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Monday, March 12, 2012

KNOL: Turning Tomatoes Into Gasoline

Transfered from google Knols to be stored on my blog.

Grow Your Own Tomatoes and Vegetables and Free Up Gas Money

If it were only that easy to turn tomatoes into gasoline. This Knol is about a budget. If you have to give up more to feed the energy demons... why not grow your own vegetables and feed yourself? A 4 foot by 4 foot plot is enough to hold 3 tomato plants. Three plants can serve tomatoes to a family of four, over the summer, and save you nearly $200. That's $200 more for gasoline or other expenses. It isn't that hard to grow your own tomatoes and vegetables.

Turning Tomatoes Into Gasoline

Grow Your Own Tomatoes and Vegetable and Free Up Gas Money
by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
Visit my blog the Rusted Vegetable Garden for all things related to vegetable gardening.
If you have to give up more money to feed the energy demons... why not grow your own vegetables and feed yourself? It is not expensive nor difficult to grow your own vegetables. I want to focus on tomatoes because they are expensive. They range from $1.99 a pound to $4.99 a pound depending on the season. Let's assume you need to keep a budget like most of us. Gasoline is well on the way to hit $4 or $5 a gallon. Don't get me started on energy... check out my other Knols. One way to manage a budget is substitute. You can substitute paying for your vegetables by growing your  own vegetables. Let's focus on tomatoes.

The Cost of Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be grown in most of the US for 3 months or longer. I can grow them for 5 months here in Maryland. Tomatoes are typically sold by the pound or by the container. Most container tomatoes are your cherry type or grape type varieties. Tomatoes can cost $1.99 to $4.99 a pound for your standards and cost $1.99 to $3.99 per container for your small types. You could estimate the total number of pounds your family eats and multiply it out by a dollar amount but what I am trying to get you to do is not go without.
The truth is when budgets get hit with high energy costs, we go without. In this case you can not only save money for energy costs but you can eat better and have more tomatoes. A tomato plant will produce anywhere from 25 pounds to 75 pounds of tomatoes depending on the variety. Some cherry and grape type tomatoes plants produce 100's of fruit. Three plants will not only save you money but it will have you and your family eating healthier.
You can do the math an estimate the cost savings. But I suggest looking at this way. Three tomato plants might cost you $6. You might need to spend $25 on amending your garden soil and on getting some other basic supplies. You will need a maximum of 2 hours of your time to dig out a 4 foot by 4 foot plot. Let's say the cost to set up your three tomato garden plot is $40. If you divide that out over 4 months of production that is $10 a month. You can also grow lettuce, green beans, and bush cucumber plant in there. You can see how the saving can add up or in this case not having to spend money on vegetables. Remember a pack of seeds only cost $1.50 and you can get two years use out of them if your store them properly.

 A 4 by 4 Plot will Produce 100 Pounds of Vegetables

I know that it will if you have 3 tomatoes in there. I can't prove it but to say I have been gardening in my current plots for over 10 years. You can grow lettuce, peas, and spinach while the season is cool before the tomatoes even go into the ground and again in the Fall. But lets stay focused on tomatoes. You can read my other gardening Knols for other planting ideas like cool weather vegetables.
Three tomatoes will get you nearly a 100 pounds of produce if you plant them this way. You want indeterminate varieties. Indeterminate means they grow and grow until frost or disease gets them. You do not want determinate tomatoes. Determinate means the tomato plant grows to a set height, sets fruit, and then dies. Determinate tomatoes are good if you want a bunch of tomatoes at once. Indeterminate tomatoes are good if you want to keep harvesting tomatoes as long your season lasts. It will say indeterminate or determinate on the seed pack or on the transplant tomato. If you have questions ask someone at the store.
I suggest you buy transplants. It is just easier. Buy one cherry or grape variety. Buy one beefsteak or 12 oz plus tomato variety. Buy one variety of 6 oz to 8 oz tomatoes. The variety doesn't matter but make sure they are indeterminate plants.

Building and Planting the Four by Four Tomato Garden

I am keeping this simple and trying to keep costs down. Pick a spot that gets over 6 hours of full sunlight and a place that drains fairly well. The more sun the better. The optimal amount of sun is 8 to 12 hours.
Go to your garden center and buy 3 bags of garden soil. You don't need anything fancy. Just a bag of garden soil. Make sure you don't buy topsoil. It will say garden soil on the product. Buy a box of water soluble fertilizer like Miracle Grow and three 6 foot stakes if you don't have something around the house to use to stake your tomato plants.
Measure out a 4 x 4 foot plot and remove the grass. Turn the soil to about a depth of 12 to 18 inches. Dig a 6 inch trench around the garden and throw the soil into the middle of the garden. You should throw away the grass you removed.
You essentially have a perfect square. Drop one bag of soil in the bottom right corner. Drop one bag of soil in the bottom left corner. Drop the last bag of soil in the middle of the upper left and right corners. You should have bags sitting in a triangle shape and they should be nearly to the edge/6 inch trench of your garden. This is the best way to space the tomatoes apart to get maximum distance.
Open the bags of soil where they sit and mix it well into your growing spots. The tomatoes will go right into the newly amended soil. To plant the tomato, plant it to 1/2 of its size. Tomatoes are vines and what every you bury, will root. If your tomato is 8 inches tall, bury 4 inches of it in the ground. If your tomato is 12 inches tall, bury 6 inches of it in the ground. I have written about planting a tomato many many ways. This way works nearly as well. Tomatoes want to grow.
You will notice you have a lot of space. You won't!  The tomatoes will get huge but you can use that space for other things. Smack dab in the middle you could plant a green pepper plant or a bush cucumber plant. Around the edges of the garden, along the 6 inch trenches you could plant basil seeds and onion sets or bulbs. You could even plant bush green beans around the edges. If you go with onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil... you can have great salads all year long.
You can't really put tomatoes in the ground until the nights are in the 50's with regularity. That means you have 6 or 8 weeks of cooler weather to grow other vegetables like peas, radishes, kale, spinach, lettuces, and even cabbage.

In conclusion

Good luck! The whole point is that gasoline prices are going up and you can only modify your budget to the nth degree. Instead of going without something, why not free up some of your budget by growing your own vegetables.Tomatoes are a great place to start. In this case start with a small 4 by 4 plot and get three tomato plants in there. You can learn to plant other things over time. A vegetable garden will save you money.


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