Sep 04

Chef’s Choice Orange Tomato

Gardening Jones shares her thoughts on the AAS Winner Chef's Choice Orange Tomato.

Artisan style pizza with orange marinara? Multi-color Tomato Salad?

Yep, You Can Grow That!

This is the first time we have ever grown an orange tomato, hard to believe I know. So we cannot compare it to another orange type, but just share our thoughts.

We love this 2014 All America Selection for a number of reasons:

  1. It was one of our earlier maturing tomatoes, coming in even before the San Marzano.
  2. The plants held up pretty well to the Septoria that developed in the beds. Not all the other plants did, some even developed spots on the fruit. Yuk.
  3. The fruit is a decent size, and pretty meaty. Ours ranged from 10-14 ounces each.
  4. Quite productive, and still going strong even in September.
  5. The flavor is delightful. It has the taste of a tomato of course, but then again not. Difficult to describe, it is much milder than a typical red tomato, but certainly not bland; sweet and less acidic.
  6. The flat shape lends itself perfect for slicing.
  7. Didn't crack like some of the varieties we are growing.

We added it to a colorful salsa and the orange color held up well. We're going to keep the remainder of the crop to make an interesting marinara. I can just picture the pizza with brightly colored red peppers, black olives, and green onions. Yum.

The Chef's Choice Tomatoes also come in green and pink varieties. Soon we will be reviewing the green, and plan on trying the pink next summer. One of our social media friends says the pink is also well worth the try.

Days to Maturity: 75 from transplants

Height: 5 Ft.

Habit: Indeterminate

Fruit Size: 10-16 ounces

Heritage: F1 hybrid of an Amana Orange

you can grow that is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage everyone to get growing.

 

 

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Aug 19

The Watermelon Radish

Gardening Jones shares her take on this pretty radish variety.

It is always fun to try new veggie varieties. We enjoy seeing how they actually look compared to stock photos, if there is a difference in taste, learning about where they came from, and sharing all of that with you.

Also known as Chinese Red Meat radish, this is a variety of Daikon radish from China with a lovely pinkish interior.

These grow smaller than the more common white icicle radish, getting to be about 3-4". We learned the hard way that they are better as a fall crop; ours ended up quite spicy. Stii the sweetness of the flesh could also be detected, and these did not go to waste.

We also learned that to get the outer skin to be green, the veggies need exposure to the sun. Similar to a potato, except this is okay for the radish. Ours were in among beets which offered a nice shade, probably preventing the radishes from bolting, but keeping the outer skins more white than green.

It is the green skin coupled with the reddish-pink flesh that give it its nickname.

So we are going to sow some more in an open area and see if the cooler temps to come will make these beauties sweeter. Their days to maturity from direct seed are about 50, perfectly bringing them into the cool October days for maturing.

Note that even in cooler areas like our Zone 5/6, radishes can be seeded well into October for harvesting in December. They can take some cold, just be sure to mulch them so they don't get hit with repeated freezing temperatures.

Now, we'll have to see how long we can keep a fresh supply coming in. Just for the fun of it.

 

Sweet Pickled Onion and Watermelon Radish Salad

Common Radish Growing Problems

Radish Variety Comparison Chart

How to Grow Radishes

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Aug 12

Too Many Tomatoes? Bite Your Tongue!

Gardening Jones share a few things you can do when the weight of your tomatoes is more than the plant can bear.

So we're having a really great tomato season here in the northeast.
Really great.

We protect our crop from squirrels, and in spite of the overabundance of insects caused in part by the mild winter, we haven't had one, knock on wood, tomato horn worm.

The mild temps did bring about a few bad bugs that caused issues for other crops, but that's another story.

Back to the tomatoes. We planted a lot this year in hopes of stocking the larder shelves. Many of the varieties we chose were well rated for being abundant. Like the BHN-589 shown above from Johnny's Select Seeds.

Notice anything in the picture?

The two tomatoes are so heavy that the stem is bent over.

We also have a number of plants that simply could not support the weight of the fruit, and the main stems bent.

Mind you all 80+ of our plants are well staked. At least, we thought so, and for many years, it was enough.

Gardening Jones share a few things you can do when the weight of your tomatoes is more than the plant can bear.

In the picture above is a plant I refer to as Survivor because it was the only one of about a dozen unmarked plants that did not succumb in last spring's learn-how-hot-greenhouses-can-get-the-hard-way lesson.

It is a beautiful roma type we saved the seeds from, and it is paying us back big time this year.

So much so that the stem bent and began to rip. We gently laid the plant down on the straw mulch, and secured the stem with some flexible duct tape.

Another option would be to just let the plant be if the stem isn't damaged, you can just let it hang where it is and harvest the fruit like you would normally.

You can also pick some of the tomatoes that are closest to being ripe. Try to choose ones that are already starting to change color if you can. Where possible, clip off the entire stem and let them ripen that way.

So far we haven't had to harvest anything not yet ripe, but we are keeping a close eye on them. In the next 2 weeks much of the crop will be about ready anyway. We think our plants will hold on that long. Especially Survivor.

Yes, too many tomatoes is a very good problem to have.

More on growing tomatoes.

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Aug 11

BS Belongs in the Garden

In preparation for launching the much anticipated Seeds to Soap Club featuring our handmade soaps, we have been watching video, attending webinars, and reading up on best practices. Needless to say the focus is how to sell, sell, sell.

While we are sure these are all wonderful and effective marketing strategies, we prefer to look at this from your perspective. No gimmicks, no cons or tricks, just the best soaps we can make, a fair price for everyone, and as many freebies as we can get our grubby little hands on to add to the fun.

Gardening Jones' Seed to Soap Club does more than just get you clean, we are good for your skin and your spirit.

Good For Your Skin and Your Spirit

So here's the deal:

We will ship every other month beginning the end of September. Each box will contain at least 2 full size bars we make ourselves one small batch at a time. And yes, they are shaped like seed packets. :-) Most of these bars will be made exclusively for club members.

You will also get other stuff like free samples, guest size bars, other bath products and so on. These are not shown in the photo above, but will be fun surprises that you won't know about until you open your box.

The price will be $15 per box shipping included* no matter if you sign up for 1 box or 1 year. If you do sign up for 6 months or 1 year, you will get some additional free soap.

Members will also receive 10% off anything else we list in our online store. All club soaps are gender neutral and vegan friendly. Varieties that are Just for Him or contain milk will be available in the store.

Feel free to cancel at any time for whatever reason.

Simple. Honest. You might say "Clean."

Want to pamper yourself for just 25 cents a day? Sign up here:

I want to try you out, please send me 1 box.

I'm in! Sign me up for 6 months (3 boxes). I also get one free exclusive Soap at an unannounced time. Woot woot!

Sock it to me! Sign me up for a full year (6 boxes). I also get one free full Box of exclusive soaps as a surprise. Yes!

Please Note: To receive our first shipment, you will need to sign-up by September 10th.

If purchasing a Gift Subscription, just indicate recipient in the message box at checkout.

*Shipping is to the continental US only. For other areas, additional shipping may apply.

Our Soaps are not just for gardeners, please Share this post with your friends. We do appreciate it!
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Aug 02

0 to 60

Gardening Jones shares her personal effort to live healthier by her next birthday.

It was just about 2 months ago that I shared with y'all my intentions on improving my health before my 60th. birthday. Nothing drastic, but there is always room to make things better.

I kind of like change.

Which is a very good thing this since about half way through the 60 days I got more change than I had expected. When my job unexpectedly lost me, I had to readjust.

Certainly this kind of life change could lead to regressing back to less than the best habits. I admit that it was harder than I would have thought and there were certainly days when I didn't even want to get out of bed. After all, it wasn't like I had to be anywhere.

Turns out there was no way I would not get over it, what with all the support I have. Y''all are the best.

So now I am 60 and compared to a year ago I weigh 10 pounds less, have taken inches off my body, and actually feel younger.

Much more importantly, I am now under significantly less stress and have the time to pursue a new direction. I feel more emotionally healthy than I was even just 2 months ago.

So if I have learned anything in my six decades it is this: The only thing we can really count on is change, so embrace it. Make it a point to have changes in your life, even if it is only rearranging furniture or buying a different brand of tea.

Like our bodies need exercise to stay strong, our  spirits do too. Change helps keep your spirit strong, and better able to handle life.

As the saying goes, the only difference between a rut and a grave is the length of the ditch.

Keep that spirit strong and happy gardening y'all! <3

 

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Jul 31

9 Plus More Random Gardening Tips

Gardening Jones share some gardening tips you just might not know yet.

BZZZZ

Like most of things in life, there is always something new to learn from others. Perhaps they learned from first hand experience or maybe they were educated by someone else. Either way, when they share it is priceless.

So here are a few things that might help you be more successful in your garden.

Oh, and be sure to share as well. :-)

1. Here's a tool to help with your timing. It will provide you with you first average fall frost date. This can help to let you know when to start watching the overnight temperatures more closely. Just type in your location in the appropriate box.

2. Here are more tools to help you from Johnny's Select Seeds. Check out the one entitled Fall Harvest Planting Calculator. It opens as an excel spreadsheet. Hit Enable Editing if you need to change the average fall frost date. It will list what you can either direct seed or transplant throughout the summer for a fall harvest. Pretty handy.

3. If you have a squash that is producing only female flowers, and another that has some male blooms, you can hand pollinate even though they are not the same variety. Not all species can be crossed, but many can. Here's a list to give you an idea of which can go with whom. Our YouTube video can give you more info on this.

4. Here's How to Save tomato seeds, and more here. We learned recently that the fermenting process not only helps germination, it also can get rid of seed-borne diseases. Well worth that extra step, don't you think?

5. By the way, is is not impossible but unlikely that your tomatoes have cross pollinated. The same is true for peppers and squash. It happens if the bees or similar pollinators visit your plants, but these veggies are more likely pollinated by wind. Our bees tend to go more for the larger flowers like squash; we have noticed we are less likely to see bees on the tomatoes.

6. Speaking of seeds, you don't have to wait to save the seeds from the best of the best of your tomatoes. Author and tomato fanatic Craig LeHoullier explains why and gives other good info on the subject here.

7. Got cats using your garden as a litter box? Push plastic forks handle first into the soil, leaving the times exposed. The cats will find somewhere else to go.

8. Similarly, planting onions or other aromatics throughout the garden helps deter some pests. Plus, you get onions.

9. Want to build a quick cold frame? Use a few bales of straw and an old window. Choose a sunny location. If you place it against the house it will add warmth, plus you will only need 3 bales. Click here to get a free PDF The Cold Frame Handbook.

Well then, that should be enough reading to cover any rainy day you might get. And we know some of you really need them.

Happy Gardening!

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Jul 24

Katarina Cabbage 2016 AAS Winner

Gardening Jones shares her experience growing Katarina, the cabbage variety chosen as an All-America Selections winner for 2016.

Photo courtesy of All-America Selections

This delightful little All-America Selections winning cabbage is perfect for containers or anywhere space might be an issue. We also like them because 1 head is perfect for just the 2 of us.

You can harvest the whole plant, or just cut the head and leave the rest of the plant in the ground. Katarina will continue to grow tiny little cabbages after that.

We planted 3 varieties of cabbages in the same area, the Katarina matured earlier than the others. Faster fresh food has it's merits.

Since it is relatively quick to mature it is also good for growing later in the season. You can learn more by reading here about succession planting, and what can still be planted this time of year.

We found this variety to be a bit sweeter than others, possibly because it wasn't exposed to as much heat. We intend to plant again and see if we get the same result when it matures in cooler weather.

Got to grab any opportunity to experiment; it's so much fun.

Here's ours before harvesting. Not as pretty as the top pic, but this is the reality of home gardening and the small amount of damage that was done to the plant isn't much actually. Trust me, I have seen much worse. 😉

Gardening Jones shares her experience goring the All-America Selections winner Katrina.

Botanical name: Brassica oleracea
Days to Maturity: 45 days from transplanting, 75 from direst seeding
Color: Green outer leaves, creamish white inside
Height: 12"
Width: 6-8"
Fruit size: 4"

How to Grow Cabbage
Spiced Cabbage recipe

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Jul 22

Refreshing and Simple Pesto Potato Salad

Gardening Jones shares a wonderfully refreshing twist on potato salad.

This is a delight on really hot days, like the ones many of us have been experiencing lately. When made the night before, it not only frees up the stove top from being heated up during the day, it also gives the flavors a chance to marinate.

What I really like about this is it is not only simple to make, almost everything in it comes from the garden. It seems almost gourmet, when in fact it was almost free.

We make our pesto in large batches and freeze in ice cube trays. This also simplifies cooking as the main effort has already been accomplished. If you are new to Pesto Sauce, check out our easy video linked below. To make it vegan, simply use a non-dairy Parmesan.

Pesto Potato Salad

2 cubes or aprox. 1/4 cup Pesto Sauce

1.5 - 2 pounds potatoes

1 med. or 2 small onions

1 small cucumber

1 Tbl. white vinegar

2 small sprigs fresh mint, finely cut

Chop the cucumber and onions, set aside.

Depending on your preferences and the type of potatoes you use, peel if desired. Otherwise, wash then boil the potatoes until done. A fork inserted inside should slip out easily. Let cool enough to handle. You want them a wee bit warm though, as this helps the pesto to get distributed more evenly. Cut to desired size.

Mix the pesto, vinegar, mint, and onions together. Toss with the potatoes. Chill.

This is a great pot luck or picnic side dish as it will remain safe to eat even without refrigeration.

And yes, they'll ask you for the recipe, feel free to share this post or just direct them back here.

Stay cool out there!

More Pesto Recipes 

How to Make Pesto Sauce

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Jul 21

Bug Repellent Soap – A True Test

Gardening Jones shares how she accidentally tested out her new Flea Repellent Soap.

As many of you know, we recently began offering our handmade soaps for sale to the public. We began with the varieties our families and friends like the best, Coffee, Citrus, and of course Lavender.

Then we put it out to y'all on Facebook, to see if you would be interested in some of our other varieties, specifically the bug repellent soaps for people and flea and bug repellent for dogs.

Our friend Cheryl commented, referring to her dog: "... it doesn't matter what flea stuff I use on him he still gets fleas. The fleas here are a lot bigger than the fleas in the north too. Like gnat size or bigger, it is ridiculous. The heat is the culprit, it never gets cold enough to kill any thing."

So we took that as a challenge. Since the Don't Byte Me! soap we make for people can also be used on dogs who are smaller or have less of a flea issue, we decided to make a variety that can be used in cases where, as Cheryl further reports: " They can just about pick up Tucker and carry him away ha! I use front line and within days of application he has fleas again!"

Let me just back up a bit here and tell you that I am highly susceptible to bug bites. All I need do is step outside unprotected, and I get bitten. Of course, we have a soap to deal with that too. 😉

But in order to simply sit on the front porch and play a wee bit of music, I need to take preventative measures.

Not my husband.

Bugs don't like him. The mosquitoes will bite me and hover around the dog, but they leave him completely alone. Completely, and it has always been that way. Go figure.

Back to the soap. I recently made two small batches of a very strong bug repellent soap that I call Happy Puppy. It is much stronger than Don't Byte Me, heavy on the citronella to really keep fleas and other nasty biters away.

And even though the windows and front door were open all day, the entire house smelled of the scent as the extra moisture evaporated from the soaps. It smelled good mind you, but very strong.

Later in the evening himself returned home from work, and out to the porch to play a few tunes we went. That's when I saw something I had never seen before: a mosquito was flying around the back of his head. I looked over at the dog, no mosquitoes. I know they weren't buzzing around me. He swats the back of his neck and says "Let's go in, the mosquitoes must be real bad tonight."

There was not a bite on me, not one. And I realized why; I must have smelled strong of the soap after making it, and the scent must have carried on the dog as well. There weren't any bugs in the house either, not even after having the door open.

Now we just have to see if it can handle those fleas strong enough to carry a dog away. Tucker can be the judge.

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Jul 16

5 Good Reasons for Pruning Your Vegetables

Sure, you probably know that pruning fruit trees and vines helps to make them grow healthier and be more productive. Did you know the same can be said for your vegetable garden?

Gardening Jones shares some good reasons to do more pruning in your vegetable garden.

Pruned & Productive

Here are a few reasons why pruning can help you get more from your garden:

1. It improves air circulation around the plants, which makes them less likely to get or spread disease.

2. Pruning plants makes it easier to spot any disease they might get at an earlier stage. This will help you get a jump on treating the issue.

3. Likewise, pruning plants makes spotting pests much more likely. Early treatment means less damage.

4. It encourages plants to put their efforts into producing fruits not leaves. With most of what is in the garden, it's the fruit you're after. Pruning not only encourages more fruit set, but also helps them grow larger.

5. It helps with trellising. You can prune away the leaves that are not headed in the direction you want, making your vertically grown veggies more successful. As you know, growing up also prevents attacks by some critters.

Notes:
-Limit pruning to no more than 1/3 of the plant's leaves. Too much can send a plant into shock.
-If you are in a very hot area, don't prune so much that your fruit is subjected to scald from the sun.

Some mid-summer gardening tasks.

More on pruning vegetables.

Happy Gardening!

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