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Fresh Flavors (3)



Undoubtedly the tomato is Iowa’s favorite warm-season garden vegetable. The taste of a fresh, homegrown tomato outshines the flavor of any greenhouse-grown fruit, and no other vegetable produces as well as a tomato plant.

Versatility is another asset: Tomato plants can be grown in plots, pots, tubs, even upside down, plus their fruits come in many sizes, shapes, colors, and growing habits. Selection can become a personal challenge.

For a long season of productivity, choose varieties with varying maturation times: early, mid-, and late season.

To keep tomato development from being delayed, don’t set plants outdoors until temperatures remain above 55°F and no later than mid-June.

Typically the harvest time for tomatoes is between August and September, which can be extended by covering plants with cloth sheets when there is danger of frost.

Growing tomatoes next to companion plants such as garlic, basil, and marigolds is helpful in thwarting pests such as aphids, while plantings of chives, bee balm, dill, and parsley enhance tomato flavors.

Never plant tomatoes near walnut trees. Walnuts exude an acid that prohibits growth in certain plants, including tomatoes.

Water tomato plants regularly to prevent the tomato skins from cracking.


Whether red, green, orange, yellow, red, or purple, peppers are another warm-season vegetable that keeps on giving in the Iowa garden. Sweet or hot, they are attractive enough to be grown in the flowerbed and tame enough to be grown in pots.

Grow peppers in raised beds that warm up quickly or keep them indoors until soil temperatures reach 60°F. (Otherwise, they will just sit.)

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