Home Grown Tomatoes

Since we have been talking about tomatoes in the garden this week, I thought it would be appropriate to share this video with you. It is a fun and upbeat favorite song of mine. And this video is a nice little tribute to John Denver as well. There are several pictures of our country boy that aren’t seen all that often. A nice touch indeed. I hope you enjoy this video that I am sharing with you today.

What is your favorite thing to do with homegrown tomatoes? What is your favorite thing about them? Leave me a comment and share.

More Troubleshooting Tomato Problems

tomato.JPGYesterday I shared five of the most common problems that you may have while growing your tomatoes. Today, I will share the other five problems and how to diagnose and treat them. Hopefully these tips will help you to troubleshoot what may be going wrong and make those tomatoes truly terrific!

Aphids

These soft bodied pests can cause stunted growth and reduced yields. They travel in colonies and suck the sap from your plants. It is important to control aphids early. An insecticidal soap is very effective in eradicating these pests from your garden. You may also want to introduce some of their natural enemies to your garden in order to control them naturally. Some of their natural enemies include ladybugs, lacewings and parasitic wasps. By avoiding chemical pesticides, these beneficial insects will be encouraged to frequent your garden. However, you will want to set traps for ants as they are friends of the aphid and will actually protect them and carry them to your plants.

Catfacing

You will notice this affliction by the deformed and misshapen fruits that are a result of it. While no one is entirely certain what causes catfacing, we do know that it is related to problems with flower formation. The blossom sticks to the side of the fruit which results in puckering. Also temperature is a factor as temperatures below 50?F at flowering or fruit set seems to cause catfacing. Other factors include extreme heat, drought, excessive soil nitrogen and herbicides that contain growth hormone.

Fusarium Verticillium Wilt

Certain soil born fungi will cause vascular wilt diseases. These diseases turn the stems brown and prevent the leaves from receiving the nourishment they need. The leaves will turn yellow toward the bottom of the plant and work upward. This is often seen to occur on one side of the plant. The infected plant may die eventually. Destroy diseased plants properly and do not place them in your compost pile. Rotate your crops in your garden so that tomatoes and other related plants do not grow in the same area for 3 to 4 years.

Leaf Curl

Are the leaves of your tomato plants curling? Do they feel leathery to you? Leaf curl most often happens in hot weather, especially after a fluctuation in levels of moisture. The problem is also caused by heavy pruning. The good news is that leaf curl will not affect your tomato production.

Blossom Drop

Do the blossoms seem to be dropping off of your tomato plants? Tomatoes are really picky when it comes to temperatures and setting their fruit. If the weather is too warm or too cool, pollination will suffer and the blossoms will drop off. Too much nitrogen fertilizer can also cause the blossoms to drop off as well as dry winds or heavy rains.

Now that you know the biggest and most common problems in tomatoes, which ones have you found in your garden? Leave me a comment and share.

Troubleshooting Tomato Problems

tomato-2.jpgWe all love the taste of a fresh, homegrown tomato.  But sometimes tomatoes can be tricky when you are growing them.  Some of the most common challenges include wilting leaves, foliage turning yellow and fruit that is cracking.  In order to keep your tomato plants looking their best, here are some helps for identifying, preventing and treating the most common problems in your tomatoes.  

Sunscald

Sunscald is most often found on green fruit that is overexposed to the sunlight.  It begins as a light spot.  As the tomato ripens, the spot then becomes larger and is a grayish white color.  Quite often these spots will be attacked by decay causing organisms.  In order to prevent sunscald from affecting your tomatoes, you should avoid overpruning your tomatoes.  The foliage of the plants helps to protect and shade your tomatoes.  If you have tomatoes that are exposed, then it would be a good idea to cover them with shade cloth.

Hornworms

These green worms are quite fierce looking and will grow to be up to 4 inches long and will have a horn on their rear end.  They will defoliate your plants and leave giant bit holes in your tomatoes.  You will notice these worms by the black droppings that they leave on the leaves of your plant.  To treat and control hornworms, you will want to pick them off of the tomato plants or use a natural insecticide containing Baccillus thuringiensis.  However, it is important to note that if you see worms covered in white sacs, you will want to leave them alone.  These white sacs are the cocoons of parasite wasps that will eventually kill the hornworm.

Early Blight

You will most often see this fungal disease during periods of frequent rain, high humidity and warm temperatures.  The bottoms of the leaves of the tomato plant are affected first.  You will see irregular dark brown spots and concentric dark rings that will look like a bull’s eye.  These spots are surrounded by leaf tissue that is yellow.  Eventually the leaves will all turn yellow and fall off of the plant, leaving the tomatoes exposed to sunscald.  Fruit that is older will develop sunken spots that are leathery with concentric markings.  Mulch your plants in order to prevent disease spores from splashing up during irrigation.  Avoid watering overhead, especially during the latter part of the day.  Remove any fallen leaves and parts that are diseased.  Do not plant tomatoes, peppers or eggplants in the same spot for at least 3 to 4 years.

Cracking

Are you finding that your tomatoes have radial or concentric cracks?  This most often happens when the fruit grows quickly during a period of rapidly changing weather conditions.  These conditions are most likely things such as high temperatures with drought followed by a rainy spell.  You should always maintain consistent irrigation during dry periods and mulch the plants to conserve moisture.  

Blossom-end Rot

This tomato affliction gets its name from a water-soaked spot at the bottom of the tomato or blossom end.  This spot eventually becomes a brown scar that is leathery.  It most often occurs when tomato plants receive moisture that is fluctuating.  When water levels are uneven, a calcium deficiency occurs in the developing fruit, even if the soil actually has enough calcium in it.  In order to treat and prevent this problem, you will want to maintain moisture levels which are consistent and avoid the use of fertilizers that are heavy in nitrogen.  You can also add a liquid calcium supplement that is mixed with water and given to the plants.

I have only addressed the first five problems that are the most common in tomatoes.  Tomorrow I will cover the other five problems.

Have you experienced any of these problems in your tomatoes?  Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by jeltovski

Organic Weed Control

The other day I talked about the many weeds I currently have in my garden. I really let it get away from me as I have been spending my time remodeling my home. I started out using the tiller to get the weeds down between the rows of vegetables. However, that is some pretty hard work considering how tall the weeds have become. Today I am going to take my lawn mower and mow the weeds down between my squash and cucumber plants. Then I will roto-till the rest of the weeds that are there. Mowing them down first will be perhaps a little easier to till them under.

An old fashioned hoe will be what I use to get the weeds out from between the plants. What I really wish I had was what is used in the video I found for your enjoyment today. It would sure make it even easier to practice organic weed control!

What is your favorite method for getting rid of the weeds in your garden? Leave me a comment and share.

What to do With Zucchini

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It is as beloved as it is cursed—the zucchini. Personally, I love this vegetable and I make sure that my garden has at least 2 zucchini plants and 2 of the yellow crookneck squash plants. We eat it most nights and my very favorite way is sliced and lightly steamed with a little butter. I could eat it that way every single day. But my family doesn’t like it as much as I do, so I have to be creative to get that squash into the meal.

I remember laughing a couple of years ago when my little brother proudly announced that they had planted two very long rows of zucchini. He didn’t understand what was so funny about that until the zucchini took off. He swore that those plants multiplied and reproduced every time he blinked. His neighbors locked their doors and their cars after about a week of free gifts from his garden.

It seems that you can never have enough recipes to use up that infamous zucchini from the garden. I have collected many recipes over the years and I definitely have some favorites. I am sure that you do too. So I am offering you a proposition, in order to share the love and create some wonderful masterpieces in the kitchen.

Leave me a comment below this post with your favorite zucchini recipe or recipes. Please include your name as you wish it to be published, so I can give proper credit where it is due. I will compile all of the submissions and create a free, downloadable recipe book for you filled with all of the zucchini masterpieces that are submitted. Now this will only work with your cooperation, so please participate! If this works like I am hoping, this will be the first of a series of recipe books that we create together, using the divine ingredients that we grow in our gardens.

Here is to many, many mouthwatering recipes for our zucchini recipe book. Since I need to have a deadline in order to compile and publish the book, let’s work on this until August 20, 2008. So submit away and let’s create something wonderful and delicious together!

A Gardening Carnival – July 30, 2008

Welcome to the July 30, 2008 edition of a gardening carnival.

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flowers

AdmirableIndia.com presents Trip to Ooty: Day 2: Part 1: Ooty Lake – Boat House and Thread garden, Ooty posted at AdmirableIndia.com.

gardening

Jason Isbell presents Needs for a Butterfly Garden posted at Tired Garden.

Amy L. presents Four Secrets to Growing Indoor Miniature Roses posted at Housekeeping Tips, saying, “Every year, thousands of people purchase miniature roses, only to have them die in a few months.”

Ty Cee presents Pinoy Horticulture posted at Pinoy Horticulture, saying, “Pinoy Horticulutre provides information about the activities of horticulture societies and plant enthusiasts in the Philippines”

Laura Williams presents Around the Homestead Today… posted at Laura Williams’ Musings, saying, “Gardening and Canning. We grow and herb garden in addition to a grapes, cherry trees, blueberry bushes, and a traditional garden. We stil have 6 cranberry bushes, 7 plum trees, and 2 fig trees to plant this season.”

Louise Manning presents Woodland birds under threat posted at The Human Imprint.

valereee presents No dirt under your nails? No tomatoes for you! posted at Cincinnati Locavore, saying, “Don’t like to garden? Hire a gardener!”

Jdebosdari presents Dead and Dying Yew Trees and Hedges posted at Ashridge Trees, saying, “Yew (taxus) hedging sometimes causes trouble in the summer after it is planted. Here are a few reasons why and suggestions as to how to help it establish”

Alison presents Help! Tomato 911! posted at Green Me, saying, “Hello experienced tomato gardeners! I need your help pronto or I may have complete crop failure!”

Deanna Caswell presents How to Compost posted at Little House in the Suburbs.

herbs

Gwen Mangelson presents Calendula HERB OF THE YEAR 2008~ posted at Paper Expressions.

lawn care

Sarah presents Caring for Your Lawn in the Winter | Spring Lawn Care – Lawn Care Tips posted at Lawn Care Tips, saying, “Even though your grass doesn’t need much attention during the winter, it’s still important to follow some basic seasonal lawn care guidelines ”

Sarah presents Diagnosing and Managing Brown Spots on Your Lawn | Spring Lawn Care – Lawn Care Tips posted at Lawn Care Tips, saying, “If there are brown spots on your lawn, repairing them and preventing them from returning can be an exercise in frustration.”

organic gardening

Jamie McIntosh presents Control Carpenter Bees posted at Suite101: Organic Gardens blog, saying, “No one likes carpenter bees drilling into their decks and homes. However, these insects have an important role in your organic garden.”

Candice Brokenshire presents Harry Hopkins – Motivational Landscaper posted at The Red Barn Cooperative.

Teri presents My Work as an Environmental Biologist posted at Teri’s Organic Garden, saying, “My work as an environmental biologist working with 2 amazing grants – the Public Seed Initiative and the Organic Seed Partnership – both grants involve organic vegetable farming issues and ways to solve them.”

Fiona Lohrenz presents Going Organic…Why We Should! posted at Child Care Only.

vegetables

Chris presents 3 Steps to the Perfect Vegetable Garden (Part Two) posted at Smith Family Garden.

:: Suzanne :: presents works for me? tomato posted at :: adventures in daily living ::.

Dave Trenholm presents Growing Potatoes In Straw posted at Alberta Home Gardening.

valereee presents Garlic Mustard Dill Pickle Relish posted at Cincinnati Locavore, saying, “Those first early cukes are perfect for pickle relish!”

Condo Blues presents How to Grow Upside Down Tomato Plants posted at Condo Blues, saying, “How to plant an upsidedown tomato planter.”

Katrina Cain presents Did You Know That Raw Runner Beans Are Toxic? posted at Were You Wondering….

Miscellaneous

Matt DiChiara presents Alleviating Sick Building Syndrome with Plants in Your Apartment | MyNewPlace Blog posted at MyNewPlace Blog.

Tip Diva presents Top Ten Tips – Treating And Preventing Mosquito Bites posted at Tip Diva, saying, “Ahh, summer. The sun is warm, the water is cool, the flowers are blooming, and unfortunately, the bugs are biting. The worst offender of them all is the mosquito, carrier of pain, itching and possible diseases like West Nile. Here’s how to treat and further prevent bites”

AdmirableIndia.com presents Bangalore to Mysore on Bike: Day 1: Part 2: Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Brindavan gardens and Krishnarajasagara or KRS dam posted at AdmirableIndia.com.

GrannyJ presents Deadly symmetry posted at Walking Prescott, saying, “Because I live in the dry Southwest on the side of a hill, most of my in-the-ground plants tend to be wildflowers. sometimes they are not the easiest to get growing!”

Sean presents JAPANESE GARDENS – KILDARE – IRELAND posted at MY SECRET IRELAND, saying, “One of the most beautiful places in Ireland for the Gardening community.”

GrrlScientist presents Introduced Parasite Suspected of Killing Wild Bumblebees in Canada posted at Living the Scientific Life, saying, “A mysterious decline in North American bumblebee populations is apparently the result of “spillover” of pathogen-infected commercial bumblebees, Bombus species, from agricultural greenhouses where tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are commonly grown in huge quantities. Includes images and data.”

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of a gardening carnival using our carnival submission form. The next edition will be posted on August 27, 2008.

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Go Away Deer

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These past two weeks I have been keeping an eye on a young buck who seems to be perusing my neighborhood. He is a beautiful specimen and his antlers are in velvet, even though he only has 3 points at this stage of his life. Anyone who gardens knows that despite the gentle appearance and the coolness of having a deer so close to home, deer are a nuisance in the garden and are difficult to keep out.

So what do I do to safely and effectively protect my corn that I just know he has been eying? There are many different things that you can do, although some are definitely more effective than others.

I found this great article by Kathy Bond Borie that I thought you might enjoy. Her article is appearing on the National Gardening Association Website of which I am a member. Here is some of what she had to say on the subject:

Even if you don’t see deer browsing through ornamental and edible gardens, you’ll know they’ve been there by their calling cards — hoof prints and chewed plants. In many regions deer are growing bolder and less fearful of humans, meaning even gardens in urban areas are vulnerable.

A Fencing Strategy

The only surefire way to keep deer out of gardens is fencing them out. And it can’t be just any fence. A gardening friend of mine was so frustrated by deer chomping on his apple trees that he put up a 7-foot-high electric fence. The deer jumped it. He put a second fence right next to the electric fence. The deer jumped both. He installed a third, 3-foot-high fence a couple of feet away from the second one, and the deer finally gave up. They now travel next to his orchard instead of through it. Apparently deer are intimidated about jumping when they cannot tell how much distance they have to clear. The three parallel fences kept the deer from sighting a clear landing spot.

For the same reason, deer are apt to be skittish about jumping a fence over a long, narrow garden. The two long sides appear too close together for the deer to see a place to land. Installing a fence at a slant so it leans outward from the garden can also work because it makes the fence appear wider.

A 5-foot-high fence can keep deer out if you use taller posts and attach strands of wire at intervals, such as at 6 feet and 7 feet. In extreme cases, you may need to erect a second fence, say a 3-foot-high one, about 3 feet outside of your other fence. Even a barrier made of fishing line attached to posts at a height of 3 to 4 feet is sometimes enough to startle a deer into changing its course. Of course this is dangerous if you have children and pets.

Since deer are creatures of habit, the sooner you can deter their foraging, the better. Baiting an electric fence with peanut butter can train deer to stay out of an area. Tree guards that wrap around the trunks are a must in winter, and I encircle young fruit trees with fencing for the first few years so deer can’t reach the branches. Covering shrubs in early spring with fabric row covers can deter feeding long enough for wild food plants to become available. ~ Kathy Bond Borie

To finish reading her great article, you will want to visit her here. There is a lot of great advice on how to keep deer out of your garden.

Do you have trouble with deer in your garden? What do you do to control the situation? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by marykbaird

Eradicating Weeds in the Garden

One of the biggest sources of frustration for a gardener is our nemesis, the weed. Weeds seem to grow wherever they want, whenever they want. It doesn’t seem to matter if anything else will grow in that location or not. Invariably, a weed will grow and do it well.

So what are some options for getting rid of those pesky troublemakers? Of course there are many chemical solutions for weeds, but if you are looking for something a little more organic, then have I got a video for you! This week’s video is full of some really great ideas to get rid of those pesky weeds once and for all. And the video even explains why weeds grow and how we can inadvertently make things worse for ourselves. And who wants that to happen, right?

Now that you have seen the video, which techniques will you use in your garden? Do you have other solutions for getting rid of those nuisance-causing weeds? Leave me a comment and share.

Tips For Terrific Tomatoes

tomato.JPGWhen it comes to growing Terrific Tomatoes, I don’t think there can ever be enough great advice. I personally baby my tomato plants to ensure that I get the best results. I am often found fertilizing them individually with just the right fertilizer for the time of their growth. I watch over them and worry over them so that I can be assured of a great crop. In light of this, I highly recommend this great article on tomatoes by Suzanne DeJohn of the National Gardening Association.

By now you’ve planted your tomatoes in the garden. Have you thought ahead and set up some sort of training or staking system? Mulched around the bases? It’s not too late, but the sooner the better. Tomatoes are often cited as one of the easiest garden vegetables to grow. Yes, they’re easy to grow, but if you want the best and longest harvest, you’ll need to help the plants along.

Left on their own, tomato plants sprawl, making the fruits difficult to harvest. And the tomatoes rest on the soil where slugs will happily take one bite from each fruit. (I wouldn’t mind if they ate a whole tomato, but to sample them all? What are they, Goldilocks, looking for the one that’s not too hard and not too soft?)

Mulch is Key
If you do nothing else, mulch your tomato plants. Some people like red plastic mulch but I prefer a thick layer of straw. The plastic mulch supposedly increases yields, but a few tomato plants usually yield more than I can eat anyway. Straw not only keeps tomatoes off the ground, it also allows air circulation beneath them, reducing rot. It keeps soil from splashing up on the leaves, minimizing problems with soil-borne diseases. It conserves soil moisture, important for the health of the plant and for helping to prevent blossom end rot. And at season’s end you can rototill it in, adding organic matter. At around $5 per bale it’s a bargain, and my favorite mulch for the vegetable garden. ~Suzanne DeJohn

To finish reading Suzanne’s great article, I suggest you visit her here. Her article is full of some great information to help you to get the most out of your tomatoes when it is time.

As the summer progresses, we will continue to discuss what you can do to make your tomatoes be the star of the dinner table. After all, can’t you just almost taste that fresh tomato sandwich or tomato-cucumber salad? I know that my mouth is watering in anticipation.

What are some of your favorite tomato tips? Do you have any no-fail tricks up your sleeve? Please leave a comment and share!

Companion Planting


Companion planting is the practice of planting two different plants in close proximity to each other on the theory that they may help each other in some way. Some plants complement each other, giving off byproducts that the other plant needs. Those byproducts may be chemicals and micronutrients that the other plant may benefit from.

Other beneficial plants provide some protection against insects and planting a few of them near a desired plant may help to keep certain insects away. For example, I always plant some marigolds in amongst my pepper plants. This helps repel aphids from my plants and it kind of looks pretty as well. The bright splashes of color are fun amongst the green.

Here is a list of vegetables that you may plant or have planted in your garden and what goes well together and what does not:

Vegetables

  • Asparagus—Good Companions: Tomatoes, Parsley, Basil–Bad Companions: None

  • Beans (Bush)—Good Companions: Cauliflower, Carrots, Beets, Cabbage, Cucumbers, and Potatoes–Bad Companions: Onions

  • Beans (Pole)—Good Companions: Corn and Radishes– Bad Companions: Kohlrabi, Beets, and Sunflowers

  • Beets—Good Companions: Bush Beans, Onions and Kohlrabi–Bad Companions: Pole Beans

  • Broccoli—Good Companions: Dill, Celery, Sage, Potatoes, Beets, and Onions– Bad Companions: Tomatoes, Pole Beans, Strawberries

  • Cabbage—Good Companions: Dill, Celery, Sage, Onions, and Potatoes– Bad Companions: Strawberries, Tomatoes, Pole Beans

  • Carrots—Good Companions: Lettuce, Tomatoes, and Peas– Bad Companions: Dill

  • Cauliflower—Good Companions: Celery– Bad Companions: Tomatoes, Strawberries
  • Celery—Good Companions: Tomatoes, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Leeks–Bad Companions: None

  • Corn—Good Companions: Potatoes, Peas, Bean, Cucumbers, Squash and Pumpkins– Bad Companions: Tomatoes

  • Dill—Good Companions: Cabbage—Bad Companions: Carrots

  • Eggplant—Good Companions: Beans—Bad Companions: None

  • Garlic—Good Companions: Roses—Bad Companions: Peas and Beans

  • Kale—Good Companions: Late Cabbage and Potatoes—Bad Companions: None

  • Kohlrabi—Good Companions: Onions, Beets and Cucumbers—Bad Companions: Strawberries, Tomatoes, and Pole Beans

  • Leeks—Good Companions: Celery, Onions, and Carrots—Bad Companions: None

  • Lettuce—Good Companions: Onions, Strawberries, Cucumbers, Carrots, and Radishes—Bad Companions: None

  • Melons—Good Companions: Corn and Sunflowers—Bad Companions: Potatoes

  • Onions—Good Companions: Beets, Carrots, Lettuce, Garlic, Summer Savory—Bad Companions: Peas, Beans

  • Peas—Good Companions: Radishes, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Beans, Turnips—Bad Companions: Onions

  • Potatoes—Good Companions: Beans, Corn, Peas, Cabbage, Cucumbers—Bad Companions: Hyssop

  • Radishes—Good Companions: Peas, Lettuce, Nasturtium, Cucumbers—Bad Companions: Hyssop

  • Spinach—Good Companions: Strawberries—Bad Companions: None

  • Squash, Pumpkin—Good Companions: Nasturtium, Corn—Bad Companions: Potatoes

  • Tomatoes—Good Companions: Asparagus, Parsley, Chives, Onions, Carrots, Marigold, Nasturtium—Bad Companions: Dill, Cabbage, Fennel

  • Turnips—Good Companions: Peas, Beans—Bad Companions—None

If you have already planted your garden and you have inadvertently planted bad companions, you will at least have some answers why things may not be going as planned. And if all else fails, grab some marigolds for your peppers and tomatoes. You won’t be sorry!

What plants do you like to plant together and why? Leave me a comment and let me know what you like to plant together.