An interview with Karen Cancilla of Gro-O

Excerpt from the interview…

“Organic means a lot to me personally because of my health issues… I have a sensitivity to pesticides and different types of chemicals. When I was buying organic food, I was never sure how organic it was and it spoiled quickly and never all that fresh, so I decided to grow my own food at home.”

“I grow everything that I love… all of my own vegetables and fruit here in the LA area. I grow everything in raised planters. I’ve found a way to do it that’s not time consuming.”

“Last year I grew about 650 pounds of food, but I don’t count the pumpkins.”

“There are fruits and vegetables we will never buy again.”

“There are different inexpensive ways to grow even when there’s frost and you can get a few extra months even where there’s snow.”

“The Gro-O garden planner is software that you can design your raised planters or garden in the software. If you enter your zip code, it will tell you when to plant and what to plant and when to harvest along with reminder emails.”

Listen to the interview:

In this video Ernie shows how to plant vegetables in your raised bed gardens:

  • Soil for the raised bed
  • Mixing up the soil so it’s ready for planting
  • Marking your rows before planting
  • Strategy for capturing the most sunlight
  • Demonstrations

This video is members only access, apply for a free membership

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How To Build Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens

In this video Ernie shows how to get started with raised bed gardening:

  • Choosing a spot for your raised bed vegetable garden
  • Materials to use to build the raised bed
  • Size and spacing between raised beds
  • Soil for your raised bed
  • Vegetables to grow in a raised bed (and what to avoid growing)
  • Advantages of raised bed gardens
  • Watering options
  • Soil depth depending on what you will plant
  • Examples of vegetable plants for different soil depths

Planting Tomatoes in Pots – Part 2 (Video)

In this part 2 video Ernies shows you step by step how to plant tomatoes in pots:

  • How deep to plant your tomatoes
  • Watering and watering schedule tips
  • Indeterminate vs. determinate tomato plants and caring for each
  • Stakes, cages or neither depending on your plant
  • Tips, comments and jokes along the way

Get Part 1 with a membership in Ernie’s Homegrown Tomatoes

In this video Ernie demonstrates step by step his method of preparing and planting tomatoes in pots or containers:

  • Advantages of planting tomatoes in pots
  • What you need to get started
  • Preparing your soil – Ernie’s recipe for success
  • Random tips, comments and jokes along the way

This video is members only access, apply for a free membership

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In this podcast Ernie outlines how to get started growing tomatoes and explains the important initial decisions you need to make before you plant:

  • Benefits of growing tomatoes
  • The best time to plant
  • Tips on watering plants
  • Mulching tips
  • Detering pests
  • Controlling weeds
  • Extending the growing season
  • Fertilizing the growing plants
  • Decisions to make before planting
  • Q&A with Ernie

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Budget Gardening: How To Get Started

organic-produceOne of the most off putting things for those wishing to start gardening, but on a low budget is that they may be put off by the cost of by the perceived cost of starting to garden. Fortunately, gardening doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby to get started in and is relatively cheap.

Whether you have little space or money, you’ll be fine in the garden – so, let’s take a look at some beginners tips to ease you into your green fingered ways.


A lot of equipment can be got second hand and also very cheaply. In fact, in a lot of cases people will be only too happy to get rid of it when cleaning the clutter from their sheds or garages. Sites such as Freecycle and others can be great places for picking things up. That said, your own rubbish can double up as useful in the garden. For instance, old sinks, pots and trash cans are all useful in the garden area and can also look quite attractive. Alternatively, most big shops do a range of low cost equipment that will do the trick.

Compost is also very easy to make and you can do so with a lot of the left overs that you have and usually recycle. These can be added to a compost heap and then will end up turning into compost with a little help from you and Mother Nature.


Seeds are also easy to come across and if you have green fingers you can also grow plants from cuttings. EBay can be a good place for specific seeds and newspapers and magazines can also throw up some great finds.

Cheap plants are the best for beginners – something that can be considered beneficial for a number of reasons. These plants take little care and are often hard to kill and strong too. They also don’t require much food, or high tech equipment to look after.


Herbs are also a good starting point as they work well, grow in pots and once more are very hardy and strong. They don’t cost much and also spread quite well. Of course, if you like to cook, they double up as very useful kitchen flavouring.

Fruit and Veg

If you want to go as far as growing fruit and vegetables then kale, potatoes and radishes are a good start and don’t take much care, or cost a lot of money. Just plant them in some lifted soil or even hire a rotivator for a couple of hours – it doesn’t cost much. Currants and gooseberry bushes are also a good option in the fruit department and grow quickly and taste great. They’re also expensive in shops and so you can save on them by growing them.

These tips show you how low in price it costs to garden. It’s worth it on a number of levels and a real interest for life, so why not give it a try.

Cormac Reynolds is a keen gardener and has written for a variety of websites and home improvement blogs on the area.

Plant Self-Defensive Mechanisms

If you’ve ever grown tomatoes before, you probably know about the tomato horn worm – a worm that is born on the under side of a tomato plant leaf, hatches and begins eating and eating until it strips the plant of leaves. Here’s how one plant takes on the horn worm with it’s own defense:

If you’d like to see the entire documentary: What Plants Talk About, it is very interesting:

tomato-plantQ&A call with Ernie Shivers

What is the best way for growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers?

“Plants that you shouldn’t grow near tomatoes include cucumbers, cantalope, some types of squash and other vegetables that grow along the ground. These plants will get into your tomato plants and grow up the vines and perhaps hinder the tomato growth, so it would be better to grow those in another location.”

Is it possible to grow tomatoes from the seeds of a tomato that you buy from a supermarket?

“Maybe, but if it’s a hybrid tomato it will produce a plant but no tomatoes. However, if it’s an heirloom tomato, then you would get the plant and the fruit.”

I had a problem with the chip monk, I was told to go to my nearest monastery and talk to the frier about it.

“The best way to handle chipmunks is to get a mesh screen and put it around the base of the plant. They primarily go after the green or ripe tomatoes.”

I’d be interested on any tips you may have on controlling pests!

Checkout our membership area and get access to the free videos that cover a number of pests that attach tomato plants.

I’m trying to grow tomato plants indoors with homemade upside down hanging planters… how much water should I use when watering and is their a special soil to use?

“Have plenty of sun shine, good soil, water frequently, fertilize from time to time. Treat the same way you would a tomato plant in the ground.”

From California: I am having a problem with white flys this year, more then last year on some of my tropical plants and I want to keep them away from my tomato plants. I have learned that worm castings work well so I am going to give them a shot and  see what happens there.

“I’ve used soap suds on my tomato plants to keep white flies away. You could also use a mild insecticide.”

I am growing tomatoes in pots. Is there any way to keep the bugs off of them without having to use chemicals? Is there a right way to grow tomatoes in pots?

“It depends on the bug, whether it flies or stays on the plant.”

“We have a video that covers how to grow tomatoes in pots.”

My husband is growing tomatoes in our backyard in tubs. For the last 2 years the bottoms start to turn a tannish brown when the tomato is ripening? What are we doing wrong?

“That sounds like blossom end rot. Handle that by putting a little lime in the soil with the plant; the lime will control that blossom end rot.”

I live in north florida and i want to grow tomatoes. what varieties should i try? It gets very hot here in the summer.

“Shade the plant during the hot weeks of the summer using an open mesh cloth to shadow your tomatoes. Of course watering your plant every day can help with that as well.” “Some people get this problem when planting next to a brick wall or something that reflects the sun’s heat on to the plant.”

Get off to a great start this season by getting free access to some of our videos and podcasts that answer all of the basic questions about growing tomatoes today.

Listen to the interview:

Grow Tomatoes from Seed

Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetable for the home gardener to grow, and most often people choose to grow tomatoes by buying some start plants at their local nursery. While there is nothing wrong with this, growing tomatoes from seed can be just as easy, and give you a wider range of choices of types of tomatoes you can grow.

Starting Your Tomatoes

The first step to growing tomatoes from seed is to get the necessary materials; I highly recommend starting your tomatoes indoors before the last frost to ensure your tomatoes have enough time to produce heavily during the growing season. You will need a seedling tray, some good well-draining (sterile) soil, and the seeds of the tomatoes you want to grow. Bear in mind if you want to keep seeds from your crop for the next years planting pick an open pollinated or heirloom variety. Seeds from hybrid plants don’t grow the same as their parents and their seeds can’t effectively be saved.


You should try to allow your tomato plants at least 2 weeks of growth after they germinate (allow 1 week to germinate most tomato species) and be sure to “harden” your young tomato plants before transplanting. You can harden your new tomato plants by placing them outside a week before you intend to plant them, this will allow them to adjust to the temperature outdoors before they have to undergo the trauma they sustain during transplantation. Pick a site with deep soil, the more substantial your tomatoes root system can be the better their production will be. Tomatoes are ideally suited for being planted in a raised bed, and benefit greatly from an increased soil temperature which allows them to expend more energy producing extensive root systems.

After you have transplanted your tomatoes be sure to water them deeply, and keep an extra close on them until they have established themselves in their new environment. You will want to apply a fertilizer to them after 4 weeks of growing outside and then on an as needed basis.

Lucas Barnes writes for Plantdex about a range of gardening topics; learn more about growing vegetables, including more tips for growing tomatoes.

Productive Tomato Plants Q&A Call

Ernie answers questions on the call:

  • What tips do you have for people growing tomatoes at this time of year (mid-May)?
  • How to deal with the tomato hornworm?
  • Is it better to use a sprinkler or a soaker hose to water tomato plants?
  • How to deal with a black spot that forms under the skin of the tomato?
  • How to deal with common diseases and deficiencies.
  • What if I have a lack of honey bees in my area?
  • How to deal with slugs, birds, squirrels, rats and other animals on the ground?
  • What are the benefits of using mulch?
  • Alternative ways to water tomato plants.
  • Fertililzing a plant after it has been planted.
  • Is it possible to add too much fertilizer?

Kids Can Garden Too!

At this time of year the garden is in great need of some TLC after the winter has taken its toll, and the kids want to be entertained outside, so why not combine the two and involve the children in your gardening tasks?

By showing them a few simple techniques, and perhaps giving them the slight incentive of a little pocket money, they will be eager to help and learn all about the garden.

To make the task of readying the whole garden for summer, section a piece off for the children to maintain themselves, and show them how to dig up the weeds. We all know kids love to dig so you should have no problem encouraging them to do this. The only thing you need to stress for this task is just what constitutes a weed; you don’t want your favourite plants being ripped up by small hands! Having them look after a piece of the garden will give them responsibility and teach them how plants grow and how to look after them.

If the weather is bad and you can’t work outside, this is a great chance to sort out the garden shed and maybe re-pot any seedlings you have growing in there or a greenhouse, and this is definitely something the children can help with.

Watering the garden is an easy yet time consuming task, so get the kids to do it. You could even incorporate it into their weekly chores. When hosepipe bans are in place a water butt is great for collecting rain water, but if you don’t have one of these you can recycle your old bath or sink water, which is very environmentally friendly too.

Kids love a competition and a great way to have one in the garden is to plant sunflower seeds and see whose grows the tallest. As they grow relatively quickly and can grow in a pot, they are also great to add colour to even the smallest of outdoor spaces. You could have a whole family competing as a bit of fun!

Once the gardening is finished, make sure you enjoy your efforts as a family and take some time to relax and play games together. A great way to keep the kids busy is to create your own treasure hunt with cryptic clues placed around the garden that will eventually lead to the treasure (or a small bag of sweets)!

The most important thing to remember to keep kids interested in gardening is to mix the chores with the fun parts and you will grow your very own brood of horticulturists!

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10 Tips for Healthy Living

People complain about how unhappy they are with their lives and how unhappy they are with their bodies. Having or adopting a healthier lifestyle has more to do with just body image issues. No one likes being sick, more so being sick all the time. The saying that prevention is better than cure has a lot to do with how well we treat our bodies.

Treating your body well has everything to do with what we put in and how we then expect or treat our bodies in return. It is not hard really. If you think about it, before we had all this that we have, in the olden days when man lived a much simpler life they ate what they grew and spent a whole lot of time chasing animals. They lived a less sedentary life and get enough oxygen than we now get. We might have made technological advances, think that we have moved mankind to something better but in the process we have adopted bad habits, we love everything that comes easily to us, instant food, machines that can give us instant results and products and we are junk food addicts and lazier people.

You’ll have a happy life when you have a healthy lifestyle. If you feel good your confidence levels also rise and you can extend your life for a while longer to spend with those you love.

Your attitude towards life will also dictate how people respond to you but if you don’t feel as healthy then you won’t have the right attitude that is needed for a healthy lifestyle.

If you are just embarking on a new healthy lifestyle, it might take a while to get used to the changes because you have to adjust your relationship to food and your own body. Once you get on the way and actually start, in a couple of days you will feel the difference.

There are 10 simple tips for healthy living that you can follow:

1.      Avoid processed foods; these are harmful to our health. They are convenient but there is nothing healthy about food that is preserved with chemicals. They are quick but it doesn’t mean that you can’t take 30 minutes of your day preparing fresh foods. If you have no idea, try finding quick 30 minute meal ideas.

2.      Exercise at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. It doesn’t have to be something rigorous; you don’t have to get some costly gym membership you can’t commit to. A simple daily walk is enough for healthy living.

3.      Eat your fruits and vegetables. Studies continue to show that eating 5 types of fruits and vegetables can reduce a lot premature death.

4.      Smoking is bad for someone who wants to live a healthy lifestyle. Cigarette companies even warn smokers of this but unfortunately this is a habit that some people have no qualms about starting. It looks cool to puff away but your lungs won’t thank you for it. If you don’t smoke don’t even start, if you do try as much as you can to stop. You can get help with stopping by talking to your doctor or pharmacist to give you something to help you.

5.      Reduce your salt intake. Salt has been linked to high blood pressure which leads to strokes and other heart diseases.

6.      Cut stress out of your life. Stress causes all kinds of problems from ulcers, heart diseases, weight gain and ulcers. Combat stress by meditating and doing yoga, treat yourself to massages and just take care of you mental health as best as you can.

7.      Reduce your caffeine intake or cut it out completely. Some tea contains caffeine, so does chocolate and some soft drinks. There are decaffeinated versions of coffee that you can take if you like the taste of coffee that much. Caffeine itself causes things like insomnia, headaches and anxiety.

8.      Drink water. The average amount of water you should be drinking is 2litres per day. Two liters sounds like a lot but if you break it down to an 8 glass taken at regular intervals throughout the day. Water helps flush toxins from your body and helps regulate your digestive system.

9.      Reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol has been attributed to liver diseases and it speeds up the aging process. Women who worry about looking younger should first think about the simple changes they can make, like reducing their alcohol intake to no more than 3 units a day. A unit equals half a glass of wine or 87.5 ml, 1 measure of spirits (40%) and half a pint of 4% beer. Men should drink no more than 4 units.

10.  Moderation is important for healthy living. Everything should be done in moderation. The food you eat the alcohol you drink the coffee you take the exercise you undertake, the time you spend “resting” infant of the TV. Everything. It is okay to indulge once in a while but have a limit.

It is all about balance!

This is a guest article from Praveen writing on behalf of Awesome Cuisine, a popular Indian Recipe website showing you how to prepare Healthy Fast Food at home.

8 Steps to Homegrown Tomatoes – Part 2

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