The First Plant in the Garden

Tomato … Tomäto

There is something special about a homegrown tomato. Something even more special by growing food in your own backyard. No matter what I am growing, whether it’s a fruit or vegetable, I can almost taste the sunshine in it.

That’s why last summer, I had three separate gardens. There were eight different tomato plants growing in them. Five of these tomato varieties were heirloom tomatoes…My favorite. If there is any tomato I can stand behind it’s the tomatoes that look like squashed clown faces and are multi-colored.

Never know what to do with all of your homegrown tomatoes? Here’s a fun and easy recipe to eat them all year around! homemade tomato sauce 

Since April is National Gardening Month, I thought what a better way to get people gardening than by showing them how to properly plant a tomato.

For me, tomatoes are staples in the garden and I want to show you how to get the most from your plant.

Tomato 101: Bury the Stem

Planting a Tomato NoFarmNeeded

Number one rule of planting a tomato plant (unless the tomato is grafted)…. Always bury the stem. 

I know, it seems a little counterproductive to bury almost 2/3rds of the plant underground. However, with your tomato plant buried you will get a better root system and more stability. Sometimes, I think I also get bigger tomatoes.

tomato 2.jpg

Fred Gonsowki did a wonderful depiction above. Take your tomato plant, pick off the stems and leaves up until the soil line. I usually leave three stems at the top and that’s how I know where my soil line should be. Then dig your hole, put your tomato plant in, and cover with soil. A little water and sunlight should do the trick for your best tomato plant this season!

Why You Should Not Bury Grafted Tomatoes

There are now tomato plants that are grafted. Grafted simply means that a grower cut a notch in the root of an heirloom tomato, stuck a hybrid stalk on top, and then tied them together tightly until they fuse.  This gives you the disease resistance of a hybrid and the wonderful root structure of an heirloom tomato.

You do now want to bury the stem because it defeats the purpose of grafting. Burying the stem of a hybrid tomato with an heirloom root system will give you half heirloom root system and half hybrid. Overall, your root system will act like a hybrid root system (not well). So if you get a grafted tomato, do not plant the stem!

…..Actually A Fruit

Tomatoes NoFarmNeeded

For me, a tomato is considered a vegetable. I eat it as my “vegetable serving” in a meal. On a hamburger, the tomato slides in the middle with lettuce, pickles, and onions, while my fruit salad of watermelon, blueberries, and strawberries sits on the side. Scientifically speaking tomatoes are fruits.

“True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower and contain the seeds of the plant” – scienceblob.com

Kind of sad isn’t it? Even if it is an actual fruit, there is no way I will be eating it like an apple! Though I know some of you do. 

What’s The Difference Between Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes?

tomato-03.png

Picture credit: Fix.com

Determinate tomatoes:

  1. The grow height is put on the labels
  2. Commonly known as “bush” tomatoes because their growth is compact
  3. Stop growing when fruit sets on the top of the buds
  4. The tomatoes ripen near the same time
  5. Usually not stacked or supported
  6. Never prune
  7. Great for containers!

Indeterminate tomatoes:

  1. Can reach heights up to 12 feet. Though it really depends on the variety!
  2. Produce tomatoes all Summer long until killed by frost
  3. Can prune. Sometimes you can get increased yields when the young plant is pruned back to three or four vines.
  4. The plant will bloom while other tomatoes on the plant are ripening or ready to pick

When in Doubt Grow Tomatoes!

Tomatoes NoFarmNeeded

Tomatoes are a wonderful fruit! Even though I don’t always enjoy eating them, they remind me of stars dancing across a garden. Pops of bright red that brighten my day! April is a great time to start your tomatoes or think about starting your tomatoes. I know Florida is already harvesting, while the Midwest won’t start planting their tomatoes until May. A tomato plant is a fantastic way to start National Gardening Month. Look for next week’s blog post for another tip to add to your garden this year!

The Illusive SCOBY

The SCOBY, Just as Hard to Find as Bigfoot

Kombucha, the forever loved fermented tea that is full of beneficial yeasts and bacteria.  A SCOBY makes Kombucha. Without the SCOBY, Kombucha would just be sugary tea with a bit of fruit flavor. Not a bad drink, but not a drink where you’re helping your gut, liver, and macro/micro bacteria.

Essentially, a SCOBY looks like a small Frisbee that ranges in color from bright white to whitish-brown. The name SCOBY stands for, Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Working together, the bacteria and yeast “eat” the caffeine, tannins, and sugar in the tea and transform it into the goodness of kombucha

The history of Kombucha can take two paths. One path goes back to Russia in the late 19th century, where a tea known as Cajnyj Kvas was made from a Birch tree mushroom. This mushroom is the SCOBY that ferments all of our teas today. The other path leads to China, eons ago. Where they drank a tea known as, “Tea of Immortality”. The Chinese claim that every SCOBY today originated from this one mother SCOBY. No one really knows where the SCOBY originated from, though my bets are on China! (… just because I like the “Tea of Immortality”). 

So the question becomes, how do you get one?

Layered SCOBY NoFarmNeeded
My wonderful SCOBY on a plate… just look at the layers!

You know someone

Most everyone I know, who has a SCOBY, has obtained it from someone they know or someone who knows someone, who knows someone, who’s second cousin has one (and the list goes on).

The best way to make sure your SCOBY will survive is to get it from someone. How? Sprinkle into a conversation that you drink kombucha or ask them if they have ever heard of kombucha. You would be surprised how many people actually drink and make their own kombucha.

If it’s a success, make sure you get:

  1. One of the SCOBY’s. This SCOBY is a “baby” from your friends “mother” SCOBY. Essentially, as the SCOBY grows over time layers will form. These layers can then be peeled away making their own SCOBY (the peeled away layer is called a “baby”). You don’t need that big of a layer. It can be as thin as paper and only as big as your fist, and the SCOBY will still work. Just make sure the SCOBY you receive is a bright white because as the SCOBY grows older, it will eventually start to turn brown. You want the freshest and whitest SCOBY to begin. 
  2. Two cups of the original Kombucha (Where your SCOBY has made a home in it before you get it)
Photo Nov 13, 9 36 48 AM
Your SCOBY should be at least as big as your fist.

If it’s not a success scroll further.

Create Your Own

I just moved to a new apartment across the country for a few months. Everything I owned fit into three suitcases, then those three suitcases had to fit on a plane…. There was no way I was going to bring a SCOBY with me. So I decided to make my own.

To make your own SCOBY you need,

  1. 2 bottles of store bought Kombucha. Go for the least flavored one. I couldn’t find any original when I went to the store so I bought ginger.
  2. Glass Container
  3. Dishtowel
  4. Box
  5. Warm dark place to put your SCOBY

Kombucha Starter 1 NoFarmNeeded

Here is my Ginger Kombucha with my glass container.

Kombucha Starter 2 NoFarmNeeded

My added Kombucha

Kombucha Starter 3 NoFarmNeeded

Finished Product! You want the towel on top because you need air circulation for your SCOBY to grow. Then place this container in a warm dark area. Mines is under the bed.

After 3 Days…. 

You are going to want to give this “baby” SCOBY  something to eat. Boil 2 cups of water and then add your black tea bag. After 5 minutes, stir in 1/4 cup of sugar  Once cooled, add to your kombucha mixture. This will give the SCOBY “food” for it to grow bigger and better.

How Long Will it Take for a SCOBY to Fully Develop? 

It takes approximately 2-4 weeks to get a full grown SCOBY. Though it depends on the environment it’s growing in. Keep it at 70 degrees F and it will take approximately 2 weeks.

Is it Safe to Grow Your Own SCOBY? 

Yes! A SCOBY essentially protects your kombucha from bad bacteria. Without the SCOBY your kombucha would be vulnerable to both good and bad bacteria. Just be extra vigilant and if you’re not seeing any results in 2 weeks, scrap the batch and start a new.

Buy a SCOBY online

Everything is online these days. Everything. ( I know someone who sold their urine online). When looking for a SCOBY make sure the SCOBY is at least as big as your fist and comes with 2 cups of its original tea mix.

You want to make sure that your SCOBY gets to you within 2 – 3 days of purchasing it. My sister used her amazon prime account and got her SCOBY with Prime 2 day shipping. Whichever way you do it, make sure you’re not waiting a week for your SCOBY to come.

Kombucha with SCOBY NoFarmNeeded
When buying online make sure you get starter Kombucha as well!

Hopefully, you will find a SCOBY. If there are other ways people have gotten their SCOBY let me know, I always like to learn something new!

For a State Rarely Thought Of

Into a State, I’ve Never Known

When I look at a map of the United States, my eyes instantly go to the Midwest.

Am I favoring them?

Of course. Why?

Clearly, I am from there.

I had never stepped foot into the Rocky Mountains before this internship and have only thought of Utah in passing. I would say in my entire life, the amount of times I’ve  thought of Utah could fit on my entire hand…. With fingers still missing. These “thoughts”  most commonly occurred when I was forced to learn how to spell all the states and their capitals in school.

U-T-A-H, S-A-L-T  L-A-K-E  C-I-T-Y.

Vernal, Utah….

Never, ever, crossed my mind.

I was used to Chicago.

The flat land, the corn fields, the paved roads. I had more stores than I could handle in a walking distance of me and a sky full of stars (or what I thought was full).

And yet, I was going to a small town.

With one main road, the store of choice a Walmart, and an apartment I had only seen in pictures.

To say I was nervous to start at the BLM in Utah would be an understatement. To say I was ready for the adventure, would be right on point.

And so the Adventure Begins

I could go into detail about the excitement of the first day. The adventures of finding a fax machine and the drama of getting a working phone, (I took a cord from an empty cubicle). Heck, I could even tell you that my turkey sandwich had a sense of dream-like quality because it was so delicious after being nervous all morning.

But I won’t. Why? Because my second day was much, much, much more exciting.

I actually went into the Mountains. To work.

Landscape

Into the Rocky Mountains

I traveled, (well, there was four of us but for the sake of keeping it relevant I’m using I), into the Rocky Mountains to look for Sclerocactus wetlandicus. This cactus is considered a sensitive plant species of the Vernal Field Office and is an endangered cacti species.

Cactus NoFarmNeeded

Into the mountains, we went for a 2-hour truck ride to our designated location. Through oil pads, natural gas burns, and muddy roads I started to wonder…. Am I really going to like it?

The view was worth all its’ weight in gold.

Utah Landscape NoFarmNeeded

I honestly couldn’t believe that this internship allowed me to be out in the Rocky’s looking for cacti. Literally, out in the Mountains, and not stuck behind a desk looking at the hills from the window.  

Is it work?

Here’s a rundown version of what we did. We got in arm’s length of each other and walked hundreds of feet in each direction of our parked truck. Throwing down flags and keeping our eyes peeled for this cacti. Was it to be expected that we would find one? Nope. Yet, I couldn’t help to think we would (…. we did not).

Utah NoFarmNeeded

Sure, my time was spent looking at the ground, making sure I didn’t miss this plant. But just the air, the rocks under my feet, and the cloud laden sky made this a wonderful experience. Even when the weather changed in a split second. From cloudy mornings to snowy lunch breaks, then finally landing on the hot blazing sun. I prepared for all.

I saw feral horses. No, (it’s not what you think), these horses are not wild but actually invasive. Left to the environment by their owners, these horses have survived and are now eating and trampling upon very important plant species.

Ferral Horses NoFarmNeeded

I spent my day finally happy to be outdoors. Enjoying a state I had rarely thought about. And wondering, do I get to do this tomorrow?

NoFarmNeeded

To Contain A Garden

Container Gardening

To Contain a Garden

There are beasts in the garden. A vine, a weed, a busy week gone by in a blink of an eye. Gardens are filled with havoc. I am containing them.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be graced with a huge backyard. My family and I would tear it up every Mother’s Day to be able to grow our own vegetables and beautiful flowers. As I grew older, I learned not everyone has a yard or in fact a bit of land to grow flowers in.

When I started college I became a fanatic of container gardens. The perfect combination of chaos and calm. No plants were ever able to overtake it and weeds were non-existent. Now, as I sit in an apartment I find myself back in the swings of container gardening. I find container gardens to be the best garden. They are the right amount of soil and the perfect plant to brighten anyone’s day!

From the beginner gardener – to the expert green-thumb, everyone should container garden. Why? Because it is easy, fun, and you can put these containers anywhere.

The Perfect Pair….

For my container garden, I paired up with All-America Selections and Crescent Gardens. Both of these organizations bring the finest quality of products.

All-America Selections is a non-for-profit organization that brings you award-winning flowers and vegetables. These plants have been tested nationally across North America and proven locally in your own backyard. By using AAS Winners, you can be assured of superior garden performance. Including beautiful blooms in ornamentals, great taste in edibles, and perfect habit.  

Crescent Gardens designs and creates one-of-a-kind functional decorative products for your home and garden.

What I Used:

Pot: Crescent Garden Black Juno.

Flowers:

Salvia – Summer Jewel Lavender

Osteospermum – Akila Daisy White

Canna – South Pacific Scarlet

Gaura – Sparkle White

Zinnia – Profusion Double Hot Cherry

Zinnia – Profusion Double Deep Salmon

Strawberry – Delizz

garden

Location:

Location, location, location. The main key. You can put container gardens,

  1. Patio
  2. Deck
  3. Dorm Room
  4. Window
  5. Front or back stoop
  6. Driveway
  7. Entryway
  8. Front yard/ back yard
  9. Porch
  10. Window Ledge

Anywhere there is a spot!

Canna NoFarmNeededZinnia NoFarmNeededPollinators NoFarmNeeded

 

 

Main Things to Remember:

  1. Create your Container Garden with a Theme in mind. I wanted to attract pollinators, so my use of bright reds like Cannas allows me to attract bees and bats.
  2. Know the space you’re going to put the container. I’m not only talking about the location but also how much sun will it receive? How often will you need to water? Is it for the indoors or outdoors? This will decide what plants you use.
  3. THE 3 KEYS: Spiller, Thriller, and Height.
    1. Spiller: A plant to hang over your pot
    2. Thriller: A plant that is unique, different petal pattern or color
    3. Height: You need a plant that is tall in the middle with a gradual decrease in height of other flowers.

Photo Jun 22, 8 38 41 AMZinnia Salmon AAS Winner

 

To Tangle With A Beast

A beast is not a beast once it’s contained. Container gardens bring you the least amount of worry in a garden. They can be taken anywhere and if forgotten about for a week, are easily managed in fifteen minutes. Container gardens allow me to grow what I want where-ever and let me dream about what my future garden will look like.

You can’t go wrong with container gardens, make your garden happen no matter what you have. You don’t need a farm or a garden plot to do it! Just one container.  

 

The Art of Silica Gel

Silica Gel NoFarmNeeded

Drying Flowers With Silica Gel

Silica Gel. The most wonderful sand in the world.

As you know, I am a pressing/drying flower enthusiast. Love it. The problem with weighted presses or irons is that the flower gets distorted to a two-dimensional shape. I want the whole flower. 3-D and all. Silica Gel is the way to go.

What is Silica Gel?

Silica Gel Blue NoFarmNeeded

This gel is a substance that has the same consistency as sand. When you first open the box, it will start off blue and then as you dry flowers in it, slowly turn to white.

Blue = Ready to Use    White = Full of Moisture

Once the sand is white, all you do is pop it in the oven at 200F for two-three hours (or until it turns blue again). Then, wala, presto it’s ready. This technique is very reusable.

Steps to Drying

1. Get a sealed tight container, one with a lid

2. Cover the bottom of the container 1/4 inches thick with sand

3. Get the flowers you want to dry. I recommend roses, tulips, and daffodils. Although, I have dried everything and anything in it (ranging from Bells of Ireland to Snapdragons).

Tulips NoFarmNeeded

4. Cut flower so there is 1/4 inch of stem

1/4 inch Tulip Stem

5. Place flowers face up in the container. The 1/4 inch of silica gel should hold up the flower straight.

Tulips Silica Gel NoFarmNeededTulips in a Group NoFarmNeededFlowers in Silica Gel NoFarmNeeded

6. Cover the flower with the rest of the sand. (Make sure you get in the cracks and crevices)

7. Wait 4 – 5 Days. The more moisture the flower holds the greater the wait time. Tulips take 4 days, while roses take 5.

Silica Gel Container NoFarmNeeded

8. Dump your sand into a new container and shake your flowers out!

Well, easy right? What a wonderful pressed flower. Try it for yourself and tell me how it goes!

Spring Wreath with Pressed Flowers

With my dried flowers I created a Spring Wreath. Follow my blog, to get the latest updates (like the making of this wreath in the next few weeks!)

Silica Gel NoFarmNeeded

Not the Way Your Grandma Pressed

Not The Way Your Grandma Pressed NoFarmNeeded

Not The Way Your Grandma Pressed

This week I had a wonderful opportunity to present at this year’s Chicago Flower and Garden show. I presented, “Not the Way Your Grandma Pressed”, a session on learning new techniques and creative ideas that you can do to press flowers.

 

It was awesome! I had an amazing group of people show up to watch.

Not the Way Your Grandma Pressed NoFarmNeeded

Then it got me thinking. How can I bring this information to even more people? Drumroll, please……….. I taped it.

If you click below you can see my presentation and hopefully learn something new. Let me know what you think.

And…. did you learn something new?

Just in case here are,

5 Tips to Remember about Pressing Flowers

  1. Get a wide range of flowers in different stages and varieties
  2. Place your flower exactly how you want it to be pressed via the technique you are using
  3. Depending on technique, change out the newspaper, parchment paper, cardboard, or paper towels every three days for the first two weeks
  4. Make sure your flower is fully dried before use (paper-y and thin petals
  5. Be creative with the designs! (Use the scraps too!)

Love the look but don’t want the hassle of making them? Check out my Etsy account here.

New Use for Kitty Litter

Drying Flowers with Kitty Litter

Cat litter…. a toilet for a cat but also a fantastic way to press and dry flowers. Cat litter is cheap and readily available (just ask all those cat lovers out there). This is why I am saluting it.

To get a  good dry flower the material you use has to be…

  1. Dry
  2. Absorbent

Cat litter is both. Hence, the commercials that rave about their brands nice clumping-ness!

So, let’s dig our paws in deeper.

A Note On Flowers:

The first flower I dried was Statice. Even though it’s an easy flower to dry and press on its own, I wanted to see how it would hold up against kitty litter. And of course, since it’s Statice, it worked!

With kitty litter, I have successfully dried Snapdragons, Bells of Ireland, and Roses.

Steps to Drying the Flowers:

Cut your flowers so 1/4 ” of the stem is still attached

Flower Cut NoFarmNeeded

Get a tight-sealed container, like a plastic tub or glass container

Cover the bottom of the container with a thin layer of cat litter

Thin Layer of Cat Litter NoFarmNeeded

Put your flower in and completely cover it with the litter

Two Ways to Dry:

  1. Leave the Container sealed for 3 days. After 3 days the cat litter should have soaked up the flower’s moisture.
  2. Microwave for 3 minutes. During this time the water from in the flower will move into the cat litter. (Please do this with your windows open because the cat litter does smell when heated!)

Product:

The flowers should be nice and dried in 3 days or 3 minutes. Enjoy using it in arrangements or other crafts. Look for inspirations here!

Scoby Fruit Roll Up

Eat Kombucha.jpg

Scoby Fruit Roll-Up Untangled.

For years, I have been trying to find a replacement for the fruit roll up. Seriously, I could eat them by the foot…. and apparently, that’s not good for you. One of the main reasons is because fruit roll-ups are rolled up hunks of sugar and high fructose corn syrup mixed together with food dye.

To change that unhealthiness, I created the Scoby Roll-Up out of my Kombucha Scoby.

Why You Should Switch From Fruit Roll-Ups to Scoby Rolls:

Not only is it delicious, it ….

  1. Helps add beneficial bacteria and adds nutrients to your gut
  2. Helps clean out the liver
  3. Adds more B12 and B6 into your diet
  4. Larger serving of fruit
  5. Gives you more energy during the day.

Try it… it might become your new favorite dessert (or snack!).

You will need:

  1. Dehydrator
  2. Two Scobies
  3. Blender
  4. 1/2 cup of pure fruit Juice (100% of fruit juice, not 10% of fruit juice) or 1/2 cup of Jelly that has no added sugar (I like to use grape!)
  5. 1/2 cup of Applesauce with no added sugar (if using juice)
  6. Knife
  7. Parchment Paper

Take both of your scobies and put them in the blender with your jelly or juice. If you are using juice add the applesauce as well. Blend until smooth.

Cut out the parchment paper to cover the length of the dehydration rack. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, you just want to make sure the scoby mixture does not fall through.

Spread the mixture over the parchment paper into a 1/2 inch layer.

Dehydrate for 8 hours or until sticky.

Finished Roll Up NoFarmNeeded

Rip apart to enjoy!

Enjoy Fruit Roll Up NoFarmNeeded

Parting Notes

If you do not finish the fruit roll up in one sitting, ( I don’t suggest it because that’s a lot of beneficial bacteria all at once a.k.a. you’ll be in the bathroom), then put it in the freezer for later.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

DIY: Pressed Flower Phone Case

Why You Should Press Flowers

Stop and smell the roses. Look, as flowers blossom in the morning sun. Smell their sweet scent.

Flowers are a gift from nature. They are nature’s way of smiling at us through the day. Who wouldn’t want to keep them? I press flowers to prolong their beauty and continue to be fascinated with their intricate designs. Pressing flowers allows me to make sure I am always a part of nature.

Don’t You Dare Think of Your Grandma

Pressing flowers… no longer stuck in the 1800’s. Learn how to press, preserve and present dried flowers so can you stay ahead of the curve. Nature is constantly changing around us, so show others your passion through plants!

Take the dive, what’s stopping you?

For when store bought cases are not good enough (and they never should be).

Pressed Flowers – Phone Case

Pressed Flower Phone Case NoFarmNeededYou Will Need:

  1. Desired Flower
  2. Clear phone case (make sure it fits first)
  3. Epoxy – can be found here
  4. Wooden stick
  5. 2 paper cups
  6. White glue
  7. Paint brush

How to Create Your Phone Case:

Not So Interested in Making but….

Still, want one?

Check out my Etsy page for a phone case . Buy one for yourself, a friend, or an acquaintance. Everyone can use a little touch of nature in their life.  (When purchasing, in the comments section, mention a flower you want and I can make the case specifically tailored to you!).