Seeking advice for 1st time gardeners

isuhunterFebruary 11, 2010

Hi all...A friend and I are planning on starting a garden this year. Both of us have strong Ag backgrounds as we both work as agronomists. We are planning a 50x50 garden. We are looking a large variety of items. I'm wanting advice on what type of tomatoes, peppers and onions to grow. I'm thinking I may start some tomato seeds early but have no idea which kind to buy. We want some for salsa, BLT's, burgers and some cherry tomatoes. What kinds would you guys recommend.

What kinds of onions and peppers would you recommend?


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Yea! A new garden - always lots of fun.

Are you using an existing plot? Soil preparation will be key. Take the time to do a soil test through the state extension office. Hopefully the weeds & grass will not be too much of a problem for you. The first year is always the hardest but as you eliminate weeds and grass, each year seems to get easier.

Okay on to your actual questions ;)

Tomatoes: I've grown mostly Roma tomatoes because I like them for both fresh eating but mostly for making sauces and salsas. But this year I thought I'd seek out a typical round variety. I wanted it to be a good producer with fruit that is not prone to crack or disease. I've settled on Better Boy - not an heirloom but predictable and a good producer with decent tasting flavor. It is recommended by the ISU Extension. For a list, google Iowa State Extension Tomato Recommendations. You'll find a link labeled "tomatoes" that will pull up a pdf file. There are a few other recommended varieties that you may want to look up. Last year was a horrible tomato year - very wet and cool. I'm hoping this year is much better!

As for peppers: California Wonder have done very well for me. As have all the hot & moderate heat peppers that I've grown (jalapenos, serranos, peter peppers, anaheims). I'm adding a large orange bell pepper into the mix this year :)

Onions: I usually buy the sets at Walmart. If you get plants through a supplier, they are supposed to produce bigger bulbs. Just make sure your getting the right onion - they are day light sensitive.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 9:56AM
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For tomatoes youÂll want to start indoors March 18th thru 30th.

If youÂre looking for easy to grow, I first think of determinates along the lines of Oregon State introductions.
Legend, Siletz, Oregon Spring etc.
For salsa there are many choices of RomaÂs out there. The easiest to grow is: Roma VF from anywhere,
Hard Rock from Totally Tomatoes, San Pablo from Glecklers, MartinoÂs Roma, (click italian culinary).

For BLT size IÂd just go with Big Beef hybrid. For cherries I like Sunsugar, Sun Gold, Isis Candy etc.
I donÂt grow onions. For peppers I follow what works well every year at the Seed Savers Exchange, and thatÂs Orange Bell. Others are Cal Wonder, King of the North, DÂ Asti Rosso, Buran, Early Jalapeno.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 4:08PM
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I grow lots of heirloom tomatoes.

Japanese Trifele Black - the most delicious!
Juane Flamme - productive
Blondkompfchen - yellow cherry
Amish Paste
Brandywine - Sudduth's Strain
Mortgage Lifter
Brown Cherry

I grow banana peppers, they are much more productive in our zone than the bells.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 8:00PM
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Interesting to hear that banana peppers do better in our area than the bells do. I'll research them some. What would you recommend for a sweeter tasting banana pepper? Only time I can think that I've had a banana pepper is at subway.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 1:09PM
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My favorite sweet banana type is "Gypsy." It's an
F1 that has been around for a long time. I'm sure many suppliers have it. some of the "banana" peppers are hot peppers - be careful out there.
50 x 50 seems really big for a first year garden.

Here is a link that might be useful: territorial seed

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 9:58PM
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I personally like Cubanelle & Feher Ozon peppers, which are a very productive and sweet non-bell pepper and they do better for me here in Iowa than do the bell peppers. You need to start your peppers seed this week or two though.

Tomatoes I grow 30 to 40 types(80+ plants) yearly and I have fallen in love with black tomatoes, which are actually brown or purplish. I like the Paul Robeson as a black tomato. I would try at least one cherry tomato, I personally like Black Cherry and Matt's Wild Cherry, but Sungold is probably easier to obtain. You must try at least one Brandywine Sudduth tomato plant to see what a truly great tasting slicing tomato taste like. For production(workhorse) and canning tomato I still like Rutgers, even though I like Italian Market Wonder a little better.

I personally only grow heirloom plants and 95% organic.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 10:24AM
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sfallen2002(z5 IA)

Two seasons ago I had great luck with Orange Oxheart. Kind of a beefsteak/roma mix(the variety is heirloom), great flavor. Last year, not so great (overall). Will be trying again this year.

I'll second the OP/heirloom comment - although I have yet to actually re-plant anything I've grown. There needs to be a lot of isolation involved and I don't think I have the room for more than 2 tomato plants if I go that route.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 10:12AM
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Thanks for all the info!!! With the snow melting its sure getting exciting. We have plenty of Tomatos, peppers, and onions started already.

We have changed out idea of garden size. We have access to a ~36" garden tractor mounted tiller. We are going to run some strips and use them in my friends yard. The garden will be on a slight hill side and the "contour gardening" should help prevent erosion. We plan to add some peat moss and some old horse manure to the strips. Anything else that we should add? We don't have any access to free compost like we do free manure. The soil is a silt loam.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 5:02PM
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