Growing Great TomatoesWritten by Karen Gross
For many people, growing big juicy tomatoes is part of what makes vegetable gardening so enjoyable. Whether purchasing plants from your local nursery or starting tomatoes from seed, there are a few basic steps to follow to ensure that you harvest an abundant crop at end of growing season. There are many different varieties of tomatoes to choose from, depending on whether you will be cooking, canning, slicing, or eating miniature or grape-like varieties right off vine. Sweet 100ís are very abundant, and are good for salads as well as eating fresh from garden. Roma tomatoes are good for making salsa, because peels are not as tough as others so you donít need to peel skins off. Romas are also known as classic paste and sauce tomato. There are Early Girls, Early Boys, Big Boys, Big Mamas, Sweet Baby Girls, Beefsteaks, French Rose hybrids, Big Rainbow, specialty tomatoes and many more. So start by choosing kind of tomato you would like to grow.
Planting Tomatoes from Seeds
Tomatoes grown from seed will require six to eight weeks before they can be planted in garden. Purchase individual containers or flats, starter soil or mixture, and seeds of your choice. Fill each container with soil, pressing it tightly to remove air and to avoid settling problems after watering. Typically, seed companies print instructions for planting right on tomato seed package. Each variety is a little different so follow instructions carefully. Prepare a label identifying type of tomato and date started. You can make your own from Popsicle sticks or purchase them at store or garden center.
Insert your label in pot and mist with water. Place containers in a sunny window and keep seeds moist by placing a plastic bag over them. Small greenhouse containers are also available at your local nursery. Watch for seeds to germinate and remove plastic when plants emerge. Wean out weaker looking seedlings to give strong ones more room to grow. Keep moist by misting or watering tomatoes when needed. When plants have a second pair of leaves it is time to transplant these seedlings to your garden or a large pot in which they are to grow.
It is a good idea to harden off or acclimatize a plant to outdoor conditions before planting by setting it out in direct sun during day and bringing it in at night. After a few days, tomato plant will have adapted to new surroundings and can be transplanted in desired location. Place plants directly outdoors after threat of frost in a shady location, out of wind and protected from heavy rains.
Purchasing Started Plants
If you prefer to purchase plants from your garden center or greenhouse, select dark green plants that are stocky in size and that do not have any fruit. The fruit will stunt plant growth and total yield will be reduced. Tomatoes are one of few plants that will tolerate being planted deeper than they sit in pot. So a taller plant can be placed a little deeper if preferred. As mentioned, harden off plant before moving it to a final location.
Preparing Garden Soil For Tomato Plants The soil should be deep, loamy, and well-drained for best harvest. Tomatoes prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. The term pH balance refers to acidity or alkalinity of your soil from a numerical scale of 1.0 to 14.0. The neutral point on pH scale is 7.0. Higher than 6.5 indicates alkaline soil, lower than that indicates acidic soil.
Organic Gardening In The Backyard Ė Fun, Healthy, and Easier Than You May ThinkWritten by C.J. Gustafson
Organic gardening, which is sometimes thought of as something out of 60s hippie culture, has been steadily growing in popularity over years. Not only can you find entire aisles of organics at local supermarket, number of specialty stores dedicated to organically grown foods has increased dramatically. Part of this popularity is due to an increasing understanding of dangers associated with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Growing organically generally means gardening without these potentially dangerous chemicals. Many backyard gardeners are turning to organic methods as they realize how easy and effective organic growing can be.
Part of reason chemical pesticides and fertilizers are so widely used is because they work well. In deciding to use organic methods in your backyard garden, you first will need to accept fact that you will likely have more pest damage and lower yields than if you were employing chemicals. Many people are willing to make this trade off in return for opportunity to harvest chemical-free foods for themselves and their families.
There are several different approaches and techniques used in organic gardening. You may find that you are using some of them already. If you have selected cultivars that are resistant to pests or drought, you are involved in one form of organic gardening. If you put out a scarecrow or bars of hand soap to keep animals away, this too is organic gardening. Compost is an organic fertilizer. Organic techniques are around in many gardens already. By utilizing them more and moving away from chemicals, you can improve environment and lead a healthier lifestyle.
There are different levels of organic gardening and different reasons why people choose organic methods. Some do it because they do not want to harm any animals, even aphids or cutworms. So they try to develop a system where they can cohabitate peacefully, keeping insects and other animals out when possible and removing them or learning to live with them when other options donít work.
Some people are not opposed to pest control and extermination but they donít want to add any more chemicals to environment or to food that they eat. Others go organic as a means of getting back to a more historic, natural, and even challenging way of gardening. You will need to decide which methods match your personal philosophies and reasons for going organic.
Pest control and fertilization are two of key areas to focus on with organic gardening. In addition to using native, resistant plants, mulching, and practicing crop rotation, use of other natural methods of pest control and of compost and manure as fertilizer can go a long way toward creating a more organic garden.
There are many ways that backyard gardeners can control insects and other pests without use of synthetic chemicals.
- Use mesh row covers to keep insects off of plants. They need to be removed from squashes, melons, cucumbers, peppers and other plants that require or benefit from pollinations during flowering. - Collars placed around young plants will help prevent damage by cutworms. - Allow natural predators such as ladybugs and wasps to assist you in your efforts by planting vegetation that will attract them to your garden and avoiding pesticides that harm them as well. - Screens, cold frames and fences can help keep some insects and animals such as rabbits out of garden. - Aphids can be removed from plants with a strong stream of water. Hand removing insects such as potato beetles can be effective in small gardens. - Weed your garden and turn soil regularly to help reduce growth of insects that like to nest in certain plant debris. - Learn to identify egg clusters of harmful insects and remove them immediately - Use homemade insecticides such as garlic spray or other harmless pest inhibitors. - Try using non-invasive methods of pest control including soap bars, cuttings of human hair, or an alert dog in yard. These techniques may or may not be effective, but are worth a try before resorting to chemicals. - Some home pesticides such as those that use rhubarb or tobacco plants can be very dangerous to humans and other mammals. Use caution and be sure you know what youíre getting into before you begin.