4 Tomato Planting Mistakes – How To Grow Great Tomatoes!

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By simply avoiding a few common tomato planting mistakes, you can be well on your way to growing and harvesting your best tomato crop ever this year! Tomatoes are one of the most beloved crops of the home vegetable gardener.

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Companion Planting Favorites (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

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What Are Your Favorite Combinations for Companion Planting?

Recently on the site, we’ve been talking about Three Sisters Gardens. Of course, this classic symbiosis is a great example of companion planting …

… which got us wondering …

… what do you do in YOUR garden?

You let us know in your replies to TGN’s March Question of the Month.

Answers encompassed a range of uses for companion planting—from keeping pests away to extending the season by providing shade.

Here’s how your fellow TGN Community members put companion planting to work for them:

  • Frances Graham has found that interplanting herb barbara (Barbarea vulgaris) with brassicas helps keep whiteflies under control.
  • Scott Sexton uses a number of planting combinations to his advantage: “I like strawberries with blueberries. I also like comfrey with my fruit trees. It helps shade out the grass. I’m planning on trying a muscadine cultivar growing up my fruit trees. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will work. They’d be growing up trees in nature. I’ve had some unintentional overlap between my passion flowers and sunchokes. The passion vines climb up the sunchoke stalks, and they both die back in the winter. So far, they both seem to be okay with the situation.”
  • Tasha Greer uses a clever trick to provide a microclimate for her arugula in warm weather: “Since I am a total arugula addict and really want to eat it year-round, I discovered a trick for germinating arugula outdoors, even in mid-summer. I interplant my arugula with buckwheat. The buckwheat comes up quickly, providing some shade and a bit of a microclimate for the arugula. I don’t know if this will work in extreme heat, but it has worked for me in 80-90ºFtemperatures as long as I keep my buckwheat/arugula patch well-watered.

Read More: “Growing Arugula: The Rocket in Your Salad Bowl and Garden (With Recipe)”

  • Marjory Wildcraft offers this tip for keeping lettuce from bolting so quickly when the weather warms up: “Lightly shading lettuce plants can provide enough of a temperature drop to keep them from bolting, sometimes up to 3-5 weeks. Shade can be from a shade cloth or a row cover on a low tunnel, or by companion planting tall, wide-leafed plants such as some types of pumpkin.”

Read More: “Growing Lettuce From Seed”

  • Riesah likes growing strawberries and asparagus in the same bed, and Kathy does the same with tomatoes, peppers, and lettuces.
  • Carolyn says she gets better crops of both basil and tomatoes when she plants them together. “Although,” she says, “marigolds with about anything is good, too.”
  • Willow likes marigolds, too, and says she places them in her bed borders or rows about every 3 feet. “They work for the broadest spectrum of insects in all stages.” She also interplants mint and chives among her crops, and says she’s found that “plants that taste good together, grow well together.” For example, squash grows well with dill and garlic.
  • Sdmherblady interplants marigolds with bush beans, and also grows carrots and onions together. “I had read they are great companions,” she says. “They repel each other’s biggest insect pests.  I had my doubts, as they are both root crops and I thought they would compete for specific nutrients. But planting them in an alternating grid pattern worked fantastic. Both crops produced very well, made large healthy roots, and there were NO pests to be seen throughout the entire bed.”

What about you? What crops do you plant together, and why? Let us know in the comments!


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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!


The Perfect Way To Plant Tomatoes – 5 Simple Steps To Success!

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“What is the absolute best way to plant tomatoes?” That question was posed to us last week via email from one of our readers located in upstate New York. It is a question we actually receive quite often – and

The post The Perfect Way To Plant Tomatoes – 5 Simple Steps To Success! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Food Supplies. Tomatoes, Picking & Preserving.

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We have started harvesting our tomato crop & preserving them. We may dry some like last year, but for now we are bottling them.
We always put stakes in for our tomato plants, but sometimes they get away from us! One day they don’t seem large enough to tie, & the next time we check they have gone beyond tying! I am never game to try tying them once they have got to a certain size, because invariably the stems break.
Then there are the volunteers from last years crop, we could pull them out, but we never do. We can always use more tomatoes. These volunteers grow madly all over the garden & the paths until the paths are impassable! Stakes do make the picking easier, but I find it no great hardship to pick from the sprawling plants on the ground.
12 jars so far, this is the product of 4 baskets as at the top of this page, & we still have a lot to pick, & the crop is still ripening.

4 Must-Try Heirloom Tomato Plants To Rock Your Garden This Year!

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It’s time to liven up your vegetable garden this year by growing some amazing heirloom tomato plants! Tired of harvesting the same old basic tomato varieties year after year? Then break the mold and grow a few incredibly unique, productive,

The post 4 Must-Try Heirloom Tomato Plants To Rock Your Garden This Year! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Underground Greenhouse Produces Tomatoes Year-round (VIDEO)

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An underground greenhouse makes a lot of sense in the arid climate of New Mexico. I came across a super-effective and simple Walipini-inspired greenhouse that was homemade by Mark Irwin.

Check out this video where Mark shows you what he has been doing and how he is making a small side income by selling tomatoes to the Albuquerque market year-round.

I am a big proponent of lots of little side-income businesses. Diversity ensures there is always something coming in.

Note that I’ve put the reference Mark mentions down below the video.

Enjoy—and comment! We love to hear from you.

Here is the link to download the excellently written PDF on “Constructing A Walipini Pit Underground Greenhouse”


Access our growing selection of downloadable eBooks…

…. On topics that include growing your own food, herbal medicine, homesteading, raising livestock, and more!

Sign up for your FREE pass!


(This post was originally published on August 4, 2017.)



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How To Grow Healthy, Strong, And Disease Free Tomato Plants This Year!

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When it comes to growing disease free tomato plants, a little bit of planning can go a long way! There is nothing more depressing than watching healthy, strong tomato plants turn into lifeless brown stems and foliage, with withering fruit.

The post How To Grow Healthy, Strong, And Disease Free Tomato Plants This Year! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Fertilizing Container Gardens: A Beginner’s Guide

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When you’re new to growing vegetables and herbs in pots, figuring out the how, when, and what of fertilizing container gardens can feel overwhelming. This article is the second in a three-part series that offers a beginner-friendly guide to feeding your potted edibles.

In part 1 of the series, I talk about fertilizing basics, including the special challenges plants face when growing in containers and why feeding them is essential to their health.

This article, part 2 of the series, provides my four-part recommendation for fertilizing and offers three sample schedules you can follow depending on the plants you’re growing and your gardening goals.

Part 3 of the series is designed to give you in-depth information about the four types of fertilizers and supplements: liquid fertilizers, liquid supplements, granular fertilizers, and granular supplements.

A 4-Part Recommendation for Fertilizing Container-Grown Vegetables and Herbs

All of the following recommendations can easily be classified into one of four main categories:

  1. Liquid fertilization
  2. Liquid supplements
  3. Granular fertilization
  4. Granular supplements

For a basic beginner’s approach, you can get by doing only the first one, liquid fertilization. I think this is the bare minimum if you want to grow healthy food in a pot.

If you’re overwhelmed by this information, or if you’re just too busy to fuss with it, simply pick up a bottle of liquid organic fertilizer and start there.

That alone will probably take care of most of your problems, and greatly improve the quantity and quality of the food you grow.

An ideal fertilization regimen for container plants would include all four of these categories. If you have a special baby in a container, do all four. Your plant will thank you for it.

I do all four of these for some edibles that I grow in pots—especially fruit-intensive plants like tomatoes.

There are a few key exceptions that I’ll talk about below.

As you learn more, you’ll figure out which bits and pieces are most important for different plants, for different problems, and for different uses.

  • When I first noticed the visual difference in my aloe plants after they got a handful of mineral sand, something clicked, and I haven’t planted aloes without trace minerals since.
  • When I saw how much resin accumulated on a calendula plant that grew in a tomato pot with regular high-potassium fertilizer, something clicked, and now I always use high-potassium fertilizer on calendula.
  • When I first saw the visual difference in my strawberries after they were treated with liquid seaweed, something clicked again. I don’t grow strawberries anymore, but if I see someone else’s strawberries suffering, I know that a little liquid seaweed will probably fix them right up.

This is the learning curve, and with each new experiment, you’ll add another piece to the puzzle.

Schedules for Container Plant Fertilization

As I said above, I think the best basic, beginner’s plan for fertilizing container plants is to use a simple, well-balanced, organic liquid fertilizer. There is more information on specific fertilizers below.

The Basic Schedule

Regarding the schedule for using fertilizers, I generally would recommend one application every two weeks.

So, a basic schedule would look like this:

  • Week 1: Liquid fertilizer
  • Week 2: Skip
  • Week 3: Liquid fertilizer
  • Week 4: Skip
  • Repeat indefinitely

An Intermediate Schedule for Certain Situations

If I notice that the soil smells off in a certain pot, I will often apply aerobic compost tea to restore healthy microbial life to the container. I apply this on the off weeks when I am not giving liquid fertilizer.

If I am growing a crop that specifically appreciates some liquid seaweed, like strawberries, or leafy spring greens that have survived into the heat of summer, I will also apply the seaweed on the off weeks.

So, an intermediate schedule might look like this:

  • Week 1: Liquid fertilizer
  • Week 2: Liquid supplement
  • Week 3: Liquid fertilizer
  • Week 4: Liquid supplement
  • Repeat indefinitely

An Advanced Schedule for Special Plants

If I am growing tomatoes in a pot, I go all out. I use all four categories, and I give the plants everything in my arsenal to ensure a healthy life and a good yield.

An advanced schedule for special plants would look something like this:

  • At planting: Granular fertilizer and granular supplements
  • Week 1 after planting: Skip
  • Week 2 after planting: Liquid supplements
  • Week 3 after planting: Liquid fertilizer
  • Continue to alternate a week of liquid supplements and a week of liquid fertilizer until fruit set, then:
  • At fruit set: Granular fertilizer and granular supplements
  • Week 1 after fruit set: Skip
  • Week 2 after fruit set: Liquid supplements
  • Week 3 after fruit set: Liquid fertilizer and liquid supplements
  • Continue applying liquid fertilizer and liquid supplements each week until the end of the growing season.

Any time I’m applying a lot of fertilizer and supplements, as in the example above, I cut back on the dilution strength of the liquids and the volume of the granular. The general idea is to give less, more often.

A Few Key Exceptions

I distinguish between leafy annuals and woody perennials in my fertilization schedules.

Some woody perennial plants don’t appreciate the extra nutrients, and you can cause more harm than good by overdoing it with regular fertilization.

Woody herbs like rosemary and lavender are especially sensitive to this. I fertilize rosemary about half as often as I fertilize other plants, and I fertilize lavender rarely if ever.

Blueberries benefit from special treatment in a container. They love seaweed, iron, and acidity. Watering with vinegar is beneficial here. Give your potted blueberries some extra love and they will pay you back with plenty of tasty berries.

When I’m growing tomatoes in a pot, as I said above, I go all out. I use everything in my arsenal to get the plant as productive as possible. I normally don’t worry about burning plants with too much fertilizer, because I only use mild organic fertilizers and I dilute them well. In this case, however, I always keep a close eye on the leaf margins to make sure that I am not overdoing it with the tomatoes.


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(This is an updated version of a post that was originally published in October 2015.)

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Reusing Food Waste: The Perks, Tips, and Tricks

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You’ve been eating healthfully and sustainably as an apartment homesteader, and it’s been kind to your budget. But when most of the waste you produce is in the form of food scraps, you need to be reusing food waste rather than disposing of those food bits.

The first way that comes to mind for most people is to turn food waste into compost for your garden. Small-space composting can be an easy and cost-effective way to use your food waste.

But beyond composting, did you know you can both regrow plants from your scraps (buy once, grow forever) and eat those scraps in crafty recipes?

Check out my favorite tips and recipes below—along with a list of even more clever ways to put your food waste to good use.

Composting in Your Apartment

Everyone can compost, even in the small space of the apartment homestead.

You can use a five-gallon bucket with a lid—easily attained at any hardware store—or a regular plastic garbage bin with a lid.

Don’t let the “lack of space” excuse keep you from composting your food waste to help feed your future garden. There are cheap and easy compost containers that will fit under your kitchen sink or in a closet, or that you can make decorative to help inspire other apartment homesteaders to start their own sustainability journey.

If you’re worried about the usual culprits (bugs, using it quickly enough, and the obvious lack of space) that make composting in your apartment homestead difficult, check out this blog on The Grow Network: 5 Cheap and Easy Solutions For Small-Space Composting.

Regrow From Scraps

If composting isn’t your thing just yet, why not start a whole garden of vegetables and fruit from your organic produce scraps?

From herbs and onions to leafy greens and lemon trees, you can regrow the produce you eat regularly with results that are both amazing for your homesteading prowess and kind to your homestead budget.


One of my favorite herbs to regrow is basil. I love fresh basil. I add it to Italian dishes or infuse water with it and fresh lemon slices.

You can regrow basil by simply stripping the leaves, leaving only a small stem. Place the basil in a jar of water with the stem submerged, and set it in a sunny but cool area in your apartment homestead. Change the water every other day and plant in a four-inch pot when the stems grow to approximately two inches in length.


Another easy plant to regrow is peppers. Simply save the seeds from a pepper you love and replant in a pot. Place the pot in a sunny area, and you’ll enjoy peppers (and hopefully fresh salsa!) again and again.


You can also save your tomato seeds. Rinse them and allow to dry, then plant them in a soil-filled pot. If you have a garden box, transfer your tomato plants there once the sprouts are a few inches tall. Otherwise, keep them potted and enjoy fresh tomatoes from your patio garden.

Here are some other things you can regrow from food scraps in your apartment homestead:

  • Avocado
  • Bok Choy
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot Greens
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic Sprouts
  • Ginger
  • Green Onions
  • Leeks
  • Scallions
  • Lemongrass
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Fennel

Reusing Food Waste in the Kitchen: Recipes Using ‘Throwaway’ Scraps

There are so many ways to eat the kitchen scraps you would normally throw away! Just rethink “scraps” into more food! Check out these recipes for a few ideas.


Use your celery tops, onion skins, carrot peels, and other veggies to make vegetable broth. Add all vegetables to a large pot, add enough water to completely cover everything, bring to a boil, and let simmer for six to eight hours. Strain and store broth in the fridge.

Almond Flour

Do you make your own almond milk? Grind up the leftover almonds and toast/dry in your oven to make almond flour. Use almond flour to make grain-free muffins, breads, or other baked goods.

One of my favorite recipes using almond flour is Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls—they’re also gluten free (which means you can kick the nasty pesticide-heavy wheat out of your diet and still enjoy your sweets):

Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

2 cups almond flour
4 Tbsp. ground flax seed
1/2 Tbsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. sea salt
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp. honey (in dough); 1/4 cup honey (in filling)
1 tsp. cinnamon (in dough); 2 Tbsp. cinnamon (in filling)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix together almond flour, ground flax seed, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix in eggs and coconut milk. Then, mix in applesauce, 1 Tbsp. honey, and 1 tsp. cinnamon.

Form dough into a ball, cover, and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Lay a piece of wax paper down on the counter and grease with olive oil. Place the dough onto the wax paper, and roll out the dough into a thin circle.

Drizzle honey over the dough and shake the rest of the cinnamon over the top.

Cut dough into 2-inch strips. Using your knife (the dough will be sticky), roll each strip up and place in a baking pan.

Bake for around 25 minutes or until rolls are golden brown.

Potato Skins

You can turn potato skins you’d normally throw away into a salty snack you’ll crave.

Potato Skin Chips

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Toss leftover potato peels with olive oil and the seasonings you like.

Place on a baking sheet and roast for 15–20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Sprinkle with cheese and scallions or green onions.

Apple Peels

If you make your own apple sauce, you probably have apple peels for days. The following recipe offers a perfect way to use them up:

Apple Honey Tea

The peels from 6 apples
3–4 cups water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Place apple peels in a sauce pan, cover with water, and add lemon juice and cinnamon. Boil for 10–15 minutes. When the liquid has become apple-colored, strain out the apple peels, add honey, and serve.

Kale Stems

Kale stems can be too tough to eat raw.

Dry the stems and grind them into Super Green Kale Powder to add to shakes or salads.

Get Clever With Your Food Scraps

Not into the food scrap recipes? Here are a bunch of other ways to use your food scraps. Get creative!

  • Infuse liquor with citrus peels for a yummy adult beverage.
  • Sharpen the blades of your garbage disposal by running eggshells through it.
  • Add crushed eggshells to your garden soil to give it a calcium boost.
  • Run citrus peels through the garbage disposal to get rid of nasty odors.
  • Use carrot peels to make carrot oil—an awesome addition to your natural, chemical-free beauty routine.
  • Add citrus peels to white vinegar to use in cleaning. Infuse the vinegar with the citrus peels by letting them sit together for two weeks before straining the peels and transferring the citrusy vinegar to a spray bottle.
  • Make citrus air fresheners.
  • Use banana peels to shine your shoes.
  • Use spent coffee grounds in your garden as pest repellent, fertilizer, or an ingredient in compost.
  • You can also use your coffee grounds to help absorb food odors in the fridge. Put old grounds in a container and place it in the fridge to get rid of musty food smells.
  • Coffee grounds can even be used to exfoliate and rejuvenate your skin!

Whichever ways you choose to use rather than toss your food “waste,” remember that the choice to go that extra step is a leaping bound on your journey toward personal sustainability in your apartment homestead.

(And when you’re ready to take another step and really say “goodbye” to unsustainable living, you’ll want to check out the next post in the Apartment Homesteader series, on growing your own medicine—or being your own Apartment Apothecary! Stay tuned!)




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Gardens For Two People-Yes You Can Do It

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Do you love seeing gardens full of vegetables? There is something so rewarding when we plant a garden and we slice that first tomato that was just picked. Cherry tomatoes are like candy to me, but I learned very quickly that I can only plant one cherry tomato plant. They are so sweet and so easy to grow. Here’s the deal, I know it sounds wonderful to have a huge plot of land and harvest enough for your family for a year.

Well, there are a few of us that are now down to one or two in the family. The kids have grown and moved on to start their own story with their family. They will teach their children how important gardens are. But, Mark and I still want a fresh supply of vegetables. We have less than 1/4 acre and yet we can grow enough food to feed 6-8 people for a year.

I remember when we were raising our daughters, our neighbors always teased us because we had the biggest garden in the neighborhood. I really never thought about size, I thought about how much food I could produce. The largest piece of land Mark and I have owned was a 1/2 acre. We had the best garden ever there. But, I also had several hands to help plant, weed and cultivate all the plants we needed.

We also had six people to harvest, snap green beans, peel pears, peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, make applesauce, salsa, spaghetti sauce and so much more. Now, It’s down to Mark and me to produce food in our raised gardens.

I live in in the desert in Southern Utah and the soil is hard rock clay. A few people here have brought in loamy soil and used a tiller to incorporate some amenities into the ground. We have owned several garden tillers over the years, but we no longer want a tiller.

I decided to build four foot by four foot and 18 inches high raised gardens. They are made by a company called Suncast. I have seen better ones but these work great for us now. I no longer want to bend over and kneel on my knees. You have to realize you do have to bring in soil and nutrients to fill those babies, but they are awesome.

The picture at the top will be my next purchase, with the brackets and the wood planks. I have seen them 24-36 inches tall, those would be my dream. The company sells different size brackets depending on how tall you want your garden, just dreaming here. But for now, I have these plastic Suncast ones.


If you plant tomatoes get really good tomato cages. These are the only ones I use and they are like 15 years old. I bought them from a garden nursery in South Jordan, Utah called Glover Nurseries. Yes, I have purchased many of them, I’m so afraid they will quit selling them. I can’t find them anywhere else. They are rock solid. My favorite tomato plants are Early Girl and Better Boy or Big Boy. Life is good when you can grow your own food. I love to plant spinach, radishes, lettuce, and cucumbers. I have my strawberry patch in one box that just keeps on producing. I do cut them way back in the spring.

I do the same thing with all my tomatoes and squash plants I cut them back and they bounce back and produce more for me to harvest.


Well, I tried growing tomatoes in large pots, that didn’t work. But I can grow lots of potatoes year-round in those pots. The great thing about potatoes if you buy the right ones as in Organic you will never have to buy potato seeds again. In other words, you will always have potatoes, I mean forever. And if you buy the right ones they will have zero pesticides on them. If you think about it, potatoes fill the belly. Yay! I love it!

All you do is dig a hole about 5-6 inches deep, cut a piece of the potato with a “sprouted eye” looking up and cover it with soil. These potato plants below are actually sprouting from potatoes I missed when I harvested a month ago. I love it. My favorite potatoes are Organic Gold Yukon potatoes.


My favorite items to start your gardens:

If you have rich loamy dark soil like I had up in Salt Lake City, Utah, all you need is Miracle Grow Root Starter mixed with water, put some of the liquid in the holes you dig  and then place the plants in the holes, water it in and mound the soil around each plant and watch them grow. Easy peasy.

More Things For Your Garden by Linda

Miracle Grow Garden Soil, you can get bags of this at your local hardware or big box stores.
Azomite Micronized Bag, 44 lb
FibreDust Coco Coir Block
Unco Industries Wiggle Worm Soil Builder Earthworm Castings Organic Fertilizer, 15-Pound
Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Bone Meal, 3 lb.
Espoma VM8 8-Quart Organic Vermiculite

I received an email from Ann over at A Green Hand (.com) she is teaching the world how to garden. She has an awesome blog, you’ll want to read, I promise. She asked me to contribute to an article “50+ Ideas To Build A Garden” in which experts in gardening were asked to give a little advice to help people to get started gardening. A Green Hand 50+ Ideas To Build A Garden I was honored to be asked to contribute.

Please teach your family to be self-reliant and grow a garden. May God bless this world.

The post Gardens For Two People-Yes You Can Do It appeared first on Food Storage Moms.

12 Common Canning Mistakes That Even Experts Make

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12 Common Canning Mistakes That Even Experts Make

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It’s the time of year when gardeners and homesteaders are scrambling to preserve our harvest in order to enjoy the literal fruits of our labors as close to year-round as possible. For a lot of us, that means canning. Most of us know our way around the kitchen when it comes to putting up food, but there are some mistakes that beginners—and sometimes even experienced canners—make.

1. Using untested recipes. Trying new methods from unreliable sources might be fine for some things, but not for canning. If it hasn’t come from a rock-solid source that has tested the recipe for safety, it’s not worth the risk.

2. Doubling batches of pectin-added jam. It says on the package not to do it, but newbies often try it anyway. It just seems so counter-intuitive—I mean, if you double everything exactly, why wouldn’t it work? Trust me. It doesn’t. Your jam will look pretty and taste delicious, but there is a very high likelihood that it won’t set. You can still use it to pour over ice cream, but it won’t be jam.

3. Reducing or replacing sugar in jam with regular pectin. This is another one that seems like it should work, but it doesn’t. The jam recipes on regular pectin packages call for a LOT of sugar, which is understandably off-putting. But if you want to use less sugar or a sugar substitute, buy the special pectin for low sugar for successful jamming.

4. Canning low-quality product. Always remember that canning food will in no way improve its flavor and texture. If it is picked too long ago, overripe, or substandard in any other way, it’s not a good candidate for canning. Can the best and eat the rest.

Discover More Than 1,100 Secrets That Every Homesteader Should Know!

I should note that this is advice intended for a scenario of plenty. If hardship or disaster prevents you from having enough high-quality food to can, it may be necessary to can what you have available, whether it is the most desirable or not.

5. Tightening jar rings after processing and leaving them in place during storage. The function of jar rings is to keep the lids on during processing, and nothing more. After processing and cooling, the rings should be loose. Retightening them could compromise your seal, and storing the jars with the rings on will cause the rings to rust and will provide a space for food particles to grow mold and bacteria under the ring. Remove the rings and wash them for use on your next batch, and rinse off the outside of the jar before storing.

12 Common Canning Mistakes That Even Experts Make

Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Fudging the processing time. When canning, precision is key. Use a timer and don’t cut corners when it comes to processing time. And be careful to use the time for the size jar you are using—many recipes give different times for quarts and pints. A note of caution: If you’re using those new 24-ounce canning jars, you won’t find any canning times for them. Don’t try splitting the difference, because unless you’ve tested the process in a food laboratory, you can’t know exactly how long it takes to get adequate heat to the center of that 24-ounce jar. If your recipe gives different times for pints and quarts and you’re using pint-and-a-halfs, use the time for the quarts.

7. Using alternative processing methods. We’ve all seen them—cute tricks for canning in your microwave or dishwasher or oven. And we’ve heard stories about how back in the day they used wax for jam or just inverted the jars on the counter and allowed them to heat-seal. Sure, people did it and lived through it, but why take the risk? None of these methods meet current safety recommendations, and some have made people sick.

8. Not taking headspace seriously. That space between the top of the product and the top of the jar is a key component to canning success. Too little space can cause product to squirt out during processing and get stuck on the rim, which could prevent the lid from sealing. Too much space can also prevent a tight seal, because larger headspaces take longer processing times to push out all the air and create the necessary vacuum. All good recipes give a head space measurement, and they are worth heeding.

9. Getting the temperatures wrong. Use hot jars, and place them into simmering water in the canner. Placing cold jars into hot water can cause breakage. And starting with cool water in the canner can take extra time to bring it up to boil, resulting in overcooked end results.

10. Not using the correct amount of water in the canner. It’s important that your water level is right. Too little water can expose the lids during a vigorous boil, and they may not can properly, and too much will take a long time to reach boiling. For a boiling-water-bath canner, you need at least 1 inch over top of the jars, but no more than 2 inches. It can be hard to judge ahead of time, so keep a kettle full of simmering water on standby when you load the canner, and add more if you need it. Have a long-handled scoop handy for bailing out excess water, too. Pressure canners are easier in this instance—follow the manufacturer’s directions, which will tell you either to use the fill line on the canner itself or to measure a certain depth of water.

11. Removing jars immediately after processing. It’s recommended to leave the jars in the water for a bit. In a boiling-water-bath canner, turn off the heat and remove the lid and let the jars set for five minutes before removing. In a pressure canner, allow it to completely depressurize, remove the weight or open the petcock, and let the jars set for 10 minutes before lifting the lid and removing the jars. This is not crucial, but it contributes to a better sealing rate. Then, let your jars set untouched for 12-24 hours. As much as you want to pick them up to show them off, or to put them away to make room for the next batch, or even to just press down on the lid to see if it sealed, try to leave them alone. This will improve your odds of a good solid seal for the best possible end result.

12. Pouring water off the lid. Oh, I know. This one is so hard to resist! It is super tempting to tilt the jar to pour off the excess water on the top, but don’t do it. Doing so can disrupt the seal you worked so hard to achieve. Remove the jars from the canner, set them on a towel or rack, and let the water evaporate naturally.

If you don’t get every single one of these items right every time, do not worry. Most of us don’t achieve perfection. I would encourage you to focus on product safety first, and continue to work on other possible mistakes which may affect the quality and success of your canning endeavors. And when you enjoy a jar of home-canned chutney or jam next winter, you’ll be glad you went to the trouble of doing your best.

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

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:

Drowning In Tomatoes? Try Something Different This Year.

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Drowning In Tomatoes? Try Something Different This Year.

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If you’re a home gardener about to drown in tomatoes rolling in off the vines and demanding to be consumed before they go bad, hang on. Here comes a life preserver!

Everyone knows the delectable bliss of cutting up a perfectly ripe red tomato and enjoying the slices simply seasoned with salt and pepper on a plate next to a steak or macaroni salad or grilled cheese or chicken cutlet or just about anything. And we all know the decadent joy of picking sweet little orange cherry tomatoes off the vine and popping them into our mouths like candy.

But what about when it’s time for something different? Here are a few ideas to get your tomato creativity flowing and help you embrace the garden’s bounty.

First, consider them on sandwiches. Not just as an add-on to standard meat and cheese or tucked into a tuna- or egg-salad creation—although they are definitely delicious that way—but on their own, as well. Half-inch thick slices of fresh ripe tomato between two slices of bread with mayonnaise and a few dashes of seasoning tastes like a bite of delicious summer. Add a few slices of cucumber for added cool crunch, or mix it up with some ultra-thin slices of summer squash, onion or peppers. The dressing doesn’t have to be mayonnaise, either. You can experiment with ranch dressing, hot mustard, relish or other condiments to suit your own taste.

Tomatoes are tasty on hot sandwiches, too. Burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches are perfect places for tomato slices, as are hot meat-and-cheese on bun types that go by the name of heroes or hoagies in different parts of the country.

One of my favorites ways to eat tomatoes on hot bread is to grill Italian or French bread slices, spread it with pesto, add chopped tomatoes, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Yum.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Tomatoes make great salads, too. You probably already include them in tossed salads, from basic everyday side dishes to more elaborate or ethnic concoctions that use everything from feta cheese to walnuts to Asian noodles to corn chips. But tomatoes can be the main ingredient instead of an add-in in salads. Chopped slicing tomatoes or halved cherry or grape types can be dressed up with Italian-style or ranch dressing, fresh or dried herbs such as basil or chives or parsley, chunks or crumbles of any kind of cheese, chopped cucumbers or other fresh vegetables, or bits of bacon or prosciutto.

Tomatoes go wonderfully with pasta. Toss chunks of pasta in with cooked short pasta—I prefer corkscrew types—and your choice of seasonings, dressing, meats, cheeses and other vegetables.

Make a Sauce. Or Eat Them Like an Apple.

Drowning In Tomatoes? Try Something Different This Year.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Another fun way to enjoy tomatoes and pasta is as a fresh red sauce. I learned this dish from a campsite caretaker many years ago and wrote it down in my little camping journal, and the dish has long outlasted my hiking days. I chop up a small bowlful of fresh very ripe tomatoes, add chopped red onion or scallions, minced garlic, chopped fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil.  I sometimes add Kalamata olives. I make this dish in the morning and let it set on the kitchen table all day. By evening meal time, the flavors have melded nicely, and I serve it over hot cooked spaghetti noodles and top it with fresh grated parmesan for an easy meal on a hot summer day.

Tomatoes, either slices or cherry halves, are elegant and delicious mixed with fresh mozzarella cheese—either small balls or slices—and drizzled with olive oil and herbs. Full-sized tomatoes are delightful stuffed with cottage cheese and herbs and served cold, or stuffed with bread stuffing and baked or broiled and topped with cheese.

Don’t forget pizza. You can substitute slices of fresh tomatoes for the red sauce, or you can substitute pesto for the red sauce and add tomato slices on top of the cheese.

Cherry tomatoes can be sautéed or broiled. You can add bread crumbs, soft cheese, olive oil, butter, herbs or black olives to complement the lovely tomato flavor.

Tomatoes work well in scrambled eggs, baked eggs, frittatas and omelets. They can be cooked slightly to soften them before adding to egg recipes or added raw in some dishes. Tomatoes are a staple for many soups and casseroles, as well, providing an excellent way to use up yesterday’s fresh broiled or sautéed tomatoes to make room for more fresh ones coming ready in the garden today.

If somehow not one single tomato-eating idea on this list appeals to you, you can always try it my brother’s way. He has been known to pick a ripe tomato off the vine, rub the dust off on his shirt, and eat it like an apple.

A lot of foods from around the world pair nicely with tomatoes, so there is no reason to succumb to a flood of garden tomatoes in August. Try some of these ideas—along with your own recipes and your variations on the ones I’ve suggested—and you’ll be glad once again that you planted so many tomatoes.

Do you have any unique tomato-eating ideas? Share them 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.

Image source: Pixabay.com

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:


What To Do When Your Tomato Leaves Turn Yellow (And The Plant Starts Dying)

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What To Do When Your Tomato Leaves Turn Yellow

Image source: Flickr / Scot Nelson / Creative Commons

A quick look at the leaves on your tomato plants will tell you if your plants need a little extra TLC. Curled leaves, brown spots, holes and purple discoloration are all signs that something is going on with your plants. Yellowing leaves may also be a cause for concern. Sometimes, it’s not a big deal — the leaves are just older ones that the plant is no longer supporting. But sometimes, yellow leaves are a sign that your plant needs help to stay healthy and keep producing. The tricky part is figuring out what exactly is going on.

Old Leaves

If the leaves on the bottom of your plants are turning uniformly yellow, it’s often just because they are old and/or not getting enough sun. As the plant bushes up and out, it directs its energy and nutrients to the new growth. As a result, older leaves don’t get the nutrients they need to stay green.

Yellowing leaves at the bottom of a tomato plant also can mean they aren’t getting enough sun. A simple fix is to prune out some of the suckers and non-fruit-bearing branches. Not only will sunlight be able to filter through the foliage better, but pruning has several other benefits including better airflow (which reduces the chance of pest and disease infestation) and bigger, more plentiful fruit (since the plant has fewer leaves to use up its energy and nutrients).

Too Much or Too Little Water

Tomato plants are picky about a lot of things, and the amount of water they receive is one of them. Watering either too much or too little can cause all kinds of problems, including yellowing leaves.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

It’s difficult to provide “one size fits all” watering advice. A number of factors impact how much water tomatoes need, including average daily temperature, soil type, amount and type of mulch, the size and age of the plant, and whether the plant is in a container or in the ground. In general, however, the soil always should feel damp 1-2 inches beneath the surface. 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, and that could be the cause of the yellow leaves.

If the soil feels muddy and oversaturated, and the soil is normally in that condition, then the yellowing could be a sign of overwatering and, more seriously, root rot. The only way to determine if the roots are actually rotting is to uproot the plant and wash the roots so that you can see if there is any decay. If there is, trim the decayed parts off and replant the bush. Amend your soil with compost and apply mulch to improve drainage and avoid further rot.

Nutrient Deficiency

Tomatoes grow quickly and produce heavily. They need a lot of nutrients and energy to get the job done. If your soil is lacking nutrients, your tomato plants (and harvest!) will be affected. Yellowing leaves are often a sign of nutrient deficiency. Take a close look at the leaves to figure out which nutrients may be lacking.

  • Uniformly yellowing leaves throughout the plant (and not just at the base) often indicate a nitrogen deficiency.
  • If there are leaves at the bottom of the plant that are yellow but retain green veins, that may illustrate a potassium deficiency.
  • Younger leaves at the top of the plant that are yellowing while retaining green veins point to an iron deficiency.
  • If there are leaves throughout the plant that have yellow areas with dark spots inside the yellow, that may indicate a zinc deficiency.
  • If only the outer edges of leaves are yellowing, your soil likely needs more magnesium.

While you can definitely add a synthetic or natural fertilizer to adjust soil nutrients, you should also test the alkalinity of your soil. Tomatoes prefer slightly acidic soil, with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Too much fertilizer will impact the soil’s pH level and can lead to damaged plants.

Diseases and Pests

Yellowing leaves also can be due to disease or pest infestations, but in these cases the yellowing is usually just one sign of the plant’s distress. For example, an aphid infestation may cause yellow, misshapen, and sticky leaves. Septoria leaf spot and early blight both cause brown spots on yellowing leaves. Curly top virus causes leaves to curl up and become yellow with purple veins. If your tomato plants exhibit other problems in addition to yellowing leaves, it’s best to do some research or take a couple of leaves down to your municipality’s gardening experts to help identify the cause. In most cases, diseased plants should be destroyed so that the pathogens don’t spread. But, in case it’s just a simple case of needing a watering adjustment or extra nutrients in the soil, get a second opinion before you take drastic measures.

Whether it’s an easy fix (pruning off suckers) or a harder one (uprooting plants to trim off decayed roots), yellowing leaves are a tomato plant’s “SOS signal.” By addressing the cause, you’ll improve your plant’s health. A healthier plant means a bigger harvest. And who wouldn’t want more tomatoes?

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

The 4 Fastest (And Best) Ways To Ripen Green Tomatoes

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The 4 Fastest (And Best) Ways To Ripen Green Tomatoes

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Ah, the timing of nature. Each summer, I wait patiently for the delicious bounty from my tomato plants, and each autumn as temperatures start to tumble, I am left with many healthy green tomatoes on my vines.

If you experience the same problem – or if you have a ton of green tomatoes that have fallen to the ground – then you may be wondering the best ways to ripen them.

Here are the steps to follow.

First, for best results, cut the healthy green tomato off the vine with part of its stem still attached. If you have cherry tomatoes, snip the whole bunch off the vine. Only choose mature green tomatoes for indoor ripening. When in doubt, check for a shiny skin color. Small tomatoes that have a dull matte skin color will not ripen indoors.

Additionally, although tomatoes that are shiny green in color can ripen indoors, you will have the best luck with fruit that has started to show a bit of yellow or orange color.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Next, find a warm spot to place the fruit. Many people think tomatoes need direct sunlight, so they place them in the windowsill. However, tomatoes need warmth, not direct sunlight. In fact, too much direct sunlight through a window can make a tomato’s skin tough.

The 4 Fastest (And Best) Ways To Ripen Green Tomatoes

Image source: Pixabay.com

Finding a warm, dry spot is your best bet for the ripening process. Here are a few options to try, depending on how quickly you want your tomatoes to ripen:

1. Place your green tomatoes in a single layer in a loosely folded-over paper bag along with a banana or an apple. These fruits release a gas called “ethylene” that speeds the ripening process naturally. Check the tomatoes regularly for signs of molding or rotting.

2. Put your tomatoes with an inch or two of space between them in a single layer in a cardboard box that is lined with a layer of newspaper. Cover them with another layer of newspaper. Check them every 24 hours or so.

3. Concentrate the effects of ethylene by placing the tomatoes in a sealed plastic bag or a large glass jar along with a banana or an apple. Caution: This environment can encourage mold growth, so check the tomatoes often for mold formation.

4. Hang up the whole tomato plant – roots and all — upside down in a garage or basement where temperatures remain above 50 degree Fahrenheit. This method takes the longest, but many people say tomatoes ripened this way taste the best.

Tomatoes stored in temperatures 50 to 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) usually ripen in four weeks or even longer, and tomatoes stored in temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees can be ready to eat in just two weeks.

Sorting and storing by ripeness levels is a good idea, since it allows you to check on each batch more consistently. If you have an abundance of green tomatoes this fall, you might want to store some in different temperatures to stagger your late harvest.

Whatever method you choose, be careful not to crowd your ripening tomatoes. Adequate air circulation helps prevent mold formation. Separate out and discard any damaged fruit and safely dispose of any diseased fruit.

How do you ripen green tomatoes? Share your tips in the section below:

Tomatoes: The Overlooked Survival Food

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stock up on tomatoesOn my list of the Top 10 Foods for Stocking Up, I impulsively added tomatoes as #6.  During the past few days I’ve been keeping an eye on the foods we most often eat, and sure enough, tomatoes are a big part of our diet.  Sunday we dined on tacos and tostadas, both topped with salsa.  The next night we gorged on take-out pizza with a delicious tomato sauce flavored with red wine.  Ketchup is the life blood of my kids’ lunches, and some of my favorite soups are tomato based.  It’s no wonder that I stock up on tomatoes and tomato products.

Reasons to stock up on tomatoes

One reason I’m glad to include tomatoes as a major part of my food storage is that they contain healthy doses of Vitamins A and C and are wonderfully low in calories. Tomatoes are a natural diuretic, being 90% water themselves, and can help flush toxins out of your body.  On top of all that, they’ve been found to contain lycopene, an amazing element that combats cancer.

The peak season for growing your own tomatoes is in the glorious, hot days of summer, but they’re available at the market year round.  If you can get your hands on a large number of fresh tomatoes, here are some options for you, other than letting them rot in your vegetable drawer!

Oven Dried Tomatoes

What a delicous way to preserve your tomatoes, and this couldn’t be simpler.  Wash your tomatoes and slice them about 1/2″ thick.  Toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil and place them on a baking rack.  Bake at a very low temperature, 225 degrees, for at least 2-3 hours.  You’ll know they’re done when they feel like soft leather and are chewy.  For long-term storage, you can seal them in either canning jars using a jar sealer attachment and a Food Saver or in Food Saver bags. Since the dried tomatoes will still have a degree of moisture, I don’t recommend storing them for much longer than 3-6 months.

Dehydrated Tomatoes

Again, wash and slice tomatoes, but this time, layer them on dehydrator trays.  If you’re new to food dehydration, read this.  Tomatoes will need a good 6-12 hours of dehydrating time, and when they’re finished, they’ll be crispy. Far more moisture is removed using this method than oven drying, so these crackly tomato slices will have a much longer shelf life. Use the canning jar/jar sealer method with a Food Saver. That is my preferred method for storing dehydrated tomato slices.

Homemade Tomato Powder

The first time I heard of tomato powder, I thought, “Huh?”  It turns out that this is a great ingredient for adding tomato flavor and nutrients to soups, chiles, stews, salad dressings, and more, and it can be quickly rehydrated as tomato sauce. Add more powder for a thicker sauce.

Stored in the fridge, tomato powder will last indefinitely.  To make your own, seed your tomato slices before dehydration or not. I leave the skins on and the seeds in. Place the slices on dehydrator trays, making sure they don’t overlap and dry until very, very crispy. This will take several hours.

Once you have crispy tomato slices, break them into small pieces and turn them into powder using your food processer or blender.  I use my Magic Bullet and get great results.

The Paranoid Dad’s Not-So-Secret Salsa Recipe

We love this fresh flavored salsa.  You can add cilantro, if you like.  I love cilantro, but Parnoid Dad says it tastes like dirt.  Go figure.

In a saucepan over low heat, combine these ingredients until thoroughly heated:

3 T. oil

3 T. vinegar

3 t. salt

3 t. sugar or preferred sweetener, to taste

3 cloves garlic, pressed

Pour warmed liquid into a bowl and add 1 large can tomatoes (chopped or pureed), 1 chopped white onion, and chopped jalapenos to taste.  I also add a handful of chopped cilantro. Add a nice big bag of tortilla chips, and dinner is served!

Make-it-Yourself Ketchup

Yes, you can make delicious, homemade ketchup, seasoned just the way you like it!  I’ve found that some store brands are too sugary, and the sugar free brand is quite pricey. This is the recipe I included in my mini-book, Switch From Store-Bought to Homemade, available as a free download!

Lisa’s Homemade Ketchup

6 oz. tomato paste

1/4 c. honey*, or to taste (I also sometimes use sweeteners when I want to cut down on carbs and calories.)

1/2 c. white vinegar

1/4 c. water

3/4 t. salt

1/4 t. onion powder

1/4 t. garlic powder

Whisk all these ingredients together in a medium size saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 30 minutes and allow to cool before pouring it into a container. We use squeeze bottles but you could also recycle old ketchup bottles for this use.

Home canned tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the easiest foods to can, even for beginners. Other than learning how to make jelly and jam when I was a kid, canning tomatoes were the first food I ever officially canned. Since you use the simple water-bath method, there’s no need to calculate pressure or timing based on your elevation.

Here are simple instructions for canning your own tomatoes.

With all these options, it’s very, very easy to stock up on tomatoes in your food storage pantry. They’re versatile, delicious, and I’ll bet you and your family can’t go much longer than a week or two without eating something made from tomatoes!

stock up on tomatoes

Are you new to food storage? Check out these tutorials as well as my full-length family survival manual, Survival Mom!

For even more, here’s a page full of more links and videos!

Even more food storage resources!

This article updated on August 2, 2015.


8 Reasons to Support Local Farmers

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Think about all the items you put in your cart at the supermarket or mega-store. Do you feel you paid a fair price for that product? If you have questions about a particular item, would you know who you could speak to for answers? Where did those potatoes come from, how old is that carton of eggs, and who is being supported by your hard earned dollars? Probably not local farmers.

local farmers

Chances are, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get satisfactory answers to those questions when you buy food at any grocery store. However, when you buy from local farmers, it’s a completely different story.

The following are some reasons why you should support your local farmers whenever possible.

Prices from local farmers

With a big family that includes three teenage girls and two preteen boys, keeping everyone fed at my house is certainly a challenge. Just to make a taco dinner usually requires 4 pounds of ground beef to fill everyone’s belly. With the average price of $3.99/lb for ground chuck, that is $15.96 for just one element of one meal! Yikes! One homemade taco dinner could easily total over $35!

Obviously the grocery bill could quickly get out of hand if the average meal totaled that high every night. Fortunately for my family, we are able to purchase a half beef every spring for an average cost which costs far less than what can be found at the grocery store. Even better, this low cost not only applies to ground beef. We enjoy savings on all wonderful things beef, such as steaks, ribs and roasts. Honestly, without the benefits of buying from local farmers, my family would be eating a lot of Ramen noodles and five-dollar pizzas.

Buying local, though, isn’t always the cheapest way to go, since they are not factory farms that rely on artificial growth hormones and unnatural living conditions for the animals in order to maximize profits. Call local farmers directly, ask about their livestock, what they are fed, and their prices in order to determine what will best fit your family’s needs and budget.

If the price of a side of beef, for example, seems outrageous, be sure to figure how many meals will be made from the meat, and you may find, like I did, that it really is the best way to go, and the least expensive.

Get answers from local farmers

Of course, there are many other benefits of buying from local farmers other than just price. Buying local means I can talk to the farmers about the feed and medicines used for the market beef we purchase. Many facilities will take you back to see where the animal was raised. If I wish, I can speak to the actual human being who was in charge of raising the animal that feeds my family. Information about any chemicals that were sprayed on my vegetables is also available. Questions abut genetic modification can be asked and many farms offer recipe suggestions. Farmers love to discuss their products and they should. They invest hours, days and months to get their products perfect for purchase!

A good way to talk with several farmers at once is at a farmer’s market. At one I attended, I had the opportunity to chat with a local beef farmer and learned a great deal about how beef is categorized and the challenges he faces raising his cattle. He was a wealth of information that helped me decide what I wanted to buy.

Personal experience

In the summer, I can buy produce directly from roadside markets. Nothing makes me feel more like a domestic goddess than selecting fruits and vegetables so fresh you have to shake the dirt off.  How rewarding it is to rummage through the baskets and bins of product and selecting ears of fresh sweet corn or the perfect melon. I do not have to worry about another hurried patron with shopping cart road rage pressuring me along.


From these produce stands, I can see the fields of crops being handpicked and brought by the bushelful to the small, family-owned stands. Many times, these farms allow you to pick your own produce for an even cheaper rate. The family farmers are usually on site and although extremely busy, they’re usually willing to answer questions about the fruits of their labor. By purchasing from local farmers, you help keep tradition alive. Many farmers today are third or fourth generation or even greater! This is a great reason to support local farmers whenever possible because the small, family-owned farm is an endangered lifestyle and one I want to support when I can.

Create memories for your children

The two farms located on each side of the small town where I live have been there as long as I can remember. I have memories of going to the north farm with my grandma and picking up bushels of cabbages and tomatoes. She would buy one bushel of tomatoes just for the family to eat that afternoon and a couple others for canning and stewing. When I was younger, I remember sitting under the shade of the big pear tree in the front yard and grabbing tomatoes straight from the bushel. I was eating them like apples with my grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. Grandma would round up the entire family to go pick strawberries from the south side farm. The rest of the afternoon was spent eating them right out the little green quart containers.

It is important to take our children to local farms and let them see how the food gets to the table. With the convenience of supermarkets and online shopping, little ones today might not grasp the concept of farming that may be a common mindset to older generations. Ask a farmer to talk to them or even show them around. A farm can be an exciting place with tractors, bright and beautiful colors of the produce and all the hustle and bustle of the workers planting, sorting or harvesting.

Local economic support

It is a rewarding feeling knowing the money you spend in your community stays in your community. Fresh produce at prices often lower than what is found in grocery stores is certainly a perk of shopping local farms. Supporting these local farms is important for the livelihood of our community as well. Both of the farms in our town have been in operation for as long as I can remember and are an important pillar of our local economy. Each farm provides summer employment to many local teens and adults needing a seasonal job or supplemental income.

Be sure to shop, though, at peak season for the best prices for you, and help farmers get rid of their produce at just the time they likely have huge harvests to move.

There’s nothing like the taste

Food grown in its ideal season and picked at the perfect point of ripeness tastes much better than product mass-produced in a greenhouse in the off season. Of course this is a matter of opinion, but I am confident that the majority will agree.

The one item I can tell a vast difference in taste between prime season and off season is tomatoes. Nothing is better than fresh tomatoes off the vine. Image those warm, juicy and flavorful tomatoes sliced for that charbroiled cheeseburger, diced and mixed with fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil for that perfect bruschetta topping or cut in chunks for that garden fresh salad. Nothing beats tomatoes at their prime. Personally, I think tomatoes grown in the off season with manufactured growing processes generally result in a waxy, flavorless tomato-like substitute.


Buying produce from local farmers’ markets and roadside stands generally means you are getting an amazingly fresh product. Often times, produce is picked in the early morning and delivered straight to the stand for sale that same day. When produce is picked at the peak of freshness, the nutritional value is also at its peak. Each day that produce is off the vine, tree, plant, etc., the nutritional value, as well as taste, decreases.

Think about the produce in big markets and find out where it comes from. Grocery stores carry tomatoes from Mexico and bananas from Brazil. Much of our produce comes from afar. Even with today’s sophisticated logistic methods, the produce you buy at chain stores and larger markets could be days old by the time you put it in your cart. Some industrialized farms harvest produce, like tomatoes, while they are still green so they do not bruise or spoil in transit. Distribution partners then use gas to ripen them for market! Not only is the product picked before it reaches its nutritional peak, but the product itself is not up to par when compared with from field to table product.

Small farms across the land are what helped build our nation. Hard working folks work 365 days a year growing and raising food the old-fashioned and natural way are finding it hard to keep their farms running. Often the consumer dollar is thrown toward mega-marts and superstores. Why not support local farmers? You can take advantage of the better taste, price, nutritional value and other intangible gifts of those delicious fruits, veggies, meat and eggs!

As they say, “On the eighth day, God created the farmer.”

local farmers








8 Tomato-Growing Mistakes Even Smart Gardeners Make

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8 Tomato-Growing Mistakes Even Smart Gardeners Make

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Tomatoes aren’t difficult to grow. No matter how little care I give my plants, I always get some fruit. However, with a little extra care, tomato plants will reward you with a more bountiful — and tastier — crop. To max out your tomato production, avoid making these mistakes:

1. Not rotating crops

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and deplete soil as they draw up nutrients to send to their fruit. It’s best to rotate tomato plants annually, so that they have lots of nutrients in the new spot while the old spot is given time to replenish.

2. Not enough sun

Make sure the new spot is in a sunny location that’s warm but not hot. Like many garden vegetables, tomatoes can make do with six hours of sunlight daily, but the more sun they have, the better they produce. Sunlight gives plants energy, and tomatoes use extra energy to create extra fruit.

3. Too much heat

Although they’re sun worshippers, tomatoes don’t like extreme heat. If you live in a zone where temperatures regularly soar over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s best to pick a spot where your plants will be shaded in the afternoon. Morning sun is important since it dries dew — and dry leaves keep disease at bay. But extreme heat destroys the pollen on tomato flowers, which means they won’t produce fruit. Try to pick a spot that will be shaded only during the hottest hours of the day.

4. Crowding the plants

Tomatoes — especially indeterminate varieties–are big plants. Popular varieties like Beefsteak, Super Fantastic, Early Girl and Lemon Boy are all indeterminate, and as such can grow up to six-feet tall or in some cases, even taller. Determinate varieties (bush tomatoes) are smaller, but still can reach heights of 3-4 feet.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Make sure you give your plants sufficient space to grow. Consider whether you’re planting in rows, beds or square-foot plots, as well as whether the plant is determinate or indeterminate.

5. Not planting deeply enough

8 Tomato-Growing Mistakes Even Smart Gardeners Make

Image source: Pixabay.com

Tomato seedlings should be planted deep. In fact, it’s recommended to bury a full two-thirds of a seedling in soil. It is perfectly OK to cover existing leaves. The stem that’s buried will develop roots, too. The more roots your plant has, the more nutrients it can soak up and send to the fruit, which makes for more flavorful tomatoes.

6. Not pruning

Pruning? Tomatoes? You betcha. While it’s not essential, pruning your tomato plants — especially the big indeterminate varieties — has a few notable benefits:

  • Fewer leaves will increase the amount of sun and air that reach existing leaves and fruit. Wet leaves will dry more quickly, reducing the chance of pest or disease infestations. Diseases that flourish in wet conditions include:
    • Powdery mildew
    • Fusarium wilt
    • Verticillium wilt
    • Leaf spot
    • Bacterial spot
    • Bacterial canker
  • Since your plant has fewer leaves to support, it will use its energy to produce more and bigger fruit instead.
  • Fewer leaves to support also means that more of your plant’s energy can be directed toward ripening fruit, giving you an earlier harvest.

Before it’s time to prune leaves, however, you may need to pinch off flowers. Plants should be at least 12-18 inches tall before flowers are allowed to set. Otherwise, the plant may not be strong enough, with a strong healthy root system in place, to support heavy fruit and provide them with nutrients.

Determinate and indeterminate varieties must be pruned differently. With determinate varieties, only prune the bottom branches that touch the soil. Those branches may contribute to the spread of disease if left. However, removing other stems and/or leaves on determinate varieties may reduce your harvest.

On indeterminate varieties, prune off suckers as they appear. Suckers are the smaller branches that start growing right in the groove where an existing branch meets the main stem.

7. Not humoring the picky feeders

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and should be fertilized during the growing season, BUT they have specific feeding needs. Fertilizing weekly with a natural compost or fertilizer is the best option.

8. Watering frequently

Deep, strong roots are key to growing great tomatoes. In addition to planting seedlings deeply, you can encourage strong root growth by watering plants heavily about every 5-7 days. With this type of watering, plants will develop long, strong roots to seek water. With shallow watering, the roots will remain stunted near the surface to access the water there; with more frequent watering, plants have no reason to create stronger roots.

Watering too infrequently, so that the soil severely dries out, can cause problems like blossom end rot. Tomato roots need water to soak up calcium from the soil; without water — and ergo without calcium — tomato fruit are susceptible to disease.

Watering tomato plants at their base will help keep leaves dry, and again, dry leaves are the key to reducing pest and disease issues. For best results, install drip lines or hand water.

Final Thoughts

After reading through this, you may think that tomatoes are the most difficult vegetables in the world to grow. Nothing is further from the truth. However, correcting at least some of these mistakes will result in a bigger harvest of heavier, more flavorful fruit that ripens quickly.

What tomato-growing mistakes would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Why You Need To Prune Tomatoes and Peppers – And How To Do It!

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When you prune tomatoes and peppers, good things happen in your garden! If there is one simple chore in the summer that can make a big difference to harvesting a healthy and faster-ripening crop, it’s pruning. Both tomatoes and peppers

The post Why You Need To Prune Tomatoes and Peppers – And How To Do It! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

It’s June! Mid to Late Summer Vegetable Gardening

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summer vegetable gardening

Even the most avid gardeners have a bad year! Any number of things can keep you out of the garden in April and May, weather problems, work commitments, family problems . . . we’ve all been there. But don’t give up on your summer vegetable garden just yet. There are still plenty of yummy veggies you can get planted now (in mid to late June) and get a nice harvest before the summer ends.

Let’s talk about what you can still get planted now and also talk about a few things that you can wait on and plant in about 5 or 6 weeks (Around August 1st for most of us).

Summer/Warm Season Veggies in Your Summer Vegetable Garden


No summer garden is complete without a few tomato plants and you can still get some in. Tomatoes are an important part of a food storage pantry. Hurry on this one! Most nurseries will still have a few tomato plants hanging around but they wont last much longer. (Don’t try to plant tomatoes by seed this time of year.)

IMG_9950This late in the year you want to be thinking about smaller, quicker maturing varieties. Try some type of cherry tomato (varieties to look for include Sun Sugar, and Sweet 100). They are relatively fast growers and should still give you a good harvest in September and early October.

You can also try some of the tomatoes that produce small to medium sized fruit. Think varieties like Early Girl, possibly Celebrity, or many of the Roma tomatoes. Try to find tomatoes that grow on determinate vines (vs indeterminate) as these will spent less time growing vines and more time growing fruit.

The 6 weeks you have lost in growing time means you won’t have a huge harvest this year, but if you get them in soon you should still have plenty for fresh eating and, hopefully, canning!

Summer Squashes

Zucchini and yellow crook neck squash are actually quite fast growing. Look for varieties that have a maturity date of around 60 to 70 days and you should still have lots of time to grow more zucchini than you can eat! You could also look for a patty pan squash with a short maturity date.

Green beans

Most bush type green beans have a maturity date of around 60 to 70 days, so there is plenty of summer left for beans. In fact, I don’t make my last planting of green beans until mid July and still have a great harvest, incuding plenty to can following these easy instructions.


If you would still like to plant a melon, you have a little bit of time left, but choose the small “ice box” types as those take much less time to mature. You can also get cantaloupe planted now. Again, don’t expect a huge harvest this year, but you will still have a few melons that will be ready before the frost comes.


If you can find the seed still around at your local nurseries, there is time to grow a nice crop of potatoes. In fact, you could continue to plant potatoes until mid July in most areas of the country and still get a nice harvest of small roasting potatoes. This time of the year I would stay away from the big “baking” potatoes, like russets. You are running short of time to get them to maturity.


Cucumbers are a good late season planter. Again, you may not get the huge yields you are used to, but by planting seeds now, you can still have a fairly respectable crop.


If you can still find a package of onion sets at your local nursery, they will do okay this time of year. You won’t get a lot of large onions but you will have plenty of smaller onions and green onions. Don’t try growing onions from seed or starts this late in the year.


Many herbs will still do well if planted this time of year. It would be best to plant starts instead of trying to plant seeds.

Cool Weather Veggies

You can still have an awesome harvest of cool weather veggies by planning now to get them planted in late summer and early fall. Nearly anything you would normally plant in the spring time, you can also plant in the fall. A good, solid summer vegetable garden can extend into the cooler months, if you jump on it now!

Fall LettuceCole crops

These plants are broccoli, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi. If you grow your own seedlings, mid June is a good time to start a fall crop of all these yummy cool season veggies. If you plant any of the cole crops indoors now, they will be ready for planting out in the garden in about 6 to 8 weeks.

That means you will be planting them around mid-August, and they will mature in October when the weather has cooled back to those temperatures that cole crops love so much! You may find many of these veggies are even tastier in the fall because a night or two of frost helps to sweeten the flavor. If you end up with a lot of extras, try dehydrating them for quick meals, as in these instructions for dehydrating cabbage.


You can start replanting lettuce about 6 to 8 weeks before your first frost (for us that’s August 1 – 15). Fall planted lettuce can last unprotected in your garden until early December, depending on where you live.


Most people see spinach as a spring only crop, but it does very well in thCover Photoe fall! Again look at planting about 6 weeks before your first frost and you will be able to start harvesting in late October. Then cover those plants with a cold frame or hoop house and they will grow over the winter for an extra early spring crop.

Root crops

Carrots, turnips, beets and radishes all do well in the fall and you can start replanting them around 6 weeks before your last frost.

So as you can see, all is not lost for your summer garden! Get out there this weekend to put some seeds and plants in your garden so you can still have an awesome harvest this year!

Guest Post by Rick Stone of www.ourstoneyacres.com.




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!

How To Support Tomato Plants Easily – And Why It’s So Important!

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When you support tomato plants and pepper plants properly, good things happen in the garden! Keeping your tomato and pepper plants off the ground plays a big role in the overall success of your crop. In fact, for as much

The post How To Support Tomato Plants Easily – And Why It’s So Important! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

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.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

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:


How To Grow 90 Pounds Of Tomatoes From 5 Plants

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How To Grow 90 Pounds Of Tomatoes From 5 Plants Are you short on space in your garden? Do you want to grow more tomatoes in a smaller area? Do you want more tomatoes to sell, store, can or eat? This method of growing them could see yields up to 90 lbs from just 5 plants. …

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The post How To Grow 90 Pounds Of Tomatoes From 5 Plants appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.

5 Tips To Eliminate Blight And Disease Naturally

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 5 Tips To Eliminate Blight And Disease Naturally Why are tomatoes such a right of passage for gardeners? Of all the incredible things you sprout in the dirt it seems like of the growing of tomatoes there is no end! Maybe that’s a good thing because the garden tomato is such an anomaly when eaten …

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How To Keep Tomato Plants Healthy – 5 Tips To Eliminate Blight And Disease Naturally

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When it comes to growing tomatoes, a great harvest all begins with keeping your tomato plants healthy all season long. Nothing can be more depressing than to watch your tomato plants wither away from blight and disease. And, plants that

The post How To Keep Tomato Plants Healthy – 5 Tips To Eliminate Blight And Disease Naturally appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

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:

Companion Planting Basics

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Get companion planting basics for tomato, beans, peppers, and squash. Implement companion planting in your garden and have a bumper crop this year. | PreparednessMama

Implement companion planting in your garden The practice of companion planting has been around for generations. We see the principle working brilliantly when the three sisters – corn, beans, and squash – are planted together. Each crop is doing its part to sustain the other. “Companion planting is about marrying plants that work well together […]

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The Companion Plant You ALWAYS Should Grow Around Tomatoes

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small farmWinter is nearly gone and gardening season is just around the corner, which means it’s time to consider what you might do similar and different from last year.

Author and expert gardener Sally Jean Cunningham has a suggestion: Try companion planting.

By planting unique combinations of vegetables, herbs and flowers, you can minimize pests and diseases – while boosting your garden’s yield!

Cunningham, author of “Great Garden Companions,” is the guest on this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio.

She says the Native Americans’ “three sisters” method is just scratching the surface in companion planting.

Cunningham also tells us:

  • What always should be planted around tomatoes, potatoes and beans.
  • Why she doesn’t use traditional gardening methods when companion planting.
  • Which vegetables, flowers and herbs should not be planted close to one another.
  • Why she believes most bugs in the garden are actually good for vegetables.

Finally, Cunningham tells us about her favorite types of mulch — and most of them are dirt-cheap.

If you’re a gardener who can’t wait to get your hands dirty this spring, then this is one show you don’t want to miss!

5 Perfect Tomatoes To Grow That Will Feed Your Family & Stock Your Pantry!

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5 Perfect Tomatoes. Of all the plants we grow in our garden each year – there is simply not one more valuable than the amazing tomato. For us, it is so much more than just an incredible fresh vegetable. Beyond

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8 Simple Tips To Grow Your Best Tomato Crop Ever. Period!

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If you are like most avid vegetable gardeners, you are always searching for new ways to grow your best tomato crop ever. And with good reason! Ripe, juicy, tomatoes are amazing to eat, especially fresh from the vine. But a great

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The Space-Saving, ‘Upside-Down Way’ To Grow Indoor Tomatoes This Winter

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The Space-Saving, ‘Upside-Down Way’ To Grow Indoor Tomatoes This Winter

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Indoor gardening can be a great way to have fresh vegetables year-round and satisfy your green thumb during the winter, but if you live in a small home or apartment, it can be challenging to find enough room for your plants. One solution is to turn your indoor garden on its head – literally.

Many vegetable plants that do well indoors – including cherry tomatoes — can be grown upside down. This not only saves you space, but it can give you a visually appealing container garden, too.

Hanging gardens have been around for centuries and are ideal for those without a lot of space. While we typically think of them as being outdoors – on an apartment balcony, for example – the method works just as well indoors.

Starting Your Indoor Hanging Garden

Since you won’t want to move your plants around too much once you get them started, your first step is to find the location in your home where you’d like to grow your vegetables. Ideally, it should be an area that gets plenty of sun, such as a south-facing window. Natural lighting is best for this type of growing, as setting up grow lights can get rather awkward for a hanging garden. (Although, with the right arrangement, grow lights can work.) Also, for an upside-down hanging garden, you must use a plant that has been started; planting from seed in an upside-down pot is extremely difficult.

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You will need a place where you can hang your containers, so you’ll either want to install sturdy hooks into the ceiling or have some kind of rack system. Whatever you choose, you will want to make sure that it can support the weight of the containers and potting soil, along with mature plants. Since some soil and water will come through the bottom of the container via watering, it is also a good idea to prepare a tray or mat underneath your hanging garden to prevent making a mess.

The next step is choosing containers suitable for the types of plants that you will be growing. Drill holes in the bottom of the containers (about 2 inches in diameter for larger containers and slightly less for smaller ones). To make the work a little easier, find a place to hang the containers while you are planting so you won’t have to flip containers around.

Choose a good potting soil that has been amended with compost. You also will need something to anchor the plant in place in the bottom of the container, such as fabric, cardboard or foam. Add a slit to this material and work the plant’s roots through the material into the container and then fill in soil around it. If you wish to optimize your space even more, you can use the top of the container to grow things such as salad greens, herbs or even radishes. Just be sure that whatever you plant in the same container has similar growing requirements (sunlight and watering needs etc.). While the initial planting tends to be a bit more labor intensive than it would be with an upright garden, many indoor gardeners find the space-saving benefits to be well worth the extra effort at the beginning.

The video below shows how to accomplish this with a kit, although most homesteaders already have the supplies they need.

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Now that you have your indoor hanging garden, simply care for it the same way that you would for any of your upright plants. Enjoy the unique appearance and tasty, fresh vegetables all year round!

What Can You Grow?

There are many vegetables that may be grown upside down, but here are some of the most common:

  • Tomatoes – you can grow any size tomato upside down; however, cherry tomatoes are the easiest to manage since they won’t get as heavy.
  • Peppers – whether you like them hot or sweet, you can grow just about any type of pepper in an upside-down garden.
  • Cucumbers – again, by choosing a smaller variety such as pickling cucumbers, it will be much easier. Bush cucumbers should be avoided when using an upside-down growing method.
  • Eggplants – eggplants have similar needs as tomatoes, and you can have success growing them in a hanging garden. Choose a slender Asian variety or miniatures.
  • Beans – both pole and bush beans can do well in a hanging garden.
  • Strawberries – want to add something a little sweeter to your inverted garden? Strawberries can be easily grown upside down.

If you have ever decided that indoor gardening wasn’t for your because you didn’t have enough space, then perhaps the idea of having a hanging garden might be enough to make you reconsider. You can grow a variety of produce or just start with something simple like some cherry tomatoes!

Have you ever grown an indoor hanging garden? What advice would you add?

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

The 9 Most Productive Vegetables You Can Grow Indoors During Winter

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The 9 Most Productive Vegetables You Can Grow Indoors During Winter

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There’s more than one way to plant a bounteous vegetable crop. It’s possible to have a hearty garden even if you don’t have space in the backyard, even if you don’t have a patio or balcony for containers, and even in the dead of winter.

The approach may be different than planting seeds in the ground, but it isn’t difficult to grow vegetables in the convenience of your toasty, warm home. And, unlike growing vegetables outdoors, you’ll have total control over temperature, water and light – all without bothersome bugs and pesky weeds.

You may, however, need to provide supplemental lighting, especially if you’re growing vegetables indoors during the winter months. If the atmosphere in your home is dry, mist the plants frequently or raise the moisture level with a humidifier.

Vegetables aren’t fussy about containers. Nearly anything will suffice, as long as it has a good drainage hole in the bottom. Use a good quality potting mix. Don’t attempt to use garden soil; it won’t work.

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Starter plants may be difficult to find, but if you plant seeds, the top of the refrigerator is a good place to provide a little extra warmth for germination.

Now that you know the scoop on growing vegetables indoors, here is a list of the best, indoor-friendly veggie plants.

1. Tomatoes do well indoors with plenty of light and warmth, but they need a good-sized container – preferably at least five gallons, even if you grow dwarf or patio varieties. Once the tomatoes bloom, you’ll probably have to help with pollination by giving the plants a gentle shake to release the pollen. Choose indeterminate tomatoes, which will grow and product fruit indefinitely.

2. Eggplant and peppers belong to the same plant family as tomatoes, and their growing conditions are similar. Look for dwarf varieties that take up less valuable growing space.

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3. Carrots generally need deep soil to accommodate the long roots, but you can plant dwarf or round types successfully in pots. Sprinkle the seeds over the surface of moist potting soil, and then clip the tiny seedlings to ½ inch apart soon after they germinate. Once the carrots reach 3 inches, thin them again to a distance of about an inch.

4. Radishes are easy to grow just about anywhere, and growing them indoors is no exception. Like carrots, round or dwarf varieties fit best in containers.

5. Potatoes don’t require a lot of space, but they need large, deep pots because you’ll need to add straw or compost to build up layers over the plants as they grow. You can even grow potatoes in a garbage bag with the top rolled down; then roll up the top as they grow.

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6. Mushrooms are a fun indoor crop. It’s easy to get started with kits, but you can also purchase mushroom spawn and do it yourself. The growing medium depends on the type of mushroom, but you may need to stock up on straw or sawdust. (Or rotten manure if your mushrooms are in a garage).

7. Beets do fine in lower temperatures, but they need plenty of light. Don’t crowd the plants, as beets need space for the roots to develop.

8. Lettuce is one of the few vegetables that you can plant in a small pot if you’re low on space. Like beets, lettuce is a cool season vegetable that doesn’t require a lot of heat.

9. Green onions do great in a sunny window. They don’t require much growing space if you harvest them while they’re small.

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

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

How To Easily Preserve Tomatoes – No Canning Required!

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When most people think about how to preserve tomatoes, images of spending hours in the kitchen, sweating over a hot pot of boiling water, during the dog days of summer appear. However, this year, it is time to take a

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How to Save Heirloom Tomato Seed

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How to save heirloom tomato seeds using the fermentation process | PreparednessMama

Seed Self-Reliance This year I grew Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, an heirloom variety known for its huge fruit and excellent taste. You’ve got to love the name! Unfortunately, the plants did not do well in my new garden plot and I only had a few tomatoes for fresh eating. Fortunately, I gave a few plants to […]

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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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6 Big Tips To Keep Tomato Plants Healthy And Productive In The Summer

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Summer has arrived and the heat is on, and that means tomato season is here! We depend heavily on our tomato crop to stock our pantry to enjoy pasta sauce, salsa, tomato juice, ketchup, barbecue sauce and more for the entire

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7 Vegetable Pairs You Should NEVER Plant Together (No. 5 Is Where Everyone Messes Up)

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7 Vegetable Pairs You Should NEVER Plant Together (No. 5 Is Where Everyone Messes Up)

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Companion planting — the practice of intentionally planting two or more species in close proximity to each other — has many advantages.

Paired properly, companion plants can help each other grow, deter pests, reduce weeds and even improve flavor. Unfortunately, not all plants are ready to link leaves and sing “Kumbaya” together. In this post, we’ll look at vegetable pairs that should be kept far apart from one another.

1. Corn and tomatoes

While you’d think a common enemy would make for good friends, in the garden it’s usually a recipe for disaster. Both corn and tomato are vulnerable to the same worm and the same fungal infections and if planted too close together, it makes it easy for invaders to conquer both at once.

2. Cucumber and sage

It sounds like it should be the name of an enticing new lotion fragrance, but as friendly as they may seem in the cosmetics aisle, cucumber and sage have no business being together in the garden. In fact, cucumbers and almost all aromatic herbs have an antagonistic relationship. The strong scent of sage and other herbs are likely to affect the final flavor of the cucumber, resulting in an unpleasant off-taste.

3. Radishes and hyssop

Another herb-vegetable combination to avoid is radishes and hyssop. Hyssop is a fragrant flowering herb used to scent potpourri and prepare teas, but it also tends to wreak havoc with radishes. Don’t write off hyssop entirely, though — it’s great for luring away cabbage moths and is said to help make grapes grow.

4. Onions and peas

Mom may have spent a lot of time trying to talk you into eating the onions and peas hidden together in a casserole dish, but out in the garden you can keep them as far away from each other as you’d like.

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In fact, the entire legume family and the entire allium family tend to “go Godfather” on each other, likely because onion (and its many relatives like shallots, leeks and garlic) set up root systems with large radii that have a tendency to hoard needed nutrients from beans and peas.

5. Tomatoes and potatoes

7 Vegetable Pairs You Should NEVER Plant Together (No. 5 Is Where Everyone Messes Up)

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While it may be fun to say their names together, tomatoes and potatoes don’t belong together in the garden. Both are subject to the same early and late blights, making it easy for a problem with one to quickly become a problem for both.

6. Dill and carrots

Dill participates in some of the most complicated companion planting relationships you’re likely to find in the vegetable garden. Loved for its small yellow blossoms and bright perky flavor, dill will do great things for asparagus plants, broccoli plants and a wide range of others. On the other hand, it seriously inhibits carrots. Both part of the Umbelliferae family, dill can cross-pollinate with carrots to a disastrous end. Even more confusing? The relationship between dill and tomatoes. Planting dill and tomato together will benefit the tomato … at least until the dill reaches maturity, at which point it will start to stunt the growth of tomatoes and should be moved.

7. Strawberries and cabbage

Save any combination of strawberries and cabbage (and other brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower) for the salad bar. While strawberries appreciate the presence of onions, thyme, bean, and sage planted nearby, they get tired of having to call the cops on their pest-prone cabbage neighbors.

Although far from an exact science, keeping these neighbor no-nos in mind when planning your garden will help you get the most out of your garden space.

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

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

All You Can Eat: 6 High-Yield Vegetables Your Summer Garden Needs

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All You Can Eat: 6 High-Yield Vegetables Your Summer Garden Needs

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Some garden plants require intense diligence and extensive resources to coax out a single flower or handful of berries. Other species, however, are determined producers, bearing bushel after bushel of fresh, sun-ripened, bounty.

Want to get the most “bang” for your gardening efforts? In this post, we’ll look at some of nature’s top producers and why these “bunny rabbits” of the vegetable world ought to be included in your home garden.

1. Tomatoes

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Nothing screams summer quite like a tomato plant covered in bright red fruit. It’s no wonder these plants require caging or other support — a 10-foot row of tomato plants on average yields 15 pounds of sun-ripened bliss over the course of a season. And even more amazing, by taking special care to pick varieties appropriate to your growing conditions, properly amending the soil, and providing adequate support, it’s possible for a single plant to produce that much (or more!) on its own. Even taking into consideration the inherent challenges of growing tomatoes, it’s well worth the effort to include these high-producing summer staples in your garden plot.

2. Summer squash

There’s a reason August 8 is National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. Even if you’ve only planted a few of these prolific plants, you’re likely to be swimming in squash by the end of the season!

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Set aside a 10×10 plot specifically for zucchini and you will literally find yourself surrounded by more than a hundred pounds of deliciousness. To keep plants producing, pick zucchini while they’re relatively small — the size of a large cucumber or so. Not only does smaller summer squash taste better than their ginormous counterparts, but the frequent picking will stimulate additional growth.

3. Winter squash

Not to be outdone by their warm-weather counterparts, winter squash are another family of plants sure to bulk up your garden yields. Like summer squash, a dedicated plot of winter squash can easily produce a hundred pounds of fruit over a season. And with so many varieties to choose from, you’ll definitely want to set aside a space for them! Whether it’s pumpkins for home-grown Jack-o-lanterns and pie, vitamin rich butternut squash, or fun-to-eat spaghetti squash, there’s sure to be a variety for every taste. And, unlike many vegetables which must be carefully preserved in order to enjoy long term, an abundance of winter squash isn’t likely to be a problem — most winter squash will keep well into the winter months if stored in a cool, dry location.

4. Cucumbers

Not only are cucumbers easy to plant from seed directly in the garden, but if you can keep the cucumber beetles at bay, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by piles of pickle-worthy produce. You can expect roughly 12 pounds per 10-foot row or 120 pounds per 100 square-foot plot. Want to extend your harvest? Consider staggering seed-starting dates, adding a few plants each week for a rolling harvest that lets you enjoy fresh cukes throughout the season.

5. Beans

All You Can Eat: 6 High-Yield Vegetables Your Summer Garden Needs

Image source: Pixabay.com

Beans are another crop that can easily go gangbusters in a home garden. Not only are individual plants high producers, generally averaging up to 15 pounds per 10-foot row, but because they grow so quickly from seed to harvest it’s possible to rotate through multiple bean plantings in a single season. And while bush beans are notable producers, anyone who knows, well, beans about gardening will tell you that pole beans are where things get particularly impressive. Pole beans are happy to crawl up supports, producing over and over for weeks or even months before petering out.

6. Rhubarb

Finally, any list of high-yield hotshots wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to rhubarb. A rare perennial vegetable, rhubarb returns season after season, expanding as it grows. Considered low-maintenance and long-lasting, once a rhubarb plant is established it’s one of the easiest ways to guarantee a hefty harvest from the garden.

Few dilemmas in life are as delightful as discovering your garden has grown even more food than you can consume immediately. High-producing vegetable plants are the perfect plan for a harvest that can be shared with friends or preserved to enjoy throughout the year, making them not only a great way to maximize the return on your garden, but also the satisfaction that comes with those efforts.

Which high-yield vegetables would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below:




Every Year, Gardeners Make This Dumb Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

DIY Tomato Ladders: No More Lame Cages

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DIY Tomato Ladders: No More Lame Cages Tomato is one of the most popular plants for beginner gardeners. But, growing tomatoes is tricky. It’s because the plant’s body is so thin that it’ll fall to the ground when the tomato has grown big enough. If you don’t do something about it, the plant will easily get …

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How We Prune Tomatoes For A Healthy, Productive Crop

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It’s hard to believe that the first week of June is nearly in the books! But as the temperatures start to warm up, and the garden begins to take off  – it means it’s time to start pruning our tomato

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A Lazy Gardener Struggles to Cage her Tomatoes

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Caging tomatoes lazy gardener style - A lazy gardener struggles to cage her overgrown tomato plants | PreparednessMama

This year while I was busy creating a new garden I got lazy with my tomatoes. They were planted on time and given nutrients. I even spent a few weekends pinching out suckers to give them plenty of room to grow. What I did not do was purchase tomato cages to contain them. Now this lazy […]

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Grow Epic Tomatoes!

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Grow Epic Tomatoes! Karen Lynn “Lil Suburban Homestead” Karen Lynn a professed “tomato” addict once titled herself the “Tomato Queen” on the boards at various homesteading sites but realized she could grow a prolific amount of tomatoes but has always felt like she could do more if she had more tomato knowledge.  Former co-host of … Continue reading Grow Epic Tomatoes!

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7 Nifty Garden Tricks To Try This Year!

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It’s almost time for the garden to go in – and if you are anything like Mary and I – you’re more than ready to put winter behind and get those plants in the ground! It seems like each and

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How To Create A Simple Garden For Salsa, Sauces, Soups and Salads!

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Nothing compares to the taste of freshly made salsa, pasta sauce, soup or a beautiful salad from your very own garden! With nothing more than a tiny plot of backyard space or a sunny patio – you can easily create and

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How To Grow Healthy Tomato Plants This Year

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“How Can I Grow Healthy Tomato Plants?” That is by far the most frequently asked question to the blog each and every summer – and with good reason. Whether it be blight, black rot, insect damage, or watering issues – the

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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors

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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors

Feel that chill in the air?

As much as I hate to, it’s time to say good-bye to our tomato plants. Cold weather is coming and with it comes the tomato killing frost.

The good news is saying good-bye doesn’t mean you have to toss all the remaining green tomatoes out with the vine. Sure, you could eat fried green tomato sandwiches to your heart’s content. But the other option is to pick them and wait for them to turn red. 

Yes, you guessed it. 

There is a way to ripen green tomatoes indoors.

Here’s what you need to do:

Pick your mature green tomatoes, bring them inside and set them on the kitchen counter. 

That’s it. It’s that simple. 

In a few days to a few weeks your tomatoes will turn red. (Time varies depending on tomato variety, and what growth stage they were in when you picked them.) 

Here’s a picture of mine going through the counter top ripening process right now…

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors

If you’re thinking, what if I have too many to leave on the counter?

If it isn’t practical to leave the tomatoes on your kitchen counter, there’s another method you can try. Sue Condlin, the Cooperative Extension Director of Lee County, North Carolina tells us how to ripen a large number of green tomatoes using newspaper and a box: 

If you have green tomatoes that are still pretty firm, and not showing any color at all, you can try this method. Pick the tomatoes, wash them, and dry them. Wrap in newspapers, place in a box in a single layer and store in a cool place. Tomatoes should not be allowed to touch. Store the box in a cool dry place, such as an unheated basement or garage. Check the boxes regularly for signs of ripening, and remove those that are starting to change color so they can finish ripening on your counter top.

Will ripening a tomato inside affect it’s flavor?

Probably. Nothing beats a vine-ripened tomato in the middle of summer.

However, tomatoes that are ripened indoors still taste better than any you’d buy at the store. I’ll attest to that. Homegrown’s always better, right? 

So, go pick your green tomatoes, and then share this post with a friend. 

The more green tomatoes we can save from the compost pile, the better. :)


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How to Grow Tomatoes

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How to Grow TomatoesTomatoes seem like the ultimate vegetables (although they are technically a fruit.) They can be used in everything from sauces to salads, and add a nice bright red color to a primarily green-colored garden. They are also easy to grow, right? Well, in some cases they are.

Some people have no problem growing tomatoes and end up with so many that they end up sharing them with their neighbors, while others can’t seem to get their tomatoes to grow at all. If you fall into the latter category, here are a few rules to follow:

1) Place your seedlings a fair distance apart. Plants don’t like to be crowded, especially tomatoes. Their small stalks need plenty of space to grow. If you’re starting them from seed, you can place several seeds in the same pot and thin them out later. Once they’re ready to be transplanted outdoors, make sure to leave at least 6 inches between each plant. This will give them enough room to grow while leaving you space to place a cage or pole by them later.

2) Plant your tomatoes where they will receive plenty of light. Tomatoes need between 14 and 16 hours of sunlight each day. This means that they need to go in a very sunny section of your yard. If you place them in the shade, they may grow, but will be stunted. You might also end up with a lot of green tomatoes that refuse to ripen. Avoid this by planting them in an ideal spot that’s free of shade.

3) Water your tomatoes a lot. This is especially true at first, when the tomatoes are mere seedlings. Once they begin to grow, they will still need plenty of water. Test the soil with your hand to see if it is moist enough. If they soil seems dry, then water them. However, you don’t want the water to sit in puddles on top of the soil, as too much water can be harmful as well.

4) Pinch off sucker branches. These tiny branches form in the triangle made by the stem and another branch. They appear as leaves at first, then begin to grow and form a separate branch growing out of the first one. Pinch off these fledgling branches and remove them before they grow too large, as they can take away from the nutrients needed to grow properly sized tomatoes on the original branches.

5) Be careful when placing the pole or cage into the soil. If you place the pole or edges of the cage too close to the plant, you could damage the stem or the root system. You’re better off placing the pole or cage several inches away from the main part of the plant and then loosely tying the plant to it to keep it upright. You also don’t want to tie the twine too tightly, as this can damage the plant, not to mention kill it if the twine begins to bite into the stem of your tomato plant.

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 Pic by Photon_de