Vegetables

Starting a garden is as easy as A, B, Seed!

It’s February and, depending on where you live, winter may be loosening it’s grip or (like here in Michigan) it may be still going strong.

If you’re like me, you might just be getting a little bit antsy to get your fingers back in the dirt and get things growing.

Good news…

It’s Not Too Early To Start!

The biggest mistake most gardeners make is thinking everything goes into the ground at one time, about the time the weather gets nice. But that technique will leave you disappointed.

Both vegetables and flowers have cool season growers and warm season growers. A plant that thrives in the cool temps of spring will wither or bolt during a hot summer. Reverse that for a warm season plant: put it in the cold ground of spring and you will be watching nothing grow.

So now is the perfect time to start thinking about your cool spring garden and while the ground outside may not be workable there are flowers and veggies that will thrive if you plant them now, indoors as seeds.

5 Flowers To Start Indoors From Seed Now:

  • Snapdragons

  • Delphinium

  • Sweet Peas

  • Pansy

  • Black-eyed Susan

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6 Vegetables To Start Indoors From Seed Now:

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Tomatoes

  • Peppers

  • Peas

  • Eggplant

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Supplies Needed:

  • Seeds

  • Small pots: I like to use plastic cells and plastic starter pots. I reuse them as much as possible. Make sure they are dirt free and sterilized with a water/bleach solution before using. (One gallon water to 1 or 2 Tbsp. bleach.)

  • Trays: Hold water to allow the plants to suck it up from the bottom.

  • Lids (optional): Help hold heat and humidity in.

  • Seed starting mix: From your local garden center.

  • Large plastic container: to hold wet seed starting soil mix.

  • Small gardening shovel

  • Garden gloves (optional)

  • Plant markers: Craft popsicle sticks work well as do old plastic blinds.

  • Sharpie: To label your plant markers

  • Spray bottle: Make sure it can spray with a fine mist..

  • Water: Non-chlorinated, non-salted. When in doubt purchase distilled water from the grocery store.

  • Grow lights (really helpful)

  • Heat mats (optional)

Techniques:

I’m clearly no Joanna Gaines or Ree Drummond on camera but watch the video demonstration below for a short tutorial. We shot this in one take so I’d like to clarify that when I said most plants have to start when we have snow still on the ground, I meant cool season plants and plants with long growing times. Don’t start pumpkins now! LOL!

To help you know more about start dates I have put together a handy guide for both indoor seed starting and outdoor seed starting. Just scroll to the footer on this page and fill out the sign up form to recieve your free guide.

To see our seed starting setup with grow lights, and other information watch this video.

Other Tips and Tricks:

Plants that have been started in the comfort of your cozy house will need to be “hardened off” before you move them to their outside home. This means exposing them to the great outdoors, a little bit at a time, gradually lengthing their exposure so they can build up hardiness to the outdoors.

To know when your plants should go in the ground, make sure you sign up at the bottom of the page to get your free growing calendar and seed starting guide.

Reference & Sources:

  • Seeds: Territorial Seed Company, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

  • Supplies: Family Farm and Home, Lowes, Ace Hardware

  • Books: Cool Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler, Better Homes and Gardens Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Gardening, Floret Flowers- Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein

Happy Growing:

Are you convinced to give seed starting a try this year? I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

You can drop me a comment here on the blog, on facebook, on instagram or shoot me an email at cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead.com

And don’t forget to get your free guide and calendar to seed starting. Sign up below, in the footer section.

Bloom and grow!

Cyndi

If You Eat Tomatoes You'll Want To Know This!

My first experience with tomatoes was less than grand. My momma had one tomato plant in her tiny garden space when I was very little. On this plant was one lowly, green tomato waiting to ripen.

My mom was very excited for this little fruit to turn red so she could pick it and have fresh tomato. She told me green tomatoes were bad so that I would wait for it to turn red.

One day my mom went out to check on her tomato and it was gone. Very unhappy, she interrogated each of my four older brothers. Who would dare to pick her precious tomato?

All my brothers looked baffled. "We didn't do it," they said. This made her even angrier. Surely someone was not telling the truth.

Then I took her hand and led her to the garbage can outside. I lifted the lid. There, at the bottom, was Mom's green tomato. "Green, bad!" I told her.

Poor Mom. She had told me that green was bad, but failed to say we needed to wait for it to turn red.

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Don't worry... My mistake was graciously overlooked and, in her lifetime, Mom had many more home grown, ripe tomatoes.

Now, I'm a firm believer in letting food be my medicine and it turns out that those little jewels my mom waited for to ripen each subsequent year are actually a powerhouse super food packed with health.

Eating fresh tomatoes is doing yourself a favor!

Don't like tomatoes? You might change your mind after reading these ten tomato tidbits: (Disclaimer: I'm a farmer/health nut not a doctor or nutritionist. I just know how real food makes me feel.)

  • 1. Tomatoes are an incredible cancer fighter; reducing your risk of cancer because of the phyto chemicals called carotenoids contained in the skin. The deeper the color of the skin, the deeper the amount of carotenoids. Lutein, Alpha and Beta Carotenes, and Lycopene (carotenoids) contain antioxidants that protect cells from damage. To get the most benefit, eat your tomatoes cooked.
  • 2. Tomatoes also fight imflammation. They rank #12 on the list of anti-inflammatory foods. The fruits contain flavonoids called Quercentin and Kaempferol that are natural antihistamines. The carotenoid Lycopene also helps with inflammation.
  • 3. Tomatoes can lessen depression. The Folate (a type of Vitamin B) in tomatoes helps to facilitate your body's production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine; all mood boosting chemicals. I'm all about that!
  • 4. The alpha-lopoic acid in tomatoes can help stabilize blood sugar. Tomatoes have a glycemic index of 30. Anything under 55 is considered low and means that sugars are released throughout the body in a slow and steady rate instead of a large spike.
  • 5. Tomatoes fight heart disease and can help keep blood pressure under control. Also related, they can reduce your risk of stroke and provide muscle relaxant properties. This is due, in part, to the potassium and Vitamin C, that tomatoes contain, and the jelly around tomato seeds that contain salicytates, anti-clotting agents. So to get the best heart benefits, eat those seeds!
  • 6. Eating tomatoes give your hair, skin and teeth a healthy boost from the Vitamin A and collagen they contain. One cup of chopped tomatoes equals over 50% the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A for women.
  • 7. Pregnant or trying to get pregnant: The Folate in tomatoes helps tissue and cell growth. Folate is responsible for helping produce DNA, help cells divide and is important for proper fetal development.
  • 8. Tomatoes strengthen your bones! The Vitamins K and A as well as Lycopene reduce the specific inflammation that leads to the breakdown of bones.
  • 9. Want to keep your eyes in tiptop shape? Tomato carotenoids and Viamin A reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • 10 Finally, if you suffer from exercise induced asthma, an Australian study has come out that suggest that Vitamin A and Lycopene can help reduce attacks.

I mean, Wow! All that from a tomato! Who knew?!

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Now, for the best news of all! Tomato season has just started. You can stop by your local farm stand or farmer's market and take advantage of all the fresh off the vine fruit. Pick up a few for eating now and a bunch for preserving for later.

Here is a fresh tomato salsa recipe to get you started:

2 ripe tomatoes, cored and diced

1 clove peeled, chopped garlic

1/2 onion, diced

6 sprigs of cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp. lime juice

Salt

Mix together, let sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to co-mingle, add more lime juice and salt to taste.

Happy, healthy eating!

So whadda ya think?

Are you affected by one of those health issues above or maybe one that isn't mentioned?

I'd love for you to scroll down to the comment section below and tell me your biggest health issue and if you think food can heal your body. Let's get a conversation started. I'd really like to hear from you!

For now, Bloom and Grow,

Cyndi

Ten Timely Tips You Need For Tomato Season!

The season of the fresh tomato is just about to hit in Michigan. 

I don't know about you, but I wait all year long for this.

There is just no comparing a bland grocery store tomato with fresh, local varieties plucked straight off the vine.

Here is a bit of tomato 101 for you...

There are both hybrid varities and open-pollinated/heirloom varieties.

Hybrids are bred in nurseries and will not reproduce true from seed the next year (Don't waste time seed-saving. You don't know what will grow.) while open-pollinated/heirloom varieties will reproduce true from seed. (You can save the seeds, plant them and they should grow into exactly the type of tomato you got them from.)

Heirloom tomatoes are old-fashioned, open-pollinated varieties that have been around for generations.

Heirlooms are generally regarded as the tastiest type of tomato available.

They are also fragile and hard to transport long distances making them undesirable for commercial farmers to grow. Because of this they are rarer and command a higher price.

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Now if you, like me, have been anticipating these beauties showing up at farmstands and farmer's markets all over the area, I've got some helpful tips to guide you to your version of tomato heaven!

1. The size of the tomato doesn't dictate it's flavor, texture or quality. Choose a size that works for your intented use! That being said...

2. Decide what you want to use your tomatoes for and choose accordingly.

  • Grape and cherry tomatoes are small and sweet. Because of their size they are best used to garnish salads, fill appitizer trays and top hors d'oeuvres.
  • Roma, paste or plum tomatoes are perfect for making sauces, soups and mixing with meat dishes. They are smaller and firm. They have thick, meaty flesh and are less juicy and seeded then other varieties making it easier to cook them down faster.
  • Beefsteaks- the big boys of the tomato world- are what you want for sandwiches, burgers, making into salsa and for stuffing. Are you getting hungry yet? I am!

3. Don't squeeze a potential purchase. Instead pick it up and rest it in your palm. Does it feel heavy for it's size? It should.

4. Smell the tomato. A fresh tomato should have an earthy, slightly sweetish smell. The stonger the tomato smells, the more tasty it will be.

5. Inspect the tomato. Make sure it is free of bruises, or deep cracks. Heirlooms are fragile and are not bred to be uniformly shaped but bruises, deep cracks or holes indicate a tomato that isn't any good.

6.. Purchase tomatoes as you need them. Plan on using them with in a couple days of purchase as tomatoes continue to ripen off the vine.

7. Store tomatoes at room temperature on a plate. Do not put them in a plastic bag or in the refrigerator.

8. When cutting into tomatoes use a knife with a serrated edge. Use a light-handed, sawing motion. This will prevent the downward pressure of force from squishing the tomato.

9. For the best health benefits don't peel that tomato! Tomato skin holds a high concentration of caretenoids (fat-soluble pigments of yellow, orange or red) and flavonols (another type of plant pigmentation). In plain speak... They're good for you!

10. You don't have to seed tomatoes. Some recipes call for this, but it is really up to you. All seeds affect is texture. They do not affect taste.

There you have it! These tips should take the mystery out of choosing, storing, and prepping tomatoes for an abundance of incredible uses.

Leave me a comment. I'd to know what your favorite tomato is!

And...

Be sure to look for next week's blog... #2 in my 4 part tomato series! We'll dive into ten reasons to love tomatoes, even if you don't like them!

Bloom and Grow,

Cyndi