What are some of the things to do now to get ready for next season?

Ernie: Well, the vines are going to die after you get a frost. So you can then take your cages, or stakes and put aside to be used next spring when you plant your new crop. You can leave those stalks and tend to them later or pull all the stalks up and put them in a pile and burn them. After you get that taken care of, you can even till your soil if you like. I think it is a good idea to till the soil about once a month even during the winter time, so that you are bringing up to the surface any weeds, seeds, things like that, and the cold weather will kill them. 

Why do you burn the tomato plants?

Ernie: That is to destroy any harbor for bugs and worms and things like that. They will run over in your garden and make a home out of plants like corn stalks, tomato plants and that sort of thing. Bugs make a home there for the winter and next spring they will be ready to get back into your garden plants. So burning them is a good way to dispose of those.

Any other tips for preparing for next season?

Ernie: Let’s see. You can be making your plans for next season, going through your garden catalogs; you can visit your seed store, making a list of things you want to plant, and things you need to do. You can go ahead and buy fertilizer; a lot of seeds won’t be available until next spring. You have to wait on those.

What about people who want to use their current seed –let’s say they had a really good crop from certain plants and they want to save the seed and plant them next year?

Ernie: Some seeds, you can do that. The hybrid seeds are not as good for that, because you may get a plant from the hybrid seeds, but you won’t get any fruit. Take squash, okra, beans, peas, things like that –you can take those seeds, save them over the winter. It is not a bad idea to put them in a bag, in your freezer. Hold them until next spring and they will be fine. It is just the hybrid seeds – most of the tomato plants you buy are hybrids -so, they are not going to do too well. But the little cherry tomatoes and things like that, they are not hybrid, so you could save those. If you had initially dropped them in the ground, they are going to come up next spring anyway.

How do you know if you have a hybrid tomato?

Ernie: It’s on the label when you buy it. 

So for example, heirloom tomatoes would not be a hybrid?

Ernie: That’s true, yes.  Heirlooms have been saved over and over from the same plants, so those are going to be OK.

Is there a certain procedure for saving those seeds, for the tomato plants?

Ernie: It is a good idea to cut the tomato, take the seeds out and lay them out on a paper to dry. Then put them in a plastic bag and put them in your freezer and keep them over the winter. Then you could plant them indoors starting in February or you can wait and plant them outdoors. It would probably be best to start indoors in February.

We have a video done by Still Lake Nursery on how to plant tomato seeds for next year once you save them. Or if you buy your own seeds, they show exactly how you do it. Anything else before we move on?

Ernie: I guess we pretty well covered it. It is a good idea to wrap your plants to last longer through the cooler weather. Once a month you want to till your soil during the winter months for weed control for the coming season in order to keep your ground in good shape and ready to go next spring.

Does it make sense to put some kind of mulch or compost on the ground now?

Ernie: I would suggest to not do that because it can become a harbor for insects if you cover the ground with mulch. It will be best to wait till you get your plants out, to mulch it.

We will be having another session on composting coming up sometime soon and we will get that one done here too.

Ernie: Good, look forward to it.

Photo courtesy of Mattox

Corn On the Cob On the Coals

Super-Super-sweet corn- on-the-cob is such an All-American summer tradition. I can’t help but think of slathered-on butter and sea salt.

For the Volunteer Appreciation Picnic at the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, they had a circular stone pit filled with white-hot coals. Laying atop the charcoal briquets were large roasting ears of sweet corn.

Those coals radiated some powerful heat and it was a scorcher of an evening, but the smell of the barbeque and something reminiscent of buttered popcorn wafting on a light breeze was delectable.

When served, the able cook pulled back the long, fibrous leaves (called husks) to reveal the steaming tender/sweet kernels of bi-colored deliciousness, and without removing them, he wrapped them in foil as a handle-of-sorts (no one got charcoal smears on their clothes) . I asked some questions, and the server said those husks act as a ‘steamer’ for the corn.

I admit I have never seen this done before, and was intriguing, so I wanted to try it here at home on the grill. My Dear Husband ( the DH) is a grilling pro and knew just what to do – as far as I’m concerned, he’s the best! It was great with steaks and grilled zucchini :)

You have always heard of ‘roasting ears’ of corn, well this is how you can do it:

All the roasting ears you can eat
1 large tub water
Soak unshucked ears of corn in tub of water after cleaning tips of any undesirables. Let soak about 1 hour or however long so that water penetrates husks good. Place over very hot coals and turn as husks turn white, yellow and occasionally brown from burning. This process will cause the husks to steam the corn on the cob. When husks are no longer green it is ready to serve.

(I have read about how they use large banana leaves in the tropics to wrap meats and fruit and steam them in the coals. Plus, the flavor of the fire just makes everything taste better. I would love to experiment sometime with cooking like that, but I think the leaves have to be green and wet when you start or they will just burn up!!)

Sweet corn should be out there on the road side stands soon, or you may be ready to harvest if you planted this year. Whichever, putting up some freezer corn could become your next family tradition.

I bought a corn-kernel ‘slicer-offer’ so we can freeze this sweet treat to enjoy through the winter. I’ve heard it cuts kernels off without much mess and gets all the sugary juice, too. In that case, I will want a couple more for an assembly line production. I can’t wait to do it!  Enjoy this last bit of summer while it lasts, friends.

Note: If you are still looking for a late summer trip, I can think of nothing better than to visit the Creation Museum’s amazing gardens, fantastic robotic dinosaurs extensive exhibits, as well as the I-MAX-style planetarium. If you are passing through Cincinnati around Christmas, be sure not to miss the live nativity and village in Bethlehem, as well as the fantastic light shows and stirring dramatic presentations at Christmas Town.

Jacqueline writes for Deep Roots At Home.

15 Ways to Recycle Used Water

Water is a precious resource. Even when it seems there’s plentiful water for all our needs, we cannot lose sight of the fact that water resources are either depleting or getting polluted. Recycling water helps not only to preserve water stores, but also helps save the environment. You can recycle water at home, at schools, at your workplace and just about everywhere. It’ll take you a few additional minutes every day to recycle water but the extra time is well spent.

Recycling Water In The Kitchen

1.        Rinse your washed utensils in a plastic tub of water instead of using the dishwasher. Dishwashers, whether you load them fully or not, use a great deal of water. Best of all, you can use the rinsed water to water houseplants, or to clean sinks, toilets and floors. If the water contains grease, add a few drops or lemon dish soap, or mild baby shampoo to make the water grease free. 

2.        Always rinse vegetables in a bowl of water instead of under the running tap. Save the water and use it in your garden. It doesn’t matter if the water contains bits of mud or even veggie peals. All of it is good for your plants outside.

3.        You can use the water in which you boil your pasta and use this starchy solution to prep your soups. You can also save the water leftover from boiling veggies, and add it to your soup stock. If you don’t want to use saved cooking water in food, you can always use it to water plants, shrubs and herbs.

4.        Don’t throw away water that’s been left out in glasses, half drunk. This water and the leftover water in half-drunk water bottles can be boiled and drunk again. If you don’t want to drink water that’s been left out, you can always use it to wash dishes.

Recycling Water In The Bathroom

5.        If you turn your shower on and let it run free it heats up, catch the free flowing water in a bucket. This is clean water and you can use it to feed outdoor plants, feed animals, water your lawn, trees and shrubs.

6.        Instead of draining your bathtub after bathing, use it to clean tiles, mop floors, and wash your car or walls. You can even pour the used bath water into outdoor tree wells. Check with your plumber if he or she can fit your tub’s outlet to an indoor or outdoor water recycling system. This way, when you finish your bath, you can turn on the recycling system to drain the water from your tub for other needs.

7.        Take baths instead of using showers. Nearly 7 to 10 gallons of water is lost down the drain when you shower. When you take baths instead, you can save all the bathwater to water your lawns, wash your car and so on.

Recycling Water In Your Garage and Driveway

8.        When you wash your car with water and soap, let the soapy water drain into your lawn or into your shrubs. Soapy water won’t hurt your lawn and shrub plants. Park your car close to your lawn and shrubs when you wash it.

9.        Wash your car using water in buckets. This way you’ll know how many buckets of water you’re using. When you hose your car down, you will lose sight of the gallons you’ll be wasting.

10.     Dry sweep your driveway instead of hosing it down. You can get best results if you dry sweep your driveway before you wash your car. That way, you can place your car in your driveway and wash it, allowing the soapy water to clean out your driveway.

Recycling Water Using Innovative Recycling Systems

11.     You can help save several hundred gallons of fresh water in your home by installing a gray water recycling system. A gray-water recycling system can save 35% of bath and shower and over 30% of the water that you would otherwise flush down the drain. This system is connected to your home’s plumbing system. It automatically treats used water from your kitchen, bathroom and laundry rooms for reuse.

12.     When it rains, the water just goes straight in our sewerage system. That’s so much clean, chemical free water that you could put to good use. Use rain collection barrels to collect rain water. If your area gets lot of rain, installing a rain harvesting system might be a good idea as well. You can use stored rain water to feed your livestock and water plants.

Recycling In Your Garden

13.     When you water your flower pots, excess water usually drains out. Place plastic buckets under the flower pots to capture this excess water and reuse it in your garden.

14.     Plant smaller plants and shrubs close to your larger trees, shrubs and your lawn. This way, when you water your lawn or border shrubs, your herbs also will get some loving attention.

15.     If you have a sizeable garden, it’ll be a good idea to dig small ponds of a couple of feet in diameter and layer them in plastic. Dig these close to your shrubs and lawn. When it rains, excess water from lawns overflow and you can catch the water in these little ponds and use the water for to feed other plants.

Marina is a freelance writer and enjoys writing about specialty products like full length floor lamps, chaise lounge chairs and a lot more.

How to Deal with the Tomato Fruitworm


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Marlene Gillman is a master gardener and owner of Gardensgreen. Years ago she was an instructor at Gwinnett Technical Institute and currently works for the Gwinnett Cooperative Extension. She is a recognized gardening authority in the state of Georgia – many professional and novice gardeners refer to her for advice.

Marlene describes more tomato plant diseases and pests as well as how to get rid of them:

  • Spider Mites – look for a fine webbing around the tomato leaf
  • Tomato Hornworm
  • Tomato Fruitworm
  • Late Blight – brown lesions on the leaf cause the leaf to shrivel up and die
  • Early Blight
  • Stink Bugs – white or yellow speck coloration on the skin of the tomato
  • Leaf Footed Bugs
  • Tomato Pinworms
  • Flea Beetles – very tiny beetle who puts tiny holes in the tomato leaf
  • Other blights and wilts


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Dealing with the Tomato Hornworm

As you can see I like to prevent tomato hornworms from getting big enough to do much damage because if you don’t catch them before dark, they will eat all night long.

I also like to rid my plants of the hornworm organically. These worms are from moth eggs usually laid over night on the under side of the tomato leaf. I typically look for small holes on tomato leaves just before sunset, then underneath that leaf I might find a baby worm, which I either squash or feed to the birds out on my driveway.

I’m not sure if there are other organic methods of dealing with these worms, but the hornworm moth can sometimes be controlled with an electric bug zapper.

How do you deal with the tomato hornworm?

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This article in Time Magazine caught the attention of produce farmers and consumers alike. This attention-grabbing quote is from the February 18, 2009, issue, and even more relevant today.

If you’re still not buying the whole “organic-is-better” argument, this study might convince you otherwise.

The article explains how produce grown today is larger than that of 50 years ago, but contains drastically fewer nutrients. This is because varieties have been bred for size, rapid maturity, and tolerance to pesticides, rather than nutritional content. If it looks good on the store shelves, people will buy it, not knowing it is nutritionally inferior.

Read the entire article here.

Organic foods are the exception to this trend. They contain higher amounts of minerals and vitamins than their conventionally grown counterparts. Heirloom varieties are even more intriguing because they haven’t been bred to look impressive to customers in a grocery store. Organic produce has also not been treated with chemicals and therefore doesn’t contain dangerous pesticide residues.

Fruits and vegetables used to be just that – fruits and vegetables. But consumers nowadays have so much more to consider than their parents’ generation did. The price is no longer an accurate gauge of how much time or effort went into growing the crops, but could just as easily reflect high transport costs for produce grown far away from your local store. Now we also see that how a piece of produce looks in the store is no longer enough information to make a good decision on how nourishing it is. And with GMO produce appearing in stores on a regular basis now, many consumers are fed up and rejecting the whole system. Organics aren’t just for hippies anymore!

About the author: Jennifer Needham, gardening geek and nutrition educator, is an eclectic homeschooling mom to 5 kids.  Visit her blog here: Nutrition Education for Healthy Kids

Marlene Gillman is a master gardener and owner of Gardensgreen. Years ago she was an instructor at Gwinnett Technical Institute and currently works for the Gwinnett Cooperative Extension. She is a recognized gardening authority in the state of Georgia – many professional and novice gardeners refer to her for advice.

This interview went so fast because Marlene rattled off a number of common tomato plant problems gardeners are experiencing right now:

  • Horn worms
  • Blossom end rot
  • Tomato fruit worm
  • Stink bugs
  • Leaf-footed bugs
  • Early and late blight
  • Tomato spotted wilt virus
  • Pruning advice
  • Blossoms that don’t bear fruit
  • How to get more tomatoes per plant
  • Minor nutrients
  • Heirloom variety considerations
  • Considerations for growing in pots

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Interview With Jim Kennard – Part 2

Recently we interviewed Jim Kennard of Food For Everyone Foundation, a 501(c)(3) Charitable organization that teaches “the best of organic” method of gardening.

In the first interview he gave us the 5 Laws of Vegetable Plant Growth that helps increase yields as much as 5 to 10 times!

In this second interview, Jim discusses:

  • The minor nutrients
  • Plant competition
  • The latest time to plant tomatoes
  • Dealing with too much heat in the summer
  • Pros and cons of pruning
  • Growing vertically

5 Laws of Vegetable Plant Growth

Recently we interviewed Jim Kennard of Food For Everyone Foundation, a 501(c)(3) Charitable organization that teaches “the best of organic” method of gardening.

He claims to have some tips that might just help increase gardening yields as much as 5 to 10 times!

During this first of two interviews, Jim outlines the 5 laws of vegetable plant growth:

Tips to Grow Organic Tomatoes

In this podcast, Ernie comments on growing organic tomatoes after we interviewed Scot McPherson, an organic, homestead gardener:

  • How to add nitrogen to your compost organically
  • Treating blossom end rot organically
  • Trimming plants for higher productivity
  • Cultivating the earth, not just the plants
  • Companion plants for tomatoes

Growing Organic Tomato Plants

Recently I joined an online group of organic gardeners – Organic Homesteading & Gardening – who are full of helpful info. Basically I go there to see what others are asking questions about and since I don’t know enough about organic gardening yet to answer them, I ask questions there as well.

Jon Pittman, aka backwaterjon, founded the group several years ago and it appears to have a few thousand members. I highly recommend joining this group even if you aren’t interested in organic gardening – these people live and breathe it and are happy to help you “see the light.”

Anyway, one of the guys I see answering questions there frequently is Scot McPherson and he was gracious enough to do a phone interview with us this week on how to grow tomato plants organically. Let me tell you this is fun and fascinating stuff…

So, take it away Scott:



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Tomato Seed Germination – Part 1 (Video)

Learn how to grow tomato plants from seed with the greenhouse manager of Still Lake Nursery.

In this video she shows how to use planting trays, type of soil to use, the seed depth, watering, fertilizer…

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