Nothing beats the taste of a vine ripened tomato, except the taste of a vine ripened tomato harvested from your own garden. Growing great tomatoes is relatively easy and a small garden can produce a lot of tomatoes.
The tomato originates from South America and Mexico. The Spanish explorer Cortez took the seeds to Europe after discovering the tomato being grown in Mexico in Aztec gardens. Italians were the first to eat the golden apple (early tomatoes were yellow not red) in the 1500’s but it still took more than 100 years for Italians to fully accept tomatoes and integrate them into their food. Can you imagine Italian cuisine without tomatoes?
The tomato is classified as a vegetable thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 1893 that subjected vegetables to import taxes, however technically a tomato is a fruit and part of the berry family. This vegetable/fruit is actually a perennial if left to continuously grow in a warm climate, however most areas do not stay warm enough so it is treated as an annual that has to be replanted every year. (continue reading…)
In life, as in a garden, you reap what you sow.
~Nancilee Wydra- Feng Shui in the Garden
Nothing makes me feel better than being outside on a warm, sunny day working in my garden. I relax and have time to think. The stress melts away as I pull weeds and dig my hands into the soil. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when the flowers bloom and the fruits and vegetables bear fruit.
When harvest time comes I enjoy sharing my bounty with friends and family.
Gardening is a wonderful way to relax, enjoy nature, live green and save money. Growing your own fruit or vegetables can dramatically slash your grocery bill.
Just a few plants can keep you stocked for months. (continue reading…)
When I started gardening, I ransacked the seed displays and catalogs in search of new tomato varieties to try. Over the years, though, I’ve settled in to a few reliable favorites, and with life catching up to me and a book to write, I have less time to be experimental with the veggie patch. Sure, maybe one day I’ll give those white cherry tomatoes a shot, but for now, I have my snacking tomato, my dehydrating tomato, my salad tomato, my paste tomato, my yellow tomato and my all-purpose slicer and vegetable soup tomato. No need to mess with what works.
Now that I know what tomatoes grow well in my garden and that my family will eat, I save the seeds from one year to plant the next, sparing me the temptation of the seed catalogs and garden center displays. Seed saving is as old as agriculture. While most seed saving is as easy as letting a plant produce mature seeds and collecting them, tomatoes are a bit trickier. Although I’ve grown tomato plants from seeds that I saved by simply spreading the seed glop out to dry, rinsing and fermenting the seeds using the process detailed below produces a much higher germination rate with just a little bit of work. (continue reading…)
I like to garden. Every year, keep vigilant watch for the first sign of winter’s end so I can plant spinach, lettuce and snap peas, then watch for the last frosts so I can plant the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash and delicate herbs. And that doesn’t even get into the orchard or the berry garden, where I grow apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, grapes, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, elderberries and currants.
My veggie patch may be bigger than my first dorm room, but it doesn’t look like those pretty magazine spreads featuring gardens full of lush plants. Not even close. Back in the cool-weather veggie season, it looked like this: (continue reading…)
Planting a fruit tree or two is a great way to increase your family’s fruit consumption. A mature standard apple tree produces around 10 bushels of apples. To put that in perspective, a large laundry hamper holds about 2 bushels. Those five hamper loads of apples are ready for picking over the course of a couple of weeks.
If you don’t want to learn to can - though it’s not that hard - dwarf fruit trees produce smaller crops of the same delicious fruit varieties and take up less yard space, making them great for smaller lots. No matter what size fruit tree, growing tree fruits requires some homework.
Grapes were one of the last types of fruit I started growing. The instructions for training and pruning grapes can be intimidating for a beginning fruit gardener, especially since growing grapes requires building a support structure. While I am handy at many things around the house, engineering and installing a support structure capable of holding up for 30 or 40 years is not one of them. Grape vines should be trained to a trellis or arbor, though if you plant them in a garden arbor where you expect to spend a lot of time, be aware that ripening grapes tend to attract yellowjackets.
Red-skinned grapes contain more antioxidants than the green varieties. Select varieties based on what you want to do with them. If you’re looking to grow snacking grapes, you’ll want a seedless table grape variety like Canadice, Flame, Reliance or Himrod. For juice or homemade winemaking, a wine grape like Concord, Delaware or Catawba fits the bill. Wine grapes often have a slip skin, where the skins slip readily off. Wine grapes are perfectly edible out of hand, but if you or your kids are used to the grapes from the supermarket, the sensation of the squishy grape innards shooting out of the skins inside your mouth takes a bit of getting used to. (continue reading…)
Moving up from strawberries and bramble berries, fruiting shrubs are a bit more of a commitment and require some planning, since they take 3-5 years before the labor invested in them pays off with fruit. Fruiting shrubs can last up to 20 years and after the first few years, get to be too bit to move easily if you decide you want them somewhere else so planning is essential.
Birds like these berries, so, space permitting, plant more than you think you’ll need. Products like bird netting keep the birds out of the fruits, but I cannot recommend them, having had to cut a dead bird out of an entanglement with a pest deterrent. Since I don’t have space limitations, I just consider feeding the birds and other assorted wildlife part of fruit gardening.
These bush fruits are well worth growing for their nutritional value, though. Blueberries consistently get high marks on analyses of superfoods for their high levels of anthocyanins. Elderberries make a delicious jam and are a traditional herbal medicinal for relief of the common cold. All currants are high in vitamin C, and black currants contain proanthocyanidin, a powerful antioxidant. (continue reading…)