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Pruning your Raspberry & Blackberry Bushes

ripe golden raspberries

Pruning your Raspberry & Blackberry bushes is an essential & necessary task that you should complete in late winter to ensure the health of your plants, promote growth, and to optimize fruit production. You want to wait until late winter to prune your plants because the canes actually provide carbohydrates to the root system of the plants, helping the plants to better survive the harsh winter.

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So why should I prune my berry plants?

Pruning will keep your raspberry or blackberry patch from becoming overcrowded. You may think that an abundance of canes means an abundant amount of fruit, but it’s all about knowing the growth habits.

You want to keep last year’s canes that didn’t bear fruit. Those primocanes will then become floricanes – meaning they will flower & bear fruit this year.

Using loppers or hand pruners, remove any dead-looking canes and get rid of small/spindly canes as well, by cutting them at the ground level. You can also get this tutorial on my YouTube channel to see the pruning in action – here’s a link to the video.

Thin the canes so they’re about 6 inches apart & trim your rows so that they are 1.5-2 feet wide.

As far as pruning the actual canes, you’ll want to top them around 36 inches in height. This will encourage new lateral growth – which then turns to flowers – which then turns to fruit!

A lot of reading that I did also said you wanted to remove any canes that fruited in the past season. I didn’t have to worry about that with my Boyne Raspberry plants because it was only their first year growing, but the Anne Raspberry had a ton a fruit! Since those canes were not deadwood I just pruned the top of the plant that had flowered – I guess we’ll see what happens!

When you prune raspberries, you need to prune them to a flowering node (see below).

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Pruning blackberries is very similar to pruning raspberries – they’re both in the Bramble family, which includes roses as well! However, the growth habit of blackberries is slightly different.

Blackberries grow a lot like grapes – they have vines & grow up to 20 feet long! You want to keep blackberries pruned to having 5-7 vines per plant. Tip each vine at about 3 feet. Each vine will then have lateral branches – prune these to about 10-12 inches. This will promote rapid growth – and I wish I brushed up on this knowledge before I butchered my blackberry plant 😭 you can see the video here!

As I mentioned, last summer was the first time I was able to harvest raspberries from the Anne golden raspberry plant I started in the summer of 2016. The amount of fruit that we harvest was astounding!

golden raspberries
Anne Golden Raspberries

I didn’t even prune the canes from one year to the next, they got hit with a freeze after the growth cycle began in early spring, and the only “trellising” that I did was wrapping some sisal twine around the middle of the canes. Basically it was a raspberry ponytail 😂

This trellising system was apparently effective, but I just wonder how much better it will be with a legitimate trellis! In case you’re wondering what that might look like – it typically consists of wooden posts with cross-bars at 24″ height & 36″ height. Wires are then run from post to post & this provides a framework for the raspberries to grow upon.

The importance of the trellis is really 2-fold:

  1. To support the canes & to optimize fruit production.
  2. To open the canopy & allow for newly sprouted primocanes to flourish.

Trellising is important, but pruning is the real catalyst for fruit production & new growth to happen. Now that the pruning is done we will be waiting for the ground to thaw out so that we can install the trellis system – stay tuned for the blog & the video that will give you a step-by-step on how to make it happen!

If you have any further questions, drop me a line below – would love to hear from you!

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Why are my Succulents Stretching out? 5 tips for saving your Succulents

Have you noticed that your succulents are starting to grow taller & awkward-looking? The Echeveria is no longer compact, full, and vibrant with variegated colors through the leaflets – it is now lengthy with a lighter hue, but why?

Here are 5 things you can do to save your Succulents:

  1. Give them more sunlight! Chances are that your plants are not getting enough light! This can be tough to achieve if you’re growing your succulents in your office or a spot that doesn’t get sufficient light. A south-facing window usually does the trick, but through winter, that light may not even be enough as I have found this year. (Or maybe I have too many plants competing for that small sliver of sunlight)
  2. Give them a grow light! After continually moving my plants around, it was clear they just weren’t getting enough light. Compact plants had stretched, the Echeveria was losing its reddish tinted leaflets, and some of the lower leaflets were dying due to lack of sun. They really don’t need a “fancy light” like an LED, but I’d love to see how the color pops under those (I think we have a new experiment!) Now check them out after less than a week under a T5 fluorescent light!
  3. Check the moisture levels. Remember it is okay for succulents to dry out between watering – but also, don’t forget to water them altogether! You’ll want to use a high-porosity, well-draining soil – too much moisture can cause fungus or damage to lower leaflets.
  4. Prune them! Don’t be afraid to give them a trim! When you’re seeing growth, the last thing you want to do is cut it down. But if your succulents are stretching, this could be a great way to save them. See how this Echeveria has stretched? 20171203_084128489041420.jpgWe can definitely replant the rosette at the top and some of the leaflets that will be affected by this pruning. You want to cut about 1.5-2 inches above the soil line. Leave the plant in the pot, in a couple weeks you should start to see some new growth – just make sure it is getting enough light!
  5. Propagate, & Replant! Next remove the leaflets below the main rosette, keeping them intact & undamaged from tears or rips. Let the individual leaflets & rosette callous over for 2 weeks and by that time, some roots may begin to form. At this time you can replant & have 10 times as many Echeveria! This can be done whenever you have plants stretching – or whenever you decide you want some more succulents! It is a process that requires 2-4 weeks of patience, it may not work 100% of the time, but it’s an awesome way to keep your plants around for a long time.

I hope that this was helpful & you’re able to save some of your succulents that are struggling in your home or office. And if you’re looking for Succulents to add to your personal spaces, or a unique gift idea, head over to our Succulent Shop!

Thanks for reading! Stay up-to-date with new Articles, Plants, Videos, & Giveaways by joining our email list – sign up today & get entered to win a Potted Succulent for our New Year Giveaway!

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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! 👇👍

 

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

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Source: Quartz Media

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

 

 

The Psychology of Gardening | Psychology Today

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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 crudité, 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

Sign up to receive weekly newsletters keeping you up-to-speed with the latest news, trends, & updates from the Green Industry!

 

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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, jalapeños, 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 – basically 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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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! 🙂

 

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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°, 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.
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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.

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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.

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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.
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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!