Home Vegetable Gardening – Support Your Tomatoes With These Ideas

Tomatoes rank first as the most popular item to grow in a home vegetable garden. Although botanically they are classified as a fruit, most people refer to them as vegetables. Regardless of what you call them, there are literally thousands of varieties to choose from. You can get them in the small variety such as cherry, grape or roma up through the big boys like beefsteak and each of those choices come in a widening array of colors. Whew! That’s a lot to think about right?

Not really. The number one recommendation of what to grow from many, if not all, of the vegetable gardeners I speak with at my vegetable gardening Facebook fan page is a simple straight forward one. Grow what you will eat. Don’t waste your time growing tomatoes that will just end up in the compost pile. The idea of growing your own food is to save money and grow food you like to eat.

With all of that said, most tomato varieties have weak stems. In other words the tomatoes produced are too heavy for the support system that the plant itself provides and will, therefore, lead the plant to fall over. The last thing you want as a home vegetable gardener is to have your tomatoes lying in the mud after a big rain. Here are some ideas that some of our Facebook members have come up with to give those tomatoes the support you need.

Cages
This is the basic method by which most people use including yours truly. With the protected cages available today that can withstand the weather elements, once purchased they can last you forever (so as long as you put them away in the winter time).

PVC
I have not tried this one myself but this recommendation came from on of our members who swear by it. They use the PVC by placing it behind the plant and then lightly tying the plant to the PVC. One person suggested growing the tomato plant inside the PVC tube, although I am not 100% how that works.

Rebar
Able to some rebar for free off of Craigslist one member said they drive the rebar vertically into the soil and use it as a stake. They use expandable Velcro ties (available at your local home or garden center), to tie the plants to the rebar.

Fence Posts
One member wrote in that they asked a neighbor for the fence posts of an old wooden fence they were taking down. The fencing was made from cedar and was neither stained nor treated, which is good because you do not want any chemicals near your tomatoes or any other vegetable for that matter. Attach to the fence post with one of the previously mentioned methods.

Lattice Fence
Another very creative idea that came in that I am definitely going to give a try to this season is the use of lattice fencing. A quick image search on Google will show what lattice fencing looks like. In any event, this one particular member actually weaved the tomato plants through the lattice as it grew. Very creative indeed and the plant was very well supported.

These are just five of the many, and I really mean many, ways to prop up your tomato plants. Pick a method that works best for the style of tomato plant you are growing and the area in which it grows. Over time you will find what works best for your home vegetable garden.

Add Tomatillos to Your Home Vegetable Garden

They are in the same family as the tomato and closely related to the cape gooseberry. They have the shape of a sphere and produce a green (sometimes green-purple) fruit and tomatillos are readily used in Mexican cuisine. Believe it or not they are easier to grow than you think and can be added to virtually anyone’s home vegetable garden. Just keep in mind that in order to have successful tomatillos in your home vegetable garden, you must grow at least two plants. Two or more grown close to each other will ensure proper pollination.

Because they are in the same family as tomatoes, and if you have grown tomatoes before, the learning curve to grow tomatillos in your home vegetable garden will be small. Just like with tomatoes, you can start your seeds indoors about 7 weeks prior to the end range of your frost area as noted by the USDA frost zone map. For example in my area, zone 6, the range is March 30 to April 30. I will start 7 weeks from April 30.

When planting your seeds indoors make sure the seed does not exceed ¼” in depth. The seeds are fairly small and if you put too much soil on top of them they may not generate the energy needed to push through. You can expect your seeds to germinate anywhere from 7 to 15 days. Using a humidity dome, cold frame etc, will definitely speed things up.

Like tomatoes, tomatillos like the soil to be a bit more acidic, so try and get the pH range of your soil in the 6.0 to 7.0 area. Now would be a good time to invest in a pH soil tester if have not done so already. Tomatillos grow best when the temperature of the soil is around eighty degrees Fahrenheit. You can help warm the soil up by putting down a clear plastic tarp over the area and letting the sun do the rest of the work.

When the day finally comes to move your tomatillos to the outdoors make sure you give them plenty of space. As a rule of thumb, stick with 3 feet from one plant to the next. This will give the plant and their roots plenty of room to grow, but at the same time be close enough for pollination purposes.

Make sure the plants are in an area that receives full sun and don’t forget to give them a moderate watering. Every other day should suffice, unless you are experiencing periods of extreme heat. Then give them a daily watering, first thing in the morning just as the sun is rising.

You will know it is time to pick a tomatillo because the outer layer, called the husk, will start to turn brown and/or split. Just use a pair of garden scissors to snip them off.

For you advanced home vegetable gardeners out there who practice in crop rotations and companion plantings avoid following eggplants, potatoes,tomatoes and peppers in a rotation and stay away from pole beans, dill, fennel and potatoes in your companion plan.

Herb Garden Masters 101: Building a Home Herb Garden

After planting these herbs and watch them grow, now it’s time to utilize them. But, when using them from your own home herb garden requires a little bit or work first. Why? Here you’ll find the answers.

Harvesting

The first thing to do before you can use them from your home herb garden is to harvest them first and for this, timing is a huge factor. It is because the wind and the heat can easily disperse the essential oils of the herbs so if the timing is not right, then you end up with a useless or a less productive herb. The best time to harvest them is during a calm and dry midsummer morning. You also have to know that fewer oils are produced by the herb on extremely wet days so when you harvest, see to it that the harvest takes place just after the dew has dried form the leaves right before the flowers open. During harvest, it is also one of the best times to inspect for insects and damaged leaves.

Preserving

Typically, the 3 most common ways of preserving them from one’s home herb garden is by drying, freezing, or preserving them in a medium like salt or vinegar. The following is a summary of the 3 means of preservation:

1. Drying- To dry them, you need to bundle six to twelve stems together using a string and then remove any foliage that is near the base of the stems. The bundle should be hung in a cool location and away from sunlight. If what you want are dried leaves, you can place the leaves on a screen or a rack, turning them often in order for them to dry properly. Others also use dehydrators, ovens or microwaves to dry herbs although these means are less satisfactory ways.

2. Freezing- To freeze them, you need cut the herbs into ¼ inch pieces and then place them on a baking sheet that is lined with wax paper for freezing. Once the herbs are already frozen, place them in a bag and store them in the freezer until the time you have to use them.

3. Using Medium- This way of preserving them is done through the use of a third party medium. Example is covering herbs like chopped mint, basil or tarragon with vinegar to preserve it until several months. Another is to use salt just like when making a flavored salt to preserve herbs by alternating layers of fresh herbs between salt. After the herbs are dried, you can now then separate the brown herb from the flavored salt and store it in an airtight container.

Fresh Herbs

Not at all times that you’ll want your herbs preserved, of course, you can also use herbs fresh right out of the garden. When using the herbs this way, one must take care in cleaning the herbs before they are placed fresh in recipes. So, how does one clean herbs? You just have to place the fresh herbs in a bowl or use the sink and fill it with cool water. Then, place about two tablespoons of salt in the water as the salt in the water drives away insects without damaging the plant. You can now then remove the herbs from the water for drying.

As an herb enthusiast, you should know that different types of herbs are used for many different uses and have different instructions on how to use, harvest, and chop them.