Heirloom Versus Hybrid Tomatoes

gardening

There’s nothing better than fresh, home grown tomatoes in the summer.  I grow both heirloom and hybrid varieties, but my preference is heirlooms shown above.  I prefer heirlooms because they have a larger selection, more flavorful and great for seed saving. I save the seed and use them to start new plants the next growing season.  Heirloom tomato seeds have been passed down from generation to generation and from gardener to gardener.  The plants produced are true to their parents, meaning what you produced last season will hold true for the current growing season.   


It’s time to decide what tomatoes you want to grown on your patio or in your home garden, so check out my list, do your homework and choose a few varieties. Some tomatoes are great for slicing, salads, sauces and paste. 

My favorite heirloom tomatoes are:


  • Paul Robeson
  • Brandywine – Pink, Red, Black
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Paul Robeson
  • German Johnson
  • Beefsteak
  • Black Krim
  • Hillbilly
  • Mortgage Lifter
  • Amish Paste – Meaty and great for sauce and salsa. 
  • Boxcar Willie
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast
There are hundred of heirlooms, these are just a few that I grow each year. I try a new variety each season so my list will continue to grow. 

My favorite hybrid tomatoes are:


  • Early Girl
  • Celebrity
  • Better Boy
  • Roma
  • Sweet 100 – My favorite in salads. 
  • Delicious

Hybrids are a cross between two genetically different tomato varieties. If the seed is saved, the plant produced could be from one or the other parent. I personally don’t save hybrid seed. I like to now what I’m producing.  


There are a few disadvantages to growing heirloom tomatoes. They must be heavily staked and/or caged.  The vines are vigorous and will grow wildly if not contained. They are also known to crack easy and they are tender. They are also not the prettiest in shape, but the colors are beautiful. It takes longer to produce fruit. You can see the difference with the heirloom versus the hybrid in the above picture with the Brandywine Pink variety. It is odd in shape and has cracked. 


The disadvantages listed are why you don’t find them on grocery store shelves, but they are highly sought out by home gardeners. The taste can’t be beat. 

You may also like Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Steps To Plan Your 2015 Kitchen Garden

It’s time to start planning your kitchen garden.  Yes, there’s snow on the ground and it’s cold outside, but January is the time to start planning your spring and summer kitchen garden.  A well planned garden will lead to a successful garden. 

If you’re striving to get healthier, there’s nothing better than fresh vegetables. I have been gardening for years, and my focus has been on tomatoes, peppers, garlic, green beans, watermelons, and herbs. I do add in sunflowers and marigolds. Planting a kitchen garden helps save on the grocery bill, and you will be able to to freeze and preserve your harvest.   


Here’s a few steps you should be taking now to ensure your kitchen garden success:


  • Plan your garden layout – Will you be using raised beds, row gardening, or containers? Will you plant a small, medium or large garden? The size of your garden will determine how many plants you will need to purchase or need to start from seed.  You also need to start thinking about the containers you will be using or pricing material for your raised beds if this is the route you will be taking.       
  • Decide what you want to plant – Do you want to do herbs only or a variety of vegetables? Will you be planting Hybrid or Heirloom seeds/vegetables?  What and how many will you plant.  My suggestion is that you plant what you like and will use during the summer and winter months.   
  • Order seeds – Browse catalogs and on-line websites to determine what you need to purchase or join seed swaps. The Dollar Store has a great selection of seeds for bargain prices. Check your local store now for the best selection.  I also purchase from Gurney, Johnny’s Parks , Territorial and Baker Creek seed companies.  
  • Prepare for indoor sowing – If you indoor sow, set up a schedule for sowing your seeds. 
  • Start winter sowing  – You can start summer flowers in containers and place outdoors to get a head start on the growing season. I start my sunflowers using the winter sowing method. I have also been successful winter sowing vegetables.     
  • Check your inventory – Do you have seeds that need to be used this growing season?  Do you have enough seed starting mix and peat pots for indoor sowing? Are your grow lights in working order? What about your outdoor fencing?  Get a head start, make sure you have everything in working order and you have sufficient supplies for your garden.  

I’ve decided to increase my basil plants from 2 to 6 so I can dry and share them with my sister and daughter. I will be placing herbs in my Christmas gift baskets this year.  I normally put in 9-12 tomato plants, 3 – 4 belle and hot peppers, 2 squash, 2 zucchini,  6 cucumbers, 24-30 cloves of garlic and a few rows of green beans.  I will be cutting back on these vegetables as I have an adequate supply stored.  I will be replacing some of the plants with cauliflower, cantaloupe, water melons, leaf lettuce, collard greens, and a variety of herbs.  


I use the direct sowing method for my green beans, cucumbers and lettuce, winter sowing for my sunflowers, and indoor sowing for my tomatoes, herbs, squash, zucchini, peppers, cauliflower and fruits. 

I will be doing a series of posts on sowing seeds, gardening in containers, row garden preparation, preserving the harvest and everything in between on Saturdays from now through October. Stay tuned and check back for the 2015 Kitchen Garden series.  


If you have a question while planning, starting your seed, implementing your garden or just feel overwhelmed, send an email to The Mail Box using rhonda@mother2motherblog.com, and I will respond to your questions.  Lets get healthy together!      

 If you like this post you may also like:  How To Dry Kitchen Garden Herbs

                                                                   How to Harden Off Garden Seedlings
                                                                   Planting and Harvesting Garlic

Kitchen Gardening: Guide to Companion Planting Book Giveaway

Mother 2 Mother is giving away a copy of this beautiful book, The Mix and Match Guide to Companion Planting by Josie Jeffery.  I did a review on this book, please see it here.  This is a great book for beginner gardeners and a great reference for advanced gardeners.  



The book is full of information on the history of companion planting and organic soil preparation and composting.  The content of the book lists common kitchen garden plants with information that is easy to read and follow.  The illustrations are beautiful and the book is beautifully made.  I was given a copy as compensation for an honest review.  I am so pleased to be able to share a copy with you.  


Here’s how you can win:




  • Like My Facebook Page And Leave A Comment To Let Me Know- Give Yourself 5 entries
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This give away is open to US Residents 18+ only.  The give away will end September 30, 2014 at mid-night.  The winner will be selected by Random.org.  You will be notified by email, so please leave a valid email address.  Invalid email addresses will be disqualified and a new winner selected.  Good Luck!  

How To Pickle Peppers

Do you like peppers on sandwiches, nachos, in beans, salads, dips ?  They’ll be as fresh months from  now as they are today if you pickle them.  I thought I would share this recipe so you can plan to pickle some of your harvest this season.  My children love them.  My daughter actually called to ask if I would mail her a few jars through the mail.  Imagine a jar breaking and the post office smelling like pickled peppers.  I declined that request, but I do take a jar when I visit her.  My grandchildren love them too.

 This batch is a combination of:    

  •  Hungarian Wax
  •  Sweet Banana
  •  Chilies
  •  Jalapeno
  •  White Bell

I throw whatever peppers are ripe in the bowl.  Some people prefer to use jalapeno peppers only, but I like to broaden my horizon.  I make a pickling broth to cover my peppers.  Here’s what you will need for the broth.  You may have to double the recipe depending on how many jars you will be canning:


  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups of white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of Kosher salt

I brought it to a boil.  Next,  I placed a teaspoon of pickling spice to the bottom of 1/2 pint sterilized jars.  Pack the jars with peppers and pour the pickling broth over the peppers. Prepare them for a hot water bath by removing the bubbles with a plastic knife.  Take the knife around the jar a few times and ensure the peppers are packed tightly.  Wipe the rims of each jar with a clean cloth.  Place sterilized lids and rims on each jar.  Water bath for 15 minutes.  They are delicious.

*Note – Do not use blemished peppers when canning your produce.

How To Harden Off Garden Seedlings


My seedlings have germinated and are thriving.  I had a 90% successful germination rate.  All starters have been re-potted to larger pots, but for now they’re still under the grow lights.  I plan to start hardening them off this week.  


My herbs, oregano, dill, cilantro and basil germinated.  All of my tomato seeds germinated, which is unusual for me.  I usually lose a few.  This year, I allowed then to stay in the starter pots longer.  I think this method allowed the roots to get stronger before I re-potted them.  I save pots from the garden center when I purchase my flowers and reuse them for my vegetable plants the next season.  My squash, watermelon, peppers and zucchini germinated as well.  I’m looking forward to a great growing season.  

The plants are ready to be hardened off.  What is hardening  off?  It’s where you expose your plants to the elements gradually.  First, I sit them outside for a few hours in the shade.  The next move is to gradually expose them to the sun and longer hours outside, and than I leave them out overnight.  Once they get used to the temperatures, I leave them out until I’m ready to plant them in the garden.  


I have about 20 plants ready for the garden.  I estimate that I have $5.00 in seeds this year.  I would never be able to purchase 20 plants from a nursery or garden center for $5.00 and another $3.00 for potting soil, which I will also use in other areas of the garden.  I will direct seed the cucumbers and green beans.  


This week I will work on getting the manure in the garden and having it tilled. I should have the plants in by the end of the month.  Stay tuned for future posts.  






                                                                   

Holiday Gift Ideas for Gardeners

gardener gift ideas, holiday gifts, gardener gift ideas

 

I’m into gift baskets this season.  I’ve found that my most memorable gifts have been homemade items and gift baskets that I’ve put together for my family and friends I’m an advent gardener and bird watcher.  If you have one on your list, a gift basket would be perfect for them too.  We have put together a list of holiday gift ideas for gardeners. Check  it out:
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Planting Fall Bulbs for Spring Color

                                                                                                                                                   

                                            
                                        
                               

I decided to expand my perennial garden next year and found these gorgeous flowers at Michigan Bulb.  I started the perennial garden below this year and want to add to it in the spring.  I fall in love with these pink bouquet tulips.  I’m going to add them along with Alpine Rosy Bells around the rocks in the garden.    


I currently have Knock Out Roses and Yarrow planted.  I will be adding more rocks to give it a more naturalized look.  I had a difficult time keeping the weeds down, so landscape fabric is must in the spring. 


I live these pink parfait lilies.  I’m going to plant these behind the birdbath and feeder shown in the picture.  I hope to mix in some wild flowers and add a bird house.  The great thing about bulbs, you plant them once and the plants come back each year.  Planting bulbs is a great way to add color next spring and summer and an inexpensive way to expand your garden.  The stock at Michigan Bulb has gotten low, but check out Lowes or Home Depot.  They usually have a good selection of bulbs for fall planting too.  Winter is around the corner, hurry before you miss your bargain.   

                                                                       

Vegetable Garden Closed



I’ll be spending the day closing out the garden.  Frost it hit Friday night, so it’s done for the season.  This is my second year gardening, and I’m really enjoying it.  There’s nothing better than picking fresh vegetables in your back yard and preserving them for future use.  This year I planted a variety of tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, green beans and Sugar Baby watermelons.  

I love sliced tomatoes with a little mayo.  I freeze the green beans to use with green beans and corn for holiday meals and family gatherings.  This year I froze a variety of peppers and tried my hand at pickling them.  I have to say the pickled peppers are the bomb.  I sent a few jars home with my daughter and in-laws and they received great reviews.  They are so good the cleaning lady at my office chased me down as I was leaving with two empty jars asking me to refill them, lol. 
I eat them on nachos, in chili and anything else that I can find to put them on.   I made fresh salsa and canned it.  It’s a lot of work, but so worth it.  I love being able to pull out a jar of garden fresh salsa during the winter and it tasting like I just worked down to the garden and picked the ingredients.  I’ll be munching while reading my kindle when the cold weather sets in.  What I’ve enjoyed most is having my grandson involved in watering and harvesting the veggies. 

Here’s a picture of one of my prized tomatoes weighing in at 1.136 ounces.  It was huge and delicious.  I managed to harvest at least 6 colanders of green beans putting away 5 – 6 quarts in the freezer.  Probably the same amount for peppers.  In addition to the frozen peppers, I’ve canned (pictured below) 30 – 40 pints/quarts of pickled peppers, most given away.  
 
I’m working on 12 pints of salsa this week-end.  I’ll be putting them in baskets along with salsa chips and homemade cookies and brownies for Christmas gifts.   Do you have a garden?  How productive was it?  If not, are you interested in planting one and exchanging gardening techniques and seeds next season?  Please leave me  a comment and let me know your thoughts.  You can find my gardening blog here

Vegetable Gardens

It’s almost time to get the vegetable garden ready.  That’s my grandson wearing his Lighting McQueen rain boots.  He’s watering the garden last year, and was quite a little helper.  He was actually fascinated to see the blooms develop and turn into luscious veggies.   This was my first vegetable garden and I’ll be doing it again.  It was so relaxing tending to the garden, and it was nice to have fresh vegetables in the house instead of the cardboard sold in grocery stores.  I hope that I will never have to purchase another vegetable from a store again, that is unless it’s from a farmer’s market.   

I canned tomatoes and froze peppers for soup, chili and salsa.  The veggies were as fresh when I used them this winter as they were when I plucked them from the garden.  My peppers were huge as you can see.  I’ll be planting those babies again.  Those are Amish Paste tomatoes shown and are great for sauce and salsa.   I planted a few Hybrid and a few Heirlooms last year.  I’m going with Heirlooms this year.  I’ve decided on a variety for color and taste to include:  Boxcar Willie, German Johnson, Kellogg Breakfast, Cherokee Purple and Aunt Ruby’s Spicy Green.  It’s just about time to get the seedlings started indoors so they can be germinated, harden off, and planted in the garden by June.  I’m in zone 6, so I usually garden from June to October.  I may plant collard greens this fall, we’ll see. 

Here’s a few of my crookneck squash.  They were so yummy.  I froze a few squash and zucchini for baby food for Zarriah and zucchini bread for me, lol.   Did I mention I put away 50 ears of corn and about 6 quarts of fresh peaches for baby food.  Yes, I was quite busy in the kitchen last year. 

I’m going to expand my garden by approximately 5 feet this year.  I’m leaving out the eggplant, and putting in pickling cucumbers for homemade pickles and small, but sweet watermelon.   Below is my dream garden.  I love the arbor and bench in the back.  I would sit and admire the fruits veggies of my labor.  You would be surprised at how many vegetables you can grow in a small amount of space.  My garden was less than 10x 20, and I was able to produce an abundance of fresh veggies and flowers.  I will be expanding it to 10 x 25 this year.  If I ever get this baby built, I would expand to 10 x  40 feet.  This year I’m putting up a 250 feet privacy fence, so this garden fencing will have to wait.  In the meantime, I’ll dream about it.  A girl can dream can’t she?  We’re also building a tree house for my grandson, stay tuned. 

Be sure to follow or subscribe to Mother 2 Mother so you don’t miss my Gardening With My Grandson posts.  You can also connect with me by clicking one of the social media buttons on the right.  Do you garden with your children?  What are you planting this year?  I think it’s important for children to understand the land and how to grow your own food.  With this economy, we need to teach our children how to survive and save when and where we can.  My grandson loves flowers, and has a small area where he is responsible for watering them and pulling weeds.  He takes his job seriously.  We lead by example, would you agree?  Leave a comment and let us know what’s happening in your backyard. 

How To Start A Home Vegetable Garden

Yep, this diva is turning into a gardener.  I’ve staked off my vegetable garden, purchased a compost bin, and drawing plans to install additional flower gardens over the course of the next year.  I’ve decided to start small and gradually add in various gardens. 

Right now I’m going to start with the beds around my house and the vegetable garden.  The soil is great for edging my beds and clearing out weeds, so that will be my week-end chore depending on the  weather.   I pulled out a spade that I had in the storage building to see if I had the stamina to make the edging around the beds, this is something that I normally pay to have done, snap – I’ve figured it out.  I must also say, that my trench is better than the landscaper’s too.  I’m so glad that I tried this spade, I was heading to Lowe’s this week-end to buy one of those half-moon edgers.  This will do just fine!  Oh, please disregard the weeds, I’m getting to them.  Can you believe that I’ve had this tool in the storage building for 20 years, lol.  I’m debating on whether I should pull up this Alberta Spruce.  This is suppose to be a dwarf.  I didn’t know that a dwarf would reach 6 feet, lol.  I love it, but it has become too big for the spot that it’s in and it’s overshadowing my Azalea.  I would love to relocate it, but I don’t know if it would survive the shock of moving it.  I want to place Double Knockout Roses on that corner and a few other places in the border. 

I’ve staked off my vegetable garden.  I’m using the tarp to kill the grass, but it is as green as ever underneath.  I may have to resort to Roundup.  I debated on a raised bed, but decided to go with the rich soil in my yard.  My development used to be a farm, and my little acre of ground used to be a pig pen.  Everything grows!  I’ve decided to do some container gardening as well.  I’m going to plant a few tomato plants, cucumbers and herbs in pots on my decks.  In the garden I’ll plant squash, zucchini, lettuce and a few pumpkins.   

Another project that I will be working on is putting up a privacy fence.  My neighbors have a dilapidated barn behind me, which is another story.  I want to hide the ugly barn and use the fence as a backdrop for my gardens.  As soon as the rain stops, we’ll clean the fence line, till the garden and install a 6 foot wooden fence.  I’ll be planting shade, butterfly and a cutting garden as well as a little reading area where I can admire the fruits of my labor.   I’m going to use field stone to use as a border.  I got lucky, there’s a couple who has a retaining wall made out of field stone and they no longer want the walls.  I can take as much as I want for free.  I’m having a few garden benches, birdhouses and a tree house made for my grandson.  I’m in search of old benches, bird baths, and old watering cans so I’ll be attending auctions this summer in search of a few fabulous finds.  As a matter of fact, I’m heading to a flea market in Amish country next month.  I love Lancaster, Pa. and try to spend a few days there every year.  It’s such a peaceful way of life, the food is great and I always find a few treasures.   

Stay tuned for my adventures in gardening.  I’m actually thinking about starting a gardening blog to chronicle my growth as a Zone 6 gardener?  Do you garden?  If so, please leave me a comment with a name for my gardening blog.  If you have a gardening blog feel free to leave a link.  If you don’t garden, please leave me a comment/suggestion anyway.  I love them!