Garden Update and FAQ Part Two

A few weeks back we posted part one of a Square Foot Gardening FAQ put together by Emily Peery, author of the eBook “Gardening For Beginners“. Today we are going to give you the second half of the questions asked by our Facebook Fan Page readers. But first here is a little update on Jodi’s gardening adventures this year.

The Good – Irrigation is IN, just need to add in the little drippers.

The Bad – I already had some plants started that got a little jostled.

The UGLY – In an attempt to harden off my seedlings, I killed them all 🙁



SFGFACE

Canning Questions

What are some tips for planning your garden if canning is your end goal?
First, do you have a pressure canner? Because if you don’t you are limited to canning mostly fruits (remember, tomatoes are a fruit!) and pickles. Salsa also works, since there is enough acid to can it safely with the boiling water method. If you are interested in canning, I suggest dedicate most of your garden to canning veggies. To maximize your yield, grow as much vertically as you can. By trellising cucumbers you can plant 8 per square, compared to 4+ squares if you let them sprawl out.

Which type of tomato plant is better for canning?
In general, paste tomatoes (like Roma) are good for canning. The flesh is more firm, so it holds up to all the heat, and it is less watery, so you have more pulp per tomato. But Roma’s are a little smaller, so it’s more peeling compared to other varieties. I grow Roma, Early Girl, Better Boy, and Celebrity. For salsa I use an even mix of tomatoes, but I can whole Roma tomatoes for sauce.

When purchasing tomatoes, ask around. What do your friends and neighbors grow, and why? I don’t usually ask at the nursery or home and garden store, because I’m almost always advised to purchase what they have on the shelf! You can call your local extension office for a list of suggested varieties for your location. At many places the plants have tags on them, indicating if they are good for slicing, salads, canning, etc. Also look for disease resistant varieties.

How many to tomatoes, peppers, etc. should I plant if I want to can?
If this is your first year growing a garden, I suggest you start small and increase with time. Otherwise, you’re likely to take on too much, burn out, and never can a single jar. It’s just impossible to know until you try it, and see how much your garden produces.

Garden Planning

What are some tips on how you should rotate your garden plan each year?
If you SFG and use compost or Mel’s mix, you will need to replenish it with compost every year. As long as you didn’t have any diseases, there is no need to rotate your crops. Unless you get bored, like me, or become obsessed with finding the perfect gardening layout (also like me).

Do you have any detailed info on companion planting?
Companion planting is the practice of growing plants next to each other for mutual benefit. Read all about it in this post.

Miscellaneous

What plants grow best in desert climates?
Everything! You may have a hard time with cool-weather plants like broccoli, spinach, and peas. But if you give them an early start and shade from the hot sun, even these will grow well. Things like tomatoes and peppers do particularly well, since they can tolerate some heat and love the sunshine. I suggest everyone do a little research on their local extension website (www.extension.org) and/or check out a local farming supply store for varieties developed specifically for your climate.

Do I need to fertilize?
I believe in fertilizing. This can be organic or chemical, but I don’t feel Mel’s mix provides sufficient nutrients for my gardens. Now, you have to be careful because if you fertilize with too much nitrogen you will have big, leafy plants and little fruit. I sometimes use an all-purpose fertilizer (20-20-20 or 10-10-10), but I really love one called Blooming and Rooting (9-59-8). I use it when starting seeds (about 4 weeks after germination) and on all my veggies that flower (squash, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers) every 6 weeks.

Don’t forget to check out Part One of the Square Foot Gardening FAQs and also check out the great Garden Box Tutorial put together by Jodi’s husband.

  • *sigh* there is so much I don't know 🙁 But I do love learning about it and trying new things. Thanks for the tips.

  • Helen Koenig

    re list of which tomatoes – ummm, the Dept of Agriculture – which every state has – and most counties do – should be something of a help. However – consider also a rule of thumb – if it is a hybrid, and it will say so – pressure can. If it is a standard – as in not hybrid – and definitely an older variety – as in the ones I mentioned before – then it should be fine. Some seed catalogs – as in Totally Tomatoes (check it out online) sometimes list hybrids separately from standards. Whether the variety is determinate (as in all fruit comes in at once – great for canning, or indeterminate (spread over the season) – great for eating and canning small batches worth doesn't seem to be a factor per se. I suspect if you do a google search you can get a pretty good idea.

    Something also to think about – yellow tomatoes are less acid than red – still able to be water bath canned – if a standard – however I would probably add an aspirin or a tablespoon boiled vinegar to each jar (increases acidity)

    Btw – water bath canning does NOT mean canning in the oven (something that my grandmom used to do – and while possible – most jars won't stand up to it). and sometimes the fruit in that situation isn't thoroughly processed. However water bath canning does just fine with high acid fruits and tomatoes and pickles.

    Re low acid veggies – I still prefer either salting them down (either for salt-drying – or for souring) or drying them – preferably drying them. And then reconstituting them later with water. Easy enough to do – and yes, I've done it with my oven on pilot light only – and dried veggies that way – although with the more modern ovens, I think an extremely low temp might do just fine – check the temp though – you don't want to scorch your food.
    Helen (who can't find the sign in button!)

  • Texas

    Helen, thank you for sharing your info. This is new to me and that online course really made me nervous about canning. This is very confusing… Is there a place where I can get a list of which tomatoes are safe for water bath canning?

  • Helen Koenig

    re list of which tomatoes – ummm, the Dept of Agriculture – which every state has – and most counties do – should be something of a help. However – consider also a rule of thumb – if it is a hybrid, and it will say so – pressure can. If it is a standard – as in not hybrid – and definitely an older variety – as in the ones I mentioned before – then it should be fine. Some seed catalogs – as in Totally Tomatoes (check it out online) sometimes list hybrids separately from standards. Whether the variety is determinate (as in all fruit comes in at once – great for canning, or indeterminate (spread over the season) – great for eating and canning small batches worth doesn’t seem to be a factor per se. I suspect if you do a google search you can get a pretty good idea.

    Something also to think about – yellow tomatoes are less acid than red – still able to be water bath canned – if a standard – however I would probably add an aspirin or a tablespoon boiled vinegar to each jar (increases acidity)

    Btw – water bath canning does NOT mean canning in the oven (something that my grandmom used to do – and while possible – most jars won’t stand up to it). and sometimes the fruit in that situation isn’t thoroughly processed. However water bath canning does just fine with high acid fruits and tomatoes and pickles.

    Re low acid veggies – I still prefer either salting them down (either for salt-drying – or for souring) or drying them – preferably drying them. And then reconstituting them later with water. Easy enough to do – and yes, I’ve done it with my oven on pilot light only – and dried veggies that way – although with the more modern ovens, I think an extremely low temp might do just fine – check the temp though – you don’t want to scorch your food.
    Helen (who can’t find the sign in button!)

  • Texas

    Helen, thank you for sharing your info. This is new to me and that online course really made me nervous about canning. This is very confusing… Is there a place where I can get a list of which tomatoes are safe for water bath canning?

  • Helen Koenig

    Oh – and Texas – what you said is so – IF the tomatoes are the hybrids – and also with many – not all – of the standard bred tomatoes (another reason why I really hate hybrids!) They just aren't acid enough.

    However – with old standard bearers – like Rutgers (NOT the new and improved – just the plain old Rutgers) or the heirloom varieties like Brandywine or Black Krim – you can still water bath can with assuredness. HOWEVER if you make a stewed tomato anything – pressure can. If your tomatoes are mixed varieties that you are canning – pressure can.

    You can also make tomato preserves, dry tomatoes as well – both of which I've done – with green as well as read tomatoes. And catsup doesn't need to be pressure canned either – usually (again – depends on the type) – if only because of the added vinegar – increased acidity of the product. Green tomato mincemeat MAYBE not pressure canned – I can't remember how much vinegar it has in it. BUT if there is ANY meat – or little to no vinegar – by all means pressure can.

  • Helen Koenig

    Jodi – from what it looks like – you didn't kill them from hardening off – although that might have contributed slightly. Instead it looks like Damp-off – which is a soil borne virus.

    In order to prevent this from happening – put vermiculite, peatmoss – or plain old sharp sand as a covering over your seeds when you plant. Then WATER FROM THE BOTTOM!!! This is extremely important. How? make sure there are tiny holes in the bottom of those cups, etc. – then put some lukecool water in a sink (no more than an inch) – and place the containers in the sink. They will absorb moisture through the holes – and not really have the damp-off problems that they would if watered from the top.

    Once you have had damp off – make sure all equipment is washed thoroughly – and you can rinse in a vinegar solution (kills germs, etc.) and then flush thoroughly with water. Air dry before using again.

    You CAN raise plants – and it really isn't difficult – just make sure that you water appropriately.

  • Texas

    In your article you mentioned that tomatoes are fruit. According to an online course I recently took with the University of Georgia, tomatoes are no longer considered fruit (at least, not in the canning world) and need to be pressure canned. Unfortunately, corporate America decided that tomatoes had too much acid–they wanted a sweeter tomato. Once again, technology has done us no favors–now ALL breeds tomatoes need the pressure canner. Bummer!!!

  • Helen Koenig

    Oh – and Texas – what you said is so – IF the tomatoes are the hybrids – and also with many – not all – of the standard bred tomatoes (another reason why I really hate hybrids!) They just aren’t acid enough.

    However – with old standard bearers – like Rutgers (NOT the new and improved – just the plain old Rutgers) or the heirloom varieties like Brandywine or Black Krim – you can still water bath can with assuredness. HOWEVER if you make a stewed tomato anything – pressure can. If your tomatoes are mixed varieties that you are canning – pressure can.

    You can also make tomato preserves, dry tomatoes as well – both of which I’ve done – with green as well as read tomatoes. And catsup doesn’t need to be pressure canned either – usually (again – depends on the type) – if only because of the added vinegar – increased acidity of the product. Green tomato mincemeat MAYBE not pressure canned – I can’t remember how much vinegar it has in it. BUT if there is ANY meat – or little to no vinegar – by all means pressure can.

  • Helen Koenig

    Jodi – from what it looks like – you didn’t kill them from hardening off – although that might have contributed slightly. Instead it looks like Damp-off – which is a soil borne virus.

    In order to prevent this from happening – put vermiculite, peatmoss – or plain old sharp sand as a covering over your seeds when you plant. Then WATER FROM THE BOTTOM!!! This is extremely important. How? make sure there are tiny holes in the bottom of those cups, etc. – then put some lukecool water in a sink (no more than an inch) – and place the containers in the sink. They will absorb moisture through the holes – and not really have the damp-off problems that they would if watered from the top.

    Once you have had damp off – make sure all equipment is washed thoroughly – and you can rinse in a vinegar solution (kills germs, etc.) and then flush thoroughly with water. Air dry before using again.

    You CAN raise plants – and it really isn’t difficult – just make sure that you water appropriately.

  • Texas

    In your article you mentioned that tomatoes are fruit. According to an online course I recently took with the University of Georgia, tomatoes are no longer considered fruit (at least, not in the canning world) and need to be pressure canned. Unfortunately, corporate America decided that tomatoes had too much acid–they wanted a sweeter tomato. Once again, technology has done us no favors–now ALL breeds tomatoes need the pressure canner. Bummer!!!

  • http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/circ457.htmlA friend sent this to me…scroll about 1/3 of the way down and it is really helpful for the beginner 🙂

  • http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/circ457.htmlA friend sent this to me…scroll about 1/3 of the way down and it is really helpful for the beginner 🙂