Garden Detective

Jessica Damiano's award-winning garden blog gets to the root of things.

Another shot at tomato victory!

Gary Schaffer, winner of the 2013 Hicks Nurseries

(Credit: Hicks Nurseries)

If you missed my Great Long Island Tomato Challenge Friday night or if you joined in the fun and want another shot at tomato fame, Hicks Nurseries is having a tomato contest of its own tomorrow (August 24) at 10 a.m.

Prizes will be awarded for heaviest red tomato, largest circumference red tomato, tiniest red tomato and most unusual tomato of any color. There's a special category for kids,...

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Dahlia show and sale at Bayard Cutting Arboretum Aug. 30-31

The shape and size of dahlias vary, and

(Credit: iStock)

It's a good time to start thinking about next year's garden, and if you've had some pesky holes, you might consider filling them with dahlias. I planted a handful of Longfied 'Gallery Rembrant' tubers for the first time this year and was pleasantly surprised with how quickly they grew and bloomed.

Dahlias range in size from that of a marble to a basketball, and come in a variety of colors,...

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Lindenhurst man wins 2014 Newsday Tomato Challenge

Gary Schaffer of Lindenhurst is congratulated by Newsday

(Credit: Daniel Brennan)

They came with baskets and buckets, dishtowels and boxes. They carried tomatoes big and small, ugly and misshapen, red and green. But I don’t think any of them was prepared for what they were about to witness.

One by one, they approached the scale, hope in their eyes. On it, they placed homegrown tomatoes — the bounty from a cool summer’s worth of blood, sweat, tears and money. Weights were...

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Daylily sale next week at Farmingdale State College

Who doesn't like daylilies? And, more important, who doesn't like cheap daylilies? They're tough as nails, tolerate full sun to light shade and come in all sorts of colors and sizes. And you can get your hands on some Saturday, Aug. 23, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (arrive early, as plants sell out) at the Long Island Daylily Society's annual sale and seminar at Farmingdale State College (2350 Broadhollow...

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Farm-fresh veggies and flowers at Farmingdale State College

Farm-fresh organic vegetables are available at Farmingdale State

(Credit: Handout)

If you're looking for organic farm-fresh vegetables and flowers for dinner tonight, why not stop by Farmingdale State College on Route 110? Students there hold a sale every Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Sustainable Garden on the campus, and proceeds are used to run the garden. 

The selection varies from week to week, and includes everything from Romaine lettuce, jalapenos, kale, string...

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Late blight advice for home gardeners

Numerous initial symptoms of late blight are visible

(Credit: University of Maine Cooperative Extension)

Late blight has been identified on Long Island for the fifth straight year, and once again, we all need to be vigilant in looking for symptoms and reporting them as soon as possible.

Late blight, the disease responsible for the great Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s, reared its ugly head on Long Island in 2009, and has been back every year since. The disease is caused by a pathogen that can...

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Enter the 2014 Garden Poetry contest

What inspires you? Write an ode to your

(Credit: Handout)

It's time for the 6th annual Garden Poetry Contest. We survived the brutal winter of 2013-14, so this year's topic is, "We've earned it!"

Send in your original poem of 10 lines or less that conveys your heartfelt feelings about the upcoming season: Express your preference for shoveling mulch instead of snow, wax poetic about how keeping your mind on homegrown produce got you through February,...

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Enter the 2014 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge

The Tomato King: William Bouziotis of Northport holds

(Credit: Ed Betz)

The 8th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge will be Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at Newsday headquarters (235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville).

Give your plants plenty of tender loving care all summer long, then bring your biggest, heaviest fruit to the event. I'll weigh your tomatoes personally and crown the 2014 Tomato King or Queen.

The rules (revised for this year):

-Tomatoes must be homegrown,...

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Plant festivals, shows and sales come to LI

Orchids for sale at the 2013 Long Island

(Credit: Maria Mucaria Stankowski)

After a long and dreary winter, spring is finally here -- and Long Island's gardening scene is celebrating like gangbusters!

It's time for the 31st annual Dutch Festival at Hofstra University, where you'll find, you guessed it, tulips, tulips and more tulips. The festival will be held outdoors on the south campus from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, and will also offer Dutch food and drink, jazz...

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Time to plant tomatoes?!

Cold injury visible on tomato plant foliage at

(Credit: Handout)

Back in March, I advised readers to delay planting peas and other early-season vegetables, despite what ordinarily would be an acceptable planting time, as the unusually cold and snowy winter we've had has left the ground colder and soggier than usual. Everything still seems to be behind schedule, as -- so far -- spring hasn't exactly been springlike.

I wasn't surprised to learn this week...

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