Do I really need to stake my tomatoes?

Staking tomatoes does take time and some expense, however, the benefits are earlier, larger and healthier fruit. Maintaining the plant upright allows more sunlight to reach the leaves, better air circulation to keep diseases from spreading and provides easier picking access. If your tomatoes are the bushy determinate type, staking might not be as necessary. Indeterminate types that continue to grow through-out the season can sprawl all over the garden. Tomatoes lying on the ground may rot and suffer attacks from pests.

While sturdy cages are great for determinate plants, indeterminate tomatoes need taller, sturdier cages, pruning or trellising to carry the size and weight of the plants. Be sure to stake the tomato soon after planting to prevent damage to the root system.

Does companion planting really benefit my garden and how should it be done?

The effectiveness of companion planting in the garden is really up for debate. Evidence of benefits is more anecdotal than scientific. Perhaps the best example of effective companion planting is the use of marigolds which seem to repel pests, both the flying kind and the four-legged kind. Planting flowers among vegetables also attracts beneficial insects and pollinators that contribute to healthier and better producing plants. Planting basil around tomatoes repels aphids, white flies, spider mites and hornworms. Basil is also said to improve tomato flavor and pollination. For more information on companion planting check the library for “Carrots Love Tomatoes”.

How do I protect my plants from adult Japanese beetles?

Adult beetles emerge in late June and early July in central and northern Illinois. The beetles feed on a wide range of plants, preferring smartweed, grape, basil, raspberry, rose, crabapple, linden, and willow. The beetles can be controlled by handpicking or using insecticides. Because the beetles are numerous and cause damage for about six weeks and most insecticides last two weeks or less, repeated applications are necessary. Vegetable and other crops can be protected with row cover. Studies have shown that landscapes with Japanese beetle traps are likely to experience

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