Yielding An Abundant Tomato Crop With These Gardening Tips

tomato cluster ripening on vine - Yielding An Abundant Tomato Crop With These Gardening Tips If you want to grow the healthiest and most delicious tomatoes you possibly can this gardening season, take some pointers from the pros. There are a few very easy ways to implement, and therefore consistently grow a rich harvest of tasty, lush, mouthwatering tomatoes.

Why not try out the following organic gardening tips and see for yourself the biggest and healthiest yield your tomato plants can give you.

Organic Gardening Tips For Growing Succulent Tomatoes

Tip #1

Whether growing in containers or in the ground, make sure you select a location that will give your plants 6 to 8 hours of natural sunlight.  Also, make sure you have enough room between your tomato plants to not only provide for adequate air circulation, but it also assures adequate room for the plants to grow not only upwards, but for extending their stems.

Tip #2

illistration of transplanting a tomato plant

Illustration by Hyperion Yard

If you are buying plants to transplant, make sure you plant deep for the best possible results.

Burying the stem of a tomato allows the plant to sprout new roots which will help improve strength and vitality of the plant.

This also provides better absorption of the nutrients your tomato plants need to grow faster and healthier.

To do this, remove the bottom sets of leaves and bury the stem up to just below the bottom of the remaining leaves.

Experimenting with the above description for transplanting tomato plants to the first true leaf, when compared to just covering the root ball has shown to increase tomato yields by 18% and up to 26% percent for every 25 pounds of fruit at first harvest, according to Dr. Charles Vavrina at the Southwest Florida Research & Education Center.

Rodale’s Organic Life writes, that the secret to great tomatoes is all in the roots. Plants with big root systems need less water and can stand up to summer storms.

To encourage your tomatoes to put down robust roots, start by taking a look at the stems of your tomato seedlings. The fine “hairs” lining the stem develop into roots when they come into contact with moist soil. Burying a large portion of the stem at planting time effectively doubles the size of the plant’s root system and encourages productive plants.

Tip #3

This tip is crucial to planting, growing, and harvesting an abundant of tomatoes. Test your soil. Why? Tomatoes grow and produce well in soil that is more acidic, between 6.0 – 6.8 pH.

You can take a sample of your soil to the horticultural department of your local collage or University for lab testing, or you purchase a pH level testing kit.

After you have discerned your garden soils alkaline and acidity levels, you can add the appropriate organic soil amendments to reach the recommended 6.0 – 6.8 pH for tomatoes. Most garden centers can tell you just what you need to do to get your soil perfect.

Tip #4

prunning tomato suckers for better fruit

Image credit: Fine Gardening

 

Trick your tomatoes into being stronger by plucking the first flowers that appear. This allows your tomato plants to grow more extensive root systems, as well as a mature and developed leaf canopy, before any fruit is produced.

You should also prune any suckers, which are the little offshoots of the main stem below your first fruit-producing branch.

Fine Gardening says that doing so will allow most of the sugar produced in the first 30 days after transplanting, to be directed to the developing fruit, since the only competition is a single growing tip.

Tip #5

Use tomato cages or supports to grow your tomatoes vertically. When you allow tomato vines to lay on the ground, your plants are much more susceptible to pests and diseases.

When you provide vertical support, these garden dangers have a harder time attacking your plants. Sprawling vines also take up valuable space in your garden.

Tip #6

Organic fertilizer for tomatoesSouthwest Gardener says to fertilize your tomato plants once a month for in-ground tomatoes, and every three weeks for tomatoes in containers.

Adding organic compost, either your own or store bought will also help to encourage healthy growth and a bigger harvest.

Scratch compost into the ground around the stem, and at the same time, trim a few of the upper leaves on each plant.

Tip #7

Whether you decide to plant determinate or indeterminate varieties, consider planting new tomatoes three weeks after your original plants are planted. This will extend your growing season and guarantees that if you run into any weather or pest problems, you are still sure to enjoy multiple, healthy harvests. This means you won’t need to harvest and use your entire crop at once.

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How to Banish Blossom Rot From Your Tomato Garden

How to Banish Blossom Rot From Your Tomato GardenBlossom rot, or blossom end rot, is a common problem encountered by professional and back yard tomato gardeners. You may be asking what is blossom rot? It is a disease that that can be identified by a dark, rotten spot at the blossom end of developing tomatoes.

But no need to despair, as there are techniques you can use to counter act blossom rot before it even starts. It is pertinent that you follow through with the methods, because once the end rot appears on an individual fruit, there is no way to cure the affected tomato.

You can cut away the rotted portion of the tomato after you harvest it and safely eat the portion that was not affected, but it is best to eliminate the problem before it reaches that point.

How To Prevent Tomato Blossom Rot

Let’s examine these questions:

  1. How does blossom rot start?
  2. How can I prevent it from showing up in the first place?

Blossom end rot is a physiological affliction of the tomato plant. Initial symptoms can  and consist of small, light brown flecks and lesions occur initially on green fruit that are clustered on the blossom end of the developing fruit.

As the disorder worsens, a circular to oblong, dark brown, firm lesion develops on the blossom end.

If blossom rot is left unchecked, you can lose a large portion of your entire tomato crop to this condition.

What causes blossom end rot is the plants deficiency in calcium. Adequate amounts of calcium are needed in order for tomato plants to produce their fruit properly. Even if you have plenty of calcium in your soil, your plants may not be able to effectively absorb it for a number of reasons. When this occurs, your plants are at risk of contracting blossom rot.

Prevention

Now to answer the question of how to prevent blossom rot in the first place? To prevent blossom end rot is making sure your plants have getting enough calcium and are able to absorb enough of the mineral.

soil test kitBefore planting your tomatoes, be sure to have your soil tested or do it yourself with an inexpensive soil testing kit.

Ideally, your soil should be slightly acidic, with a pH somewhere running between 6.2 to 6.8. The plants also need a constant supply of major and minor plant nutrients as well (Bonnie Plants).

To start, if your soil is too acidic, add some limestone to increase the pH. Use caution when adding this soil amendment, because adding too much will cause the soil too be, to alkaline.

If this occurs, or if your soil is naturally alkaline, you can amend it with rich organic matter, elemental sulfur or an acidifying fertilizer, such as ammonium sulfate. It can be very challenging to lower soil pH, however, because limestone in the ground is continually dissolving.

If you live in an area where alkaline soil is a fact of life, you may want to build raised beds to create a more favorable environment that tomato plants will thrive and produce tasty fruits.

water base of tomato plant

Image Credit: HGTV – Garden

Once your soil is at the optimum pH level, you’ll want to ensure your plants are receiving adequate moisture.

Optimal tomato growth requires regular and deep watering, so that water gets all the way down to the entire root system.

Make sure your plants are receiving 1 to 2 inches of water weekly, and more if a warm spell comes on.

To reduce the chance of foliar diseases, water the base of tomato plants and avoid getting water on the leaves, especially if you’re watering in the evening.

Blossom end rot will usually occur at the start of the season as the first fruits appear. If you notice your tomatoes are showing possible signs of blossom rot, make sure your plants are watered deeply every 4 to 5 days. If it is extremely hot in your area, water them even more frequently.

To determine when it is time to water your plants, dig down 3 or 4 inches into the soil. If the soil is moist, wait 24 hours and check again. When the soil at that level is dry, it is time to water again.

seaweed extractFinally, many tomato gardeners also swear by liquid kelp (seaweed) extract as a way to combat blossom rot. Sea Kelp contains a natural substance you can use to condition soil, and it can contain more than 70 vitamins, minerals and enzymes essential to the health your tomato plants.

The extract and fertilizer are readily available in local garden centers, large home improvement stores or via online retailers. You may want to test it out on part of your garden to see how it works for you.

Although blossom rot can be a garden dilemma, it is time will spent in preparation and planning your tomato garden, which will go a long ways towards eradicating blossom end rot from your garden.

Header Article Image Credit: Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program

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The Best Tomato Varieties For Your Container Gardening

The Best Tomato Varieties For Your Container Gardening

A great alternative for the tomato gardener with limited garden space is to use buckets, pots or containers to grow tomato plants.

Container gardening offers many advantages, such as growing a few plants in containers is a lot less intimidating to beginning gardeners than trying to plan and care for a large vegetable garden. Without a doubt, it is much easier to care for and maintain a small container garden than a large outdoor area.

Planting your tomatoes in a portable set up allows you to move your tomato plants around so they get the necessary sunlight each day. Though growing tomatoes in the sun is necessary, but the fruit themselves do not need sunlight to ripen, as the tomato actually ripens fastest in the absence of sunlight. Tomatoes ripen because of heat and ethylene gas, not because of sunlight (Gardening Know How).

A word to the wise, not all tomato varieties are perfect for container gardening. To ensure that you receive great tasting tomatoes, and the biggest possible yield, then take a look at these three tomato varieties.

Container Gardening With The Right Tomato Plants

Japanese Black Trifele

Japanese Black Trifele TomatoAlthough the Japanese Black Trifele is considered a great container tomato, be advised that it can be found in both indeterminate and determinate varieties.

Before buying a particular plant, you’ll want to make sure the ones you are considering are the more compact variety.

The pear-shaped fruits of the Japanese Black Trifele will develop a deep mahogany color as a sign that it is ripe. This beautiful fruit is as visually appealing as it is delicious. You can expect a sweet and smoky, multi-layered taste.

Rareseeds says the plants produce loads of fruit all summer long, and has been a favorite with many seed savers.

Sungold Cherry Tomato

 Sungold Cherry TomatoThe Sungold cherry tomato is a indeterminate hybrid. These tangerine-orange cherry tomatoes are super sweet and savory.

The plant boasts as a vigorous, disease resistant plant, and as such this cherry tomato plant is very strong and requires very little care.

Also, a single Sungold plant can give you cherry tomatoes all summer long.

Brandywine

Heirloom Organics says that the Brandywine tomato is among the oldest heirloom tomato varieties, and have been grown for well over 100 years. The fruit is a large, slightly sweet, pink, beefsteak tomato that can weigh 1 ½ pounds. It is an indeterminate growing vine plant that can reach 9 feet in height with plenty of light and heat.

This tomato variety consistently wins first place in tomato taste tests not only in the United States, but throughout the world.

Some other great tomatoes to grow in your container garden include the Wapsipinicon Peach, with its delicious and fuzzy fruit or the intriguing Black Krim heirloom variety which yields large purple and red fruits.

The tomatoes we have mentioned here is far from a comprehensive list. With thousands of tomato varieties to choose from, you are sure to find great options for your container gardening.

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Organic Cooking

Organic CookingOrganic cooking is one of the best ways to get healthier in your cooking.  Organic fruits, vegetables, and other organic food products are grown naturally, which is allowing to occur or develop gradually and naturally, without being forced or contrived.

Organic food is not a Genetically Modified Organism. There has been debates since GMO foods have been farmed and brought to market as to  whether organic produce or foods have more nutrition than non-organic.

Finally the debate has ended, with the conclusion that the vitamin content is the same in traditional grown foods versus organically grown, with the difference being found in the antioxidants and phytonutrients, they are found more in organic produce.

Are you worried about how to cook organically?  You shouldn’t be.  For the most part, it’s no different than cooking traditional foods, and you know how to cook those.

There are several reasons to cook organically: It’s better for the environment.  Organic food is readily available at the supermarket.  You could grow your own foods.  The best reason

yet: Organic foods are free from chemicals, pesticides, and poisons.  They are also free from growth hormones and antibiotics.

Organic.org states 10 reason why we should eat organic. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Reduce the toxic load; keep chemicals out of the air, soil, water, and our bodies
  • Reduce, if not eliminate farm pollution
  • Protect future generations
  • Build healthier soil
  • Have tastier food
  • Celebrate the culture of agriculture
Organic Meal- Organic Cooking

ORGANIC MEAL

They say whether it is local produce, coffee that is imported or artisan cheese, organic has demonstrate a reverence for the land and the people that farm it.

No matter what zip code you live in, organic has proven to use less energy (on average, about 30 percent less), is beneficial to soil, water and local habitat, and is safer for the people who harvest the food.

Are you convinced yet?  Organic cooking IS the way to cook!  It’s cooking for the future. Organic cooking is the only way to go.

Check out our page Recipes Using Organic Foods with a list of 9 recipes and growing. Some of the splendid recipes are:

 

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How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

This is the fifith post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first three please link here to read.

Now for -How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds – with Judith Sorg.

There are many benefits to using raised vegetable garden beds in your garden.

For starters, I have found elevated garden beds are easier on your back and knees because they require less bending, kneeling and crawling than regular beds.  In addition, raised garden beds offer better drainage, which means your plants aren’t stuck sitting in excess water every time it rains. Plus, it is much easier to build your soil UP than it is to work amendments into the ground.

raised garden beds for the handicapped

Raised garden beds for the handicapped

Raised garden beds also are great for those who are wheelchair or scooter bound.

Fortunately, building raised vegetable beds is a super easy do-it-yourself project. All you need are some readily available tools and materials, and an extra pair of hands.

How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

Tools and Materials  

(makes two 8’ x 4’ x 6” high beds)

(6) 1” x 6” x 8’ cedar boards* – 2 boards cut into 4’ sections

Wood screws and/or 8 metal corner brackets

Power drill

Important Note: Cedar is naturally insect and moisture resistant, so it tends to hold up well in outdoor environments. Avoid using pressure treated lumber for your food growing areas because the chemicals used to create them can leach into your soil.

*Cedar boards come in a variety of lengths and widths. Obviously, using 6” wide boards will give you more shallow beds than 10” boards. Choose whichever length and width combination you prefer. If you find 4’ beds are too wide, simply reduce the length of each shorter section to 3’ – 3.5’.

Instructions:

To assemble your raised vegetable garden beds, line the ends of an 8’ foot section and a 4’ sections up so they form an “L” shape. While your helper holds the boards in place, secure the two boards together with wood screws or with the metal corner brackets.

Repeat this process with the remaining cedar boards until you create 2 wooden rectangles, each measuring 8’ in length by 4’ in width.

Once your beds are assembled, carry them a sunny spot in your garden and place them where you want your raised beds before you begin filling them.

Filling Your Vegetable Garden Beds

Of course, you can fill each bed with pre-packaged gardening mix, but you may find that gets a bit pricey. You can also create your own more cost-effective planting medium very easily.

 Build Raised Vegetable Garden BedsStart by adding a thick layer of newspaper or flattened cardboard across the bottom of your raised garden box. This will help prevent weeds and grass from growing up into your planter. Then, add alternating layers of peat moss, compost, aged manure or barn litter, and topsoil.

You can add additional amendments, such as bone meal or a slow-release organic fertilizer, once you decide which plants you want to grow in each bed and you’ve conducted soil tests to determine what nutrients your soil needs to accommodate those plants.

If you prepare and fill your raised beds in the fall, simply cover them with dark plastic to “cook down” all winter.  You will be rewarded with beautiful rich soil in the spring, but it will be quite a bit lower than you remember – so be extra generous when filling the beds.

If you assemble your raised vegetable garden beds in the spring, you can plant right into the layered mixture. Over time, the layers will break down to form a rich soil. In the near term, your plants will do just fine in it as long as you don’t use fresh compost, manure or barn litter, all of which can “burn” your plants.

As you can see, learning how to build raised vegetable garden beds isn’t difficult. If you follow these easy instructions, you can look forward to years of more rewarding and efficient gardening.

Next post will be March. 20,2014, themed, “Planning a Productive and Practical Potager.”

 

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3 Must Know Vegetable Gardening Tips

Meet Guest Blogger: Judith Sorg on Vegetable Gardening

young woman harvesting tomatoesI enjoy gardening so much and I am glad to have been invited to talk on this subject. There are few things in life compare to the simple pleasure of biting into a freshly picked tomato while it is still warm from the summer sun. When you grow your own vegetable garden, you can experience this little piece of heaven all season long.

However, as I have found from my own experience growing an abundant supply of fresh vegetables year after year takes some practice. For most people, becoming a consistently successful vegetable gardener comes after years of hands-on experience. You can however lessen your own learning curve by adopting some tried-and-true vegetable gardening tips that I use.

Here are 3 Vegetable Gardening Tips I have that I want to pass onto you:

Tip #1: Amend Your Soil: Few gardeners are blessed with an abundant supply of beautiful, rich topsoil. Depending on where you live, you may find yourself struggling with heavy clay, rocky, sandy or other less-than-ideal soil conditions.

amending the soilEach of these soil types presents different challenges ranging from retaining too much water (or not enough) to being devoid of the essential nutrients plants need to survive and thrive. For example, if you have heavy clay soil and you just dig a hole in the ground and drop a plant into it, chances are good that plant won’t make it. The heavy clay around your plant will act like a bathtub whenever it rains, which means your plant will be forced to sit in a pool of water with nowhere to drain.

So your first step will be to identify the type of soil you have so you can take the appropriate steps to amend it. Once you know what you are dealing with, you’ll be able to determine which specific amendments are needed to amend your type of soil.

I recommend you take a cup full of soil to your local nursery, so they can let you know what type of soil you have and what to do to amend it.

Tip #2: Grow UP: Whenever possible, make sure you take advantage of vertical space in your garden by utilizing fences, trellises, and other structures to keep your plants off the ground.

There are many advantages to growing your vegetables vertically. For starters, you can grow more food in a smaller area, which is great for urban gardens or those with limited growing space. Plus, growing vegetables on structural supports makes harvesting and weeding around your plants a lot easier. This is especially true for older individuals such as myself and for those with other physical restrictions because less bending and stretching is required to perform these tasks.

Growing vertically benefits your vegetable plants, too.  Raising the plants off the ground leads to better air circulation around them, which is associated with fewer fungal infections and pest infestations.

Tip #3: Give Your Plants Some Friends: Companion planting is a smart way to increase the yield of your vegetable garden.  Learning which plants work well together is an important step towards maximizing the efficiency of your vegetable garden.

Some plants are particularly beneficial to one another, so it makes sense to group these plants together in your garden. These beneficial plant combinations may add needed nutrients to the soil, deter unwanted pests or attract beneficial insects into your garden.

You may have heard how Native Americans planted “the three sisters” – maize (corn), beans and squash – together because each plant benefited the others in some way.  For example, the corn stalks provided structure for the beans to grow upon, while the squash provided an effective weed barrier as it spread out along the ground.

Vegetable gardening is an acquired skill that evolves over time. However, applying these 3 must know vegetable gardening tips will lessen your learning curve significantly. 

Next post is March. 13, 2014 the theme will be:  Deciding When to Plant Vegetables in Your Area

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Eight Reasons Eating Organic is Important to You…and the World around You

This is the second post of Going Organic with guest speaker Grace Simpson. If you missed the Introduction please link here to read: Going Organic

Now for -Eight Reasons Eating Organic is Important to You…and the World around You- with Grace Simpson. way-of-life

It seems like everyone is talking about organic foods like it’s some kind of buzz word or status symbol. I suppose for some, it might be. But for many of us, it’s a way of life that takes us back to a more natural way of living and farming. One that has been destroyed by the machine food production has become today.

Now, I don’t mean to sound like one of those doom and gloom, anti-establishment types. I don’t disparage anyone for choosing the foods that they do. Sometimes it’s an economic necessity. Other times it’s simply not having enough information about what’s really going on with our food. Sometimes it’s just apathy.

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.” ~ Helen Keller

I’m not sure what I can do about the apathetic, but for people like you who may have budgeting obstacles or are trying to find more information about what’s going into you bodies, I am here to help.

So the first natural question is…why go organic?

farm

Organic eating has a number of benefits and here are just a few of them:

– Organic produce is free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Even if you wash your produce, you cannot remove all these harmful chemicals that can affect your nervous system, cause cancer and more. Also consider that conventional farming which uses harmful chemicals can contribute to the contamination of our water supply, so supporting organic, you are also supporting a cleaner water supply for all.

– While people may not be quite as concerned, eating organic can help you avoid foods that have been irradiated. Government bodies tout the irradiation process as helpful in reducing harmful bacteria, preventing spoilage and increasing shelf life of foods. However, irradiation reduces the nutritional value of your foods and there is growing concern by researchers that the process may not be as safe as previously thought.

– Avoidance of genetically modified foods or GMOs (genetically modified organisms). While huge biotechnology companies like Monstanto will have you believing that they are increasing the viability of crop growing, there are long-term dangers in GMOs that have caused them to be banned by much of Europe and Japan.

– Organic livestock is fed its natural diet, rather than potentially contaminated grains, antibiotics and hormones. This is in contrast to conventionally-raised livestock that get hormones to help them grow faster and antibiotics are given en masse as a preventative measure to illness. The scary thing is that the preventative measure may be necessary given the poor hygienic conditions of the animals. With organic, animals are raised more humanely and more naturally, eliminating the need for these potentially dangerous situations for both livestock and human.

– Organic growing contributes to improved soil quality. A lot of people don’t realize it, but our soils are so depleted that we no longer get the nutrients we did from our foods a few decades ago. In order to obtain the certified organic label from the USDA, soil must be free of prohibited chemicals for three years and the increased soil quality is a necessary goal for organic farmers. To learn more about a variety of soil studies, check this out.

– Organic farming is more wildlife friendly. From animals to plant species, a more natural ecology is supported through organic methods. There are many studies supporting this including a study from the University of Oxford that found that there is increased biodiversity on organically farmed land.

– Buying organic allows you to support your local economy and farmers. This is good for you because you get fresher foods and also reduces the pollution that results from food transport.

There are so many reasons to go organic and this post touches on just a few of them. Here’s the most immediate one that people can really appreciate. Organic foods simply taste better. This is real food, free of all unnecessary human interventions and inventions. It’s nature’s perfection and once you try it, you probably won’t want to go back to your other options.

Of course, this still leaves the issue of cost and how organic food seems unaffordable to many families today. Well, that is exactly what we’ll be talking about in my next post: How to Eat Organic, Even if You’re on a Budget.

Next post click here:  How to Eat Organic on a Budget and What Organic Really Mean

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