The Crazy Truth about Indeterminate and Determinate Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the quintessential garden plant in the summer. In the heat of the summer, your garden beds burst with colors from your tomato plants. As you prepare for your garden, you might notice the words determinate and indeterminate on your seed packages.

At first, I wondered what those words meant too. After all, if it is important, I wanted to make sure I understood what my plants needed. It turns out, I was right. There are some major differences between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.

What is the Difference?

The largest difference to remember between the two types of tomatoes is that determinate plants have a DETERMINED, growing limit. These plants grow to a set height and start to set their fruit at one time. Gardeners with small spaces or those who plant in containers should pick determinate. 

Indeterminate tomatoes grow and produce fruit throughout the entire growing season. These plants can reach massive sizes, overtaking parts of your garden. You will need staking or cages for sure!

Determinate Tomatoes

Some refer to this variety as bush tomatoes because they don’t continue to grow throughout the growing season. Their overall growth is smaller, reaching heights of 4 to 5 feet tall. The key features of determinates are:

·         Pruning and removing suckers isn’t typically needed

·         Perfect for containers

·         Try to plant in your flower beds!

·         Requires less staking

·         Die by midsummer, giving you space to plant more fall vegetables

·         Produces fruit all at once, perfect for canning.

·         Fruit ripens earlier in the season

·         Overall smaller plant

When it comes to staking, you do need to stake most plants, but it is mostly because the plants will set fruit all at one time. It can put a lot of weight on the branches.

Indeterminate Tomatoes

Since these plants continue to grow throughout the season, this variety is often called vining tomatoes. It is common for these plants to reach 6 feet tall or more. Some can grow as tall as 10 feet tall! These plants do take more time to set and ripen fruit. The key features of indeterminates are:

·         Require dedicated garden beds

·         Sprawling growth

·         Fruit ripens until late in the season, up to the frost

·         Slow and steady supply of tomatoes

·         Requires strong, metal support

·         Better for in-ground planting

Pick The Best Variety for You

The Crazy Truth about Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes

All varieties of tomatoes are amazing, but you have to pick the type that works best for your garden.

Some people prefer the idea of having a heavy crop at a certain time in the year, especially if you want to set aside a week or two for canning. If that interests you, a determinate plant will be a good choice.

Those who want to have fresh tomatoes all summer should pick an indeterminate tomato plant. You’ll have fresh tomatoes for all the salads you want to make this year.

Gardeners with less space should pick determinate tomatoes. You can plant them right into a container on your patio with a smaller stake. You might not even need a stake depending on your variety!

Of course, you don’t have to pick just one or the other. You can have a few of each! Plant a few determinate tomatoes for all of your canning plans. Then, put in an indeterminate plant too for all those sandwiches and salads.

Here are The Best Perennial Veggies and Herbs for Your Garden

Do you want to expand your garden without needing to put even more work into it each year? Planting a new garden every year is daunting. It takes weeks of preparing and planting to make your dreams come true. Perennial plants can change that.

Perennial vegetables and herbs are planted once and harvested year after year. Gardeners rarely plant these vegetables, which is a shame because most are low-maintenance and still provide you with a bountiful harvest. Planting perennial veggies and herbs save you time and money. You don’t have to purchase new plants each year, prepare the garden bed and wait for the seed to germinate.

While all of these plants are perennials, they may not be in certain climates and locations. Plants that come back in your zone may not come back in another, so check for compatibility for your location. You can always grow them as an annual plant!

Perennial Vegetables

Artichokes

Artichokes need to be harvested before it starts to flower. Once the plant blooms, the artichoke is barely edible. You can grow artichokes as a perennial in areas with cool summers and mild winters. As a perennial, you can expect one plant to produce a harvest for five years. That’s impressive!

Artichokes are only perennials up to USDA Hardiness Zone 7. If you live in zones 5 and 6, you might be able to provide protection and get them to grow like a perennial. You might consider overwintering them indoors or in a greenhouse.

Asparagus

Asparagus requires patience because it might take three years to see a true harvest. If you have the patience to wait for fresh asparagus – a seriously good reason to wait – plant some asparagus in a raised bed. If you live in zones 4 to 9, asparagus grows as a perennial and can produce a harvest for 20 years. One planting can lead to a lot of asparagus!

Good King Henry

Many Americans are unaware of this European vegetable. It is a spinach relative that needs to be planted in full sun or partial shade. Make sure the soil is moist and well-draining. It is hardy to zone 3.

Groundnut

Another forgotten perennial vegetable is the American groundnut. It is also called the Indian potato. While it doesn’t get much attention, groundnut is a great addition to any garden. Groundnut is a perennial vine that grows edible beans and large edible tubers. The vines reach six feet long and need a trellis to grow upwards. You harvest groundnuts in the fall. Then, you leave some in the ground to continue next year’s growth.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem artichokes are known as sunchokes. The flavor is nutty and similar to artichokes, but sunchokes have a texture similar to potatoes. This vegetable is in the sunflower family and produces beautiful yellow flowers in the fall.

Be aware that sunchokes love to spread aggressively in garden beds. You harvest the tubers, so you dig them up to harvest. The tubers left in the ground will grow next year.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb has a unique flavor that works well in desserts and jams. I added rhubarb to my strawberry jam! Make sure you don’t eat the leaves or roots because they are poisonous. Rhubarb requires full sun and well-draining soil, and you will harvest in the spring. Typically, you plant a rhubarb crown and wait two years or more before harvesting stalks.

Sea Kale

You might think sea kale is a simple ornamental plant, but it is an edible variety of kale. Kale lovers rejoice! Sea kale grows grey-blue leaves and white flowers. Harvest the shoots when they are around six inches tall. The plant has a unique hazelnut flavor that many people enjoy. It is a perennial up to zone 4, but make sure you plant in full sun.

Perennial Herbs

Basil 

Because of my zone location, I cannot grow basil as perennial, but you can if you live in zones 10 and up. Basil is one of my favorite herbs, especially in our spaghetti sauce or on pizza. If you don’t live in a warm enough zone to grow basil as a perennial outdoors, consider growing it in containers outside during the summer and moving it indoors throughout the colder months.

Chives

Chives grow as a perennial in zones 3 to 10. This herb is hardy! You need to plant chives in a location that receives full sun. Make sure you water often to get a bountiful harvest, and remove the flowers before the plant produces seeds.

Fennel

Those of us in northern climates can only enjoy fennel as an annual, but those of you in warmer climates can have fennel as a perennial. You lucky dogs! Throughout the growing season, make sure you water regularly if you want fennel to thrive.

Horseradish

Some call horseradish a vegetable, but most people eat horseradish as a condiment. Those who love spiciness must grow it in their garden. The leaves are boring, along with the flowers. The root is where the excitement is!

When you plant horseradish, realize that it can be invasive with its growth habits. Remove as much of the roots as possible when you harvest in the fall. Replant enough root sections to grow what you need for the following years.

Tips for Growing Perennial Vegetables and Herbs

  • Realize that perennial vegetables take time to establish. You might not see a harvest until the second or third year after planting.
  • You might notice your perennial plants taking over your garden bed. Expect to need to trim back throughout the season.
  • Perennial greens will taste bitter once they flower, just like annuals. Harvest early in the season.
  • Plant separate from your annual crops.
  • Make sure you plant appropriately where you plant your perennials because it is permanent!
  • Perennial veggies are more likely to catch a disease because you cannot practice crop rotation.
  • Incorporate perennials by planting on the border of your annual garden beds.

This list is far from exhaustive. There are dozens of perennial herbs and vegetables. Many of them are uncommon in today’s gardens, but they are making a reappearance. Save time and expand your garden by adding a few perennial plants this year.

Perennial Vegetables

Is Soaking Seeds Necessary?

Soaking seeds is an old trick that many new gardeners ignore or never knew to try. Using this trick is supposed to decrease how long it takes for seeds to germinate. When I first heard this trick, I wondered if soaking seeds was really necessary? Does it ACTUALLY make a difference?

Why Should I Soak My Seeds?

In nature, seeds encounter different conditions. The weather can be hot or cold, wet or dry, or your seed may live in a bird or small animal’s stomach for a while. Life is not gentle on seeds.

But, we are gentle with the seeds. Soaking seeds before you plant them helps break down the natural defenses your seed develops to defend itself against Mother Nature. Breaking down the defenses leads to faster germination.

Another reason to soak seeds is to activate their internal gauge to germination mode. Seeds determine when it is time to germinate by the moisture content around them. Increased moisture sends the – hey its time to sprout – signal to the seed.

So, soaking seeds is going to speed up germination. I know I like faster germination, but I don’t have much patience.

Soaking Seeds: Is It for All Seeds? 

Big, wrinkled seeds are the best candidates for soaking. These seeds have a very hard coat. Some seeds you might want to soak are:

·         Squash

·         Pumpkins

·         Corn

·         Bens

·         Peas

Don’t soak little seeds, such as lettuce or radishes. They don’t reap the benefits, and wet, small seeds are hard to handle.

How Do You Soak Seeds?

Soaking seeds is easy! All you need is a bowl of water and the seeds. Fill up your bowl with hot, tap water. Put your seeds into the bowl, and let them stay in there as the water cools down.

You can oversoak a seed, so you can’t leave them in the water and come back in five days. You never want to soak for more than 48 hours. The recommended soaking time is 12 to 24 hours. Put them in the water before you go to bed, and they will be ready for planting the next morning. Just put the seeds right into your garden

Other Tips

Don’t soak your seeds if the weather forecast calls for rain the day you are planting. You want good planting conditions if you want to plant soaked seeds. Otherwise, the seeds will soak too much, and the soil will be compacted.

Large, harder seeds sometimes benefit from scarification. That basically means nicking the seed coat, but not puncturing all the way through! You can use a dull knife or a nail file just to nick the seed to encourage germination once soaked.

 

I love learning something new. I can attest to the benefits of soaking seeds. Last year, I heard about the recommendation, and I gave it a try with my green beans. I saw green bean sprouts in my garden beds in record time. For those impatient gardeners, give this trick a try!

6 Common Seed Starting Mistakes

Starting seeds is one of my favorite times during the year. It means winter is finally coming to an end and the start of my favorite season – gardening season – is upon us. However, seed starting can be tricky for newbies. It can be tricky for me at times as well!

I’ve had many people tell me that they tried to start their seeds at home, but they always failed. There are several mistakes that people make all the time that can lead to failure. To increase your success rate, take a look at these common seed starting mistakes and avoid them!

6 Common Seed Starting Mistakes

  1. Starting Them at the Wrong Time: Every gardener needs to know their USDA Hardiness Zone and your average last frost date. Then, you need to know the best time to start each plant before that date. Every plant is different! Some need to start 10 to 12 weeks BEFORE your final frost date! The plants need to be old enough to transfer to their outdoor garden location.

If you start your seeds too early, they will too large for their pots or they might become root bound. Their growth could be stunted. Timing is crucial.

  1. Using the Incorrect Dirt: You can’t go outside and scoop out dirt from your garden. Seeds need special type of dirt because they are more prone to diseases and infections.

One of the most important factors is using a sterile soil. Otherwise, you risk passing a disease to your delicate seedlings. You also could bring insects in from outside. Who wants bugs in their home?

Don’t waste your time. Start your seeds in good potting soil! Your seeds need nutrients to start. You can buy high quality seed starting soil. For extra nutrients, add worm castings or compost.

  1. Failing to Keep The Correct Moisture Level: Dry soil won’t lead to healthy, sprouted seedlings. As your seeds are sprouting, you have to keep the soil moist at all times. If the soil dries out, you need to add moisture quickly.

At the same time, you don’t want to add too much water once your seeds are sprouted and under the grow light.

When you are germinating your seedlings, it is best to cover your pots with plastic. Doing so keeps the moisture and humidity levels higher, giving you a better chance of a high germination rate.

TIP: Don’t pour water over your seedlings. Instead, use a spray bottle to mist your plants. Doing so mimics natural rain and creates even moisture. You can also pour water directly onto the water around the seedlings rather than over top.

  1. Not Providing Enough Light: No matter what you think, you don’t have enough natural light in your house to correctly. Seedlings require a lot of light! You can purchase an artificial grow light or use a higher strength light bulb. Your lights should be kept close to your seedlings, ideally 2 to 3 inches, and gradually raised as your plants grow taller. You need to keep the lights on for 12 to 16 hours per day!
  2. Planting Too Deeply: Seeds are particular in how they want to be planted. Seed packets typically can give you all of the information you need, including how deep to plant in the soil. If the packet doesn’t tell you, you should be cautious and plant no deeper than two or three times as deep as the seeds are wide.
  3. Forgetting to Label: This mistake seems so simple, but most seedlings look very similar. Once you have raised seedlings for a few years, you might be able to tell them apart once they sprout. However, you won’t be able to tell the different pepper varieties apart. Labeling your seeds is important! One of the best methods is popsicle sticks. They are simple and readily available.

Everyone commits at least one of these mistakes when they first start seedlings. You might be making more than one! Fix your mistakes before you even start your seedlings this year.

Why You Should Plant Heirloom Seeds

Seed buying and gardening planning time are upon us. The two popular choices for seeds are either heirloom or hybrid. I prefer heirloom seeds, for several reasons. Many home gardeners aren’t sure what to pick.

Hybrid and GMO seeds work for many people. I know dozens of people who use these varieties for their small gardens at home. However, if your goal is to create a natural garden, heirloom seeds are the way to go. Several benefits make them superior to any other choice. Let’s take a look!

 

Handed Down from Generations

Many heirloom seeds carry a story with them. Some families save the same seeds for decades. Kids plant the seeds from the plants of their parents, and it continues down the line. Most heirloom seeds are at least 50 years old and have never been crossbred or altered in any manner. GMO seeds are altered.

Heirloom seeds are a way to preserve history. The plants our ancestors once grew are slowly disappearing. Using heirloom seeds, especially those with a rich past, allow you to embrace and remember our past.

Heirloom Seeds are Renewable

If you want to save money and homestead on a budget, heirloom seeds are a necessity. You might spend more in the beginning purchasing seeds, but heirloom seeds come with the ability to preserve and save the seeds from the crops you liked the most that year.

A renewable source of seeds allows you to become self-reliant for your crops. You don’t have to depend on any store for more seeds, even though I always purchase more every year. We love Baker’s Creek Seeds, and I always want to try new varieties. That isn’t a necessity though!

The Flavor is Better

Some might argue this point, but it is obvious to our family. Heirloom vegetables and herbs have a better, unique taste when compared the hybrid plants and seeds available in stores. Many of the plants have distinct flavors that are impossible to find in other plants.

The tomatoes in the store taste nothing like the tomatoes I grow in my garden. The tomatoes at a farmer’s market explode with flavor, while the ones at your local grocer tend to be less than amazing.

The Plants are More Reliable

So, you head to your local store and grab a few packs of seeds. These particular seeds originated in Spain, but you aren’t aware of that at the time. You are located in Kentucky! Now, you go home and plant rows and rows of green beans. Unfortunately, those seeds don’t produce the way you hoped because of an attack from local pests.

When you save your heirloom seeds year after year, they slowly adapt to your region. They can survive attacks by pests and diseases easier. At the end of the season, you pick seeds from the most successful plants in your garden. In the end, you get a better, locally adapted strain of veggies for your garden.

 

Our family has amazing success every year using all heirloom seeds. Do you use heirloom seeds? Let me know about your experience – good and bad!

10 Seeds to Start Directly in Your Garden

Seed starting is typically one of the right tasks a gardener begins with in the year, aside from order those seeds. I love starting seeds; it means that full gardening season isn’t very far off. I look forward to the time when I can prepare the trays and lights for my seedlings. At the same time, I am so glad that there are so many direct sow vegetables.

What is a direct sowing vegetable? It is simply a plant that you plant the seed directly into the ground outside rather than starting inside. That means you get to skip the first 8 weeks of pampering inside. It is a true win-win!

Technically, you can direct sow any seed, but it will delay your harvest and growth. If you direct sow tomato seeds in May rather than using a seedling plant, your harvest may not happen until September rather than August.

Luckily, there are several direct sow vegetables that I start each year. Here are my favorites!

Leaf Lettuce

Growing lettuce is simple, and there is no reason to start it in a pot inside. All you need to do is make shallow trenches and sprinkle the seeds in a row. As the seeds start to sprout, you’ll want to thin them out, allowing the plants plenty of space to grow.

Lettuce is a great choice for succession gardening. You can plant a row every two weeks, giving yourself a fresh supply of salads almost all season.

Spinach 

Spinach is full of vital nutrients and antioxidants for your body. You can eat it raw in salads (with your fresh grown lettuce), or you can cook it in dishes. We love spinach cooked with tomatoes and bacon in our pasta. Yum!

Spinach needs full sun or part shade. You want to make sure that you water your spinach plants consistently. It tends to want to bolt during the summer, so try to pick heat-tolerant varieties. You can also plant it behind your trellis, ensuring the plant does get some shade each day.

Corn

Corn is an easy-to-grow plant that everyone loves, especially kids. It is best to plant corn in blocks or rows. Corn is a warm-season crop, which means you must wait until the final frost date has passed for your zone. Ideally, the soil temperatures should be around 60 degrees F. You may have to wait a few weeks after the final frost date to plant to ensure good germination rates.

Beans

I love green beans! They are one of my favorite veggies all year round. You get to pick between bush and pole beans. Pole beans grow from long vines and need a support system.  They are great if you are short on space.

Bush beans tend to produce their crop quicker, giving you the chance to get several harvesting if you use the succession planting method.

When you plant your beans, it is wise to soak them in a bowl of water a few hours beforehand. Doing so allows them to germinate quickly. Sow the first round in early spring, as soon as the dangers of frost is past.

Beets

I will be honest; I’m not the biggest fan of beets personally. However, they sell well at farmer’s markets and some of my family members enjoy them. So, I plant a small section each year. Beets are a cool weather crop, and it is important not to forget that. You should plant them early, as soon as the ground is workable.

Beets can be sown every three weeks for a continuous harvest. Just like beans, you can soak beets for a few hours in water before planting to encourage faster germination.

Carrots

Carrots can be tricky because they need fluffy, obstruction-free soil to grow larger, straight carrots. The seeds are small and difficult to space because of their size. However, they are worth the time investment. Who doesn’t want homegrown carrots in their fresh chicken soup?

Carrots are a cool-season crop, planted a few weeks before the final frost date. Make sure to water well after you plant. It is important to thin your seedlings as soon as they are two inches tall. Typically, you need to try to thin to three inches per carrot.

Cucumbers

Another plant you must include is cucumbers! Cucumbers scream summertime. They’re perfect with some tomatoes and olive oil for a tasty salad.

Cucumbers are warm temperature plants, so you do have to wait until the threat of frost passes. Cucumbers can grow in mounds or grow up a trellis. I always pick to grow mine up a support system to save space.

Zucchini

Some people like to start zucchini inside, but in my experience, they do better when directly sown in the garden. Zucchini plants don’t like to have their roots disrupted, and it can slow their growth when you transfer a seedling into the garden.

Zucchini typically grow in mounds, and they need at least three feet per mound. These plants are overproducers, so you might have zucchini coming out of your ears. Just like cucumbers, zucchini are warm-season plants, so wait until the final frost date passes before planting.

Peas

My kids love peas right off the vine, and so do I. They are such an easy crop to plant if you have little kids. Their little fingers are perfect for pushing pea seeds into the ground. Peas typically require a support system and produce tall vines.

Peas are a cool weather crop, so you want to plant them a few weeks before your final frost date. They also make a great fall crop because of their tolerance of cool weather. Peas should be planted about an inch deep. These are great for beginning gardeners!

Radishes

Radishes are such an underrated vegetable. People don’t know to use them, so they don’t grow them. Radishes are great, easy addition to your salads. You can also roast them with other veggies.

The best thing about radishes is that they grow super fast. Some varieties take less than three weeks to grow from seed to harvest! That is impressive. Kids get a kick out radishes, and it gives them the chance to see their hard work actually pay off.

Radishes are cool weather crops, and they need planted in the ground a few weeks before the final frost date. They also are great for a fall crop.

 

The list is far from exhaustive. There are other choices you can plant in the ground, such as different squashes and greens. However, if you are trying to minimize how many seeds you have to start inside, include all of these on your list for your garden!

7 Veggies Beginning Gardeners Should Grow

When you first start gardening, you might wonder what vegetables are the easiest to grow. My first year, I assumed everything was easy. Soon, I realized that I was wrong. Many plants have different requirements that I wasn’t ready or prepared to give to them. In fact, I had no idea plants could require anything other than sun and water.

There are seven veggies that I recommend for all beginning gardeners. These plants are easy! Most of the time, they grow abundantly and will help you feel more confident to expand your choices during your second year of gardening.

Here are my top picks for Veggies Beginners Must Grow!

Peas

I love growing peas. They made the cut my first year gardening, and I’ve been growing them every year since. Peas tend to be hard to mess up, at least in my experience.

Peas are a cooler-weather crop, so you will plant them two to three weeks before your final frost date. They can handle the cooler temperatures. Peas also make a great choice for a fall garden! Kids can learn how to plant peas as well. I line the peas up for my kids in the area I want, then watch as they push them into the ground with their fingers and cover back up with soil. Weeks later, I find my kids picking the peas off the vine and eating them fresh!

Lettuce

Do you love salads? If so, don’t skip the opportunity to grow your own lettuce. Lettuce is an ideal choice if you want to learn how to use succession planting, which will give you a fresh, continuous harvest throughout the growing season.

Most lettuce and greens grow very easily. The hardest part is thinning out the seedling – those seeds are small! Also, lettuce prefers cooler temperatures, so they can go to bolt during hot weather. The ground has to stay moist.

Lettuce is another plant that you will plant prior to the final frost. Plant a new row or two every two weeks to give yourself a continuous supply of fresh greens!

Radishes

Radishes tend to be an underrated choice for gardeners. Many people don’t like them unfortunately. Radishes are delicious baked or shredded into a salad with that fresh batch of lettuce.

Depending on the variety you pick, radishes can be ready to harvest in less than three weeks. That’s impressive! They make an awesome choice for kids who are impatient to see a harvest.

Just like peas and lettuce, radishes are a cooler-weather crop that you can start before the final frost.

Green Beans

Finally, a warm weather crop! I love green beans. My kids don’t love when I have pots of fresh green beans that need the ends snapped off. Little hands help lighten my load for sure.

When growing green beans, you can select between pole and bush beans. Pole beans are fantastic for those who need to save space. However, in my experience, bush beans produce a better harvest. I dedicate an entire garden bed just to green beans.

As soon as the final frost date has passed, you can plant your green bean seeds. There is no reason to start the seeds ahead of time; just plant them right into your garden. Read the packet to ensure you are spacing them appropriately. Some people plant a row week to stagger the harvest, allowing them to better preserve the green beans.

Zucchini

I’ve never had a bad zucchini harvest. In fact, it seems as if I always end up with too much zucchini on my hands.  I end up having to give away zucchini to everyone who will take some off of my hands. There is only so much zucchini bread, chips, and boats I can create! Plus, I can only freeze so much shredded zucchini before my husband tells me to stop.

Some people like to start to their zucchini seeds inside. You can do so if you want a seedling ready for planting by the final frost date. Start them two weeks before that time. You don’t want to start them any earlier because zucchini become root-bound easily. I prefer to start the seeds right in the ground!

Cucumbers

Do you love pickles? Cucumbers are your go-to choice them! Cucumbers should be planted right into the ground once the danger of a frost passes. I love vining cucumber plants. All you need is a trellis or a make-shift fence that allows your cucumbers to grow upwards. Cucumbers grow very well vertically!

Tomatoes

My last pick for beginning gardeners is tomatoes! Yes, tomatoes can be a bit finicky at times. They don’t like standing water. They don’t like too much water. They don’t like cooler temperatures. However, if you have a hot summer with normal amounts of rain, you should have a successful tomato harvest.

Tomatoes, to me, can be a bit tricky starting from seeds, so I typically tell my friends to first try started seedlings from a trusted nursery. After that, you can dive into starting them from seeds. If you have a successful tomato harvest, you will have tomatoes coming out of your ears! Tomato sauce, salsa and diced tomatoes are in your future.

If you are beginning gardener, what do you plan to plant this year? Experienced gardeners, what do you recommend for newbies? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Homestead Tasks Month-by-Month

The new year has arrived, and it is time to start preparing! I know I am ready for 2018; 2017 brought a lot of pain for us. We ended our year with a small house fire that displaced us for almost a month. We are ready for the new year.

Part of the new year involves making plans for our small homestead. Each year, we try to find ways to expand and grow. Something that keeps me sane is creating a month-by-month plan with the tasks I know need completed then or rather soon. Your task list will look different than mine, based on the animals or things on your homestead.

Right now, we have large garden, a small fruit patch, herb gardens, maple trees to tap and chicken flock. If you have other animals, your list will look different.

So, let’s take a look at the tasks you may want to complete each month if your small homestead looks like mine!

January

January is a month of renewal for us. We are in the dead of winter right now with temperatures reaching into the negatives. This month is a time of relaxation after the crazy holidays.

  • Look at seed catalogs and make selections
  • Make sowing and succession calendar
  • Create a transplanting schedule
  • Try your hand at indoor sprouts
  • Turn your deep litter method
  • Continue upkeep of compost
  • Work on your crafts
  • Pick up a new skill such as cheese making or baking bread!

February

February brings us closer to gardening season, which makes me happy! The tasks list will start to grow soon and I know it.

  • Make sure you ordered your seeds!
  • Depending on your gardening zone, you might start some seedlings.
  • Prepare your greenhouse
  • Try some indoor herbs!
  • Keep working on your crafts while you have extra time!
  • Pick another skill to develop this month.
  • Purchase baby chicks or make plans
  • Prepare brooder
  • Prepare to tap maple trees

March

March begins the mad dash to start the garden in our zone! March is also when we are going to have a new baby this year, so it should be a fun year!

  • Sow in greenhouses or under heavy-duty hoops
  • Start a majority of your seeds inside
  • Build your new garden beds
  • Get more baby chicks because you never can have too many!
  • Might be able to clean chicken coop if weather if warm.
  • work in compost to soil if workable!
  • Tap maple trees and boil down sap.
  • Plant fruit trees!

April

For people in zone 5, April really starts gardening season. Finally, things can be planted outside, and it feels amazing. Here are some tasks.

  • Sow spring crops such as lettuce, peas, carrots, and more.
  • Plant potatoes
  • Continue taking care of your chicks and introduce to existing flock
  • Start any seeds left based on your calendar you made in January!
  • Dandelions and violets tend to pop up. Time to make dandelion infused oil, dandelion jelly and violet jelly!
  • Clean out your old compost and start new.
  • Consider what organic mulch you want to use.
  • Harden seedlings that will be planted in May.

May

May is when most of your warmer weather crops can go into the ground. I love May! You can typically ditch your hoodie and catch some nice sun rays.

  • Start squash, pumpkin, and melon seeds.
  • Sow more greens based on your succession planting plans!
  • Make sure you get most of your seedlings into the ground including warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, corn and more!
  • Integrate chicks if you’ve yet to do so.
  • Develop a watering schedule.
  • Create a weeding schedule that works for you.

June

June typically brings the first harvests of your work. Nothing is better than the first time you can bring crops inside from what you planted. I love that feeling!

  • Harvest crops that come up such as carrots, peas, beets, and lettuce.
  • Preserve the harvest!
  • Preserve strawberries – time to make some strawberry jam!
  • Continue succession planting certain crops.
  • Start fall garden seedlings inside.

July

July is such a fun month. Our son’s birthday falls on the 4th of July, and there are several birthdays this month, including mine!

  • Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries may be ripening. Time to make jam!
  • Give zucchini to everyone you know, because it overproduces every single year!
  • Continue to harvest as often as you can, especially green beans!
  • Harvest some of your herbs and dry.
  • Remove your pea vines. Plant lettuce, spinach or another fall crop there.
  • Put your fall brassica crops outside. It may be too hot, so consider hoops for shade. Keep the ground moist.
  • Preserve as much of the harvest as possible!
  • Sow fall root crops

August

August is the final month of summer, in my eyes, even though we know it doesn’t technically end until September. That might be because of all the years I dreaded returning to school in August.

  • Transplant all of your fall crops into the garden beds.
  • Continue to harvest and preserve like a crazy person!
  • Stop watering those dry beans so they actually dry up.
  • Tomatoes will eat up your time this month.
  • Harvest, dry and preserve herbs.

September

September is when things slowly, and I said slowly, start to slow down. School is in full swing around our house and we can enjoy some cooler evenings.

  • Create herbal teas and tinctures with the dried herbs you’ve harvested.
  • You can direct sow some fast growing crops, like lettuce or radishes.
  • Build some cold frames to keep growing lettuce longer.
  • Plant your cover crops.
  • Cure and store your harvested pumpkins. Get ready for Halloween!

October

October brings the first frost for many areas of the United States. That means a lot of your crops are going to be done and things start to slow down. You might be singing hallelujah and that’s ok!

  • Use row covers as needed for crops still growing.
  • Sow in your cold frames.
  • Now is the time to make homemade vanilla extract!
  • Prepare and plant your garlic. Mulch the beds.
  • Prepare your beds for the upcoming winter. Lay leaves or other mulch that will decompose over time.
  • Prepare the deep litter method for your chickens while it is still warm.

November

By November, all of your plants will be out of the ground, unless you have lettuce growing in those awesome cold frames.

  • Time to relax. You’ve been at it for awhile. Enjoy those jars of canned goods!
  • Reflect on your gardening season.
  • Make sure everything is harvested including kale and brussel sprouts.
  • Manage your chickens. Remember to watch temperatures and freezing water.
  • Start crafts and projects for Christmas.

December

We made it! The end of the year. December is a beloved month for us. Advent is close to our hearts.

  • Make crafts with the family.
  • Create your own Christmas ornaments and gifts.
  • Pick veggies from cold frames.
  • Start your garden plans for the following year. It’s never too soon to plan!

6 Reasons Your Tomatoes Aren’t Ripening

Tomatoes are my arch nemesis. I work hard each year to plant enough tomato plants to provide the right amount of tomatoes I need for canning. Without fail, something goes wrong. Sometimes, my tomatoes don’t turn red. One day, blight infected my tomatoes. It’s always something.

For me, I like to find the answer to my questions. Why is something happening, or not happening in this case? In the case of tomatoes not turning red, there are some definite reasons.

Why Tomatoes Turn Red

There is a whole, scientific reason why tomatoes turn red, but let’s sum it up to make it easier to understand.

Lycopene is a chemical naturally found inside of fruits and vegetables that cause them to develop their color. Lycopene isn’t just found in tomatoes; it is in watermelons, apricots and more. Almost 80% of the lycopene you need in your diet is found in tomato products.

Believe it or not, your body processes lycopene better when it is heated. Sources such as ketchup and tomato sauce are perfect for getting lycopene into your diet!

Why do you need lycopene? It is valuable in the fight against heart disease, as well as some cancers (colon, pancreas, bladder, ovaries, and breast to name a few).

6 Reasons Why Your Tomatoes Aren’t Turning Red

One: Longer Time to Maturity

On each seed packet, you will find an average time for maturity for every vegetable you plant. You might be tempted to overlook this date, but I encourage you to pay attention! Certain varieties take less time to mature.

If you have a shorter growing season, you will want to select varieties with a shorter maturity time. It is a good idea also to plug in some longer growing varieties. You can rest assured knowing the shorter varieties will at least yield some fruits for you.

Two: Temperatures aren’t Hot Enough

Tomatoes love warm temperatures, which is why you can’t plant them until well after your final frost date for the season.

Unfortunately, our weather in Ohio has been rather unpredictable, and chilly summers are becoming an issue. As I write this, it is the beginning of August and the high for the day barely touched 80 degrees. That is insane!

Sometimes, you will notice your tomatoes turning pink but never reaching the redness needed to indicate ripeness. They lack in flavor, but they will typically ripen if you leave them on your countertops.

Three: Temperatures are TOO Hot

On the flip side, your tomatoes can be too hot for your tomatoes to ripen. High temperatures happened a few years ago, leaving my harvest in ruins. Yes, they love the heat, but they don’t want to roast on the vine.

The ideal temperatures for ripening are 70 to 75 degrees F. Once the temperatures go higher than 85 to 90 degrees F, the plant is unable to produce the correct amount of lycopene to create the right pigments. The green ones on your vine will stay green for a long time.

Four: You Picked Tomatoes That Aren’t Red

If you grow heirloom plants, there are a lot of varieties that aren’t red. You can buy tomatoes that ripen to pink, yellow, white, orange, purple, and green! They make great additions to the dinner table and farmer’s market stand.

It is easy to forget what varieties you plant. You need to mark each variety, so you know what to look for in ripeness. For example, we always grow Brandywine tomatoes. Brandywine ripens to a beautiful pink, but they never turn red. If I forgot, I would let the entire harvest go to waste waiting for red tomatoes to arrive.

Five: Blossom End Rot

Do your tomatoes have black lesions on them, small or big? If so, you have blossom end rot. It is a disease caused by low calcium in your soil. It is highly suggested that you add natural sources of calcium to your soil during the growing season.

Blossom end rot also forms from uneven watering. If you have frequent downpours of rain, blossom end rot can result.

Six: Plants Don’t Receive Enough Sunlight

Another possibility is that you selected a bad location for your tomato plants. Tomatoes love heat and sunlight. The plants need at least seven hours of direct sunlight per day.

You might have picked a great location, but planted them too close together. Tomato plants need at least 18 inches to two feet apart, depending on the variety. Large plants, like the Brandywine, need two feet apart to receive adequate sunlight.

 

If all else fails, you can take some of your green tomatoes and put them in a cardboard box with a few ripened tomatoes. It should encourage the tomatoes to turn red! I know how it feels to have dozens of plants full of green tomatoes and end up with a pitiful harvest.

How to Harvest a Cabbage Head in 30 Seconds

Cabbage isn’t a vegetable I always loved. When my parents made cabbage rolls, I gagged, internally and externally. Throughout most of my childhood, I turned my nose up to every cabbage dish that graced our kitchen table. As I grew older, cabbage didn’t seem so bad as it was when I was younger. Now, I love stuffed cabbage rolls or corned beef and cabbage.

                Our cabbage always reaches the scale of gigantic. Sometimes, the heads are larger than my kids’ heads. It is comical to watch them carry the heads into the house after harvesting.

                Most cabbage plants take 80 to 180 days to mature. If you planted them in March, you could expect to harvest between June and August, depending on the variety you selected. One year, I planted Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, which was ready around 65 days after planting!

How to Harvest a Cabbage Head

1.       Watch the tightness of the cabbage. When you are out in your garden, gently squeeze the heads. You’ll notice that they will gradually get firmer. A tight cabbage head is a sign that it is ready for harvest. It is important that you check your cabbage head frequently for readiness. Excessive rain or overwatering could cause mature heads to split; then you lost a harvest.

2.       Look at the size of the cabbage head. It is harder to use the size as an indicator of readiness. Some varieties are naturally smaller than others. It should be at least the size of a softball before you consider harvesting. The base should be at least four to ten inches wide.

·         Elongated Chinese, or Napa, cabbage should be harvest when the head is nine to 12 inches tall.

·         Leafy cabbage is better to harvest leaf-by-leaf because they will not form a tight head.

·         Leave two to four of the wrapper leaves around the head to prevent the cabbage head from drying out.

 

3.       Time to harvest. Once you think the cabbage head is ready, bring your knife out to the garden. Find the base of the cabbage head. Using your knife, cut through the stem. You should leave the stem and leaves underneath the head in place because there is a chance a second head will grow! However, if you planted cabbage in the fall, you’ll only get one head. Cabbage planted for a spring or summer harvest can grow two, three or even four heads!

4.       Store the cabbage. You can use it immediately; cabbage rolls anyone? You could make sauerkraut, freeze the cabbage head or store them in the refrigerator. Make sure the heads stay in a cool, moist location for longevity. If you do so, cabbage stores for three to four months.

Harvesting cabbage is extremely easy. All you need is 30 seconds, and you’re done! If you plant cabbage for the fall, there is plenty of ways to store it long term. Who doesn’t want fresh cabbage for the New Years? Tomorrow, we will talk about how to freeze fresh cabbage. It is one of the ways I preserve it for the long term!

What is your favorite way to eat cabbage? Let me know in the comments!