Saturday, May 4, 2013

How to Plant Tomatoes?

Welcome Back Gardeners,

On this blog entry I'll be giving you some information on growing one of the most rewarding gardening experiences you can have in your own back yard. If you enjoy tomatoes then you should probably stick around and see how you can grow your own!

As a youngster I disliked tomatoes profusely. I was the only one in the family who seemed to abhor them, so I knew that I must have a problem. I tried them once in a while just to remind myself how repulsive they were to me. Then it happened... I tried a garden grown, sun ripened tomato off the vine on a slice of toast and mayonnaise. I experienced something not so repulsive and something that I'd soon eat pretty much every day of my life in some form or another.

If you are a tomato connoisseur you know that store bought tomatoes are just lacking something...TASTE! They don't taste a whole lot like anything if you ask me. There is just something about a home grown tomato that enhances the flavor of food like nothing else you can grow in your garden.


It doesn't matter if you have some large pots or an area in the ground, you will be able to plant tomatoes. For new gardeners I highly recommend going to your garden store in the spring and picking out some nice tomato plants that have already been started for you. You don't need the large plants either to be successful. Buy the small plants that are cheaper. Don't forget to also pick up some bone meal to add to your soil when planting.

You should get standard garden varieties that are well known like beef master, beefsteak, celebrity, early girl, better boy, sweet 100's, romas and so on. If you are into funny looking tomatoes then look for the heirlooms. Just a word of caution; these varieties might be harder to grow and not produce as many delicious red fruits for you.

Once you have your tomato plants you are ready to head to the garden. Tomatoes love lots of water, but need good drainage. So it is best to plant them on a hill, or to hill up the dirt in your garden where you will plant them. For an example watch the video I'll post below. Next dig a small hole that is about twice the size of the container holding your tomato. At this point you should take some bone meal and add a table spoon or as directed on the package to the hole.

Now a key fact that will give your tomato a head start is to burry half to 3/4's of the plant (if it is small). Break off the bottom leaves and burry 2-3 inches of the stem leaving some leafy green above ground. The tomato plant vine will now send out more roots giving it extra nutrients and ability to take in more water from the soil. Cover it will soil and pat lightly. You should now water the plant.

Sometimes you'll go out the next day to look at your garden and the plant will have been chewed off at the soil level and left for dead. This means you had a cutworm disaster and the plant will now die. To avoid this you can slit a plastic cup down the side and cut the bottom off. Place it around the plant and push an inch down into the soil. This will prevent those cutworms from finding your tender tomato vines. Once the plant is established this is less likely to occur and you can remove the cup. You should now have your tomato plant in the ground and ready to grow.

If you want to plant multiple plants you should space them out at least 12-24 inches or more. They get very large and crowded, so keep that in mind when planting. Check out these videos on planting your tomatoes that I made.

Tips on Planting Tomatoes
Planting Tomatoes With Caleah

It is always interesting to look back in history and see the manuscripts of time.  For example here is one regarding planting tomatoes and feeling great!

"I arose at half past four a.m. At five I was at work spading up ground and preparing to set out my flowers. I worked one hour alone, then Edith Ward and Ella May White united with me, and we planted our flowers. Then we set out twenty-eight tomato plants, when the bell rang for morning prayers and breakfast. I think I have received no harm from my vigorous exercise, but feel better for the work done."—Manuscript 62, 1896, 1, 2. (Diary, February 10, 1896.)

John 15:1-11  Now I know this is talking about grape vines, but tomatoes are also a vine and need a lot of close attention and pruning.  Next blog entry will be about how to get the most out of those tomato plants you've put in the ground.  Until then ponder this text from John.

  “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How to Plant Seeds in your Garden

Welcome Back Gardeners,

This really is a simple topic, but there seem to be some complexities that may be keeping you from gardening with success from a package of seeds.  Keep reading for 10 helpful tips to increase your odds.

#1 Look at your location and the last typical frost date for your area.  If it is after this period you are probably safe to start your garden.

#2 Prepare your soil with amendments and till like stated in a previous post. 

#3 Read the seed package and if the package doesn't have instruction you may have to look on the companies website as some seed companies are now putting instructions online.  Every seed package will tell you the days to germination, where to plant, planting depth, how far apart the spacing should be between plants and rows, and days till harvest.  

#4 Disregard the instructions on the package as gospel if you have a smaller space that you would like to plant more densely.  Even though plants grown closer together do not usually reach full potential size they often will produce well and keep weeds down.  Also the plants can shade each other in the mid day sun so wilt and sunburn is not as big of a factor.  Also remember that when planting you can put seeds closer together and then thin the seedlings once they have sprouted by selectively picking which ones are doing the best and weeding out the rest.

#5 Planting Depth is one of the most important yet not an exact science.  I find that the most important factor in depth is not to plant too deep.  Most seeds are planted in 1/2 of soil or less.  Some are planted 1-2 inches deep but are usually the larger seeds like squash, corn and peas.  If you notice a whole row doesn't pop up you may have dug slightly too deep with your trench.

#6 Creating a planting trench is easy with a straight piece of wood like a 1x1 or fence board.  Whatever you have laying around the yard will work though.  Using the edge of the board make a straight ditch by wiggling the board down into the soil.  This is where you have to pay attention to the depth of your trench so it isn't too deep.

#7 Cover your seeds with soil gently.  Once covered pat lightly and mark the row if you'd like to with your seed package.

#8 Watering:  Now unless a storm cloud is headed your way you will need to water your garden to get the seeds germinating.  Use a nozzle with a light spray to avoid causing erosion in your freshly tilled and planted garden.  Keep the garden moist while the seeds are germinating.  In California the top layer of the soil may dry out causing the seeds to die before they have sufficient root structure.  You may have to water twice daily to keep those dry spots moist while your seeds are sprouting.  It is also important to not get the garden too wet.  If water logged the seeds may rot before germination.  Make sure your garden has good drainage and not in a low laying area to avoid this problem.

#9 Now you should wait to see what happens and if a few days you should see the earth give way to new life full of your little seedling rows.  

#10 Keep an eye on your new growth and if it starts to disappear you may have to spay a pesticide in order to save your seedlings.  

Don't worry if your seeds don't germinate, be reassured that every year I end up replanting something.   Here are a few things I've gained from the nothingness that occurs after a faulty plant. 

1-Keep garden moist
2-Don't plant seeds when too cold, or frost
3-If having trouble with germination you may have a soil pest, look for nematodes which are very small worms that eat the seeds.  These pests also eat the roots of new seedlings killing the plant.  Marigolds planted in the area with the problem may help alleviate the nematode burden according to some sources.
4-Don't plant to deep
5-If nothing happens in ten days consider replanting
6-If all else fails buy small plants and try seeds next year.  

Galations 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Don't give up on your garden, you'll figure it out and will be greatly blessed.

Psalm 126:6 
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Remember that all the hard work early on in your gardening process will be rewarded when it comes time to enjoy your harvest.  Like the rest of life you get out what you put into it!

God Bless you and your garden!

Monday, April 15, 2013

When to Plant Seeds in California?

"When should I plant my seeds in California?"  I am often asked.  

Basically this all comes down to the same question coined by Shakespeare so many years ago, "To Be, or Not  To Be?"  First of all a little research can help you out as this information pertains to you whether you live here in California or not.  

The most important piece of information in the approximation of timing on when to start your garden can be found here in a table nicely put together for Southern California seen below and at this location for the pdf.

Also Check out their site it is a great resource:

Even though I have given you this table it is flexible and I will tell you my experience in planting gardens for the past 6 years in Southern California.  

My first garden was planted on the East side of our rental house in a long, raised flower bed.  This garden was planted in the beginning of July when we moved into our first house after getting married.  I planted the garden with tomatoes plants, cucumbers, corn, basil, lettuce, beans, onions, peas and carrots.  Take my word for it July is too late to start a Garden.  Your tomatoes, onions, beans and basil will do ok, but everything else will likely not produce anything or turn out very poor.  It is just too hot in July.  That is one extreme.   

The optimal time for planting the Inland Empire seems to be from March to April from my experience.  Everything will do relatively well and produce excellent veggies.  Even things that the graph says not to plant for the summer months will still produce.  The weather is warm enough so when your seedlings pop up they don't freeze and die and don't become stunted by the short days or colder weather.  I find the seeds germinate within 4-7 days and will grow at a very rapid rate.  This is important so that the plant can grow faster than the bugs are able to eat them.  

Is there a too early in Southern California?  Yes I would say February and earlier is too early.  Last year I started my garden in mid February and I ended up replanting many things either because they didn't germinate, were devoured by bugs because of super slow growth or actually died because it was too cold at nights.  So what can you plant in the cold weather if you want some early greens?  Plant your leafy greens like lettuce, kale and chard.  Peas also love cold and will actually thrive if you plant them earlier in the year.  I've never seen peas grow to 7 feet high before, but they did last year.  If you would like to plant tomatoes make sure they are larger plants because the smaller ones will die in the cold nights.  Don't waste your money though, wait a few weeks and plant when the weather is warmer mid March or April.  Don't plant squash or cucumbers too early because you will be wasting your seeds the majority of time.

Winter Gardening.  I'll write another post some other time.  This past winter I had a successful winter garden.  You should start it anywhere from Late August to October.  The cold weather plants do very well.  Especially broccoli!  So go early to the stores to get your broccoli seeds because they disappear fast!  Cauliflower, kale, chard and carrots also grow well for winter gardening.  Give it a shot.  Well worth it since you don't have to water much.   

REMEMBER... if all else fails read the back of the seed packages and look for the climate zones for the last frost and when to plant in your area.  Generally planting after the last frost will keep you in the clear!  Here is another great resource for climate zones and planting.

As with planting seeds in our gardens it is good to reflect on the Great Gardener and how He cares for us in His time. 

Isaiah 60:18-22 has a marvelous picture of heaven in which the writer likens You and I to a shoot that He planted at the work of His hands for the display of His splendor.  Verse 22 says, "in its time I will do this swiftly."  Isn't it amazing that even God pays attention to the planting of each one of us! 

 Read below for the verses 60:18-22
No longer will violence be heard in your land,
    nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
    and your gates Praise.
19 The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun will never set again,
    and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of sorrow will end.
21 Then all your people will be righteous
    and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
    the work of my hands,
    for the display of my splendor.
22 The least of you will become a thousand,
    the smallest a mighty nation.
I am the Lord;
    in its time I will do this swiftly.”

This passage sounds far from anything in our world today.  After all the horrendous acts of humanity against itself the past few years, including the Boston Marathon Bombing which occurred today, don't you long for something else.  God is preparing a place for you, do you want to be there?.  Let Him plant a seed of hope in you.

Till next time, God Bless you and your Garden.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Garden Soil Preparation is Building a Strong Foundation

Soil Preparation is Building a Foundation

Welcome back Gardeners,

Today we will talk about a crucial topic when it comes to gardening.  Soil is likely the most important  factor in a new gardeners success or failure.  It can be easily overlooked and the results will soon become very apparent as the outcome is dismal if not attended to initially.  Needless to say some people are blessed with amazing soil and little has to be done each year to get it ready, but for the rest of us we often have to create our own growing soil!

As in architecture or any sort of life endeavor, every mindful person understands that a strong foundation is the place to root great success. 

#1   First look at your soil and the area you would like to plant.  Is it hard and rocky?  Sandy?  Clay?  Black Dirt?  I like to keep things simple so once you've made the observation of what type of soil you have then answer the second question.  

#2  Is anything currently growing in this piece of ground or does it look completely devoid of life?  If completely devoid of life this may not be good soil or a great area to have a garden... or maybe it hasn't been watered in a while.  

#3 The biggest determination now is; can your soil be helped with the addition of some soil amendments or should you bring in new soil all together.  If you have hard clay and rocky soil you may want to just bring in compost or dirt from a landscaping company to start your foundation.  If your soil is more sandy or tillable then you may want to add some amendments like steer or chicken manure, Peat Moss and compost.  This will help increase the organic composition of your soil adding more nutrients to the soil.  These materials will also help moisture retention in the soil, so it doesn't dry out as fast leading to poor root development.

#4 If adding Manure spread only about 1/2 to 1 inch over your garden.  Putting too much may be harmful.  Also spread your peat moss and compost on top.  You may also want to add some rock dust or other fertilizers to add minerals and trace elements back to the soil.

#5 Till or mix the soil additives with your native soil. 

Now that you have done all these steps it is likely that your soil is ready for planting and will grow a mighty fine garden!  If you are having trouble growing then you may want to run some pH tests on your soil to buffer it appropriately if it is too acidic or alkaline depending on where you live.  

Interesting enough, Jesus in the Bible even told a story about a gardener sowing seed on different soils and the outcome is found in Luke 8:4-8.

"As they went from town to town, a lot of people joined in and traveled along. He addressed them, using this story: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some of it fell on the road; it was tramped down and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

I'll soon post another blog on planting to help with what you should do with that amazing soil to improve your seeds chance of turning into an awesome crop of vegetables.    

Check out my YouTube video on Soil Preparation for a personal demonstration on How to Get your soil ready for planting! 

If you're interested the parable had more to it then just gardening.  Jesus explained his parable when the Disciples asked.

Luke 8:9-15

His disciples asked, “Why did you tell this story?”
He said, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. There are others who need stories. But even with stories some of them aren’t going to get it:
Their eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Their ears are open but don’t hear a thing.
“This story is about some of those people. The seed is the Word of God. The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won’t believe and be saved.
“The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep. It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone.
 “And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun.
 “But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest.

God Bless your gardening and you!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Welcome to California Veggie Gardener!!!

Hello fellow gardeners and those who enjoy to eat freshly grown fruits and veggies.  What better way to give yourself a healthy advantage than to eat a plant based whole foods diet?  In our current world there really is no telling what goes into our food prior to it ending up on your plate.  What better way to know for sure than growing it yourself?  Now I am by no means an organic gardener, but if we can reduce chemical use as much as possible that is the ultimate goal.  You need to give yourself every advantage you can get and sometimes the pests just get the best of you if you don't take some sort of action! 

As a Gardener, Doctor and Outdoorsmen I really enjoy spending time outside and tending a garden to produce wonderful bounties of tasty food.  Not only is it very satisfying to grow your own food you will also realize that home grown fruits and veggies are chalk full of intense flavor compared to their store bought counterparts.   Sure all of our technology using hydroponics, artificial light and who knows what types of chemicals allows for huge crops of disease resistent food... but it tastes like it too!

When it comes to gardening we should look to the Great Gardener Himself.  Plants need nutrient rich soils full of minerals, they need natural sunlight, water and the care of a gardener.

Psalms 34:8 says, "O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!"

When you plant your garden watch those lifeless seeds burried in the ground sprout up, developing into a beautiful plant and finally take a bite into that juicy vine ripened piece of tomato heaven!  If you are able to do this you will have Tasted and Seen that the Lord is Good!  I think God created so many wonderful things for us to enjoy and many of them will easily grow in your garden. 

With this blog I will dedicate my time to teaching you how you can turn your patch of ground into a productive garden that will bless you and your family.  With a background as a Medical Doctor I will also try to give you regular updates on the medical advantages to consuming more fruits and vegetables.  

In the meantime God will demonstrate His handiwork and you will also GROW to know Him more!

To accompany this blog I've made a YouTube channel for How To Videos on Gardening.  If you're interested the Channel is CaliforniaGardener and Please Subscribe!  I'll be posting the videos here directly into the blog as well.

CaliforniaGardener YouTube Channel:

Thanks for joining in, please feel free to send me questions and feedback on topics.  I would love to hear from you.