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Urban Farming? Know Your Own Food – Grow Your Own Food

How to Grow Tomatoes

"Brandy Wine Tomato"

Brandy Wine Tomato

There are a variety of tomato types to grow.  There are a variety of ways to grow them.  There are tiny tomatoes, large tomatoes and medium tomatoes in between.  Red tomatoes, gold tomatoes, black tomatoes, purple tomatoes & more!    Choose your variety.  Choose your growing method.
Grow tomatoes using the simplest & most laid-back methods or commit to the more structured methods.  I try to choose a tomato type that will first most especially fit my time, the growing method I prefer & my growing area.  Then I select a variety.

How to Grow Tomatoes
General
Night Shade Family

Annual
Although seeds from previous crops do re-plant themselves & grow.

Light
Full Sun

Soil:
pH range: 5.8 – 7.0
Loose & organic rich.
Avoid soils that have housed eggplant, peppers, potatoes.

Fertilizer
N=high P=high K=high
Routinely for healthier plants.
Fish emulsion, liquid seaweed, compost tea, worm tea, etc.

Determinate:
Bush type
Bush at mature size – Flowers – Bears Fruit – Stops Growing
Can be grown without support …but grows best with low support.
Does not have to be pruned
Less yield per square foot than indeterminate tomatoes.

Indeterminate:
True Vine
Continuous growth – Continuous Flowers – Continuous Fruit
Grows best with support
Continuous training required to maximize garden space.
Pruning: Directs growth to the main stem
Begin pruning about 2 Weeks after the final transplant into the garden.
Remove suckers non flowering stems
More yield per sq foot than determinate tomatoes.

Germinating Tomato Seeds
Recommend: Soil-less Starting Mix
Tomato seedlings are prone to damping-off disease.
A soil-less potting mix will help avoid this problem.

When to Sow
6 – 7 Weeks before last frost
Keep Moist – Not Wet
Keep Warm – Not Cold

Sowing
1/2 Deep
1″ Apart

Days to Germination
6 – 8 Days
Move germinated seeds to a sunny window or grow light.

Transplanting
Step 1: At about 10 days old transplant seedlings into 2 inch growing pots.
Hint: Clip all leaves except leaves within top inch.
Replant seedlings covering entire stem up to top 1 inch where remaining leaves are.
More roots will grow from the buried stem.
Stronger Roots = Stronger Plants

Step 2: About 2 weeks later transplant into 4 inch pots.
Hint Clip all leaves except leaves within the top 2 inches.
Replant seedlings covering entire stem up to top 2 inches where remaining leaves are.
More roots will grow from the buried stem.
Stronger Roots = Stronger Plant

Hardening Off:
About 2 weeks before transplanting to the garden or an outdoor planter.
Move tomato plants to a sheltered area outside.
Leave them out for a short while at first.
Increasing the outside time a little each day.
Tomato plants will be well adjusted to the outdoors by the time they are permanently transplanted into their outdoor area.

Into the Garden
Finally!
Deep Planting Method
Promotes Deep Roots
Deep Roots Promote strength during drought & heat.
Dig a hole 6″ wide
Dig a depth so that only 4 inches of the plant will be exposed.
Clip off any leaves that will be buried.
Set the plant. Fill with soil. Water…extremely well.

Shallow Planting Method
Promotes Shallow Roots
Shallow Roots for cooler climates.
Inclined to suffer from drought & root damage.
But if that’s all you have to work with…go with it!
Dig a trench 2″ – 3″ Deep
Dig a length so that only the top 4 inches of the plant will be exposed.
Clip off any leaves that will be buried.
Lay in trench. Fill with soil leaving the top leafy 4″ exposed. Water…extremely well.

Harvesting Tomatoes
Recommend: Vine Ripening
Harvest tomatoes when the skin of the tomato slightly springs back to shape after the touch of a finger.
Don’t forget to save some seeds for next year.

Companion Plants
Asparagus, pot marigold, basil, nasturtium, onion, parsley, pepper,
cabbage family, carrot, bush bean, celery, chive, cucumber, marigold, mint, pepper, head lettuce, borage to name a few.

Bad Companion Plants
Fennel, dill, potato, pole bean

Pests
Tomato hornworm, tomato worm, aphids, blister beatles, stink bugs, tomato fruit worms to name a few.

Find your planting zone:
United States

World

Butterflies

The Silent Pollinators

Butterflies pollinate large areas of plantscapes at one time. They habitually travel farther & pollinate  more area than the more aggressive pollinators like bees do. Unlike their larvae, adult butterflies do not eat solid foods.

"butterflies"

lizbetpalmer / Pixabay


They sip sweet, nutrient rich nectar through their long tongues but they need to drink water too. Butterflies drink from mud puddles. Mud Puddling is very important. It is rich in nutrients and salts that butterflies need.

These  easy going pollinators have large, long-legged  bodies that do not allow them to fit inside flowers and take up as much pollen as other smaller more aggressive pollinators do. Despite their size disadvantage; their weightless bodies do allow them to land on more delicate flowers than the heavier weighted pollinators can land on.
Butterflies pollinate while sipping nectar. They unintentionally rub against the flower’s anther picking up pollen on their body and then traveling from flower to flower to sip more nectar, rub & distribute more pollen.

Different species favor different flowers. Large flat – shaped flowers and large bunches of small flowers are easy for butterflies to stand on. Some of their favorite flowers are:
Anise, Hyssop, Butterfly Bush, Columbine, Dianthus, Golden Rod, New England Aster, Marigolds, Milkweed,Petunias, Verbena, Yarrow, to name a few.

Avoid Hybrids

Hybrids, even organic hybrids, do not always produce nectar or pollen. Pollinators will still try eating from hybrids leaving them without proper nutrition.
Just think of how many well-intended growers work with hybrids across the globe & how many pollinators have no choice but to rely on them.

Hybrids do not always produce reliable, sustainable, next generation seeds but if they do produce next generation seeds most of the time crops grown from these seeds are deformed, stunted & unreliable making them unsustainable for the grower.

Butterfly – Beneficial – Sustainable – Pollinator

Urban Farming?  Got Butterflies?


 

Nasturtium

"Nasturtium"

Nasturtiums Love Neglect
I Love Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums’ brilliant flowers & flat fan-shaped leaves  make it an interesting all season favorite.
Easy to grow.  Loves neglect.  Thrives well into fall.

Annual:   Self-seeding – Vine and Climbing varieties – Grows back year after year
Green Seeds are eaten as capers
Height: 10 – 12 inches
Width/Circumference up to 18″
Flowers: Edible. Flowers bloom in a variety of colors
Leaves: Edible – These flat fan-shaped leaves are so yummy, full of vitamin C & add a delightful peppery flavor to sandwich or salad.
Companion Plant:
Tomatoes, Strawberries, Cabbage, Cucumbers, Radishes, Fruit Trees
Nasturtiums improve the growth and flavor of most any plant. They deter & repel garden pests.
Pumpkin Beetles, Squash Bugs, Aphids, Cucumber Beetles, Whiteflies & more. Attracts beneficial insects.
An attractive, nutritious, delicious & easy companion plant to grow. Grow them in pots or directly in the ground. Great for small spaces but does well in open spaces too. Prefers poor unfertilized soil & very little water.

Warning
Avoid Hybrids

Hybrids, even organic hybrids, do not always produce nectar or pollen. Pollinators will still try eating from hybrids leaving them without proper nutrition.
Just think of how many well-intended growers work with hybrids across the globe & how many pollinators rely on them.
Hybrids do not always produce reliable, sustainable, next generation seeds but if they do produce next generation seeds most of the time crops grown from these seeds are deformed, stunted & unreliable making them unsustainable for the grower.

Nasturtiums – Companion – Edible – Sustainable

Urban Farming? Do you eat Nasturtiums?

 

Borage

"Borage Star Flower"Borage Bud"Bees Love Borage"
 

No rose could ever bring me such delight!
Bees dance on them – People eat from them – Crops thrive on them.
 

It’s spectacular fluorescent blue flowers in star shape design are an experience to behold.
Herb: Annual – Self-seeding – Grows back year after year.
Height: 2 to 3 feet tall.
Flowers: Edible Blue – Pink – White – Five pointed star-shaped flowers
Blooms continuously – Delicate honey sweet flavor
Leaves: Edible – These 2 – 6 inch leaves are rich in Calcium, Vitamin C, Potassium & Mineral Salts. Hairless young leaves are most desirable for eating. Mature leaves are good but hairy. Tastes just like cucumber.
Companion Plant to: Tomatoes, Strawberries, Spinach, Legumes, Brassicas, Squash – Most any plant will benefit from Borage. Borage strengthens neighboring plants resistance to disease & pests. Tomato Hornworms & Cabbage Worms detest Borage. Borage attracts many beneficial insects. Bees & Wasps love Borage! Borage enriches the soil, enriches the compost pile, enriches the spirit.

Warning
Avoid Hybrids

Hybrids, even organic hybrids, do not always produce nectar or pollen. Pollinators will still try eating from hybrids leaving them without proper nutrition.
Just think of how many well-intended growers work with hybrids across the globe & how many pollinators rely on them.

Hybrids do not always produce reliable, sustainable, next generation seeds but if they do produce next generation seeds most of the time crops grown from these seeds are deformed, stunted & unreliable making them unsustainable for the grower.

Borage – Companion – Edible – Sustainable.
Urban Farming? Do you eat Borage?

Hornworm

I was in creepy awe the day when we first met.

medium_hornworm

Hornworm:  The larvae stage of the Sphinx or Hawk Moth
Appearance: Thickly coated body with a horn near the rear.
Color: Significantly Camouflaged in Green.
Size: Large 3 – 4 inches
Eats: tomato, potato, tobacco, eggplant, pepper…very fast!
Footprint:  Defoliating plants – Yellow green eggs on underside of leaves –  Small specks of dark colored droppings.
Found:  Usually under the branches and closest to the trunk.
Companion Plants: Marigolds, Borage, Anise, Petunia deter the Tomato Hornworm while inviting predatory insects.
Predatory Insects:  Braconid Wasps, Lacewing, Lady Beetles
Treat the Soil:  Give the soil a thorough treatment by tilling as deep as 6 inches to destroy any cocoons after harvest.  Kills nearly 100%
Removal:  Hand pick to remove. Yuck!medium_hornworm eggs

A Braconid Wasp laid eggs inside this Hornworm. The white, rice-like larvae are Braconid Wasp cocoons.  The larvae live off of the Hornworm eventually killing it thus preventing it from transforming into yet another Sphinx/Hawk Moth who would lay more eggs that would eat more host plants like tomato plants.  The baby wasps eventually break out of their cocoons.  Their mission is to  find even more Hornworms to lay eggs inside.  Infected Hornworms never live long enough to form a cocoon, fly like a moth, or lay more eggs.

Leaving the wasp cocoon covered Hornworm alone will insure the wasp cocoons mature into wasps to hunt and destroy more Hornworms.  The infected Hornworm will die & turn brown long before it can transform itself into an egg laying moth.

Adult Hornworms who continue their life cycle eventually fall from  the host plant, (our food), and tunnel as deep as six inches into the soil to transform into the pupae stage.  Eventually adult moths emerge from the cocoon, mate, lay more eggs, eat more plants.  Eggs laid during the fall remain dormant until spring when they will emerge as moths.  This is why tilling the soil at least six inches down after the harvest in the fall will likely prevent an infestation in next year’s crop.

Working with our earth by planting companion plants to attract specific predatory insects is a sustainable method of urban farming without chemicals or pesticides.

Urban Farming? How do you combat hornworms?

Bees

Bees

"Bees"Bees Can Do No Wrong

Most everything I say about bees is biased because of my love and appreciation for them.

These busy pollinators are easy to please by simply adding flowers & plants that they love. Bees sense of fragrance and their ability to see all colors, excluding red; make planting bee attracting companion flowers & plants throughout food crops a breeze.   Planting a diverse assortment of colorful, fragrant flowers, garden vegetables, even trees & shrubs will be a sure invite to bees.
I choose perennials or self-seeding annuals…they’re more dependable at yearly flowering than I am at yearly seeding.
Nectar: Bees are serious about drinking their nectar. (they love to drink water too) Nectar provides bees with the essential energy they need to perform well. Bees use nectar to make honey.
Pollen: Pollen is their essential source for nutrients, fats & proteins. Bees pollinate the flowers. Bees carry pollen from one flower’s anther to another flowers stigma. Pollination leads to fruits & vegetables.
Menu Suggestions Include:
Borage
, Clover, Dandelion, Golden Rod,  Nasturtium, Purple Vetch, Sunflower to name a few and water….bees always need water in even the shallowest dish or the dew that gathers on the crops in the morning.

Avoid Hybrids
Hybrids, even organic hybrids, do not always produce nectar or pollen. Pollinators will still try eating from hybrids leaving them without proper nutrition.
Just think of how many well-intended growers work with hybrids across the globe & how many pollinators rely on them.
Hybrids do not always produce reliable, sustainable, next generation seeds but if they do produce next generation seeds most of the time crops grown from these seeds are deformed, stunted & unreliable making them unsustainable for the grower.

Bees – Beneficial – Sustainable – Pollinator

Urban Farming? Got Bees?

 

Urban Farmer Lady

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.

~Mahatma Gandhi

"Nasturtium"

Companion Plants

Tomato hornworm

Garden Pests

busy bee on flower

Beneficial Insects

"Brandywine Tomato"

Grow Tomatoes

"Red Raspberries"

Grow Raspberries

grow garlic

Grow Garlic

Worm Tea

How to Make Worm Tea

 

"Grow Strawberries"

Grow Strawberries

"Egyptian Walking Onions"

Grow Walking Onions