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Gardening 4 Green Industry News, Trends & Updates v.1

Plant growing

Welcome to the first edition of the Gardening 4 Gains weekly newsletter – keeping you up-to-speed with the latest News, Trends, & Updates from the Green Industry to keep you informed & help make you a better gardener!

Please enjoy & subscribe for weekly newsletters below!¬†ūüĎáūüĎć

 

Researchers Extract Cancer-fighting Properties from Ontario-grown Onions

onionscancer
Source: HortiDaily

Source: Researchers Extract Cancer-fighting Properties from Ontario-grown Onions

 

 

John Deere spent $300 million on Blue River Technology – a company that uses AI to kill weeds

deere.jpg
Source: Quartz Media

Source: John Deere spent $300 million on Blue River Technology, a company that murders weeds with artificial intelligence ‚ÄĒ Quartz

 

 

The Psychology of Gardening | Psychology Today

IMG_20170909_171158_654

Source: The Psychology of Gardening | Psychology Today

 

 

Celery Was the Avocado Toast of the Victorian Era

Stored in fancy vases, and¬†served in the Titanic’s first-class cabin. There were days when celery was not just boring crudit√©, but a luxury.

Source: Celery Was the Avocado Toast of the Victorian Era | TASTE

 

 

Does Cooking Boost Nutrients in Tomatoes and Spinach? – The New York Times

 

 

Germany:What is Going on with the Tomatoes? –¬†HortiDaily

Source: Germany: What is going on with the tomatoes?

 

 

Dig for victory - victory garden poster
Victory is just beneath our feet

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My Garden’s Diverse Ecosystem

This year my garden has been full of Birds, Bumblebees, Praying Mantises, Spiders & more – and that’s a good thing!

With every garden, the main concern is to grow food & you must protect it from pests, insects, and disease. In order to do this, it would normally require some sort of pesticide or insecticide – these are not always bad. In the modern world, everyone thinks that a pesticide or a “chemical” is a dangerous, cancerous thing – but in order to grow food, you have to make some decisions. Do I want to eat the literal fruits of your labors, or do you want to leave it to bugs?

Early in the growing process I used a few products to help control pests: Neem Oil, Hot Pepper Wax, and Diatomaceous Earth. All of these products are OMRI-listed & certified organic, but I took care to not spray the garden with Neem Oil or Diatomaceous Earth when flowers started emerging & pollinators began doing their work. Although Neem is safe to spray – as long as it isn’t directly on the bees – I didn’t really want to take the chance when I started noticing the intricate food web unfolding before my eyes.

Looking closely at some of my tomatoes, I began to see the start of whitefly, and also of mites, but then they would disappear after a couple days. This was due to 2 factors. The first one is the huge amount of birds that I have visiting the garden. For whatever reason, I hate birds in my garden – I thought they were just there to pick some flowers, eat my raspberries, and dig up my earthworms. A closer look revealed that they were also cleaning up the bugs from the tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

The amount of pollinators in my garden has also really been astounding. I’m not a big fan of bees, but the role they play in the garden makes them a priceless asset. This year I began to really pay attention to them because of the huge push to “Save the Bees”, what is going on with them anyways, why are they dying?

(Check out this video I got of a Praying Mantis Attacking a Bumblebee!) 

There have been at least 6-8 different types of bees, hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps buzzing around the backyard – drunk off pollen, indulging themselves in the buffet on Boone Street. The bees may be pollinating, but the others guys (wasps, yellow jackets) have been spotted crawling along the soil or leaves of the plants – why? When you really look, you see they’re cleaning up the whitefly & the mites.

And that is the beauty of a healthy-functioning garden ecosystem – there is a true food web that is being naturally sustained!

Praying Mantis
Praying Mantises are beneficial insects & love cleaning up pests from the garden.
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My Late-Summer Salad Garden

Raspberries & Lettuce

My late-summer garden will be dedicated to salad. Right now I am still tending 45 tomato plants, 50 pepper plants, and 6 raspberry bushes that are lost in the tomato jungle.

Earlier in the season I had radishes, lettuce, garlic, onions, basil, cilantro, and dill but after I harvested them, I just stuck to tomatoes. I’m really not sure why I planted so many. My initial thought was that it would be a hit at the local farmer’s market – but I haven’t been to one yet. That may have to happen soon because I have no counter space left due to the Tomato Takeover!

Besides that, Kyla makes the best pico, spaghetti sauce, and chili from the ingredients we’ve grown this year. It’s true what they say – nothing compares to homemade tomato sauce with homegrown ingredients!

So to supplement the tomatoes, jalape√Īos, habaneros, onions, and garlic, I’ll be growing herbs like Basil & Cilantro to make our salsas & sauces even more authentic. Also throwing in some greens to increase our vegetable consumption to more than just tomatoes!

Keep in mind that this is a garden to be harvested in the Fall – you want to pick vegetables that are cold-hardy & that will be harvested before the frost (check out my cold-hardy vegetable list here!)

  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Radish
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

I know what you’re thinking – Beets? Rainbow Chard? Turnips? Why?

Honestly don’t think I’ve ever had Beets or Rainbow Chard – so trying them fresh is one factor. Rainbow Chard is one of the most colorful things you can grow in the garden, I just hope that we like it! I think we’ll like the Beets, but I’m just growing those to live up to my girlfriend calling me Dwight Schrute! (from the TV show The Office).

Turnips, on the other hand, are the unsung champion vegetable of the garden. Someone I work with said it best, a turnip is what happens when a radish & a potato have a baby. That is really the perfect description for the taste, texture & everything. So how do you  use it? We like to chop them up in beef stew, use it in chili, or in a stir fry Рbasically the same way you would use a potato.

Please comment if you have any other Turnip, Beet, or Rainbow Chard recipes or recommendations!

A small section of the garden has been cleared of wild tomatoes & cucumbers and is ready for the sowing of the salad. We have a ton of rain on the way this week so that should help get everything saturated & germinated for another round of garden bliss!

Hope this helps keep your garden growing into, and well beyond, the fall!

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What to Plant at the End of August

Cucumber pollination

It’s the end of August here in Ohio – the nights are cooling off, tomatoes & peppers continue to produce fruit to no end, but you still have the itch to keep planting.

Luckily, there is still a ton of stuff you can plant!

Being in zone 5, our last frost date is approximately mid-October – that means we’ve got about 2 months to get growing! With ~60 days, you won’t have enough time for corn, potatoes, or tomatoes, but there are a few options.

Cold-weather crops

  • Arugula (rocket)
  • Beets
  • Collards
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery (mild winter climates)
  • Chard
  • Coriander (Cilantro)
  • Fennel
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard greens
  • Onions (bulbing)
  • Onions (bunching–standard onions harvested before they form bulbs).
  • Pak choi (Bok choy)
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

Below is a little more detailed cool-weather crop breakdown I got from Bonnie Plants:

Cool-weather crops are broken into 2 categories – Hardy & Semi-Hardy.

Hardy¬†– can tolerate hard frost of 25-28¬įF. Collards, Kale, & Spinach can handle low 20s and teens in some cases! The beautiful thing about cool weather crops is that they are more flavorful when grown under these circumstances – you know this first-hand if you’ve ever had Spinach in the garden when temps hit 90-100!¬†Image result for tongue out emoji

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Collards*
  • English peas
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mustard greens
  • Parsley
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Turnip

Semi-hardy¬†– can tolerate 29-32¬įF

  • Beets
  • Carrot
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Endive
  • Irish potatoes
  • Lettuce and gourmet salad greens
  • Radicchio
  • Rutabaga
  • Salsify
  • Swiss chard*

*Tastes better in winter, but will grow well through summer.

Grown in 60 days

Arugula 30-40 days to harvest
Basil 35-45 days to harvest
Beet 50-65 days to harvest
Cabbage 50-65 days to harvest
Carrots
55-75 days to harvest
Cilantro 60-75 days to harvest
Collards 55-60 days to harvest
Cucumbers
55-65 days to harvest
Garlic 90-110 in ground all winter
Kale 45-60 days to harvest
Kohlrabi 55-65 days to harvest
Lettuce 45-60 days to harvest
Leek 85-105 in ground all winter
Mustard 30-50 days to harvest
Green bunching onion 55-60 days to harvest
Snap Peas 55-60 days to harvest
Radish 25-40 days to harvest
Spinach 37-50 days to harvest
Swiss Chard 50-60 days to harvest
Turnip 45-60 days to harvest

Planting a garden at the end of the summer is something I enjoy for 2 reasons:

  1. Watching a whole new growing process from seed-to-salad or seed-to-sandwich is my favorite process in the world. It is so amazing that 1 tiny seed can turn into a meal, or part of a meal. Growth isn’t limited to spring if you know what to plant & when to plant it.
  2. A whole new batch of fresh veggies! I didn’t grow much other than Tomatoes, Jalape√Īos, and Habaneros this year so it’ll be nice to get fresh Spinach, Lettuce, Radishes & other salad-friendly veggies back in rotation.

First Fall Frost

As is noted above, most of these crops are somewhat frost-tolerant – some vegetables will even be more flavorful after the frost! But, if you are deep into October & fear a hard frost, or even a freeze, you may want to take some precautions if you want to extend your growing season even further.

Please let me know if you have any questions about starting your garden & I’ll be happy to help!

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Limiting Language & Thoughts

Why does the weekend fly by?

Why do you let it?

How you talk to yourself is limiting you. “I can’t do that.” “I can’t understand that, did you see how long the contract was?”

How you think about activities is limiting you.

Exhibit A: I hate Mondays.

What are you waiting for?

What are you afraid of?

Why?

Whether you dream of starting your own business or taking your career to the next level, we all have obstacles standing in our way to achieve our goals – and most of them reside between your ears.

That’s right – it’s your fault you aren’t where you want to be!

Who else can you blame?

As soon as you do place the blame outside of yourself, that is where it will reside forever. What an easy solution!

Your job isn’t to find the barriers, it is to find a way around, over, or through.

What’s your path today?

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3 Reasons Your Tomatoes Won’t Ripen

It’s the end of July, you planted your tomatoes over 2 months ago & the seed packet said you’d be able to harvest fruit in 60 days – why aren’t your tomatoes ripening & turning red?

There could be a few different factors playing a role in the ripening. But why do tomatoes turn red anyways?

  1. Temperature¬†– This is the biggest factor in your tomatoes ripening. Here in Ohio, we typically don’t plant until around Mother’s Day. 60 days later we are expecting tomatoes; during the hottest time of the year. For the last week it has been over 90 degrees. The chemicals that make tomatoes red – lycopene & carotene – are only produced when the temperature is 50-85¬įF. If you’re outside of this range, the ripening process is on hold until you get some relief from the heat!
  2. Size/Variety РSize does matter when it comes to tomatoes ripening! I have already harvested some cherry tomatoes from rogue plants that grew from last year, but those Beefsteak tomatoes have got a ways to go! Patience, young grasshopper.20170723_180037
  3. Maturity Level¬†– A little different from the previous point and maybe this seems a little common sense. Maturity is more than just the time a tomato spends on the vine.¬†Again, the ripening process comes down to natural chemicals. When a tomato reaches maturity, it begins producing ethylene which then reacts with the tomatoes to cause them to turn red. You can use this knowledge to save any tomatoes that may have accidentally gotten knocked off the vine – put tomatoes in a paper bag & if they’re mature enough, they should produce ethylene and ripen over a few days.20170723_175729

Tomatoes are a tough crop to grow, but with a little patience & cooperation from Mother Nature, you can have salsa all summer! If you have any questions on How to Grow Tomatoes – check my guide here!

 

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Garlic Guide: Growing, Harvesting & Storing

It is the end of July here in Ohio. Normally it’s scorching hot & we’re dancing between 90-100 degrees at this time of the year, but this summer’s been a little cooler & a lot wetter. Since it’s getting to be July-August area, the garlic that you planted this past spring should be ready to harvest! But how do you know when the time is right to harvest your garlic? Here’s a simple guide below, plus you can check out my latest YouTube video that will give you a visual how-to guide for harvesting & storing Garlic.

Hardneck vs. Softneck

There are 2 different types of Garlic – each one has its own benefits, but the type you plant will depend on what your goals are. Below is more detailed info.

Hardneck varieties are more winter-hardy are characterized by a long, flowering stem (called a scape) growing from the middle. The scape will produce a pod that contains bulbils, which are smaller versions of garlic gloves & can be planted in the same way. Hardneck varieties form a single layer of cloves.

Softneck varieties have a stem that is softer & it is much less winter-hardy. When you see garlic braided – it is a softneck variety. This type does not have a scape that reproduces bulbils & that may be the reason that softneck can have bulbs yielding anywhere from 8-30 cloves per bulb! Compare that with hardneck varieties that typically yield 4-12 cloves per bulb – but the scape could contain hundred of bulbils!

(What is a bulbil?) A bulbil is basically a garlic seed that forms in the scape of hardneck types. They are much smaller & may take up to 3-4 years before you get a full-sized bulb!

Planting

  • Prepare beds that are 3-4′ wide, till in compost/manure and make sure beds are accessible from both sides (2 foot reach from each side).
  • Break cloves apart – the first year I grew garlic, I planted a whole bulb and didn’t realize I could have ended up with 20 bigger bulbs instead of the weird harvest I got!
  • Space cloves 4-6″ depending on the variety & how much space you want to give your plants. Closer planting may mean less weeds, but could also mean less room for your plants to grow.

Growing

Garlic really doesn’t require too much care.

  • Make sure you don’t over-water. This can lead to root rot and/or fungal issues. Water every 3-5 days.
  • Pull weeds weekly to keep the nutrients flowing to the good guys.

Pest Control

Garlic is a natural insect repellent! The smell keeps a lot a pests out of the garden ranging from bugs to deer. I like to plant Garlic & Basil with my Tomatoes to help keep everyone pest free as naturally as possible!

Harvesting

When the tops of your garlic plants begin to get yellowed, or start dying, that is the time to harvest.

  • Gently dig up with shovel, spading fork, or trowel.
  • Brush off dirt/mud.
  • Keep wrappers on bulbs in-tact.

Storing

  • Hang in cool, airy place to dry & cure for 2-3 weeks.
  • You can braid softneck varieties to save space.
  • Flavors will intensify after curing.

Growing garlic is fairly easy – the hardest part is bending over to plant & weed, but there’s not too much maintenance in-between! Garlic can store for up to 6 months, so if you planted a lot, you’ve still got time. And if you really have too much, hit up your local farmer’s market & you’ll sell out in no time.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop me a line AND please feel free to check out my most recent YouTube video on “How to Harvest & Store Garlic”.

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Spirits in the Park

Why do these Spirits visit me?

Throughout my life I have been visited several times by what I call Spirits.

These are not ordinary people. Not that people are ordinary, but you have ordinary interactions with them – they wave & smile as we pass, or they pet the dog as I take out one earbud to signal I’m friendly enough to say “Hi”, but it also says I’m on a mission to walk my dog, not talk or get caught in the rain.

Today was different.

Any time – all Time – is different when you run into one of the Spirits.

Today, I took a slightly different route – nothing too crazy, but had to go on a longer walk/run to clear the mind & wear my hyper pupper out a little bit. We only added about 5-10 minutes by going up to a park a little further up the bike path we normally walk on. We get through the park, and I look both ways to cross the street. Twiggy & I began walking until I triple-checked and saw a van come out of nowhere.

I motioned the van to go ahead and go even though they were doing the same thing to me. As this van pulls up, the window rolls down and – to quote one of my favorite movies,¬†Emperor’s New Grove –¬†a woman who was scary beyond all reason was smiling at me. We exchanged hellos & I figured that would be all until she starts to pull the van over and says let me show you what I got in my pocket.

My stomach dropped a little bit, but I didn’t feel I had anything to worry about – maybe she had a dog treat or something, seems like we are always running into people who will do that or just chat for a bit – no problem.

It’s really strange to say, but I feel like I knew her; like she was a long-lost family member or something – your Mam-maw’s third cousin who stayed in Tennessee & you only met once but you were too little to remember. She then comes over to me & starts pulling these items out of her pocket; each one of the items is associated with a pun.

Puns – [toilet paper] to keep your crap off me, [leaf so you leaf me alone], [piece of wood] wood you be my friend, [bolt] to screw you down if you’re screwed up, [5 pennies] and some ‘cents'(sense) in case you’re missing some. She then proceeds to say guys have 3 knees – left knee, right knee, wee-knee. And then goes on to ask if I know what the thing in-between women’s boobs is called – “belly button, hope I don’t ever have to worry about that!”

Obviously I was uncomfortable, but what do you do? This lady continued to go on to tell me about some stuff that had happened to her in the past & talked about her friends’ marriages – it was all over the place! But I stood there & listened to her for a few minutes until I finally parted ways & continued the walk with Twiggy.

With the mysterious van behind me, I readjusted my headphones, waited until I heard the van start before I hit play & walked towards home shaking my head.

“Why do I always run into people that want to tell me these crazy things?”

“Why do people always want to talk to me?”

“I hope she doesn’t follow me & figure out where I live.”

Feeling a little paranoid, I turned around and the van was nowhere to be seen; I wasn’t even sure it was really there to begin with.

I told Kyla about the encounter & she wasn’t really surprised – she just said I need to “watch out for critters on the path”.

Fast forward to grocery shopping this weekend. We decide to go to a store that we NEVER go to. I’m standing there on my phone, I put it in my pocket & I am waiting for Kyla to put something in the cart when I look up & this lady who is scary beyond all reason is standing right behind Kyla. I swear she just appeared out of thin air! I didn’t see her walking – nobody saw her walking. Hell, it was like nobody saw us standing in the middle of the aisle when she starts pulling things out of her pockets:

Puns – [toilet paper] to keep your crap off me, leaf so you leaf me alone, [piece of wood] wood you be my friend, [bolt] to screw you down if you’re screwed up, [5 pennies] and some ‘cents'(sense) in case you’re missing some. She then proceeds to say guys have 3 knees – left knee, right knee, wee-knee. And then goes on to ask if we know what the thing in-between women’s boobs is called – “belly button, hope I don’t ever have to worry about that!”

At that point we just continued to walk – I knew Kyla was extremely uncomfortable. I was honestly so surprised that this spirit was a “real person” – what could I do? I sat there awestruck as she pelted us with puns; knowing full-well every line that was getting ready to come out of her mouth.

As we finally got away, she gave us a smile and a “thank you for laughing with me” and then she just stopped as we walked away. She continued to stand there watching us & then suddenly disappeared as if she was never there in the first place.

Needless to say, that encounter left us both a little disturbed; as if something was missing from us. What a strange occurrence – and this was the second time it had happened to me!

So what do you make of something like this? I’ve been stopped by a lot of people who talk about God, angels, or prophecy, but I feel as though this occurrence has significance as well – but what?

There are so many people in the world who don’t say enough, who don’t try to reach out, and yet this woman felt the need to do this to us – twice. When someone feels comfortable enough to approach you, what are you supposed to do? Just ignore them? Something told me to stop & listen. I feel as if it was a test of some sort. Like God was testing us to see how we would react; how we would treat someone who didn’t appeal to the senses – or sense in general.

Treat others how you want to be treated. Take time to get to know a stranger. And stay safe out there! ūüôā

 

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How To Grow Tomatoes: the Gardening for Gains Guide

Solanum Lycopersicum; Lycopersicum esculentum

Determinate vs. Indeterminate – what type is best for you?

When I first starting gardening, I had no idea about the differences in tomatoes plant types – I just wanted to grow tomatoes! There is a really big difference between the 2 plants & it is important to know these differences and how each plant should be cared for.

Determinate Tomato Plants – these are the “bush-type” varieties of tomatoes. Typically they will grow 3-4 feet tall & 3 feet wide. They do not require pruning and tomato cages are probably your best bet for plant supports – my Grandpa drives a stake in by the plant & has fencing along one side of his that keep them supported & fruiting all summer long. Determinate varieties set fruit all at once & then they are done producing for the year, unlike Indeterminate tomatoes which produce all year long.

Indeterminate Tomato Plants – these are “vining” varieties that tend to grow more vertically. Typically they will grow between 4-6 feet tall & 2-3 feet wide. They do require pruning – remove the bottom third of branches, and prune and “suckers” that emerge between the main stem & a branch. Those suckers will basically form another head to your tomato plant. You may think this is a good thing, but it will actually suck a lot of energy from the plant & is not ideal for optimal fruit production. With proper care, Indeterminate varieties will produce fruit all year long (or until the frost gets them).

Spacing

  • 24-36″ between plants, 4-6′ between rows (room for plants to grow & accounts for 2′ walking path).

Height

  • Depending on type of plant, will grow 3-6′ tall, width 2-4′. That’s for the garden – some greenhouse varieties grow over 25′ tall!

Seeding

  • Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date.
  • Can start in trays, but I am thinking about planting seeds straight into 4″ pots from the start next year. (Anybody with thoughts on this, would love to hear it in the comments!)

Transplanting

  • After danger of frost has past and soil temps warm to 60¬į, you can transplant into the garden.
  • Drop a couple tablespoons of Epsom salts in planting hole to prevent blossom end rot – also provides good source of Sulfur & Magnesium.
  • Plant your tomatoes deep – this will help establish deep, strong roots to help support the vine’s growth.

Fertilization

  • I generally mix a balanced fertilizer or manure into my garden before the year. Then wait 2-4 weeks after seedlings emerge for dry fertilizer & every 1-2 weeks after flowers & fruit have set.
  • Sprinkle Epsom salts in planting hole & soil surrounding Tomato-tone or balanced fertilizer.
20170529_084527
My organic pest management kit consisting of: Diatomaceous Earth, Monterey Complete Disease Control, Neem Oil, Neptune’s Harvest Hydrolyzed Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer, and my Jacto Sprayer

Cages & Stakes

Stakes

  • Best for Indeterminate varieties (vining tomatoes).
  • Place stake in ground @ time of planting to avoid harming roots later in growth cycle.
  • Metal – may want to use one with coating over metal to prevent hot metal on sensitive plants. These are great because they last multiple seasons.
  • Wood – may last a few seasons, very sturdy, solid support for plants.
  • Bamboo – most cost-effective & I have used them the last couple years with good results. Typically want to use one year to avoid the potential to spread disease.

20170705_181702

Cages

  • Best for Determinate varieties (bush tomatoes).
  • Place over tomato after planting.
  • Cage should be 4-5 feet tall.
  • Be mindful of the gauge of wire being used & check the welds to make sure you’re getting a quality product!
  • Can be used multiple years.
  • Several different sizes, shapes, colors.

Trellis – Florida Weave

This is my first year using the Florida weave method – I think my mom tagged me in something about it? Or maybe I found it while looking at a customer’s website? Either way, it’s an awesome alternative to traditional staking.

  • Drive stakes every 4-6′, in-between the tomato plants. Use wood so that you don’t have as much flex in your stakes as I am having with bamboo!
  • As the plants grow they will need to be supported.
  • Tie twine on the end stake.
  • Run it along one side of the plants.
  • When you get to another stake, wrap the twine around the stake a few times to hold it tight.
  • Continue down the row.
  • When you get to the end of the row, go down the other side of the plants – this gives stability to both sides, and essentially creates a long, narrow tomato cage.

20170621_181559

20170621_181635

Water needs

  • Irrigation types – Drip irrigation, soaker hoses, hand-watering.
  • Water @ base of plants to avoid damaging foliage.
  • Keep water consistent – large amounts of water will cause fruit to split.
  • Containers will dry out faster than in-ground grown tomatoes & will require more attention – good opportunity for drip irrigation.
  • Soaker hoses should be placed ~6″ from the base of plants & buried a few inches to promote the water to spread through the soil.
  • Tomatoes need about 1-1.5 inches of water per week – keep them hydrated, not saturated!

General Maintenance

  • Pinching suckers – Indeterminate tomatoes require pruning, Determinate do not.
20170605_162353-e1497257809477.jpg
Notice the “suckers” growing between a branch & the main stem. These need to be pinched or clipped off to keep the plant growing vertically and to keep the plant to 1 main stem.
  • Pinching Flowers – It sounds counter-productive, but in the early stages of growth, you need to pinch flowers that emerge too early. Doing this will allow the plant to focus on growing in other aspects (height, leafy growth) to support the production of fruit.
  • Fertilize – I fertilize at time of planting by putting Epsom salts in the planting hole. This supplements plants with sulfur & magnesium, and will help with overall plant health, and help to prevent blossom end rot. Fertilize @ planting with Epsom salts & your fertilizer of choice. Then once fruit sets, fertilize every 1-2 weeks to keep them healthy, growing strong, and yielding tons of tomatoes! Fertilization after the initial planting can be done with any variety of products – the easiest way to go would be to throw some Tomato-tone Fertilizer around the base of the plant. This will be incorporated into the soil when you water & I had really great luck with it last year. This year I am testing out a hydrolyzed fish & seaweed fertilizer – plants are loving it so far!
  • Pulling Weeds – a necessary evil of gardening, weeding can be done while you’re already pinching suckers & pruning your plants. Weeds will suck up the nutrients around your tomatoes, so get them outta there!

Weed Management

I think pulling weeds is kind of therapeutic. It makes you stop and focus on a “mundane” task – but you know it is essential to your garden’s success, so you suck it up. But there are other options to help prevent pulling so many weeds!

  • Groundcover Fabric – Water-permeable material that will allow the soil to breathe, but suppress weeds. You can cut holes in the fabric where your plants will go. A lot of people will use this in conjunction with drip irrigation.
  • Mulch – a natural, dye-free mulch will suppress weeds & help retain soil moisture in the same way it does in your landscape & also add some organic material to your garden.
  • Mulch Films – similar to groundcover, this will block weeds & help retain moisture. There are also red films that are supposed to increase your yields (testing this out this summer & that will discussion will be a semi-scientific article from the research I’ve done so far).

Pest Management

You’re not the only one who wants to eat your tomatoes – here are some tips on pests & what to do to control them.

  • Pests include – aphids, tomato hornworms, whitefly, among many, many more.
  • Neem Oil – this is my favorite organic pest control product. It smells citrusy and goes to work instantly – I swear I see the bugs bolt immediately and they stay away until we get a few good rains.
  • Diatomaceous Earth – this is my first year experimenting with this stuff & so far it’s had really positive results. You can apply diatomaceous earth as a dusting or mix it into a slurry. I opted for the slurry and was really pleased. Even with the heavy downpours we’ve had in Ohio this summer, that stuff really sticks to the plants’ leaves. Be careful that you don’t overcoat the plants – it may prevent/restrict growth if you suffocate it. Again, this is an organic product.
  • Basil – plant Basil around your Tomatoes & it will help to repel some insects with its aromatic foliage.

Disease Management

Tomatoes are usually bred to have pest or disease-resistance, but that doesn’t guarantee that will be the case. There are some simple steps you can take to ensure your tomatoes will survive & not suffer from diseases or pests. The most important this when it comes to disease is not necessarily treatment, but rather, your plan should be focused on prevention.

  • Epsom Salts – put a few tablespoons in the planting hole. This will supply the plant with 2 crucial elements: Magnesium, and Sulfur. Along with Calcium you would call these secondary nutrients (of secondary importance to the macronutrients of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium), but the role they plant in the plants health is critical. Calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are required by plants for normal healthy growth and help fortify & strengthen the cell walls (important in new growth as well as existing). The secondary nutrients basically work in conjunction with the macronutrients – helping make them more available, assisting in nutrient delivery & uptake (please drop some knowledge on me if I’m out of line saying this!)
  • Neem Oil – I swear, this stuff is awesome. Not only does it take care of insects & pests, but is also listed for several diseases and fungal infestations!
  • Copper Fungicide – Copper fungicides are considered as preventative, not curative – but so are most products. If you have gotten to a point of noticing a disease taking hold of a whole plant, you’re probably too late. Prevention is always the best method of control – it’s like putting sunscreen on before going to the beach.
  • Complete Disease Control – this Monterey product is a biofungicide/bactericide – bio meaning this is a live product. The active ingredient is a naturally occurring strain of the beneficial bacterium Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. This is my first year using this product, but given the fact that we’ve had buckets of rain poured over this season and my plants are still okay – is a good sign! The really great thing is that this product is so safe that you can use it up to the day of harvest – and it’s certified Organic as well!

Harvest

  • Leave tomatoes on the vine as long as possible, picking when fruits ripen to red.
  • Heavier varieties may need to be given extra support, or pulled when green. Let it ripen in a cool, dark place – not in a sunny windowsill as this may damage the skin of the tomato.

Storage

Videos will be coming in the next couple weeks as all of my tomato plants are fruiting like crazy right now! (You can see those on the [once] greatly neglected Gardening for Gains YouTube Channel – I PROMISE MORE IS ON THE WAY SOON!) If I don’t learn how to make a perfect sauce, I’ll end up buried in tomatoes from the 55 plants we have blooming.

  • Do not store in sunny areas (unless you want sun-dried tomatoes)
  • Do not store in the fridge (unless you make salsa or pico)
  • Salsa
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Canning – Tomato Sauces & Pastes
  • Freezing

Supplies needed

  • Seeds
  • Soil mix
  • Growing trays
  • Grow lights if you don’t have south-facing window for seedlings
  • Epsom Salts
  • Tomato-tone Fertilizer
  • Stakes – bamboo, fiberglass, steel, wood.
  • Plant Tying materials
  • Sisal/Jute Twine (Florida weave method)
  • Sprayer to apply fertilizers/treatments
  • Drip irrigation / soaker hoses / sprinklers
  • Canning Jars
  • Patience, Passion, and Persistence! I used to hate growing tomatoes, but now I just love the challenge & the reward!

Really hope that this guide has given you a somewhat detailed roadmap to successfully grow tomatoes! Please like, comment, follow AND PLEASE let me know if you have any wisdom to contribute to this tomato growing guide!