Archive | Organic Pest Control

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

This article will show you how to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant by grafting a tomato plant onto a potato plant. As summer slowly rolls to an end, we often find ourselves with an abundance of tomatos.  Many of the fruit remains green and not fully ripened.  I typically find myself asking, “What can I do different next year to get more fruit for my effort?”

 

It turns out there is an answer:  grafting tomato plants to potatoes.

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

Grafted Plant Diagram (click image to see image source)

Over the centuries, smart gardeners and farmers have developed successful methods to use potato root stock to support tomatoes that may not otherwise be well suited to poor soil conditions in your garden.

 

This is a great way to save space in your garden!  You can start your potatoes early in the growing season to let them mature.  Leave some of the potato plants in place and perform the following grafting process to give your tomato plants a head start!

 

The process:

  1. Taking the potato plant (called the “stock”) cut the stem about 1-inch above the ground and split the stem in a V-shape.
  2. At the tomato plant (called a “scion”), cut the stem with at least 6 to 8 inches of length with a straight across cut.  I recommend choosing a tomato plant that has a stem roughly the same diameter as the potato plant rootstock.
  3. Shape the cut end of the tomato plant to a wedge shape so that it will fit into the potato plant stem’s V-shape cut.
  4. Carefully slide the tomato plant stem onto the potato rootstock.
  5. Wrap the graft location with grafting tape in order to hold the two plants together.
  6. The grafting tape needs to remain in place until the tomato plant begins to show new growth.

 

Here is an illustration of the grafting steps described above:

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

Grafting Scion Section to Stock (click image to see image source)

Why does this grafting process work?  Tomato plants and potato plants are part of the family of plants called “nightshades”.  Both plants contain alkaloids that help protect the plants from insects (they can even be used to make an organic liquid pest control solution for aphids: Organic Aphid Control)

 

A point of caution, grafting can potentially affect the flavor of the tomato fruit.  Also, grafted plants may yield less fruit than two separate plants grown from seeds.  On the other hand, a major benefit is the grafting process will save you a lot of time and space!

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

Tomato-Potato Graft Plant Starts (click image to see image source)

If you end up trying this next year, or plant to grow potatoes in general, we have the perfect garden box for potatoes (and for lots of other things too). We call it TogetherFarm Blocks. This is a modular garden box system made from 100% recycled, food-grade plastic that can be put together in any shape or size. Because it is modular, it is perfect for growing potatoes and tomatoes. Tomatoes will send out roots at any point that the stem is below the  surface of the soil. So, as the plant grows, you can add additional layers onto your modular garden box to give the plant even more strength and fruitfulness. With the potatoes, TogetherFarm Blocks makes it simple at harvest time. Simply pull apart the blocks to be able to get to all the potatoes underground. So cool! We are currently in the last few days of a Kickstarter Campaign to get these blocks to market. If you pledge now, we will ship you a kit at the end of January of next year – just in time for next year’s growing season. Here is a link to TogetherFarm Blocks on Kickstarter as well as a picture of an assembled box. Help us reach our goal and get incredible rewards. Pledge now!

 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/togetherfarm/turning-plastic-into-produce-togetherfarm-blocks

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

TogetherFarm Blocks – an eco-friendly and easy way to build a garden box

 

Happy Gardening,

Matt and the TogetherFarm Produce Evangelists

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Gardening with Recycled Materials

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We’ll keep it short on words and long on pictures in this post as we review different ways of gardening using recycled materials.  My wife and I prepped and planted our spring garden earlier this year.  Here are some quick how-tos and tips for your 2014 garden.

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There they are – a winter’s growth of cover crops.  These guys are all ready to be folded back into last year’s soil which fed a bounty of tomatoes.  Now it’s time to feed the soil.

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There are a few articles out there on incorporating your cover crops into your soil beds.  One says to get a pair of garden shears and do a bit of a mowing, trimming them all before anything else.  We simply got a pitch fork and began turning the cover crops into the soil.  It looks like hard work but it was actually pretty easy.  The cover crops kept the soil moist and well aerated making short work of this task.  The other thing we noticed was the soil, which was a light brown when we planted last year, was rich and dark black with worms and other small critters thriving below the surface.  The beds were very much alive and healthy.

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When done, our beds looked like this.  Note that some of the greens are still at the surface.  We didn’t mind too much because we planned on amending the soil with a few bags of organic soil.  It is important, however, to make sure to cover up any of the greens.  Remember, these guys are still alive with roots in the ground.   You don’t want them to reestablished themselves amidst your new garden.

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We added “Edna’s Best” potting soil to our gardens since it had a nice mix of soil, mycorrhizal fungi, earthworm castings, kelp meal, bat guano, feather meal and a natural wetting agent.  It’s easy, just toss the bag on the garden bed, split it open with a shovel and then remove the bag.  All the soil dumps right where you want it.  We decided to spread it evenly across the top instead of folding it into the beds.  Since it rains fairly often in Portland, Oregon, the soil and nutrients will melt into the rest of the beds.  Again, this also keeps light away from any leftover cover crops to make sure they decompose into the soil.

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The finished project:  Soil is now spread evenly and ready for planting.

yard junk

In 2013, we had an old wire and metal pipe greenhouse that was showing its age.  We took it down and were planning on taking it to the dump.  However, part of our spring garden was peas that love to climb.  My wife, Rhonda (the brains of the operation), figured out a way to keep this out of the landfill while putting it back to work.

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She took the wire shelves and some old tomato hoops from the green house and created an attractive and stable structure for our peas to wrap themselves around.  The structures made it very easy to harvest the peas once they were ready.

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There are a lot of books and magazines on gardening in the Pacific Northwest, but save your money – if you plant to start from seed, all of the instructions including when and how to plant for your specific region, are on the back of the packet.  This would have saved me some money because I bough about a dozen heirloom tomato seeds anxious to get them going earlier this year but found it was too late.  Oh, well.  I’ll save them for next year and start them in egg shell starters.

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Using the poles from our old green house, we divided our beds up into sections for spinach, beets, onions, kale, and carrots.  A common mistake is to plant your crops and then forget to mark them.  They all look alike as seedlings and you won’t know what’s what until they are mostly grown.  For our spring garden, we simply followed the directions on spacing and number of seeds to plant.  We then looked around the yard for more material that would end up in the landfill.  We found some old boards from a planter box, broke them up, and then wrote on them with a green wax pencil to identify our different crops.

Now that the seeds are in the garden, make sure to water them well to wake them up.  Follow watering instructions for your plants, making sure not over-water, which will drown those new roots reaching down into the soil.

You can also be very strategic about planting certain types of plants in close proximity to one another.  Tomatoes and basil do well together.  Marigolds planted in your bed near your crops will function as a natural pest repellent and helps gauge the health of your garden.  There are many other tips and tricks to planting crops which we’ll cover in the coming weeks.

We’re so passionate about using recycled materials that we started a Kickstarter Campaign, where we are raising funds to bring our very first product, TogetherFarm Blocks™.  Made from food safe recycled plastics, it’s an easy way to quickly build a garden bed in a matter of minutes.  If you have a small space you can use these to quickly build a custom garden box without tools or carpentry experience.  Check them out!

TogetherFarm Blocks - the best way to build a garden box

TogetherFarm Blocks – Modular Garden Box System

 

 

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Uses for paper rolls around the garden

TogetherFarm Blocks™

TogetherFarm Blocks™

NEW:  Click here to check out TogetherFarm Blocks™ on KICKSTARTER! The world’s funnest and easiest way to build your own garden box!

There are many uses for paper rolls around the garden. Paper rolls from toilet paper, paper towels, and gift wrapping seem to add up quickly as I noticed while taking my recycling out the other day. I checked around the internet for ways to reuse these. Here are four of my favorites.

Seed starters

Seed Starter

 

A number of web sites have a great how-tos on creating simple seed starter pots for your new crops.  This is a great material as it breaks down in the soil after several waterings and composts nicely.  It is August, but there are a lot of fall crops that need that head start now.  There’s a quick article on what to plant for your specific region on About.com’s Organic Gardening page that can be found here.  For the Pacific Northwesterners, this includes:

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Broccoli(Transplants)
  • Brussels Sprouts (Transplants)
  • Cabbage (Transplants)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (Transplants)
  • Cilantro
  • Collard greens

For a step-by-step guide to create your seed starters, check out You Grow Girl’s handy article.

Protect store-bought starts

Seedling In Tube

 

This idea is a fast and easy way to protect store bought starts that are still in the early stages of development.  The tube acts helps keep the plant upright as well as protects the delicate plant from some common insects.

Simply sink the tube into the ground about two inches deep minding you do not damage sensitive root systems that are attempting to establish themselves.

Planning and spacing

spacers

I am an very visual person and I want to understand how my garden is going to work, especially when planting a few different vegetables in the same garden.  Using rolls to perform some initial layout of the garden really gives you a good idea of where things are and provides a reference when considering how much space each new plant will need before  you run to the gardening center and pick up a bunch of starts.  Best of all, should you decide to use plant starts, you can use them for protection as noted above.

Insect Hotels

Insect Hotel by Arup Associates

We all know the plight of the European Honey Bee and how colonies are collapsing.  Pesticides seem to be the big problem here though an number of other suspects have not been ruled out.  It is critical that we continue to nurture these amazing creatures to keep our crops growing.  However, did you know there were many other pollinators and beneficial insects that help keep your gardens producing?

You can encourage insects such as solitary carpenter bees, moths, butterflies, and wasps to visit your garden by creating an insect hotel.  Most gardens are intentionally kept neat and free of debris.  Most have a lot of concrete for patios and nicely trimmed lawns with a few flowers around the perimeter.  However, the debris is needed to create living environments not only for the pollinators, but for predators of some of our most hated garden pests such as worms and aphids.

Building a insect house is easy and with the help of a few rolls, fast.  Simply stack the rolls, bind them together with coarse outdoor hemp twine and insert a handful of twigs.  If you are feeling particularly creative, you can add a roof to it to protect it from the elements.  Most houses of this construction usually last one summer season.  If you are looking for some great ideas, check out this link here to Inspiration Green’s web site.

 

 

 

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Three Easy Ways to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

 

single fruit fly

single fruit fly

 

As more late-summer and fall fruit becomes available, we thought we’d repost this short article on three easy ways to get rid of fruit flies before they become an infestation.

What are fruit flies?

You know what we’re talking about.  Your garden’s bounty left you with an abundance of fruits and vegetables that you can barely keep up with.  Suddenly, you notice small clouds of flies haunting your produce.  Gross!

Fruit flies are the tiny little bugs that land on fruit and are nearly impossible to catch or kill once airborne.  Some people call them gnats; others call them drain flies.  No matter what you call them they are annoying and can be embarrassing once they take hold in your kitchen and start multiplying.

Why are they so hard to swat and kill?

Know your enemy!  I have a new respect for these pests after looking into why they are so difficult to kill on a surface or while airborne. Michael Dickinson, the Esther M. and Abe M. Zarem Professor of Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), states that:

“… long before the fly leaps, its tiny brain calculates the location of the impending threat, comes up with an escape plan, and places its legs in an optimal position to hop out of the way in the opposite direction. All of this action takes place within about 100 milliseconds after the fly first spots the swatter.”

More science behind the enemy can be found in this fascinating article here: http://phys.org/news139142949.html#jCp

There are three easy ways to get rid of fruit flies:

#1 Get rid of the source of food

Garbage Collector

Garbage Collector

So fruit flies, despite their name, do not eat fruit.  What they are going after is the yeast that grows on rotting fruit; the same yeast that produces alcohol.  So if you remove this feast from your kitchen (the tomatoes you were going to get around to eating; the peaches and apricots that ripened faster than you imagined) you’ll eventually get rid of the flies as they die out or go look for food elsewhere.

Again, the flies are attracted to yeast, so you’ll need to keep a pretty clean kitchen, including removing food waste in your sink’s drain trap, cleaning surfaces with a disinfectant, and making sure any indoor composter or trash can is kept empty and free of temptations.

#2  Cover up!

Magic Mesh Magnetic Screen Door

Magic Mesh Magnetic Screen Door

Mid-summer.  Warm weather.  A lazy afternoon.  It’s only natural to open all the windows and doors to let breeze come through the house.  Or maybe you have kids or animals that are constantly going in and out and leaving doors open.

As you do, you are leaving a path for the pesty flies to enter the house.  These flies are only a couple to a few millimeters in size so you won’t see them coming.  Making sure all windows and doors have screens is a great way to reduce the number of bugs coming into your house.  It won’t keep them all out since some (including fruit flies) can crawl through the screen but it will slow them down.  It also works well for regular sized flies, too.

The best way to keep fruit away from fruit flies is to put it in a sealed container or in the fridge. Refrigerators work well for already-ripened fruit as the cooler temperatures slows down senescence (the ripening of the fruit).

#3  Make a fruit fly trap (DIY)

Fruit Fly Trap

Fruit Fly Trap

You don’t need toxic chemicals around the house to get rid of fruit flies.  Surprisingly, these little guys that are so difficult to swat on a counter or hit in mid-air are so driven by their appetite for yeast that they are relatively easy to capture.  Over the course of a couple of days I managed to capture all of the offending flies in a jar.  The process is relatively easy and completely DIY.  You’ll need:

  • A jar
  • A sheet of binder paper
  • A piece of tape
  • A couple of ounces of apple vinegar and/or really ripe fruit

Once you have your materials, simply:

  1. Make a cone out of the paper and tape it so that it stays in shape.
  2. Put your bait (the vinegar or fruit) into the jar.
  3. Put the cone into the jar a few inches above the bait.

The flies will enter the cone, go through the hole at the bottom but will be unable to find their way back out.  If problems are really bad, make a few of these and position them around the house where the highest concentration of fruit flies exist.  One benefit is that if you are so inclined,  you can take your prisoners  outside and release them instead of killing them.  If this is your plan, use fruit and leave the vinegar out.

You can find more great tips here:  http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Fruit-Flies

Kickstarter Campaign for TogetherFarm Blocks

Kickstarter Campaign for TogetherFarm Blocks!

If you are excited about growing your own produce at home, you should check out our Kickstarter Campaign, where we are raising funds to bring our very first product, TogetherFarm Blocks™, to you.  If you have a small space you can use these to quickly build a custom garden box without tools or carpentry experience.  Check them out!

 

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