Is Your Argonaut Green?

I just picked an Argonaut squash about 24″ long weight about 10 + lbs. but was dark green in surface color. Ran all the photo’s I could find of those that I had planted.

Does this variety remain green and then change to Orange when it becomes ripe or ready to pick -today is 10/27/2016-L.I.,N.Y.

(See Carrolle’s question here )


Hi Carrolle,

Thank you for the email regarding your Argonaut Butternut Squash.  Sounds
like you have grown a typical Argonaut!  It never ceases to amazing me as to
how large the fruits can get.

Image result for argonaut squash
Argonaut is a little bit different from other butternuts in that it starts
out green and turns to gold (other butternuts start out buff and turn tan).
It will turn when it is ripe — usually about 125-140 days after planting or
transplanting is when you will see it start to color up.

If your growing season is not long enough to allow the fruit to mature, it
may be possible to use it green.  The closer it is to ripening, the easier
it will be to use.  Many people use green squash and pumpkins as a
substitute in zucchini and apple dishes or in dishes that call for marrow or
courgette squashes.  The only thing would be that you need to use the squash
up fast because unripe squashes don’t have a long shelf life.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Growing Spinach through the Winter in Wisconsin

“There is a fellow around here who plants bulk spinach in his garden each fall and then harvests it in early spring. I’ve only heard about this guy; I’ve never actually met him, so I can’t ask any questions. Do you know whether it actually is possible to plant spinach in the fall? If so, which variety would you suggest? We have a 20 foot X 20 foot plot we plan to plant out. I usually plant it with winter rye to prevent erosion, but this alternative sounded really nice.

John Mueller”



Hi John,

Thank you for the post regarding spinach.  Yes, it is possible to grow spinach in Wisconsin during the winter, but you have to have a few tricks to get around old man winter.

I’m not sure if you and I are thinking of the same farmer, but there is one down by Paoli or Monroe that does this as a business and sells spinach through the winter at the Madison Farmer’s Market.  I want to say the lady’s name is Judy Hagman or Hageman or something similar, because she spoke to our organic horticulture class when I was in graduate school.
The way that spinach can be grown here is by using a high tunnel, which is a form of hoop house.  If you are not familiar with them, they are pretty much like a poly-plastic greenhouse.  The heating inside comes from the sun and there usually is no mechanical equipment like fans and heaters involved.  Depending on the parameters of a farmer’s operation, they may be stationary or moveable.  They can be used to extend a growing season (planting corn or tomatoes in April inside) or to use over the winter.

Spinach planted in the autumn can be harvested with repeated cuttings through the winter and into the spring. Autumn planting date is critical to winter harvests.  Through the short cold days of winter spinach continues to grow, but at a much, much reduced rate.  This growth reduction takes effect around mid-November around here.  Autumn crops must grow vegetatively before this time to carry the crop through the winter.  Usually a good time to plant to get crop to the proper stage of growth is in September.

If you are interested in having your own high tunnel, I recommend first checking out a book called “The Four Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman.  You can get it from your local library or you can purchase it online or in person at Barnes and Noble (because they usually have at least one on the shelf when I’m looking for new books in that area. Coleman is from Maine and he is VERY knowledgeable about how to grow just about everything in high tunnels — and even has one attached onto his house.  Definitely a good read.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Buy Big or Buy Small: Does Pot Size and Quantity Matter with Tomatoes?

“My friend and I don’t agree with how we buy our plants. My friend buys all her tomatoes and peppers in little packs of 3, 4, or 6. They look so skinny and sickly. I always buy mine in single pots because they are bigger and better and blooming. She tells me I am nuts to spend so much money on the same thing as her. I know my plants will grow better. What do you think? I plan to show her your response, so make it good!



Dear Janelle,

Thanks for your questions. Sorry to burst your bubble, but bigger isn’t always better.

Commercial greenhouses sell single potted tomatoes, peppers, etc. to:

1. Appeal to the customer’s eyes by having them think that big plant with flowers will produce fruit soon.

2. Appeal to the customer’s brain by making them think that the plant will be healthier and better because the single potted plants are always darker green and have such a sturdy stem.

3. Appeal to the customer’s wallet because things that are more expensive are better quality.

Tomato Transplants

The sad thing is, all of these things are untrue when it comes to plants.  There are so many reason why that:

1.  Days to Maturity:  If you have ever looked at a packet of tomato seeds or the plant stake that is included in a pot when you buy the tomato plant at the greenhouse, you will see that it has “– days after transplant”. With tomatoes and other plants that require a boost indoors before being planted outside, the days to maturity is based on the days after transplanting. It doesn’t matter if your plant if 4 inches tall with 6 leaves or 12 inches tall with 16 leaves: it will still take the same amount of days after transplanting to have fruits.

2.  Transplant shock: Transplant shock occurs to every plant when it is taken from one place and put in another. It doesn’t matter if you have a large root mass or a small one — all movement is shocking to the plant. The larger the plant is, the more shock it will have and the longer it will take to recover from the shock because it is an older plant. (For those in the northern states, most greenhouses start single potted vegetables 4-8 weeks earlier than those in multipacks).  So while your large tomato plant is recovering from the rude awakening of being put into your garden, your friend’s little tomatoes will quickly recover and soon be as large (if not larger) than yours and yours will still be recovering and not growing.  In general, the best size plant for transplanting is one that is 4-8″ tall. Any larger than that and you are setting yourself up for a lot of shock.

3. Flowers don’t mean fruit: Just because a tomato is flowering when you buy it doesn’t mean those flowers will have fruit. Flowering is often a sign that a plant is in shock. It’s like the plant is saying, “oh no, things are not right in my current environment, I need to flower and produce fruit because I may soon die.”  Flowering tomato or pepper plants in a greenhouse indicate that your plant has been growing for a long time (probably since February or earlier) and is more than ready to be producing fruit. However, the little pot that it is growing in is a much smaller amount of soil than the plant requires to make fruit. The flowers will usually drop without producing fruit or the fruits that are produced will be small and of low quality. Also, if you plant your transplants soon after purchasing them and leave the flowers on, they will produce fruits, but the plant will focus on producing those fruits only rather than growing larger and making more fruits. It is always best to pinch off all buds and blooms on vegetable plants when they are transplanted into the soil.

4.  Extra Green Color: When you go to the greenhouse, you notice that the larger plants are always much darker green. This is because the greenhouse overfertilizes the single pots to increase their size and make them as dark green as possible. When you get the plant home and don’t continue to overfertilize it, it will go into ‘starvation’ mode and not grow. If you think continuing to overfertilize the plant will help it, you are wrong. Overfertilizing will prevent flower/fruit development. (And if you are wondering how the plants at the greenhouse flowered while being overfertilized, it is due to shock. Same thing won’t happen when the plant is in your garden with plenty of root space, light, and water.)

5. Expense: The truth is, seeds are cheap. Insanely cheap. On average, an open pollinated or heirloom variety will cost about $0.001-0.005/per seed (that’s right, tenths of a cent).  Hybrids usually cost $0.005-0.05/per seed.  While there is an addition cost of fertilizer, water, etc., it doesn’t come close to adding up to the premium price of the single potted plants. And, as a person that used to work in the greenhouse industry, the greenhouse owner is chuckling over the people that buy ‘premium’ plants all the way to the bank.

So, Janelle, unfortunately for you, your friend has it right.

Don’t believe me? Research done by the Samuel Roberts Foundation, Iowa State, and UC Cooperative Extension backs me up on this.

I hope this information helps you out and that you make a wiser decision in the future. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Who Owns Who? Where and How Monsanto Has Their Sticky Little Fingers In the Home Garden Seed Industry

(Originally Published 9/24/11, Updated 12/1/15)

“Hi Horticulture Talk People,

I am starting to plan my garden for 2012 and I’ve been trying to not plant any varieties that are GMOs or related to Monsanto.  The problem is that I recently found out that the seed I get from seed catalogs and at the store are not grown by the company I bought them from.  They buy the seed in and repackage it.  How can I know I’m not supporting Monsanto if I am buying from a seed catalog?  If I avoid hybrids, will I be okay?

Thank you,



Hi Stewart,

Thank you for emailing HorticultureTalk on Gmail with your question on Monsanto.  I completely understand your hesitancy in growing you garden without knowing where your seed comes from.

What you have been told is true: most mail order seed companies are a repackaging plant.  They purchase seed in bulk form.  In terms of seeds that are like dust (like Begonias), a ‘bulk’ packet may be a gram or ounce of seed that has 50000 seeds in it.  For larger seeded varieties (cucumbers, peas, beans, corn, etc.), bulk is a collection of 50 or 100 pound bags of seed.

Like any repacking company whether it be food, paper, or seeds, the markup on seed is… extraordinary!  When you buy a packet of seed, keep in mind that an open pollinated variety costs the seed company about 1% or less of what you are paying for it.  For hybrids, the cost is about 5% of what you are paying.

Now, you might be thinking that a seed company would want to be selling more open pollinated varieties because they can make an extra 4% for their profits.  And unfortunately, you would be wrong.  Large corporate seed producers, like Monsanto and their home garden seed market subsidiary, Seminis, pay for their place on a catalog page or website.  As a person that used to be involved in brokering deals like this, I can tell you that Monsanto wants to be front and center.  If you have a page that features your ‘best’ or ‘customer favorite’ varieties, they must have at least 50% of the varieties represented there.  You cannot put their product on the bottom of the page or in the ‘thumblap’ area, where a customer’s thumbs may cover information on the page if they are holding the catalog on the side edges.

Unfortunately, many people think that Monsanto owns mail order seed companies because they don’t understand the inner workings of how this industry runs.  If you look around on the internet, you are going to find a TON of websites and Facebook groups that say that there are a bunch of companies that are owned by Monsanto.  It’s not true, and likely someone that is a know-it-all (that doesn’t really know it all) started that rumor.  In truth, the companies are ‘owned’ by Monsanto by having the premium given for page space advertising.

In addition to this, if you work with a mail order seed company, you are not supposed to refer to the company as Monsanto to any customer (and probably even to your coworkers) because it puts the seed ‘in a bad light’.  When Seminis was still its own company, it was bring out new varieties left and right.  Monsanto bought them and then new varieites kind of dribbled out until about 2006 or 2007.  After that, instead of new things, it was ‘we have dropped these major-selling varieties’.  Great examples of this are Giant Valentine Tomato, Ichiban Eggplant, and Table Queen Acorn Squash.

Saying that you are going to avoid any and all hybrids will, unfortunately, not address the problem because some of the varieties offered in the Seminis line are open pollinated varieties.

When Monsanto purchased Seminis in 2005, they acquired the rights to a number of open pollinated — many of which were considered ‘nearly’ heirlooms.  In the time since, Monsanto has cut out a number of the open pollinated varieties — which is a blessing because at least we can knock those off our list for our gardens and have less to do with them.

Additionally, you should check out my other articles on what seed companies have a loving relationship with Monsanto/Seminis and what companies are owned by other companies (many you may have guessed and others will surprise you).

So, what varieties to avoid?  If you want to be completely Monsanto- and Seminis-free in your garden, the following is a list of varieties that you need to avoid.  Please note that those that are hybrids are not noted as the information is not provided on Monsanto’s website.


  • Alicante
  • Banga
  • Brio
  • Bronco
  • Cadillac
  • Carlo
  • Ebro
  • Eureka
  • EX 08120703
  • Excalibur
  • Fandango
  • Festina
  • Firstmate
  • Gina
  • Gold Dust
  • Gold Mine
  • Golden Child
  • Goldrush
  • Grenoble
  • Hercules
  • Labrador
  • Lynx
  • Magnum
  • Matador
  • Opus
  • Pony Express
  • Romano Gold
  • Sea Biscuit
  • Secretariat
  • Serin
  • Slenderpack
  • Spartacus
  • Storm
  • Strike
  • Stringless Blue Lake 7
  • Sunburst
  • Tapia
  • Teggia
  • Tema
  • Thoroughbred
  • Titan
  • Ulysses
  • Unidor
  • Valentino


  • Castle
  • Captain
  • Contributor
  • Coronado Crown
  • General
  • Heritage
  • Iron
  • Ironman
  • Legacy
  • Major
  • Packman
  • Revolution
  • Tlaloc
  • Tradition


  • Atlantis
  • Blue Dynasty
  • Constelation
  • Golden Acre (RS)
  • Headstart
  • Platinum Dynasty
  • Red Dynasty
  • Tropicana


  • Abledo
  • Achieve
  • Cellobunch
  • Dominion
  • Enterprise
  • Envy
  • Legend
  • Propeel
  • PS 07101441
  • PS 07101603
  • Tastypeel


  • Cheddar
  • Cielo Blanco
  • Cornell
  • Freedom
  • Fremont
  • Juneau
  • Minuteman
  • Whistler

Cucumbers (Pickling)

  • Arabian
  • Colt
  • Eureka
  • Expedition
  • PowerPak
  • Vlaspik
  • Vlasset
  • Vlasstar

Cucumbers (Slicing)

  • Babylon
  • Cool Breeze or Cool Breeze Improved
  • Conquistador
  • Dasher II
  • Emparator
  • Eureka
  • Fanfare or Fanfare HG
  • Indy
  • Intimidator
  • Marketmore 76
  • Mathilde
  • Moctezuma
  • Orient Express II
  • Pearl
  • Poinsett 76
  • Rockingham
  • Salad Bush
  • Speedway
  • Sweet Slice
  • Sweet Success PS
  • Talladega
  • Thunder
  • Thunderbird
  • Turbo

Dry Beans

  • Black Velvet
  • Cabernet
  • Chianti
  • Etna
  • Hooter
  • Mariah
  • Medicine Hat
  • Pink Panther
  • Red Rover
  • Windbreaker


  • Black Beauty
  • Fairy Tale
  • Gretel
  • Hansel
  • Ichiban (discontinued in 2010 and not supposed to be found for sale anywhere, yet many Mom and Pop greenhouses in my area still supposedly sell them.  Find out more in this article and the comments that follow it.)
  • Lavender Touch
  • Twinkle
  • White Lightning


  • Annie
  • Braveheart
  • Bubba
  • Conquistador
  • Coyote
  • Del Oro
  • Desert Spring
  • Grizzly
  • Honcho II
  • Javelina
  • Mohawk
  • Raider
  • Sahara
  • Sharpshooter
  • Sniper
  • Sure Shot
  • Top Billings
  • Valley Heart


  • Cabrillo
  • Caravelle
  • Colima
  • Cristobal
  • Destacado
  • Durango
  • Earli-Dew
  • Earlisweet
  • Fastbreak
  • Honey Dew Green Flesh
  • Hy-Mark
  • Laredo
  • Magellan
  • Mission
  • Moonshine
  • Roadside
  • Santa Fe
  • Saturno
  • Zeus


  • Abilene
  • Affirmed
  • Aspen
  • Barbaro
  • Belmar
  • Bunker
  • Caballero
  • Candy
  • Cannonball
  • Century
  • Ceylon
  • Champlain
  • Charismatic
  • Cirrus
  • Cougar
  • Exacta
  • Fortress
  • Gelma
  • Golden Spike
  • Goldeneye
  • Grateful Red
  • Hamlet
  • Joliet
  • Leona
  • Mackenzie
  • Marquette
  • Mercedes
  • Mercury
  • Montblanc
  • Nicolet
  • Orizaba
  • Pecos
  • Rainier
  • Red Zeppelin
  • Savannah Sweet
  • Sierra Blanca
  • Sterling
  • Swale
  • Tioga
  • Verrazano
  • Vision

Peppers (Hot)

  • Anaheim TMR 23
  • Ancho San Martin
  • Aquiles
  • Ballpark
  • Big Bomb
  • Biggie Chile brand of Sahuaro
  • Cardon
  • Caribbean Red
  • Cayenne Large Red Thick
  • Cherry Bomb
  • Chichen Itza
  • Chichimeca
  • Cocula
  • Corcel
  • Coyame
  • Fresnillo
  • Garden Salsa SG
  • Grande
  • Habanero
  • Holy Mole brand of Salvatierra
  • Hot Spot (with X3R)
  • Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot
  • Inferno
  • Ixtapa X3R
  • Kukulkan
  • Lapid
  • Major League
  • Mariachi brand of Rio de Oro
  • Mesilla
  • Milta
  • Mucho Nacho brand of Grande
  • Nainari
  • Nazas
  • Papaloapan
  • Perfecto
  • PS 11435807
  • PS 11435810
  • PS 11446271
  • Rebelde
  • Rio de Oro
  • Sahuaro
  • Salvatierra
  • Santa Fe Grande
  • Sayula (with X3R)
  • Serrano del Sol brand of Tuxtlas
  • Super Chili
  • Tajin
  • Tam Vera Cruz
  • Time Bomb
  • Tula
  • Tuxtlas
  • Vencedor
  • Victorioso

Peppers (Sweet)

  • Baron
  • Bell Boy
  • Big Bertha PS
  • Biscayne
  • Blushing Beauty
  • Bounty
  • California Wonder 300
  • Camelot
  • Capistrano
  • Cherry Pick
  • Chocolate Beauty
  • Corno Verde
  • Cubanelle W
  • Dumpling brand of Pritavit
  • Early Sunsation
  • Flexum
  • Fooled You brand of Dulce
  • Giant Marconi
  • Gypsy
  • Jumper
  • Key West (with X3R)
  • King Arthur (formerly Fat n Sassy)
  • North Star
  • Orange Blaze
  • Pimiento Elite
  • Red Knight (with X3R)
  • Satsuma
  • Socrates (with X3R)
  • Super Heavyweight
  • Sweet Spot (with X3R)


  • Applachian
  • Buckskin
  • Harvest Moon
  • Jamboree HG
  • Longface
  • Orange Smoothie
  • Phantom
  • Prizewinner
  • Rumbo
  • Snackface
  • Spirit
  • Spooktacular
  • Trickster
  • Wyatt’s Wonder


  • Avenger
  • Barbados
  • Hellcat
  • Interceptor
  • Tigercat

Squash (Summer)

  • Ambassador
  • Clarita
  • Commander
  • Conqueror III
  • Consul R
  • Daisey
  • Depredador
  • Dixie
  • Embassy
  • Gemma
  • Gold Rush
  • Goldbar
  • Goldfinger
  • Grey Zucchini
  • Greyzini
  • Independence II
  • Judgement III
  • Justice III
  • Lemondrop
  • Liberator III
  • Lolita
  • Papaya Pear
  • Patriot II
  • Patty Green Tinit
  • Patty Pan
  • Portofino
  • Prelude II
  • President
  • ProGreen
  • Quirinal
  • Radiant
  • Richgreen Hybrid
  • Senator
  • Storr’s Green
  • Sungreen
  • Sunny Delight
  • Sunray
  • Terminator
  • XPT 1832 III

Squash (Winter)

  • Autumn Delight
  • Butternut Supreme
  • Canesi
  • Early Butternut
  • Pasta
  • Taybelle PM

Sweet Corn

  • Absolute
  • Devotion
  • EX 08745857R
  • EX 08767143
  • Fantasia
  • Merit
  • Obsession
  • Obsession II
  • Passion
  • Passion II
  • Seneca Arrowhead
  • Sensor
  • Synergy
  • Temptation
  • Temptation II
  • Vitality


  • Amsterdam
  • Apt 410
  • Beefmaster
  • Better Boy
  • Big Beef
  • Biltmore
  • Burpee’s Big Boy
  • Caramba
  • Celebrity
  • Crown Jewel
  • Cupid
  • Debut
  • Empire
  • Flora-Dade
  • Flirida 47 R
  • Florida 91
  • Granny Smith
  • Healthy Kick
  • Heatmaster
  • Huichol
  • Husky Cherry Red
  • Hybrid 46
  • Hybrid 882
  • Hypeel 108
  • Hypeel 303
  • Hypeel 849
  • Jetsetter brand of Jack
  • Lemon Boy
  • Margherita
  • Margo
  • Marmande VF PS
  • Marmara
  • Maya
  • Patio
  • Phoenix
  • Picus
  • Pik Ripe 748
  • Pink Girl
  • Poseidon 43
  • PS 01522935
  • PS 01522942
  • PS 345
  • PS 438
  • Puebla
  • Quincy
  • Roma VF
  • Royesta
  • Sanibel
  • Seri
  • Sunbrite
  • SunChief
  • SunGuard
  • Sunoma
  • SunShine
  • Sunstart
  • Sunsugar
  • Super Marzano
  • Sweet Baby Girl
  • Tiffany
  • Tye Dye
  • Tygress
  • Viva Italia
  • Yaqui


  • Apollo
  • Charleston Grey
  • Companion
  • Cooperstown
  • Crimson Glory
  • Crimson Sweet
  • Cronos
  • Delta
  • Eureka
  • Fenway
  • Jade Star
  • Majestic
  • Mickylee
  • Olympia
  • Omega
  • Regency
  • Royal Jubilee
  • Royal Sweet
  • Sentinel
  • Starbrite
  • Star Gazer
  • Stars ‘n’ Stripes
  • Tiger Baby
  • Wrigley



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Time to Plant Your Garlic!

“Dear Mertie Mae,

What do I need to know about growing garlic?   Just the basics.

Thank you,



Hi George,

Thank you for your question regarding growing garlic.  Here are a few basic points to keep in mind:

1.  Where to buy
The first thing you need to figure out is if you want to buy organic or conventional grown and heirloom or non-heirloom types.  Some places sell great garlic and others not so much.  I personally recommend Seed Saver Exchange (get your order in when you buy your garden seeds!!! They sell out insanely fast!), and Territorial. Additionally, Botanical Interests (they have garlic assortments that give you a bulb of a few different varieties), Burpees, Dominion Seed House, Harris Seed, Jung Seed (order early or you will have a slightly mushy bulb based on my experiences), and Cook’s Gardens all receive high ratings on websites like the National Garden Bureau and such, but I’ve found that their quality and selection aren’t as good as SSE and Territorial.  There are many other places that offer garlic too, but as I haven’t tried them, I can’t say for sure if they are worth spending your time with.  If you are in the north, plant hard neck varieties (require winter chilling). If you are in the south, grow soft neck varieties.

2.  When to plant
Most experts say that in areas that get a hard frost before winter, it is recommended that you plant your garlic 6-8 weeks before that frost. While this may work in places other than Wisconsin, I have found that planting my garlic that early makes it not so hardy come winter.  I usually plant mine here in West Central Wisconsin (and in Central or Southern WI when I lived there back when) between October 1-14.  This allows the cloves to get established, but not spend a ton of energy growing.  They need that energy to get through winter!  And it works — even the old timers around use the rule of thumb to plant on Columbus Day (October 12).  If you are in a southern area with no winter, February or March is a better time to plant.

Garlic prefers well-drained soil in a sunny spot with lots of organic matter. It’s a rather narrow plant, so I like to plant it in double rows that are about 6-8 inches apart and then alternate (zig-zag) the plants down the rows to give them a little more space.  Plant the cloves 6-8 inches apart (12 inches if growing Elephant Garlic).  Garlic should be planted 3 inches deep.  Fertilize as you would onions.

3.  To scape or not?

Garlic Scapes
Trimming the tops of hardneck garlic (garlic scapes) is often recommended… but I don’t do it.  I’ve found that it never fails that if you trim them, there will be a rainstorm or heavy dew and the tops will get weird or you will get disease.  Also, letting them mature gives you small bulb-like cloves that you can put into the ground at harvest time and grow for next year’s crop (which I suspect is why the seed companies say cut them off — less profit for them if you let them grow!)

As long as you are properly tending your garlic with water and fertilizer, the bulbs will grow just as big.  If you decide to cut them off, they are edible.

4.  When to harvest
Harvest time depends on when you plant, but the key is to look for the garlic leaves to turn brown. Unlike onions or shallots, they don’t just fall over.  In Northern climates, harvesting will probably be in July or August, depending on the variety. In Southern climates, it will depend on your planting date. Either way, stop watering so the outside skin can dry out a bit and harvest within one week of matuity.  Waiting too long will allow the outer skins to disintegrate.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Where to find Lutz Green Leaf Winter Keeper Beet?

“Does anyone sell real honest to God Lutz Green Leaf Winter Keeper Beet seed?  I’ve been very disappointed in buying this seed from mail order catalogs.  It’s not Lutz in my opinion. Real Lutz is 15 inches high and grows big sweet beets up to 6 inches. Have you run field trials on this seed? Can you verify it’s the real deal? Do you have a picture of the beets? Who is selling the real thing?

Donald in Iowa”


Hi Donald,

Thank you for the email regarding Lutz Green Leaf Beets.  Lutz is a pretty popular heirloom variety, but the true strain of the variety does not match your description.

Lutz BeetPer the “Garden Seed Inventory”, 6th ed., published by Seed Saver’s Exchange, the description of Lutz Green Leaf Beet is:

“60-80 days – Smooth purple-red top-shaped beet, 2.25-3 in. diameter, lighter zones, half-long taproot, long glossy 14-18 in. tops with pink midribs, good for greens, excellent keeper, grows large without getting woody, good fresh, for winter and fall use.”  The variety is also legally known as New Century, Winter Keeper, Lutz Green, Lutz Salad, and Lutz Green Top.

Many companies like Harris Seed, Johnny’s and Territorial carry a true strain of the Lutz Green Leaf Beet, and it matches the description above.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How Vaccinations Can Make You Think About Tomato Disease Resistance

… or better titled as “odd things that run through a horticulturist’s mind while on Facebook”.

This morning I had some down time while I was waiting for a few of my Saturday morning tasks to ‘do their thing’.  Sitting there in the kitchen, I got on my phone and looked through my Facebook feed to see what was new and interesting with people.   One of my Facebook friends had a post about how she did not understand why unvaccinated kids made vaccinated kids sick.

Of course, the scientist-that-used-to-teach-college-classes-and-believes-knowledge-is-power that is in me responded about infectivity, virulence, gene mutations, and the like.

Vaccinations do not make one 100% immune to a disease. Giving a vaccine to an individual stimulates their immune system to recognize the pathogen and develop adaptive (acquired) immunity. The adaptive immunity allows the person to have more resistance to the particular disease and reduce the risk of death should they contract it.

The reason why those without the vaccine can infect those with the vaccine comes down to the basics of resistance, pathogenicity, and genetic mutation. An unvaccinated child can increase the risk of disease for everyone that is exposed to him or her because exposure is not a “yes or no” kind of thing that is determined by if you did or didn’t get vaccinated. For the vaccinated individual, the concentration of viroid particles they are exposed to (i.e. did they walk past the infected person in a store? or did they sit next to them for hours?), the virulence of the virus strain, and their overall health (i.e. existing conditions, diet, etc.) determines if they will be able to fight off the disease with antibodies or if they will get sick.

Unlike an organism like you or I that are multicellular and complex, a virion (a single virus particle) is nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) enclosed in a capsid (a protective protein shell). They are not even as complex as a single cell and therefore not living because they require a host cell to fulfill their life cycle. Once a virion enters your body, it attaches to a particular cell that has specific components that will be needed for its replication process (usually white blood cells). Once attached, the virion penetrates the cell wall through endocytosis (energy-requiring cell absorption) and injects the nucleic acid into the host cell. The host cell replicates the nucleic acid and creates many new virus particles. The host cell bursts open and the released newly made virus partcles go attack more host cells. When an individual has had a vaccination, their body develops antibodies. Once an antibody recognizes a virion (the antigen), it attaches to the surface and destroys the virion by opsonization and the formation of a membrane attack complex.

Viruses are quite perceptive to their environment and can adapt and mutate easily. While the antibodies in a vaccinated individual can have a field day of attacking fun, the virus’s virulence and vaccinated person’s health can play major factors in the quality of the job the antibodies do. If a particular virus strain is virulent, it has mechanisms that help it to avoid the antibodies. A pyrogen fever is one of these, as the virus induces the fever to shift the body’s temperature outside of the ‘ideal’ range to reduce the ability of the antibody to function. If a virion attaches to a cell that it not the healthiest and replicates, it is possible for antigenic shift or genetic recombination to occur. Antigenic shift is where the DNA or RNA sequence is recombinated or reasserted. Genetic recombination is the process in which the DNA is broken and rejoins at the opposite ends. It occurs rampantly. By either process occurring, all new virus particles created in the host cell and in the successive host cell attacked will not be recognized by the antibodies developed through vaccination. You have now created a pandemic by a virus that is not resistant to the antibodies in everyone that has been vaccinated with that particular disease.

It’s not hype or somebody just saying it – it is true because it is well documented and can even be demonstrated by a student in any lab. I used to work with Tobacco Mosaic Virus in disease resistant and non-resistant tomatoes and Potato Virus Y and Potato Spindle Tuber Viroid on Andean potatoes that my professor brought back from her germplasm expansion trips. I easily manipulated these same principals to test resistance and give my professor parameters to use for her future breeding projects. While I’m sure people would argue that plants are a lot simpler than people, the same principles still apply because viruses, not complexity of the host organism, is the common factor.

You are not alone in thinking that vaccinated or resistant means 100% coverage – probably 75% of the tomato calls I received when I worked in the seed industry were from people calling in to grump that my company had sold them bad seed because their precious resistant tomato still caught blight. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect, just means that it can tolerate it a little bit better. Flora or fauna, disregard of science will not lead to perfection.

Further comments back and forth dealt with the logistics behind the recent outbreak of measles related to Disneyland.

I’m sure that some of her FB friends and some of mine read this and thought I was pulling out my soapbox and railing against the world on the benefits of vaccination.  Not so to the soapbox, and hopefully not so to people thinking that.  It is more a “old Mert planned to put up a sentence or two, and then her talkative nature attacked her brain and made it spew out every detail it knew on the subject because there is always background details that are important and somehow pulled plants into it just because plants thoughts are always there lurking around”.

It’s true:  plants are always on my mind. Even to the point of where I sometimes have dreams of feeding homegrown vegetables to children that live on chicken nuggets and ice cream.  And of course my comment pulled in Tobacco Mosaic Virus and various potato viruses.

Diseased Tomatoes

But, I royally digress.  This all, in a very roundabout way, it made me think of a very common question I got while working in the seed industry and here on my blog:


“Why did my disease resistant tomato catch blight/verticillium/etc. and die?”


As previously stated in a more vaccination-oriented format, resistance is not a 100% shield that goes around your plant and makes it indestructible.  It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a virus, bacteria, or fungus.

For example, lets say that you planted your Resistant Lacking Tomato next to a Big Beef VFFNTASt Hybrid Tomato.  Your Resistant Lacking Tomato will get a disease — blight, verticillium, etc. — and within a week or two your Big Beef plants has it too.  Doesn’t mean that the seed from the company you bought it from is bad. Keep in mind these are “resistant” varieties, not completely disease-proof. They can maybe hold out for longer, but are not immortal.  In areas of very high concentrations of disease organisms, the resistance may not be enough to overcome these odds.

Former customers of mine at my old unnamed workplace were always quick to point out that heirloom and open pollinated varieties where not disease resistant because they “don’t have the letters”.  Don’t let that fool you too.  Hybrids ALWAYS have the letters because the breeder/vendor that is selling it to your mailorder seed company of choice has done the testing to find out what it has the edge on.  It is a marketing tool to get you to prefer their variety over another.  Of course, the question is always what their variety was compared to in the testing…

Just because an heirloom or open pollinated variety doesn’t ‘have the letters’ doesn’t mean that they are going to keel over at the first sign of disease.  The fact of the matter is that 99% of these varieties have not been tested.  Most land-grant universities have breeding programs and heirloom testing is a matter of $$$ rather than finding a truly good, resistant plant.  First of all, most open pollinated or heirloom varieties sell wholesale for a couple dollars a pound.  Hybrid varieties sell for a LOT more than that — upwards of $100s per pound depending on what supposed resistance or other desirable traits they have.  What professor is going to do research to determine the resistance of the old heirloom seed his grandma used to grow rather than developing a new variety that can sell for a ton and earn him some nice royalities?  Um, hello — from my experience I can tell you that a lot of PhD holders are willing to sell their soul to the industry rather than do the right thing for a lot less minor things that determining disease resistance.

Back in 2010 when I was growing a trial garden for the company I worked for, I had in a bunch of new hybrids that they were thinking about including in their next catalog and about 25 varieties that were already being offered by the company but had poor catalog and internet pictures.  That year we had a horrible time with late blight because we had a very humid, warm summer.  As I watched the blight spread through the tomato patch, it was interesting to see that the first to die were not the heirlooms, but many of the hybrids!  So much for that resistance!  As the varieties still standing became a handful of names, I was left with a couple Japanese numbered hybrid varieties (which had beautiful looking fruits with the texture of moist cardboard), Matt’s Wild Cherry (heirloom) , and 3 heirloom varieties that were already in the company’s catalog.  Interestingly enough, the next year the 2 Japanese hybrid varieties and a number of the other hybrids that had died were added to the catalog.  The Matt’s Wild Cherry was not added, and 2 of the heirlooms that we had already offered that survived were cut to make room for the hybrids.  Remember, it’s all about marketing.

So, the next time you have a tomato, hybrid or otherwise, that is having disease issues in your garden, don’t blame the seed company.  Look at what you are doing in your cultural practices and learn from the experience:

1.  Grow more than one variety because there is always one that won’t get as sick as the others. Not including the varieties I grow for sale, I have 4 staple varieties that are always in my garden.

2.  Rotate your crops so your tomatoes (and other Solanaceae family members) will not be in the same spot for four years.

3.  Don’t water your garden after 4 pm in the afternoon.  Tucking your garden in bed for the night with wet feet is a perfect way to start just about any disease.

4.  When the growing season is done, clean up your garden.  As tedious as it may be, pick up every leaf, stem, fruit, etc. out of the garden.  Heap it up in a pile, dry it down, and burn it on a good winter day  or bag it up and take it to the dump/put out for garbage collection.  DO NOT COMPOST IT!  DO NOT TILL IT IN!  While people will tell you the benefits of green manure or how much your compost pile will grow by, the small ‘reward’ is not worth the trouble you will reap.  It only take one small particle of infected material to be incorporated into your soil or compost to create problems down the road.  Don’t believe me?  Ask the 1800s Irish how their practices worked… Famine much?

5.  Keep your plants healthy by giving them the care to help them grow healthy.  Water, fertilize, cultivate, trellis, etc. as needed to make your plant grow to it’s best potential.


(And 6. Your horticulturist recommends vaccinating your children using the 1981 schedule.  ;-D   )




© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Growing Jalapenos Indoors

“I’m wanting to grow my own jalapenos. I was curious about indoor growing in a large pot. Would jalapeno plants thrive as an indoor plant, assuming a good, sunny window?



Hi Michael,

Thank you for your email regarding growing jalapenos indoors.  To be honest, given the conditions that you are planning to grow them under (in a sunny window), I would not recommend it.

First of all, I don’t want to say that it won’t work.  It’s just that you will have some problems in terms of light and you will probably not have a great crop of peppers.  The reason why I am hesitant to recommend this method is because of the composition of window glass that is found in most homes.  Glass that is found in greenhouses is very basic and allows for all solar rays other than UV to go through.  However, windows used for homes have glass that is a little bit more high tech and blocks more than just UV rays.  Because these other types of rays are blocked, the plants in your
home sitting by the window do not get a full spectrum of light.  For some, like a pathos or a philodendron, that is fine because they are used to filtered light in their native outdoor environments.  But for peppers, that’s not good because they are accustomed to having full, direct sunshine.

What you would see happen is that your stems would become elongated between the nodes where the leaves and branches come out.  Also, the color would be lighter than normal.  Not having the optimal conditions would eventually reduce the amount of buds set and/or the amount of fruits set.

I admit, I have brought bell and habanero type peppers into my home that were grown outside before frost and were brought in to finish things up. They did okay, but only because it was for a couple of weeks.

I don’t want to discourage you from growing peppers inside, but I want to make sure that you are aware of what they need so that you are not disappointed.  What I would recommend doing is growing them under a grow lamp.  Unlike the rays allowed through the window into your home, a grow lamp will provide the full spectrum of light that will be needed for the plants to have normal growth rates.  It can be the same type that you use to start seedlings in spring, but just make sure that there is enough room under it to allow the jalapeno plants to grow to their full height.  Keep
the grow lights about 1-3 inches above the tops of the plants as they grow so the light is not too diffuse.  You can leave the lights on for 18 hours a day.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thwarting Tomato Blossom End Rot

“For years I have bought Viva Italia seed to raise. The last two summers have been hit with blossom rot in all plants late in season.  What information do you offer that can prevent this plants or otherwise??

Thank you,


Zone 5

In The Russet Potato Capital Of Idaho”


Hi Clarus,

Thank you for your question regarding Blossom End Rot on Tomatoes.

Blossom End Rot on Paste Tomato

Blossom End Rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil in relation to uneven moisture levels or excessive fertilizing.  Calcium is required in relatively large concentrations for normal cell growth and development.  It is moved from the soil through the roots to the meristem (tips of the plant where active growth occurs) via differentiation in water potential and pressure in the xylem of the plant.  When there is not a steady flow of water to the plant, the areas of the plant that growing will have a deficiency.  If the active growth point is a fruit, it will show up at the tip (end) of it.  What is actually happening to the tomato is that the cell walls are weakened by not having enough calcium.  The cell ruptures and discolors as it dries out.

Overfertilizing with nitrogen can also cause problems.  Extra nitrogen increases the speed at which the fruit grows and its size.  Calcium uptake by the plant remains steady in relationship to what would be the normal rate of growth.  Essentially, this means that the calcium uptake is almost ‘lagging’ because everything else is accelerated.  As a result, the fruit lacks calcium. Once the problem develops, quick fixes are difficult. Stabilize the moisture level as much as possible.  Remove the fruits that have been damaged. Feeding with manure or compost tea is recommended by many if this occurs in a garden plot.  You can also do foliar applications of calcium, but I’ve read that the results are not always the best because Calcium is a rather bulky element (larger than Nitrogen and others that are normally used in foliar feeding) and not easily absorbed through the leaf tissue.

In my own garden, I have found the best success with using an application of Epsom salts.  These can be found at your local pharmacy — usually in either the laxative/digestive health area or with things like bath salts/bubble bath. You want to get the plain, unscented type and make sure that it is not mixed with other additives like sea salt.  I use an old scoop from Lipton’s Ice Tea  (about a 1/4 cup measure) and give each plant a heaped scoop – sprinkling it in a circle around the base of the plant and with about an inch or two between the stem and the ring..  Repeat again in about two weeks for sandy soils, four for clay soils.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Open Pollinated Disease Resistant Tomatoes

I am a backyard gardener in eastern nj. I am looking for the most disease
resistant tomato that is open pollinated. Any type but cherry. Thanks for
your help,

Ray Carter”


Hi Ray,

Thank you for your email regarding open pollinated tomatoes varieties with
disease resistance.  Unfortunately, there are not a ton of varieties because
there is not the hybridization involved to introduce resistance.  What
resistance there is comes from the selections made for domestication by
those that started saving seeds many years ago.

However, there are a few that do stand out:
–Manalucie FSt:  This one is more for down south or hot summers, but I’ve
had good success with it here in Wisconsin (with the exception of 2009, when
we had a very cool summer!).  The fruits get big (about 12-16 ounces), but
are nice and smooth.  It has decent resistance to Blossom End Rot, Gray Leaf
Mold, Early Blight and Fusarium Wilt.  It is an indeterminate variety.

–Campbell’s 33VFA:  This is a tomato that is about half the size of the
Manalucie, but makes up for it with the amount of fruit set.  It has okay
resistance to Verticilium, Fusarium Wilt, and Alternaria.  It is a
determinate variety.

Campbell's 33
–Heinz 1370 FASt: This one makes a nice sauce or soup and is about in the
4-7 ounce range.  It has decent resistance to cracking, Fusarium Wilt,
Alternaria, and Gray Leaf Mold.  It is a determinate variety.

Heinz 1370
–Marglobe Select VFA:  This one is a popular seller for us.  It has
resistance to Verticilium and Fusarium Wit and Alternaria.  It is a
determinate variety.

Marglobe Select
–Rutgers Select VFASt and Rutgers PS VFASt:  These two varieties are very
similar but have great resistance to Verticilium and Fusarium Wilt, Grey
Leaf Mold, and ALternaria.  They have really good flavor and are meaty.
Rutgers Select is an indeterminate and Rutgers PS is determinate.

Rutgers PS Rutgers Select

There are other varieties like Marion FASt, Marmande VFA, New
Yorker VA, Sunray VFF, Hard Rock VFN, and Roma VFA that do have some
moderate disease resistance.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions,
please feel free to ask.