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I was just sitting here wondering...

When the hell is spring coming? 

Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter
Fresh tomatoes

    Vegetable Garden School




                                Vegetable School - Tomatoes

This past Sunday we talked about my favorite vegetable, the garden Tomato. Andrew Mefferd who is Johnny's Selected Seed, senior production Technician or as Andrew calls himself "A talent scout for plants" gave us his suggestions for the best tomatoes for 2014. Andrew's job is exactly as he says looking for the most talented tomato and vegetable in the trial gardens to be added to their catalog for the next season, the best of the best.

If you like cherry type tomatoes, Andrew is most excited about a selection of 7 new cherry type tomatoes called Artisan. They were developed by a home gardener not a plant breeder and Johnny's Selected Seed fell in love with them the first year in the trial gardens. These are great for eating right out of the garden, in a mixed salad, or in a salad bowl with your favorite salad dressing on them. The seven varieties are Bumble Bee, Purple Bumble Bee, Pink Bumble Bee, Sunrise Bumble Bee, Green Tiger, Lucky Tiger, and Blush.

The flavor of these tomatoes is like nothing we have ever grown before and the many colors and shapes of the fruit, the stripping on the fruit with great dark green foliage makes this plant a keeper. The plants are very hardy and have a great defense system against disease problems. Production is high and the fruit will hang on to the plant better than most other cherry type tomatoes. You can buy seeds by the packet or as a collection of 7 packets in a large packet with 10 seeds of each.

We all like the large Beefsteak type tomatoes and I asked Andrew what his favorite variety was and without hesitation he began to talk about "Bolseno." Andrew called this tomato the "best of the best" and told us of large clusters of 5 to 7 tomatoes found on the plant. The tomatoes are nice and smooth, rounded, and have wonderful flavor. It was developed in Italy where it is eaten when half red and half green. But in the US it is eaten when fully ripened. The plant has good disease resistance and will make a great salad or slicing tomato with fruit that weigh in at 7 to 12 ounces each, one slice and you have a Tomato Sandwich.

Now if you want a tomato Paste tomato the best is "Amish Paste" with 8 to 12 ounce fruit and that is large for this type of tomato. The fruit is very meaty and not filled with seeds like most paste types tomatoes. The flavor is excellent and the meaty texture means less time to cook down the tomato liquid once they are skinned for cooking. Andrew also said it makes a great tomato for slicing and salads also. So if your limited for space, think about this variety as it will fill all your needs.

Now for the big news for all of us that grow tomatoes in the garden, it's called the "Grafted Tomato" and yes you heard right Grafted Tomatoes. I said why and now Andrew was in all of his glory. The people at Johnny's Selected Seeds found through their research in their test gardens a plant that had good fruit production but a massive root system like nothing they have ever seen before. So a few years ago they tried growing that plant and as it reached 4 to 6 inches tall cut the top of the plant off and grafted more productive varieties on to it and it worked. The results was a new plant with a larger than normal root system and that root system made the grafted plant on top more resistant to foliage disease and required less water and fertilizer to grow.

 All their efforts went into greenhouse tomato plant production at first but this year they are making these plants available to the home owner and next year more varieties and you can purchase less plants for the garden. Right now the plants come in trays of 102 grafted plants for $331.00 and 3 different varieties per tray. Next year they will have much smaller packs for you to plant in your garden. If your into tomatoes find 3 friends and split the tray 4 ways of 25 plants each. You will have 8 plants of each varieties and Andrew tell me that you garden will never be so productive, even in a cold climate your plants will grow MUCH faster and the fruit will ripen earlier than the normal tomato plant. Click on the following link for more information on this new type of tomato and see what the future has to bring you in the garden. Remember to join us this Sunday at

8:00 am for the next chapter of vegetable school




Several hundred years ago in the mountains of Central Asia, early gardeners found trees that produced a fruit that would one day be grown around the world. This tree was moved from country to country by man because of its flavor, its ability to keep well in storage and its ability to grow most anywhere it was planted without much care. The Romans grew apples and propagated new varieties with grafting techniques. Early settlers in this country and abroad use crosspollination to develop new varieties and this is how the American gardener developed the Golden Delicious apple and other varieties.

Here is what you will need to consider if you are thinking of growing apple trees in your yard this year. First and most important is location! By location I mean an area with FULL SUN all day. Do not kid yourself: the tree will grow in partial shade, but it will never produce the fruit it is capable of. Next is air circulation around the tree, to prevent possible early frost damage to the tree that is in bloom. Circulation of air around the tree will also minimize disease problems during the growing season, but avoid windy locations. Also if you have the choice of planting on top or the bottom of a slope, always choose the top of the slope as cold air will always move downhill and cause problems early in the growing season.

Drainage is also very important and your trees should never be planted in soils that will have standing water during the winter and early spring. The soil should be fertile, well drained, slightly acidic, and as deep and rich as possible. Soils that are alkaline and shallow will make the tree struggle.

Here is how to plant your tree this spring. Begin by digging a hole 2 feet deep and as wide as possible. If your soil is not good, dig the hole bigger so you can backfill the hole with conditioned soil when you plant. Use compost and animal manure to condition the soil around the plant. I also add Soil Moist granules, to help hold moisture around the young root system to help get it off to a better start during the heat of summer. Also use the new technology in soil science and add mycorrhizae-enhanced products when planting to stimulate root development.

All fruit trees should be staked at the time they are planted to help keep them in place during windy days and prevent root damage by the wind. Stakes should be left on the trees for 2 years to insure good root development. When you place the soil around the roots of the plant in the hole, firm it in place, but never stamp it down. Cover the planting bed with 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch around the plant to keep out weeds and help retain moisture during the heat of summer. This planting bed will also prevent damage to the trunk of the tree by your lawn mower or weed whacker when you care for the lawn in your yard.

Water regularly for the first year right up to the time the leaves fall from the plant in the fall--water is that important to plant growth. Spring and early fall are also the perfect times to fertilize your tree until it is well established and producing fruit.

Use a slow release fertilizer like Plant-Tone for uniform growth above and below the ground on the plant. Also very important is to add a ring or collar of hardware cloth wire around the trunk of the plant to prevent rodent damage. Make the wire covering a good inch away from the trunk and push it into the ground 1 to 2 inches deep to keep all types of animals away from the tender and sweet-tasting bark. The wire should be 2 to 3 feet high and remain around the plant for 3 to 5 years if you have animal problems on your property.

The type of tree you select will depend on the amount of work you desire and the room you have on your property. The most popular types are standard growing trees that will grow 25 feet tall and wide, semi-dwarf trees that will grow 15 feet tall and wide and the dwarf trees that will grow under 10 feet tall and wide. Taller growing trees require more maintenance, more time by you, and better equipment--but produce more fruit. Semi-dwarf trees will be easier to maintain and you will not have to leave the ground to perform the maintenance; great for smaller spaces. Dwarf trees can be grown in a container or garden and are very easy to maintain but produce less fruit, so you'd need to plant more trees.

Plan a spraying program for your trees if you want good fruit and foliage from the tree. This will begin--before the flowers open--with an application of, Hi-Yield Lime-Sulfur to kill off disease spores that overwintered on the plant. I also apply it in the fall when all the foliage has fallen from the tree. At the same time, apply Bonide All-Season Oil to kill any overwintering insect eggs on the tree, both in the fall and spring. During the growing season, use a fruit tree spray every other week to keep problems under control.

New this year is a systemic foliage insect control for fruit trees to keep most all insects off the tree. The product, made by Bayer Advanced and called Fruit, Citrus and Vegetable Insect Control, will offer season-long protection without spraying! It will kill insects and prevent new infections; rainproof protection won't wash off. This product stays only in the foliage and will not enter the fruit.

Here is a trick to accurately time your first applications of Fruit tree spray to make it more effective and have better control. Buy 2 plastic red apples with stems on them and tie a piece of string to them. Tie the apples on your fruit tree branch, at eye level and coat them with a thin layer of Vaseline. The red apple will become an insect monitor and when insects arrive, they will be drawn to the red apple. The insects will get stuck on it, telling you it is now time to apply your fruit tree spray and begin the spraying program. This idea was developed at the University of Massachusetts in 1970 by my Orchard Planning teacher and our class, and it helped get him his Doctorate. Today it is used in all orchards across the country and because of this LESS pesticide is used to grow your apples.

If you're going to do this right, get yourself a good book on growing fruit trees, I recommend The Backyard Orchardist by Stella Otto. Learn all the tricks of the trade from a family-run business that specializes in fruit trees for a living. Planting, pruning, varieties, and harvesting--it's all there and easy to read and understand.

Apples have been around for a long time--it all began with Adam and Eve, so be careful what you eat! Apples are the Tree of Knowledge, The Tree of Life, and in this country it all began as a movement in Leominster, Massachusetts by John Chapman in 1774. John, a pioneer nurseryman better known as Johnny Appleseed, planted thousands of apple trees from New England to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. John was a pioneer and a gardener credited as the inventor of the modern apple; not a fairy tale, but a true person.

Americans eat 19 pounds of apples a year, that's just one apple per week on average and this fruit is Americans' favorite. Think "Mom and Apple Pie." An apple a day does keep the doctor away, as it helps to slow cholesterol plaque build-up, improves brain health and reduces the risk of heart disease. Just because Snow White got a bad apple, do not stop eating apples and apple products; you will be healthier.

Here are a few more apple quotes to remember and I am sure you have heard them before. "The apple does not fall far from the tree." "One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch." "As American as apple pie." Washington is the apple state, the number one producer of apples. If you watched the Wizard of Oz, the bad apple trees did throw apples at the Scarecrow and Dorothy. This spring, plant an apple tree and enjoy your garden.







During the last couple of days, I asked several people: "When I mention the herb basil, what country do you think of first?" Italy and France were the top answers...what do you think? To my great surprise and to the surprise of all that I talk to, the native home of basil is India and the Middle East. Yes, sweet basil is native to countries that are known for hot and spicy foods, who would think that? So let me tell you how we got this wonderful herb into North America. Spice traders brought it out of India in the 16th century while selling spices to the Mediterranean countries. It was brought to America with the early European settlers like the Pilgrims and those that followed to our shores.

Basil has a wonderful history and great lore. With this the start of Lent this week, you might like to know it was said to have grown around the tomb where Christ was placed after his death on the cross and started to grow after his resurrection. Some Greek Orthodox churches use it to prepare their holy water and pots of basil are often seen at the base of their altars.

On the other extreme both Greeks and Romans believed that they should "curse" as they sowed basil seed in their gardens to have better germination. (My father did that when he planted radishes, as they would not grow for him for some reason and only produced foliage--no radish globe roots ever developed. So, every Father's Day I always gave him a big bunch of fresh picked radishes from my garden and I can still see the big smile on his face.) Western Europe thought the basil belonged to the Devil and used it to keep witches from their homes. I just like it in fresh salads and use it often when I cook, the hell with the Devil. He can get his own--but not from my garden.

If you love basil as much as I do, always start the plant from seed indoors in pots and transplant to the garden when the soil warms up. I start my seedlings in mid-April to set out in mid-May. If you want to plant your seed directly into the garden, wait until the soil has warmed up or the cold soil will limit your seed germination. Unlike most other seedlings, basil has a taproot and does not transplant well as individual seedlings.

When you start seedlings indoors, use a sterile seed starter soil and keep the soil moist but never wet as basil will have problems with germination and has an additional problem called "damping-off," causing young seedlings to rot at the soil line, fall over, and die. Also never water your seedling late in the day when in pots as wet feed at night will encourage root rot problems. In the garden it is OK to water late in the day because of good drainage but wet foliage will encourage leaf eating insects like slugs to feed on them, so get your watering done by mid-day so the foliage and the garden soil has had time to dry up.

Your garden soil should be well drained and never have standing water. It should be rich and fertile for the best plant growth, so be sure to condition the soil before planting seeds or setting out potted seedling into the garden. Basil loves animal manure, well-seasoned compost and if you can add seaweed kelp when planting, you will be in for all the basil leaves you can pick. Now select a location in your garden that get plenty of sunlight during the day and is sheltered from the wind. This will prevent the plant from having brown edges on the foliage if the weather gets hot and the soil dries out around it. Plant in-between peppers, rows of lettuce, or even in planters with other types of herbs.

The main thing to remember is to pick basil often and prevent it from flowering or the foliage will become bitter tasting and the plant will become woody and stop producing new foliage. Pinch your plant every time you go into the garden and eat the wonderful tasting foliage right there in the garden if you don't need it for cooking. I will say it again: flowering basil will spoil the taste of the plant and stop foliage production, so keep picking off those flower buds as they develop. All basil plants are annual and must be replanted in the spring.

Fertilize every other week with Rooting and Blooming fertilizer or Miracle-Gro. If you want to stay organic, use compost tea made with your compost and water. One last thing: basil is the most popular and widely grown of the cooking herb both indoors and in the garden today. Basil comes in many heights, shapes, colors, and flavors so let me give you a few examples of what you will find in the seed rack or in the mail order catalogs.

Sweet Basil is number one! It will grow to 18 inches tall and just as wide. It has a wonderful strong sent to the leaves and is best used in salads, pesto, and of course in pasta sauce. The leaves are medium to deep green, smooth, shiny, oval in shape and the leaf will often curl under on the edges giving it a rounded appearance.

'Dark Opal' Basil has wonderful shiny purple foliage, is flavorful, and is a clean-looking plant. Grows 12 inches tall and just as wide. Great for salads and gives the salad great color along with taste. Gives the herb garden color with its foliage and it also has a bright cerise-pink flower--showy.

'Purple Ruffles' Basil: Another purple leaf variety but has larger leaves that are crinkled and ruffled looking--and add character. The leaf edge will curl and this plant will become bushier growing in your garden. Good eating and a wonderful garnish for all dishes you make. The foliage has more red in it and is not as dark purple as the 'Opal' basil.

'Cinnamon' Basil has a wonderful olive green leaf with tinges of purple on it. This variety is best known for the wonderful cinnamon-scented foliage when rubbed or crushed. The foliage is spicier tasting than sweet basil and is also great for spicy dishes and salads of fresh greens to bring out flavor. It will grow 18 inches tall and has clean-looking foliage.

'Green Ruffles' Basilhas wonderful light green foliage that almost looks like mint. The plant has larger leaves than sweet basil and they are crinkled, curled and ruffled all at the same time--showy when planted with the other types of basil. It has a spicy taste and is wonderful in salads and all types of cooking.

Lemon Basil has smaller leaves that are lighter green in color, narrower, and sometimes almost yellow. The foliage has a wonderful smell and flavor of lemon when used in salads or cooking.

Greek Basil has the smallest leaves of all; there is no chopping needed, just add to your salads or cooking. It grows very compact and bushy--under 12 inches tall and wide, almost like a shrub. Great texture for your garden of assorted basil plants for all your cooking needs. Enjoy!




Paris at night
Join The Paul Parent Garden Club for The Grand Tour Of France July 31 through August 12, 2014. With special 70th Anniversary tours of the Beaches of Normandy and Monet's Garden.





Chicken with Vegetables and Herbs  












4 Tablespoons of olive oil or truffle oil

4 chicken breast, skinned and cut up into cubes

1 bunch of fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces

4 to 6 whole cloves of garlic peeled

2 cups of fresh, either pea pods or sugar snap peas

4 to 6 small tomatoes 2 to 3 inches in diameter quartered or 2 cups of cherry tomatoes

Two cups of thickly sliced fresh mushrooms, firmed packed in measuring cup

1 can of quartered artichokes, drained 14 ounces

1 cup of dry white wine

A few sprigs of rosemary or thyme leaves, if not available the dried leaves will do

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a fry pan and cook the chicken until all sides are golden brown. Remove the chicken and add the prepared vegetables to the fry pan. Sauté the vegetables in the remaining oil to give them a bit of color and get them tender. Now add the chicken, wine, and herbs to the vegetables and cover the pot. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until everything is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. If you want a bit of brought add 7 to 10 ounces of chicken stock when you add the wine.

I love this with a piece of crispy bread or even hot Garlic butter bread and a glass of white wine. A tossed salad to start the meal and you're ready for a fun evening.


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