Easy Gardening – Garden Seed Tapes

What are Seed Tapes?

Seed tapes are products designed with seeds perfectly attached between narrow strips of biodegradable tissue layers, which are ready for planting in both the garden and house. They are ideal for sowing in containers, large empty garden plots, as well as fill-ins in tighter areas.

The seeds are applied at the correct distance along the tapes to reduce overcrowding of newly germinated seedlings. The tapes can consist of a single variety, custom mixtures, and multiple species of seeds. You can find products with flower, vegetable, and herb seeds embedded into them.

What are the Advantages of Seed Tapes?

  • Provide an easy and efficient way to plant tiny seeds quickly.
  • Seeds are planted at the same depth allowing for a more uniform germination rate.
  • Seed tapes enable you to space plants evenly and eliminate seed wastage. This helps avoid overcrowding that may call for thinning of young seedlings, which is a tedious and time-consuming task.
  • Less thinning also means less disturbance to the root of plants left in your garden. Otherwise, you risk delaying or inhibiting the growth and even performance of the plants.
  • Prevents birds from eating the fresh seeds that you sow.
  • Makes the sowed seeds less susceptible to wash away in a downpour and ruining the evenly spaced rows.
  • Almost all the seed tape products are biodegradable and considered to be environmental-friendly.
  • Very convenient for senior gardeners, particularly those suffering from arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or other mobility complications.

What are the types of Seed tapes?

Seed tapes

Seed tapes are one of the most common types, which are ideal for growing most vegetable seed varieties, salads, as well as flower seeds. They are usually available in different lengths, especially between one to six meters. However, it is possible to have the garden vegetable seed tapes produced in specific lengths to suit your unique gardening needs. Also, the seed tapes can come as a single track containing one variety of seeds or multiple tracks with different seed varieties.

Seed discs

Seed discs are designed in different sizes. You’ll find smaller and larger seed discs. With smaller seed discs, the diameter often ranges from 8cm to 12 cm, a size that easily fits most typical flowerpots. They are perfectly suited for sowing herbs indoor, such as in the kitchen or windowsills.

The larger discs, on the other hand, range from 14cm to 46cm in diameter. You can use them for sowing seeds in outdoor pots, as well as hanging containers or baskets.

Seed mats

If you want to sow seeds in big planters, garden borders or window boxes, then seeds mats are a great option. With seed mats, you can easily produce a great color display of stunning bedding plants. Well, good examples of such plants include marigolds and pansies.

The size of seed mats vary. Often than not, you’ll find mats available in the size of a small business card and up to 100cm in length.

Seed carpets

Seeds carpets are suitable for planting salads, mixed vegetables, and wildflower fusions in large borders or other large garden areas. They are simply ready-made “mini-gardens” or “allotments,” which are usually one meter or larger in length.

How to Use Seed Tapes

It’s an incredibly easy process. First off, you’ll need to prepare the soil for planting, just like you would with any new seedbed. Once you have a weed-free garden bed, it’s often recommended to follow the guidelines on the package of the seed tapes, discs, carpets, or mats.

In most cases though, you’ll be required to place the seed tapes in a straight line on the soil using the proper rowing space. After that, gently cover it with the top layer soil and then water the area. However, you should avoid prolonged watering after sowing.

If the soil has not been moistened by Mother Nature, consider watering it several hours before sowing. But don’t make the garden bed sopping wet.

Where to buy Seed tapes

You can find the different types of seed tapes we’ve discussed above at most local garden centers or nurseries, DIY stores, and grocery stores. Alternatively, you can just buy from reputable online garden retailers.

GROWING SUNFLOWERS

Sunflowers seem to have the ability to lift the spirits, creating a feeling of inner happiness. If you’d like to welcome this vivacious summer flower into your garden this year, then this home gardener’s guide on how to grow sunflowers can show you how.

In this home gardeners guide on growing sunflowers you will learn:

  • The meaning of sunflowers
  • Sunflower origins and history
  • Best ways to grow sunflowers
  • Sunflower pests and diseases
  • How to harvest and store your sunflower seeds

Sunflowers have long been a children’s favorite, the sheer size that some varieties can grow to make them fun and exciting. They are perfect for a little bit of friendly competition to see who can grow the tallest flower. They are also great for creating a striking floral arrangement or to add height to the back of a flower border, where they are best grown in groups. Other than their beauty, sunflowers also provide nutritious seeds that you can eat or feed to birds and other animals.

The large yellow flower heads of sunflowers with their bright yellow petals, which so much resemble the sun, are fittingly called “rays.” There are lots of varieties to choose from, varying in size from small to giant, and all are fairly easy to grow even for a novice gardener.

Why Sunflowers Follow the Sun, their Meaning and History

Not only are sunflowers very beautiful, but they are also fascinating. There is some confusion about whether or not sunflowers follow the sun and the reason for this may be because they only display their sun following behavior for part of their life and not when they are blooming.

Why Sunflowers Follow the Sun

Young sunflower heads follow the sun across the sky. This phenomenon is known as “heliotropism.”

Sunflowers contain auxins, which are growth hormones sensitive to sunlight. Auxins don’t like sunlight and naturally migrate to the shadiest parts of the plant. As the sun moves, the auxins are continually driven around the stem causing it to grow a little in each area that they settle. This causes the head of the sunflower to move, making it appear to follow the sun.

As the flower heads develop and bloom, they become fixed facing east, but the heliotropism still makes the flower heads rise up to face the sun as it rises, which also helps to maximize photosynthesis. Facing east helps the flower to warm up quickly and attract more pollinating insects.

When the sunflower matures, and seeds start to develop, the plants no longer display heliotropism and finally droop down due to the weight of the seed.

Meaning

Sunflowers are a flower of happiness. They symbolize loyalty, devotion, honor, integrity, sincerity, and longevity. It is thought much of this meaning comes from the sunflower’s namesake, the sun. The sun shines down energy in the form of heat and light, while sunflowers provide us with energy by lifting our spirits, and from their nourishing seeds and oils.

An ancient Greek myth about Apollo and the woman who loved him named Clytie, tells of Apollo spurning Clytie and turning her into a sunflower. Despite this, she continued to love him which is why sunflowers are symbols of adoration and loyalty in many parts of the world.

In China, sunflowers symbolize long life and good fortune, due to their imposing size and vibrant color they also symbolize vanity.

In the Native American culture, sunflowers mean harvest and bounty, because they provide food in the form of seeds & also color pigments

History

Today sunflowers are prized for their beauty, seeds, and oils, which can be used for beauty and food products. But these large yellow flowers have been the focus of many a famous artist, probably the most famous being Vincent Van Gogh, but Paul Gauguin and Gustav Klimt have also featured this beautiful plant in their paintings.

The name “Sunflower” or correct Latin name “Helianthus” comes from the Greek words “Helios” which means sun and “Anthos” which means flower.

Sunflowers have been purposefully grown from around 3,000BC, which has been discovered from sunflower seeds being found at archeological sites. In the United States, sunflowers were cultivated by Native Americans in the Mississippi river valley for their seeds, oil, and fiber and also as a medicine.

When Europeans started to settle in the United States, they prized the sunflowers they found there and sent seeds back to Europe. Sunflowers became popular as an ornamental plant in many English cottage gardens as can be seen in the paintings from Van Gogh’s and his counterparts.

Sunflowers also gained great popularity in Russia, because their oil could be eaten without breaking their strict religious dietary laws. Russian growers in the 20th Century started to breed selectively to maximize the plants’ oil content and make it more disease resistant.

By the 1960s specially selected sunflower cultivars were being grown commercially in the United States on an industrial scale, mostly to produce vegetable oil.

Sunflowers remain a popular commercial crop in many parts of the world, as the oil has many uses, from cooking and cosmetics to biofuel.

How to Grow Sunflowers

Sunflowers are a hardy plant and will grow even in relatively poor soils. They can tolerate a soil pH of between 6.0 and 7.5 quite happily and are drought resistant due to their ancestry growing on the vast American prairies. They do not however like waterlogged soil, so if you are in a heavy clay area you may have to do some soil modification to prevent this problem.

Varieties

There are a vast number of sunflower varieties for you to choose from. Sunflowers don’t just come in yellow either, there are also other color options available to try too. Here are a few varieties to illustrate this:

Tall Sunflowers

  • Skyscraper – A very large sunflower with petals of around 14 inches in length. It can grow to 12 feet in height and has a large seed head.
  • American Giant – really lives up to its name featuring a large seed head and growing to heights of around 15 feet it can also span up to a foot in width!
  • Russian Mammoth – Is an easy to grow specimen with large seed head, which is popular at county fairs because of its height of 12 feet.

Dwarf Sunflowers

Dwarf sunflowers are generally more popular for garden ornamental displays of for flower arrangements. They grow to a maximum height of three feet and look great in bunches.

  • Little Becka – This sunflower could also be classed in our next category of colored sunflowers, but it is also a dwarf variety growing to only one or two feet in height. It has deep orange petals with yellow tips and will add a vibrant splash of color to any garden or arrangement.
  • Sundance Kid – Was one of the first sunflower varieties to be domesticated. It is unusual as it has multi-layered petals with a small seed head. It stands at about one to two feet in height.
  • Sunny Smile – Is a perfect miniature of one of the larger sunflower varieties, with a large seed head for its size it can grow from 12 to 15 inches in height. It has particularly stout stalks and can take abuse from pets and children in the garden.

Colored Sunflowers

Hybridizing sunflowers has created some amazing colored varieties, perfect for adding a splash of color to your flower arrangements or garden borders.

  • Earthwalker – features a golden halo around its large seed head, which turns to deep reds.
  • Terracotta– has colors perfect for fall, ranging from burnt orange, golds and deep yellow.
  • Ms. Mars – has beautiful red and purple hues that graduate to subtle yellow at the tips.

Sowing Seeds

The best way to grow sunflowers is by planting the seeds directly into the soil where they are to be grown. The seeds can be sown as soon as any danger of frost has passed in the spring, or you can start them indoors in individual pots. The small peat pots are useful for this purpose as they biodegrade. Ideally, the outdoor soil temperature should be between 55- and 60-degrees Fahrenheit before planting.

To plant the seeds outdoors:

  • Make a shallow trench in the soil of about 1 ½ to 2 inches in depth. If you are going to be growing several rows, then the rows should be around 2 to 3 feet apart to allow the plants to gain maximum light as they grow.
  • Place a seed approximately every 6 inches if you are growing the larger headed seed varieties. For smaller varieties, used for flower arranging or decorative planting, space them closer together a minimum of 2 inches apart.
  • Place the soil back over the seeds and water gently so you don’t wash them away. The soil should be kept lightly damp, not wet, you can test this by digging your finger down alongside the seed trench to make sure the soil is damp and not dry or wet.
  • The seedling sprouts should appear between 7 and 10 days after sowing.
  • Once the seedlings have acquired their second set of leaves, they should be thinned out to 2 feet for larger headed plants and 1 foot for smaller ones.
  • Depending on growing conditions and seed variety, the plants will mature in 80 to 120 days.
  • If you wish to prolong your sunflower season, sow a new row of seeds every two to three weeks until the first frosts in the autumn. By doing this you can enjoy beautiful flowers throughout the summer months.

If you want to start your seeds off indoors, fill your peat pots or seed trays with multi-purpose compost and sow an individual seed into each one. Keep moist, not wet. When your seeds have germinated allow the seedlings to grow their second set of leaves then transfer them into larger pots. Keep them in a warm sunny place and when they reach 12 inches you can plant them in the garden or put them into large ornamental pots to place on a patio or deck. Make sure that the pot you select will be big enough to allow the root ball to grow sufficiently, or you will stunt the growth of your sunflowers.

Plant Care

Unless your soil is of particularly poor quality, your sunflowers shouldn’t require fertilizing. If you do want to give them a boost, it is best to add a slow release granular fertilizer to the soil. Over-fertilizing can cause a delay in blooming.

The root ball will spread quite widely, which helps make the plant stable and fairly drought tolerant. Because sunflowers hate having their roots in waterlogged soil, it is best to water deeply every two to three days, giving the soil time to drain in between.

If you have particularly heavy clay soil, you may need to add soil amendments in the form of organic matter. Clay soil is generally nutrient-rich, so fertilizer shouldn’t be necessary. Another option is to create raised beds where you can use compost and grass trimmings to create a light, nutrient-rich soil.

Adding a layer of mulch to about 2 to 3 inches in depth around your sunflowers will help discourage weeds and helps retain moisture lost through evaporation. This can be useful in warmer areas or in sandy soils where the soil becomes dry quickly.

Sunflower do not generally require staking, but if you live in an area that is prone to wind, then it can be advisable as a precaution, particularly if you are growing very tall varieties with large seed heads.

If you are growing sunflowers for their height, there is no need to pinch them out. If however, you are growing them to use in floral arrangements, pinching out will stunt the growth of the plant and cause it to produce a lot more blooms, which can be beneficial. Pinching out is the process of removing the growing tip of the plant when it reaches about 8 to 10 inches in height, you can do it by pinching the tip with your thumb and forefinger.

As your sunflowers start producing seeds, the local wildlife will take full advantage. That is unless you take precautions to prevent this. If you enjoy watching the birds and squirrels feast on the bounty provided by your sunflowers that’s fine, but if you want to use the seeds for yourself you will need to cut the heads off when they droop and allow them to dry before removing the seeds.

Deer can be a big problem as they are rather partial to the tasty young leaves on a sunflower. You can use chicken wire supported by sturdy 6-foot bamboo stakes to deter them.

Harvesting A Mature, Dry, Sunflower
Harvesting A Mature, Dry, Sunflower

Harvesting

As the sunflowers heads droop and no longer turn upward to face the sun and the underside of the flower head turns from green to brown, they will be ready to harvest.

Remove the seed head leaving a foot of stem still attached. Hang them somewhere warm and dry and ensure they have plenty of ventilation. Hanging them helps prevent rodents from reaching them. Allow them to dry out for several weeks and when they are completely dry you will be able to easily remove the seeds by rubbing two sunflower heads together, you can also use your fingers or a kitchen fork. Spread the seeds out on a tray and allow them to dry for a few more days before storing them in airtight containers. Glass mason jars are perfect for this purpose. Keep them in a cool dark place to retain the oils and flavor of the seeds.

Be aware that all parts of the sunflower give off growth inhibiting substances that can affect other plants. For this reason, keep them away from pole beans or potatoes.

Chipmunk Eating Sunflower
Chipmunk Eating Sunflower

Pests and Disease

Sunflowers are quite hardy, but they can sometimes become infected by fungal disease including rust and mildew.

Mildew – The oldest leaves are generally the first to become infected. The mildew appears on the underside of the leaves causing them to turn mottled and pale before withering and eventually dying. Warm humid days combined with cool damp nights are the favorite conditions for mildew. It spreads its spores in soil, wind, and rain and can also contaminate garden tools.

Rust – This disease causes yellow or white spots that gradually turn dark brown or black. The spots appear on the tops of the leaves. It can spread to the entire plant and can be contracted from weeds, including shepherd’s purse, wild mustard, lamb’s quarters and pigweed.

To get rid of these diseases keep a careful eye out as catching them early is preferable. Treat by spraying with a garden fungicide and follow the directions given on the label. It is best to burn badly affected plants to stop the disease from spreading to healthy ones. Ensure you disinfect your garden tools, this can be done by dipping them in a mixture of 4 parts water to 1-part household bleach. Ensure you don’t cross contaminate plants with your hands or garden gloves, keep them clean.

Sunflower Moth – This small grey moth will lay its eggs on the developing sunflower blossoms. The caterpillars are a yellow-green color with 5 brown stripes across their backs. They will feed within the flower head and this destroys the seeds. Remove any caterpillars you find and squash them before disposing of them. If the plant has become infected, you can dust it with a product that contains Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) this is a bacterium that kills the caterpillars. Bt is destroyed by sunlight and rain so it can be necessary to treat the plants several times. Follow the directions given on the label.

Conclusion

Growing sunflowers can be great fun and these beautiful happy blooms give pleasure not only when they are flowering but also afterward with their seeds and oil.

Sunflowers can be grown to give height in a garden border, or to create a colorful focal point. They are good for using in floral displays and with the colored varieties, you can now find even more sunflowers to fit your color scheme.

The main reason for sunflower growing around the world is for their seeds, oils and plant fibers which have great commercial value.

Whatever your reason is for growing sunflowers I hope that you enjoy it and have great success in your endeavors.

How many beans to grow in the Garden?

With the gardening season nearing, it’s time to consider what to plant and how much to plant. When considering how many beans to plant, follow these general rules.

As a rule, when planning for how many beans to plant in a season, you will need:

  • fifty feet of row per person for bush beans, or
  • thirty-five feet of row per person of pole beans.

Many gardeners make a distinction for planting amounts between varieties (e.g. common Vs. lima) or usage (snap Vs. dry), but this is not necessary, the rules hold up.

If you plan to dual-purpose your beans, to use and consume them both as snap and dry beans, then double your row footage per a person.  Additionally, mark which rows will be used as snap or dry beans is recommended to ensure the best possible quality and sufficient quantity for each use.  Keep in mind that snap beans are harvested while young tender and dry beans need time to mature and dry on the vine.

Seed savers should plant an additional ten feet of dry bean row and then select the best dry bean as seeds for next year’s garden and a few extra as reserve seed in case of crop failure.

Related References

Good Reasons to Grow Plenty of Winter Squash And Pumpkins

Good Reasons to Grow Plenty of Winter Squash And Pumpkins
Neck Pumpkin on the ground outside a raised bed

While there are many gardeners who lament the space consumed by winter squash and pumpkins there are several good reasons to grow plenty of them.

Reason for growing winter squash

Chief among the good reasons to grow squash for the dinner table are:

  • Most young winter squash/pumpkins can be used as a substitute for summer squash eliminating the need to grow both,
  • Most young winter squash/pumpkins can be used as a substitute for Apple in certain recipes (e.g. apple pie),
  • The flowers are edible (in salads, quesadillas, etc.),
  • The seeds are edible (shelled raw, roasted or as sprouts),
  • They can be stored for long periods without the use of special preservation techniques.

More good reason for growing winter squash

Other reasons to grow plenty of winter squash are:

  • They can easily be given to friends or neighbors for there use, which can generate some goodwill,
  • They can usually be donated to food banks/kitchens,
  • They can be used for decoration both indoors and outside,
  • They can be fed to livestock for those who may have small farms,
  • and seed savers can give their seeds to friends for their gardens.

Cool Storage of Winter Squash and Pumpkins

Cool Storage of Winter Squash and Pumpkins
Winter Squash on a shelf

Cool Storage

Perhaps, the better and most cost-effective way to keep winter squash and pumpkins is cool storage.  For cool storage to be effective the fruit must be consistently stored above freezing and the germination temperature.  Please note, Not all squash store equally well.  With that said, I have stored some varieties a winter squash so long that we have had to eat them just to make room for the New Year’s harvest.

For best results:

  • cure in warm area squash or pumpkins for a week to 10 days,
  • clean off dirt with a damp soft cloth,
  • with a second clean soft cloth wash with 1 cup vinegar to one gallon of water, and allow the skin to dry completely before storage.
  • Store in a cool (40-550 F), dry place to prevent shrivel, lose weight, and to postpone spoilage as long as possible.
  • Position the fruit so that the fruit is not touching one another and so that air can flow freely around the fruit.
  • I recommend placing as many of the fruit where they can be easily seen, for easy inspection for signs for an impending loss. The sweetness and quality of squash or pumpkins often improve, if cured for 2 to 4 weeks, or more in storage.

Where to Store Squash and Pumpkins

where to store your squash is a little less important provided the required temperatures can be maintained. Some of the more common places are root cellars, pantries, basements. Just about any place with a cool constant temperature within the ranges required will do. However, it’s best if it’s a place that’s convenient and semi-protected. You don’t want your squash to be damaged by kids playing or by having to crawl over them to get to something important which might beast stored above are behind them. Perhaps, my favorite throughout the years has been the root cellar I grew up with them in Oregon and I’ve long appreciated their value for storing vegetables of all types including winter squash for long periods of time to do the harshest weather during winter. I have, in places like Virginia and Minnesota, used the basement of the home in which I lived. Pantries can be a little more problematic for a couple of reasons. First, having sufficient space to store all the pumpkins and squash growing volumes at my gardens produce. Second, my pantries are usually attached to the house and tend not to read to retain a constant cool temperature.

Is your storage location too warm?

The best way to tell if your storage location is too warm, other than a thermometer, is that when you break open the squash, if you see seeds that have sprouted, then your storage area is too warm the seeds are germinating.

Ask The Gardener: How To Save and Start Tomato Seeds

The tomato (lycopersicon esculentum, annual) is one of the most beloved garden vegetables. This member of the nightshade family is thought to have originated from Peru and has been in the European food source at least since 1595 where it begins appears in written works. However, the tomato did not arrive in North America (in the United States) among home gardeners until the 1700s. For most people think of the tomato is a vegetable, this is a largely culinary and trade definition because tomato genetically is truly genetically a fruit.

Frankly, most home gardeners really don’t care. The tomato adds much color and variety to our lives, both in the garden and on our tables. The tomato is frequently used in relish, soups and stews, sandwiches, and salads.  Our of the tomato in so many things on our table may explain, why it is so beloved among home gardeners.

Non-hybrid Tomatoes

First, you already know you want to save the seed; so, you will want to start with a regionally hearty, non-hybrid, tomato.  Possibly, even an heirloom variety, which your family may have grown up using.

From which tomato should you save the seeds

When choosing the tomato from which to save your seeds you should first consider the plant. Seeds should be taken from your strongest healthiest plant. The reason for this is the strongest health is plant should produce the strongest healthiest progeny.

From this healthy plant, you should choose the very ripest, well-formed, undamaged tomatoes. Tomatoes meeting these characteristics will provide the most mature and healthiest seeds.  Please note that the color of the ripest tomato will be dictated by the tomato variety you have chosen. These colors can greatly vary greatly from nearly black purple to shiny red, yellow, green and white stripes, or some other variation of colors.  So, before picking your tomatoes make sure you understand what a ripe tomato for your variety looks like.

Cautions:

  1. You should not use any of the tomato bloom set sprays, as they have hormones in them, and the chemicals to trick the tomato into thinking the fruit has been pollinated, and as a result, may not have any seeds in those tomatoes. If you are concerned about fruit set, when you plants free of moisture from dew or, rain, or sprinkler, you should gently tap the tomato flower to allow them to self-pollinate.  Also, encouraging pollinators in and around your garden will accomplish in a natural way.
  2. Tomatoes are self-pollinating and, generally, do not naturally cross, with some exceptions in areas of sparse vegetation and/or aired condition.  However, if you are growing more than one variety of tomato to you may want to be sure that you achieve variety isolation (not only your plants, also, your but your neighbors), which can be accomplished by:
    • Maintaining the isolation distance between the varieties the USDA recommends 30 feet.
    • Blossom protection with a physical barrier (either flower screening or plant screening)
    • Growing plants in staggered plantings, so that no two varieties are blooming at the same time.

How to save tomato seeds

Choose fully ripened fruit, gently slice the tomato, scoop liquid pulp and seeds out into a container, and add a small quantity of filtered/dechlorinated water.  Leave the container unsealed, at room temperature, and mix the content the mixture two or three times a day for five to days. The while fermentation occurs and the seeds should settle bottom. Over a fine screen, to catch any escaping seeds, Pour off the liquid, rinse the seeds and spread out to dry at room temperature ( 68 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit).  Use of an elevated fine mess screen is recommended (inexpensively obtained at the hardware or home supply store).  I usually just buy a small window screen and set it on some block or small bricks. However, I have used newspapers and/or paper towels laid on top of the paper plate, in a pinch.

How to plant tomatoes seeds

There are two primary ways to plant tomatoes; direct sow and transplant.

Direct sewing: involves directly planning your tomatoes in the ground there are two approaches for sewing tomato seeds. The first is to plant seeds that have been saved or purchase directly in the soil and the second is planting mature fruit of the tomato.

Using the first direct sow method, which will apply either for purchase seed or for safe seed, you would want to plant in the prepared ground, ¼ inch deep, approximately 6 to 14 days prior to your last frost date.  Use of dark mulches and protective covers is recommended to increase ground temperatures and to protect seedling sprouts until after the frost date.

In mild climates, you may want to use a second direct sow method.  I have used this method in mild coastal climate, such as the coast of Oregon, I’ve used it in Virginia, and in Texas to much success. This method basically involves having a prepared bed where I have marked the placement of my plants for the next year. Selecting the fruit from which I want to reseed, I chop the fruit into sections usually have is for small fruit quarters for larger fruit I placed them in my prepared locations cover them with the light quantity of soil and let them overwinter.  Usually, when the weather is warm enough, the plans will sprout for themselves. One note, you may want to guard this area a small fence, if you have pets (e.g. dogs, cats, squirrels, or other critters domesticated or not), which may want to dig in your garden patch.

Transplantation, usually, involves planting your seeds in containers, ¼ inch deep, indoors 6 to 8 weeks prior to your last frost date. The seating area should be a consistent temperature of about 75 to 80°F until the seedlings sprout. Once the seedlings have sprouted a temperature of 68 to 70° is optimal. Here are a few additional recommendations;

  • Plant in a large pot, such as a large cup, and only partially feel the cup perhaps half or three-quarters of the way full, then as the seedlings grow you can gently backfill to the top of the container which will provide a stronger root base for the tomato plant. This will, also, eliminate the need to re-pot your seedlings.
  • Also, to prevent spindly plants, recommend that you place your pots/seedlings near good in direct sunlight source, even, to the point of using reflectors in the room to brighten the space. If the plant begins to lean in one direction, occasionally, rotate your pot. Additionally, supplemental lighting from an electric light source (grow light or fluorescent light), (potentially, more than one from differing directions), is recommended.  Basically, the brighter the sort of light source, within reason, the less likely the plant is to stretch itself out seeking a light source. Use of good indirect sunlight will, also, ease the hardening off process.
  • All transfers started indoors should be hardened off (made used to the outdoor weather and lighting conditions), before they are placed in the garden. To harden off your tomato plants Harden off the plants, tart by placing your plants outside in sunlight for 1 – 2 hours, and then bringing them back indoors. Then add a little more time (45 minutes to an hour, more time may be added, as they progress through the hardening timeline) each day, until they are left outside for an entire day by the end of a week or ten days. Even then it is advisable to provide some partial shade for a few days, by adding shading stakes near the plant to prevent sunburn.
  • When planting your seedling, you should plant it no deeper than the top of the soil within your pot and the plant should be gently secured to and supported with a support stake.
  • Water immediately after planting.

Plant spacing

The plant spacing rules are the same, whether using the direct sow or the transplantation method. Generally speaking, the spacing between plants should be 24-36 inches on center in rows or between plants in garden beds, and in pathways between rows allow 40-48 inches.

Plant Support

Select a cage tall enough to support the expected mature size of the tomato plant and with access opening larger than the expected fruit size. Use 4-foot cages for determinate tomato varieties and 6-foot cages for indeterminate and heirloom varieties.

Set the cage over the tomato plant immediately after seedling emergence or seedling transplanting.  Set the bottom ring on the ground and center on the plant.

Drive a  stake into the ground on each side of the cage, which should come to the top of the cage with the bottom of stack driven 8 to 10 inches into the soil to provide stability. Secure each stake to the cage with ties to further anchor the support in place so it doesn’t fall over under the weight of the plant as it grows or strong winds.

As the plant grows, gently, guide branches through the cage openings, which can be carefully secured to the cage, if desired.

Trim the top of each main stem and/ or branches as they grow above the top of the cage.  This will restrain plant height and force the plant to branch laterally.

Days to maturity

The days to maturity will vary greatly depending upon the variety of tomato planted, weather in your area, the planting method was chosen, available hours of sunlight, the soil moister stability, and soil quality, by should range from about 60 to 90 days from the seedling stage (about 4-5 inches tall).

Soil Requirements

Tomatoes require fertile slightly acid soil, in a well-drained location, in the garden. The soil should be worked thoroughly before planting to include a slow-release fertilizer (e.g. composted manure and/or compost). Mulch should be applied to the bed and/or rows to within about an inch of the plant base.

Water Requirements

Keep soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. During hot dry weather, deep watering techniques coupled with supplemental irrigation should be used. However, the water method chosen should not whet the vegetation of the plant. The best results watering should be done during the early morning hours just before day late daylight or within a couple of hours thereafter. This allows more the water to soak in before evaporation begins and keeping the plant dry denies fungus and other diseases a habitat to grow on leaves and fruit.

Fertilizer Requirements

Start by working in plenty of compost and organic matter into the soil before planting. Down to about 24 inches.

When using a commercial fertilizer, chose on high in superphosphate and low in nitrogen is recommended. When adding or side-dressing with nitrogen fertilizer, use calcium nitrate, rather than ammonia or urea forms.

Occasionally, side-dressing with a small quantity of Epsom salt is recommended to promote plant health and prevent signs of magnesium deficiency late in the season, when their leaves begin to yellow.

Harvest Tips

I’ll mention it again, begin by knowing what a ripe specimen of your variety of tomato should look like.

As you plant near ripen shield your plants from birds and other animals, which may choose to sample your fruit.

Check your fruit daily and pick all ripe fruit.  This will reduce the opportunity for pests to damage your fruit and reduce loss due to spoilage.  Also, when growing an indeterminate variety, picking them as they mature to encourage new fruit to form.

To harvest tomatoes use a garden scissor or shears and sanitize them between plants (which can be done with a sanitization wipe).  This will lessen the injury to your plant and keep disease and fungi from being passed between plants.

Remove any decayed tomatoes from the plant.

When growing a determinate variety and all fruit has been harvested, remove the plant and add it to your compost pile or otherwise dispose of the plant.  This will, allow you to focus on the remaining plants to be harvested, clear garden space of other things, and remove reduce habitat and/or attractant for unwanted pests and disease.

How to store seeds

To store your seeds, once dry,  a paper envelope is recommended. On the outside of the envelope, preferably before you put the seeds on the inside, I would put the information on the variety of tomato, the year harvested, ‘Open Pollinated’, and determination (if known), and whether or not it is an heirloom variety. If you’ve saved a lot of seats, I would not overfill each envelope.  Once you place the seeds inside the envelope and sealed it; place the labeled envelope inside of a storage container I prefer to use an old cardboard shoe-box, which I have saved for the purpose, and place a label on the outside. If you don’t have a cardboard container to store them in so that they can breathe. Then a good glass or plastic container can serve the purpose. However, I would recommend that you put a small handful of rice inside the container to soak up any excess moisture and humidity and if possible choose a container with a small ventilation hole.  Sometimes these can be found in your local store often as containers to heat your lunch in order to store food for reheating. You will need to place your container in an area that is cool and dry, with even room temperatures,.  Under these conditions,  your seed should be viable (although, you may see some drop in seed germination rates as they age)  approximately 4-5 years. While I have read in some recommendations to store your seeds in the refrigerator, I have never subscribed to that practice.