gardening advice

Sorry if this is the wrong forum, please move if so.

This year is the first year I tried gardening. I’ve had mixed results:

a) I planted two tomato plants in the same bed about 18 inches apart. One plant is bursting with tomatoes, while the other does not have any. What’s strange is that the plant without tomatoes looks really healthy and is growing like mad. What is the likely issue?

b) I planted an herb garden that has withered and died. It was in a spot where it gets full sun starting at noon until about 6. It was doing well, but we were out of town for a few days during a 100+ heat wave and when we came back it was gone. I mean it was burnt to a crisp and dead.

I had planted dill, basil, sage, mint, and cilantro?

c) How do I know when to plant herbs and things like tomatoes? I live in Washington, DC. Is there a good website for when to plant what?

Thanks for any and all advice.

Are the tomatoes the same variety? What variety? Have you been pruning at all?

The herb garden likely dried up in the heat wave. Not much you can do about that except have someone come water, or setup an automatic watering system.

Get a gardening book, or search online for “_____ planting tips”. Most of the time the planting rules are in relation to “last frost” so you can search for frost maps and estimate the date from there. It looks like Burpee.com has a “growing calendar” application where you put in your zipcode for advice.

If you have a good local garden center, they will know and be able to help you with issues around your specific area.

Thanks. Regarding the tomatoes: I don’t remember the varieties; I bought them as seedlings at a farmer’s market and pretty much just dug a hole and dropped them in.

That answer should tell you if I have been pruning (I have not). Should I be? How do I know how much to prune?

Any suggestions for a basic gardening book for a slow witted person? It’s for a friend of mine.

There are two basic types of tomatoes, determinate (bush) and indeterminate (vine). For the vining type, they will develop suckers. Suckers are stems that form in the joint between the main stem and a leafy branch. They turn into main stems of their own, with leaves and flowers/fruit, but slow down the fruiting on the main vine, and kind of make the plant grow huge. Generally, you would remove the sucker, or cut/pinch them off a couple inches from the main stem, once they grow a bit.

I don’t really have a favorite book to recommend.

Gardenweb is a good resource. Try Mid-Atlantic Gardening, Vegetable Gardening, Herbs, Watering . . . Start with the FAQ for each section & go on from there. There is also a search function.
Determine your climate zone and let people know what it is when you ask questions.

Don’t get discouraged. Next year you can try again, and maybe branch out and put in other plants. Green beans are easy to grow, and zucchini. If you water and the wildlife don’t eat your garden, you’ll have something to show for your efforts.

I’ve been gardening off and on since I was a kid. I guess my best advice to anyone is that “sometimes it doesn’t work out”. Heat waves, bugs, unexpected frost, rabbits, deer, and one year a utility truck driven by idiots…

So, don’t be too hard yourself. Gardening is always a learning experience. This year, the heat/drought are really hard on everyone’s garden. If you get 50% of your tomatoes doing well that’s a victory this summer. As for the herb garden drying up… I’ve been home all summer and still lost plants to unrelenting heat and simply not being able to get enough water on them.

Plant more than you think you’ll need, and plant multiple varieties. I normally plant 5-8 types of lettuce/salad greens and usually all but one, maybe two, do OK. This year only two survived at all, but I did get those two in abundance. The thing is, different varieties of plants are most comfortable in different conditions, so by planting a variety you’re maximizing the odds of getting something in abundance and several in reasonable amounts, even if one or two just don’t make it.

The tomato without all the fruit may be getting more nitrogen from somewhere. When planting its best to hold off on the fertilizers with tomatoes - they’ll grow tall and leafy and not think about reproducing - ie fruit. I’d give it a small dose of potassium sulphate which will encourage flowering.

The other plant may look less healthy because its putting more energy into growing the fruit, quite often with tomatoes they look great at the start of hte season, then later they’re not that attractive.

With tomatoes I usuall space them about a metre apart… there could be any number of reasons why one is doing better… different type of tomato, different soil… better root system… etc.

This is my second year at gardening. I planted the tomatoes too close together (isn’t amazing how fast and big they grow?!) last year and even this year with the lesson learned, I wish I’d gone maybe 30% wider. Some of the plants are kicking ass, others are …just OK. All have tomatoes and lottsa flowers on them.

All my herbs exept a couple sweet basils among the tomates are in containers this year. I’ve been pretty strict about watering and I’ve only missed a day or two all season. I think this watering regiment is important. The tomatoes don’t seem to mind, either.

I planted three pepper plants in the ground (last year I did them in containers). Within a week, the rabbits (I think) ate two of the three down to the stem. The third plant got quite the bunny haircut with many of the top leaves eaten. I quickly installed cages and while the insect damage is not trivial, I’m going to have a bunch of peppers. Next year, I’ll cage the peppers upon planting.

Last year, I planted two cucumber plants, one japanese, one ‘regular’. The japanese one was gone within a week, probably rabbits. The other one seemed to grow ok but no cukes. Later, in the fall, I was taking down what was left of the giant tomato plants and found two HUGE cukes completely hidden within the tomato plants’ leaves. Of course by then, they were a good two months past their prime and all yellow and starting to rot back into the ground but I sure felt silly.

Fake edit: This probably doesn’t help the OP at all, does it? :slight_smile:

Replant the herb seeds and water well. Generally, if you water garden plants very very thoroughly (as in, five minutes total intermittent soakings on one small herb patch) every few days instead of a little bit every day, they’ll develop a deeper root system and be less vulnerable to dry spells.

Cilantro in particular can be succession-planted (that is, stick in a few new seeds every few weeks) all summer. The plants don’t last very long at their peak but if you keep replanting they’ll keep popping up.