Tomatoes – Everything You Need to Know

Tomatoes – Everything You Need to Know

Tomato terms you will need to know.

Determinate and Indeterminate refer to a tomato’s growth habit.

Determinate tomato plants tend to be more compact. They grow to a certain height, then flower and set all their fruit at the same time. The harvest period is short which is fine as these are the tomatoes used for sauces, pastes, and soups.

Indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow and produce fruit all season. Making them the perfect choice for supplying a steady supply of fresh fruit for salads and sandwiches all season long.


Heirloom refers to heritage.

Heirloom tomato varieties have been passed down through the generations. They have been grown without cross breeding for many years. Varieties are open-pollinated. Meaning you can save the seeds from the fruit, plant them and expect them to grow into new tomato plants. These are not your supermarket varieties.


Tomato Types

Paste/Plum Tomato – These are determinate plants, the fruit tends to have thicker walls, meaty flesh, and very few seeds. Making them perfect for sauces and soups. There are many different varieties out there and it really is all about your taste preferences.

To name a few favorites – Roma, San Marzano, Black Prince, Amish Prince, and Paisano

Slicing Tomato – These are indeterminate plants. They come in all sizes with meaty flesh an assorted flavors. They provide fresh fruit all season long to enjoy on salads and sandwiches or just by themselves.

To name a few of the most popular – Brandywine, Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, Oregon Spring, Moskovich, Early Girl, Carbon, Celebrity, Paul Robeson, and many others

Cherry/Grape Tomato – The least fussy to grow of all tomato types. Most of these plants are indeterminate providing and abundance of sweet little snacks all season, they range from the size of a thumbnail to golf ball size. They make perfect additions to any salad, pasta dish, as snacks direct from the vine, and are great to use in salsas.

Lots of favorites in this category, but here are a few – Sungold, Sweet Million, Chocolate Cherry, Yellow Pear, Isis Candy, Oregon Cherry.



Tomato Planting and Care Instructions

As Spring brings glimpses of the sun, we get excited to get our garden started. Tomatoes are one of the most popular veggies to grow. They can be grown in small spaces and can be plucked right off the vine and added to any dish. Making them convenient and rewarding.



Where and When to Plant

We recommend planting tomato starts rather than beginning from seed. The season can be short in our region, starts provide a significant advantage to getting your garden started. Our garden center has an excellent selection of all types to choose from.

Tomatoes need warmth to grow, they cannot take frost. Plant tomato starts in late Spring to early Summer when the days and nights do not get below 60 degrees.

Choose a sunny spot that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. The amount of sunlight they receive really does affect the flavor of fruit.

Regardless of whether you opt for planting in the ground or in containers, ensuring adequate support for your tomato plants is crucial. A variety of tomato support options are available, all serving the purpose of keeping your tomatoes well-supported and elevated from the ground.

Give your tomatoes room to grow, indeterminate tomatoes need to be about 3 feet apart while the determinate varieties tend to be more compact and need only 2 feet. Be sure to follow the planting instructions that come with each start.

When planting directly in the ground, be sure to incorporate high-quality organic garden compost or aged manure into the soil mix. For container gardening, your containers should be at least 24″ in diameter. Be sure to use high quality organic potting soil.

Adding lime and a starting fertilizer to the bottom of the hole before planting will help to raise the PH, increase calcium, and boost the intake of nutrients.

When planting tomato starts you should plan the start deeper than the soil line, bury about two thirds of the stem in soil. Tomatoes will grow roots from the stem and make your tomato very sturdy. This only works on tomatoes. Never use this method on other veggies.

Add a layer of mulch to help keep moisture in the ground.


Watering and Fertilizing Tomatoes.

Once planted, be sure to water the plants well to settle them in.

Tomatoes need consistent watering to prevent cracked skin and blossom end rot. When the top of the soil is dry to about one inch it’s time to water deeply. Watering in the morning is the most effective time as plants are more receptive to moisture.

Tomatoes are big eaters and should be fed regularly with an organic fertilizer designed specifically for tomatoes such as Espoma Tomato tone. Follow the instructions on the package for quantities and frequencies.


Harvesting Tomatoes.

From flower to full size fruit takes about 30-40 days depending on variety.

When the tomato reaches its desired ripeness, it will exhibit the vibrant color characteristic of its variety, such as red, purple, orange, or yellow, and will yield slightly to gentle pressure. It is important not to wait until it is soft.

Harvesting at the “Breaker Stage”, when the fruit is about halfway ripe, and allowing it to ripen off the vine will not diminish its flavor, quality, or nutritional value. Early harvesting can ease the burden on plants and lower the likelihood of fruit cracking.

Harvesting in the afternoon is best. The warmth of the afternoon will help enhance the flavor and aromas.

Do not store tomatoes in the refrigerator. The cooler temperatures diminish the flavor and slow down the ripening process. Tomatoes should be consumed or processed within 4-7 days.


Many gardeners have their own tried and true tips they have used for growing tomatoes, below is a list of our favorites.

  • Side dress with crushed eggshells or add while planting to add much needed calcium.
  • Add a pinch of Epsom salt when planting to increase root and cell development. It also helps to prevent blossom end rot.
  • Sid dress with liquid seaweed, fish emulsion, or compost tea to give extra nutrients.
  • Add two uncoated aspirins to the hole at planting time or dissolve them into a gallon of water then spray the young plants. This builds the plants’ immune system to better fight off early attacks of diseases and pests.
  • Plant basil or borage near your tomato to prevent hornworms and enhance the taste.
  • Withhold water for 3-4 days before harvesting. Tomatoes will be more flavorful.
  • Cut the bottom leaves off plants to improve circulation and prevent disease.
  • Red mulch increases the tomato harvest. the color reflects into the leaves which causes the plant to produce protein, speeding up the whole growing process. Also works with red peppers, melons, and strawberries.
  • In September cut the top of indeterminate plants and stop watering to force energy into the remaining fruit before the end of the season.
  • Around October before heavy rains uproot the plant and hang it upside down in the garage or a shed. Tomatoes will continue to ripen on the vine and you could have fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving.


Vegetable Guide

Vegetable Guide

When do I plant my vegetables?

That’s a really good question. Most vegetables are planted in Spring between March and May. Some need to be in the ground early, while others, such as tomatoes, need the soil to warm up and all danger of frost to be past.


It’s so exciting to eat fresh veggies straight from the garden. For most vegetables, the best time to harvest is in the early morning, especially any leafy vegetable. There are some such as tomatoes that are more flavorful when harvested in the afternoon when they have been warmed by the sun all day.

Aside from knowing when to plant your garden and getting yourself ready for a bountiful harvest, companion planting is also a fantastic way to maximize space and efficiency of your garden.

Companion plants are beneficial friends in so many ways. They can help increase the nutrients in the soil, chase away damaging pests while improving pollination, some can be used as stakes for support or provide shade for roots that benefit from a little cover, others such as basil and tomato can enhance the flavor.



Planting – Harvesting – Companion Plant Guide


How To Grow Strawberries in the Pacific Northwest

How To Grow Strawberries in the Pacific Northwest

Types of Strawberries


June-bearing – Produces one heavy crop of large fruit around md-June. These are preferred varieties for making jams and preserves for freezing. Hood being the most iconic as it was created in Oregon specific for our climate.

Everbearing – Produces two crops, one in early summer and another in late summer. The berries are a bit smaller in size, are very tasty and preserve well. These strawberry varieties are known to do well in containers.

Day-neutral – Produces consistently throughout summer until first frost, often presented in the same category as Everbearing. Day-neutral will set fruit regardless of how long the day is. Also does well in containers, tastes sweet, and is an excellent choice for a steady supply of fruit.

Alpine – Also known as the “Wild Strawberry”. These hardy evergreen perennials are very well behaved as they do not produce runners. The fruit is small but pack intense flavor and fragrance. They are great in window boxes, containers, as a nice groundcover. Producing sweet little fruit all summer.


Choosing a Site


Strawberries will need at least 8 hours of sun each day. Soil should be rich, well drained, sandy loam. A slight to medium acid soil is best. Due to strawberries’ high-water requirements, the soil needs to have plenty of organic matter to help hold moisture for growing plants. It is wise to amend the soil with compost prior to planting.


Planting Strawberries


It is important to plant as early as possible in the spring. Snow or light frosts will not hurt the plants. Plants should be planted in rows 12-18 inches wide. Plants should be planted 12-18 inches apart. Set plants with roots straight down. Care should be taken so that the plants are set with the crowns level with the top of the ground. This is especially important to the strawberry’s survival and overall health. Be sure to water the plants well after planting.

Strawberries can also be grown as edible edgings, in hanging baskets and in strawberry jars.




Berries will be bright red, slightly firm, and juicy when ripe. The berries will also have a natural shine. Strawberries should be picked at their prime – they do not ripen after picking.

Best harvesting is in the early morning hours and refrigerated at once.


Maintaining Strawberry Plant Health


To keep your plants healthy and productive over the years, follow these few steps:

  1. Runners should be removed for the first two years so the plant can put its energy into growing healthy roots and production. After that, let those runners propagate future plants. Be aware of over-crowding.
  2. Be very diligent about weeding, especially while plants are young and trying to get established.
  3. Fertilize with all-purpose fertilizer in early Spring and again when flowers appear with a high potassium tomato fertilizer.
  4. As soon as harvest is complete, mow off the leaves using your lawn mower set at the highest setting or cut down to 1 inch.
  5. Rototill to narrow row width to 12-18 inches. Remove excess plants to leave 3-5 inches around each plant.
  6. Maintain adequate moisture throughout the growing season.
  7. Mulch in November when plants start to go dormant. This will help with fluctuating temperatures.


Asparagus – What You Need to Know

Asparagus – What You Need to Know

Asparagus is one of the first plants to let us know Spring has arrived.

The most edible part of asparagus emerges as soil temperatures reach 50º. And with it the anticipation of fresh veggies straight from the garden to our tables.

About Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that is known to be productive for 15 – 20 years with very little maintenance. It takes 2-3 years to be fully productive. But worth the wait.

Asparagus plants are either male or female. Female asparagus produces seeds. Male asparagus does not spend energy producing seeds, so they are three times more productive. For this reason, male plants are often preferred.

Planting Asparagus

Choose a place that gets full sun (at least 6 – 8 hours of sun per day) with good drainage. Asparagus roots will rot if kept too wet. Raised beds with plenty of organic matter are a great option.

Plant one year old crowns in early Spring as soon as the ground can be worked.

Soak crowns briefly in lukewarm water before planting.

Dig a trench 12 – 18 inches wide and 6 – 8 inches deep. If digging more than one trench space them 3 feet apart.

Create a 2″ mound in the middle of the trench using soil mixed with organic matter and a starting fertilizer.

Place crowns on the mound with the eye facing up and the roots spread over the mound about 12 – 18 inches apart. Be sure to avoid allowing their roots to touch, as this can cause them to mold.

You can cover the crowns with soil and organic matter a little at a time over the course of the season or you can cover them all at once. Either way works, as long as the soil is fairly loose so the spears can come through easily.

Be sure to water the crowns in thoroughly after planting. For the first two years after planting, water deeply about once per week allowing them to dry out in between. Once established, asparagus is fairly drought tolerant.

It is very important to keep weeds well managed. Asparagus does not like their roots disturbed so hand weeding is best.


Harvesting Asparagus

Year One – DO NOT harvest at all, allow the ferns to grow and mature. This replenishes the nutrients for next years’ crop.

Year Two – Harvest lightly and only the spears that are larger than a pencil.

Year Three – You may harvest as much as you like. Asparagus can keep producing for up to 8 weeks. Once spears decrease in size to smaller than a pencil it is time to stop harvesting.

Be sure to allow the ferns to grow an mature to nourish the next years’ crops. Do not cut them down until after the first frost. Fertilize in Summer after harvesting is complete and add a layer of mulch to keep weeds at bay in the Fall.

Some Great Ways to Enjoy Asparagus

Have you tried it grilled on the barbecue? One of the easiest and most delicious ways to enjoy asparagus takes just a couple of minutes and a few ingredients.

Grilled Asparagus

Simply wash and pat your spears dry. Coat with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill on the barbecue for 5-7 minutes until they reach desired tenderness. Pair with a nice grilled steak or salmon and you have a fantastic fancy home cooked meal!

How about an awesome appetizer? Like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and asparagus are a perfect pair!

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

  • 1 pkg bacon (unprocessed, nitrate free)
  • Asparagus
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Bake bacon on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes. Take it out and wrap each piece of asparagus (or a small bunch of 3-5) with strips of bacon as desired (careful, it’s warm).

Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Return to oven for 10 more minutes, turning once or twice until bacon is crispy. Serve immediately.

How to Plant and Care For a Blueberry Bush

How to Plant and Care For a Blueberry Bush

Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to add to your home landscape and are so worthwhile to grow.

When planted in full sun, they provide year-round interest with their pendulous flowers in Spring, the most rewarding fruit in Summer and stunning shades of orange and red in Fall. They are one of the few blue edible fruits and are full of antioxidants.


Growing Blueberries

When you decide to grow blueberries, there are a few things to consider.

While most blueberries are self-fertile, they are more productive when at least two varieties are grown near each other.

They will flower at the same time; however, they ripen at different intervals from summer to fall, extending your blueberry season. Be sure to check the tag for harvest times or view our chart below.

This will also help our bees. Bees have a smart way of gathering food called “Flower Constancy.” Basically, they like sticking to one type of flower arranged in groups, so they don’t waste energy flying around to find different flowers to pollinate.


Planting Blueberries

Select a sunny location, for best results avoid planting around trees. Trees will provide too much shade as well as take away the water and nutrients needed for blueberry success. Blueberries prefer their soil on the acidic side, which is what we have here in the Pacific Northwest.

They need soil that drains well but keeps their roots moist. When planting, mix planting compost with the existing soil, about 50/50 is perfect, and press it firmly around the roots. This helps break down any hard clay soil and release the acidic nutrients they love


Pruning & Fertilizing Blueberries

When first planting your blueberries, no pruning is needed until they become established. This can take 2 to 3 years. However, removing all the blossoms the first year after planting will allow your plant’s roots to become more established.

  • By the third year, remove any weak, spindly growth that is unproductive.
  • Remove any branches that may have been damaged or dead from the earlier winter weather.
  • Prune a few older, more mature canes. These can be distinguished by their woody texture as opposed to the smoother, brighter color of newer growth. By removing older growth, you will not only improve your production but the quality and size of the blueberry
  • Keep in mind that blueberries fruit on the previous year’s growth and put on flower buds in the fall. Heavy pruning will result in less berries.
  • The best time to prune blueberries is in the late Winter or early Spring while they are dormant.
  • Fertilize blueberries twice a year: in early Spring, from mid-March to mid-April, and again in June using an organic fertilizer for acid loving plants.
  • Be careful not to over fertilize, as you will get nice green growth with no flowers..

Harvesting Blueberries

Since different varieties set berries at various times, you can plan it so that you can have berries from late June through late August. Berries will ripen over a 2–5-week period depending on weather and variety.

Don’t be too excited to pick the berries when they first turn blue. They will develop a better flavor if you leave them for a few days.

You can enjoy blueberries by eating them fresh from the bush, in scrumptious baked goods, in smoothies or simply freezing them to enjoy later.

Not all blueberry bushes are created equal. Because there are so many different varieties, there are certainly options that would be aesthetically pleasing for your landscape project in addition to producing delicious berries the whole family will be sure to love.

However you choose to indulge, they are a must in the home garden. Below are a few of our favorites we carry.



A lifelong Oregon resident, Drake has been passionate about plants since childhood, beginning with propagating and growing flowers at his grandfather’s nursery. He opened Drake’s 7 Dees in 1974, while earning degrees in Business and Horticulture from Oregon State University. He later expanded into the design/build side of the industry, allowing him to combine his passion for plants with his love of family by maximizing the quality of family time spent outdoors.

Drake is co-founder of the Oregon Landscape Contractors Association and is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager (LICM)—a designation that less than two percent of landscapers have attained. Additionally, Drake serves on the Board of Directors for the Portland Japanese Gardens, widely regarded as one of the seven best Japanese gardens outside of Japan.

Drake is married to former Oregon Speaker of the House, Lynn Snodgrass. Together, he and Lynn received the Farm Bureau President’s award in 1999 for their service and dedication to agriculture in the state of Oregon. Drake and Lynn have two wonderful daughters, two talented son-in-laws, and seven grandchildren. In his spare time, Drake enjoys camping, water and snow skiing, reading, and of course, gardening.

Born and raised in the Portland Metro Area… Tim has had an appreciation for the outdoors from a young age.  Inspired by our local beauty ranging: the Mt Hood National Forest to salty, sea spray of Cannon Beach, the arid high-desert of Central Oregon to the rugged terrain of Steens Mountain – Tim sought higher education at the University of Idaho in their Landscape Architecture department.  Graduating with honors in 2004, he returned home to establish his professional career.

Now making his home in Sandy, Oregon – Tim and his wife [Nicole] are raising two happy and healthy kiddos and 4 fur-babies.  Between soccer, football, cheerleading, girl scouts and other extra-curricular activities… the Sellin family are heavily involved in their community and church family.  Since college, Tim has spent 13 of his 17 years with Drake’s 7 Dees and has ‘set roots’ in anticipation of long-term growth at the family-focused company.  Having spent his time away from Drake’s in a ‘boots on the ground’ capacity, Tim has fostered a love for the operational/production side of landscape business, as well as the design/sales.

His goal in life as well as business is to put others first.

Bachelor of Science Landscape Architecture, BSLA… 2009
California Polytechnic University, Pomona… Cum Laude
American Society of Landscape Architects – Honor Award

Steven has 15 years of experience in the residential landscape design/build and garden center industry, including 9 years with Drake’s 7 Dees. Steven also has experience working with the National Park Service in Yosemite on sub-alpine restoration projects, as well as volunteer experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer serving the community of Zaouiat d’Ifrane in Morocco.

Together, Steven and his wife Anna have four lovely children, all 5 years old and under! In his (very limited) spare time, Steven enjoys camping, hiking, archery hunting, and cooking. Steven’s passion for his work lies in helping others, through design to envision a more beautiful space that, once built, becomes a reality that improves their quality of life.