Tag Archives: Tomato’s

Fall Gardens

The official start of summer is still 9 day away, however if you plan to plant a Fall garden, now is the time to select your Fall garden plot and ready it for planting. It is also near the time to plant your seed to establish seedling transplants.

New Fall garden site selection.
The major consideration for garden placement is sunlight. All vegetables require some sunlight; the most popular vegetables require full sun. “Full” sun means at least 8 hours of intense, direct exposure. If such exposure is not received by crops such as tomatoes, peppers and squash (vegetables that contain seed), the plants grow spindly, they have weak stems, drop blooms and are generally nonproductive. Shade in the afternoon (after 3 p.m.) is wonderful; shade in the morning is acceptable. There are vegetables which produce passably in the shade. Generally, those crops such as greens, broccoli, cauliflower, root crops (carrots, turnips) which do not produce a fruit with seed will yield sparingly in semi- shaded areas but even these crops will do better in a full sun condition. Crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans and cucumbers may not produce anything if grown in the shade; plants will grow tall and spindly. The production potential of the garden’s most popular vegetables depends solely on the amount of direct sunlight they receive.

Turf grass MUST be removed. Don’t think that you can dig or till this existing grass into the garden soil and get rid of it. Even a well-tilled, pulverized garden soil will contain enough bermuda grass sprigs to cause troubles for years to come. New garden areas are doomed before they begin if all bermuda and other lawn grass is not completely removed BEFORE tillage begins. If a raised garden is being considered, sod should be removed BEFORE additional soil is put into the prepared frame.

Chemicals applied to the grass to kill it rather than pulling it out. There are several brand names which contain the weed and grass killer glyphosate. These include Roundup and Kleenup check ingredients on label for the term “glyphosate” and follow label instructions for application rate.

Quick (30-60 days) maturing vegetables are: beets (1 1/2 feet) FT; bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; leaf lettuce (1 foot) FT; mustard (1 1/2 feet) FT; radishes (1 1/2 feet) FT; spinach (1 foot) FT; summer squash (3 feet) FS; turnips (1 1/2 feet) FT; and turnip greens (1 1/2 feet) FT.

Moderate (60-80 days) maturing vegetables are: broccoli (3 feet) FT; Chinese cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; carrots (1 foot) FT; cucumbers (1 foot) FS; corn (6 feet) FS; green onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; kohlrabi (1 1/2 feet) FT; lima bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; okra (6 feet) FS; parsley (1 1/2 feet) FT; peppers (3 feet) FS; and cherry tomatoes (4 feet) FS.

Slow (80 days or more) maturing vegetables are: Brussels sprouts (2 feet) FT; bulb onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; cantaloupes (1 foot) FS; cauliflower (3 feet) FT; eggplant (3 feet) FS; garlic (1 foot) FT; Irish potatoes (2 feet) FS; pumpkins (2 feet) FS; sweet potatoes (2 feet) FS; tomatoes (4 feet) FS; watermelon (1 foot) FS; and winter squash (1 foot) FS.

Using your Spring and Summer garden site. Once the decision to have a fall garden has been reached, a gardener must take action drastic action. You must pull out some of those plants that have been nurtured from “babies” in the spring to monsters now. This takes courage and faith! It is recommend that all plants, weeds included, be removed except okra, cherry tomatoes and pole beans if the foliage is healthy. Large-fruited tomatoes may have some small ones still hanging on, but unless you have at least 20-25 good-sized fruit, pull them out, make green tomato relish or chow-chow. Pull the old plants up and discard them. Give them to the garbage man. Don’t try to compost insect and disease ridden plants.

The two charts below are for planting Fall crops in zone 7.
You will need to adjust your planting dates to suite the USDA zone you garden in.

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Tomato Season Is Near

blossom end rot

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service provides many pictures to help you diagnose and treat your tomato disease problem(s).
Tomato Problem Solver and
Disorders of Tomato Leaves

You can’t treat your diseased tomato plants if you don’t know what disease they actually have. The secret to successful tomato growing is to check your plants everyday and start a treatment plan as soon as you see the first signs of a disease or insect problem.

University of Iowa Also has a great fact sheet on line with photographs and treatments for many common tomato diseases. This is a PDF file.

You may find what you thought was a disease problem is really an insect infestation. If this is the case take a look at Colorado state University Extension service: Tomato Insect Pests fact sheet for insect identification and controls.

This has nothing to do with tomato’s but it’s too good not to share.
I am relieved to know that my T-bone steak was ‘made’ by my market and growing a cow for 2 or 3 years is no longer required. Click picture to zoom-in.

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10 Easy to grow garden crops

The Old Farmers Almanac Has a lot of Useful as well as fun information for farmers and Gardeners no matter how big or small your farm / garden or your age.

Mother Earth News What mother earth news about says the 10 Best Garden Crops for Beginners.

If you’re a beginner, consider starting with the 10 crops discussed below. All are easy to grow, and this combination offers lots of possibilities for cooking. Some of these crops are best grown by setting out started seedlings, but most are easy to grow from a packet of seed planted directly in your garden soil.

1. Radishes. Radishes do well even in not so great garden soil and are ready to harvest in only a few weeks(3-5). Plant the seeds anytime the air temperatures remain above freezing.

2. Salad greens (beet and turnip tops, lettuce, spinach, arugula and corn salad). Pick your favorite, or try a mix. Many companies sell mixed packets for summer and winter gardening. Plant the seeds in spring and fall, and you can pick salads almost year round.

3. Green beans. Easy to grow and prolific. If you get a big crop, they freeze well, and they’re also delicious when pickled with dill as dilly beans. Start with seeds after all danger of frost has passed.

4. Onions. Start with small plants, and if they do well, you can harvest bulb onions. If not, you can always eat the greens.

5. Strawberries. Perfectly ripe strawberries are unbelievably sweet, and the plants are surprisingly hardy. Buy bare root plants in early spring. Put this perennial in a sunny spot and keep it well watered and weed free.

6. Peppers. Both hot peppers and bell peppers are easy to grow. Start with plants and let peppers from the same plant ripen for different lengths of time to get a range of colors and flavors.

7. Bush zucchini. This squash won’t take up as much room in your garden as many other types, and it’s very prolific. Start from seeds or transplants. You won’t need more than a few plants for a bumper crop.

8. Tomatoes. There’s just no substitute for a perfectly ripe homegrown tomato, and it’s hard to go wrong when you start with strong plants. If you get a big crop, consider canning or freezing your excess tomato’s.

9. Basil. Many herbs are easy to grow, but basil is a good choice because it’s a nice complement to tomatoes or any tomato dish. Basil is easy to grow from seeds or from transplants.

10. Potatoes. An easy-to-grow staple that stores well when kept cool. A simple and low maintenance approach is to plant potatoes in straw rather than soil. ‘Seeds’ are whole or cut sections of potatoes, sold in early spring.

Lifehacker has a lot of good useful information for the novice gardener, even if some of it is a bit on the wacky side of gardening.

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Mama And Doctors

Eat Your Vegetables – Mama Said and Mama was right ‘again’.

Some vegetables, flavors intensify as the plant matures, which is why the so called baby versions have a wide taste appeal with just as many health benefits.
Experiment with baby artichokes, beans, beets, cucumbers(2-4 inches long), okra(small is better), peppers, turnips and squashes(4-5 inches long) and carrots (the ones sold in bunches, with greens still attached not those sold in plastic bags, which are simply regular carrots, trimmed down.

You can find the babies at larger supermarkets, specialty grocers, and farmers’ markets such as younger brussels sprouts, can even be bought frozen. Not only do many people find baby vegetables more flavorful and less bitter, but they prefer the texture, too. Young vegetables are tender and require less cooking time.

Brussels sprout salad:
Slice vert thin, add a small amount of vinegarette dressing, toss well and let set for 20-30 minutes. Toss again to coat sprouts with dressing and add a few roasted pine nuts just before serving.

Oil them up judiciously using fats especially heart healthy ones like olive oil can go far in helping you love your veggies. When fat binds with seasonings and spices, it can transform vegetables from a duty diet item to something downright yummy. The link between vegetable avoidance and certain cancers is strong enough to justify a few oil added calories.

Raw veggies probably aren’t the first thing you crave when a snack attack strikes, but you’ll be much more tempted to eat them when they’re dunked in hummus, low fat dip, or your favorite salad dressing. Try munching at work, in front of the TV or when surfing the internet. Snacking on veggies away from the dinner table makes eating them feel like less of a health chore.

The poor lonely onion family, which includes leeks, shallots, and garlic, is rich in compounds suspected to fight cancer, says nutritionist Valerie Green, MPH. But for onion haters, the sharp flavors and strong smells can be almost nauseating. Try slow roasting plants in the onion family, which brings out the sweetness and cuts the sharpness. Brush leeks, shallots, garlic or thick sliced onions with a little olive oil(or ‘real’ butter) wrap in foil packets, and toss on the grill to mild down take the sting.

Tomato’s little secret is making sure you buy those that are vine ripened which eliminates almost all the bitter flavors, says Autar Mattoo, PhD, a molecular biologist with the USDA.

Over mature eggplants are bitter, but the size of this fiber and potassium packed vegetable isn’t your best clue. If your thumb leaves an indent that doesn’t bounce back, the eggplant will be spongy, tough, and bad tasting, even if it’s a little one. To further improve taste, check out its “belly button” at the blossom end, eggplants have either an oval or round dimple. Buy only the ovals.

To reduce eggplant’s bitter tendencies even more, after you slice it, sprinkle it with salt, then wait about half hour, rinse, pat dry and proceed with your recipe. Salt draws out water which contains the bitter tasting compounds.
Eggplants are worth the trouble. The insides of these veggies are high in polyphenols the same chemicals that make apples so good for you.

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Town & Country – Farm & Ranch Stores

I reside in USDA zone 7. My last average last frost date is about the 10th of April.
Armed with that trivial information and my nifty little computer generated calender, I have determined that it’s only 61 days until it’s relative safe to plant frost sensitive vegetables.

Fruit trees are breaking bud and will be in full bloom in a week or so. Ornamental shrubs, trees and spring flowering plants will soon burst into full bloom.

Guess what gang. Stores that sell things like vegetable seed and seedlings, things like tomato’s, peppers, onion sets, potato sets are putting out displays of nice looking seedlings for gardeners that don’t have a clue about last frost dates and those that truly believe that because we have had a week of frost free weather, winter has come to an end.

Gardeners thinking with their eyes and an over whelming desire to plant this years vegetable garden will invest a lot of money in seed and seedlings. In a week or so weather will return to it’s normal temperatures, seed will fail to germinate because the soil is to cool for most seed to germinate and seedlings will be killed when temperatures fall below 32%(0% C) for several hours or even several days.

Don’t fall for mother natures winter tricks.

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Tomato’s Seed to Table – Short Course

Don’t Crowd Seedlings.
Don’t Let Seedlings Grow Into Each Other. If you are starting tomatoes from seed, be sure to give the seedlings room to branch out. Close conditions inhibit their growth, so transplant them as soon as they get their first true leaves and move them into 4″ pots about 2 weeks after that.

Provide lots of light.
Tomato seedlings will need either strong, direct sunlight or 14-18 hours under grow lights. Place the young plants only a couple of inches from florescent grow lights. Plant your tomatoes outside in the sunniest part of your vegetable plot.

Put a fan on your seedlings.
Tomato plants need to move and sway in the breeze, to develop strong stems. Provide a breeze by turning a fan on them for 5-10 minutes twice a day.

Preheat the soil in your garden.
Using Black Plastic to Warm the Soil. Tomatoes love heat. Cover the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you intend to plant. Those extra degrees of warmth will translate into earlier tomatoes. Tomato’s will germinate below 70 degrees, however best results are obtained when soil temperature is above 70 degrees and below 95 degrees.

Bury them deep.
Bury tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, all the way up to a few top leaves. Tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. You can either dig a deeper hole or simply dig a shallow tunnel and lay the plant sideways. It will straighten up and grow toward the sun. Be careful not to drive your pole or cage into the stem.

Mulch Later.
Straw Makes a Great Vegetable Garden Mulch. Mulch after the ground has had a chance to warm up. Mulching does conserve water and prevents the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on the plants, but if you put it down too early it will also shade and therefore cool the soil. Try using plastic mulch for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers. (See Tip #4)

Remove the Bottom Leaves.
Tomato Leaf Spot Diseases. Once the tomato plants are about 3′ tall, remove the leaves from the bottom 1′ of stem. These are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. They get the least amount of sun and soil born pathogens can be unintentionally splashed up onto them. Spraying weekly with compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungus diseases.

Pinch & Prune for More Tomatoes
Tomato Suckers in the Joint of Branches. Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes.

Water the Tomato Plants Regularly.
Blossom End Rot. Water deeply and regularly while the plants are developing. Irregular watering, (missing a week and trying to make up for it), leads to blossom end rot and cracking. Once the fruit begins to ripen, lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars. Don’t withhold water so much that the plants wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.

Getting Them to Set Tomatoes.
Determinate type tomatoes tend to set and ripen their fruit all at about the same time, making a large quantity available when you’re ready to make sauce.
You can get indeterminate type tomatoes to set fruit earlier by pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer.

Iowa State University is for those of you that garden in the northern 1/2 of the U.S. University of Texas provides information that most often effect southern state tomato gardens.

No matter where you live both sites have a huge amount of useful information on Identifying and treating tomato diseases. Don’t be discouraged or intimidated by the sheer numbers of tomato diseases. I’m pretty sure you will not suffer from all of them this year. in fact, insect control very well maybe your biggest problem in a home garden.

Iowa State University Contains Pictures, description, Control and Treatment of tomato disease, bacterial and virus infections.

Texas A and M University Contains Pictures, description, Control and Treatment of tomato disease, bacterial and virus infections.

Insect control just like disease control starts with properly identifying the insect(s) that are causing your problems.
Colorado State University will help you identify and control some of the most common tomato insect pest.

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Tomatoes Q&A

Tomato (40 Questions)

1. Q. When should I start my seed indoors to produce tomato transplants for my garden?

A. Depending upon temperature and how the plants are grown, it takes from
6 to 8 weeks to produce a healthy, 6-inch tall transplant for setting out in
your garden. The plants should be grown in a warm area and receive 6 to 8
hours of sunlight daily or tall, poor quality, leggy plants will result.

2. Q. How do you select good transplants at nurseries or garden centers?

A. First, select the Extension recommended varieties of transplant
whether it be tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or broccoli. Also, look for plants
that appear healthy, dark green in color, and do not have any spots or holes in
the leaves. The ideal tomato, pepper or eggplant transplant should be just
about as wide as it is tall. Avoid tall, spindly plants.

3. Q. How often should my tomatoes be fertilized?

A. It is necessary to fertilize the garden before planting tomatoes.
Apply the fertilizer again when fruit first sets. From that point on, an
additional fertilization (sidedress) every week to 10 days is recommended.
Plants grown on sandy soils should be fertilized more frequently than those
grown on heavy, clay soils. A general sidedress fertilizer recommendation is
one to two tablespoons of a complete fertilizer scattered around the plant and
worked into the soil. If using a fertilizer high in nitrogen such as ammonium
nitrate or sulfate, reduce the rate to one tablespoon per plant.

4. Q. Should tomato plants be staked, caged or left unsupported?

A. Tomatoes should be supported. Whether you cage or stake them is
personal preference. Regardless of the method, plants with foliage and fruit
supported off the ground will produce more than unsupported plants. Caging has several advantages. It involves less work than staking. Once the cage is placed over the plant there is no further manipulation of the plant – – no pruning, no tying. The fruit are simply harvested as they ripen. In many areas, staking and pruning of the plant to a single or multiple stem results in sunburn when the developing fruit is exposed to excessive sunlight. Other advantages of caging over staking include protection of fruit from bird damage
by more vigorous foliage cover and less fruit rot. Caged tomato vines produce more fruit of a smaller size, but staked and tied plants produce less fruit which mature earlier yet are larger.

5. Q. My tomato plants look great. They are dark green, vigorous and healthy. However, flowers are not forming any fruit. What is the problem?

A. Several conditions can cause tomatoes to not set fruit. Too much
nitrogen fertilizer, nighttime temperatures over 70 degrees F., low
temperatures below 50 degrees F., irregular watering, insects such as thrips
or planting the wrong variety may result in poor fruit set. Any of these
conditions can cause poor fruit set, but combinations can cause failures. If
Extension recommended varieties are used , the main reason tomato plants do not
set fruit is because they are not planted where they can receive 8-10 hours of
direct sunlight daily. Any less direct sunlight will result in a spindly
growing, nonproductive plant with healthy foliage.

6. Q. Are there really low-acid tomato varieties?

A. There are some varieties that are slightly less acidic than others,
but this difference is so slight that there is no real difference in taste or
in how the tomatoes should be processed. Some yellow-fruited types are
slightly less acidic than the normal red varieties, but not enough to make any
difference. Research conducted by the USDA indicates that all varieties
available to the home gardener are safe for water bath processing as long as
good quality fruit are used. Flavor differences which exist between varieties
are not because of differences in acid content, but balances of the sugar to
acid ratio.

7. Q. Some tomato varieties are recommended because they are determinate and fast maturing. What does determinate mean and can you tell if a tomato is determinate by looking at it?

A. Determinate means the plant is small. Determinate tomato varieties
seldom are more than 5 to 6 feet tall. A determinate vine is distinguished by
a repeating pattern of two leaves followed by a flower or fruiting cluster. An
indeterminate vine has a repeating pattern of three or four leaves, then a

8. Q. Can I save seeds from my tomatoes from next season’s plantings, and if so how?

A. You can save seed from tomatoes if the variety is not a hybrid.
Hybrid tomatoes do not come true from seed. The plants and fruit from seed
saved form your home garden may or may not resemble the parent. Chances are the
fruit will be poorer quality and the vine characteristics will not be the same
as the parent plant. However, for true breeding varieties, such as Homestead,
it is easy to save seed. To save seed from tomatoes or any other home
vegetable fruit crop, leave the fruit on the plant until it is mature, pull
it, squeeze juice with seed into a glass, let this ferment for two days
adding water if needed. Rinse the seeds two or three times to remove debris.
Seeds will settle to the bottom. After rinsing the seeds, blot them and place
them in the sun to dry. Store the seeds under cool, dry conditions.

9. Q. When caging tomatoes, how large should the cage be?

A. The diameter of the cage should be at least 18 to 20 inches. Smaller
cages often restrict plant growth and reduce yields. Height of the cage will
vary but generally 2 feet is sufficient for the recommended varieties.
However, if vining types such as Better Boy, Homestead or Terrific, are used a
cage 5 feet in height is preferred. Regardless of variety, the 2 foot tall
cage is sufficient for most fall garden tomatoes.

10. Q. How do you stake tomatoes?

A. Staking involves pruning or suckering the plant to either one or two
main stalks. Tomatoes grown without support develop a bush shape. However, if
the plant is to be trellised or staked, it must be pruned to a single or double
stalk. The small suckers which develop between the axil of the leaf and the
stem are removed to develop a vine structure rather than a bush. A wooden
stake an inch in diameter and 6 feet long is driven into the ground beside the
plant. Do not damage the root system when inserting the stake in the ground.
The stalk of the plant is loosely attached to the stake as it grows. The plant
can be attached to the stake with twist-ties, soft string, strips of cloth or
panty hose. The plant is sufficiently supported if it is attached to the
stake at 12 to 14 inch intervals. Continued suckering to prevent the plant
from developing more than one or two central stems. If a double-stalk plant
is desired leave the sucker produced above the first flower cluster since it
will be the most vigorous.

11. Q. What causes a tomato to crack? Is there anything I can do to prevent it?

A. Cracking is a physiological disorder caused by soil moisture
fluctuations. When the tomato reaches the mature green stage and the water
supply to the plant is reduced or cut off, the tomato will begin to ripen. At
this time a cellophane-like wrapper around the outer surface of the tomato
becomes thicker and more rigid to protect the tomato during and after harvest.
If the water supply is restored after ripening begins, the plant will resume
translocation of nutrients and moisture into the fruit. This will cause the
fruit to enlarge; which in turn splits the wrapper around the fruit and results
in cracking. The single best control for cracking is a constant and regular
water supply. Apply a layer of organic mulch to the base of the plant. This
serves as a buffer and prevents soil moisture fluctuation. Water plants
thoroughly every week. This is especially important when the fruits are
maturing. Some varieties are resistant to cracking, but their skin is

12. Q. What could cause the leaves of my tomatoes to turn brown along the edges?

A. Leaf-burn or scorch generally indicates root injury, quite often
caused by heavy amounts of fertilizer applied too near the roots. This injury
often results in browning and die back of the ends and margins of the leaves.
Other possible causes are root injury caused by nematodes, insects or physical
injury by cultivation. Also overwatering or underwatering along with diseases
might cause leaf-tip burn.

13. Q. About the time my tomatoes ripen and turn red, I lose at least half my crop to bird damage. What can prevent this?

A. Bird damage is common in all areas. One control method which works
quite well is to take old nylon stockings and cut them into pieces 10 to 12
inches long. Tie a knot in one end of the stocking and slip the open end over
the entire cluster of tomatoes. Secure the end above the tomato cluster with a
rubber band or twist-tie. Birds will not be able to peck through the nylon.
Slip the stocking off the cluster and harvest the ripe fruit and replace it to
protect later-ripening fruit. Also, birds damage fully mature fruit more
readily than breaker or pink fruit. Harvest in breaker or green-wrap stage.
Gardeners have tried many ways to reduce bird damage. Scarecrows, aluminum
strips, tin foil plates and noisemakers will work until the local birds become
accustomed to seeing or hearing them. Fabric covering materials such as
Grow-Web and Reemay can also be used as a barrier mechanism.

14. Q. What causes the black spots on the bottom of my tomatoes?

A. Blossom end rot, caused by improper (fluctuating from too dry to too
moist) moisture. Maintain uniform soil moisture as the fruit nears maturity.
Remove affected fruit.

15. Q. What causes tomato leaves to curl?

A. The exact cause of tomato leaf roll is not fully known. Tomato leaf
roll appears about the time of fruit setting. The leaflets of the older leaves
on the lower half of the tomato plant roll upward. This gives the leaflets a
cupped appearance with sometimes even the margins touching or overlapping. The
overall growth of the plant does not seem to be greatly affected and yields are
normal. This condition appears to be most common on staked and pruned plants.
It occurs when excessive rainfall or overwatering keeps the soil too wet for
too long. It is also related to intensive sunlight which causes carbohydrates
to accumulate in the leaves. Some varieties of tomatoes are
characteristically curled.

16. Q. What causes some of my early tomato fruit from the spring garden to be oddly shaped and of poor quality?

A. This condition is usually caused by low temperatures during bloom and
pollination. Fruit that set when temperatures are 55 degrees F. or below
often are odd-shaped and of poor quality. The blooms these tomatoes develop
from often are abnormal because of temperature conditions and grow into
abnormal, odd-shape fruit.

17. Q. Do products which are supposed to aid in setting tomatoes really work and if they do, how should they be used?

A. These hormonal products are designed to substitute for natural
pollination. These products work better when tomatoes are failing to set
because of too cool temperatures. Tomatoes which set after use of these
products will be puffy and have less seed.

18. Q. What is the plant advertised as a tree tomato?

A. The tree tomato is a member of the Nightshade family. The regular
tomato belongs to the same plant family but is a different species. The tree
tomato has the scientific name Cyphomandra betacea. Like the true
tomato, it is a native of Peru. It is grown in market gardens there and in
several subtropical countries including Brazil and New Zealand. The tree
tomato is woody, grows from 8 to 10 feet tall, bears fruit 2 years after
seeding and may continue to bear for 5 to 6 years. They are not winter hardy
except in southern areas and would need to be taken inside over winter. Fruits
of the tree tomato are oval, about 2 inches long and change from greenish
purple to reddish purple when fully ripe. The fruits are low in acid and the
flavor is moderately agreeable. Some varieties of the tree tomato produce
bright, red fruits. The fruits can be used in stew or preserves after the
tough skin and hard seeds are removed.

19. Q. Should you allow tomatoes to become fully ripe and red on the vine before harvesting?

A. Generally, yields will be increased by harvesting the fruit at first
blush or pink instead of leaving them on the plant to ripen fully. A tomato
picked at first sign of color and ripened at room temperature will be just as
tasty as one left to fully mature on the vine. Picking tomatoes before they
turn red reduces damage from birds.

20. Q. If tomatoes are picked green or before they are fully mature, how should they be handled to insure proper ripening and full flavor?

A. Never refrigerate tomatoes picked immature. Place them in a single
layer at room temperature and allowed them to develop full color. When they
are fully ripe, place them in the refrigerator several hours before eating.
Those handled in this manner will be of high quality and full flavor.

21. Q. What is a husk tomato?

A. Husk tomato is also called Ground Cherry, Poha Berry or Strawberry
Tomato. It is grown the same way as regular tomatoes and produces a fruit the
size of a cherry tomato. The fruits are produced inside a paper-like husk
which, when ripe, turns brown and the fruit drops from the plant. If left in
the husk, the fruit will keep for several weeks. Like tomatoes, they are
sensitive to cold weather and should be set out from plants after all danger of
frost in the spring. Space the plants 1 feet apart in rows at least 3 feet
apart. When ripe the small fruit can be used in pies, jams or may be dried in
sugar and used like raisins.

22. Q. I have the best tomato crop I have ever had, but the large tomatoes are falling off the vines. Even the ones that stay on the vine are jarred off easily. What is the problem?

A. Cool fall temperatures cause the abscission zone, the area where the
tomato is attached to the plant to weaken, and the heavy fruit subsequently
falls. Gather fallen tomatoes as soon as possible, wipe them clean and store
them in a warm place to ripen. These aborted tomatoes will rot if left on
the ground.

23. Q. I have large translucent areas on my tomato fruit. What’s going on?

A. This is an environmental problem. The translucent areas are sun
scalds. Heat from direct intense sunlight destroys the color pigments of the
tomato. This damage does not make the tomato inedible.

24. Q. Can I propagate tomatoes for the fall garden from spring- planted vines?

A. If quality transplants of Extension recommended varieties cannot be
found, use suckers or layering (cover with soil until roots appear) of existing
vine. Do this several weeks before the recommend transplanting date for fall
tomatoes, and use early-maturing tomato varieties.

25. Q. Can spring-planted tomatoes be cut back in late summer or early fall resulting in renewed growth and increased production until the first killing frost?

A. This can be done in some areas, especially in the southern parts.
However, the plants must be healthy and free of insect problems. Trying to
carry an unhealthy plant through the summer into the fall usually means
disaster. If the plants are to be cut back, avoid removing too much of the
foliage since hot weather can burn the plants to death. After pruning, apply
additional fertilizer and water to renew growth and increase tomato production
well into the fall.

26. Q. How do you tell when a green tomato harvested early to prevent freeze damage will ever turn red and ripen?

A. This can simply be done with a sharp kitchen knife. Harvest a tomato
typical of the majority of green tomatoes on your plants. Look at size but pay
particular attention to fruit color. Slice through the center of the tomato.
Closely examine the seed within the fruit. If the seeds are covered with a
clear gel which cause them to move away from the knife, then that fruit will
eventually turn red and ripen. If the seeds are cut by the knife then those
fruit will never properly ripen. Compare the color and size of the tested
fruit when harvesting tomatoes on your plants. Most similar fruit will
eventually ripen and turn red.

27. Q. Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable.

A. The tomato is legally-declared a vegetable by the Supreme Court of the
United States. A vegetable is a herbaceous (non-woody) plant or plant part
which can be eaten without processing and is usually consumed with the main

28. Q. The foliage on my tomatoes is infected by irregularly- shaped spots which cause it to turn yellow and drop off. This occurs in all seasons and is on the top as well as the bottom leaves.

A. Several types of leaf spots will attack tomatoes. Septoria leaf spot
is seen quite often. It can be controlled with a combination chlorothalonil
and benomyl (Benlate) spray program. Begin the spray program early in the life
of the plant. Apply chlorothalonil every 7 to 10 days adding benomyl every
second spray (14 to 20 days)if humidity is high or rain and dew cause wet

29. Q. The leaves on my tomato plants are distorted. Why?

A. This is a mosaic virus. If the virus is severe, remove the plants to
prevent spread to other plants. Many viruses are insect transmitted and are
difficult to control even with insecticides.

30. Q. My tomato plants are stunted and have a pale yellow foliage. The root system has knots or swellings on the roots.

A. These are root knot nematodes. Varieties such as Celebrity, Better
Boy and Small Fry resist this problem. If other varieties are to be grown
nematode populations must be reduced. Root knot is a species of nematode
which causes galls or swellings on plant roots. It restricts the uptake of
nutrients from the root system to the foliage, resulting in a yellow and
stunted plant. Root knot lives in the soil and can survive on a number of weed
and vegetable crops. It is best controlled by planting a solid stand (close
enough for root systems to overlap) of marigolds three months before the first killing frost of fall and/or planting cereal rye (Elbon) for a winter cover
crop. Cereal rye should be shred and tilled into the soil 30 days before
planting a spring crop. Nematode resistance is indicated by the letter N
after the tomato name. Example: Celebrity VFN.

31. Q. My tomatoes were healthy during the spring and early summer, yet after a recent rain, they wilted and died very rapidly. I found a white fungal growth at the base of the plant.

A. This is southern blight. It is a soilborne fungus and lives on organic
material in the soil. Terrachlor used as a preplant treatment will reduce this
problem. Also, the deep burial of undecomposed organic material in the soil
will reduce the problem. Control foliage diseases on tomato plants because the
fallen leaves around the base of the plant will feed the fungus, and it will
build up in this area and cause damage later. Crop rotation will also reduce
southern blight.

32. Q. My tomato plants wilted rapidly. When I cut the stem open, I found a brown ring around the inside.

A. This is Fusarium wilt. It is a soilborne fungus that attacks tomatoes
and other crops. It is controlled only through the use of resistant varieties.
Most commercial tomato varieties are resistant. Before you plant a variety,
make sure it is resistant to Fusarium wilt. This resistance is denoted by the
letter F after the name. Example: Celebrity VFN.

33. Q. What do the letters “VFN” associated with particular tomato varieties indicate?

A. VFN indicates the tomato variety is resistant to three types of
diseases; Verticilum wilt, Fusarium wilt and nematodes. Many of the new hybrid
varieties are VFN types. Disease resistant varieties preferred in areas of
Texas where these problems are severe and cause great losses to home

34. Q. The lower foliage on my tomatoes is beginning to turn yellow and drop. The leaves have circular, dark brown to black spots.

A. This is Alternaria leaf spot or early blight. It is a common problem
on tomatoes and causes defoliation, usually during periods of high rainfall.
Plant tomatoes on a raised bed to improve water drainage. They can be spaced
enough so air can move, dry the foliage and prevent diseases. Follow a spray
program using daconil beginning when the fruit is set and continuing at 1- to
2-week intervals during the growing season until harvest.


35. Q. My tomato fruit have small yellow specks on the surface. When the fruit are peeled, those yellow specks form a tough spot that must be cut off before eating the tomatoes. What’s wrong?

A. Your problem is not of a varietal origin. The yellow speckling is
caused by sucking insects such as stinkbugs or leaf- footed bugs. Early
control of sucking insects that feed on the fruit is helpful in alleviating the

36. Q. We planted tomatoes in our small garden. They are loaded and are the best tomatoes we have ever had; however, there are some small holes near the stem end of the tomato. When we cut the tomato open, there is a small worm inside. What is it and what can we do?

A. You have been invaded by the tomato pinworm. They usually do not
damage all fruit and can be controlled only by a preventive insecticide spray
every 7 to 10 days. When the damage is evident, it is too late to do anything
about it.

37. Q. What causes my tomato leaves to turn yellowish and fall off?

A. Many conditions may cause these symptoms including spider mites,
diseases and nutrient deficiencies. Examine the underside of the leaves for
small red to greenish mites. If mites are found, treat with Kelthane,
malathion or sulfur dust. Make two to three applications at 5-day intervals
for best results.

38. Q. On some of my ripe tomatoes I have discovered
small holes with numerous ants in them. I was unaware that ants could do this
to tomatoes. How can I control them?

A. Ants aren’t really your problem. They are just attracted to the
moisture in the holes which were caused by other insects. A likely culprit is
the tomato fruitworm, also known as the corn earworm. Bt (Bacillus
) is a nontoxic biological control which you can apply to the

39. Q. My tomatoes wilted and died soon after they bloomed. Last fall I had the soil tested and followed the recommendations. I didn’t notice any insects on the tomatoes, and none of the other plants growing in that area were
affected. The plants were in full sun, though one limb from a black walnut
tree which is about 20 feet from the garden reaches over that corner at about
30 feet above the ground. Could the slight shade from this branch cause such a
severe problem?

A. The branch is not the cause of your problem, but the tree it is
attached to probably is. Roots of black walnut and butternut trees release a
substance called juglone which kills roots of sensitive plants. Tomatoes
happen to be among the most sensitive, and should not be planted within at
least 50 feet of these trees. Juglone is emitted from living and dead roots
and can persist in the soil for over a year, so avoid areas where juglone
producing trees have grown for two to three years after removing the trees.

40. Q. What is disease resistance?

A. Disease resistance is the ability of a plant to withstand attack from disease causing organisms such as bacteria, fungi, or viruses. The extent of resistance can vary from being strongly resistant to infection to being only somewhat more tolerant of the disease than standard varieties. Resistance is not immunity. Improper culture of a resistant variety may negate that resistance.

A. Plant breeders have a tough job to breed disease resistance into crops because there are so many diseases and often several strains of a given disease. What is often done is to select the disease that causes the most problems and work on breeding resistance to that disease. Seed catalogs and packets indicate what, if any, disease resistance a variety has in descriptive text or with initials following the variety name.

Disease resistance in tomatoes indicated by initials include:

V – Verticillium wilt
F – Fusarium wilt (F1, race 1; F2, race 2)
N – nematode
T – tobacco mosaic virus
A – Alternaria alternata (crown wilt disease)
L – Septoria leafspot

Source Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System

Tomato Growers supply company has a website that I often use as a reference when looking for seedlings and seed at my local nursery.
Along with a good quality picture they also give a short description of it’s mature appearance, days to maturity and a bit of other useful information on each variety offered.
They have more than 500 varieties of tomatoes and peppers, including huge selections of both hybrid tomato seeds and heirloom tomato seeds.

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Jump start your 2017 garden plan

A month into winter – it’s time to start planning and making preparations for spring planting.

Tomato and pepper seed or seedlings, a few things you need to know.

Hybrid or Heirloom seed? Which is best for you?
Hybrid seed is not the same as GMO/GEO seed. In agriculture and gardening Hybrid seed is produced by artificially cross-pollinated plants. Hybrids are bred to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, disease resistance, and so forth. Today, hybrid seed is predominant in agriculture and home gardening, and is one of the main contributing factors to the dramatic rise in agricultural output during the last half of the 20th century.
In the US, the commercial market was launched in the 1920s, with the first hybrid maize. Hybrid seed from the first generation of hybrid plants does not reliably produce true copies, therefore, new seed is usually purchased for each planting.

Heirloom plant variety is a cultivar that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in modern large-scale agriculture. Many heirloom vegetables have kept their traits through open pollination. The trend of growing heirloom plants in gardens has been growing in popularity in the United States and Europe over the last decade.

Heirloom growers have different motivations. Some people grow heirlooms for historical interest, while others want to increase the available gene pool for a particular plant for future generations. Some select heirloom plants due to an interest in traditional organic gardening. Many simply want to taste the different varieties of vegetables, or see whether they can grow a rare variety of plant. Heirlooms, by definition, must be open-pollinated.

Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called “bush” tomatoes, are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height (approx. 4 feet). They stop growing when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud, ripen all their crop at or near the same time (usually over a 2 week period), and then die. They may require a limited amount of caging and/or staking for support, should NOT be pruned or “suckered” as it severely reduces the crop, and will perform relatively well in a container, minimum size of 5 or 6 gallon.

Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called “vining” tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although 6 feet is considered the norm. They will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all the time throughout the growing season. They require substantial caging and/or staking for support and pruning and the removal of suckers is practiced by many but is not mandatory. The need for it and advisability of doing it varies from region to region. Experiment and see which works best for you. Because of the need for substantial support and the size of the plants, indeterminate varieties are not usually recommended as container plants.

I will not attempt to list or recommend any one variety to you. I am including a link to a seed supplier that I have used with good success.

Tomato, Pepper Seed website list over 200 different tomato varieties. About 60 sweet and mild pepper and around 75 hot pepper varieties as well as about 15 eggplant varieties that you may want to consider as well.

Tomato Growers Seed Company has a website that I often use as a reference when looking for seedlings and seed at my local nursery. Along with a good quality picture they also give a short description of it’s mature appearance, days to maturity and a bit of other useful information on each variety offered.

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Greek Style Summer Garden Salad

Tomato’s, Red Onions, Cucumbers garnish with cheese, I favor Feta cheese.

Use only very fresh home grown herbs, leafy greens and vegetables. It simply does not taste as good when made from market vegetables that were picked green in Mexico or Chile, shipped thousands of miles.

Garden Fresh – Greek Style Farmers {horiatiki} Salad
*3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*1½ tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice [in a pinch use white wine vinegar]
*1 clove minced garlic {optional}
*1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped oregano or ½ teaspoon dried oregano
*¼ teaspoon salt {optional}
*¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and extra for garnish {Optional} use sparingly
*3 tomatoes cut into wedges
*¼ red onion thin sliced into rings
*1 cucumber sliced into thick half moons de-seed if cucumbers are large
*½ green and or red sweet pepper—julienne {optional}
*4 oz (120g) feta cheese cut into small cubes [Use a cheese that you like]

Note: Add what ever garden fresh greens or herbs you have to this salad.

Put olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and or or basel in a small jar with a tight fitting lid and shake to combine.
Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl, add cheese on top.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine just before serving.

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Dried Tomato’s Packed In Olive Oil

Selecting tomato’s to be dried. Select any kind of Tomato, ripe, but not over ripe, still firm and free of insect damage or bruising. The yield varies considerably depending on the moisture content of the tomatoes, which depends upon the type of tomato you select weather and gardening conditions.
* Oven drying, set oven temperature to 130 to 145 degrees. Prop open (crack oven door) to allow warm moist air to escape.
* Counter top electric dehydrator. Follow instructions for your dehydrator.

Cut small tomatoes, grape, cherry and Roma types in half. Cut large tomatoes in to 1/4 size. Under running cold water remove seeds. Dust with your choice of herbs. Place tomatoes ‘Skin Side Down’ on drying racks.

Drying time depends on temperature and water content of the tomatoes, the thickness of the slices, and how well the air is able to circulate around them. When done, the tomatoes should be flexible, like a fresh raisin, not brittle. Dehydrating Your Fruit and Vegetable Harvest
Hint If you are going to pack your tomato’s in olive oil, error on being a little moist over being overly dry.

Let your tomatoes cool to room temperature this will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Fill zip lock bags. Don’t overfill the bags, leave a little room for expansion. Do try to avoid leaving any excess air pockets! A vacuum bag is a better choice. Be sure to squeeze out the extra air.

Storing your dried tomatoes. Store dried tomatoes in a cool dark place. The freezer is best, the dried tomatoes will retain their color and flavor for about 9 to 12 months. A refrigerator is OK for a few weeks, but if there is much moisture left in them, they WILL soon start to get moldy.

Packing Dried Tomato’s In Oil

Using wide mouth, canning jars, 1/2 or 1 pint size. You can use larger jars they’ll store more tomatoes. Wash and sterilize your jars and utensils.

Layering your dried tomatoes in the jar adding between each layer. A pinch salt, a thin slice of garlic, pinch of dried basel and oregano. Repeat this process until you’re nearly at the top of the jar (leave 1/2 inch or more of head space). Use a spoon and press down to compress the ingredients.

Fill your jars with olive oil, make sure that the tomatoes are completely covered with olive oil.
Hint Let jars set a few minutes allowing air bubbles to escape and top off with oil as needed.

Tightly seal and store the jar in a cool, dark place. I think being refrigerated is best, Not Stored in a pantry.

Let your tomatoes sit for a week before consuming them. This will allow your tomato’s, spices and olive oil to infuse and allow your tomatoes to become soft. Ready to grace any dish you prepare.

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