Have you ever thought about becoming a gardener but aren’t sure how to start or maintain a healthy garden that will provide for you and your family? You aren’t alone. A lot of beginner gardeners feel intimidated by upkeep and care because of lack of knowledge or budget. This blog includes several budget-friendly and free options that any home gardener can experiment with to maintain tomato plants.
Is that blossom end rot destroying the bottom of your tomatoes? You can fix this calcium deficiency with a 4-lb bag calcium nitrate granules for less than $10 at your local hardware store, but you can also substitute eggshells as a free alternative. Instead of discarding those eggshells you have after making your breakfast, toss them into your garden soil to supply a great source of calcium and add ample nutrients to your soil to reduce blossom end rot.
If you don’t regularly (or ever) fertilize your plants, they can develop a nitrogen deficiency. You may notice that the more mature leaves will begin to lose their color and transition to a light green or yellow color. Don’t panic, sprinkle your coffee grounds at the base of the plant each morning as a DIY fertilizer to add nitrogen back into the soil. Not a coffee drinker? There are a wide range of store-bought fertilizer options available for every budget.
If your tomato leaves turning yellow and brown towards the bottom stem, tomato blight is likely the culprit. Blight is induced by water and soil splashing up onto the plant foliage. Baking soda and dish soap are both easily accessible and will kill the blight by altering the plant’s pH level. To remedy blight for free, you can regularly prune the bottom stem of excess limbs and suckers. This can also help increase the quality of your tomato harvest! Click here to watch a video from the University of Maryland’s Home and Garden Information Center that shows how to prune a tomato plant.
For a free and natural remedy to control those pesky hornworms and cut worms, you can pick the worms directly off the plant and either remove them from your garden beds or treat your chickens with a healthy snack. If you’re short on time, you can also treat these with Dipel Dust or Diatomaceous Earth for less than $10 from the local hardware store.
Aphids are tiny bugs that suck that feed on the fluid inside your tomato plant’s leaves and flowers. Neem oil is a natural and relatively inexpensive way (around $10 per bottle) to control aphids, but you can also tackle the pest by hand. Simply spray soapy water onto the affected plants or knock the aphids off into a bucket of soapy water, whichever you prefer.
There are many different challenges that can come your way in your gardening adventure but there are also many different solutions no matter what your budget is. Be sure to “like” the Quapaw Farmers Market Facebook page for more helpful videos. Happy gardening!
Corn Canning Recipe:
Corn is a farm favorite and a staple crop in Oklahoma. While the growing season usually lasts from late spring to early fall, you can enjoy fresh-tasting corn all year by canning. Corn, in the canning world, is considered a low-acid food. This means that it has to be pressure canned in order to make it safe to eat. Pressure canners are able to reach and cook at much higher temperatures than boiling water or water bath canning methods. These temperatures are essential for killing off foodborne pathogens that can make you ill. For canning, you should only use recipes from reliable sources. There are an abundance of safe recipes available, but this is the one we chose for our video.
Easy Steps to Pressure Canning Corn:
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How to Save Money with Food Preservation
Food preservation is a popular option for those wanting to save money by avoiding overpriced produce in the winter months, reducing the need for pre-packaged produce, and/or maximizing their garden’s harvest. Food preservation refers to any one of a number of techniques used to prevent food from spoiling. It includes methods such as canning, pickling, dehydrating, freeze-drying, irradiation, pasteurization, smoking, and the addition of chemical additives. The various methods for preserving foods are all designed to reduce or eliminate pathogens, oxidation, or both, that spoil food.
First, freezing foods can be the simplest of food preservation methods. You just need a freezer and packaging. Research shows that overall processing costs are less than $100 for 500 pounds of food. That breaks down to approximately $0.20 per pound. Compare this to grocery stores that sell bags of frozen veggies from $1-3 per pound. Plus, you’ll be able to save gas by making fewer trips to the store.
Canning is a second option for food preservation. Canning operations are more variable than freezing due to the different techniques, ingredients, and additives. Canning is also dependent on your food choice’s yield and acidity. For example, low-acid produce, like most vegetables, will use a pressure canner while high-acid foods, such as fruits used for jams and jellies, use a water bath method. Canning is perfect for storing seasonal foods to be enjoyed all year long; however, it is critical to properly follow canning instructions to help prevent food spoilage and foodborne illnesses. Canning is also a heavy storage-required method, so make sure you have enough space to keep your food. While canned goods at the grocery store can cost between $0.50 to over $1 per can, canning at home often costs less than $0.10 per quart. This means you can process 500 pounds of food for under $50!
Dehydrating or drying foods is yet another method for food preservation. It can be more time-consuming than other methods, depending on your food choices. Some of the most popular foods to dehydrate are meat products, but produce can also be dried and dehydrated. The cost to process is similar to canning, around $0.10 per pound or about $50 to process 500 pounds. Just imagine being able to snack on jerky for only a dime!
While food preservation can save your family thousands of dollars over your lifetime, be aware that there may be both initial and ongoing expenses associated with preserving. You can minimize start-up costs by renting equipment rather than purchasing your own materials. The Quapaw Farmers Market offers a free equipment rental for all community members. Ongoing costs include items such as electricity, optional added ingredients (such as sweeteners), or the value of your time spent preserving.
Finally, food preservation gives you control over your nutrition and diet. By choosing preservation methods and foods you enjoy, you are creating your own “whole foods” approach to your nutritional lifestyle. Combining food preservation with farming and gardening can give you ultimate control over your food resources and nutrition. If you are looking to save money, take control of your food choices, or to enjoy seasonal foods throughout the year, consider food preservation. Click here to book an equipment pick-up appointment today.