Row by Row Episode 108: Tips for Growing Tomatoes and Other Popular Vegetables

Answering All Things Tomatoes

Whether you are a first-time gardener or have been doing this for years, you’re always going to have questions. Tomatoes are a popular vegetable in the garden, and this week Travis and Greg wanted to take some time to answer some of those viewer questions about tomatoes and other popular crops to help you better grow your own food.

Our first question was simple, How does it taste? One of our viewers wondered what the flavor was like on our Red Snapper Tomato. Travis and Greg both agreed it was delicious even before it is all the way ripe. Another benefit of the Red Snapper is its size, growing as big as the palm of your hand.

Tomatoes are great for our backyard gardeners who are working with a small area. Compared to corn that needs many plants to achieve the cross-pollination, tomatoes and peppers do great for our small-scale customers. Doing just a few plants of these will still give you a plentiful harvest. 

Taking care of tomatoes can be very simple if they are trellised, there are many different options with trellising and one we like is this netting called the Hortonova Trellis. This trellis is excellent for smaller crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers but probably won’t do the best holding up things such as a Butternut Squash; you might want to leave those to the cow panels. When growing cherry tomatoes, one common question is should you prune or leave them alone, and our tip is to leave them alone! Cherry Tomatoes down here in the South face a lot of heat and disease pressure anyway towards the end, so we just let them run their course!

Other Vegetable Garden Tips

There is a lot that goes into growing a successful vegetable garden besides throwing some seeds in the ground. Cover crops are one of those things that help take your garden to the next level. Cover crops are things you plant in between Summer and Fall gardens to treat your soil. Every soil has different needs, but one cover crop you can’t go wrong with is Buck Wheat. Backyard gardeners, you are doing your soil a disadvantage if you aren’t planting this in your offseason.

For our gardeners that plant in raised beds, you may think cover cropping isn’t for you, but it is still possible! Plant your cover crop as usual, and when it is time to get it up, go in there with a weed eater and take it down. You can then tarp it or go in with a digging fork to mix it in with your soil. This little trick will help your garden even in raised beds. 

Another way to take your garden to the next level is fertilizing; for example, one of our viewers wanted to know how they should feed their corn. For Sweet Corn, going in with Micro Boost and 20-20-20 will help, then right before it tassels give it a little Fish and Guano, and you should have one of your best corn harvests yet! 

Now, how do you apply that fertilizer? There are two main methods, soil drench, and a foliar feed. Foliar feeding is applying the fertilizer to the leaf and plant directly, which is great for short-term and cosmetic problems. Soil drenching is where you apply the fertilizer to the soil around the plant; this method is great for the long term health of the crop and is our favorite method. 

Show and Tell Segment

At Hoss Tools, we believe in getting the most out of our gardens by succession planting. That means seeing which plants we can push to the limits as we get into these hot summer months. During our show and tell segment this week, we discussed some of the things we have been succession planting, such as Slick Pik Yellow Squash! This variety is a hybrid that produces early, often, and with high yields—making this squash great for your trying Summer months. 

The Algonquin Squash is a very rare winter squash. The guys at Hoss Tools have been growing. Because there isn’t much information out there on it, they were very excited to finally be able to harvest it and give it a taste test. Mr.Greg let everyone know that it passed the test with flying colors, and he hopes that soon this can be something our customers can get on our website.

Now that most of our big tomatoes are harvested, we are shifting our work to the kitchen and getting them ready for the Winter. Tomatoes are a great thing to can as they can be used in many different recipes. Some of our favorites include pasta sauce or vegetable soup.

Vegetable Soup Recipe with Tomatoes

On this week’s garden show, Mr.Greg shared his favorite vegetable soup recipe to can. To create Miss Hoss’s delicious vegetable soup recipe, you should mix all of the following ingredients very well and bring to a boil. Then, cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. After that, place the soup in jars and cook on ten pounds of pressure for 30 minutes. 

  • 2/3 of 5-gallon bucket of ripe tomatoes
  • Two quarts of peas
  • Six medium onions finely chopped 
  • Two quarts of butter beans
  • Six pods of bell pepper finely chopped
  • 12 pods of banana pepper finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of vinegar
  • Five teaspoons of canning salt
  • Two quarts of corn
  • One stalk celery finely chopped
  • Six pounds of okra
  • Two quarts of tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

Homemade Calendula Salve Recipe

  • Dried Calendula flowers
  • Oil for infusing the flowers (olive, coconut, and sweet almond oil make a good blend)
  • Beeswax (one ounce per one cup of infused oil, more or less)
  • Essential oils (10-20 drops per cup of infused oil, optional)

First, put the dried Calendula Flowers into a jar and cover them with oil of your choice. Stir the mixture gently with a spoon to get as many of the air bubbles out as possible. Then put in a sunny windowsill for several weeks to steep. When you feel it’s ready, simply strain the herbs from the oil. Cap with a lid and use it as soon as possible.

Strain the infused oil using a cheesecloth and strainer, squeezing out as much of the oil as possible. Put the infused oil into a double boiler, which can be as simple as a stainless steel bowl that fits over a pot with an inch or two of water in it. Bring that water to a simmer to gently heat the oil. Add the beeswax, and stir occasionally until it has completely dissolved. Add essential oils if using, and stir to combine. Carefully pour the hot salve into tins or jars and let cool completely.

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