Community Greens

People of all colors discussing evergreen ideas.

Tomato Diaries-Baking Soda

tomato 2Home grown tomatoes are sweeter than those you buy in stores. Even the vine ripened ones can’t compare to the sweetness of tomatoes you grow yourself. To get the sweetest tomatoes each year use baking soda.

Sprinkle less than 1/4 cup per plant on the soil around your tomato plants. Don’t get the soda on the plant itself.  Sprinkle the baking soda on the soil when the tomatoes are about 1 inch in diameter and then again when they are about half grown. Or you can use 1 tsp in a gallon of water and water the plants.

The baking soda lowers the acidity levels in the soil. This will make your tomatoes more sweet than tart.  Test one plant before you try it on all your tomatoes. Be careful with young tomato plants. Have you tested your soil this year? If your soil is already alkaline, you could alter it too much by adding too much baking soda.

Use can also use baking soda to make an organic spray to treat tomato fungal disease. Combine 1 gallon of water with 1 tbsp of baking soda and 2 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a spray bottle. Stir and add 1/2 tsp of Dawn or castile soap.  Spray the solution on the foliage of the plants until the fungal disease disappears.

You can also sweeten canned tomatoes when making sauce without adding sugar.

Tomato Diaries-Baking Soda

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Tomato Pruning

The Tomato Diaries

Most plants will require some pruning during the growing season. A plant that’s pruned of excess growth is more likely to direct its energies to producing flowers and fruit more quickly, and the results will usually be larger than otherwise. Furthermore, the leaves of a pruned and supported plant dry faster, so they’re less susceptible to pathogens like bacteria and fungus. The leaves also tend to be denser, which protect fruit more effectively. This is especially true for tomatoes.

Prune only when the foliage is dry; that is, avoid pruning early in the morning when plants have dew, or after rainfall. In particular, check for discolored and damaged or diseased stems and leaves; prune out the unhealthy growth, and tend to any pests you discover immediately. Always prune flush with the stem, if possible. For tomatoes, look for the stems that grow between the main stem and another branch. These are “suckers” and should be removed. Support your tomatoes. They will benefit from it and you will get more tomatoes if you keep them off the ground. Also, clip the lower stems as they likely won’t produce fruit and, if there is any, it will be more susceptible to fungus and bacteria from dirt splashed up when you water. If you want to limit the height of the plant, pinch back the top as it reaches the desired height.

Ms. Pepper

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The Tomato Diaries

96Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable so the Tomato Diaries are back. Last year was great but we learned and we are going to grow companion and ally plants to improve and protect our tomatoes this year.

Last year  we tried Stringing as a staking technique and didn’t manage it as well as we could have. WE LEARNED you have to put in sturdy stakes at intervals and string the plants regularly or they will quickly get out of control. Also, YOU SHOULD pinch out the suckers before you tie up the plants. Doing it that way will make your life easier.

Companions: asparagus, carrot, celery, cucumber, onion, parsley, pepper.

Basil repels flies and mosquitoes, improves growth and flavor.
Bee balm, chives and mint improve health and flavor.
Borage deters tomato worm, improves growth and flavor.
Dill, until mature, improves growth and health. Once mature, it stunts tomato growth. Marigold deters nematodes.
Pot marigold deters tomato worm and general garden pests.
Corn and tomato are attacked by the same worm.
Mature dill retards tomato growth.
Kohlrabi stunts tomato growth.
Tomatoes and potatoes are attacked by the same blight.

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Community Green Grows Tomatoes

America’s favorite garden vegetable is the tomato and there are hundreds of varieties from tiny currant, cherry, and grape tomatoes to huge beefsteaks. Some tomato varieties produce extra early, and some are developed for slicing, canning, juicing, or stuffing. Many are disease resistant and there are varieties for every climate.

Tomato plants are either determinate or indeterminate vines. Determinate varieties (called bush tomatoes) grow 1 to 3 feet and set fruit over a two-week period and then stop. Indeterminate tomatoes sprawl and can grow 6 to 20 feet. Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing and producing the entire season unless stopped by frost, disease, or lack of nutrients. You will have to prune indeterminate tomatoes, however, or they will put too much energy into vine production.

If you buy transplants, the soil should be warm (after early spring) before you plant. Transplant the seedlings on a cloudy day to lessen shock. Bury the stem horizontally in a shallow trench. Strip off the leaves along the part of the stem that will be buried. Cover the bottom of the trench with several inches of sifted compost mixed with a handful of bonemeal. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts into each trench, for magnesium, which promotes plant vitality and productivity. Try not to disturb the soil around seedling roots when you set them in the compost. Press the soil down firmly but gently to remove air pockets and water well.

Space the tomatoes 3 to 4 feet apart if you plan to let them sprawl. If you’re going to train them on stakes or cages and prune them, space the seedlings 2 feet apart. Install stakes or cages before planting. As the vines grow, tie them loosely to the stakes or cages with soft twine, strips of cloth or panty hose at 6-inch intervals.

Give the plants at least 1 inch of water a week. A deep soaking is better than several light waterings. Avoid wetting the leaves since wet foliage is more prone to disease. Initially cultivate then lay down a deep mulch to smother weeds and conserve moisture. A side-dressing of compost two or three times during the growing season, or a weekly dose of liquid seaweed or compost tea, will increase fruit production and plant health.

If you stake or cage your plants, prune them to encourage more fruit. Pruned tomatoes generally fruit 2 weeks earlier and take up less space. You only need your thumb and forefinger to snap off suckers, small shoots that sprout on the main stem, side stem and the base of each leaf. When the vine reaches the top of the stakes or cage, pinch back the tips to encourage more flowering and fruit.

When the tomatoes start fruiting, check the vines almost daily in order to harvest fruit at it’s the peak. Gently twist or cut off fruit, supporting the vine, to keep from damaging it. Ripe tomatoes refrigerate for several weeks, but taste declines. Ripen green tomatoes in a warm place out of direct sunlight or slowly ripen green tomatoes in newspaper in a cool, dark spot, checking frequently to make sure none rot.

Fried Green Tomatoes: Slice, lightly dip in egg, then flour or cornmeal and black pepper, and fry.

Community Green Grows Tomatoes

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Technically, black coffee is a calorie-free beverage, and many people drink it during fasting with no adverse effects. There are some people who experience a racing heart or upset stomach if they use coffee during a fast, so monitor your own experience. You can drink caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, but any sweetener or milk is prohibited. Spices like cinnamon are totally fine!

Bonus: black coffee might actually enhance some of the benefits of intermittent fasting. This study demonstrated that taking in caffeine can support ketone production. Coffee has also been shown to support healthy blood sugar levels over the long term.

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