Tomato Gardening 101

Laura said: “Coming from a long line of farmers, the best tip I ever heard for backyard growing was planting marigolds at the base of tomatoes…it is a natural pest repellent!” :)

Jennifer said: “If using tomato cages, use old pantyhose/knee high nylons to support the growing plants. It’s something my family has always done.”

Amanda said: “Water consistently at the same time every day. This way they won’t split and will grow nice and big.”

Kati said: “Line your growing space with hardware cloth, if you have critter problems like ground squirrels or gophers. You can get it at Home Depot and online at Its better than chicken wire, and will still allow roots to grow through!”

Christa said: “I read that placing a tablespoon of sugar into the hole before placing the plant in the hole is supposed to make them super sweet! I’m going to try it this summer!”

Stacey said: “I mix epsom salts with the dirt, about 1 part to 3 parts. It makes your plant produce a lot of tomatoes. I did it for the first time last year and it was amazing how much fruit my plant produced. I just planted again this year and did the same. I had always wondered why epsom salts was sold in the garden area.”

Charlene said: “I put banana peels in the hole when planting.”

Debbie said: “I crush egg shells and put them in the hole. I also sprinkle them around the base of the plant throughout the season. They give the plant much needed calcium and keep the slugs away (slugs have soft bellies and the jagged edges of the shells deter them or split them open). I also plant marigolds all over the garden. My grandfather bordered his 2 acre garden with them, and this helped to save the seeds for the next year.”

Dawn said: “Using a lot of miracle grow will get you tons of tomatoes.”

Rhonda said: “I didn’t do this myself, but my ex-husband did. He dug a hole in front of his tomato plants and put a 1/2 gallon milk jug with holes punched in it. He would then put a mixture of miracle grow and water in the jugs. He had tomatoes as big as a dinner plate and they were so good! He also used a soaker hose instead of water from a hose or a sprinkler.”

April said: “Easy peasy: You need soil, manure, and lots of sun and water.”

Kari said: “I put powdered milk in the hole before planting. That way the plants get calcium. The calcium helps prevent the bottom of the tomato from turning black with bottom rot.”

Gardening is the only hobby where the costs aren't growing

For those weighed down by money troubles, the spiralling cost of ‘fun’ activities can make them just another cause for concern.

But there is one pastime that is bucking the trend – gardening.

A review of leisure spending found that, while the costs of ten out of 11 activities studied had risen more quickly than inflation, the price of gardening had not.

The average price of going to a Premier League football match, for example, was up by 184 per cent compared with ten years ago, to £48.90.

This is more than six times inflation over the decade, at 29 per cent, as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

The review by the Halifax bank also found gym fees were up by 48 per cent in a decade, while a visit to the cinema will set a family back some 46 per cent more.

By contrast, the average monthly cost of gardening rose by just 17 per cent.

The growing cost of getting to and from favourite activities had been a ‘clear driver’ behind the rising price of leisure, Martin Ellis, an economist at Halifax, added, meaning many were deciding to stay at home.

The study said high travel costs were ‘hugely limiting’ – the cost of petrol and diesel rose by 89 per cent in a decade, to an average of £96.95 a month, it found.

The Government’s decision to put up VAT from 17.5 to 20 per cent in January last year also contributed to rising leisure costs.

It comes with the added benefits of providing the exercise that otherwise might come with a hefty price tag from the gym, plus food for the table.

Just getting to and from favourite leisure activities has become so expensive that many people are deciding to stay at home.
The study said the cost of petrol and diesel is up by 89per cent in a decade to an average of £96.95 a month.

The government's decision to put up VAT from 17.5 to 20 per cent in January last year has contributed to rising leisure costs; but gardening has bucked the trend (posed by model)

Those who opt for the train would be paying 61per cent more.

High travel costs are ‘hugely limiting’, according to the Halifax.

The study found gym fees are up by 48 per cent in a decade, while a visit to the cinema will set a family back some 46per cent more, driven by the high cost of 3D film tickets.

For the more adventurous, the cost of spending a day at a theme park has also risen by 46per cent and now stands at almost £40.

The biggest cost of living squeeze since the 1930s means many families are giving up many leisure activities, gym memberships and hobbies.

Over the last decade, the study found the costs of eating out or staying in with a takeaway have increased at a relatively similar speed, up 42 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.

Eating in is now an average of £11.12 for a take-away compared to £20 to enjoy a similar meal in a restaurant.

Other reasons to entertain at home include sharp rises in the cost of buying a pint, which is up 51per cent since 2002, largely because of big increases in duty and VAT.

Economist at Halifax, Martin Ellis, said: ‘There has been a significant rise in the cost of pursing some of the most popular hobbies and days out in the UK over the past decade.

‘Rising transport costs have been a clear driver behind this, although all expenditure categories, apart from gardening, have seen a greater increase than that of inflation.

‘Whilst the expected decline in inflation through much of 2012 will help to ease some of the current pressure on household finances, weak earnings growth is likely to constrain the amount families are able to spend in entertaining the family over the coming months.’

Vertical Gardening : For Space Utilization and Landscaping

This time of year provides good "thinking" time regarding gardening. It is a time to look back on what went well and what could stand some improvement.

For example, if it seems that your yard needs some more oomph or pizzazz, but you can't quite put your green thumb on what would help, try looking up and consider growing more plants vertically. It's a change of perspective that adds interest to your outdoor living space.

Climbing plants are somehow more welcoming, with their living beauty embracing you. In addition, if your yard space is limited, trellises and other support structures make the most of the space you have. Because vines grow upward, you don't have to worry about them spreading. Also, you may be able to use previously unused areas to add color and interest.

It's wise to consider the structures you will use before buying plants. Metal, wood, plastic — what fits your garden's style? What materials do you already have in fences, for example, that would harmonize with a new vine support? Supports can include arbors, trellises, tepees made of branches or bamboo, cages (tomato or bird), string, fences or a major structure such as a pergola.

While a rustic-looking trellis you make from the leftover trimmings from a tree will look charming in a casual garden, it might look out of place in a more formal garden or near a house of modern architecture. Use a design that goes well with its surroundings. Light-colored or white supports create a bold contrast to the mostly green plants that will grow on them. Brown and green structures blend more readily into their surroundings.

Vines can hide or soften fences or other things you'd like to hide. The "cyclone fence" in my backyard looks ever so much better with grapes growing on it. A smaller, softer vine like a passionflower can do wonders to make a sturdy wooden fence seem less so. If you have a dead tree that it would be difficult to remove, plant something substantial-looking, such as a climbing hydrangea, near it. Screen the view of your compost pile, perhaps, or of your neighbor's backyard.

Consider scale when choosing a support, keeping in mind the plant with which you'd like to pair it. Some vines, such as wisteria or climbing roses, get thick and heavy and need some heft in their support, but a morning glory or moonflower would look out of place on a structure made of two by fours.

Some ideas for vines you might try include morning glory, sweet peas, clematis, scarlet runner beans, sugar snap peas, hops, passionflower, climbing roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, grapes, climbing hydrangea, wisteria, trumpet vine, kiwi and moonflower. And I love my mandevilla on the arbor straddling a flagstone path, even if it takes extra care to keep it alive over the winter.

Building a structure for a vining plant might be a good winter project. Next spring, as you install it before planting, be sure to set it securely, as this is something you want to get right the first time. Set it in the ground even deeper than you might think necessary. Large, heavy structures might need concrete footings.

With some planning, a vertical garden is delightful — it may even become the focal point for your outdoor living area. With its beauty displayed right at eye level, it will be a feast for your senses.

Onions: Planting, Growing and Harvesting

Onions are edible bulbs. They are members of the allium family, along with chives, garlic, leeks, shallots and ornamental alliums. Onion bulbs are round or oblong and are composed of concentric layers. They can have either a pungent smell and taste or be quite sweet, depending on the variety.

Early in the season, onions send up tubular, hollow leaves, before beginning to form bulbs. Most onions are biennial, so you will seldom see an onion flower. Multiplier onions or Egyptian walking onions are a perennial variety that does indeed send up a flower stalk with a clump of tiny bulbs or bulbils on top. When the top becomes to heavy to stand, it falls over. The bulbils take root, forming new plants and giving the perennial onion its description of walking.

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