Q. Last year, I planted beets from seeds and was very disappointed in the weak, spindly seedlings that emerged. Some of the beets never produced roots at all. I would like to try again.
Q. I am growing ornamental gourds for the first time and would like to know when to harvest them.
Q. I am interested in starting a vegetable garden this year and wonder about the advantages of planting heirloom seeds.
Q. I am growing acorn and butternut squash for the first time this year. When do I harvest them, and how do I store them after harvest?
Q: My tomato plants did not perform well last year. I’m planting recommended varieties, but I was disappointed in the number of tomatoes. What can I do?
Q. Please explain the difference between a "determinate" and an "indeterminate" variety of tomato.
Q. When I clean up my vegetable garden this fall, should I add any amendments to the soil?
Q. Are there any vegetables I can plant in September that can be harvested in fall?
Q. I understand rotating crops in a vegetable garden can help cut down on insect and disease problems. Should I apply this method to my small backyard vegetable plot?
Q: How do I start tomato seedlings indoors?
A: To grow your own tomatoes for transplanting outdoors, sow the seeds indoors four to six weeks before the usual last frost (around May 15 in the Chicago area).
Use a sterile seed starting mix and any containers that will hold soil, provide drainage, and accommodate growing roots. Moisten the soil, place two seeds in the pot, and cover lightly with more soil mix. Cover the pots with clear plastic to keep the soil evenly moist and place the plants in a warm location until germination occurs.