Archive | Garden Starts

Beware the Tomatillo Plant…

Growing tomatillos is very easy and the fruit can be used to make green salsa and sauces.

About 3 years ago I planted a couple of Tomatillo plants (if you are not sure what a tomatillo is, check out this link for more info: Tomatillos are a staple to the Mexican diet and they are excellent in green salsas and other Latin American dishes, especially green sauces. I was excited to grow some tomatillos to make green salsa.

The plants grew well and produced yields far beyond what I could use – it was great! Inevitably, a number of the tomatillos got overripe and dropped onto the soil below. I wasn’t too worried and figured I might get a few plants the next year from the seeds of the fruit that dropped onto the soil.

A ripe tomatillo from my garden.

The next year, I was pleasantly surprised by more tomatillo plants – lots of them! This has continued every year since then.  I often will dig up a number of the plants to put in pots and give to friends and family. This past season, I literally had to weed out about 100 tomatillo plants :). So, with very little effort on my part, I have a nice yield of Tomatillos every year. They are a great addition to my garden and you can’t beat fresh made green salsa with roasted tomatillos and avocado in it – delicious!

Here is a link to a few Tomatillo recipes:



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Organic ways for how to get rid of slugs in your garden

We at TogetherFarm believe in using natural and organic products for pest control and soil amendments. This ensures sustainability and health for generations to come. This is a how to on getting rid of slugs in your garden – the organic way. In addition, if you have issues with aphids, check out this article for How to get rid of aphids in your garden.

A couple days ago, I opened my cold frame where I am starting a bunch of seeds. 2 days before that, there were lots of little plants poking their heads through the moist soil and I expected to see even more true leaves on the starts. Instead, all I found were little plant stubs – the slugs had attacked again and devoured most of my starts. For anyone who has been through this before, it is very disheartening!

Slugs can devour entire sections of your garden overnight!

With that in mind, how does one get rid of slugs in their garden? Here are some organic methods that I have discovered:

1. Night-time Slug Hunting: You can try the age-old method of slug-hunting at night or early morning. My brother often uses this method and his record in one evening is about 100 slugs – that’s a lot of work!

2. The Beer Trap Method: Another method is to use beer traps.  Supplies needed: tinfoil baking container, yeast, and beer. Fill the baking tin with beer and bury it, with the top of it level with the surface of the ground. Sprinkle some extra yeast into the beer as this is what really attracts the slugs to the trap. Here is a quick video how to from the rusted Build a Beer Trap for Slugs

3. Crushed Egg Shells: The third option is to use crushed egg shells. This is a fairly effective method and adds calcium and other nutrients back into the soil as the shells decompose. The slugs don’t like crawling over the sharp edges of the crushed egg shells. The problem with this method is that you need a lot of egg shells to cover a big garden space.

4. Sluggo: The final method (and the method I most often use) is to use a product called Sluggo. This is a product that is safe around pets. It was recently certified to be used in organic gardening by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute). I have found that Sluggo is the most effective method of preventing a total devastation of my plants by slugs. Here is a link to Sluggo on Sluggo

An organically certified way to get rid of slugs.

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Aw, hail …

Definitely NOT Portland hail


So I had to write this post because every year after we plant our summer garden a good old-fashioned hailstorm is only a few weeks away.

And today was no exception.

Although we made it through okay, just 20 minutes of small pea-sized hailstones that soon washed away with the ensuing torrent of rain, other parts of the country are not so lucky where entire crops can be devastated in a matter of minutes.

“I know this from experience,” writes Josiah Smart on his section of the, “because when I was a blooming gardener I had my garden completely demolished by about 10 minutes of severe hail.”

Josiah goes on to write, “I began to keep large clay pots within 10 feet of my garden, so that at any sign of hail I could run outside and have the plants sheltered in a matter of seconds.”  This works well if you live in, say, Portland, Oregon where one clap of thunder and a flash of lighting makes the evening news for the next two weeks.

But what about other parts of the country where hail can reach an inch or more in diameter?  How do you cope with it then?  Josiah talks about his efforts to save his garden beds by constructing a retractable but flexible wire mess net.  Other solutions come in different shapes and sizes, but my favorite (not mass produced) is a sort of a tent/raised bed solution sold by Brent Neuenswander in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (contact info here) Although the material is “single season” thick plastic sheeting, I am sure it could be adapted to a longer use, more environmentally friendly solution.

The Three Season  Raised Bed GardenIn previous years, our Portland backyard crops had been decimated by hail.  However, a combination of luck and an unusually warm year has spared our crops.  We may try one of these solutions going forward because once the damage is done, you pretty much have to rip up the damaged plants and start over which can cost quite a bit of time and money.

And for the record, the hailstone in the first picture, a 5 1/4 inch mortar, was not from today’s storm here in Portland but from a storm that hit Harper, Kansas in 2004.

Have you experienced this and/or have a solution to share?   Drop us a comment!

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Planting Tomatoes – Best Kept Secrets

Sungold Tomatoes

A couple of years back I learned a trick from a magazine that Al’s Garden Center puts out. It had to do with how to plant a tomato start. I had always known that it was helpful to wait till a tomato was about 12 inches tall before it was transplanted from the container to the garden bed. I had also known that it was important to bury about 80% of the plant when it is transplanted because tomatoes will grow roots from any part of the stem that is under ground. More roots equals more surface area to take in nutrients.

Planting a tomato start in a trench

But, what I didn’t know was that it is actually best to dig a small trench, about 4-6 inches deep and bury the tomato plant almost horizontally in the trench with just the top inch or so sticking out of the ground. Trench planting of a tomato plant has a couple of advantages. First, it allows for the stem to grow a root system that will be close to the surface, soaking up more water and nutrients more efficiently. Secondly, (and this is super important for those living in an area with a shorter growing season) trench planting of a tomato plant helps the plant mature quicker because the roots are near the surface of the garden bed where the soil is much warmer.

The last tip that was listed in the magazine article was specifically for growing tomatoes in a climate like Portland’s. They advised not watering the tomato plants after July 4th. The strategy behind this is that a tomato plant goes in to full fruit production stage when it gets less water. If you keep watering the tomato plant, it will just keep growing more leafy stems and not necessarily produce as much fruit.

So, there you have it. Give it a try this season and let us know how it goes. The last 2 years I have grown Sungold Tomato plants that are at least 6-8 feet tall and produced more golden tomatoes than a small village could eat.

Source article link from Al’s Garden Center: A Tomato Tale

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