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Friday, December 24, 2010

Taking Advantage of the First Snow of the Winter


Taking Advantage of the First Snow of the Winter

Guest written by our friend Donnie Donovan

The first snow of winter is always such an exciting event. The land is covered with a pristine white blanket of snow that is just begging to be dug into. We wait all year for this big event and are always prepared with snow gear to ensure we can really enjoy the cool temperatures. The first snow always seems so much crisper and more enticing. Snowmen, snow angels and snowball fights are always at the top of the agenda.
If we are lucky and there is enough snow, we build snow forts before the snowball fight. Of course, the first snowfall activities would not be complete without a couple of rounds of sledding. We have the perfect sledding hill within walking distance of our home. The kids bundle up, dig out their sleds from the garage and off to the sledding hill we go.

After a long day in the snow, it is time to curl up with a warm blanket, a cup of hot chocolate and settle in for the night to watch some directv service specials. The day is always filled with lots of fun, but it is completely exhausting. We will definitely sleep well after our day playing in the snow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

200 Year Old Tip on Perennial Gardening

Okay one more fun thing. This is from 1785 and it talks about perennial plantings. I wanted to find something about gardening 200 years old.

A Tomato Transplant Container from 100 Years Ago

A page from Vegetable Gardening 1909

We have a lot in common with gardeners from the past. Even 101 years ago they looked for methods to grow transplants. I thought this was interesting in that they use metal cans and melt parts of it.

About Tomatoes: The Journal of Horitculture May 4th, 1880

Just another example about growing tomatoes.  It is from the Journal of Horticulture May 4th, 1880. This is a great way to read up on the history of vegetable gardening.

Using Google Public Domain Books for the GARDEN

This is a clip from Google. I used their public domain book search. You can create a HTML copy and paste it. This is just an example. Public Domain is a time frame. If you seach the books from 1950 backwards that pretty much covers the free books. That means you can read them for free, use your e-reader, or tag them to a blog like I did. I am always looking for something to do in the winter.

Here is the link to use Google Public Domain Search

What is interesting about the entry below is it is from 1877. Not much has changed in preparing tomatoes. There is lot about tomatoes and gardening that you can use for your needs that was written 100 years ago.




Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Save Your Vegetable Seeds From Grocery Stores!

One thing you can start doing in December is saving your vegetable seeds from the grocery. You won't want to save them all but you might find some gourmet peppers or similar.

I got a bag of extraordinarily sweet small peppers from Costco. Now they could be hybrids which means the seed won't reflect the fruit. But it is worth the risk. I can't find the name of the peppers either. I figured - let me save 20 or 30 seeds and see if I can get a plant to grow.

If you shop at stores with "exotic" or "gourmet" vegetables you might find a hardy heirloom squash. If you save seeds this way, you have the advantage of tasting the final product before you grow them. That's a smart way to grow a garden.

Enjoy the off season.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Dig at Growing A Tomato Totally Indoors

I posted three reference articles on growing tomatoes indoors. I didn’t write them. I wanted information. They were very helpful. The main issues still hold true for container tomatoes be it indoors or outdoors. Those issues are sunlight, water, and soil.


The articles I read suggested various sizes of containers. I am going to go with a 5 gallon bucket filled about 2/3 the way up with moisture control potting soil. Why? I already have those buckets and I know for a fact that inconsistent watering will mess up your tomatoes. The more soil you have… the harder (though not impossible) it is to harm your plant from over or under watering it. Prepared moisture control soil also has fertilizer in it. I want this to be easy.

I am going build a side light system. It will just be a standard fluorescent light fixture from a local hardware store. The overhead lights you see around, nothing fancy. I will mount it on some 2x4’s so it can stand on its side. This plant will be lighted from the side. I could buy a system but I don’t feel like spending more than the parts will cost to build it. Plus it is holidays and I am saving money for gifts etc.

The artificial light must be left on the plant somewhere between 12 and 18 hours. I will do 12 hours and set the plant by my basement door. If it gets leggy… I will extend the hours. You have to use a timer. It is an absolute must. Set it and forget it.

I am going to use water soluble fertilizer at every watering. I will cut it to half strength as the tomato grows, flowers, and sets fruit. When the fruit sets, I will go to ¼ strength.

The other issues I see are pollination, insects, and disease. Those issues will be new to me - indoors. I probably will treat the surface of the soil with Seven Dust. It works and I researched the potential side effects. Pollination will be tapping the stem of the plant. The electric toothbrush at the base seems like too much work for me.

I will germinate a few seeds in a styro-foam cup by the window. I think the biggest issue for me is going to be my wife. To me it’s a plant. To her it’s a bucket of dirt. If it goes well, perhaps I will have also grow a few future 3 foot transplants for May 1st.

Ehows Entry On Growing Tomatoes Indoors: The Winner Is?

Okay this is from Ehow. Here is the original link http://www.ehow.com/how_2080460_grow-tomatoes-indoors.html

I figure three sources are enough to fumble my way through it. Hopefully, you may decided to try it too. It mentions the electric toothbrush at the base and states a shake of the stem will work. It suggests a 5 gallon pot versus the 6 inch pot in another article. Time to develop my strategy. The winner... me of course. I now have something to do. Im sure insects and diseases will be an issue. I'll have to read up on that too.
Here is the written entry text from the linked article.

1
First, decide where you will grow your tomatoes. You'll need an area that is away from traffic, but easy to get to. Perhaps a corner in a utility room, a heated garage or basement; any of these will be fine. A table makes it easier, but is not a requirement. Ideally, a table that is about waist high will allow you to access your plants without having to bend over, but as long as the floor isn't too cold, the floor will work.



2
The tomatoes have two important requirements: light and temperatures. You will almost certainly need a grow-light setup. Some people report success using a sunny window, but I have not had luck doing this due to short days in winter. Grow lights don't have to be expensive. I use cheap shop lights with plant light tubes. A basic setup with one shop light, two pieces of chain, and two light tubes (marked plant and aquarium light) can be found for about $15 to $20 at a discount or home improvement store.

Since I use an unfinished area in the basement, I am able to easily hang the lights from beams in the ceiling. I use metal chains, so that I may adjust the height of the light as needed.



3
The other consideration is temperature. You will need to grow your plants in a heated area, such as heated basement or heated garage. Ideally, tomatoes need temperatures in the 70s during the day and upper 60s at night. Anything cooler will cause the tomatoes to grow poorly.



4
Next, you will need to choose your seeds. Your local nursery may have seed packets for sale, but if they don't, plenty of online seed stores will have many varieties to choose from. Beginners will have more success by choosing a tomato variety that grows a compact plant: look for tomato seeds that say patio or container in their descriptions. As you get more experienced, you might want to try other varieties, but you will need bigger pots!



5
Germinate your seeds in a small pot with seed starter mix. Peat pots are ideal, because they can be transplanted without disturbing the roots. Keep the mix lightly moist, but not soggy. Put two or three seeds in each pot. They should germinate in about a week.



6
Turn your grow lights on for about 12-14 hours a day. An inexpensive timer can make this much easier. The lights should be about an inch from the top of the plant, and raised as it grows taller.



7
When the seedlings are three inches tall, they should be transplanted into large containers. The minimum size should be five gallon pots, but bigger is better, to leave more room for roots to grow. Fill the pot with new potting soil and carefully transplant the seedlings into the larger pot. If you've started with a peat pot, simply make a hole in the soil of the large pot, place the entire peat pot into the hole, and carefully spread soil to fill the hole and cover the top of the transplanted peat pot. If the transplants are in a plastic pot, carefully turn the pot upside down, cradling the top in your hand, and lightly tap the bottom of the pot with your free hand. This should dislodge the soil and seedlings into your hand. Very carefully plant the ball of soil into the new pot as above.



8
If more than one seedling has sprouted in each pot, you will need to thin them out. Pull out the smallest seedlings and discard. Leave one seedling per large pot. Carefully place your stake or dowel rod into the soil, but be careful to keep it a couple of inches away from your new plant. The roots are very delicate at this time.



9
Begin fertilizing the plants when you transplant into the new, larger pot. I like to use liquid seaweed, especially at transplant time, because it adds a number of micro nutrients and promotes healthy plants. Since I am an organic gardener, I only use organic products, but any all-purpose fertilizer will work. Use it at half the strength the directions recommend. I highly recommend using the liquid seaweed in addition to any fertilizer. Maxicrop and Neptune are two excellent brands.



10
Water the plants thoroughly, but not too often. Keep an eye on your plants, and at any sign of distress, give them water and liquid seaweed. But be careful not to over water - too much water is as bad as too little. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again. Each home is different depending on temperature and humidity levels, as well as air flow. As you gain experience, you will be able to know water requirements simply by touching the soil. A container with a catch pan underneath will help drain excess water.



11
As the plants begin to grow, watch to make sure they are not getting "leggy." If they are, you probably need to lower the grow lights.



12
When the plants begin to grow yellow blooms (which will turn into tomatoes), it's time to start giving it some phosphorus. Scratch a little bone meal into the top of the soil. This will promote the growth of healthy fruits.



13
The flowers need to be pollinated. Some growers use fancy techniques to simulate the buzzing of pollinating bees by placing an electric toothbrush near the blooms. I have found it is a lot easier - and just as effective - to give the plant a light shake. Carefully grab the main stem in your hand and shake the plant gently a few times. Do this about once a week or so, as long as the plant is producing blooms.



14
At some point the plant will need some support. Hopefully you have already placed a small trellis or stake into the pot, and all that's needed is to attach stems to the stake to provide support. Old pieces of pantyhose work well, or you can use the green velcro garden tape that is designed for this purpose. You will need to occasionally rearrange the support areas as the plant grows.



15
Now all that's left is to wait for the tomatoes to ripen! Eat and enjoy.

No Sweat to Growing Tomatoes Indoors: Just Tap the Plant?

Well Mr. Cox seems to present it as a tap on the stem to pollinate the plants. The entry below this one talked about an electric toothbrush to simulate the bee and thus the vibration releases the pollen. Now I hope I can just tap the plant vs. brush the plant.  One thing about gardening, you learn as you go. Seems like a 6 in pot is all I need.


Grow Your Own Tomatoes Indoors This Winter
Original Link

By Robert Cox, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Agent, Horticulture

Tomatoes here, tomatoes there, tomatoes everywhere. When we're adrift in a sea of tomatoes, why a column about growing more tomatoes?

Think about the taste of those store-bought facsimiles you purchased last January and you have the answer. Those pale, hard, tasteless, imitations made you long for the real thing. This winter, you can have it.

You don't need a green thumb or a greenhouse to grow vine-ripened tomatoes indoors. "Window-sill" tomatoes will do well in 6-inch pots filled with good potting soil. You'll also need the right tomato seed, seed starter mix, fertilizer, and plant stakes. Presto! Tomato salad comin' up!

Window-sill tomatoes are smaller than their outdoor relatives -- quarter-to-half-dollar-size. But don't let their small size fool you -- they come with a big tomato taste. They aren't "slicers," but they are perfect for salads or snacks.

Here's how to grow a winter tomato garden:

You can grow one plant in a 6-inch pot or two plants in larger pots. For a continuous winter supply, start one or two new plants from seed every two weeks. Recommended varieties are Pixie, Patio, Toy Boy, Small Fry or Tiny Tim. These varieties will produce small plants, but they still may need to be staked, especially when they begin to bear fruit. Quarter-inch dowels make good stakes.

Germinate seeds in a small pot with starter mix. Plant seeds about 1/4 inch deep and water. Keep starter mix moist but not soggy. Germination should occur in 5 to l0 days.

Transplant from starter mix into potting soil when seedlings are about 3 inches tall. Fertilize regularly, but lightly, beginning about two weeks after transplanting. Water plants thoroughly, but not too frequently. A catch pan under the pot will keep windowsills dry.

When plants bloom, help Mother Nature along: Tap the main stem and larger side branches with your finger. This moves the plant slightly and encourages pollination. As you tap the plant, you might see a small cloud of pollen falling from the open flowers.

Turn plants occasionally, so all sides get a fair share of sunlight. After each plant has provided a bumper crop and has become unproductive, cut it off at the base, saving the potting soil for future transplants. Toss the old plant in the compost pile.

THE STORY BEHIND STORE-BOUGHT TOMATOES

To satisfy our year-round demand, commercial suppliers plant tomato varieties suitable to production and shipping needs. Often, these tomatoes lack the taste, color or texture that most people prefer. To better withstand shipping, they usually are picked at the "mature green" stage. To complete ripening at their destination, they are gassed with ethylene, a natural plant hormone that is part of the ripening process.

A United States Department of Agriculture study found that ethylene gas has no effect on the tomato's nutritional quality. Surprisingly, such tomatoes provide only slightly less beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, and vitamin C than the tastier vine-ripened fruits. One 5-ounce tomato -- whether home-or-greenhouse grown -- provides a third of our daily needs for these vitamins, along with some iron, fiber and B vitamins.

A Glimpse at Growing Tomatoes Indoors

Well, I decided I want to grow tomatoes indoors. Not seedlings but full plants. I am beginning my search for information. I thought I would share this entry from Jasons-indoor-guide-to-organic-and-hydroponics-gardening.

The above link has great pictures regarding pollination. First thing to keep in mind is forcing flowers. I did not know that would be an issue. Second thing to keep in mind if finding an electronic vibrating bee. Read below. Very interesting.

Back to my search. I think it would be great to have some cherry tomato plants in the house. I wonder if there are self pollinating tomato varieties?

The linked entry below: (Just the words, I could not copy the pictures)

Learning how to grow tomatoes indoors can be very rewarding. My own organically grown produce always tastes better than the store bought. My mouth waters thinking about my next fresh tomato salsa or the smell of a garlicky homemade spaghetti sauce simmering. Mmmm, let's get started!

For an indoor garden, you will want to choose a crack resistant variety. Not only will these tomatoes do better indoors under lights, but these varieties also tend to be the better sauce/paste tomatoes.

Seed Starting Soil Mix

The first step to learning how to grow tomatoes is preparing a good starting soil mix. The mix I always use is a standard potting soil mix with about 10% worm castings added. Standard potting soil is usually equal parts perlite, vermiculite, and sphagnum peat and is adjusted to the right Ph by adding 1 teaspoon of hydrated lime for every gallon of soil mix. I actually like to Ph adjust my mix this way for tomatoes because the lime is a good source of calcium, which prevents blossom end rot in tomatoes later on.

I moisten the initial mix little by little, using plain water and Thrive Alive B1. The mix is just right when you squeeze a handful and get a few drops out of it... but only a few. If you mix it a little too wet, just add a little dry vermiculite and remix.
Starting your Tomato Seeds

Starting seeds is always a delicate part of growing anything, and learning how to grow tomatoes is no different. Start with a regular nursery tray full of your soil mix. Tomato seeds should be planted 1/4 inch deep, and about 8 seeds/inch. You may want to cover them for the first few days to keep them from drying out.

Tomato seeds germinate best at 80 degrees, and should be mostly up in 5 to 12 days. Remove any cover you may have on them as soon as they begin popping up. The fresh sprouts should be kept 4 to 6 inches under fluorescent lighting. The light should be kept on 18 to 24 hours a day. When they are 1 1/2 inches tall, carefully transplant them into their own 6 inch containers.

Tomato Plant Care

The easiest step of how to grow tomatoes. Keep them under 2 or 3 fluorescent lights that you leave on 18 to 24 hours every day. I usually feed them Maxsea 16-16-16 at this point, although they could probably use even more nitrogen (the first number). The strength of the solution is about 600 ppm, which is 1 rounded teaspoon of Maxsea/gallon. I also add 10 ml/gallon Thrive Alive B1.

The ideal temperatures for growth are 70-75 degrees during the day and 65-67 degrees at night. When the plants reach 12 inches or more, they may need transplanting to one gallon containers. After 6 weeks or 8 weeks, your plants should be just about ready to begin fruiting them.

Begin Flowering your Tomatoes

Flowering is one of the trickiest parts of how to grow tomatoes indoors. You will need to be familiar with how to force flowering in plants. Some tomatoes flower in 60 days and others take up to 80 days, beginning from the time you force flowering. Just as you begin this process, you want to make your final transplant into 3 gallon containers.

For the first two weeks, you want to feed them heavy with a 10-52-70 or similar fertilizer. Each time they need water give them food also at 800 ppm, which would be a little over half of the recommended "full strength" on the directions. Keep in mind you are feeding them each time you water them. For the rest of the season, feed them 16-16-16 or similar at 800ppm.

Tomato Flower Pollination

If flowering is the trickiest part of how to grow tomatoes, than pollination must be the trickiest part of flowering. As soon as flowers develop and begin to open, you must pollinate everyday while it is warm and humid. Ideally, the humidity will be 65 to 70 percent. Greenhouse growers usually do this between 11:30am and 12:30pm (basically noon) when these conditions occur naturally. For them, early and late day pollination often will not produce proper crops.

This is a tomato flower. Part A is the male anthers that will drop the pollen. Part B is the female carpels that will catch the pollen. The little red arrow is where it all takes place.

Most male anthers produce their pollen on the outsides of the anthers, making it easy to release pollen into the wind for pollination. In the tomato plant, however, pollen is produced internally, as if trapped in a straw. This is the biggest problem for tomato pollination.

The plant needs vibration at the right frequency, such as the buzzing of a bees wings, to dislodge and release the pollen. The best way I have found to do this is to take an electric toothbrush to each support truss and main branch. The more pollen to successfully fertilize the plant, the more seeds will be produced in the fruit (and therefore the meatier the tomato will be).

Final Indoor Tips

Just some final ideas for you on how to grow tomatoes. Flowering plants need stronger light to grow properly developed fruit. Check out high pressure sodium lighting tips if you have any doubts. Also, always use a little lime in the transplant soil to prevent blossom end rot. A dose of Cal-Mag once your tomatoes have fruit set would not be a bad idea. Finally, the vines that grow from leaf axials are called suckers, and should be prunned off throughout flowering. They suck up food that would normally be used to grow nice tomatoes. In 60 to 80 days you should be enjoying some homemade spaghetti sauce yourself!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Well It is Time for the 2011 Gardening Season to Start: Seeds and Catalogs

I have been busy with my family and kid's sports. I've been managing my other blog Game On Youth Ice Hockey. I pretty much neglect gardening from October till January. The good news is I did manage to put in the radishes, kales, and other cold weather crops. I kept picking until mid November.

NOW. It is time to collect seeds. Yep. I collect my tomato seeds now off the dried fruits on the vine. I just bag and tag them. I am keeping three or four varieties that did well.

I am also ordering all my free catalogs. Here is a list of ones I ordered. Nothing like thumbing through next years potential when its 25 degrees out.

Free Catalogs:
Territorial Seeds
Harris Seeds (multiple catalogs)
Tomato Growers
Totally Tomato (multiple catalogs)
Park Seeds
Rare Seeds
Stoke Seeds

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Full Line of Quality Medical Scrubs, Uniforms, and Accessories






My wife has been in the medical profession for 15 years. She wears scrubs every single day. I found a great website for quality, comfortable, and stylish scrubs. Blue Sky Scrubs carries the finest and most fashionable medical scrubs and hats available to you or in my case as a gift for my wife. If you have to wear something everyday, you might as well make sure they are fun, fashionable, and professional.

Shopping at their site is easy and they offer a huge selection of hospital uniforms and scrubs, nursing scrubs, medical hats, medical coats, jackets, and they even have their own line of designer surgical hats that can only be purchased online. The have excellent shipping rates and offer free shipping for orders over one and fifty dollars. My wife typically orders scrub sets to keep things simple. You can order sets or mix and match as your style and comfort standards dictate. Check out the huge selection of medical uniforms and scrubs at Blue Sky Scrubs. They have everything you need.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Daugher Found Style With Cole Haan Shoes





As I spend time searching the internet for seed catalogs and indoor growing supplies, my daughter enjoys using the internet to shop for shoes. She enjoys finding “stylish fashion bargains” that save me money.  And you know what? - she did. Shopping on-line at Zappos.com provides the buyer with two great money saving conveniences. They offer free shipping and free returns. This policy saves you money before you even shop. They even offer a 1 year return policy. If you are shopping on-line; free shipping, free returns, and a 1 year return policy is must. Now you have no reason not to take a look at the high quality shoes and styles of Cole Haan.

Cole Haan is a company that has been in business since 1928. Cole Haan not only met my daughter's standard for fashion bargains, they met her standard for the newest styles. They had what she wanted. She was fond of the Cole Haan Aire Laurie Mule. A stylish backless slip-on sneaker. Cole Haan not only sets quality and style standards in shoes but offers other luxurious product lines for handbags, belts, and eyewear. Cole Haan offers beautiful products people love to own, because they pay attention to the details. No two products are alike. They hand craft their products using the highest quality materials and create products that meet artisan standards.

It isn't about following style, it is about leading the charge. Every season Cole Haan adds exciting new products to their line of shoes, handbags, sunglasses, and leather goods. If you want quality, style, and luxury in a pair of shoes or two, Cole Haan shoes will exceed your standards. Free shipping, free returns, and a 1 year return policy makes shopping for Cole Haan products a bargain.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Crafting some holiday cheer


Guest post written by Bree Dickens

I'm a really big crafter and that comes out even more during the holiday time because there are so many fun things to make! Plus, my daughter loves to help me with all of my crafts, so it's a great way for us to spend some quality fun time together.

I was trying to come up with some new ideas for DIY gifts by looking at craft and holiday blogs with our clear TV bundle online. Well, the trouble was figuring out what out of all of those things I really wanted to get. But I've just about done the food and drink mixes in mason jars to death, so I knew that I should do something different than that.

Instead, I wanted to do another kind of DIY holiday gift that might last a little bit longer and that even the diabetics that I know can enjoy. So IÕm going to use some old timey coffee mugs and saucers that I found at the flea market to make candles in. I think that they'll be really cute and something that my friends can keep around for a long time.