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this issue: Veggie Growing 101 BUY FRESH, BUY LOCAL harvesting a HEALTHIER GARDEN new look at COMPOSTING Published by Engle Printing & Publishing Co., Inc.
Photo By : Melissa McKee
BIG, JUICY TOMATOES Everyone loves homegrown tomatoes, and it is fun to share a tasty harvest with friends and family. By following a few simple tips you can ensure that your tomato plants will thrive. First you need to decide if you will plant your tomatoes in the soil or in containers. Some people prefer to begin growing tomatoes indoors and transplant them outside when the plants are stronger. When growing tomatoes indoors, place them in a sunny south facing window if possible or give them artificial light. The garden or patio location for your tomatoes should also give them plenty of sun. Tomatoes thrive in welldrained, highly organic soil (preferably with a pH between 6 and 7.) To keep them well drained, plant in a raised bed about six inches high after any danger of frost has passed. Plant seedlings three feet apart if you are going to let vines cover the ground or plant two feet apart if they will be supported in cages. When transplanting tomatoes, make the hole a couple of inches deeper than the container the plant is leaving. After the tomatoes are planted, most experts recommend watering them slowly and deeply to ensure a strong root system. Mulching is recommended to produce a bigger crop. You can use two to three inches of organic compost around the base of the plant to help prevent water loss and deter weeds. When the tomatoes begin to appear about one inch in size, it’s smart to work fertilizer into the soil and water the plants well. Using tomato cages will give your plants extra support and help keep leaves and fruits off the ground. Cages are relatively inexpensive and should last through several growing seasons. You will find them at nurseries, home improvement and hardware stores. When
 home appeal April 2012
using cages, space the plants between two and four feet apart. If you decide not to use cages, prune your plants where the leaf meets the stem by clipping side shoots as they grow. This helps keep the plant strong and fosters a bigger crop. You will probably want to grow more than one variety of tomato. Determinate vines bear fruit more quickly, but they usually don’t produce much fruit after reaching full growth. Indeterminate vines take longer to bear the first fruit, but they will continue producing tomatoes as long as weather conditions are favorable. Many gardeners plant a combination of determinate and indeterminate tomatoes so they will yield fruit at different times throughout the summer. You also may want to plant a combination of sizes, such as cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes, for different uses. Some of the more popular varieties include Better Boy, Big Boy, Early Girl, Patio, Large Cherry, Celebrity, Jackpot, and Beefmaster. Cherry tomatoes and Roma tomatoes are good choices for container plants since they don’t grow as large. Early Girl matures in 52 days, Better Boy matures in 72 days, and Roma matures in 76 days. Check the label of plants or seeds that you buy for the maturation rate. Birds are attracted to bright red tomatoes. A trick some gardeners use to fool the birds is to hang red Christmas tree ornaments on the vines a week or so before you expect the first tomatoes to ripen. After the birds peck the hard ornaments they will usually leave the tomatoes alone. Water your tomatoes at least once a week unless you have rain. You may need to adjust the watering schedule depending on the temperature where you live. Do not allow leaves to become wilted. Dusting tomatoes with a fungicide and vegetable insecticide will help keep down disease and insect problems. If cut worms are a problem, you may have to sprinkle around your plants with bug and snail bait. The alternative is to be vigilant and pick worms off by hand before they can destroy your plants. Fertilizing enhances the flavor of tomatoes and keeps the plant in a production mode. Some people apply tomato and vegetable fertilizer when the tomato fruits first form. If blossoms begin to fall off without becoming fruits, you can apply tomato bloom spray, which encourages the plant to set fruit. Hot weather is one of the biggest deterrents to fruit setting. When night temperatures exceed 75 degrees F and daytime temperatures exceed 92 degrees F, most tomato varieties will stop setting new fruit. Tomatoes should be allowed to ripen on the vine. Pick them when they are firm and have reached their optimum color. If tomatoes fall off, or there is danger of frost, they may be picked and placed on a windowsill or in a brown paper bag to ripen. Copyright © PublishersEdge
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Spring is here at last! Most of us cannot wait to shake off the winter blues, to get out into the sunshine, walk the dog, play catch with the kids or just take a stroll in the park. For homeowners, it is the first chance to work on the yard, restore a lush lawn and, for an increasing number of gardening aficionados, create a home vegetable garden. Even inner city urbanites with a postage stampsized yard have been swept up by the ‘grow your own’ movement. Victory Gardens, first introduced by Eleanor Roosevelt during the Great War, were the original community raised gardens. People were encouraged to grow their own veggies in support ort of the war effort. Today, raised garden beds have become the eco-friendly solution for eating healthier without adding to the carbon footprint caused by trucking produce from the grower to the store. Home vegetable growers control the quality of the soil, nutrients and other additives so veggies and fruits grown in a raised garden bed often taste better, are healthier and cost much less than those from bought at the local market. Of course, the icing on the cake is the self-satisfaction and joy of serving
up delicious tomatoes and veggies picked fresh from a personal garden. Items to consider when preparing a raised garden bed include th the following: * Think vertically. Adding a trellis to a raised bed vegetable garden greatly increases the amount of vertical growing space and provides the needed support for cultivating squash, beans, tomatoes and other vines. As well as giving a viable option for those without a lot of space, a vertical growing system also pays numerous dividends to the garden itself. Plants on the vine enjoy greater air circulation and so are healthier and not as susceptible to disease. * Add compost and mulch to the garden. If weeds are a gardener’s worst enemy, compost and mulch might just be a gardener’s best friend. Compost adds any number of microorganisms to the soil, strengthening a plant’s roots and enabling it to pick up more nutrients in the process. Mulch, meanwhile, can help keep down harmful weeds, thereby reducing the competition a plant will have for valuable water and nutrients.
CULTIVATE YOUR OWN BOUNTY Today, approximately 30 percent of residential homes in North America cultivate a vegetable patch and most will tell you that the growing season can be full of surprises. Here are a few quick tips to refresh your start-up skills in the vegetable patch:
* Clean up: Clear your patch by removing grass, rocks, or other debris. * Till the soil: Add at least 6 centimeters of new vegetable garden soil to provide nutrients, improve drainage, and promote strong root growth. * Plant at the right time: Early season vegetables include broccoli, carrots, lettuce, peas, and spinach. By early June, you can plant the warm-weather vegetables like corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. * Prevent weeds: Put a layer of mulch around the plants * Control pests and disease: keep an organic-approved
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* Water: Keep seedlings moist by watering regularly. * Harvest: Your bounty should grow quickly from seedlings to a full harvest in less than 60 days.  home appeal April 2012
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Composting A NEW LOOK AT
Garden compost can be a garden’s best friend. Compost promotes soil health and enables plants to grow to their best ability. Many home gardeners prefer to make their own compost. It is easily achieved with items that normally would be discarded, including many items that ardent gardeners may be unaware of.
COMMON COMPOST MATERIALS
Items like eggshells, banana peels, apple cores, paper, leaves, and coffee grounds are often included in a home compost pile. These items break down by natural bacteria and produce a rich fertilizer for plants.
LESSER-KNOWN COMPOST MATERIALS
There are many things that can be turned into compost. Here’s a list of common items that can avoid the landfill by being turned into compost. 1. pet hair 2. paper napkins 3. lint 4. pine needles 5. matches 6. chicken manure 7. old herbs 8. sawdust 9. weeds 10. hair clippings 11. tea bags 12. paper towels 13. bird cage cleanings 14. stale bread 15. leather 16. old pasta 17. pea vines 18. grapefruit rinds 19. newspaper 20. tissues 21. cotton swabs with paper sticks 22. dried out bouquets 23. potato chips
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BUY FRESH BUY LOCAL —
By Lori Baer Spring launches the start of the best months to buy fresh, local foods. Lancaster County residents are particularly lucky to live in an area rich in agricultural production. The benefit is direct access to fresher, better tasting, more affordable foods, which is good for you and good for Lancaster. The Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local® (LBFBL) chapter makes it easy to find local foods convenient to your home, workplace, and everywhere in between. You’ve probably seen the colorful Buy Fresh Buy Local® label around the county. Behind it stands a network of consumers, farmers, markets, restaurants, and businesses working together to increase the access of Lancaster residents to foods grown in their own county. “Supporting the local ‘food system’ helps maintain the diversity and resilience of Lancaster’s farm sector,” said Linda Aleci, chair of Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local. Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local is the only organization in the county dedicated to this mission. “We develop resources, and serve as a resource, to ensure the abundance of Lancaster’s fields feeds Lancaster residents first and brings fair prices to our farmers,” says Aleci. The campaign’s initiatives, which include a Guide to Local Foods, educate the public on the benefits of local foods and direct consumers to sources for locally produced foods. They also assist farmers’ access to local markets and build business-to-business connections. The initiative is critical because Lancaster’s local foods can’t be taken for granted. Today, a farmer receives only about 16 cents of every dollar spent on food, and the average farm household earns about 87 percent of its income from non-farm sources. Farmers, locally and nationally, struggle to make a viable living from farming. Many go out of business. “In Lancaster County from the late 1990s to the early
2000s, there was a 40 percent decline in direct-toconsumer sales,” said Aleci. “To put this into perspective, in the 1980s there were five to six times the number of farmers selling at Central Market as there are today. That’s a loss for our economy and quality of life.” As the number of farms decrease, Lancaster’s dependence on enormously long supply chains for food increases. We end up knowing less about where and how food is produced, and our food dollars no longer return to our community. Buying directly from local farmers generates greater profitability at the farm gate, with a payback to the local economy: If all Lancaster County households shifted 5 percent of their grocery budgets to local foods, our local economy would capture an additional $45 million annually. What can you do? Look for the Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local logo when you shop: It confirms the foods being sold come from Lancaster County. Visit www. lancasterbfbl.org or pick up the Guide to Local Foods and learn more about the campaign. Sign up for the monthly e-newsletter for a list of LBFBL farms, businesses, and restaurants, as well as recipes, event announcements, and tips on what’s in season. Or, get involved directly! For information about volunteering or about farm and business memberships, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 380-7280.
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