow near the beach or peaches to grow up in the Cascade or Rocky Mountains. And that’s all due to planting zones. Planting zones (which are also known as “plant hardiness zones,” and “growing zones”) are exactly what you’d expect, zones in which certain plants thrive the best. There are 13 different zones and each one has specific plants which do the best, taking the guess-work out of wondering if your tomatoes will survive the growing season.

Our friends over at Gilmour whipped up this Interactive U.S. Planting Zone Map for 2018, and it is a total plant lifesaver.

Simply input your zip code into the plant hardiness zone map box and figure out which zone your yard falls under. Then check out your zone below to see what plants grow the best in your garden.

Zone 1

Located in Alaska, this zone is the coldest for planting with an average minimum temperature of -60 – -50ºF. Native plants do really well in this tundra condition and annuals are a great option as well since they do not grow in the winter.

Some popular plants in this zone include: cabbage, tomatoes, chokecherry, basil, sunflowers and potatoes.

Zone 2

While this zone is getting a little warmer, most of the zone is still located in Alaska. The tundra and plains of this zone can cause some trouble with the high winds, but creative planting techniques will persevere in this zone.

Popular plants include: carrots, juniper, onions, Brookgold plum and poppy flowers.

Zone 3


Slowly but surely we are making our way further south. This zone is found in Alaska, the northern part of the USA and high altitude areas. Native plants do great in this zone.

Popular plants include: asparagus, summer squash, cupid cherry, garlic and Virginia bluebells.

Zone 4

With an average minimum temperature of -30 – 20ºF this zone is found in the southern coastal areas of Alaska and the northern areas of the United States such as Washington and parts of Oregon.

Popular plants include: eggplant, okra, lemon balm, iris and thyme.

Zone 5

Zone five brings us to the southern coast of Alaska, the North Central United States and parts of New England. The growing season in this zone is short, however using cold frames will help this zone drastically when the cold temperatures hit.

Popular plants include: kale, spinach, honeycrisp apple, lavender, and black-eyed susan.

Zone 6

This USDA zone is one of the largest and covers most of the US. With a minimum winter temperature of -10 – 0ºF, this zone has many options to grow fruit and vegetables.

Popular plants include: bush beans, butter lettuce, tomatoes, peaches, dill and flowering fern.

Zone 7


Covering 15 states, this zone includes Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and parts of North Carolina and Virginia. The temperature in this zone can differ slightly due to location, so row covers can help if the early spring is colder.

Popular plants include: arugula, fuji apple, turnips, sage and peony.

Zone 8

Zone eight is one of the warmest zones in a large portion of the south. With mild winters, this zone boasts a long growing season, a plus for most gardeners.

Popular plants include: tomatoes, watermelon, meyer lemon, rosemary and phlox.

Zone 9

Considered a year-round planting zone, this zone is found in Arizona, California, Texas and Florida. The spring gardening begins earlier here and ends later in the fall.

Popular plants include: broccoli, brussels sprouts, avocado, olives, basil, mint and hydrangea.

Zone 10

This zone is small and contains southern California, southern Florida and Hawaii. The fact that this zone doesn’t freeze in the winter means that planting in the winter is a breeze. However the summer heat limits which plants can survive.

Popular plants include: jicama, tomatillos, jackfruit, ginger and agave.

Zone 11


Found solely in Hawaii, this zone has zero frost days. Tropical native plants do best in this small zone.

Popular plants include: sweet peas, swiss chard, mango, chives and kangaroo palm.

Zone 12 & Zone 13

Both of these zones are not found in the continental United States, but rather Hawaii and Puerto Rico. As the warmest of the USDA hardiness zones, this zone boasts tropical and exotic fruits.

Popular plants include: tomatoes, black pepper, cilantro and musaceae.

Now that you know which zone you are located, the real question is: what are you going to plant this year?

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If you’re the kind of gardener whose green thumb tends more toward brown, or if you simply don’t have time to feed and water plants and chase away the deer — don’t despair. New varieties of reliable flower favorites are easy to grow and yet unusual enough to make you look like a champion gardener.

The best plants for busy gardeners are natives and perennials, says Gene Sumi, education coordinator for Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville. It’s hard to go wrong with old standbys like black-eyed Susans, coneflowers and perennial geraniums. These natives are accustomed to Maryland’s hot, humid summers and beneficial to bees, butterflies and birds. It also helps to pick plants that are disease-resistant, don’t require a lot of fertilizer and aren’t attractive to deer.

While native plants and perennials are the easiest to tend, Carrie Engel, green house manager of Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, also recommends adding some annuals for immediate impact while you’re waiting for the perennials to grow. Petunias, celosias, bidens, begonias, vincas and lantanas are reliable winners.

But reliable doesn’t have to mean boring. Every year, companies graft, clone or hybridize plants to create cultivars, or variations of the plant developed to have certain colors or dimensions. This gives gardeners a twist on standard native plants like coneflowers, which are purple in their natural state but come in cultivars of red, orange and other shades.

Here are five new annuals to get you started and 10 new perennials that will bring color to your garden year after year. While there’s no such thing as a foolproof plant, these should be relatively easy to handle.

Common Flowers in Maryland

black eyed susans image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com

The USDA hardiness zone map for Maryland shows three hardiness zones within the state’s border. Zone 5 is a tiny wedge in Maryland’s mountains. Parts of the coast along the Chesapeake Bay are zone 7b (the warm range of zone 7). Zone 6 and the rest of zone 7 are sandwiched in between. Common flowers of Maryland may be different from one region to the next, due to climate and temperature range, yet all regions share certain plants that are hardy and grow well.

Black-Eyed Susan

daisy 23 image by chrisharvey from Fotolia.com

The black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Maryland’s state flower, grows well in sun. It naturalizes well and the flowers hold their color for a long time. Vaughn Deckret of The Maryland Natural Resource says it should be on the top of the list for anyone who wants to start gardening with native plants. Butterflies are drawn to black-eyed Susans, and goldfinches like the seed, he says. It blooms from mid-summer into fall, and is hardy in all areas.

Hardy Hibiscus

Plant breeder Robert Darby hybridized the first hardy hibiscus in Maryland in the 1950s, breeding plants hardy to zone 4, according to Jennifer Schultz Nelson in an article for the University of Illinois Extension. He gave his hybrids Maryland names: Lord Baltimore (Hibiscus “Lord Baltimore”) and Lady Baltimore (Hibiscus “Lady Baltimore”). Lord Baltimore has large, dark-red flowers and grows 4 to 5 feet tall; Lady Baltimore is light pink with a dark eye-zone and grows to 4 feet. Although it’s hardy to zone 4, provide winter protection in zone 5.

Butterfly Weed

monarch butterfly orange image by MHPhoto from Fotolia.com

Butterfly weed (Asclepias) is also native to Maryland. Vaughn Deckret calls the plant “a butterfly magnet,” noting that it is not unusual to see several butterflies at once on the orange flowers. Butterfly weed flowers are lightly fragrant and bloom in May and June. A mature plant grows to 3 feet high. Plant in full sun and a well-drained soil. Butterfly weed is hardy in all areas of Maryland.

Russian Sage

Russian sage (Perovskia) is often used in Maryland landscapes, even planted in masses in highway median strips. The plant seems to thrive in the hot summers; the silver-green foliage and bluish-purple flower spikes give gardens a cool feel. Russian sage blooms in summer and into fall. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and is hardy to zone 4.

Cardinal Flower

Vaughn Deckret recommends cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) as a good native for Maryland gardens. It’s brilliant red flower spikes attract hummingbirds. Cardinal flower likes moist, evenly-wet soil, and can tolerate some shade. It is hardy in all areas of Maryland.

These local businesses should be able to help you get started:

Behnke Nurseries
Beltsville Store –
11300 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, Md. 20705
(301) 937-1100

Hours: Mon thru Sun – 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Click here for a calendar of events.

Located in Beltsville and Potomac, Behnke’s offers local gardeners a large, practical selection of top quality plants for every season.

Valley View Farms
11035 York Road
Cockeysville/Hunt Valley, Md. 21030
(410) 527-0700

Hours: Sun to Thurs – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fri and Sat – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Click here for a calendar of events.

Grown from a small roadside produce stand to one of the largest garden centers in the mid-Atlantic region, Valley View Farms provides growers with the largest selection of vegetables as well as flowering annual and perennial plants every spring.

Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses has been serving the greater Baltimore area since 1924 with high-quality plants, flowers and gifts.

Related: Md. Farmers Offer Bay-Friendly Gardening Tips
Related: Apple A Day: Pick Your Own Orchards Near Baltimore

For more great tricks, tips and advice about your home, visit CBSBaltimore/YourHome.

Keri Ann Beazell is a life-long animal lover and long-time communicator for a variety of species. As an admirer of natural wonders and believer in most things good, she enjoys promoting discussions, education, new ideas and smiles among readers. Examiner.com

Plant a Summer Vegetable Garden

If you’ve always dreamed of growing fresh garden vegetables, it’s not too late to make your wish come true.

With a few weeks left in May, there’s still time to plant a vegetable garden filled with summertime delights including vine-ripened tomatoes, brilliant zucchini and yellow squash, crisp cucumbers, and peppers of all types.

To get the scoop on the do’s and don’ts and tips and trends of vegetable gardening, Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch.com sat down with Gene Sumi, certified professional horticulturist and educational coordinator for Homestead Gardens.

Here’s what he had to say:

When is the best time to plant a summer vegetable garden? To yield summer vegetables, a garden should be planted between the last week of April and the end of May. By April, the risk of frost is negligible, thus lessening the damage to the newly-planted seedlings. Further, the plants need time to flower and bear fruit. Wait too long and you’ll miss the window of opportunity.

Are there different planting seasons for various vegetables? Yes, different vegetables have different planting seasons. Plant crops such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and lettuce in early March, they thrive in cooler weather.

Summer vegetables such as squash, tomatoes and peppers are more ‘tender” and should be planted in late April or up until the last week of May. Fall crops (again your lettuces, cabbage, broccoli, spinach and peas) are typically planted in late August- early September.

How do I go about planting a garden? It’s important to locate an area in the yard that gets a lot of sun and is near a water source. You will want to visit a local, garden center to see what types of vegetables you want to plant. Knowing what you want to plant will determine how much space you need for the garden. Once the location is set and the crops selected, cultivate the soil and replenish with nutrients prior to planting.

What are common items grown in Davidsonville-area gardens? Red tomatoes are one of the most popular items planted in local gardens. Orange and yellow tomatoes are gaining favor due to their sweetness.

Hot peppers, in particular jalapenos, are all the rage and bell peppers of all varieties follow suit. In fact, at Homestead Gardens, it’s not unusual to sell out of jalapeno peppers early in the season.

Of course, a garden isn’t complete without cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini. These always top the list for Davidsonville gardeners.

What vegetable is challenging to grow? Corn. It’s requires more attention and you constantly battle crows and other birds.

Name some common mistakes gardeners make. It sounds silly but a lot of folks simply forget to water their vegetable garden. It’s important to place the garden near a water spigot so that giving the vegetables a drink does not become a chore.

In addition, sometimes gardeners under or over fertilize. To avoid this, have a soil profile sent away to test the PH levels and to see if the soil is holding nutrients. Also, weed the garden. Weeds take up nutrients and water that vegetables count on.

Is organic gardening popular? I would say that at least 60 percent of our customers use organic gardening methods and/or products. People like that they can control their food supply. It’s very empowering to know where your vegetables are grown and under what conditions.

Are there any gardening trends we should know about? Raised beds are “in-fashion.” Raising the bed off the ground allows for better weed and critter control and also maximizes space and time, among other things.

There is tons of information online that explains the how-to’s of raised beds and the benefits of doing so. It’s a lot of up-front work, but it pays off in the long run.

At the end of the day, people love gardening because they see and taste the fruits of their labor. It’s worth the time and effort, and aches and pains when you bite into the first sun-soaked tomato of the season and it tastes simply divine.

What Vegetables Grow Well in Baltimore?

August 2, 2019

When it comes to planning and planting your Baltimore vegetable garden, there are plenty of things to consider.

When it comes to planning and planting your Baltimore vegetable garden, there are plenty of things to consider. Between the Baltimore climate and the health of your soil, there are many factors that can affect the success of vegetables planted in your garden. Whether you’re looking to grow tomatoes, lettuce, beets, or more, we have you covered with expert landscaping and gardening tips for your Baltimore home.


Beans are a super popular choice for vegetables in the Baltimore area. On top of being a great, nutritious vegetable to grow in a garden, beans actually deposit nitrogen into the soil. This means that growing beans can actually benefit your soil health, helping to prevent erosion and boost the health of the other plants in your garden. They will mature in 60 days and can be replanted a few weeks later. Beans are very tolerant of Baltimore’s climate and are sure to thrive in a Maryland vegetable garden.


Lettuce and spinach are some other great choices for the Maryland climate. While they shouldn’t be planted during the hottest weeks of summer, these plants are very cold-tolerant and can be effectively grown in a window box as well as a garden row. This makes lettuce an excellent, versatile choice for a Baltimore vegetable garden.


Beets are surprisingly easy to grow and extremely nutritious. They’re a great source of vitamin A and can be enjoyed raw, grilled, sauteed, baked, pickled, and more! These plants are very tolerant of hot weather and will do very well in Baltimore.


Peppers can be some of the best plants to grow in a summer vegetable garden. They’re so easy to grow and will provide you with tons of vegetables to last all summer long. They will require 18 to 24 inches per plant, but are very quick to grow in the Baltimore climate!


Tomatoes are the ultimate summer vegetable garden delicacy. At the peak of the tomato season, you may find yourself enjoying them for every meal. Tomato toast for breakfast, grilled Caprese for lunch, and stuffed tomatoes on the grill for dinner–there’s really no truer taste of summer. These plants are extremely adaptable to garden soil and are sure to thrive in any summertime garden. Thanks to their versatility and bountiful yield, tomatoes are a must-have in your Baltimore vegetable garden this year.


Evergreen Gene’s offers professional landscaping and maintenance services through the state of Maryland. We are here to make sure your gardens and grounds look as beautiful as possible year-round. Interested in how we can help your garden look its best? Give us a call at (410) 766-6877 or visit us online. To see examples of our work and get more helpful gardening tips, follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Houzz, and Twitter.

Categories: Landscaping Tips | Tags: vegetable garden This entry was posted on Friday, August 2nd, 2019 at 12:33 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


Planting Tomatoes

The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is an herbaceous, usually sprawling plant in the nightshade family that is typically cultivated for its edible fruit. It is a perennial but is usually grown outdoors in temperate climates as an annual. Tomatoes are the most common and beloved vegetable crop for home gardeners. They require relatively little space and can yield 10 to 15 pounds or more of fruit per plant. There are many different types and varieties available from seed catalogs:

  • Midget, patio or dwarf tomato varieties have very compact vines and are best grown in hanging baskets or other containers. The tomatoes produced often are small (1-inch diameter or less); some produce larger fruit.
  • Cherry tomatoes have small, cherry-sized (or a little larger) fruits often used in salads. Plants of cherry tomatoes range from dwarf (Tiny Tim) to 7 footers (Sweet 100). One standard cherry tomato plant is usually sufficient for a family.
  • Compact or determinate tomato plants may include cultivars of the above two categories. Determinate cultivars stop growth at a certain height; the plant’s growing point is determinate. Many commercial and early-ripening tomato varieties are determinate, but typically produce tomatoes throughout the summer.
  • Indeterminate tomato plants have vines that continue to grow until frost or disease kills them. These include many of the standard, long-season tomatoes that are popular with home gardeners.
  • Beefsteak-type tomatoes are large-fruited types, producing a tomato slice that easily covers a sandwich. Individual fruits often weigh more than one pound. However, larger fruit are prone to either radial or concentric cracks on the shoulder of the fruit. These are usually late to ripen, so plant some standard-sized or early tomatoes for the longest harvest.
  • Paste tomatoes have small to large pear-shaped or elongated fruits with meaty interiors and few seeds. They are less juicy than standard tomatoes, do not have a central core, and are excellent for canning and sauces.
  • Grape tomato cultivars are fairly recent hybrids. The fruit is smaller, less watery, and often more flavorful than cherry tomato cultivars.
  • Cultivars with orange, yellow, pink, purple, brown, or striped fruit are becoming more commonplace in seed catalogs.
  • Heirloom tomatoes refer to older, open-pollinated cultivars grown for eating quality, color, shape and/or genetic preservation. Many have “potato leaf” foliage. They can be located through seed exchanges and most seed catalogs.


Tomatoes grow best in loose, deep soil enriched with organic matter. Transplant after all danger of frost is past and when the soil has warmed. Mix 1/4 cup ground limestone or hydrated lime into the soil of each planting hole to help prevent blossom-end rot. When you are ready to put home-grown or purchased transplants into the ground, select stocky transplants about 6- to 10-inches tall. Set transplants in the ground so that only two or three sets of true leaves are aboveground. Horizontal planting, bending the stems with just the top two or three sets of leaves exposed, is an effective way to make plants stronger, especially leggy ones. Roots will form along the buried portion of the stem. Avoid setting the root ball deeply into cold soil. Spacing depends on such factors as growing habit of the plants and whether staked or caged. In general, space plants 2 ft. apart in the row with rows 5 ft. apart.

Tips for Early Tomatoes

  • Select early season cultivars that are supposed to ripen 55-65 days after transplanting.
  • Warm the soil where the roots grow and the air where the plant grows. Lay down either black or clear plastic 2-3 weeks before planting to warm the soil.
  • After planting, surround the transplants with some type of plastic enclosure open at the top. A tomato cage surrounded by clear plastic sheeting works well. Fill plastic soda bottles with water and line them up inside the cage close to the plants. The water will heat up during the day and release the heat at night. Be prepared to throw a quilt over the cage on nights when the temperature dips into the 30s. Wall-O-Water is a commercially available plant protector that has produced good results for local tomato gardeners.


  • Fertilizing – Use starter fertilizer for transplants, as tomatoes are heavy feeders. After first fruits appear, side-dress with ¼ lb. 10-10-10 or equivalent per 10 feet of row. Additional fertilizer may be needed depending on plant growth, fruit load, and soil fertility. Do not add Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to the soil unless soil testing shows a magnesium deficiency.
  • Weeding– Tomatoes have a relatively shallow, fibrous rooting system, so cultivate carefully or use a thick mulch to prevent weeds.
  • Watering – Keep the root zone moist by watering deeply and regularly during dry periods. Water at least once weekly, more frequently when during dry periods and when blossoms begin to develop.
  • Special directions
    • Pruning: Suckers are shoots that arise from axils (the angle where a plant stem and leaf branch meet). These shoots will eventually produce flowers and fruit. However, moderate pruning will increase the size of remaining fruit, hasten ripening, and keep your plants more manageable. Prune staked tomatoes to one to three main stems (plant spacing can be reduced in these situations). Remove all other suckers weekly. It is especially important to remove suckers that emerge from the plant base. Pinch shoots off with your fingers.

Support: You can allow your tomato plants to sprawl on the ground if you have plenty of room and thick organic mulch covering the ground. Most gardeners prefer staking, trellising, or caging tomatoes because it requires less space, reduces fruit rots, makes harvesting easier, and increases yields per area of garden space. There are many methods for supporting or trellising tomato plants. When selecting the method best-suited to you and your garden, consider the types and spacing of your tomato plants, and the expense and labor you are willing to invest. Staking and caging are the two most common methods:

  • Staking requires wooden stakes 6- to 8-feet long and 1½- to 2-inches wide. Drive them one foot into the soil about 4 to 6 inches from the plant soon after transplanting. As the plants grow, pull the stems toward the stakes and tie loosely with twine.
  • Caging allows the plant to grow in its natural manner, but it keeps the fruit and leaves off the ground. Using wire cages requires a larger initial expenditure and a large storage area, but many gardeners feel that the freedom from pruning and staking is worth it. Use 5-foot wide fencing with a 6-inch mesh to allow easy hand harvest. Pruning may still be necessary to avoid excessive growth of foliage. Space cages at least 4-feet apart and secure cages to the ground with stakes to prevent tipping by summer storms.

Common Problems

  • Blossom end rot
  • Cracking
  • Early blight
  • Fusarium wilt
  • Septoria
  • Spider mites
  • Stink bugs
  • Sunscald
  • Tomato hornworm
  • Tomato pinworm
  • Tomato fruitworm
  • Common vegetable problems
  • Seedlings and Transplants


Harvest after the fruit color begins to change but before it is fully ripe. Tomatoes will finish ripening on your kitchen counter if they were not fully ripe when picked. Light is not necessary for ripening mature tomatoes.

Storage and Preservation

Don’t refrigerate tomatoes. Allow them to ripen fully indoors at room temperature. Green tomatoes may be picked before the first killing frost and stored in medium cool (50°- 70°F), moist (90% RH) conditions for 1 to 3 weeks. When desired, ripen fruits at 70°F.


Good source of vitamins A & C, and the phytonutrient lycopene (especially cooked tomatoes)


Prepare by removing green stems and rinsing under running water. Eat tomatoes raw or cooked (bake, broil, grill, sauté, microwave).

  • Tips for Early Tomatoes
  • Late Blight of Tomato

Video: Tomato Cages

Video: Pruning Tomatoes

Video: Potting Up Tomato Transplants

Video: Identifying Late Blight Disease

Print: (PDF) HG 56 IPM Series: Tomatoes
(PDF) GE 136 Tomatoes

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Tomato 411: When, how and what tomatoes to plant

Plant your tamatas!

The arrival of Mother’s Day and the forecast calling for upcoming nights to stay reliably in the 50s means that we have the opportunity for an early and safe tomato planting date! (And yes, that means you did jump the gun if yours are already in the ground, especially if your tomatoes live (or are expected to) out in the Northern burbs, where nighttime temps dropped into the frigid 30s earlier this week.)

How ‘determined’ are your tomatoes?

Determinate varieties — often touted with phrases like bush, patio or container — are bred to stay small and relatively upright, but they are still vines. They tend to top out at around 4 to 5 feet in height and generally produce their small-to-medium sized fruits fairly early in the season. Determinate varieties are the best choices for container growing, and only require medium-level support.

Indeterminate varieties are the opposite of well-behaved determinates. This category includes the big beefsteak and treasured heirloom varieties, which produce their fruits on big, rangy vines that often reach 10 feet or more in length over the course of a season. They produce that treasured “true tomato” flavor, but need strong support to do so, which is why mine grow inside homemade cages of welded wire fencing. (Detailed instructions on making such cages can be found below.)

If your plant tags do not display this important information (often noted in the form of the single letter D or I), look up the variety online for its designation.

‘DTMs’ are the key to a full season of tomato eatin’

Are you tired of seeing nothing but big green tomatoes in your garden in August? Would you prefer a steady supply of ripe tomatoes from early July through the first frost? The secret to tomato success can be found on a little thing called “days to maturity” or “DTM” on the plant tag and/or catalog description. It’s a very important number, but one that many gardeners don’t check.

Specifically, DTM is the number of days it will take, on average, for a good-sized transplant to produce its first ripe fruits after the plant is gently tucked into warm soil. (It is not the number of days from seed.) Plant a 50-day hybrid variety like Burpee’s excellent “Fourth of July” on Mother’s Day and you should be enjoying its ripe fruits when the fireworks begin; maybe even a few days earlier if the weather stays warm.

On the other end of the DTM scale, big, super-tasty heirloom tomatoes like the legendary “Brandywine” and “Mortgage Lifter” generally take around 85 to 90 days to produce their first (often huge) ripe fruits. So you should not expect to taste these dreamboats until well into August. (But they’re worth waiting for!)

Choose tomatoes with a wide range of DTMs (say a 50, a 60, a 70 and some 85 to 90s) and love apples will always be in season in your garden. (If your plant tag doesn’t display a DTM, look up the variety online or check seed catalog sites.)

Oh, and if you have already planted your tomatoes and now note that all of the DTMs are 75 or greater, consider picking up a 50- or 60-dayer to start your season off sooner!

Plant correctly now to prevent problems later

  • Pick a site that drains well and that gets morning sun. More than most other plants, tomatoes need morning sun to dry off their leaves.
  • They also need 6 to 8 hours of sun a day to produce good fruit.
  • Don’t plant tomatoes in the same spot where tomatoes have grown for the past two or three years; soil-borne wilts will cause this year’s plants’ leaves to turn yellow from the ground up. Just a few feet away from previous sites is safe.
  • When you find that perfect place, dig a deep hole, pull the leaves and branches off the bottom two-thirds of the plant and drop it down so that most of the stem is underground. Tomatoes (and only tomatoes!) develop auxiliary roots along that buried stem, giving them access to more water and nutrients.
  • Add calcium to the top of the root ball in the planting hole in the form of crushed eggshells, calcium carbonate pills or even Tums. This added calcium will totally prevent blossom end rot, the heartbreak of late summer when tomatoes turn black on the bottom (the blossom end) and rot out just as they begin to ripen.
  • If your tomatoes are already planted without calcium, feed them with an organic tomato food that specifies it contains added calcium like “Tomatoes Alive” from Gardens Alive or “Tomato Tone” from Espoma (the Holly-Tone people). Cover any kind of granulated fertilizer with soil or compost to help activate the nutrients.
  • Do not use chemical fertilizers; they will not prevent blossom end rot, but will produce tomatoes with a watery, diluted flavor.
  • Fill in the hole with the soil you removed. Do not improve the soil in the hole (Yes; all those gardening books and articles are wrong.)
  • Then spread a 2-inch-deep mulch of compost (not composted manure!) over the surface of the soil. Don’t till the compost in; layer it on the surface, where it will prevent weeds, suppress disease and supply slow, gentle feedings to your plants all season long.
  • Be sure to support small-to-medium sized (determinate) plants with regular tomato cages. Grow monster-sized indeterminate heirlooms inside big cages made from welded wire fencing. Then stake the cage, not the plant — unless you have 14-foot high stakes and really long arms.
  • We repeat: All tomatoes are vines; you must provide support to keep the plants upright and off the ground.
  • Don’t crowd your plants; you’ll get more tomatoes from two plants that have a foot of open space between them than from four plants jammed all together.
  • Always mulch tomatoes with 2 inches of premium yard waste compost (like Maryland’s Leaf-Gro) or a premium bagged product like Coast of Maine Lobster Compost.
  • Do not use composted manure, which will give you 20-foot-high plants with three tomatoes each, or any kind of wood, bark or root mulch. Wood mulches breed plant disease; compost mulch prevents those diseases from getting a foothold. (With tomatoes and roses, it’s better to go without mulch than to use wood mulch.)
  • Always plant in the evening, not the first thing in the morning. This gives the plants time to acclimate and get over their transplant shock before enduring a day of full sun. (This is especially important this season, as we are expecting some 90-degree days next week. Plant in the early morning of what later becomes a scorching 90-degree day and your plants will lie down and take a long nap. Perhaps forever.)
  • Water your plants deeply right after planting by letting a hose drip at their base for a few hours. Water the same way — deeply and only at the base — once a week any week we don’t get an inch of rain.
  • Do not water frequently or for short periods of time.
  • Don’t wet the leaves of your tomatoes when you water. If you have no other choice, water early in the morning and turn the sprinkler off just as the sun hits your garden.
  • No matter what, don’t wet the leaves of your plants in the evening.

How to making cages

  • Buy a roll of either 5- or 6-foot-tall welded wire animal fencing — rabbit wire, turkey wire, concrete reinforcing wire — anything but chicken wire, which is too flimsy.
  • Lay it out on your driveway and use wire cutters to cut sections of 6 linear feet. As you cut, cut into the next section over on the roll at every other junction to create rows of natural twist-ties.
  • Form it into a cylinder, which will be less than 2 feet in diameter.
  • Use your wire cutters to create little spikes on the bottom rung. Center a cage over each heirloom and/or indeterminate variety in your garden, allowing a foot of open space on all sides for airflow.
  • Now take some rebar or stakes and drive them through the sides of the cages until the cages don’t wobble. Do not stake the actual plant — and don’t skimp on the support; a big beefsteak will be loaded with 30 to 40 pounds of fruit in August and you don’t want it to fall over.
  • The now-safely-confined tomato plant, being a vine, will grow upward toward the sun; but being an unsupported vine, not directly so, instead curling around the inside of the cage. Because you didn’t force it to stay upright, all 10 to 12 feet of vine will stay tucked inside that 5- or 6-foot-high cage. Pretty clever, eh?

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Gardening: Growing Herbs Anywhere

To successfully grow herbs, you really only need one piece of advice: remember that herbs are weeds. They were growing wild in some part of the world, and some member of some ancient civilization (probably while clearing room to plant crops) was yanking them up by the roots when she stopped, sniffed and thought, “Hey: maybe I could use this.”

No, of course I don’t have hard proof about that little re-dramatization. But I like to think it’s true: it explains so well why herbs grow where very little else will, why they thrive on neglect, and why they make such a great choice for nervous novices in the garden.

To begin, you need a place to grow. Most herbs prefer full sun, but are fine with partial shade; shade is fine, too, but they will grow more slowly. Even if you have a very shady yard, I”ll bet that you could use a few pots and just place them in the patches of sunlight that come through the leaves (my parents, who have a yard full of hundred-year-old oaks, managed to fit in a couple of that way.) Containers should be wide, but don’t have to be deep; if you’ve purchased a huge one, fill the bottom 2/3 with styrofoam peanuts, or turn a smaller pot upside-down and put soil over it, to conserve some of the space.

If you have a patch of earth, you don’t need to double-dig or put in a raised bed to grow herbs, though they will grow even faster if you do. Just dig a hole a bit larger than the plant, mix in some compost and a pinch of organic fertilizer, and nestle your plant in the center. As it grows, keep the weeds and grass away from it by a few inches all the way around.

Now, where to find plants? The best option is to find someone who grows herbs and ask them for some of theirs, and since herbs are essentially weeds, they will be generous in sharing with you! Cuttings of woody plants (rosemary, thyme) will root if placed in water, while softer stems (chives, mint) need to be dug up with a piece of root and be replanted.

If you need to start from scratch, there are a few options. You can start herbs ; I’ve had great luck with the heirloom varieties at Victory Seeds. This works especially well for annual herbs that die off during our winters, like basil and parsley. It does mean extra time, though, and if you want to get started right away, seedlings are a better option. Almost any gardening store carries them in the spring: had a great sale last week, when 4-inch pots (some of which held multiple plants) were just $1.50.

The best, and most fun, option is to wait for the Baltimore Herb Festival in Leakin Park, held on May 26. It has an amazing number of vendors, and you’ll be able to purchase unusual varieties of plants (herbs, vegetables and flowers) as well as products using herbs (soaps, spice mixes, potpourri.) Families come toting flatbed wagons that hold children first and plants later; folk music floats through the air and there are lots of good things to eat and drink. It’s a wonderful event!

Okay, back to today, when you should start making a list of what you need and where you’ll plant it. Here are ten herbs you should consider growing:

  1. Basil: great for everything from pasta sauce to cocktails. , but it’s a must-have for summer.
  2. Mint: be careful where you plant this one; it will take over any bed. Luckily, it’s a very useful herb. Pick it every week and use the fresh leaves in iced tea or juleps; what you don’t use should go in a paper bag in the refrigerator, and once it’s very brittle, stored in a Ziplock in a dark place, where it will make herbal tea and Greek meatballs all winter long.
  3. Lemon Balm: if possible, this herb is even more tenacious than regular mint (it’s a close relative.) Really, keep an eye on it and don’t let it get out of hand; the leaves are delicious in iced tea and cake, but there’s a limit to how many you can use!
  4. Chives: snipped, these make lovely and flavorful garnishes for deviled eggs and soup; their blossoms, which are edible and have the same spicy flavor, are an excellent addition to salads. Look for the flat garlic variety, too.
  5. Rosemary: In Greece, I have seen bushes of rosemary that were taller than me; it really was a weed, as they didn’t use it in cooking at all. It’s a shame, since rosemary is such a great addition to stock and red meats. Woodberry Kitchen also uses it as a garnish for their Whiskey Smash cocktail, as it’s one of the few herbs that can stand up to hard spirits.
  6. Lavender: Harvest the delicate, fragrant buds from your lavender bush and add them to dry sugar; after several weeks it will add a floral richness to desserts. Alternatively, steep the buds in hot cream, strain and use to make ice cream or creme brulee.
  7. Oregano: Greek salads absolutely require fresh oregano, as do tomato-based sauces (Italian marinara) and soups (Mexican pozole.) Keep it trimmed, because the older long stems start to lose the spicy flavor that make it so unique.
  8. Tarragon: Any chicken dish will benefit from the sweet, anise-like flavor of tarragon. I especially love this simple sauce: after pan-frying chicken pieces, transfer them to the oven to cook through while you deglaze the pan with white wine, then add heavy cream, Dijon mustard and lots of chopped tarragon. Try not to drink it straight from the pan.
  9. Parsley: Like basil, this herb needs replanting after the winter, though it’s been known to re-seed itself for a year or two after a mild one. Parsley is so ubiquitous it hardly needs an introduction, but when fresh it adds another dimension to dishes like tabouli. Here’s my favorite, a Portugese salad: black-eyed peas, tuna, minced onion, chopped parsley. Dress liberally with salt and olive oil. That’s it.
  10. Thyme: This cousin of oregano has tiny leaves that need to be stripped from the wiry stems before using, but they’re worth the effort for the punch of flavor they pack. In summer, toss with zucchini cubes, salt and olive oil and roast (or with spears, and grill); in the winter, add to cubed potato and carrot and cook in broth to cover, then puree for a delicious starter soup.

Growing Lavender in Maryland

Growing lavender in Maryland is not difficult, even for those with less than prime conditions. By selecting the right variety for your area, you can easily grow masses of the fragrant, perennial herb for years to come. When we see a plant die off, we simply replace it with a new plant and make note of what works and what doesn’t.

There are over 200 varieties of Lavender.

Lavandula (common name Lavender) is a genus of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Natively, lavender is found in Provence, on the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, southern Europe across to northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, southwest Asia to southeast India. Many members of this genus are grown as domesticated for garden and landscape use, for use as culinary herbs, and also commercially for the extraction of their essential oils.

Lavender flourishes in arid climates. In the Mediterranean where the climate is sunny and dry, and in the rocky soil of English gardens. Two varieties that are hardy enough to grow anywhere are English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) “Hidcote Blue” and “Munstead”. It’s always an adventure to try new varieties and see what grows the best with the least amount of time and effort.

Lavender on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

Our farm is located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Over the last ten years, we have tried several different varieties of lavender and have learned that some do much better than others. Phenomenal, for example, does not do well in our climate, or where we have placed it. Grosso X however, does phenomenally well.

Considerations when growing lavender.

First, consider the growing conditions. Lavender loves dry well-drained soil and full sun. As for soil-type, if you want to grow your lavender for its essential oils it is recommended that the soil is lean, chalky, and mostly alkaline in its nature. This combination minimizes the risk of root rot from dampness.

If this is your first time growing lavender the following do well in tight spaces: Fringed Lavender, (L. Dentata) and French lavender are good for zones 8-9. Spanish lavender is preferred in humid areas and environments such as ours here in Maryland.

We’ve experienced lots of ups and downs growing lavender on the Eastern Shore, so we are always looking for new and different varieties to add to our fields.

Flowers are produced on whorls, held on spikes rising above the plants base, the spikes being branched in some species. Some species produce colored bracts at the apices.

The flowers may be blue, violet or lilac

In the wild species, the flowers are occasionally blackish purple or yellowish. The calyx is tubular. The corolla is also tubular, usually with five lobes (the upper lip often cleft and the lower lip has two clefts).

Lavender does not like wet feet.

Though the plant is extremely tough and can survive a severe drought, it doesn’t do well in humid summers and severe winters, you can easily lose a plant or two with this sort of weather. In addition, it takes a while for the plant to become established. In its first few years, the plant is very sensitive and requires a few handfuls of compost and fertilizer.

Damp soil kills lavender more than any other condition, the soil should be very well-drained. Because in winter months the soil freezes and thaws continuously, a thick layer of mulch will help keep the plant’s roots dry.

We find that planting on mounds helps to drain water away from the root system, but the truth is in Maryland, the humidity and the recent rise in rainy season makes growing lavender more challenging than it has been in the past.

Lavender should be planted in full sun.

Lavender likes having its roots in a tight space. Pots should measure no more than an inch larger than the root ball, if the pot is much larger, there may be a problem with dampness. Make sure there is plenty of room for drainage. Be sure there’s no standing water in the container.

For drainage in containers

Add some pebbles or rocks in the bottom layer of the pot which will keep excess water away from the roots. You can also choose to use a soilless mix for your plants which is mulch and other potting substances mixed together.

The best soil for growing lavender is gritty or sandy soil with a pH factor between 6.0 and 8.0. Lavender requires full sun, needing eight or more hours of direct sunlight a day.

Not all lavender is ideal for growing in pots.

If you are searching for the best lavender for small containers are; Nana Alba (L. Angustifolia) Irene Doyle (L. Angustifolia) Blue Cushion (L. Angustifolia) and Lavenite Petite (L. Angustifolia). You can grow Hidcote or Munstead in containers, but repotting every 1-2 years is best for optimal growth and blooming.

We make an event out of harvesting lavender each year. It’s all hands on deck when the time is right. What’s nice after 10 years is that different plants at different locations on the farm bloom at different times. It gives us an opportunity to harvest plants for different purposes.

If you are harvesting your plants for drying, harvest when the first corollas (or buds) have already opened to when about half of the corollas have bloomed but not yet withered.

If you’re harvesting lavender for a bouquet, harvest whenever you see fit, but to get more bang out of your plants, cut when at least half has bloomed and half is still dormant.

There are many ways you can use lavender other than a great all-natural air freshener, beautiful cut plant, and honey bee attractant. Lavender is very often used as a flavor that is infused into baked goods and makes a great pairing with chocolate! Another common and delicious use is blending it into teas, usually black or green tea. Known for its calming properties, it is often featured in shower gels and soaps.

For an excellent moth repellent, make a few satchels of dried lavender and stash them in your closet. Your closet will smell heavenly and moths won’t bother your fine fabrics!

Five Ways to use lavender

Pruning lavender is not at all difficult. Each variety may have different requirements.

The best time for pruning is once flowering is over for us, that is in late June. We find that this often results in two blooms per year during a good growing season.

What are your favorite types of lavender? What types have you had success growing? Let us know!

More on Lavender:

Harvesting lavender has become an event on Chesterhaven Beach Farm.
Recipes with Lavender
Infusing Honey with Lavender
Honey Lollipops with Crushed Lavender

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