Remove That Tomato Debris … Or Is There A Better Way? (Homesteading Basics)

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Since our TGN Community is so spread out geographically—across the globe, really—I wanted to go ahead and post this Homesteading Basics video because there are certain climates where this question is starting to come up. And if your tomatoes are still producing (or maybe are just starting to produce if you’re in a colder climate!), it’s never too early to start thinking about this!

So, here’s my question: When your tomatoes have stopped producing, what do you do with your tomato debris?

I share my intention for my own tomato plants in the above Homesteading Basics video—but are my garden cleanup plans truly necessary? I’d really like to know what you think, so please let me know your opinion in the comments!

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The BEST Cucumber, Onion and Tomato Salad – So Refreshing!

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This classic Cucumber, Onion and Tomato Salad is a refreshing summertime salad that is served at most picnics and gatherings. It has the perfect balance of tang mixed with a little bit of sweetness that will have you eating this all

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Frass! A Hornworm Is Eating My Tomatoes and Peppers!

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If you have never met a hornworm munching on your tomatoes or peppers, then count yourself lucky.

I remember my first time finding a hornworm. I reached into a tomato plant with lush foliage and this green caterpillar, as big as my finger with a horn on its end, stared back at me. I screamed like a little girl rather than the grown woman that I was. The hornworm was killed by my soon-to-be husband. I was very reluctant to pick any more tomatoes for fear that my bare skin might accidentally touch one of these monstrous creatures.

Two Types of Hornworms

There are two kinds of hornworms—tomato hornworms and tobacco hornworms—but both kinds eat the fruit and leaves from tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

Read More: “3 Expert Tomato Growers Share Their Best Tips”

I usually have the tobacco hornworm variety in my Ohio garden, with its seven V-shaped white marks along its body. The tomato hornworm, on the other hand, has six white stripes. A single hornworm will quickly decimate your crop if it goes unnoticed, so I don’t waste much time analyzing white marks once I find a hornworm.

Signs You’ve Got a Hornworm Problem

Hornworm Eating Tomato Leaf

Most of the time I spot the signs of a hornworm before I see the actual caterpillar.

There are two things to look for when you visit your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants:

  • First, are there any missing leaves or fruits that have huge sections eaten out of them? Hornworms love to eat leaves.
  • Second, are there bits of frass (insect droppings) either on the lower leaves or on the ground? Really fresh frass might be green, but will turn dark brown or black as it gets older. (By the way, I love the word “frass.” I think gardeners could start saying “frass” instead of the other synonymous curse words.)

If there is defoliation and frass, then the hornworm isn’t too far away. I look directly above the frass, but if the hornworm has eaten all the leaves on that branch, then it may have moved to the next branch with lots of food to eat. One summer I found defoliation on one of my hot pepper plants, but couldn’t find the hornworm for a couple of days. It had eaten all the leaves off the first plant and crawled over to a second pepper plant before I located it. But more on that story in a bit. It has a happy ending!

Getting Rid of Hornworms

Unfortunately for bug-phobic people like me, handpicking is the best way to get rid of hornworms when you find them in your garden.

I put on my magic shield (a.k.a. my gardening gloves), put shoes on my feet, and grab a hand trowel or small pruning shears. Hornworms have a surprisingly strong grip on that plant and will not let go of it willingly. If the hornworm is near the end of a branch and I won’t lose any fruit by cutting the branch, then I make the sacrifice. Otherwise I bat at it with my trowel and knock it to the ground. From there I either smash it with my foot or the trowel. (Be careful. Hornworm guts are green and gooey and can shoot out of the animal when smashed. Gross.)

Some people say that chickens like to eat hornworms, but I didn’t have any luck when I tried feeding them to my neighbor’s chickens. They loved Japanese beetle grubs, but that’s another topic for another day. The hens looked at me like I was crazy both times I tried to feed them a hornworm. They always knew I had food when I went to visit and gobbled everything down except for the hornworms.

A Happy Ending

Remember the hornworm that I found on my pepper plant? I didn’t handpick that one off the jalapeno.

Why?

Well, it had these little white things that looked like grains of rice along its body. Those are actually cocoons of a very special parasitoid wasp.

Tomato Hornworm Parasitic Wasp

This type of wasp lays her eggs inside the body of the hornworm. The wasp larvae feed on the hornworm and kill it, so I didn’t have to! The wasps are the good guys in this situation. If you see them, leave them alone. Both of my pepper plants bounced back and are producing fruit.

Companion Planting to Discourage Hornworms

As much as I think parasitoid wasps are awesome, I’d rather prevent hornworms from entering my garden in the first place. That’s where companion planting is used.

This year I planted borage near my tomato plants.

Borage

My daughter is a budding gardener (and watching over my shoulder as I type), so I let her plant marigolds near my tomatoes. Both of these flowers help keep the hornworms away.

So why did I have any hornworms in my garden this year if I was using good companion plants? I got overly ambitious and put in a new garden bed after I was “done” planting. The first tomato section was the one with the borage and marigolds. The new area had peppers and tomatoes, but no borage or marigolds. I only had one hornworm in the area with companion plants, but many hornworms in the area without.

Next spring, try companion planting for yourself to see how well it works to keep those hornworms away. If a few hornworms still make it into your garden, maybe you’ll be lucky and find parasitoid wasp cocoons growing right out of their big green bodies.

Good luck and happy gardening!

Do you have any tips for discouraging, preventing, or getting rid of tomato hornworms? We’d love to hear them! Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

(This article was written by Amy S. as a submission in The Grow Network’s Fall 2015 Writing Contest. It was originally published October 1, 2015.)

 

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3 Expert Tomato Growers Share Their Best Tips

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Name: James Worley
Home Digs: Kansas City, MO
Business: KC Tomato Times
Blog: KCTomatoTimes.wordpress.com
Follow on Social Media: KC Tomato Times (Facebook)
Fast Fact: I won the 2017 World Championship Squirrel Cook Off in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Claim to Fame: I’ve been growing rare tomato varieties for over a decade and have grown almost 800 types so far. I pride myself on growing the most hearty, tough, and ready-to-plant seedlings available in the area. I also host a tomato tasting each year on the first Saturday in August. This will be our 10th annual event! We’ve had as many as 100 different types of ripe fruit in years past, but always have at least 40–50 types for people to taste and experience the uniqueness of each variety.

Top Tomato-Production Tip: Soil building is key. I make my own soil for my raised beds with locally produced compost mixed with peat, perlite, and vermiculite in an 8-1-1-1 ratio. I do not use manures as they tend to be too high in nitrogen. I fertilize with Tomato-tone when I plant and then every 3 weeks throughout the season.

On Less-Than-Ideal Growing Conditions: Mulch is your friend. Use some sort of mulch to keep your soil moisture consistent. Also, I prefer silver reflective film, as this keeps the moisture in and the weeds out, and it bounces light under the leaves to drive off insect invaders like aphids and hornworms. It is very shiny and you’ll need sunglasses when working with it, but you can see your garden from outer space!

Favorite Tomato Variety: Carbon is hands down the best I have ever grown. It has deep, complex flavors and a beautiful purple color, and is fairly disease resistant and very productive. I plant at least a dozen Carbon in my gardens every year.

Sharin’ the Love: I’m an educator at heart and in my profession. I make sure that anyone who buys my plants knows the best way to plant them, care for them, and eat them as well. I’m available year-round by e-mail to help gardeners with questions they may have. As for ripe tomatoes, we eat them at home in myriad ways; however, I love to take in a box of ripe tomatoes and other vegetables from my garden to local restaurants and trade them for delicious meals or have the chefs prepare them for me in their own special ways.

Read More: “TGN Talks Tomatoes With Dave Freed, Local Changemaker”

 

Robin Wyll, Tomatoes

Nominee: Robin Wyll
Home Digs: Woodinville, WA
Business: Robin’s Gourmet Garden (Nursery)
Website: GrowTomatoSauce.com
Follow On Social Media At: Robin’s Gourmet Garden (Facebook)
Fast Fact: Well, besides gardening, my other obsessions are theater and politics, so, of course, I can rap the entire opening number of the musical Hamilton!

Claim to Fame: I grow tomato sauce—125–200 pounds of tomatoes from 36 plants! I roast them, puree, and freeze about 2–3 gallons each year for winter meals. People asked me for help, so I created a website to help inspire others. People also asked me for cuttings, so I started a business raising around 1,800 heirloom tomato plants (nine varieties) and selling them directly to customers as well as supplying five stores. Customers say my varieties are unique in the local market and more robust than industry-grown options.

Top Tomato-Production Tip: Test your soil for everything down to the trace elements, and then mineralize accordingly. I started this five years ago after reading Steve Solomon’s book The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Food, and it made a world of difference in my tomato production. Also, to get the most flavor out of your tomatoes, do not water the plants during the 24 hours before you pick the fruit. Watering just dilutes the sugars in the tomatoes, thereby diluting the flavor.

On Less-Than-Ideal Growing Conditions: Here in the Pacific Northwest, the biggest challenge is wildly fluctuating weather conditions. Sometimes the temperature will drop 20–30 degrees overnight, and we tend to get a lot of rain off and on throughout the summer. My solution is twofold. I select varieties that mature in fewer than 85 days, and I grow them under a protective shelter that can be opened up during good weather for air flow and pollination. The goals are to keep the leaves from getting rained on, which can lead to fungal issues, and to hold in the heat as much as possible. This method allows me to plant tomatoes in April when it’s still pretty cool and wet and extends the harvest into November.

Favorite Tomato Variety: My single favorite tomato variety is Speckled Roman, because my goal is to freeze as much tomato puree as I can—and the Speckled Roman is thick and meaty with few seeds and excellent, rich flavor. Some of the fruit will grow to more than one pound each—and it is so dense that you can grill the slices. My preferred pick for salsa is Black Sea Man, which is a Russian variety that produces lots of beefsteak-type tomatoes that are a beautiful mottled deep green and red with delicious sweet tomato flavor.

Sharin’ the Love: I share my 15 years of tomato-growing experience, failures, and successes via my website; I answer questions and share info related to my plant business on my Facebook page; and I share my expertise live by giving presentations to local garden clubs and, of course, in casual conversation. It seems that successfully growing tomatoes is a subject of great interest in my area. Plus, my tomato sauce gets around—lots of it went to college with my daughter, and I share it with neighbors and friends in the hopes of inspiring more people to try growing tomato sauce.

 

Leslie Doyle, Tomatoes

Nominee: Leslie Doyle
Home Digs: Las Vegas, NV
Business: Sweet Tomato Test Garden
Website: SweetTomatoTestGarden.com
Follow on Social Media: Leslie R. Doyle (Facebook)
Books Authored: Growing the Tomato in Las Vegas in Terrible Dirt and Desert Heat, self-published (1996); Growing the Tomato in Las Vegas in Terrible Dirt and Desert Heat (2nd edition), self-published (2002); Slam Dunk Easy Desert Gardening, self-published (2009)
Fast Fact: I actually don’t usually eat vegetable greens. I prefer berries; tree fruit; nuts; grilled steak, fish or chicken; and chocolate (yum!).

Claim to Fame: I wrote new directions for growing tomatoes and veggies in the desert—including new ways to irrigate and fertilize the farm or garden, a way to increase light on the plants, and a method to repel insects and avoid disease. I also developed a soil/compost that is very popular and widely used in the desert.

Top Tomato-Production Tip: Help them be all that they can be. You get more reliable results when you grow a variety that is known for prolific production and then give them ample water, nutrients, and sun—and grow them in the right climate.

On Less-Than-Ideal Growing Conditions: Gardening in Las Vegas is very, very different for new residents—and impossible for them without some coaching by a successful gardener. Growing here is actually easy, but there are growing rules. Wherever you live, pay attention to your plants, and learn how to fulfill their needs and diagnose their ailments.

Favorite Tomato Variety: My favorite tomato variety is Hawaiian Tropic for several reasons: It has an 8- to 10-ounce average size, is simply delicious, and is very prolific. It grows extremely well in our hot desert climate and has been disease resistant. Hawaiian Tropic tomato is only available through me at this time. I also like Juliet, a smaller Roma-like tomato. It is easy to grow, delicious, and an All-America Selections winner.

Sharin’ the Love: We sell our harvest here at the Sweet Tomato Test Garden and donate extra fruit to the Lutheran Social Services Food Panty. Some is also shared with friends. Over the years I have written articles and tips for various publications, including Organic Gardening magazine, where I worked for almost 10 years. I publish a subscription-based e-newsletter for desert gardeners, and I have decades of teaching and speaking experience at our Desert Gardening School, the library, our local university, civic events, and nurseries. People are welcome to visit my garden, and I am delighted to answer questions!

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TGN Talks Tomatoes With Dave Freed, Local Changemaker

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Nominee: Dave Freed

Home Digs: Cypress, CA

Blog: GrowTomatoesEasily.blogspot.com

Fast Fact: Known as “Dave, the Tomato Guy,” his motto is, If you don’t have a green thumb, I’ll give you one.

Nominated By: Tirzah S. | Hindsville, AR

____________________________________________

Tell us about your background—where you grew up, your education, and what career or life path led to your current role as a Master Gardener, speaker, and tomato enthusiast?

I live in Cypress, California (in Orange County), but I was born and raised in the Midwest in North Central Kansas on a farm with cows, pigs, chickens, corn, wheat—and always a big vegetable garden. We did lots of fishing and hunting, and we lived off the land. I remember hunting with my father for rabbits, squirrels, ducks, pheasants, etc., for our next meal. It was a hard life, but we always had food to eat. I suppose that’s where I got my roots for growing a garden. Eventually, we left Kansas and ended up in California. I have always grown an annual garden and always include tomatoes, as this is the one fruit you cannot buy in the supermarket with a great, homegrown taste.

I worked in the foodservice industry before owning a full-service restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, near the University of Southern California. About 10 years ago, I sold the restaurant and retired, figuring I would relax and enjoy life and probably become very bored within about six months and then get back out into the business world. That never happened, and I’ve never looked back.

I volunteered to become a Master Gardener in Orange County, where we volunteer our hours helping others with their gardens. My heart has always been about growing tomatoes, and I’ve always been a competitor. So, since growing tomatoes easily was always a challenge, I learned how to make it easier, more foolproof, and more simple. People began calling to ask if I would come speak to their group or organization and share my tips on how to grow tomatoes easily in an urban setting. Today, I speak to 15–30 southern California gardening clubs and organizations every year on how to grow tomatoes easily. Last year, I even started a blog. I tell people, “If you don’t have a green thumb, I’ll give you one.”

What do you think makes your techniques so easy to follow? What kind of feedback have you received from your “students”?

My motto may seem rather bold, but it’s really not. You see, if you go on my blog site, I show you pictures of the tomatoes I grow—some plants with more than 100 pounds of tomatoes on them. And I tell you specifically what I do to grow these great tomatoes: which potting mixes, soils, fertilizers, and tomato plants to buy. I explain when to plant and how to water. I give you no room for failure as long as you follow the suggestions. And I have people let me know all the time that they’ve grown tomatoes for years and never had so much success as they do now.

I don’t do everything from scratch. People tend to live in the fast lane and want hassle-free and time-saving methods to grow tomatoes in home gardens. Some people are enthusiastic organic growers, while others are not—I demonstrate how to produce great results either way.

I’ve always said that if I ever write a book, I’ll try to keep it to about eight pages. Short and to the point!

You’ve said you research growing techniques as a backyard farmer before sharing them on your blog and in gardening classes. Can you give us an example of a tip that you found to be a great success? How about one that fell flat?

An idea that was a success was using great potting soil for backyard tomatoes. I detail my steps in the tips below. Basically, use one of the three great potting soils I recommend, then mix in some composted steer manure with compost.

Until this discovery, I was like most others—simply mixing in compost with backyard dirt and planting tomatoes. They never did very well. And you never have to worry about planting in the same spot year after year. If you think you need to change the soil, you dig out the potting soil from the hole and replace it with new potting soil. This is one of the biggest improvements the backyard tomato farmer can make.

An idea that fell flat was grafted tomatoes—attaching a disease-resistant, hearty rootstock to your favorite top, such as the heirloom Brandywine. This was supposed to result in a great root system that produced a huge top with lots of your favorite tomatoes. For several years, I would plant a grafted Brandywine next to a Brandywine with its original roots. Every year, the original Brandywine outperformed the grafted one by a large margin.

You’ve taught others to build self-watering containers. What makes you such a big proponent?

Self-watering containers have been around for a long time. You can find many different designs online. The one thing they all have in common is that they have a water reservoir at the bottom of the container that will hold water for the plants to use as needed.

Remember, a full-grown tomato plant will use 2 to 3 gallons of water every day. Most of the time we do a lousy job of consistently watering our gardens and tomatoes. Self-watering containers help to keep those roots moist—and even more so if you are using great potting soil.

You frequently yield 100+ pounds of tomatoes on a single plant. Can you share some tips for prolific production that are universal across climates and growing regions?

Sunshine. Tomato plants convert sunlight into food and energy. The more sunshine—especially morning sun—the more food and energy your tomato plant has to produce a big top with lots and lots of tomatoes.

Soil. This is probably where the biggest advantage can be gained by the average tomato farmer. I first recommend you dig a hole at least 2 feet deep and 2 feet in diameter. Throw away the dirt, and fill the hole with water to make sure it drains. Then I suggest filling the hole with at least a 15-gallon container of one of the three potting mixes that I mention on my blog, followed by mixing in a little bit of composted steer manure. Plant one tomato plant in the middle of that hole.

Why do I suggest one of these three potting mixes? Because they contain a very large amount of sphagnum peat moss, and 1 pound of sphagnum peat moss can hold up to 25 pounds of water. It’s like surrounding those roots 24/7 with a sponge, which promotes a big root system, which promotes a big top with lots of tomatoes. A small root system gives you a bonsai tomato plant. . . . I know, because I’ve been there.

Schedule. For your city or ZIP code, look up historical weather averages for a guideline on planting tomatoes. They generally need 50- to 55-degree nights to produce pollen—no pollen, no tomatoes. Once temperatures rise to 85 degrees and warmer, tomato plants will generally quit producing pollen. That is your window. (And, yes, there are tomato plants that will produce tomatoes in 90-degree weather.)

Variety. If you plant a lousy variety, you are going to get lousy results. My blog site shows you different varieties that will give you lots of tomatoes—and I mention them in the next question as well. If possible, pick one of those to plant, and buy a live plant.

Watering. A mature tomato plant can easily use up to 3 gallons of water every day. Try to water in the morning, as excess water on the leaves or surface of the soil will evaporate quickly, whereas evening watering leaves the surface soil wet too long and invites disease.

How do you know when to water? Use a moisture meter. You can buy these at your brick-and-mortar stores or online. Stick the probe down into the soil, and the meter will read dry, moist, or wet. If the reading is on the dry/moist side, it’s time to water. Water down deep, slowly, about 18 inches to 2 feet. Using deep watering pipes can help. This water carries all the nutrients from the soil up to the tomatoes and the growing tips of the vines. And then 80 to 90 percent of that water evaporates out through the leaves.

Fertilizer. Tomato plants are very heavy users of fertilizer. If you do not remember anything else, remember to use only a liquid fertilizer that is recommended for tomatoes and/or vegetable gardens.

In liquid form, fertilizer can be taken up by the tomato plant almost immediately. In dry form, it can take weeks or months.

Tomato Cages. You will want to use a heavy-duty tomato cage to keep the tomatoes up off the soil. You can find these at your local nurseries or big-box stores. I like to use concrete-reinforcing wire and make my own approximately 2 feet in diameter and 5- or 6-feet tall, depending on the plant you’re growing. Some of my cages are 3 feet in diameter and 8-feet tall.

Do you have a favorite tomato variety?

There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes. Hybrids, heirlooms, determinants that grow like a bush, and indeterminates that grow like a vine.

  • My favorite hybrids are probably Better Boy, Big Beef, Husky Cherry Red, and Celebrity.
  • Top heirlooms are Pink Brandywine, Red Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple.

For the most part, these are all thin-skinned varieties with great flavor that produce many pounds of tomatoes per plant. Some other varieties produce very few tomatoes even under ideal conditions.

So if you see some of the above for sale in your area of the country, give them a try. No. 1, I recommend that people plant a great tomato each year that will give them lots of tomatoes. After that, try something new.

What do you do with all those tomatoes? Sell them through a farmers’ market, distribute them within the community, do a ton of canning—or give them away to lots of grateful friends?

I love the flavor of homegrown tomatoes, and growing them is a hobby I really enjoy. I do not sell any of my tomatoes. I do not can, freeze, or dry any either. I give away as many as I can to friends, relatives, neighbors, my barber, my dry cleaner, and so on. Sometimes, I just leave a box of fresh tomatoes on someone’s porch . . . and I haven’t had any returned yet!

What do you find most valuable about being part of The Grow Network community?

I come into contact with hundreds of people when I’m teaching. America is probably the most diverse nation on earth, with many differing views on life and politics. Vegetable gardens and homegrown tomatoes . . . turning back to the basics . . . healthy living and healthy eating—all these put us on the same page, and differences are forgotten. The Grow Network offers a forum for all of this, with something there for everyone. When we live life in the fast lane and finally slow down to enjoy a homegrown garden, it’s surprising how rewarding it can be.

 

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A Tomato a Day Keeps You Healthy…and Full!

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When you’re living at the mercy of nature, (whose bounty can be very fickle), you need access to smart foods.  You’ll want to keep some foods around that are not only nutritious, but that will also make you feel full on a modest portion.  If it also happens to ward off a myriad of dread diseases, so much the better.  Say hello to what might be a survivor’s best friend: the tomato.

Evidence is emerging that suggests our plump red pal contains a mystery compound that suppresses hormones that trigger our appetite.  Preventing those pesky snack attacks has a lot of obvious advantages for us, whether we are living under normal circumstances or under the austerity of survival conditions.  Staying slim by not overeating may be a great benefit now, but think of those longs days and nights of rationing out a diminishing food supply, and nothing seems to satisfy your continual hunger.  A filling bite of a tomato to take the edge off would be heaven sent.

A French study compared the filling effect of sandwiches made with a tomato-enriched bread, carrot-enriched bread, and plain white bread.  Women of average weight between 18 and 35 were the subjects.  Amazingly, the fiber-rich carrots were not the winner.  Only the tomato bread kept the women satisfied and full.  So, if you only have a slice of cheese or a share of a can of tuna for today’s rations, a couple slices of tomato might be just the thing to turn those few precious bites into a fulfilling meal.

The results are incomplete, and it remains to be determined if tomatoes lower the level of the hunger-producing hormones, like ghrelin.  The part of the tomato that curbs the appetite has not been isolated yet either, though some suspect that it may be the red pigment, lycopene.

Regardless of lycopene’s connection to appetite, it is another reason to plant plenty of tomatoes in your survival garden.  Lycopene is linked to a reduction in a host of cancers including prostate, breast, cervical, skin, pancreatic, and even lung cancer—plus it slows down the progression of some cancers that have already occurred as well.

But wait!  There’s more…

Tomato juice and ketchup have been shown to significantly reduce levels of cholesterol, thus promoting heart health as well.  Tomatoes also keep skin healthy and looking young, and actually help to minimize sunburn.  They have a ton of vitamin C, which has healing, preventative, and nutritional properties—like warding off colds, promoting wounds to heal more quickly and completely, and allowing the body to absorb iron.  Tomatoes are rich in fiber, and they have lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to keep you young and energetic.

Tomatoes are easy to grow, and will grow under many diverse conditions. One plant yields many fruits, and one fruit has enough seeds for a hundred new plants.  They can stay on the vine for a long time; they can ripen and survive after picking for a long time; and they don’t require refrigeration.  With all of these benefits, I’m thinking that a good share of my garden will be dedicated to this versatile vegi-fruit.  You can eat it raw, on a sandwich, in a salad, grilled, boiled, or in soup.  You can juice it, make ketchup, salsa, tomato sauce for spaghetti sauce or chili, and it can be sundried too.  Is there anything I’m leaving out?  Oh…and it tastes pretty good too.

The post A Tomato a Day Keeps You Healthy…and Full! appeared first on Off The Grid News.

A Tomato a Day Keeps You Healthy… and Full!

Click here to view the original post.

When you’re living at the mercy of nature, (whose bounty can be very fickle), you need access to smart foods.  You’ll want to keep some foods around that are not only nutritious, but that will also make you feel full on a modest portion.  If it also happens to ward off a myriad of dread diseases, so much the better.  Say hello to what might be a survivor’s best friend: the tomato.

Evidence is emerging that suggests our plump red pal contains a mystery compound that suppresses hormones that trigger our appetite.  Preventing those pesky snack attacks has a lot of obvious advantages for us, whether we are living under normal circumstances or under the austerity of survival conditions.  Staying slim by not overeating may be a great benefit now, but think of those longs days and nights of rationing out a diminishing food supply, and nothing seems to satisfy your continual hunger.  A filling bite of a tomato to take the edge off would be heaven sent.

A French study compared the filling effect of sandwiches made with a tomato-enriched bread, carrot-enriched bread, and plain white bread.  Women of average weight between 18 and 35 were the subjects.  Amazingly, the fiber-rich carrots were not the winner.  Only the tomato bread kept the women satisfied and full.  So, if you only have a slice of cheese or a share of a can of tuna for today’s rations, a couple slices of tomato might be just the thing to turn those few precious bites into a fulfilling meal.

The results are incomplete, and it remains to be determined if tomatoes lower the level of the hunger-producing hormones, like ghrelin.  The part of the tomato that curbs the appetite has not been isolated yet either, though some suspect that it may be the red pigment, lycopene.

Regardless of lycopene’s connection to appetite, it is another reason to plant plenty of tomatoes in your survival garden.  Lycopene is linked to a reduction in a host of cancers including prostate, breast, cervical, skin, pancreatic, and even lung cancer—plus it slows down the progression of some cancers that have already occurred as well.

But wait!  There’s more…

Tomato juice and ketchup have been shown to significantly reduce levels of cholesterol, thus promoting heart health as well.  Tomatoes also keep skin healthy and looking young, and actually help to minimize sunburn.  They have a ton of vitamin C, which has healing, preventative, and nutritional properties—like warding off colds, promoting wounds to heal more quickly and completely, and allowing the body to absorb iron.  Tomatoes are rich in fiber, and they have lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to keep you young and energetic.

Tomatoes are easy to grow, and will grow under many diverse conditions. One plant yields many fruits, and one fruit has enough seeds for a hundred new plants.  They can stay on the vine for a long time; they can ripen and survive after picking for a long time; and they don’t require refrigeration.  With all of these benefits, I’m thinking that a good share of my garden will be dedicated to this versatile vegi-fruit.  You can eat it raw, on a sandwich, in a salad, grilled, boiled, or in soup.  You can juice it, make ketchup, salsa, tomato sauce for spaghetti sauce or chili, and it can be sundried too.  Is there anything I’m leaving out?  Oh…and it tastes pretty good too.

The post A Tomato a Day Keeps You Healthy… and Full! appeared first on Off The Grid News.

Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 2: Pathogen Prevention

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Pathogen…. That just sounds like a creepy, scary word. And when you are talking about pathogens in your soil, it really can be.

Crop Rotation for Pathogen Prevention and Control

Irish Potato Famine

You’ve all heard of the Irish Potato Famine, right? A million Irish people died and another million emigrated because the Irish potato crops were decimated by a pathogen called Phytophthora infestans.

When it happened, Irish farmers were growing potatoes about like the rest of us grow weeds. They were so good at it, that the diets of the Irish poor revolved around that one calorie crop. Little did they know that a vicious pathogen was lurking in their soil, biding its time until it had the numbers to totally decimate the Irish food supply.

OK, in reality, the pathogen itself is not quite that menacing. The real reason this was such a big deal was because more diverse food options were not available for a large percentage of the Irish population. (The wealthy had diverse diets; the poor relied on potatoes.)

Additionally, because potatoes were planted prolifically, the pathogen spread quickly through the sharing of seed potatoes (like the way a cold spreads through an office). Once in the soil, it stayed dormant until significant rains sent it into reproductive overdrive and allowed it to infect and thrive in sopping wet potato plants. Heavy rain is to fungal pathogens what dry wind is to an open fire.

Crop Rotation for Pathogen Prevention and Control

How Pathogens Spread

If you grow tomatoes, you are probably familiar with two well-known pathogens commonly called blight and wilt. These pathogens are similar to the Irish potato plant killer. They spread slowly in the soil—usually transmitted by transplants, compost, soil mixes, or even your shoes.

In relatively dry conditions, these pathogens may be present in the soil, but have no impact on your plant. Then one day, you get 2 inches of rain, your soil compacts and doesn’t dry out for days, and leaves turn yellow and drop off. Then, on the next sunny day, your tomatoes get ugly sun scald spots and rot before you can eat them.

Here’s the thing: Pathogens alone present no risks. Many of them are plant specific, which means that unless they come into contact with a suitable host plant, they are harmless. Even when you have the pathogen and the plant in the same place, this will not necessarily result in plant damage.

It’s only when you get a trifecta of conditions that include the right plant, the right pathogen, and environmental conditions suitable for incubation and infestation that problems happen. Here’s a simple mathematical expression for how that works:

Pathogen + Susceptible Plant Host + Optimal Environmental Conditions = Disaster

Remove one of these pieces from the equation, and you can avert disaster. Since you often don’t know the pathogen is present in your soil and you can’t control things like the weather, the most logical way to avert disaster is to take the host plant out of the equation.

Crop Rotation for Pathogen Prevention and Control

Rotate Plants by Family to Reduce Risk

This is where the idea of only planting one family of plants in the same plot once every four (or more) years comes into play. By rotating your plants, you limit the risk for having a trifecta. Also, depending on the life cycle of your pathogen, sometimes without a host plant, the pathogen will disappear over time.

Crop Rotation Slows the Spread

Additionally, with good plant-rotation plans, even if you do occasionally get small infestations of a pathogen, you can slow the spread by not offering host plants in close proximity year to year. Many pathogens are soil bound. They must make their way around on the bodies of soilborne critters, through transplants, on your garden tools, by catching a ride with an airborne insect, etc.

If they can move from host plant to host plant year after year, they can build up more quickly. With no nearby hosts, they remain dormant and pathogen populations remain in check.

Crop Rotation Gives you Time to Identify and Solve Pathogen Problems

Four-year rotations improve your odds by limiting a buildup of pathogens and spreading risk. Longer rotations are even better, since many pathogens can persist in the soil for 10 years or more. However, this can be more difficult to achieve in a small garden.

Luckily, if you do have plants that become infected with a pathogen, four-year crop rotation plans give you time to research and remedy your pathogen before you plant that family in that location again.

Start by identifying the pathogen. Aim to understand its life cycle and avoid planting the susceptible host plant again until you are sure the pathogen is gone.

Depending on your pathogen, there are different strategies you can follow to make your soil safe for planting again. For example, you can plant certain kinds of mustard and till them in. This practice is called biofumigation.

You can solarize your soil. This will kill all the biological life in your soil, too. You’ll need to then build back up your biological life with organic matter inputs.

With some pathogens that have long life spans, you may also need to consider more drastic measures. Replacing your soil, installing equipment to improve drainage, and developing alternate garden areas may be necessary in some instances.

Rotate by Families Prone to Similar Pathogen Problems

Because pathogens tend to affect entire plant families, rotating by family is the most common way to avoid pathogen problems. For example, tomatoes and potatoes might seem like very different plants to us. However, even if they have a preference for tomatoes over potatoes, opportunistic pathogens will take what they can get.

These are the family categories I use in my vegetable plant rotations:

  1. Nightshade Family: Tomato, Potato, Pepper, Eggplant
  2. Grass Family: Corn, Sorghum, Wheat
  3. Lettuce Family: Lettuce, Sunflowers, Dandelion, Chicory, Radicchio
  4. Beet Family: Beets, Spinach, Chard
  5. Cole Family: Cabbage, Mustard, Turnips, Arugula, Broccoli, Cauliflower
  6. Curcurbit Family: Squash, Cucumbers, Melons, Pumpkins
  7. Legume Family: Peas, Beans, Clover, Alfalfa
  8. Umbel Family: Carrots, Parsnips, Parsley, Fennel, Celery
  9. Allium Family: Onions, Garlic, Chives, Shallots
  10. Miscellaneous: Buckwheat, Okra, Sweet Potato

This is a lot to try to rotate in a small garden. Personally, I lump a few families together to create rotational pairings.

  • The nightshade, allium, cole, and sweet potato families tend to take up more space in my garden than the other families. They each get their own rotation.
  • I lump the grass, legume, and curcurbit families together in my rotations. I use that grouping because I tend to only need one row of space for those three plant families to one row of sweet potatoes based on how we eat. Sweet potatoes are a calorie crop that we need a lot of. Corn, cucumbers, and even beans (which are hard to grow enough of in useful amounts) are things we grow for fun to add variety to our diets.

Create Interplanting or Seasonal Plant Groupings

As long as you are consistent in your crop rotation methods, you can mix and match your families to get down to a four- or five-year planting rotation cycle.

If you use interplanting in your beds for soil protection, you may want to plan your family rotational groupings using this information. For example, if you grow carrots, radishes, and lettuce in the same bed at the same time, then one of your rotations would include the umbel, cole, and lettuce families.

Once you establish that grouping of families as a rotational pattern, then you can use that information to plan other rotations. You could grow early cabbage, followed by summer sunflowers, and then over-wintering parsnips. Using that same family grouping in different ways, you can achieve more food production while still having distinct rotations geared at preventing pathogens.

If you are following this series, you now have information to help you plan your crop rotation schedules to prevent pests and pathogens. However, there is one more really big reason why you may want to use crop rotation, even in a small garden. It’s for nutrient management. In the next post, we’ll cover that in more detail. Then you can take these three concepts and apply them to growing a more problem-free garden at home.

Read More: “Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 1: Pest Control”

In the meantime, start thinking about what you grow, and the kind of pathogens that are common to your area. Are there any you are particularly worried about? Talk to your local agricultural office and find out what risks may apply to your garden.

If you have any tricks or tips you’ve learned that might help with crop -rotation planning, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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The post Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 2: Pathogen Prevention appeared first on The Grow Network.

Tomato-Growing Tricks That Will Revolutionize Your Garden

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Every gardener enjoys growing tomatoes, but not every gardener is good at it. That’s because tomatoes are one of nature’s more finicky plants. Without the right amount of heat, sunlight and fertilizer, they won’t produce fruit when summer arrives.

The good news is that there are steps you can take right now – during spring — to give you your best tomato crop ever!

On this week’s episode of Off The Grid Radio we talk to Craig LeHoullier, the author of Epic Tomatoes: How to Select And Grow The Best Varieties of All Time.

Craig tells us that the months of March, April and May are critical for a tomato crop. He also tells us:

  • Which seed-starting mistakes often doom tomato plants.
  • How to transplant tomatoes to ensure they flourish.
  • Why it’s essential to use mulch.
  • How much spacing between tomato plants is truly
  • Which type of fertilizers he recommends.

We also discuss watering, frost and more! Don’t miss this amazing show that will revolutionize how you grow tomatoes!

 

Kitchen Secrets That Extend The Life Of Fresh Tomatoes

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Kitchen Secrets That Extend The Life Of Fresh Tomatoes

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You may have heard that it’s not a good idea to store tomatoes in the fridge. And, in fact, the optimal storage temperature for tomatoes is 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Colder temps damage both the aroma molecules and the texture of tomatoes, which affects their palatability.

However, room temperature in many of our homes is higher than 55-70 degrees, particularly in the warm summer months when we’re picking garden-fresh tomatoes. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a wine cooler or wine fridge (which, optimally, should be set to 55 degrees Fahrenheit), you need to pick between the lesser of the two evils: the too-cold fridge or the too-warm countertop.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

The best thing to do is strike a balance. Start by checking for ripeness. When lightly squeezed, a perfectly ripe tomato should give very lightly to the touch. If it doesn’t give at all, it’s not ripe yet; if it’s quite soft, it’s overripe.

Underripe and ripe tomatoes are best kept on the countertop as long as possible. As well, it’s best to store them stem- or scar-side down. There are several websites that discuss the stem-side down storage method, and some sites have done their own experiments to prove that it increases shelf life. It does work, but everyone seems unsure of the science behind it. It’s speculated that there are one of two things going on.

First, while the skin of a tomato is effective at keeping out bacteria, cracks in the scar can let bacteria in. When a tomato is stored upside down, the liquid inside the fruit moves to the top of the tomato, which provides a sort of seal to the cracks in the scar and a barrier to bacteria. The other possibility is that storing a tomato upside down somehow affects the way ethylene gas is transmitted. Fruits naturally create ethylene, which aids in the ripening process. When the production or transmission of ethylene is slowed, the ripening process slows as well.

Tomatoes stored at room temperature should be checked regularly, particularly if your home is on the warm side. The warmer it is, the more quickly tomatoes will ripen and subsequently mold or rot. Any tomatoes that are past optimal ripeness should be tossed in the fridge. Some spots in the fridge are slightly warmer than others, such as on the top shelf and near the door, and those are the ideal spots for tomatoes. But, in the end, while they may lose some palatability in the fridge, they will definitely lose palatability if they start to go bad on the countertop. Bottom line: Refrigerate when necessary.

Do you have any advice for extending the life of tomatoes? Share your tips in the section below:

So, Your Tomato Plant Has Wilted Leaves? Here’s What To Do.

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So, You're Tomato Plant Has Wilted Leaves? Here's What To Do.

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The leaves on a tomato plant are good indicators of the plant’s health. Tomato leaves can display all kinds of distress signals: yellowing, brown spots, purple edges and curling are all signs that the plant needs a little extra TLC. Wilted leaves mean the same.

Don’t be too concerned, though, if you spot wilted leaves during the hottest part of the day. The leaves just may be hot and languid (like all of us!). However, if the leaves remain wilted during the cooler evening or morning hours, your tomato plant is likely sending an SOS signal. Check for these issues:

Under Watering

A general rule is that mature, producing tomato plants need two inches of water per week. If you’re a stickler for following exact rules, set up a rain gauge and supplement any weekly rainfall with manual watering, as required. That said, the two-inch guideline may be insufficient at times. Extremely hot, dry and windy weather, or watering during the hottest part of the day, can increase evaporation and decrease moisture absorption by the soil. Sandy soils drain quickly and may not hold moisture long enough for your plants’ needs. Also, two inches per week is not sufficient for most container tomatoes.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

It’s easy to check and see if there’s enough moisture in the soil. While the surface will usually be dry, soil 1-2 inches beneath the surface should feel damp. Stick your finger into the soil up to your knuckle; if the soil at the tip of your finger feels dry, your tomatoes need more water.

Fungal Diseases

If your soil seems adequately moist, and your plants seem to wilt more after being watered, they probably have a fungal disease such as verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, or southern blight. Unfortunately, tomato plants infected with any of these need to be destroyed, to stop the fungi from spreading.

Verticillium Wilt and Fusarium Wilt

So, Your Tomato Plant Has Wilted Leaves? Here's What To Do.

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Verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt are quite similar, and it can be difficult to tell which is infecting a plant. In both cases, the fungus lives in the soil, and the plant’s roots absorb it. As it infects the plant, it clogs the plant’s vascular system so that moisture can’t travel to the branches and leaves.

Both verticillium wilt and fusarium cause leaves to develop yellow spots, brown veins and wilt. Lower leaves show symptoms first. As the disease progresses, browned leaves dry up and fall off. The main difference between the two diseases is that fusarium wilt generally shows up on one side of a plant, while verticillium wilt moves more slowly, is less dramatic (noticeable), and isn’t restricted to one side.

Again, there is no cure for either of these diseases. It’s best to practice preventative measures including rotating crops, amending soil (when needed) so that it has adequate drainage, and choosing disease-resistant tomato varieties. Also, make sure to clean and sanitize all your garden tools (including tomato stakes and cages) if you suspect your plants have either of these diseases so that you don’t inadvertently transfer the fungi to a new bed. If you still end up with an infected plant, destroy it promptly and remove the surrounding soil.

Southern Blight

The initial symptoms of southern blight are quite similar to those of verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt: discolored leaves and wilt, starting at the base of the plant. However, once it progresses far enough, the plant collapses. You can determine whether it’s southern blight before your plant gets to that point; check for white hyphae or mycelia (soft, stringy, mold-type substances) around the plant’s lower stem, roots, and in the surrounding soil.

As with the other two fungal diseases, plants infected with southern blight cannot be treated.

Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

Wilting is actually the last stage of tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV); long before the plant starts to wilt, the rest of the plant will be sending out serious distress signals. Typically, plants infected with TSWV are stunted and pale, and often turn a bronze color. Leaves on these plants often have distinctive markings of circular or swirling patterns. Unlike other tomato diseases, TSWV first shows up in a plant’s top leaves.

TSWV is spread by small insects called thrips, which pierce plants in order to feed off them. As with fungal diseases, there is no way to stop TSWV from progressing once it sets in. Plants (and the thrips on them) should be destroyed. The best preventative measure is weed control, because thrips will feed on weeds until tastier plants are available to them.

The good news about TSWV is that it’s not transmitted through soil, and therefore there’s no need to remove soil when destroying plants.

Bacterial Wilt and Canker

Bacterial wilt is the one tomato disease where wilt is the predominant symptom. There is generally no discoloration of the leaves. The entire plant stays green, wilts and dies shortly afterward.

Bacterial wilt is most common in hot, humid regions, and particularly in soils that have a high pH. As with the other tomato diseases discussed here, there is no treatment for bacterial wilt. Diseased plants should be destroyed and preventative measures should be taken. Rotate crops, choose modern disease-resistant varieties, monitor soil pH (and adjust as necessary), and ensure generous air circulation by spacing plants widely and pruning indeterminate varieties.

Other Possibilities

Pests such as stalk borers, root knot nematodes, and aphids also can cause wilting, but they aren’t commonly attracted to tomato plants. However, if your plant displays symptoms that don’t seem to match any of the diseases listed above, it’s worth taking a close look for pests.

Also, the allelopathic properties of some plants can adversely affect tomatoes and cause wilting. Through allelopathy, plants leach their own natural chemicals into the soil, and those chemicals can affect nearby plants in both good and bad ways. Tomatoes are negatively impacted by black walnut and butternut trees and by sunflowers. If you have wilted tomato plants, in addition to checking for diseases and pests, take a look at what’s planted nearby.

What advice would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:

 

Nutritional veggies for SHTF part 3

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Nutritional veggies for SHTF part 3 Highlander “Survival & Tech Preps“ Audio player provided! I have talked about some meat and some veggies and general nutrition for shtf in the previous episodes. I continue my last show in this series of nutrition with a few more veggies to talk about, what you should be eating … Continue reading Nutritional veggies for SHTF part 3

The post Nutritional veggies for SHTF part 3 appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

Tomato-Growing Mistakes Every Gardener Makes

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Kim Jon Un

Tomatoes are the second most-consumed vegetable in the United States today, but just 200 years ago, people throughout the U.S. had not even heard of them. Many gardeners even thought they were poisonous.

So, how did the tomato transition from obscure to popular?

This week on Off The Grid Radio we’re discussing everything you didn’t know about tomatoes, including ways you can harvest better-looking and better-tasting ones – without yellow leaves! Our guest is Craig LeHoullier, the author of “Epic Tomatoes: How to Select And Grow The Best Varieties of All Time.”

Craig shares with us the most common mistakes made by gardeners when growing tomatoes.

He tells us the fascinating history but he also tells us:

  • Why some tomato varieties need pruned — and some do not.
  • How to stop tomato leaves from spotting and yellowing.
  • Why he prefers heirloom varieties over hybrids.
  • Which type of fertilizers work best for tomatoes.
  • Why tomatoes grown in buckets can be even healthier than ones grown in the ground.

Craig also tells us the easiest ways to stop fungus problems before they start. If you have a garden and you’re growing tomatoes, then this is one show you don’t want to miss!

8 Health Benefits Of Tomatoes You Probably Didn’t Know

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8 Health Benefits Of Tomatoes You Probably Didn’t Know

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They are the pride of summer gardeners and the mainstay of many Italian dishes. They also add texture and flavor to sandwiches. People all over the world love tomatoes. In fact, contrary to what you might expect, China reigns as the top tomato producer with 34 tons each year.

Believed to have originated in Mexico, the tomato is the fruit of the plant with the botanical name Lycopersicon esculentum. Although they are most frequently recognized for their bright red color, tomatoes can come in yellow, orange, pink, green, purple, brown and even black. They also vary greatly in size and shape, from the large beefsteak to the tiny cherry size.

Although they are technically a fruit, tomatoes are often prepared and served as a vegetable. They have a slightly bitter and acidic taste that becomes rich and warm when cooked. However you choose to consume them, tomatoes are one of the world’s healthiest foods.

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Here are seven health benefits tomatoes can provide.

1. Heart and blood health – Tomatoes are rich in potassium, which helps maintain your body’s nervous system and which is associated with a reduced risk of stroke. They’re also rich in iron, which is important for healthy blood. In addition, tomatoes are abundant sources of Vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and for bleeding control.

The folic acid in tomatoes helps regulate your body’s homocysteine levels, which help lower your risk of heart disease.

The lycopene in tomatoes also offers protection against cardiovascular diseases. The regular consumption of tomatoes has been linked with lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and of lower levels of triglycerides in the blood.

Consuming a tomato daily also reduces your risk of developing hypertension, or high blood pressure. As a vasodilator, potassium helps reduce the tension in blood vessels and arteries, helping to improve circulation and lowering the stress on the heart.

2. Vision – The rich content of Vitamin A in tomatoes contributes to eye health. As a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin A helps prevent night blindness and macular degeneration.

The lycopene, lutein and beta-carotene in tomatoes help protect your eyes from developing cataracts.

3. Digestion — Tomatoes are loaded with fiber and water, both of which can help you have regular bowel movements. Eating tomatoes helps prevent jaundice and works to remove toxins from the body.

4. Diabetes — The high fiber content of tomatoes is beneficial for people who have diabetes. A Journal of the American Medical Association study found that people who consumed tomatoes on a daily basis had a reduced risk of the oxidative stress associated with Type 2 diabetes.

Other research indicates that people with Type 1 diabetes who eat high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, and people with Type 2 diabetes may experience improved blood sugar and insulin levels.

8 Health Benefits Of Tomatoes You Probably Didn’t Know

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5. Skin – Eating tomatoes regularly also may help your skin. Vitamin C consumption is associated with protection from exposure to potential damage from sunlight, pollution and smoke. Your skin, hair and nails are all reliant on vitamin C to remain strong and healthy.

6. Urinary system – Because of the antioxidants they contain and their high-water content, tomatoes can help prevent urinary tract infections. The regular consumption of tomatoes also can help maintain a healthy gallbladder.

7. Cancer – A single tomato can provide you with 40 percent of your daily Vitamin C requirement. As a natural antioxidant, Vitamin C may help protect against certain forms of cancer. In addition, the lycopene in tomatoes may help prevent prostate cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer and pharynx and esophageal cancers.

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The high presence of vitamin A in tomatoes can offer some protection against lung cancer. Additionally, tomatoes contain coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, which can help protect the body from carcinogens produced from second-hand cigarette smoke.

8. Bone health — Tomatoes contain calcium and Vitamin K, both of which contribute to strong bones and bone tissue.

Of course, there always can be a case of too much of a good thing. People who have gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience heartburn and regurgitation after eating tomatoes, largely due to their high acidic content.

Also, tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes, are high on the list of foods that frequently are sprayed with chemicals by non-organic farmers. Because of that, the Environmental Working Group suggests that you purchase organic tomatoes or grow your own tomatoes organically.

Are you wondering how you can add more tomatoes to your family’s diet? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Make a Caprese salad with fresh tomato slices, mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with fresh basil.
  • Spread smashed tomatoes on sandwiches instead of butter or mayo.
  • Scramble chopped tomatoes into eggs or use them to top an omelet.
  • Roast tomatoes in the oven along with potatoes or veggies.
  • Make your own fresh tomato sauce.
  • Stir-fry tomatoes on the stove.
  • Add sliced tomatoes to a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Add fresh tomatoes to your next smoothie instead of water.

Have you discovered other ways tomatoes can benefit your health? Share your tips in the section below:

 

7 Little-Known Tomato-Growing Tricks You Should Try This Year

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7 Little-Known Tomato-Growing Tricks You Should Try

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Tomatoes are one of those things that just about everyone – from the most novice of gardeners to the most experienced – likes to grow.

So, it’s no wonder that new varieties are constantly being bred and that everyone and their neighbor has advice on how to grow the biggest, juiciest and most delicious tomatoes on the block.

We have combed through the advice and found seven of the best tips for getting an amazing tomato harvest this year:

Tip No. 1: Choose indeterminate varieties

If you are growing tomatoes in a compact space such as an apartment balcony, then you may want to choose determinate tomatoes, as these plants are compact and will stop growing once fruit begins to appear.

But if you’ve got the space and you’re looking for a big yield, it is best to choose indeterminate varieties, as they will continue growing and producing fruit throughout the season.

Tip No. 2: Plant horizontally

Especially for the new gardener, this tip may sound counterintuitive. But whether you have bought a plant from a nursery or whether you are transplanting your own seedlings, tomatoes do better when they have been planted in the ground horizontally.

To do this, dig a shallow trench and lay the seedling on its side, covering up all but the top leaves. (Remember to strip off any leaves on the parts of the stem that you are burying.)

Following this advice will help your tomato plant develop a bigger root ball – and that means more tomatoes for you!

Tip No. 3: Side-dress with compost

Side-dressing is simply adding more nutrients (fertilizer or compost) around your plants. Once your plants start to flower, side-dress them with about two inches of compost and the next time it rains or when you water your plants, nutrients from the compost will be carried to the roots.

You can repeat this process every three weeks or so.

Tip No. 4: Use seaweed

7 Little-Known Tomato-Growing Tricks You Should Try

Image source: Pixabay.com

To be at their best, tomato plants require a lot of nutrients – and if you want to garden organically, then seaweed fertilizer is a good option. Seaweed contains nitrogen and many other important minerals such as iron, zinc and potassium. Fertilize your plants with a diluted seaweed or kelp solution every other week and it will help stimulate growth and fend off disease.

Seamazing: The Low-Cost Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

Seaweed also can be used as a mulch near the bottom of your tomato plants. Keep in mind, however, that as it dries out it will shrink to about a quarter of its original size – so four inches of mulch will give you one inch once it has dried out. An advantage to using seaweed as a mulch is that because of its saltiness, it acts as a natural slug repellent.

Tip No. 5: Keep young plants warm

Tomato plants that are exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit will not produce fruit. If you find you’ve planted your seedlings a bit too early, or if you get some surprise cool nighttime weather, protect your plants with row covers overnight until the weather warms up.

If you do not have row covers, you can improvise using some tomato cages and old blankets. Just be sure to uncover again in the morning.

Tip No. 6: Harvest regularly

The moment of truth in tomato gardening comes when the delicious fruit begins to ripen. Once it appears that you are close to getting a ripe tomato, check the vines every few days and harvest as necessary.

This will help your plants to produce higher yields because the plant’s energy will be focussed on producing new fruit rather than on tomatoes that are already ripe.

Tip No. 7: Rotate your crops

To help keep your plants free of disease, you should wait at least three years before planting them again in the same spot. Tomatoes can be rotated with unrelated crops like lettuce, beans and corn. They should not be rotated with other members of the nightshade family like potatoes, eggplants or peppers.

What tips would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Put These 8 Things in Your TOMATO Planting Hole For The Best Tomatoes Ever

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Do you want to grow the best tomatoes in taste and size? And want to have a bumper harvest? Then put these things in the hole before planting your tomato plant!

The homegrown TOMATOES are so delicious, and when you pick them fresh and eat, the delightful taste you get is just unmatchable. Better than store bought fruits. The thick, juicy, plump, sweet, a bit acrid and so satiating– the tomatoes are one of the first fruits (vegetable, if you say) everyone wants to grow from the beginning of the gardening season.

1. Baking Soda

It works and really a good trick (especially when you’re growing tomatoes in containers) if you want sweeter tomatoes. Simply sprinkle a small amount of baking soda around the base of your tomato plants. The baking soda will be absorbed into the soil and lower the acidity levels, thus, giving you tomatoes that are more sweet than tart.

2. Fish heads

Fish heads have been used as a natural fertilizer in the garden for a long time. Their popularity with tomato planting is not a myth that needs to be busted. It works! Their decay releases nitrogen, potassium, many essential trace elements, calcium and phosphorous. The only problem with burying fish heads is that critters may dig them up. To avoid this, bury deeply, at least a foot. You can drop them into the hole whole or use groundfish scraps which you can mix with water(2 cups) and milk(1 cup) for a supercharge solution. If you want to read more on this, here’s an article in detail!

3. Aspirin

Drop 2-3 aspirin tablets in the hole either whole or ground; this is to boost plant immunity, it also helps to ward off diseases like blight and increases the yield. The salicylic acid, a compound in aspirin is the reason why it works. You can also spray plants with the solution contain this drug.

4. Eggshells

Eggshells boost the calcium content in the soil. And just like us, Calcium is one of the most important components that plant needs for growth. Here’s a very educative article if you like to read, it also helps to prevent blossom end rot.  Whether you’re planting tomatoes in the garden bed or containers, you can always put eggshells before planting.

5. Epsom Salt

 

Tomatoes suffer from magnesium deficiency that is why it’s a good idea to add 1 or 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt while transplanting the seedling in the bottom of the planting hole (both in containers or garden bed). Cover this with a thin layer of soil; this is to make sure that roots are not directly touching Epsom salt.

6. Kelp Meal

Kelp meal is rich in micro-nutrients and trace elements. It provides complete nutrient for plants, the addition of kelp gives tomatoes a turbo boosted start. Slow-release kelp fertilizer contains the tomato with sufficient nutrient over a period which prevents the plant from experiencing shock as is with the use of excess fertilizers. One cup-full of kelp meal is adequate for the plant at the time of planting. If you want to read more about kelp fertilizer, click here!

7. Bone Meal

Similar to kelp meal, bone meal is also an addition to the tomato hole during planting. A handful or cup-full of bone meal is essential for a blossoming and quality fruits of the tomato plant since it provides the much-needed phosphorus nutrient which is one of the most vital components for healthy tomato growth.

8. Used coffee grounds

Add well-composted coffee grounds to the planting hole when transplanting tomato seedlings to improve soil composition and provide a source of slow-release nutrients to your plants. It is an excellent source of fertilizer and can be used even as a mulch.

 

Source : balconygardenweb.com

 

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The Old-Timer’s Secret Way To Remove Skunk Odor (Hint: It’s Not Tomato Juice)

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The Old-Timer’s Way To Remove Skunk Odor (Hint: It’s Not Tomato Juice)

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It’s nearly winter, which means skunk families will be moving in close to food supplies. This means your chicken coop, sheds and barn. With these stinky creatures so close, it’s a matter of time before the family dog gets sprayed or worse yet, the person who startles them. Knowing how to effectively remove skunk odor will come in handy.

When outside I’ve seen skunks just leaving the chicken yard. I always make sure to give them plenty of leeway, but sometimes the farm dog doesn’t!

Buddy was a chocolate lab we had several years ago. Bless his heart — he loved everything and everybody. We often found him loving up and protecting fawns, calves and rabbits. He even tried to love a skunk … once.

He saw it leaving the barn and went to check it out. Maybe he thought it was a cat. Anyway, he did his best “let’s be friends” routine but was only rewarded with a dastardly dose of skunk spray. I just couldn’t stop him in time.

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Did I mention Buddy slept indoors? Well, I couldn’t wait for the smell to wear off, so I turned to the time-honored remedy of my family.

We’ve used raw, organic apple cider vinegar on our homestead for all kinds of things. This was the first time in many, many years we had to use it to remove skunk odor, but I was sure glad we keep it made and on hand for just such an occasion.

You can use straight apple cider vinegar (ACV) and rinse your dog well immediately. Be aware, though, that ACV may burn sensitive skin. If your dog has this problem, then you should use a dilution of two parts water to one part ACV. Be careful around the face, as it will burn the eyes and nose.

The Old-Timer’s Way To Remove Skunk Odor (Hint: It’s Not Tomato Juice)

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Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty (and smelly). You can soak the clothes in white vinegar or ACV for a few hours and wash with hot water to remove the odor. It may take more than one soaking, depending on the how strong the oils from the spray are.

Wet your dog thoroughly before applying ACV or the ACV dilution. Work it through the hair and saturate to the skin. Let it sit on the dog for at least five minutes before rinsing well. If the dog was close enough to the skunk for the oils to be concentrated in the spray, you may have to repeat a second time.

Another Recipe

I like to learn everything I can from old-timers. I could sit and sip coffee all day while they share their experiences with me. One of my favorites, Mr. Ted, shared how he would remove skunk odor after I told him about Buddy’s run-in with the stinky-stripped scoundrel.

Here is his recipe:

Mix thoroughly in a jug or bucket:

  • 1 quart hydrogen peroxide – 3 percent or higher
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap

Wet your dog thoroughly, and then apply the mixture to saturate to the skin. Let it sit for at least five minutes and rinse well. You may have to repeat if the oils are concentrated.

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As with ACV, be careful around the face. This solution has to be mixed just before you use it.

Remove Skunk Odor From Yourself

Both of these recipes for removing skunk odor will work on people and clothes. I’ve never been sprayed and hope to never be, but if I were, I would certainly use one of these to remove skunk odor from myself.

We’ve all been told to use tomato juice, lemon or orange juice. These don’t work as well. Tomato juice may be slightly effective, but it would take several baths to make any real difference. Can you imagine how much tomato juice it would take to coat a dog or cover a human body multiple times?  

I hope you never have to use either of these to remove skunk odor but if you do, at least you’ll be prepared and effective.

What recipes have you used to remove skunk odor? Share your tips in the section below:

hydrogen peroxide report

Backyard Edible Or Toxin? Learn The Difference.

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Knowing how to forage and select edible plants from your yard and surrounding areas is a vital skill for a survivalist, but it’s not necessarily an easy one to master. That’s because, though many backyard edible and highly nutritious plants grow all around us, some have poisonous look alikes.

Mistake poison hemlock for wild carrots, for example, and you may find yourself on your deathbed, which will not be the first time that’s happened to someone. Most places try to keep poison hemlock under control, since it’s also toxic to animals, but other common foraging mistakes are easy to make.

Here are a few essential things you need to know about plants when you hunt for a meal in the underbrush.

 

The Right Rhubarb

Rhubarb is very familiar, even among urban dwellers, because many people put it in strawberry pies and jams. What many may not know is that people typically eat only the stems.

That’s not just because the stem tastes better than other parts of the plant, but also because rhubarb contains oxalic acid, a toxin that’s most prevalent in the leaves.

You wouldn’t normally have to worry about the amount of oxalic acid in rhubarb, even in the denser leaves, but when food is scarce, steady consumption of the leaves, even at moderate levels, would cause illness.

About 11 pounds of leaves can be fatal for a 145-pound person and far less than that could provoke serious illness.

 

You Say Tomato

Tomatoes come in many shapes and sizes, and in color may be anywhere from green to purple, depending on the variety and ripeness. But you should be familiar with their toxic copycat, horse nettle.

Like many of the members of the nightshade family, horse nettles are poisonous to humans. Though they’re not likely to kill you, horse nettles can lead to stomach problems and heart and respiratory issues when consumed, so skip those maybe-tomatoes in favor of a plant you’re more certain is safe to eat.

 

Berry Beware

Berries are among the most dangerous — and the trickiest — potential edibles out there, partly because there are so many kinds of them. Sure, even little kids know they should avoid the red berries on their neighbor’s bushes, but what about beautiful purple pokeberries?

Pokeberries grow from a remarkably bright pink stem, which sets them apart, but seen in isolation, they closely resemble blueberries. However, just a handful of pokeberries can kill a child, and since we often eat delicious berries by the bushel, even adults can too easily swallow a lot of this tempting fruit.

The same goes for wild cherries, an appealing but toxic version of a summer favorite. In general, beware of berries, especially if you haven’t picked them yourself.

 

Roasted Over Fire

Chestnuts! What a lovely tradition: a meaty nut roasted during the holidays and shared with family. While these nuts have a special place in the compendium of Americana, the same isn’t the case for buckeye.

The best way to distinguish poisonous buckeyes from other nuts is by cracking them all the way open. Buckeyes cause confusion primarily when foragers aren’t sufficiently skeptical.

From the outside they look like chestnuts, which is to say shiny, and from the inside they look more like walnuts or pecans, with a lot of texture. If the nut doesn’t match one you know all the way through, toss it; it’s probably a buckeye.

It’s essential to practice foraging when you’re not in a crisis situation; that is, when you have the leisure time to do some research on the plants involved. Learn about what grows near your home, and commit what you learn to memory.

Some of the worst mistakes come from assuming a familiar plant grows nearby, when only its lookalike is common to your region.

 

 

 

 

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4 Big Winning Plant Varieties From Our 2016 Garden Trials

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One of our favorite things to do every year is try out a few new plants in the garden. Whether it’s a new variety of an heirloom tomato or a fiery hot pepper, it’s always fun to see what new taste will

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Canning Tomatoes: Here’s What Grandma May Not Have Told You

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Canning Tomatoes: Here’s What Grandma May Not Have Told You

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It is never more gratifying to be a gardener than when luscious ripe tomatoes are rolling off the plants and into our kitchens. For most of us, though, there are often far more tomatoes than we can eat at the time. After slicing, sautéing, roasting, making salads and salsa, adding to pizza and ratatouille and grilled burgers, and filling the freezer with sauce, there is only option left.

It is time to can tomatoes. People have been canning tomatoes for long enough that everyone and their great-grandmother—and I do mean that literally—has strong opinions on how it should be done. Some folks use strictly paste tomatoes, meaning only those varieties developed specifically for use in homemade sauces. Others use any varieties of tomatoes at all, from commercial or traditional to heirloom, in all shapes and sizes.

There is no single correct answer when it comes to the best tomato varieties for canning. The primary difference is that paste types usually have less water content and therefore require less reduction for sauces and ketchup. Taste, texture and personal preference are factors that matter.

The thing about canning tomatoes is that there are a lot of choices, not the least of which is whether to use a pressure canner or a boiling water bath canner. And the right answer to this question is that both methods are correct.

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This is unusual. For almost every other food, there is only one right choice. All vegetable, meats and seafood products need to be pressure-canned for safety. And while fruits can be processed using a pressure canner, it would diminish the quality of the product.

Canning Tomatoes: Here’s What Grandma May Not Have Told You

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So why can tomatoes go either way? To explain, let me first talk about acid. The value of various foods are either very acidic—which registers very low numbers on the pH scale—or very neutral and registering very high pH numbers.

Almost all fruits range from 3.0 to 4.0 and are considered to be high acid. Vegetables range from 4.8 to 7.0 and are considered to be low acid.

And then there are tomatoes. The average tomato sits at 4.6, right on the cusp of high acid versus low acid. In this sentence, “average” is the key word. If the average is at 4.6, that means there are some varieties that are a tad more acidic, and a few—particularly some of the heirloom types—that are a little less acidic.

Therefore, the safety rule with tomatoes is to acidify them. By adding a little acidic content to every jar of canned tomatoes, we can be absolutely sure that they are adequately acid. Just a tablespoon of lemon juice or ¼ teaspoon of citric acid per pint of tomatoes does the trick. It is super easy, inexpensive and does not affect the taste of the finished product.

It may sound as if it is alright to skip the acidification step—adding the lemon juice or citric acid—if you are pressure canning, but that is not the case. Acid needs to be added with both processes, and here is why: The directions and processing times for both canning methods have been tested using acidified tomatoes. If you do not use added acid, the processing times given may not be adequate.

The major difference in canning tomatoes using the boiling water bath method versus pressure canning is processing time.

For example, tomatoes packed in water take 40-50 minutes (depending upon the size of the jars) in a boiling water bath canner and only 10 minutes in a pressure canner. Tomatoes with no added liquid take a whopping 85 minutes in a boiling water bath canner and 25 minutes in a pressure canner. With crushed tomatoes, there is a huge time difference as well—35 to 45 minutes versus 15 minutes.

However, there is more than just processing time to consider. Using a pressure canner involves 10 minutes of venting, several minutes to build pressure, and more time to depressurize after processing. When you add it up, the actual time differences are less dramatic.

So why use a pressure canner for tomatoes? Many people say it is about the quality of the finished food. Pressure canned tomatoes often have brighter colors and flavors, retaining more of that tart zing that only a fresh backyard tomato can pack.

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Either way, there are some basics to go by. Following is a synopsis, although complete step-by-step directions can be found either in Ball’s Blue Book Guide to Preserving, which can be purchased for under $10 at most stores, or accessed free online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Canning Tomatoes: Here’s What Grandma May Not Have Told You

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Prepare your supplies. Wash and rinse jars and lids, and keep warm. Assemble equipment:  canner, jar lifter, funnel and headspace tool.

  1. Peel tomatoes by dipping in scalding water until skin loosens, plunge in ice water to make them cool enough to handle, and pull skins off. Trim ends. Cut or crush as needed for recipe.
  2. Prepare your canner and heat the water to simmering.
  3. Add lemon juice or citric acid to each jar.
  4. Pack tomatoes according to recipe: crushed, whole or halved packed in water or tomato juice, or whole or halved with no liquid added. Add salt if desired.
  5. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and adjust lids to finger tight.
  6. Process in either boiling water bath canner or pressure canner, following times and procedures for the one you are using.

Processing times cannot safely be mixed and matched. It will not work to use pressure canning times in a boiling water bath canner, or to go with times given for whole tomatoes with added liquid for crushed tomatoes. If using the boiling water bath method for whole tomatoes, follow that recipe to the letter.

I have canned many tomatoes and have used very nearly all of the permutations—with liquid and without, whole and crushed, boiling water bath or pressure canner processed. I admit that I do not have a single go-to way of doing it. An hour and 25 minutes is a long process time, but once it’s boiling, I can set it and forget it. Pressure-canned tomatoes do seem a little tastier, but it is more of a multi-step process than a boiling water bath. Crushed tomatoes are easier to pack into jars, but require more prep work and yield a product that I tend to use less in recipes. Most years, I do a variety.

Even though it seems a little more complicated at the outset, tomatoes are the perfect food for canning and are just right for those who prefer a wide variety of methods. And as long as you use an approved recipe, there is no wrong way to can garden-fresh tomatoes.

What canning advice would you add? Share your tips and secrets in the section below:

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13 Do’s & Do Not’s of Growing Tomatoes

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13 Do’s & Do Not’s of Growing Tomatoes Tomatoes are wonderful to grow, eat and can. They can be stored for years when canned and provide us with great flavors and nutrients. I personally have not grown any tomatoes for a few years, that is my own fault because I have had a few problems …

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Ways To Tie Up Tomato Plants

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Tomato plants need structural support. Is there a best way to tie up (hold up) tomato plants? It may seem like no matter what you do the weight of the tomatoes hanging from randomly sprawling branches will eventually lean or tip over your tomato cage. So the search is on for the best way (or […]