10 Reasons Why You Should Prune Trees and Shrubs

10 Reasons Why You Should Prune Trees and Shrubs

Tree & Shrub Pruning Tips

by Chris McLaughlin

Not sure about pruning your plants? We’ve compiled 10 reasons why you should prune trees and shrubs in your yard or garden to help maintain their long-term health.

Practicing simple techniques, using the right tools, along with proper timing for each plant species is the key to effective pruning and most require very little pruning in order to achieve the gardener’s goal. But before taking sharp tools to your plants, you should understand exactly what those goals are and why you’re pruning them in the first place.

Remember that every cut made will alter the plant’s shape and growth. In fact, the list below addresses the many reasons that any tree or shrub should be pruned in the yard or garden. If you are interested in having your trees or bushes trimmed, remember that you can use a service like TreeSurgeon.Care to help.

Here are ten great reasons to prune trees (including fruiting) and shrubs:

 

Reason #1: Vigor

Pruning a growing shoot stimulates new growth production. So if you’re looking for some vigorous new growth on a shrub, prune it hard (a lot). Consider this type of pruning when you have a shrub that has a weak section of growth; such as the back. In fact, when you “pinch” back new growth with your fingers on any plant, you’re actually pruning.

Reason #2: Shape

Plants that have grown out of balance with either the yard or their own growing pattern (such as stray and awkward branches) can be reshaped by pruning.

Reason #3: Restrict a Plant’s Size

This can be especially important if you live in an area with restricted space. Gardeners living in urban and suburban areas almost always have to prune trees and shrubs to keep them from out-growing the yard, garden, or container. Root-pruning is another technique that can help restrict the size of plants in containers.

Reason #4: Let in More Light

If you have an extremely shady yard or you’d like to have more sun reaching the area under a tree for plants or lawn, careful pruning can let in a little extra sunshine.

Reason #5: Health and Structural Soundness

Any diseased, injured, dying, or dead branches should be removed for the health of the tree. Branches that rub together should be removed to eliminate potential damage to a main branch. Much of maintaining structural soundness in a tree is about careful pruning practices such as not “topping” trees. Topping can make the tree weak and susceptible to pests. It’s also associated with the slow death even if it takes years for the tree to actually die.

Reason #6: Create Special Effects

Most often, pruning for special effects is seen in formal-type gardens. They often take the shape of boxwood topiary or an apple tree that’s been trained as an espalier. Pollarding or coppicing pruning techniques may be used, as well.

Reason #7: Encourage Flowering and Fruit

Pruning can coax growth spurs (produces the flowers and the fruit) to form on the branches. Strong flower buds are also encouraged to form due to pruning. Fruit trees can be lightly pruned in the summer which will provide better air circulation around the fruit. This results in less trouble with fruit diseases and the fruit ripens faster.

Reason #8: Protect People and Property

Prune trees that have been planted near homes, sheds, play structures, and other buildings as they propose a potential threat to human safety if heavy branches break off or the tree falls. They can also interfere with telephone or power lines. Proper pruning can keep people, pets, and property safe.

Reason #9: Keep Evergreens Proportionate

Pruning will keep boundary hedges under control. Evergreens benefit from light pruning as it keeps their foliage dense, and therefore, attractive.

Reason #10: Improve Appearance

Many gardeners’ top priority when pruning their plants is about their appearance in the yard or garden. Removing dead, unwanted branches, as well as suckers creates a pleasing shape and leaves plants looking neat and tidy. Many lovely blooming shrubs such the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.) are capable of spectacular blossom displays due to good pruning techniques.

Usually pruning is about working with a plant’s natural growth pattern as it’s developing, as well as maintaining mature tree and shrub species. One of the few exceptions is when it’s used to create effects such as espalier. In general, a successful pruning job will leave your healthy, beautifully-shaped fruit trees or shrubs looking like they haven’t been touched at all.

Ready to get pruning in your garden? Check out our list of must-have gardening tools!

August Garden Chores

Photo of gloved hands working in a garden.

photo courtesy of pixabay – photoAC 2518377_1280

Gardening Tips

We are deep into August. Here are a few tips and reminders about where should we be focusing our time and efforts in the garden this month to make the most impact.

For many, August in the garden is an explosion of flowers, fruit and vegetables. Keep on top of harvesting! A daily inspection of zucchini plants ensures none escape your eye and turn into what more resembles a baseball bat than a vegetable. Check tomatoes for blossom end rot and adjust watering if needed.

 

  1. Start gathering recipes for the crops you have in abundance. Hit up some of your favorite websites or blogs for recipe ideas. Check out our reader shared recipes here.

 

2. Harvest herbs for either fresh use or to save for later. Here are some tips for preserving herbs by freezing, drying or in vinegar.

 

3. As crops are harvested and bare space appears in the garden another August garden chore is to protect your soil by covering it with mulch or planting a cover crop.

 

4. Side-dress your warm-season crops with a little compost to give them a boost to finish out the growing season.

 

5. Now is the time to plant another sowing of cool-season vegetables like lettuces, chard, kale, radish, spinach, arugula, beets, carrots and peas. This doesn’t have to take long and you’ll thank yourself later when you have fresh salad greens throughout the fall. Plant another row of bush beans too for a fall harvest.

Harvesting beans is an August garden chore.

Photo courtesy of pixabay – couleur 3702999_1280

6. Keep weeds under control in both the perennial and vegetable gardens. Weeds rob moisture, nutrients and light from our desired plantings.

 

7. Keep perennials deadheaded and cleaned up. Tuck a pair of pruners in your pocket while walking through and enjoying your garden. I little clean up here and there helps keep pests at bay and saves on time later.

 

8. Continue to care for your plants in pots by deadheading, removing dead and diseased foliage and regularly fertilizing.

 

9. Take notes and/or pictures of what worked and what didn’t in your garden. These reminders will help next spring when it’s time to plant again.

 

10. Start planning your fall bulb plantings.

What's Bugging Your Garden

What’s Bugging Your Garden


Less Toxic Pests Remedies

By Engrid Winslow

Getting rid of garden pests.

Image by André Santana from Pixabay

What’s bugging your garden? Mysterious holes in the leaves of your favorite rose? Earwigs buried deep in the leaves of your lettuce? Flea beetles mangling your perennials and vegetables? Most people are averse to creepy crawlies in their gardens but, please, BEFORE you reach for the chemicals to blast them into the stratosphere, consider that all of the insects are essential to having a healthy garden and planet. So here are a few suggestions for less toxic remedies of getting rid of garden pests to try in your garden.

Slugs – small saucers of beer tucked under leaves will attract them and they will fall in and drown. Slugs aren’t picky so don’t waste a craft brew on them – Coors works just fine.

Earwigs – There are a couple of things you can try for these and one is a small saucer of soy sauce with a little bit of vegetable oil and you’ll get the same results as with the slugs, above. You can also roll up several sheets of newspaper and get them fairly wet. Slide them under your plants in the evening and throw them away in the morning.

Aphids – These are a very weak, soft-bodied insect that feed on tender new foliage and buds. You can bet that if you have aphids, you will soon have a host of ladybugs feasting on them. If you can’t wait, then use soapy water with a few drops of oil and spray or dab on the foliage. You can also use garlic spray.

Cartoon drawing of an aphid.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Flea and other beetles – Diatomaceous earth is a mineral composed of the skeletal remains of tiny sea creatures. It has edges that are sharp and will pierce the bodies of beetles and cause them to dry out. It will harm beneficial insects and earthworms, so use sparingly. Also, don’t breathe it into your lungs.

Other insects – Use a lightweight row cover to protect young plants and the ones that are being chomped on the most.

There are other products available at most garden centers now that gardeners are more aware of the consequences of the use of most pesticides to insects, animals, fish and even people. Some of the best tools in your arsenal are: (1) creating biodiversity and selecting plants that attract pollinators and (2) nurturing the soil by using products such as compost and nettle teas. Recognize that most pests run their course if you are patient and wait for their predators to show up.

June Garden Chore List

Gardening Tips

By Heather Stone

Here are some June garden chores to keep your veggies and flowers going strong.

Buckets and gardening tools lined up along a fence.

Photo courtesy of pixabay

  1. Cage or trellis any vining vegetables such as cucumbers, beans and tomatoes. By training these vegetables to grow up you are saving precious garden space and keeping the fruit off of the ground and away from critters. Click here for trellis ideas!

 

  1. Continue watering your vegetable and perennial beds. Try to keep water close to the roots and off of leaves. Checked potted plants often, they tend to dry out faster.

 

  1. Keep up with the weeds! This can start to feel like a never-ending battle at this time of year, but keeping the weeds under control means more nutrients, water and sunlight for your vegetables and flowers.

 

  1. Mulch around vegetables to help conserve water.

 

  1. Side dress with compost for a mid-season boost.
An oldfashioned wooden wheel barrow..

photo courtesy of pixabay

  1. Begin replacing cool season crops that have begun to wind done or have bolted from heat.

 

  1. Plant successive crops of summer greens like collards, kale, chard and lettuce (Protect them from hot afternoon sun).

 

  1. Transplant any remaining warm season vegetable starts.

 

  1. Plant your squash, melon and cucumber seeds if you haven’t already.

 

  1. Keep an eye out for pests.

 

  1. Keep your birdbaths full and clean.

 

  1. Plant a new patch of bush beans every couple of weeks.

 

  1. Pinch out suckers on your tomatoes.

 

  1. Keep deadheading perennials for continued bloom.

 

  1. Sit back, relax and enjoy your garden.

Three Types of Vegetable Trellises You Can Build Yourself

Vegetable trellises. Plants climbing up a trellis of twine.

Vegetable Trellises

by Sam Doll

Spring is just around the corner. That means that it is time to start getting your garden prepped for the growing season! You’re probably busy cleaning, ordering, and planning your garden before you need to worry about getting those seeds in the ground.

One DIY project you should consider is building your own vegetable trellises! Here are three types of trellises that your plants will love, and you can make yourself.

1.    Teepee Trellis

This is probably the simplest and cheapest type of trellis to make yourself. All you need to make this trellis are three bamboo poles and some twine.

Using the bamboo poles, make a teepee shape and push them into the ground until they are relatively deep and stable. Then, using the twine, lash the bamboo poles together where they meet. Wind the twine around and down the structure until you reach the bottom. To secure the twine, you can twist the twine around the poles where they meet and knot it. You can also use staples or zip-ties if you want.

This type of trellis is perfect for growing climbing squash and cucumbers. We love planting our Organic Delicata Squash under these trellises. The base of each pole should be used as a planting site.

2.    A-Frame Trellis

Another trellis that is perfect for your vegetable garden is an A-frame style trellis. There are many methods to building these. This is a little more involved than the Teepee trellis and will require some woodworking.

As with any garden project, we don’t recommend for splurging on the nicest wood you can find. This will be outside and exposed to the elements, so don’t get too attached to it. You can still seal or paint it to get more life out of it, but these projects won’t last forever.

For this trellis, all you need are some boards, screws or nails, hinges, and a climbing surface. Create a frame using your lumber. We like using 2X4’s because they are sturdy and easy to find, but any flat boards will work. Screw or nail the board together by putting the horizontal boards on the “inside” of the vertical boards. You can complicate this project by making the boards flush or adding other embellishments, but this is the simple and dirty version.

The final dimensions of your frames will depend on the size of your space and how tall you need the trellis to be. The important thing is to make them identical. Once you’ve assembled your frames, it’s time to attach the climbing surface. The most affordable route here would be to create a grid using twine or string and create a grid that attaches to the sides of the frame. If you have a bit more budget, we recommend a chicken wire or metal fencing that you can just staple onto the frame. This saves a lot of time and will last a little longer.

Finally, attach the two frames with the hinges and place them in your garden. These style frames are great for peas and beans. Our Mardi Gras Blend of beans are a great and colorful way to show off this project.

3.    Row Cover Trellis

Many of you use row covers to get your garden through the early and late part of the season. Well, why not make a multi-functional row cover. Our version of this is rather simple. Cut even segments of a light metal fencing and make an arch out of them that covers your row or planter. Stake those into the ground and continue the length of the plot. This is a great easy trellis that can be covered with a floating row cover if needed!

Tools to be a Better Gardener

Garden Tools

by Sandy Swegel Photo of the bbbseed $25 gift card.

Today I’ve been thinking about how the garden tools I use have made me a better gardener. I have spent a lot of money over the years on tools that break or tools that seemed clever but end up unused. I garden at least twenty hours a week for other people, so my tools need to be effective and efficient as well as durable. 

(Keep these in mind if you are trying to figure out a good holiday or birthday gift for a gardener friend or relative!  One of these and a great gift card for seeds is sure to be useful and welcome!)

My Must-Have Garden Tools include:


Good Hand Pruners naturally. Felco pruners are great if you can afford them. A sharp edge is the more important feature of hand pruners and you need a high-end pruner that does have cheapo soft metal that dulls the first time you use it. I like Felcos, but Corona and Fiskars both have high-end pruners that are good. For my use, I need a replaceable blade because no matter how much you sharpen, at some point you need a fresh blade. I have hand pruners in two sizes…a smaller pair for perennial maintenance because they are lighter weight and a larger pair for shrubs, roses and trees. Last year Costco had a great deal on a generic version of Felcos in a two-pack.

A Soil Knife. The original name of this tool was a hori-hori knife and my first one came right from Japan. Now I like the bright orange soil knife from AM Leonard. The plastic resin handle holds up better than wood and the bright orange is easier to find when I lose it. You have to be careful of the extremely sharp edges (one side serrated and one side flat) but this is my combo trowel, weed digger, shovel, a garden tool for dividing perennials, etc.
Fiskars Power Gear Bypass Lopper 15 or 18 inches. I love the Fiskars PowerGear line. They really do give you more power per effort than any other lopper. I use the smaller loppers the most because they are lightweight and because they fit more easily between dense branches.

Black and Decker cordless (18V) sweeper. They don’t call this a vac because it’s not strong enough for big piles of leaves…but it’s the perfect quick cleanup at the end of working in the garden whether you’re “sweeping” a path or blowing debris lightly off of rock mulch. I also use it to sweep my kitchen floor.

Milwaukee Sawzall pruning blade. This vicious jagged blade is one of the secret weapons that let me do the work of your average 20-year-old male landscaper. Perfect for cutting trees or cutting right in the soil through old roots.

Mini Shovel and Mini Mattock Pickaxe. OK, laugh if you want, my friends do….but then they go out and get these mini tools when they see how much work they let me do. They are the same tools the aforementioned 20-year olds use in full-sized versions, but lightweight enough for me to use without ruining my rotator cuff, a common gardening injury. I use both while kneeling in the soil up close and personal to my job. Don’t get a wimpy camping pick or a garden pick made of thin metal…get the real thing in the hardware store.

Those tools and a colorful TubTrug or two, (those bendable colorful garden buckets that are worth every nickel) and you’ll find yourself able to work faster and stronger in the garden without trying too hard.

Seed Hoarders

Chipmunk sitting on a sunflower head eating seeds. Seed Saving

photo courtesy of pixabay -evitaochel

Saving Seeds

Thank goodness that “Hoarders” TV show doesn’t ever focus on seed hoarders. Gardeners who are very tidy and organized and otherwise not people who collect or hoard things can secretly have boxes full of seed from years and years of  seed saving.  Sometimes the seeds are gifts from friends, or seeds ordered because you forgot you have some leftover and bought more or just surplus seeds from generous seed packages. I knew my seed habit was getting out of hand once I started seed saving, myself – now I have paper bags full of saved seeds and had to move from the tiny shoebox to a big box.

This year, I’ve come up with a way to use those old seeds without feeling too guilty…and I’ll save some money, too.  Early Fall is the traditional time to put in cover crops…seeds that will germinate and grow some but die back with a freeze or simply be chopped down and turned into the soil to replenish it in the Spring.  Cover crops get lots of organic matter into the soil without much trouble. But there’s no reason you have to use an official “cover crop.”  The idea is just young plants that get chopped up and mixed in with the soil.

This year, I decided to turn some of my seed hoards to cover my garden soil this winter. (Let’s not be ridiculous and use all those good seeds.)

So as I have clear patches of the garden after harvesting, I’m going to remove the big debris, lightly rake the soil and sprinkle out old and gathered seed.  Many of the old seeds won’t germinate but there’s enough that will make a good protective cover.  And as long as you PROMISE to turn the cover crops in before perennials establish themselves, you can even include old packets of grass seed.

My cover crops won’t be as cute as when I put in just winter rye and get a nice even green lawn effect….but it will be great fun to guess what is what!

My seed saving cover crop this year includes:

Years of half-used radish seeds, hybrid tomato seeds from 1996, leftover lawn patch seeds that got wet in the bag, cabbage seeds I forgot about and never gave garden space too, dill, cilantro, caraway and fennel seeds collected from previous years gardens, hollyhocks collected from alleyways. Lots of black-eyed susans, marigolds and cosmos.  While I’m on the seed purge, I’m cleaning out the kitchen pantry and throwing in old spices (coriander, dill, mustard seed) and old whole wheat berries that have bugs, or old beans I’ll never like. Talk about recycling!

You can decide which seeds are iffy by checking out this list of lifespans of vegetable seeds:

Vegetable Seed Lifspan

Phew. Now that I understand which seeds will happily last until next year, I can order from the End of Year Seed Sale and have good viable fresh seed to save in my seed box for next Spring.

How To Can Fruit: A Beginners Guide

Poster for A beginners Guide to Canning Fruit.

Canning Fruit

by Sam Doll

 

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fresh, local fruit. Whether it’s plump, Maine blueberries or sweet, Colorado peaches, every part of the country is offering up a local bounty of great unique fruits.

The only problem is that it is hard to make these harvests last! Maybe want to save a local treat for winter or you just have more than you know what to do with? Well, the best way to preserve your local fruit harvest is to can them!

Here is our beginners guide to canning fruit at home.

*Important Note*

Whenever you are canning, make sure to strictly follow a tested recipe from a trusted source. Canning is safe when done properly, but improperly canned food can harbor dangerous pathogens.

We recommend recipes from the following sources:

The National Center for Home Food Preservation

Ball/Kerr Food Preservation

Or your local extension office!

Also, if you are above 1,000 ft, make sure to adjust the processing time on your recipe for altitude!

Equipment

Water-Bath Canning Kit

Most fruits are naturally acidic foods, which means you should be able to process your canned fruit using a water-bath canning kit. For non-acidic foods, you will need to use a pressure canner, which can heat foods to higher temperatures than water-bath canners can.

*Processing is just the step of heating the jars for a certain period to kill off all dangerous bacteria.

A canning kit usually consists of the following

  • A large metal pot with a lid
  • A rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot and for lifting jars in and out of the bath.
  • A magnetic wand for retrieving lids and rings
  • A jar lifter
  • A canning funnel
  • A paddle to check fluid height and for removing bubbles

We recommend the Ball Enamel Water Bath Canning Kit

If you don’t want to use a kit, you can always assemble a makeshift water-bath canner out of your normal kitchenware. Just make sure that there is enough headspace to cover the jars with at least an inch of water and that you can place some sort of rack in the bottom of it to prevent the jars from touching and breaking from the direct heat.

Canning Jars and Lids

Photo of many canning jars.

photo courtesy of Pixabay – Lolame

Equally important as the water-bath canner, having the proper containers is essential for successful home canning.

Make sure you are using clean, canning grade jars designed for home canning. These mason jars are sturdier and safer than commercial glass jars and their availability makes them easy to replace and get lids for.

While the lid rings can be reused, make sure only to use new canning lids when preserving food. Old lids will not seal properly and can lead to improperly processed food.

Choosing and Preparing your Fruit

As always, the best ingredients make the best, finished product. This is especially true when trying to preserve fruit. Fruit needs to be fresh and sturdy to keep their color and shape throughout the canning process.

Fresh, firm fruits will do best for canning. Don’t wait until the fruit is at peak ripeness, because the heat from the processing will soften them. If they are too soft to start with, your end product will be mushy.

Thoroughly and gently wash your fruit to remove any dirt and debris. Bacteria can hide and survive in dirt, so do your best to make sure that all your fruit is cleaned.

If you want to preserve your fruit peeled, you can either use a vegetable peeler for hardier fruits, like apples, or you can use the blanching method for stone fruit like peaches or even tomatoes.

Here is a handy guide for blanching and peeling stone fruit.

Canning Liquids

For the canning process to actually work its magic and properly preserve your food, there needs to be a liquid that can transfer the heat from the bath and sides of your jars to the food. There are a variety of different liquids that you can pack your fruit in: water, juices, and syrups are most common.

Water and juices are useful for hardier fruits that don’t need much to preserve the shape, color, and texture of the fruit. Apples, pears, and peaches can all be packed in water.

Syrups are more common and are a great way to preserve the fruits shape, color, and flavor. You can pack all fruit in syrups from very light to very heavy. However, heavier syrups are better for fruits that are tart or sour, while very light syrups do well for naturally very sweet fruits.

For specific syrup ratios and fruit recommendations, check out this guide by NCHFP

Packing

Packing is the step right before processing your fruit. Packing is, very simply, how you package your fruit into the jars.

Hot Packing

Hot packing is the more preferred method to pack your fruits when water-bath canning. It often involves heating the fruit to a boil in the packing liquid and then packing them into the clean jars before processing.

Some very juicy fruits can be heated without packing liquid to cook out their juices, and then packed into the jars with that fluid.

Since hot packed fruit have already been cooked, you do not have to worry about them shrinking during processing.

Cold or Raw Packing

Cold packing is when you tightly pack cold fruit into the jars and then pour the hot packing liquid over them before processing. This is not as recommended as hot packing since the fruit will shrink and release fluid during processing and it is not the most efficient use of jar space.

Processing

  1. After packing your jars, use a plastic spatula or paddle to remove any bubbles trapped in the fruit by sliding it down the sides of the jar. Check your headspace and, if necessary, add more packing fluid (headspace is dependent on the type of jar you have).
  2. Wipe the rim with a damp cloth to remove any debris or residue and ensure a clean seal.
  3. Gently screw on a new, clean lid and rim until it is finger tight. Do not over tighten!
  4. Bring the water bath to a simmer (~180° F) for hot packing or ~140° F for cold packing.
  5. Keeping the jars straight up and down, lift the jars and slowly lower them into the bath. A jar lifter can be helpful here, so you don’t burn yourself.
  6. Make sure there is at least an inch of water above the lids. If not, heat water to a boil and fill the bath to the proper level before moving on.
  7. Bring the bath to a full boil. Once the bath has reached a rolling boil, place the lid on the bath and start the processing timer according to your recipe.
  8. Once the timer has finished, remove the lid and turn the heat off. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars.
  9. Remove jars and place them on a towel or rack. Make sure to keep them upright. Wait for 12 to 24 hours before checking if the jars sealed properly. Do not touch the lids!
  10. After letting them sit, check the seal by pushing down lightly on the center of the lid. If it is firm and doesn’t move or “pop”, they should be ready to be cleaned and labeled.

Tomato Staking 101

Supporting Tomatoes

by Heather StoneTomato plant in a cage for support.

 The ways in which to support tomatoes are as varied as the gardeners who grow them. Staking your tomatoes is important for many reasons. Keeping your plants upright and off the ground helps keep not only insects and critters at bay but can prevent many tomato diseases as well. Click here to check out our comprehensive guide to tomato diseases. Staking maximizes growing space, makes harvesting easier and keeps the garden looking tidy. Here is a little information about three different methods you can use to successfully stake your tomatoes.

Tomato plant supported by a cage.

Cages

Caging tomatoes is an easy and efficient way for the home gardener to support tomatoes. Store bought cages come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. The smaller cages are more appropriate for determinate tomato varieties which are more compact in size averaging around 3-4’ tall. The larger cages will best suit the large, sprawling indeterminate varieties which can range in height from 6-12’.

 

You can make your own tomato cages too. Hardware stores sell rolls of wire fencing or mesh that when cut in 5’x5’sections can be rolled into a circular cage and placed over the plant. This is best done while the plants are still small. Pin the ends together with wire or zip ties and anchor the cage into the ground with stakes. Make sure your grid openings are at least four inches in diameter. This will make pruning and harvesting a breeze. These cages are sturdy and will last for years.

Tomato plant supported by a section of wire fence.

Stakes

Staking tomatoes is also an effective way to support your tomatoes. This method simply requires driving a stake into the ground near the plant and tying the plant up the stake as it continues to grow. To avoid any root damage, place stakes in the ground before planting or when plants are still young.

For indeterminate tomato varieties, stakes should be at least 7 feet tall and driven a good foot into the ground. This will keep the stake from tumbling over with the weight of the plant. Stakes can be wood, plastic, metal or made from salvaged materials. When tying up your tomatoes, it is best done loosely and with a soft material. I like to use old t-shirts cut into strips.

The Florida Weave

http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/supporting-cast-for-tomatoes.aspx

In the Florida or basket weave technique you are essentially sandwiching your tomato plants between two walls of twine. This technique works best when you are planting in rows. Begin by placing one stake at the end of each row, or space stakes every 3- 4’ apart for longer rows. Drive stakes into the ground at least one foot deep. Next, tie your twine to your end stake about 8-10” from the ground. Pull the twine past one side of your tomatoes to the front of the next stake. Loop the twine around the back of the stake and pull tight. Keeping the string taught continue down the row until you reach your last stake. Tie off at the last stake. Now, loop back the other direction until you are back where you started. Tie the twine to the first stake. As your tomatoes grow you will need to add another layer of twine about every 6-8” to keep the plants upright.

Check out this video demonstrating the Florida or basket weave technique.

SUMMER HARVEST

Favorite Summer Vegetables

by Engrid Winslow

At last, the bounty of your summer garden is at its peak and you can gather all of those glorious tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, corn, chard, kale, summer squash, onions and other vegetables to enjoy at their freshest and most flavorful. But, ahem, some of us may plant more than we can eat in a day. Well, whether that is planned excess or not, here are a few tricks for preserving that bounty using just your freezer and pantry.

Onions –

When the tops flop over onto the ground it’s time to pull them out and let them dry out in the sun or inside in a cool, dry location. Some onions, such as cippolini, are great storage onions but for the ones that aren’t…Ever tried onion jam? How about bacon and onion jam. You can refrigerate them and use them up quickly or pop a few jars into the freezer for a festive addition to a holiday cheese platter. Here are the links to two delicious recipes you can try:

http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/onion-jam https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015978-bacon-onion-jam.

You’re welcome.

 

Corn –

Shuck as much as you can and then flash boil for about 2 minutes. Let cool and then scrape off the kernels into a large bowl and scoop out two cups into a plastic bag or container for freezing. Add them to that turkey soup you make after Thanksgiving every year along with some of the frozen shell peas you harvested and froze in the spring.

Tomatoes –

This technique works best with cherry tomatoes and is a little bit of trouble but OMG are these delicious. Add them to pizza, pasta, soups, sandwiches or serve on grilled bread as a quick crostini. The flavor of these will make you want to plant even more tomatoes next year. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Arrange cherry tomatoes on a lined, rimmed baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Let them “oven dry” for up to 2 ½ hours, checking frequently at the two-hour mark. You can also do this with large tomatoes which will yield a “saucier” result.

 

Zucchini –

Use small, tender-skinned, deep green ones. Shred and steam for 1-2 minutes. Freeze in desired quantities for adding to slaw, pasta, soups or your famous zucchini bread.