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Growing Basil & Avocados: A Tale of Two Plants

Garden Vegetables & Herbs

Every single plant you decide to grow can make a huge difference in your life.

How about $1,000 in groceries per year from just ONE garden pot? It’s all about choosing the right varieties for your strategy and goals… That’s what makes growing food WORTH IT! So just how much of a difference can choosing the right plant make for you in a single year? Watch and find out!

And… discover an unexpected secret to making awesome pesto.

Growing Nutrient-Dense Tomatoes

Garden Vegetables & Herbs

Tomatoes are one of the most commonly grown garden items because they don’t require much space, can grow in many different climates and they are relatively quick from planting to harvest.  They also happen to be an incredible source of nutrition. Like many produce items, homegrown provides health and flavor benefits compared to store-bought. 

Tomato Studies Show Surprising Results

It’s a common misconception that nightshades are ‘bad’ for you. While there are people who have sensitivities and allergies to nightshades, a peer reviewed summary in the Mediators of Inflammation Journal reveals that consuming tomatoes on a consistent basis is associated with lower risk of chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCD) and several different cancers. Despite the health benefits, not all tomatoes are created equal. Some are more nutrient dense and there are so many different flavors to choose from. That’s why so many people are growing their own tomatoes. 

Three More Reasons to Grow Your Own Tomatoes

There’s nothing like the flavor of sun-kissed, vine ripe tomatoes! When you grow your own tomatoes, you’ll soon realize that what you get from the grocery store may be labeled tomatoes, but tastes like  water in comparison. Try it  yourself to see just how drastically different your homegrown  tomatoes are from the alternatives.

KNOW your tomatoes are  packed with nutrients. Growing your own puts the quality back into your hands so you know you and your loved ones are getting the most vitality from your food. Plus, eating fresh picked food  drastically reduces the nutrient loss from plant to plate..

There are over 10,000 tomato varieties to choose from. Do you like your tomatoes sweet, mild, acidic, fruity, rich, or even smoky? When you grow your own, you have way more options to delight your taste buds than the store!  

8 Steps To Growing Nutrient-Dense Tomatoes

When inviting plants into your life, it’s important to remember that plants want to thrive. They do whatever it takes to grow strong and turn to seed for the next generation of plants. Your role as a steward is to provide the best conditions for your plants to flourish. Here are the eight considerations when growing tomatoes.

1. Choose Your Tomato Plants  Based on Your Goal

Often people choose their tomato plants based on which looks the most enticing. Choosing this way can severely backfire and result in a diminished harvest or worse, none at all. Instead, start by choosing what type of tomato you grow. There are two types of tomatoes: determinate and indeterminate.

Determinate tomatoes grow to a fixed mature height and generally produce all their fruit over just a few weeks. This is great if your goal is to preserve tomatoes for off season enjoyment.

Indeterminate tomatoes will continue to grow and produce so long as your climate conditions are right. Most gardeners prefer this type of tomato so they can enjoy tomatoes all season long. The Guinness World Record is a tomato vine that is 65 feet! 

If you accidentally choose a determinate variety when you really want tomatoes all season long, you may be disappointed. So before you rush out and buy your tomato plants, remember to choose your type based on your goals.

2. Climate 

Climate plays a very important role in tomato production. Most tomatoes fruit between 50-95°F (10-35ºC). If your warm season temperatures are outside this range, you’ll want to look for those few varieties that can produce at higher temperatures. 

Consider starting your seeds indoors or purchasing young tomato plants from your local nursery to get a headstart on the growing season for cooler climates. For hot climates, it can cause lower immunity if the plant is not well established by the time temperatures hit their highs. 

In addition to choosing the right type, choosing varieties that are well adapted to your climate can vastly increase your tomato harvests. Discover how to find the best varieties for your climate with the 10 Tips for Growing Delicious Tomatoes Download from our friends at Grow Your Own Vegetables.

3. Your Tomato Plants Need 6-8 Hours of Sunlight  

Without proper sunlight, your vegetable plants cannot photosynthesize and grow. Your outdoor tomato plants need 6 hours of sunlight minimum and ideally, 8 or more for optimum health. NOTE: Sunlight and grow lamps are not the same thing. If growing indoors, your tomato plants need 16-18 hours under grow lamps. 

4. Quality Soil Means Nutrient-Rich Food 

Health starts in the soil. If growing in a container, choose a high quality, organic potting mix. If growing in soil, ensure good drainage, structure and fertility. Tomatoes like a lot of nutrition! Add a 2” layer minimum of organic compost on the top of your potting mix or soil each growing season will most likely not be enough. Dr. Earth is one example of an organic soil amendment made specifically for tomatoes.

5. Grow Tomatoes Vertically & Trellis Early

Growing  vertically is one of the best choices for your tomato health. Plants drooping on the ground have a greater chance of contracting diseases and more fruit is wasted. Stake or trellis when plants are young. Waiting can result in a tangled mess and damage to your plants where disease can enter.

For determinate tomatoes that typically grow between 3-5 feet tall at full maturity, cages are often enough. But for indeterminate tomato types, you’ll want a taller, stronger trellis. You can find more information on trellises here in the 10 Tips for Growing Delicious Tomatoes download.

6. Prune For Health & Get More Than Tomatoes 

Tomatoes are plagued by more diseases than any other garden vegetable. Luckily, many of these diseases can be prevented through increased air circulation. If you’re planting indeterminate tomatoes, you’ll want to begin pruning lower leaves when the plant is 8-12” high keeping a minimum of three leaves at all times. 

As your plants grow and are pruned, their roots will grow deeper and the foliage will be higher off the ground. This not only provides your tomato plants with ideal air circulation, but you’ll have extra space left over on the soil surface to plant some lower growing plants. Basil is a favorite choice for gardeners to plant under tomato plants. They compliment each other well in the garden and on your plate, making it easy to harvest for those mouth watering summer Caprese salads. 

7. Water Tomatoes Deeply, But Less Often

Tomatoes are drought tolerant so it’s possible to water more thoroughly and less often. For cooler temperatures, watering once a week and letting the soil dry out a bit between waterings is ideal. If you live in a hot, dry desert, add a few inches of mulch to the soil to drop the soil temperature by as much as 10°F. This will help your soil retain enough moisture to prevent wilting from dry soils combined with high temperatures. 

8. Three Tips to Harvest and Store Your Tomatoes

Develop a harvest routine: Harvesting at peak ripeness is not only ideal for flavor and nutrition, but allows the plant to produce more fruit for you. When your tomatoes start producing fruit, you’ll want to harvest 2-3 times per week. If you know you won’t be able to get out to your garden for longer than 3 days, harvest fruits that are almost ripe also and let them ripen on your kitchen counter. This also prevents fruit from falling and rotting on the ground, wasting harvests and attracting unwanted insects.

Harvest before watering or  heavy rains: Lots of water all at once will split your tomatoes open (and make them taste watery). Harvest as much as you can before waterings and heavy rains. 

Eat fresh and store any extras at room temperature: Sun-kissed taste best! And avoid storing your extra tomatoes in the fridge. 

Refrigeration temperatures actually destroy flavor and texture and thanks to this 2016 study, we are now discovering why: chilling of tomatoes causes changes in DNA methylation. Chilling also causes a loss of volatile compounds that largely contribute to tomato flavor. 

Ideally, store at a temperature between 50-68°F to keep your tomatoes fresh.

For more tomato tips and strategies, download your complimentary 10 Tips for Growing Delicious Tomatoes Guide.

You Don’t Need Seeds to Grow Herbs

Garden Vegetables & Herbs

Did you know that you don’t need seeds to grow your own herbs at home? All you need is access to healthy plants to take a start from. Whether they are from a friend’s garden or the grocery store, it’s simple to get started.

It doesn’t work for all herbs, but it does work for most.

Learn how to get started in this video:
**Please share what herbs that you are going to try to do this with below.

Superfoods to Grow in Your Garden

Garden Vegetables & Herbs

Why spend a fortune on buying organic superfoods from the supermarket if you can grow them yourself? If you are lucky enough to have a garden in your home, make sure you make use of it and grow nutrient-packed crops that will make a healthy and delicious diet! Gardening is good for the body and mind alike – taking care of your plants has several proven mental health benefits, while eating organic fresh food is great to keep your body healthy. So, if you have the chance to grow your own crops, why not choose the ones that are the most beneficial for your health? That is right – it’s time to grow your own superfoods!

First, let’s take a moment to understand what superfoods are – these foods (mostly fruits and vegetables) have a very high concentration of nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins, making them fantastic health boosters. However, there is no set criteria to determine which foods qualify for this status – the term “superfood” is essentially an umbrella term for the foods that carry the most health benefits when consumed as part of an otherwise healthy diet. And what else is healthier than homegrown crops? Plus, you can be sure that your food hasn’t been treated with pesticides, biocides or other harmful chemicals. And the good news is, you can grow a good amount of these superfoods even if you are short on space – as some of them can thrive in pots and containers, without the need for a dedicated spot in your garden.

So what are you waiting for? With the help of this infographic, you can decide which superfoods suit your gardening skills the most, so all you need to do is get planting! 

The difficulty levels are indicators of how much time and effort is needed to keep the crops thriving, as well as how sensitive they are to certain weather conditions. Some plants, like peas and zucchini, are more forgiving and can grow even in lower-quality soil. However, plants like blueberry bushes are extremely sensitive to the type of soil they are planted in – blueberries require well-drained and acidic soil in order to produce healthy fruit. Some of these plants need to be protected during the winter (lemons and fig trees need shelter from the frost), while others don’t tolerate the heat. It is advised to research your preferred plant thoroughly, so you can be prepared for the possible problems and the ways to solve them.

Don’t forget – anyone can become a gardener, so don’t let the difficulty levels discourage you from attempting to grow a higher-maintenance crop – just make sure you have done your research and are willing to spend time in your garden. Good luck and happy planting!

Guest Article by: Dóra Pista

Dora Pista is a blogger and hobby gardener, with a passion for healthy eating and cooking. She created the infographic above to help beginner gardeners start their journey into superfood growing.

Find Dora on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Growing Celery for Maximum Nutrition and Flavor

Garden Vegetables & Herbs

Celery Used as Disease Prevention for Thousands of Years

Did you know celery (Apium Graveolens) was used almost exclusively for medicinal purposes from 850 BC through the 17th century? A 2017 phytopharmacological review on celery confirms “…the Apium has emerged as a good source of medicine in treating various diseases.” From weight gain and skin conditions to rheumatic tendencies and chronic pulmonary catarrh, celery is proving itself to be a powerful plant for many ailments and chronic diseases.

Three reasons to grow your own celery

Protect yourself from toxic chemicals. Celery is ranked as one of the Dirty Dozen by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), making it one of the most contaminated produce items on the grocery shelves. When you grow your own, you know exactly how the plants were grown and create a toxic free future for yourself and your loved ones.

Choose foods that are nutrient rich. When you have no idea where your food is actually grown, that’s a big question mark where your health is concerned. Your health starts in the soil, and growing your own food allows you to focus on quality soil. Plus, food starts to decompose the moment it is harvested. There’s no telling how much of those vital nutrients were lost before your food reaches your plate. 

The flavor of homegrown celery will surprise and delight you! It’s easy to overlook celery for flashier vegetables. But that is a big mistake, especially in the garden. Because homegrown celery is so much more fragrant than store bought. You quickly rediscover why it’s been in recipes for thousands of years, not just for its health benefits but for its unique homegrown flavor.

Important Tip No One Talks About When Growing Celery

Growing celery from seed is not recommended for beginners. It is one of the more finicky seeds and takes longer than most to germinate. When you find good quality, celery plants at a trusted nursery or farmers market, you will have more success and faster harvests.

If you can’t find celery plants, growing from seed is still an option. Discover best practices in the Grow Your Own Celery – Cheat Sheet.

How To Grow Nutrient Dense Celery

When inviting plants into your life, it’s important to remember that plants want to thrive. They do whatever it takes to grow strong and turn to seed for the next generation of plants. Your role as a steward is to provide the best conditions for your plants to flourish. Here are the eight considerations when growing celery.

1. Growing Celery is Great for People With Busy Lives

Celery is among one of the easiest plants to care for in the vegetable and herb garden. Once your garden is started, it takes just minutes each day to harvest and care for celery. Luckily, most pests avoid this fragrant herb making it easy to care for too.

2. There IS a Celery Variety for Your Climate 

Plant your celery outside once night temperatures are above 55°F (12°C). Celery grows best in temperatures between 55-80°F (12-26°C). Living in a hot, dry desert climate? You’ll have better success planting in dappled shade or under shade cloth.

A favorite among many gardeners is Tango variety. It performs well under less than ideal growing conditions such as heat and moisture stress. And the flavor is fragrant with stalks that are more tender and less fibrous.

Which other varieties to consider? Tall Utah is an upright plant, rather than one that spreads out. For color, Giant Red or Chinese Pink varieties are a fun way to add some unusual color to your meals.

3. Your Celery Plants Want 6-8 Hours of Sunlight  

Without proper sunlight, your vegetable plants cannot photosynthesize and grow. Your outdoor celery needs 6 hours of sunlight minimum. NOTE: Sunlight and grow lamps are not the same thing. When growing indoors, your celery plants need 16 hours under grow lamps. 

4. Quality Soil Means Nutrient-Rich Food 

Health starts in the soil. If growing in a container, choose a high quality, organic potting mix. If growing in soil, ensure good drainage, structure and fertility. Add a 2” layer minimum of organic compost on the top of your potting mix or soil each growing season.

5. How Many Celery Plants in How Much Space?

Celery is perfect for small gardens. While planting celery 6” (15cm) apart is recommended, squeezing that spacing to 4” has some benefits. It may lower your harvest per plant, but you’ll get more harvest overall since you have additional plants. This is a great option for people with small growing spaces.

For container gardens, choose a container that is 12” (30cm) wide and at least 12” (30cm) deep for four celery plants or cutting celery clusters. This will give you and your family of four several celery stalks for 2 out of 3 meals daily.

6. Water, Water and More Water!

Celery is 95% water by weight, and needs more water than most vegetables. It’s a marshland plant, so it prefers consistent moisture. That means watering each day (temperatures above 70) or every other day (temperatures below 70). Watering celery once a week typically doesn’t work unless you get significant condensation every night in your garden. How do you know if you need more water? If your celery plants wilt, water more. 

Living in a hot, dry desert? Add 6” mulch to the soil which can drop the soil temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit! The soil holds more moisture which keeps roots cooler.

7. How to Harvest Celery for Maximum Yield

You might read that it takes celery 60-80 days before it’s ready for harvest. If you were growing a head of celery like you find at the grocery store, that might be true. But the good news is that you can harvest much sooner with this PRO tip!

PRO Tip for more abundant celery harvests: Cut what you need, when you need it. When the plant has at least 10 stalks, no matter how small they are, start harvesting and enjoying your celery. Simply harvest the outermost stalks and keep at least 7 stalks on the cluster at all times. Your plants may last the entire growing season with this continuous harvest method. That’s WAY better than waiting for one single head of celery!

To harvest, use a sharp knife or pair of scissors to remove each outermost stalk as close to the soil as possible. Keep the cuts as clean as possible as old plant material and ragged cuts are places for pests and diseases to fester.

8. Can You Store Celery For Later? 

Like most herbs, it’s best to cut and use celery fresh. After all, that is the benefit of your garden, putting the absolute freshest food on your plate at each meal!  But if you are harvesting a lot of celery at once, water is the trick to keeping celery fresh. One option is to place stalks in a glass of water on the counter. Display the vibrant green harvest while keeping it hydrated until you’re ready to use.  

Celery is a staple in cuisines around the world! If you are considering preserving celery for all your winter soups, use a dehydrator to remove most of the moisture for long term storage. Pro tip: grind your dehydrated celery into a powder and store in an airtight container in a dark cool space to enjoy your harvests year round.

Get the complimentary Grow Your Own Celery – Cheat Sheet with everything you need to grow celery in this two-page printable format.