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

Kitchen Garden Questions – #1

I’ve had several questions sent to The Mail Box on kitchen gardening and thought you may find the information useful:


Question – I plan to plant Kentucky Wonders this year in a raised bed,
and I don’t know how many to plant for canning purposes. Will one teepee produce
enough beans to can, or do I need to have more? (Check out my post building a bean teepee). 



Response – If you’re going to pressure can your green beans, I would suggest that you
plant bush beans instead of pole beans in your raised bed.  If you plant bush
beans you will be able to harvest enough from the bushes to fill your
canner with 6 – 7 quart jars per load. Planting pole beans gives you a gradual
harvest throughout the planting season. I’m sure you don’t want to spend time
canning 1 or 2 quarts of beans. I use pole beans because I freeze my harvest and
can put them away a quart at a time. 

 
You didn’t mention the size of your raised bed. A 4 x 4 raised bed should
hold about 32 plants if you space the seed about 6 inches apart. You may be able
to plant about 4 inches apart and get a few more plants in the bed. Using
a gallon bucket for your harvest is a good way to determine how many quarts you
will be canning.  Five gallons will yield around 18 quarts. 
 
There is a disadvantage to bush beans, you have to bend over to harvest
them. 

Question – I am tired of procrastinating with this container garden! I am ready to get
started! My plan is to purchase organic, nonGMO seeds from SeedsNow. I’ve been
doing research but I feel like I’m overthinking things and I need to just jump
in and give it a try. I think container gardening is the best start. I’m
concerned about planting a garden in my yard because my hubby uses a lot of
pesticide to control fleas and other pests. I plan to buy the following seeds:
lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, collard greens, and tomatoes. I would appreciate
any advice you can give me. I also have a few questions.
1. Should I use organic potting soil so that my veggies are truly
organic?
2. What should I plant that can grow year round?
3. Can I start planting now?

Response – Glad to hear that you’re ready to jump into container gardening. I think
you’re wise to use containers if pesticides are being used in your yard. They’ll
grow just as big and delicious in a container. Lettuce, spinach, peppers and
tomatoes grow well in containers. I’m not sure about the collard greens, but
give it a try.  I’ve been gardening for years, and I’m not always successful
with everything that I plant. Here’s a few tips: 
 
  • Use deep plastic containers for your tomatoes and peppers, and make sure
    your container is large enough for a stake. Paint buckets from Home Depot or
    Lowes work well for tomatoes and peppers. Remember you will have to drill holes
    in the bottom for drainage and come up with a staking system. If you can find a
    large, plastic flower pot with good drainage that’s even better. 
  • While choosing your tomato seeds, select the Indeterminate tomato variety.  
  • Old wash tubs, basins, flower pots, window boxes, whatever you can locate,
    will be great for lettuce and spinach.  These are cool weather crops, but
    can grown from spring until a hard frost hits in shady areas. If you have a cold
    frame, you can extend your growing season.    
  • Using organic soil in your containers is a good idea.  Do you plan to start
    you seeds inside under grow lights?  If so, I use Miracle Grow Seed Starting
    Mix.  You don’t want to use regular potting soil for this step.
  • Plant according to the zone that you live in. I’m in zone 6B, so I plant
    what will grow in this region and the planting times states for that region.  
Have questions?  Send an email to The Mail Box using rhonda@mother2motherblog.com.  I will respond.  


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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  • Follow My Blog By Joining or Subscribing to Mother 2 Mother (On The Right) – Give Yourself 10 entries



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 Blanche Tomatoes Before Freezing

It’s one of my favorite times of the year.  Harvesting the garden and canning/freezing tomatoes for chili and soup this winter.  Most of the tomatoes that I grow are Heirlooms.  They’re not the best looking tomatoes, but they have a great variety and the best taste.  So Heirloom it is.   My favorites are Cherokee Purple and Paul Robeson.  Yum.  I love slicing them and spreading a little mayo over them with a little pepper.  It just doesn’t get any better than a fresh tomato from the garden.  

When I harvest enough veggies, I get the blanching basket and my Ball Canner out.  The tomatoes taste as good during the winter as they do when I pick them from the vine.  I freeze some of the tomatoes and can others.    


I purchased a blanching basket that fits perfectly into my stockpot.  It’s great for blanching tomatoes, green beans and squash before freezing.  Blanching tomatoes is easy and a necessary step to remove the skin before freezing or canning.  It locks in the flavor and here’s the steps:


1.  Choose tomatoes that are not bruised or cracked and rinse them thoroughly to remove any dirt. 


2.  Full your stockpot half-way and bring to a roaring boil.  Do not fill completely, immersing the basket will cause the water to rise.  


3.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  This step is important, it will stop the tomatoes from cooking and cool them down enough to remove the skin.  


4.  While you’re waiting for the water to boil, remove any stems and make an x on the bottom of each tomato.  Making an x on the bottom of the tomato helps loosen the skin during the cooking process.  (This step is optional.  I have blanched tomatoes without the x).  


5.  Once your water is boiling, place the basket inside the stockpot for approximately 30 seconds – 1 minute. Do not cook your tomatoes longer than the 1 minute time frame.  Some of the skins on the tomatoes may start slipping off the tomatoes during the boiling process and that’s fine.  You’re going to remove the skin from the tomatoes, this is the goal.  


6.  Remove the basket from the stockpot after 1 minute and emerge the tomatoes into the ice water with a slotted spoon for about 5 minutes.  You can see the skin slipping off a few of the tomatoes in the picture below.  


7.  Remove the skin from the tomatoes, the skin should easily slip off the tomatoes.  


8. I recommend slicing large tomatoes before placing them in quart or gallon freezer bags.  Smaller tomatoes can be left whole.  If you have a sealer, now is the perfect time to bring it out.  I like to use quart bags for storage.  It’s a sufficient amount for my dishes down the road.   


9.  Write the date on the freezer bag with a permanent marker and freeze until ready to use.  


10.  If your bags are sealed properly, your tomatoes should not sustain freezer burn and should be good to use through out the winter.      

Stay tuned for my canning session.  I usually put up 15 – 20 quart jars of tomatoes each season.  I use the canned jars in chili, soup, salsa and other recipes as well.   What are you harvesting from your garden?  


Planting and Harvesting Garlic



I finally have garlic!  I planted garlic last year and had no success.  I decided to try again in the fall and look at these nice healthy garlic plants.  I planted onions in this space last year and they did great, so I decided to amend the soil with my homemade organic compost and plant the cloves in the same spot.  They loved it.  






I finally harvested the plants this week, and I’m quite pleased with the size of the bulbs.   Harvesting the bulbs required a little muscle.  The roots at the end of the bulbs run deep, so you must dig the bulbs out.  You can’t pull them out like onions.  Since this was my first year planting garlic, I didn’t realize how much muscle would be required.  


To avoid damaging the bulbs, I decided to remove the dirt until the entire bulb was exposed and I could get to the bottom of the bulb.  I used my garden shovel and my hands, please wear gloves, to remove the dirt until the bulb was exposed.  I than placed the shovel under the bulb and worked it until it became loose and than pulled it out.  Nice way to get an upper body work-out, lol.  


     
It’s amazing what can happen in 2 – 3 week in the garden.  I harvested the bulb on the right 3 weeks before the other plants.  You can see how much smaller it is than the other cloves, but it cured beautifully.  It’s ready to use.  I just need to cut off the roots and stem.  Some people braid their harvest, but I’m just going to store mine in a dish on the counter since it’s a small batch.  


I will allow the newly harvested bulbs to cure for 3 – 4 weeks.  Once it turns white and the covering is like paper, I’ll shake off the dirt, remove the roots and stem and than store it.  Some gardeners leave their harvest in the garden to cure, but I brought mine in the house and played them in a spot in the kitchen.  Stay tuned for a post on what it looks like after it has cured.  Do you plant garlic? How do you allow your plants to cure?

Guide to Companion Planting Book Review

I am now a book reviewer for Crown Publishing, a subsidiary, of Random House.  I will be reviewing various books published by their company.  I jumped at the opportunity to become a member, I love to read and I also love to have reference books around if I need to refresh my memory on a particular subject. As you know, I’m a home gardener.  I received a copy of The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting by Josie Jeffery to review.  This book was heaven sent, as I companion plant my kitchen garden.  


I was impressed with the book when I opened the package. The cover and binding of the book are beautiful.  It would be easy to wipe off dirt or accidental spills and the illustrations as you see are just lovely.  It’s a hardcover book with a strong binding.  You won’t have to worry about this book falling apart, it is quality.  


The book is very detailed, but not to a point where you would loose interest in the details.  For example, it gives the history of companion planting and how it is used around the world.  It provides information on soil preparation, manure, composting, and setting up rain barrels to help water your garden.  This is information that you truly need to know if you want to become a sustainable gardener and do it efficiently and at minimal cost.  I have been composting for years, added manure, have devised a method to keep weeds down, but have yet to add a rain barrel.  I hope to add a barrel this summer for next year’s use.  


Lets move to the content. I love how the book is designed.  The book is set up with 2 cards, for a lack of a better word.  One card has the name of the vegetable/flower along with information on when to plant, where it should be planted, growing tips and when to harvest.  Opposite the first card is the second card which shows a beautiful picture of the plant.  The content is set up with three sections, which is great if you want to hold your place to make notes on a particular plant, but still want to browse another section or find a particular plant in another section.  


In the back of the book is a place to make notes.  I think the books to beautiful to write in, so I would make notes elsewhere.  It also contain an index in the back of the book, which will help you find a particular page for the plant you wish to research.  


I have this book a thumbs up and 5 stars.  It’s actually one of the most beautiful and informative gardening books that I have come across, and it’s an easy read. The book retails for $17.99 in the states and $20.99 in Canada. I would encourage you to purchase a copy, especially if you’re a beginner gardener.  It’s a great reference for the advance gardener as well.  I’m grateful that I now own a copy.  


Note:  I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  



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.

DIY – Flower Pot Tower

I’ve been wanting to make a flower pot tower for some time, and I finally got around to it.  I was quick pleased with how it turned out and how easy it was to make.  If you’re interested in making your own, you will need the following:


1 piece of rebar or a garden stake (Found at Lowes or Home Depot) 
1 10 inch clay pot
1 8 inch clay pot
1 6 inch clay pot
potting soil
1/2 flat of petunias


Place your rebar into the ground where you will be placing your tower.  Place the largest pot over the rebar. The hole in the pot will be large enough to place the pot over the rebar easily.  Fill the pot with potting soil.  Place the next pot over the rebar and fill with potting soil and than the third. Place petunias around the perimeter of each of the pots and water thoroughly.  Looks like I need to add a few more petunias to the top.  I want it be full.  

If you want to add a 4th or 5th pot, you will need to use a longer stake.  I recommend a garden stake, which can be purchased at your local garden center for a few bucks.  You can cut the stake down once you reach the desired height of your tower.  


You can also spray paint your pots the desired color if you want to a pop to your yard or add a saucer beneath the pots.  Quick and easy project.  

5 Benefits of Garden Chives

home vegetable gardens



My chives are in full bloom.  This is a volunteer that showed up in the back of the garden.  I’ll give it another week, and than I’ll remove the flowers and cut it back to 1 – 2 inches. This should give it a good start for another harvest later in the season.  

Removal of the flowers is important; otherwise, the seeds will blow and the plant will take over your garden.  This is how I ended up with this volunteer.  I was a little slow removing them last season.  


Supposedly, the flowers on this plant are edible, but I’ve never consumed them.  For some reason, I just can’t get past the thought of flowers in my food.  They can be used to decorate a dish or vegetable tray.  

Chives can be used fresh or frozen.  You can chop and seal them in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator.  I also freeze them for use over the winter.  

There are several other benefits to eating chives and they are very easy to grow.  Once they are planted, they require regular watering and a little fertilizer.  My soil is so rich, I usually by-pass this part of the maintenance, but I do water them.  Here a few other reasons to grow and eat chives:






1.  They’re a magnet for beautiful butterflies.  


2.  They are delicious on baked potatoes, omelets and other dishes that call for onions.  I love them in salads as well.  


3.  They are a great source of antioxidants and can help fight cancers in the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries and lungs.  This study is from the University of Maryland Medical Center.   


4.  They are a great source of Vitamin K, which is good for bone strength.  


5.  They help lower blood pressure and cholesterol according to the University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell.

Plant a few chives.  They return year after year and will enhance the flavor of your dishes.