Growing Tomatoes

Filed under: DIY, Garden
Posted by: dugu
03
Apr
2011

Ok, spring is here, so I thought I would post some tips on getting your garden into good shape. Here’s the first on growing tomatoes.

Introductory Tips

A ripe juicy tomato is substituted by nothing else. Most of us with a small backyard garden generally wish to grow these yummy things. However, there is a lot to tomato growing than just the lovely results. A tomato sure adds more than just color to the yummy gravies.


Tomatoes of different sizes and colors

The first aspect to consider before planting the tomato seeds is the climatic condition and the temperature. Tomatoes are ideally suitable for warmer temperatures, at least above 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit. 75 degrees Fahrenheit is simply perfect. It must be kept in mind that the plant is sown at a time when the temperature remains around this level. The place chosen for planting tomatoes must have access to direct sunlight. This is integral, as tomatoes need a lot of light for proper growth. There must be ample breeze. In fact, it is advised that in absence of natural wind some artificial means of providing wind directly to the planted tomato plants must be arranged for. This strengthens the stems of the plants.Tomatoes grow in a warm area; therefore the soil must be prepared in a way that it is heated. The area may be covered with a waterproof sheet that is black in color. This step needs to be performed at least a week before the tomato seeds are planted. The area needs to be made fertile. For this, one can add compost to the soil. Make sure the compost is not green but rotted compost. About thirty to forty kilograms compost is perfect for a square meter of the soil. The compost must be turned into six centimeters of the soil.

Selection and Planting

The tomatoes are available in a large number of varieties. First time planters choose to buy saplings for planting. It is suggested that the soil be dug pretty deep since seeds of tomatoes need sufficient depth. The saplings need to be planted till the point very few leaves are seen from above the ground. In case seeds are being planted, make sure they are placed at sufficient intervals to avoid overcrowding. Eighteen to thirty five inches gaps are perfect. Plant a mixture of all varieties of tomatoes like the creole, early girl, celebrity or any other variety of the grape tomatoes or the cherry tomatoes you want.

After planting these saplings, they need water in sufficient quantities. About half a liter of water is needed during the first week of planting. After this first week passes off, mulching the soil becomes necessary. This means the placement of pine needles, dried grass and straws, surrounding thirty centimeters around the tomato plant stems. Though tomatoes need water, it must be ensured that the soil is not persistently wet as this causes damage to the plants. The plants need to receive about 7 to 8 liters of water every week; after the second week of planting passes off. As the plants grow, increase the quantity of water.

Staking and Caging

A fortnight after the seeds have been planted or the saplings transplanted, the time arrives for supporting the vines of the plants using stakes. The boards used for this purpose need to be at least 1.3 by 5 centimeters in and 6 feet in length. At a distance of 6 centimeters from the plant, drive the stakes into the soil about 30-60 centimeters deep. Tie up the vines to these stakes with strong strings. Make sure that the knot is not very tight. Ready made tomato cages can be installed over the area of the plant. However, with the rapid growth of the tomato plants, the cages might collapse. Make sure that all the stems and leaves of the tomato plant are pulled into the cage.

Tomato plants grow well in soil that is organically very rich. Since the soil bed is already added with compost, it is suggested that fertilizers are added on a fortnightly basis. In case synthetic fertilizers are being administered, the quantity as prescribed on the backpack needs to be added. A spray able compost or liquid fertilizer needs to be used on the stems and leaves of the tomato plant. The most useful chemical fertilizers that enhance the yield and ensure the growth of healthy plants are the nitrogen fertilizers, rock phosphate, potassium, slow release fertilizers and fertilizers of manganese, zinc, iron and other micro nutrients. Organic fertilizers can be made simply by combining grass clippings, vegetable peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, fish emulsion, cow manure and kitchen wastes that are bio degradable. These are often the best fertilizers for the tomato plants.

Do not overuse the compost or fertilizers. The plants need to be shaken mildly for a few seconds after flowers appear. This improves pollination prospects.

Appearance of Tomatoes

Tomato plant starts fruiting in about 50-90 days of being panted in the soil. The first tomatoes are light green in color and very small. Once the size increases and the red color is visible, the tomatoes are ripe. Never press the tomatoes too hard, simply check them by lightly pressing. Once the fruits appear almost ripe and have attained the red hue, they can be picked up and placed in a sunny part of the kitchen. This ripens them completely, and also reduces the chances of over ripening and being eaten by rodents and birds. The fruits may be covered with small bags so that they do not get eaten up by these animals or birds. While tying a bag or pouch, make sure that at least a 6 centimeter gap is left on every side so that the fruits do not suffocate. Make small holes over the bag for healthy growth.

Checking and pruning

The tomato plants need to be checked from time to time so that it is not affected by pests. Water sprays and planting of marigold shrubs around the tomato plants are of help in keeping away aphids, fruit worms and similar pests. Make sure that the off shoots around these tomato plants are cut off and the plant is pruned from time to time. Dead leaves and the parts of the plant that are not receiving proper sunlight must be pruned away.

Additional tips

Now that one is clear about the process for growing tomatoes, there needs to be a discussion on the various types of diseases that might affect the plants. It is necessary to keep a check on the plant at intervals so as to diagnose what disease has come to affect it and therefore, arrive at a proper cure. Fungal diseases are amongst the most common ones that tomato plants get afflicted with. Look out for small black spots at the place where the fruit is joined to the stem. This arises out of cold temperatures and deposition of dew.

Diseases

Too frequent wilting or yellowing of the leaves of the tomato plant is another dominant disease. Appearance of a powder like substance on the tomato plant leaves and small circles on the tomato surface too are symptoms of a fungal infection. Discolored leaves, stunting of the plant growth and curling of the leaves too are symptoms of viral diseases. Spots may break out as a result of bacterial affliction as well. The plants need to be observed regularly so that the diseases are nipped in the bud. The plants may wilt owing to deficiency of water too. It is necessary to loyally supply the water amount prescribed in the article previously.

Disease Resistance

Since most diseases have no cure and leave the plot incapable for further cultivation for about the following two years, it is advised to talk out with the nursery in charge and procure seeds or saplings of a variety that are resistant to the diseases. There are several varieties of tomato plants available in this category. It is also advised that tomato plants are not grown in areas which have plants like walnut and sunflower, in the vicinity. These plants belong to the alleolopathic group and are responsible for wilting of tomato plants.

Blossom End Rot

Another problem that needs to be tackled while growing tomatoes is that of the blossom end tomato rot. The main reason for the bottom portion getting rotten is the accumulation of water on the spot of the tomato. The solution to this problem lies in ensuring ample moisture and calcium in the soil where the plant grows. The soil must never be cold. Mulching and heating the soil as suggested before, helps. Overcrowding the seeds or saplings is a strict no no. While using synthetic fertilizers make sure that excess nitrogen is not going into the soil. Overdosing of fertilizers must be avoided to reduce the risk of blossom end rot.

Avoiding cracking up of tomatoes is essential to get a perfect tomato crop. Watering the plants, and mulching helps in eradicating this problem. These tips go a long way in assisting one to grow lovely juicy tomatoes at home. Good luck!

17
Apr
2008

Lifestyle across the world is changing fast and organic food is gaining popularity and acceptance among people. This enhances a need of growing them even bigger. With the changing trends people are now adapting to new gardening methods and like to grow organic foods in their home gardens as well.

Organic food is a wide term and involves almost everything like fruits, vegetables, edible flowers, and various types of herbs. It is really interesting to find that while growing every other organic food in gardens is slightly complicated the herbs’ growing is much more easily.

One doesn’t have to be an expert gardener for growing herbs. It is just a decision away. Place and space also have no issues when it comes to growing herbs. A small yard or even pots in homes would be also being quite suitable for herbs plants growing.

Before going ahead for having an herbs gardening it is always better to have some background information about herbs. Now days the info is readily available on internet and many other books are also available in the markets.

The basic research and background would be helpful in deciding the herbs that could be grown in homes with no complexities. A wise research based selection of herbs would further reduce the problems in gardening. It is important and therefore must be taken seriously. At the same time the selection should involve a variety of herbs so the garden has easy-to-grow herbs varieties.

Selection of herbs is purely an individual’s own choice. For a pizza lover having “basil” in garden would add flavors to the dish. Italian food lovers would more probably go for “parsley”, in their gardens. Mexican and Indian cuisine lovers would prefer to have “cilantro” in their herb gardens. It all depends what a person likes.

One the selection is finalized one should begin with the initial steps of herb gardening. Learning few basic steps for herb gardening will help in long run. A systematic and planned herb gardening would certainly result in to better outputs.

Start with Right Search

It starts with beginning the search for right gardening resources at right place. The list could contain several items including seeds, seedlings, herb plants, and others. Locating the source comes next to this stage. Visiting a local garden store would be a good idea. A nursery situated in nearby area would also be a right place to visit.

Seeds, seedlings, and herb plants of your choice would be available at these places easily. One would generally find several varieties of one particular herb. Careful pre-study and discussion with the expert sellers or gardening experts available at these stores or nurseries would definitely lead to final selection of beneficial herbs suitable for gardening.

A research conducted for seeds, seedlings, and herbs and their various varieties would always be more advantageous. All these background information’s ultimately add to right decision making.

Pre-treating With Moisture

Once the right seeds have been procured they need to be treated with moisture first before sowing. Direct sowing without treating the seeds is never advisable. It is always better to keep the procured seeds soaked in to water for a sufficient time.

If it becomes slightly difficult then alternatively the seeds could also be kept wrapped in a wet paper towel or cotton cloth. This wrapping could then be place inside of a plastic bag for at least four hours. After this treatment with moisture the seeds would be ready to meet the soil and sowing.

Grounding with Potting Soil

The post-moisture treatment would be sowing the herb seeds in to the soil. This becomes very important that have most suitable and well prepared potting soil. It must be enriched with perlite and peat moss.

A nicely and proportionately perlite and peat moss mixed soil will provide better growing environment to the herbs seeds. This mixture will also facilitate good draining as well. Herbs growing require well drained soil.

Give Herbs Suitable Place to Grow

Ensure that you purchase or find the suitable pots or boxes for growing herbs. You may also find containers around your home itself and these can easily be converted in to pots. It is recommended that you better purchase clay pots as they are the most suitable for providing enough air circulation to the roots. Alternatively, you may also like to purchase suitable plastic, metal, or ceramic pots in case you are not able to water the herbs regularly.

Herbs require more water to grow and therefore provision of drainage in the pots would be required. A hole in the pot base would help the moisture escape suitably.

Ensure Enough Sunlight

Sunlight is very essential for herbs growing. Insufficient sunlight would affect the growth of herb plants adversely. In and around homes sufficient sunlight must be ensured. Normally direct sunlight for about five to six hours every day would be sufficient.

Herb gardening experts also recommend that herb plants should never be placed at unfavorable spots. A pot having herbs seeds sowed should better be placed on the top of a refrigerator as it will keep the warmth helpful for seeds sprouting. Later after the germination of seeds the pots can be moved to a better sunny place.

Maintaining pH Balanced Soil

Ideally a pH of 6.5 would be one of the best and most appropriate pH values for a soil. A soil having this pH value would be slightly acidic in nature.

Knowing the right pH value of soil suitable for herbs is extremely important. Technological advancements have made it so easy and manageable that any person can easily measure the pH value with the help of specific handy instruments. There are small handy instruments available which make this complex and complicated process as an easiest process. Several types of carry easy-to-use pH and fertility testing kits are also available at the hardware stores.

Instruments have their own variations depending upon the skill and level of capability of user. Beginners will find a beginner’s set exclusively designed for them and expert gardeners will have their advanced models of these kits and instruments.

Herbs would make your food more healthy and tasty and would also add many flavors to it. Herbs have several types of medicinal and aromatherapy advantages. Growing herbs in homes or in garden is definitely a beneficial proposal.

Garden Mulching With Proper Mulching Materials

Filed under: Garden
Posted by: Ashutosh
12
Apr
2008

Mulching the garden helps in controlling undesired wild grasses and prevents grass seeds from germination. Mulching is also helpful in stabilizing soil temperatures within the root zone. Mulching also smothers small weeds within the garden area. Garden mulch with thick layers will support maintaining soil moisture and make it available to the plants. This prevents moisture in the soil from getting evaporated from the soil surface.

Garden mulching is directly related to the rate of erosion and crusting of the soil. Soil erosion and soil crusting can easily be prevented if thick and heavy mulch is applied with care. The soil can easily be protected this way. Heavy rain will rather dribble through the mulch and will make its own way with rapid run off.

In case soft mulch is considered to be applied in the garden, it will turn in to compost subsequently and will reduce the damages caused by frost and freezing. Plant roots will be protected during winters because the system around plants will be converted as an insulator.

Different types of garden mulching will give a completely different outlook to the garden. Mulching will help fruits and vegetables including strawberries, cucumbers, dwarf growing tomatoes, brush fruits coming off the ground with minimum decay.

Generally, one should prefer mulching during middle of the summer season. Mid-summer times are most suitable as the surrounding heat also impacts the soil temperatures. Soil temperature plays a vital role in proper mulching. Late mulching or spring mulching should be avoided. You must know that soil needs to be warm at the time of mulching.

Mulching is a systematic process. One should not apply mulch around the plants early as the soil will remain cool for a longer time and plant’s growth will be slow. Ensuring right temperature of soil will help plants growing.

If the plants are relatively young then the mulching can be placed at 7cm deep over the ground. Similarly, while caring for the new vegetable seeds which have been grown from seed and transplanted in to the beds one will have to mulch sparingly with a depth of 3 cm in the ground, Increase the depth up to 7 cm gradually.

If there are lettuce and radishes in the garden the mulching would require different approach. When applying mulch to lettuce and radishes and other low growing plants, it must be done properly on all sides of the row with 4 cm depth. For cucumbers and melons mulching in entire area is strongly recommended. Systematic and proper mulching will result in to less fruit loss from diseases. Mulching is necessary for overall health of the plants.

The material constituting garden mulch is very important. Nature and basic characteristics of ingredient materials would largely affect the resulting harvest. One should always prefer rapidly decomposing garden mulch after the crop is harvested as it becomes far easy.

There are a variety of basic ingredient mulching materials available but as a thumb rule the materials available in nearby areas should be selected if these materials are rapidly decomposing in nature. Bark, finely shredded cedar, and shredded wood chips generally found under trees and shrubs are some of the most common and good mulching materials. You will find cocoa bean hulls very useful for making mulch for your flower garden. Cocoa beans will spread a chocolate fragrance around your garden. You must ensure watering after placing this for keeping it safe from spreading .If you have a pet dog, better avoid using this mulch. Dogs generally love the taste of cocoa beans and will chew the mulch away.

Grass clippings are good mulch material if fresh. Grass clippings also contain high moisture and nitrogen. Fall leaves are nature’s favorite and therefore it is always advisable to use them as mulching material. Fall leaves must be chopped up properly in to fine pieces before their use as mulching material.

Straw also make great mulch specifically when applied to the vegetable gardens. Pine needles are comparatively long lasting and light mulching materials. Straws and pine needles make good mulch material specifically for woodland gardens.

One extremely important aspect related to mulching must be taken well care of. You should never leave the garden mulch loose and light. Mulch if left loose and light will more probably be blown or kicked about in such a condition. At the same applying mulch too tightly would also affect the health of plants. Apply mulch carefully as it can prevent aeration killing the roots.

Soil’s nature could be acidic or basic. Measurement of such nature of soil is commonly known in scientific terms as the pH of the soil. Take care of the soil because improper mulching could increase acidity with reduced pH. This reduced pH of the soil would cause a deficiency of nitrogen in it. Nitrogen is one of the most important elements responsible for plant’s growth. Some of the mulches have untidy appearance and therefore you should select the right material to make your garden mulch.

06
Apr
2008

Home gardens normally have space limitations. For a home gardener the ’space-management’ becomes an important feature. Well planned gardening strategy is required which should be oriented according to seasonal aspects along with several other criteria.

Selection of plants therefore becomes one of the most important aspects of this gardening strategy. Because of limitations pertaining to space you might be often facing indecisiveness as what you should plant in your garden.

There are several alternatives available but they often create a big confusion as which one is the most suitable for your needs. In order to arrive at a final selection you will have to adapt certain specific alternatives, tools, and methods which are your need specific.

There are some common strategies that the gardeners across the world apply. You must have visited several nurseries looking around the plants you should have in your garden and you could have felt quite uncertain as which plant would be more suitable and will do well in your yard.

One good way for you could be to approach professional horticulturists at local nurseries or garden centers. Professional horticulturists and gardening experts are also available at many online nurseries now days. These professional horticulturists would happily answer your queries and would help you out in selecting the right plants for your garden.

While taking help from these sources you should never forget taking certain precautions. One of the most common psychological aspects that affect normally every gardener ending up in wasting time, energy, and money is “Impulsive buying”. This is one such psychological behavior that you must be wary of.

Plants that bloom that week normally feature on the list of garden centers because these plants sell well this way. A plant that is looking great and fascinating in the nursery may not be fit for your garden. So be careful and extra-cautious while choosing the plants.

Many experts have designed several types of pre-defined tools and resources for gardeners that they claim to serve the basic purposes. These tools are definitely advantageous and if you take help of these specific pre-defined tools then it is more likely that you will end up selecting the most suitable plants for your garden.

It is always advisable that you must have a complete knowledge about the growing conditions of your garden. This includes all possible aspects like soil quality, watering facility, sunlight, and several other related aspects. This preparation based selection of plants would help you in selecting the right plants for your garden.

In order to derive more benefits it is even better if you are well equipped with plant reference books, reputed internet resources including good informative websites on gardening, local public gardens , and the universities having agriculture, horticulture or related Departments.

You may find it beneficial to have a check whether your local land-grant university has any coordination with the horticulture cooperative extension service covering your area. You can check this online as well. You could also explore establishing an access to respective plant database, ongoing plant trials, new plant introductions, and plant recommendations with such types of resource centers in your area.

Referring to the “Plant Awards List (PAL)” is a great idea in itself. A typical ‘plant award list’ is one of the best tools available which will definitely facilitate you with narrowing of your choices. The plants with proven performance in different regions are included in this list. The “Plant Awards Lists (PALs)” serve as a basis of setting standards for plant breeders. These awards also provide quick references for superior performances for general public. A selection of plants for your garden which is based on these recommendations has a high probability of suitability for your garden as it is based on several factors including gardener’s conveniences.

Plant awards and recommendation are generally based on certain specific factors including trials, public polls, competitions organized by horticultural societies, professional organization’s conventions, and experienced gardeners and amateur growers. Trials of plants are generally conducted by botanical gardens, professional gardeners and growers, universities, and other horticultural institutions.

The “Plant Awards Lists (PALs) also have a “general rating system” in place which is provided to all the plants that have been included in the plant award lists. These plant ratings are based on several important factors like ornamental values, disease resistance and many other features.

Such types of ‘Plant Award Lists (PALs)’ are certainly one of the immensely helpful resource base and tool facilitating you with the best and most suitable plants selection for your garden.

Gardeners therefore avoid a situation of indecisiveness as this consumes a lot of time. Better take help of these tools and give your garden a new look every time.

24
Feb
2008

Spring time brings green cheerfulness everywhere. It is time for families to take care of their gardens and the green grass often needs proper dressing with lawn mowers.

The “Power Lawn Mower” is one of the most unsafe tools around the home. The unsafe use of lawn mowers poses a serious public health threat and it results in more than 55,000 injuries every year due to that.

In such accidents, a significant proportion of the victims either lose a part of their toes or fingers or could face dislocated bones, burns or it might even prove to be fatal. According to the medical data, in almost 95 percent of such injury cases amputation and extensive reconstructive surgery was found to be inevitable.

The types of injuries caused by unsafe and improper use of power lawn mowers could include lacerations, fractures and amputations of the fingers, hands, toes, feet and legs. Thousands of unfortunate children not only suffer the physical injuries but also have to undergo the emotional and social problems associated with these kinds of injuries. Other type of injuries include being run over by a riding mower, any object being flung and striking the child, or the burns due to the gasoline or by touching the hot metal parts.

Most of the ‘lawn mower injuries’ occur on slopes, particularly when the ground is damp, in poor lighting conditions and among inexperienced mowers. Among the victims are usually the innocent bystanders, often children, injured or killed by someone else operating the mower. Fatalities usually occur during the following situations:

  • When adults while moving the mower, allow children to stand on it or sit at the back of riding mowers while moving lawn mower.
  • Children try to operate the mower themselves, when they are too young to do so.
  • Sometimes even rocks or stones can be thrown by the mowers and they can hit the head or eyes of the children.
  • Injuries also occur when the lawn mowers are placed into reverse and children moving behind them are not aware of it.

Lawn mowing experts and other health professionals including some medical societies recommend that virtually all of these injuries could be prevented if some necessary precautions are taken. An initial training would always be more beneficial because it will help in understanding the working of power lawn mowing machine and its operational guidelines. According to the expert’s recommendations, individuals and families should observe following precautions:

  • It is important for one to familiarize oneself with the equipment before operating it and after checking that it is in proper working condition. It is always safe to go through the manufacturer precautions.
  • It is recommended to use lawn mowers with guards and a cutoff switch and be certain that the cutoff switches should not be disconnected. All electrical connections must be checked properly prior to operating the machine. Any negligence could give you a shock.
  • One should be extra ordinarily careful while operating the mowers on slopes and avoid mowing when the ground is damp.
  • Other people, especially the children under the age of 6, should not be allowed inside the yard when operating a lawn mower.
  • Kids should not be allowed to ride as passengers on mowers or let them be towed behind mowers. They should not be allowed to play on or around stored mowers.
  • Children should not be allowed to operate the equipment unless they have strength and are totally aware of the know how of it. It is always better to keep them off instead of making them participative in this ‘adventurous activity’.
  • It is dangerous to go barefoot while mowing. Sturdy shoes should be worn. Use your legs in movements with caution and more attention.
  • Always wear protective eye gear, hand gear and footwear such as goggles, gloves and heavy rubber sole boots.
  • It is advisable to pick up stones, toys, and debris from the mowing area. These objects can act as potential projectiles from the lawn and could hit back affect head, eyes and other parts of your body.
  • It could be dangerous while pulling backward on a mower or mow in reverse. This should be done while looking carefully behind you before backing up a mower.
  • It is advisable to start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Refueling should be done with the motor turned off and cool.
  • While removing any objects from the blade, one should be extra careful as any negligence could result in to severe cuts and injuries.

In addition to the above precautionary steps adopted by the consumers, it should be made necessary for the lawn mower manufacturers to include a safety manual with every lawn mower sold and imprinting safety instructions on all machines. There should also be awareness campaigns among the public so that such injuries could be prevented, contributing to a decline in costs on health care as well as eliminate suffering to the injured.

“Lawn mowers severely injure thousands of children every year. So many of these tragic injuries could have been prevented with just a few precautions”, says AAP President Dr Jay. E. Berkelhamer.

Lawn mower injuries are a seasonal threat to children and the leading cause of amputations in adolescents, say specialists from the ‘Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’, Maryland’s designated pediatric trauma center where the most severe injuries are treated.

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