Sunday, June 10, 2012
Everyone has an opinion, so I’m going to give you practical experience gained over the years using both staking and caging, or just letting them grow on the ground.
On the ground:
Let’s start off with just letting them grow on the ground. This method of growing your tomatoes uses up a lot of your garden planting area, especially indeterminate varieties that will grow from 6 to 10 feet tall. They will cover a lot of ground and you may not have the room to allow this. Your plants may become easily attractive to many more ground dwelling insects than they would if they were staked or caged.
It may be a little more difficult to fertilize properly with vines trailing across the garden. You need to get the fertilizer into the root zone and if you don’t remember where it is, you may miss the mark. Place a small stake near the planted area if you grow your tomatoes on the ground to give you an idea where the root zone is and to help you know where your fertilizer should be applied.
Staking tomatoes can create problems because you need to keep an eye on your plants on a regular basis to avoid missing tying up wandering new stems and branches. Staking consumes time each day that you must commit to the plants.
As with caging, staking saves a lot of space by keeping your plants up off of the ground. This also allows you to plant more plants because it saves space. Planting more plants close enough together also helps to shade the ground, acting as a living mulch. The tomatoes are so much easier to pick because the plant stands upright. There won’t be as much bending and stooping.
When you force a tomato plant to grow in an upright position, you’ll find some disadvantages as well. The fruit will be more susceptible to problems, because the plant is now growing differently than what is normal, that expose the fruit to the elements. Sunburn is now a possibility. Cracking of the fruit can happen now because the fruit is exposed to winds and the fruit now have a better chance to get blossom end rot.
It’s best to mulch your staked tomatoes heavily. With the plant standing all alone (with a single planting), the likelihood of losing moisture from unprotected soil is far greater. There are a variety of great reasons to mulch your plant(s) anyway, but the best is moisture retention. Tomatoes are water lovers. If you can reduce the amount of money spent on water, but keep the plants evenly moist, you’ll produce good looking and tasting tomatoes.
Drive a stake at least 12” into the ground. Plant tomatoes that are a minimum of 6” tall, and remove all but the top 2 sets of leaves. Cover the stem all the way up to the underside of the first set of leaves and lightly pack the soil around the stem. Once the plant is tall enough, start tying the stems to the stake. With determinate tomatoes, you do not need to remove sucker growth. When staking an indeterminate tomato, you should remove all sucker growth.
There are almost as many different types of cages on the market as there are tomato varieties out there. From simple 6” wire mesh cut to attain a diameter of 3’, to a fancy stackable and foldable cage that can be purchased online, the gardener has a lot to choose from.
No matter what you choose to cage your tomatoes, make sure that you securely stake the cage to the ground. By doing this, you will help keep the plant and the cage upright in heavy winds.
As with staked tomatoes, you should mulch heavily with something like wheat straw to help retain moisture. Wrap the first two feet of the cage in clear plastic.
This will increase temperatures around the plant and protect it from damaging winds in the early stages of the plants life, and it will help to heat up the area around the new plants when you plant in early spring.
Monday, June 4, 2012
Hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. You name it and you can put a dill pickle on it to give whatever you’re eating a little extra zing!
By reading this article, you’ll learn how to make enough of your own dill pickle chips to last you through the summer months and longer (you can adjust to your need).
Click here if you need a Canning Kit
Here’s the recipe:
16 pounds of pickling cucumbers cut into ¼ inch slices
2 quarts of water
2 quarts of white distilled vinegar
6 Tablespoons of a pickling spice mixture
1 and ½ cups of granulated sugar (You can use half Splenda if you choose)
6 large sprigs of fresh dill weed
1 cup of pickling salt
1 Cup of regular salt (do not use Iodized salt)
1 teaspoon of minced garlic per each quart Mason jar
1/8 teaspoon of a pickling crisp product to each Mason jar
Wash and slice all cucumbers and place them in a large container and cover with 1 cup of regular salt, water and ice. I use a wavy cutting tool to help make the chips look nicer than just a flat cut.
Let this stand for one hour. When you are ready to use them, drain, rinse and repeat.
Combine all other ingredients except dill weed, pickling spices and pickling crisp to a large pot. Wrap pickling spices into a piece of cheesecloth and tie off.
Place this sack of spices into the liquid, pickling salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes and then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Stuff slices into hot mason jars and place a teaspoon of garlic, pickling crisp and one sprig of dill weed into each jar prior to filling with liquid.
Pour hot liquid mixture into jars, leaving 1” of head space. Make sure you remove any air bubbles from the jars.
Wipe rim of jars off to remove any residual material and place lids and bands onto jars.
Tighten to just hand tight and place into a “hot water bath” canner. Bring to a rapid boil and set timer for 15 minutes.
Remove hot jars from the canner and set them on a flat surface with two thicknesses of towels on the counter. This will help prevent the jars from cracking.
Cool for 12 – 24 hours making sure you check that each jar sealed properly. Twist off bands and store in your pantry.
This recipe makes approximately 6 quarts of dill pickle chips. Wait at least 4 weeks before consuming.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Scientific Name: Manduca sexta
I've been watching very diligently for this critter to show itself, and sure enough this morning I found evidence of his arrival. The Tobacco Hornworm is often confused with, and more often incorrectly called, a Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata).
Our caterpillar pictured here has diagonal white and black stripes, where Tomato Hornworm has yellow horizontal "V" markings on their sides.
Evidence of damage is leaf stripping. DON'T look for any other kind of damage. They also leave evidence of their poop pellets on leaves that aren't yet eaten.
Typical behavior is that this caterpillar rests on the undersides of leaves, so start looking there.
Friday, May 25, 2012
I started off by cleaning the cucumbers and slicing off the flower end and stem too.
Once washed, I sliced them in half and placed them into a large container.
After my jars and lids were washed and sterilized, I filled the hot jars with the halves and set them aside. Each jar got a sprig of dill weed and one tablespoon of minced garlic. I used 1/8 of a teaspoon of “Pickle Crisp,” and then filled each jar with the brine recipe listed below.
With all of the air bubbles worked out and the jar tops wiped off, I covered each jar with a lid and band, just hand tight. Into the hot water bath canner they went for 15 minutes.
Once processed, I pulled them out to cool for 24 hours before I labeled them and put them into the pantry.
The following recipe is for 16 lbs. of pickling cucumbers, making 14 quarts. You can do the math to reduce, or increase if necessary.
2 quarts of water
2 quarts of white vinegar
6 tablespoons of pickling spice
1 and ½ cups of sugar
1 cup of pickling salt
One large sprig of dill weed per quart jar
1 tablespoon of minced garlic per quart jar
1/8 teaspoon of Pickle Crisp
Here’s the result of this recipe:
If you do not have canning equipment, here is a “starter canning kit” link. It’s a great kit. I started out with it and it has proven to be a great purchase.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Knowing how to grow them doesn’t take any special skills, except that you should follow a few simple guidelines to insure that your harvest is the best possible crop. Here’s a short list of tips you can use to grow great pumpkins:
compost to your pumpkin growing bed. Amend your soil well enough to allow for excellent drainage.
Make the bed, or area, as big as you possibly can, as the plants are known to sprawl anywhere they want to go.
**Watering should never be done by overhead sprinklers, as this will wet the leaves and cause the potential for mildews and other diseases.
When plants are no more than three feet in diameter and the plant begins to send out vines with tendrils that help to stabilize the vines, cover the entire growing area with wheat straw mulch. If available, use a quality mulch that will be easy on the bottom of your pumpkins and decompose readily at the end of the growing season.
The seeds are also edible after being dried out. Some people will season them with sugars and cinnamon or herbal mixtures to spice them up. Since I raise rabbits, I feed them plain seeds as a treat to their pellet diet.
And, as long as the pumpkin you’ve grown this time is not a hybrid variety, save some of the seed for next year’s patch.
No matter how you like to eat pumpkins, you’ll certainly love to grow them year after year.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Clean the cucumbers and cut off the blossom end. This end carries some proteins that may help to cause spoilage. You only need to remove about 1/16 of an inch from the bottom end of the cucumber. You can use a hot water bath canner for this process. Ample canning supplies can be found by clicking here. The preparation time to get the cucumbers ready for processing is going to be at least 3 hours prior to canning.
Follow these preparation instructions: Place 8 pounds of ¼ inch sliced cucumbers, 3 pounds of thinly sliced onions and ½ cup of pickling salt in a very large container. Put a layer of cucumbers, then salt, then onions. Repeat this process until you’ve used all of your cucumbers, onions and salt. Cover the entire container with ice. Let this stand for at least 2 hours. Drain and rinse twice after the 2 hours. Please read the entire recipe by clicking here.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
That’s a lot of carrots and to my surprise, although I have a bunny running around the garden at night, not one of the carrots was destroyed! I will admit that a few of the leaves were eaten, but no digging or other damage.
I processed the carrots by cutting off the tops. Those tops immediately went back into the compost pile. I then cleaned them and did any necessary additional trimming. I put them on ice and made a plan for canning them.
Once I found a good recipe, I broke out the canning gear and got busy in the kitchen. 16 pints later and I have a great feeling of accomplishment. To know that I can feed my family by the planning and hard work put into my vegetable garden just makes me feel really good.
Facebook page, where I hope you will come and participate by asking questions, and posting your photos.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Please read the rest of the recipe by clicking here.
Prior to doing any planting in my garden, I usually dig in about 4 – 5 inches of finished compost and wait at least a week before I plant. Also known as Italian squash, zucchini is typically started by seed, directly sown into the spring garden row, after the last frost in your area. Seeds should be planted in rows 3 to 4 feet apart in groups of 4 – 6 seeds per spot. Once seeds germinate, usually within 7 – 10 days, I choose the strongest three and remove the rest. One week later, you can choose the strongest one plant and pull out the rest.
Once plants are about one foot in diameter, I lay down a soaker hose the entire length of the row, placing the hose right up against the underside of the plants. Plants should receive at least one inch of water per week throughout their life and mulched with something like wheat straw about 3 – 4 inches thick. This mulching will help to retain moisture and deter most weed growth. The weeds that you do have pop up can be easily pulled by hand, as they are usually weak from having to struggle to grow through the mulch.
Please read the rest of the article by clicking here
Sunday, April 22, 2012
All determinate tomatoes are varieties that have been bred to grow shorter in height than indeterminate types.
Determinate varieties may only grow to be about four or five feet tall. They will stop growing when flowers have set their fruit on the terminal bud. Determinate tomatoes will ripen their entire crop at the same time and then they will complete their lifecycle and die back.
Supporting your tomatoes is always important, and it doesn’t matter whether they are determinate or indeterminate. They all need some sort of support. No pruning is necessary with either type of tomato; however, if you do pinch out the sucker growth of a determinate tomato, you are removing a lot of the potential for flowers to set fruit. I grow Celebrity and Roma varieties. These two examples are known as determinate tomatoes. Remember: Do Not Pinch Suckers!
Indeterminate varieties or the so called "vining" tomatoes require a lot of support. Using 6” square wire mesh used in the pouring of concrete driveways is a good material to wrap in a three foot diameter circle for a cage. These cages could be as tall as eight feet, depending on the width of the wire mesh. This type of wire mesh can be found at your local “big box” hardware store, or lumberyard.
Indeterminate tomatoes grow throughout the season putting on a lot of vegetation and fruit until it gets so cold that the plants can be killed. They are known to flower, bear fruit and ripen all at the same time as the growing season progresses. Remember: it is not necessary to pinch out the suckers on an indeterminate variety of tomato, but you may have been taught, or are already practicing this acceptable method of improving fruit quality. I've planted Early Girl, and cherry tomatoes that are indeterminate varieties.
Regardless of the variety or its determinate or indeterminate nature, during times of high heat and humidity, you are bound to see fruit set decrease dramatically. The pollen gets too sticky, and is unable to float to other flowers. Bees are not typically found out working in the extreme heat of the day in places like Texas.
Always check the label in the pot or the back side of a seed packet prior to purchasing your tomatoes so that you know if they are determinate or indeterminate. You will better understand your tomatoes growth patterns and how to best care for them during the growing season.
I know that you'll enjoy this short video. Please click here to view it
Are you thinking about starting a vegetable garden? Or, are you the type that considers it too much work for the results? Well, all I can tell you is that I’ve reaped the rewards for the last 40 plus years by planting vegetables and receiving some other rewards from the work as well.
The benefit in knowledge gained (and shared with anyone who wants to learn what I’ve learned) is just tremendous and you can just imagine all of the other benefits that come from spending time in the garden with family, teaching the next generation.
And let’s not forget the health benefits! I just came from a visit with my doctor, who said that beyond a few very small problems easily fixed, he’d never seen a 55 year old as healthy looking as me. He knows my gardening history, and partially attributes my level of health to my involvement in the garden.
I know you really want to get started. I can feel it right through this keyboard as I type this post to you. So, are you ready? Where do I start, you may ask? Start by setting a goal. Start out with a 4X4 foot area. Learn as you grow, but get started.
There are so many viable resources available to anyone who wants to get started, so get started! I’m here to help. Ask questions and get to it today!
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Now here's a photo of the same pumpkin as above, just 6 days later!
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Starting your plants indoors under a lighting system is your best bet to get quality transplants to set out in the garden; however, you can purchase your transplants from your local garden center. If you are planting for a late fall harvest, plant transplants 15 to 18 weeks prior to the first winter frost. If you are planning for a late spring harvest, plant transplants at least 4-5 weeks prior to the last frost date in the spring.
Prepare the soil in your cabbage beds well in advance of the actual planting of transplants. Make sure to use copious amounts of finished compost from your own pile, or you can purchase bagged material from your nursery. Loosen the soil to a depth of 12” for best drainage results. Cabbage does not like wet feet, so make sure the soil drains well.
Cabbage plants are big and leafy, so, give them plenty of room to grow. Set your transplants at least two feet apart and mulch heavily with something light like wheat straw. Mulch with at least 4” of straw. This will keep most weeds from competing with the cabbage and it will maintain even moisture levels if you are watering properly. Mulching with straw also helps to keep the garden soil out of the cabbage head.
You have two options when it comes to feeding your cabbage plants. You can purchase a commercial fertilizer that is balanced, and apply at the labeled rates, or approximately one pound of fertilizer per 100 square feet of planted bed. You should start making your first application of fertilizer about 3 weeks after the plants were first planted. Apply fertilizer at the same rate once the cabbage heads start to form. If your plants are looking healthy, avoid fertilizer until absolutely necessary, as too much will cause the heads to split apart.
The other option is to use a side dressing of finished compost, spread evenly around the plants, to a depth of 2 inches. Make applications as necessary through the growing season. By side dressing with finished compost, you are adding beneficial micro-organisms to the soil. This will aid the plants intake of needed nutrient through the life of the plant.
Water consistently but avoid saturating the soil. Water evenly, both in quantity and in timing so that the soil does not create problems for the cabbage down the stretch. The mulch will help to retain moisture, so keep checking for the need to water prior to watering.
One pest that you need to be aware of is the cabbage looper. This is a chewing insect and will do a lot of damage if allowed to get out of control. Place sticky boards hanging from poles over the cabbage to help you identify when adults are in the area. There are several options for pest control of the cabbage looper. Please read the label of any pesticide you may consider using, even if it is branded as an “organic” control product.
Aphids are a soft bodied insect that will attack your cabbage plants new growth. If possible, release “Lady Bird Beetle” larvae around your plants just as you begin to see aphids show up. These little buggers have a voracious appetite in regard to aphids and will eat 100’s of aphids each as they grow into adult beetles.
Harvest your cabbage when heads are bigger than a softball. You can harvest them all the way up to a soccer ball size, but you shouldn’t wait too long since the heads will start to split or they could get sunburned. Rinse and process your cabbage as quickly as possible for best flavor.
Friday, March 9, 2012
Start off by preparing your garden soil with quality compost, either freshly complete from your own garden compost pile, or purchased from your local supplier. Turn the compost into the soil and water heavily. Wait one week before planting your seed.
Check the back of the seed package for the current “LOT” year printed on the package. Making sure you start out with fresh seed is the first step to success. If you soak your seeds in water overnight, your germination success rate will be much improved.
Plant your seed after the last frost, according to the USDA map on the package for your region. Bush green beans are typically planted to a depth of one inch. They are usually spaced about four inches apart in rows spaced twenty inches apart. Expect your seedlings to pop their heads up after about 7 days. Thin them to about six inches apart.
Once the seedlings are up and have grown the second set of “true” leaves, I mulch heavily (4 to 6 inches) with wheat straw. Bush beans will grow in almost any kind of soil, but it helps to side dress your rows with well-rotted manure or finished compost just prior to the plants setting beans.
Beans are known for adding a lot of value to the soil by producing bacteria in the nodules on the roots, improving both the physical condition and the fertility of the soil. Make sure you clip the plants off at the soil level at the end of the growing season, and turn under the root system.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
I filled up a 4’x4’x2’ high plastic bin with quality soil and mixed in some compost. I planted the seeds in a circle about 30” in diameter and then thinned to the strongest 5 plants. I mulched with wheat straw. As the plants grew bigger, I mulched even heavier to a depth of about 4 inches.
If I plant directly into the garden, I usually wait at least 2 weeks after the last frost. Cantaloupe doesn’t like frost or cold temperatures. This is a heat loving plant, so the soil needs to be warm enough (about 70–75 degrees) when you plant the seed. Seeds will germinate in about 7-10 days and have the first set of true leaves within 12 to 14 days.
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There are two different types of raspberries that can be grown in the garden. Fall bearing raspberries (considered everbearing) produce fruit twice before the cane dies back. First in the fall (autumn), and then the following year in the summertime. The plants produce large clusters of white flowers followed by the fruit. The second type is a summer-bearing plant that yields fruit on a two year old cane. There is nothing prettier that a cluster of ripe red raspberries.
There are many varieties available through mail-order catalogs and from your local nursery. Some are sold as bare root stock, while others can be purchased as planted stock locally. My preference is always to start with rooted stock, however, if the best variety for my area was only available as a bare root item, I would have no trouble purchasing this type of stock for the garden. Remember to make sure the stock you purchase is best suited to your growing region. Raspberries need a good amount of winter chill hours but also need a growing season that provides them with a slow warming in the spring.
Please continue reading the complete article by clicking here.