How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the one veggie most people use in all their meals from salads to casseroles, but depending on the weather sometime they don’t survive for too many days after buying. There are a variety of tomatoes and depending which is your favorite growing them in the back yard is a great idea. Head down to the nursery or hardware store to see what plants are available. Check out the recommendations from complete guide to the tomato plant and also the biggest mistakes to avoid when growing tomatoes:


The smallest slicing tomatoes are about the size of a baseball; the biggest ones can be larger than a softball. Choose from hybrids or heirlooms in a rainbow of hues—red, pink, black, orange, or yellow. For classic reds, try ‘Big Boy,’ ‘Better Boy,’ and ‘Celebrity.’ For pinks, pick ‘Arkansas Traveler,’ ‘Pink Girl,’ and ‘Watermelon Beefsteak.’ Black selections offer some of the most flavorful tomatoes. Try ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Cherokee Purple.’ Orange ones such as ‘Persimmon’ and ‘Kellogg’s Breakfast’ have fruity flavors, while yellows such as ‘Taxi’ and ‘Lemon Boy’ are sweet. Buy them online from


New to many gardeners are grafted tomatoes, created when one plant is cut and joined to a different one with vigorous rootstock. Grafting offers improved yields and disease resistance. It can be a good choice if space is limited and you need maximum production from each plant. Some heirloom tomatoes, for example, are not as productive as new hybrids, but if you love their flavors and want a bigger yield, you can try a grafted heirloom for the best of both worlds. The benefits of grafting come at a price—up to $12 for a grafted tomato plant in a 1-gallon container. Smaller, less expensive grafted plants are available online from


Tomatoes love full sun, whether in your vegetable garden or large containers ( They like soil that has been amended with lots of organic matter, such as mushroom compost, chopped leaves, or soil conditioner. Rich soil will nourish your plants. Supplement feeding with organic fertilizers. To keep vines off the ground, use twine to tie them to economical bamboo or wooden stakes. You may need to tie plants every other day as they grow. If you are short on time, invest in convenient, reusable tomato cages; try

The Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Tomatoes

Irregular Watering

Like all plants, tomato plants need consistent soil moisture; keep the soil wet enough to prevent wilting of the tomatoes but not so wet that the roots develop soggy feet. Garden tomatoes generally require 1-2 inches of water per week, but that can change depending on weather conditions, such as excessive drought, and the size of the plant. When the plants are young, drip irrigation is preferred in order to avoid strong streams of water that erodes the soil. As the tomato plants mature, water more slowly and deeply. The roots of a tomato plant can grow 2-3 feet deep in loose soil, so the plant needs to be watered around 18″ deep. This is especially important in the summer heat. Remember, irregular moisture swings and dry soil can lead to problems such as blossom end rot and fruit splitting.

Improper Spacing

First, a quick lesson on the two types of tomatoes: Determinate and Indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to about 3 feet in height and begin to set flowers for fruit. Determinate tomatoes can be easily well-managed in a home gardenand containers. Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow and produce both new leaves and new flowers and should be staked or started in tomato cages. Unless damaged by disease or insects, indeterminate tomato plants will continue to grow and produce fruit all summer and into early fall. Know your tomato type before you put them in a container or the ground and make allowances for their growth pattern. If plants are spaced too closely, either in a pot or ground bed, the plants will crowd each other, restricting air flow, sun light and water supply.

Too Much Fertilizer

It is advisable to provide additional nitrogen and nutrients to tomatoes after transplanting and once tomatoes begin to produce fruit. Adding too much nitrogen, however, can result in rapid growth of lush, carbohydrate-loaded leaves that attract insect infestation, and slowed or reduced yields. Reduce or discontinue fertilizing with nitrogen after early summer to avoid growth spurts and an overly leafy plant that will wilt during summer heat.

Improper Pruning

You do not need to prune determinate tomatoes; doing so may reduce the harvest. Prune indeterminate varieties to improve airflow; this keeps air and sunshine flowing freely in and around the plants and helps in preventing disease. Pruning also increases more yield per plant as well as helps with producing larger fruit. Pinch indeterminate varieties back when about 8 inches tall. This will help to encourage lateral growth of the plant or spreading of the plant.

Not Mulching Properly

One reason Southerners love tomato plants is that tomatoes do so well in the heat. You need to keep the soil around the plants moist and cool, however. Dry soil can lead to dry and diseased plants. Layer mulch 2 – 4 inches deep around the plant and pull it back about 2 inches from the stem itself. Form a small “moat” with the mulch, which will allow for water to get deep into the roots. Mulching not only holds in moisture but helps to control weeds and prevent the spread of disease.

The Best White Hydrangea Varieties for Your Garden

Mother’s Day is coming and what mother doesn’t love Hydrangea, especially if it will grow year after year! I love getting potted Hydrangea instead of cut bunches. You can find everywhere Homedepot, Lowe, super markets or nurseries. Here are a few different white hydrangeas to check out thanks to

White Hydrangeas in the Garden

White Hydrangeas in the Garden

White is an important color in the garden. It can be used to light up a shady area, give the space a sense of calm, act as a neutral foil against other colors, and serve as an exclamation or focal point. Thanks to their massive blooms, white hydrangea flowers fill this need perfectly.

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Choosing the Best White Hydrangea

snowball hydrangea

There are many types of white hydrangeas, each needing specific locations and care to perform best. These are the four most common types:

Smooth (H. arborescens): ‘Annabelle’ is the most popular variety. Smooth hydrangeas flower best in full sun, but southern gardeners should site the plants in part shade.

Bigleaf (H. macrophylla): Bigleaf hydrangeas are the classic florist types of hydrangea that everyone loves, but not everyone can grow. Bigleafs grow best with partial shade in moist, well-drained soils. Most are hardy to Zone 5 or to Zone 4 with winter protection.

Panicle (H. paniculata): Tough and easy to grow, panicle hydrangeas produce cone-shape flowers. They prefer full sun and survive in all but the coldest climates (Zone 3). Panicles bloom later than other varieties, usually midsummer. Heights can range from three to 10 feet, depending on variety.

Oakleaf (H. quercifolia): These plants have oak-shape leaves, which turn eye-catching shades of burgundy, rust, or orange in the fall. The white flower heads usually transform to pink or tan as weather cools. Cultivars of this native species, usually hardy to Zone 5, do well in dry soils and in sun to partial shade.

Annabelle’ Smooth Hydrangea

'Annabelle' Smooth Hydrangea

‘Annabelle’ is a bit like Garrison Keillor’s famous Lake Woebegone, the little town that time forgot that the decades cannot improve. Smooth hydrangeas are native in much of the eastern United States, so changes were bound to occur. In the 1960s, a horticulture professor discovered that a smooth hydrangea growing in Anna, Illinois, grew bigger white flowers than the traditional species. Since then, the decades cannot improve this stalwart performer.

Name: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

Hydrangea Type: Smooth

Growing Conditions: Sun to part sun. Provide extra water in extreme heat. Prune in late winter to early spring to encourage new growth and blooms. Flower heads may flatten with heavy rain and stalks may splay if the flower heads grow very large. Support blooms and stems with fencing or plant several shrubs close together, spacing about three feet apart, so they hold each other up.

Size: 5 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3 to 9

Buy It: Annabelle Hydrangea ($12, Etsy)

Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea

Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea

‘Incrediball’ white is ‘Annabelle’ with even bigger flower heads, as large as 12 inches wide, held on sturdy stems. This shrub is tall and wide, making it perfect as a screen or focal point in the landscape. Like ‘Annabelle’, it’s cold-hardy, so a tough winter won’t affect its summer blooming performance, and it might even perform a little better in northern climates than in the south.

Name: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Incrediball’

Hydrangea Type: Smooth

Growing Conditions: Sun to part sun. Provide extra water in extreme heat. Prune in late winter to early spring to encourage new growth and blooms.

Size: 4 to 5 feet tall, four to five feet wide

Zones: 3 to 9

Buy It: Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea ($60, Etsy)

‘Haas’ Halo’ Smooth Hydrangea

'Haas' Halo' Smooth Hydrangea

Imagine ‘Annabelle’ if you took the bloom and stretched it so it was about 14 inches wide and an inch or two deep. That would describe ‘Haas’ Halo’ with “some of the loveliest dried flowers I’ve seen in a long time,” according to Angela Treadwell-Palmer, founder of Plants Nouveau, which helps breeders introduce new plants to the market. ‘Haas’ Halo’ was selected by Frederick Ray, a former horticulture professor at Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania, from a batch of seedlings he got from Philadelphia-area plant lover Joan Haas. This white lacecap smooth hydrangea is touted as drought-, humidity- and heat-tolerant.

Name: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haas’ Halo’

Hydrangea Type: Smooth

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; prefers morning sun, afternoon shade.

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3 to 9

Buy It: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haas’ Halo’ ($39, White Flower Farm)

Snow Queen Oakleaf Hydrangea

Snow Queen Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf hydrangeas are native to the southeastern United States, so they tolerate hot, humid weather and aren’t quite as cold hardy as other types of hydrangeas. ‘Snow Queen’ has 4- to 12-inch-long white panicles that change to a rosy shade by fall, when they coordinate with the red-burgundy-purple color change of the leaves. Attractive peeling cinnamon-color bark adds interest in the winter after the leaves have dropped.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Part shade to sun (tolerates more sun the farther north it grows). Prune to 1 to 2 feet tall in late winter to promote new growth and blooms. Prefers well-draining soil with average moisture.

Size: 7 to 10 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5 to 9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

Buy It: Snow Queen Hydrangea ($55, Etsy)ADVERTISEMENT

Gatsby Gal Oakleaf Hydrangea

white hydrangea flowers

If you like ‘Snow Queen’ oakleaf hydrangea but don’t have quite enough room, take a gander at ‘Gatsby Gal’. The white flower cones are oversized for the shrub’s dimensions and held upright on strong stems, making what Tim Wood, product development manager at Spring Meadow Nursery, calls “a showy flower display.”

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Gatsby Gal’

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Plant in moist, well-drained soil in sun to part sun. Avoid pruning; blooms form on last year’s growth.

Size: 5 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5 to 9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

Buy It: Gatsby Gal Oakleaf Hydrangea ($14, Etsy)

Gatsby Moon Oakleaf Hydrangea

Gatsby Moon Oakleaf Hydrangea

The individual flowers on the upright cones of ‘Gatsby Moon’ are packed so tightly together they present an attractive quilted look that makes you want to run your fingers across them. The white panicles age to green as time goes on, and the foliage turns a shiny burgundy in the fall. This white hydrangea almost seems to glow in the evening.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Gatsby Moon’

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Plant in moist, well-drained soil in sun to part sun. Avoid pruning; blooms form on last year’s growth.

Size: 6 to 10 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5 to 9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

Buy It: Gatsby Moon Oakleaf Hydrangea ($14, Etsy)

Gatsby Star Oakleaf Hydrangea

Close up of white hydrangeas

When it comes to double-flowered oakleaf hydrangeas, the beautiful ‘Snowflake’ has been a great choice since it went on the market in the 1970s. Now, ‘Gatsby Star’ is ascending, sporting gorgeous white double petals that are pointed instead of rounded. In the fall, the flower color turns pink and the leaves transform to burgundy. This is a white hydrangea you’ll want to see up close.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Gatsby Star’

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Plant in moist, well-drained soil in sun to part sun. Avoid pruning; blooms form on last year’s growth.

Size: 5 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5 to 9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

Buy It: Gatsby Star Oakleaf Hydrangea ($14, Etsy)ADVERTISEMENT

‘Little Lamb’ Panicle Hydrangea

'Little Lamb' Panicle Hydrangea

‘Little Lamb’ is as cute as its namesake. White panicles with tiny, densely clustered blooms begin blooming in midsummer. It’s small enough to plant in a large container. It may take a year or two to look its best, but the wait will be worth it because this dwarf hydrangea has delicate, petite blooms that turn a rich pink in the fall.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Little Lamb’

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun to part shade. May not need pruning but if needed, cut in late winter or early spring before growth begins. Average water requirements. Tolerates drought. Fertilize in early spring with a time-release fertilizer for trees and shrubs.

Size: 4 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3 to 8

Buy It: Little Lamb Hydrangea ($30, Plant Addicts)

Polar Ball Panicle Hydrangea

Polar Ball Panicle Hydrangea

You want it supersize? Look for ‘Polar Ball’, standing 6 to 8 feet tall with “outrageously oversize” white flowers. “I’d say the sepals—the large decorative petals—are about four times as large and the flower head is 50 percent larger [than an average white hydrangea],” Wood says. It’s a panicle that’s likely bigger than your head!

Name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Polar Ball’

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun to part shade. May not need pruning but if needed, cut in late winter or early spring before growth begins. Average water requirements. Tolerates drought. Fertilize in early spring with a time-release fertilizer for trees and shrubs.

Size: 6 to 8 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3 to 8

Buy It: Polar Ball Hydrangea ($22, Etsy)

White Diamonds Panicle Hydrangea

White Diamonds Panicle Hydrangea

Diamonds are among the toughest substances on the planet. While this white hydrangea can’t be used to drill holes, it stands up to heat and drought better than some others. Upright, sturdy stems hold white panicles that transition by fall to a pale tan.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘First Editions White Diamonds’

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun to part shade. May not need pruning but if needed, cut in late winter or early spring before growth begins. Average water requirements. Tolerates drought. Fertilize in early spring with a time-release fertilizer for trees and shrubs. Prune or deadhead after final frost or in early spring to encourage strong stem growth and encourage bloom development.

Size: 4 to 5 feet tall, 5 to 6 feet wide

Zones: 4 to 8

Buy It: White Diamonds Hydrangea (from $39, Sooner Plant Farm)

Bobo Panicle Hydrangea

Bobo Panicle Hydrangea

If you have room for a large container, you have enough space to grow ‘Bobo’, a dwarf white hydrangea that reaches 3 feet if it’s feeling tall. But don’t let its small size turn you away. ‘Bobo’ is a show stopper with flowers that almost appears to glow in the garden. “This dwarf hydrangea has so many flowers it looks like a little puff ball of blooms; you can hardly see the leaves,” Wood says.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Grow in part sun and afternoon shade. Prune in spring before growth begins. Deadheading flowers encourages more blooms but don’t prune the shrub unless necessary. If you do prune, clip in late summer just after they are done flowering. Grows best in evenly moist, well-drained soil. Apply a controlled-release fertilizer in early spring. Apply mulch to conserve moisture.

Size: 3 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide

Zones: 3 to 8

Buy It: Bobo Dwarf Hydrangea ($21, Etsy)

Wedding Gown Bigleaf Hydrangea

Wedding Gown Bigleaf Hydrangea

Say “I do!” to ‘Wedding Gown’, a bigleaf white hydrangea that starts out as a lacecap but fills in to become a mophead. Each of the small blossoms that forms the flower head features double petals, like a wedding bouquet on a stem. This smaller garden variety also works well in containers.

Name: Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Wedding Gown’

Hydrangea Type: Bigleaf

Growing Conditions: Grow in part sun and afternoon shade. Prune in spring before growth begins. Deadheading flowers encourages more blooms but don’t prune the shrub unless necessary. If you do prune, clip in late summer just after they are done flowering. Grows best in evenly moist, well-drained soil. Apply a controlled-release fertilizer in early spring. Apply mulch to conserve moisture.

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall, 3 to 5 feet wide

Zones: 5 to 8

Buy It: Wedding Gown Hydrangea ($55, Etsy)

Blushing Bride Bigleaf Hydrangea

Blushing Bride Bigleaf Hydrangea

This daughter of ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea blooms on both new and old wood. Round white blooms about 6 inches wide age to a pretty pale pink or Carolina blue, depending on the soil pH. Very strong stems keep the large white mopheads upright. Pruning can be done in fall or dried blooms can be left on the stems for winter interest until spring.

Name: Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’

Hydrangea Type: Bigleaf

Growing Conditions: Grow in part sun and afternoon shade. Prune in spring before growth begins. Deadheading flowers encourages more blooms but don’t prune the shrub unless necessary. If you do prune, clip in late summer just after they are done flowering. Grows best in evenly moist, well-drained soil. Apply a controlled-release fertilizer in early spring. Apply mulch to conserve moisture.

Size: 3 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 4 to 9

Buy It: Blushing Bride Hydrangea Shrubs ($27 Woodies Garden Goods)

Greystone Gardening with George


The Greystone Demonstration Garden is a dedicated space for community gardening projects and education.  It’s approximately 2,000 square feet located at the lower Greystone Mansion & Gardens:  The Doheny Estate, owned by the City of Beverly Hills.  This garden allows individuals to come together and learn about organic gardening, the benefits of growing your own food and sustainable gardening practices. There are seasonal classes available highlighting current happenings in the garden.

Do you love gardening? Want to gain some new tips and tricks to use in your garden? Check out our new series, Greystone Gardening with George, and let your creativity fly! 

Greystone Gardening with George – Episode 1
Greystone Gardening with George – Episode 2
Greystone Gardening with George – Episode 3
Greystone Gardening with George – Episode 4
Greystone Gardening with George – Episode 5
Greystone Gardening with George – Episode 6
Greystone Gardening with George – Episode 7
Greystone Gardening with George – Episode 8
Greystone Gardening with George – Episode 9

Anyone can participate in the wonderful learning opportunities available throughout the year. We offer classes for gardeners of all ages. Below are some descriptions of classes offered in the past. 

1. Teen Gardening Class (ages 13-18)  
Learn this lifelong skill and grow your own food. Start seeds, learn how to care for plants, harvest your own veggies.

2. Container Gardening (Adults) 
Have a sunny balcony or porch? You can grow anything from apples to zucchini. Join us and learn to keep your potted pals happy.
3. Grow LA Victory Garden Classes (Adults) 
The University of California Cooperative Extension is organizing workshops in various communities throughout Los Angeles County to teach residents how to grow fruits and vegetables in their own backyard. Those who take all 4 classes will be given a certificate of completion.

4. Children’s Gardening Class (ages 6-12) 
Enjoy the spring season by harvesting vegetables, playing in the dirt, learning how to grow seeds and plenty of crafty projects.

5. Backyard Composting (Adults and Teens 13+) 
Reduce your carbon footprint and learn how to recycle your green waste into organic fertilizer. Traditional composting and worm composting both explored  

6. Virtual Gardening Workshops Available Now

VIRTUAL Container Gardening (5493)
SCHEDULE: 11a-Noon on Thu 04/08/2021

VIRTUAL What to Grow and When to Grow it (5494)
SCHEDULE: 11a-Noon on Thu 04/15/2021

VIRTUAL Seed Starting and Transplant (5495)
SCHEDULE: 11a-Noon on Thu 04/22/2021

VIRTUAL Irrigation, Organic Fertilizers, & Mulching (5497)
SCHEDULE: 11a-Noon on Thu 05/06/2021

VIRTUAL Garden Pest Control (5560)
SCHEDULE: 11a-Noon on Thu 05/13/2021

VIRTUAL Compost and Worm Composting (5496)
SCHEDULE: 11a-Noon on Thu 05/20/2021


Barbara Linder, a life-long resident of Beverly Hills and community advocate, approached the City of Beverly Hills in 2010 to develop a community garden project.  Her goal was to bring community members together to learn how to garden organically at home through learned activities while having fun outdoors.  As a result of her advocacy, construction on the dedicated space at Greystone Mansion began in 2012 and the Demonstration Garden was officially dedicated on April 13, 2014.

Over the years, individual gardeners, residents, students, 4-H Club members, Boy/Girl Scout troops, the City’s staff and administration, master gardeners and volunteers have worked together to create a garden space filled with raised beds, compost systems, espaliered fruit trees and water conservation features.

Junior gardener - one

The Greystone Demonstration Garden is open year-round and seeks volunteers for various gardening tasks.  If interested, contact the Demonstration Garden at 310-285-6830.


Future vision for the adjacent greenhouse and stables involves creating interior teaching spaces for workshops and classroom programs, a living museum and an event venue for the community.

To learn how to make a donation visit Charitable Gifting Opportunities or download the Beverly Hills Community Charitable Donation Form

 Greystone Mansion and Gardens 905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 
310.285.6830 phone 310.858.9238 fax 

Fertilizing Citrus Trees – Best Practices For Citrus Fertilizing

It’s that time of the year again folks if you have trees especially citrus ones that you want to have full of fruit year around got to make sure to fertilize at the right time. I have a lemon tree and grapefruit so this is something I definitely keep up on but I do have to keep my dogs away so they don’t eat it. If you have doggies or a tree in the walkway of other doggies always make sure to use organic pet friendly fertilizer in the event they happen to get into it! did this great article help for anyone who needs it:

When to Apply Citrus Fertilizer

In general, you should be doing your citrus fertilizing about once every one to two months during active growth (spring and summer) and once every two to three months during the tree’s dormant periods (fall and winter). As the tree gets older, you can skip dormant season fertilizing and increase the amount of time between active growth fertilizing to once every two to three months. To find the best citrus fertilizing time frames for your tree, judge based on the tree’s physical appearance and growth. A tree that looks lush and dark green and is holding onto fruit does not need to be fertilized as often. Fertilizing too much when the tree has a healthy appearance may actually cause it to produce inferior fruit. Citrus trees are most nutrient-hungry from the time they bloom until they have firmly set fruit, so make sure you apply citrus fertilizer when the tree is in bloom regardless of health so that it has enough nutrients to properly produce fruit.

How to Fertilize a Citrus Fruit Tree

Citrus tree fertilizing is either done through the leaves or through the ground. Following the directions on your chosen fertilizer, which will be to either spray the fertilizer onto the leaves of your citrus tree or spread it out around the base of the tree as far as the canopy reaches. Do not place fertilizer near the trunk of the tree.

What Kind of Citrus Fertilizer Does My Tree Need?

All citrus trees will benefit from a slightly nitrogen rich or balanced NPK fertilizer that also has some micro-nutrients in it like:







Citrus trees also like to have somewhat acidic soil, so an acidic fertilizer can also be beneficial in citrus tree fertilizing, though not required. The easiest citrus fertilizer to use is the kind made specifically for citrus trees.

How To Plant Fall Garlic And Onions


Every kitchen needs to always be stocked with garlic and onions for all the recipes. So if you don’t want to ever be caught without start growing them at home. Check out step by step from

Fall is the perfect time for planting a delicious crop of garlic and onions in your garden! And with just a little work now, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest early next summer. Although both garlic and onions can be planted and grown as traditional spring crops, an early Autumn planting has several advantages.

planting onions and garlic
It’s hard to beat the flavor of home grown garlic and onions. And the two crops just happen to be one of the easiest of all to grow.

For one, fall planting allows each plant to grow a larger, more robust bulb come harvest time. But even better, overwintering these two crops also helps to develop better flavor in the bulbs – as if they both weren’t already tasty enough!

And let’s face it, you can never have enough delicious homegrown garlic or onions on hand. In fact, we use at least one or both everyday, whether it’s for fresh-made dishes, or as ingredients in tried and true recipes like our homemade garlic pasta sauce or overnight garlic pickles.

planting garlic and onions in the fall
Planting a fall crop of garlic and onions is an annual ritual at the farm. And one that yields a delicious crop of both the following summer.

And that is exactly why planting our fall crop is important! Here is a look at how we plant both onions and garlic, along with a few secrets we have learned along the way to growing a successful crop.

3 Big Secrets For Planting Fall Garlic & Onions

#1 Plant The Right Way – At The Right Time!

When planting a fall crop of garlic and onions, it’s important to get your bulbs in at just the right time. For both, that means planting to allow 6 to 8 weeks of growth before the cold of winter sets in and they go dormant.

That growing time is critical for both crops, as it allows them to set their roots for strong growth in the spring.

planting garlic
Whether it’s onions or garlic, always plant with the tip of the bulb facing up.

Here on our little Ohio farm, we usually plant during the first week of September. But wherever you live, simply count back 6 to 8 weeks from when your fall frost / freeze dates occur, and plant accordingly.

Great Soil = A Great Crop

For maximum growth, it is critical for both crops to have fertile, well draining soil. It not only allows bulbs to grow larger, but keeps them from rotting in the sometimes overly wet conditions of late fall and early spring.

Before planting fall garlic or onions, add in generous amounts of compost to the bottom of each planting furrow. The compost will provide both the nutrients and improved drainage the bulbs need to thrive.

compost as fertilizer
Adding in generous amounts of compost to the planting row is a must.

To accomplish this, we first dig our furrow, and then add about an inch of compost into the bottom of the trench. Then we plant the bulbs down into the layer of compost. This allows the seed to be surrounded by life-giving nutrients as it sprouts and grows.

Both garlic and onions can be planted in rows, but they can be grouped closer than you might think no matter how you plant. In our 18″ wide raised rows, we plant both crops 3-wide down each row, with 4″ spacing between bulbs.

This closeness not only helps conserve space, but also helps to keep weeding and maintenance to a minimum. In a single 20′ long bed, we can grow close to 80 heads of garlic or onions.

We allow about 4″ between bulbs when planting. The gives plenty of space for bulbs to mature to full size.

As for the depth of planting, we plant our garlic bulbs 3″ deep, while the onions go in at 2 inches. And remember when planting – always plant with the pointy tip of the bulb facing up. 

#2 Soak Before Planting – How To Plant Fall Garlic & Onions

One of the best things you can do to get your onion and garlic crops off to a great start is to soak them before planting.

soaking garlic bulbs for fall planting

Soaking allows the bulbs to absorb moisture before heading into the ground. And without moisture, bulbs simply won’t sprout.

To soak, simply fill up a 5 gallon bucket of water the night before planting and dump the bulbs in. Be sure to use water that is not treated as it can actually harm the bulbs.

The simple task of soaking bulbs can speed up sprout times by a week or more!

#3 Mulch Those Crops – How To Plant Fall Garlic & Onions

And perhaps the biggest secret of all for a great crop is to mulch that crop! Not only does it help protect the crop through winter, it also keeps competing weeds at bay.

Mulching is critical for both weed control and for regulating the soil temperature through the cold winter months.

After planting, place a thin 1″ mulching of straw on top of your crop. Once crops have emerged, apply an additional 3 to 5 inches of mulch before winter sets

This will help to protect each of the crops from the harsh winter temperatures and winds. Once spring arrives, simply add a bit of fresh mulch to top of the rows, and get ready for a great early summer harvest!

Guide to Washing Vegetables

If you love buying fresh veggies from the framers market probably not to crazy when you get home and realize there is still dirt on some. It’s probably not a good idea to wash them either if you are going to put them away in the frig, thank goodness Martha Stewart has your guide to washing fresh vegetables!

How to Wash Vegetables

Before washing vegetables, wash your hands. Soaking or swirling vegetables in a bowl of water is ineffective and may even spread a contaminant. Vegetables must first be scrubbed, and then rinsed off in running water. If you intend to peel the vegetables later, wash them with soap. Soap also destroys waxy coatings that bacteria enjoy sticking to. If you intend eating the vegetables with skins on, some soap residue may remain, and the FDA has no data on the effects of consuming it. And special washes marketed for fresh produce have not been evaluated for their effectiveness. If in doubt, peel before eating.

Use a clean scrubbing brush to clean your vegetables, the disinfect it in the dishwasher after. After you’re done scrubbing, rinse washed vegetables under running water. Dry thoroughly with freshly cleaned kitchen towels or paper towels.

Which Vegetables Should Be Washed?

Vegetables with skins should always be washed. These include roots and tubers like beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, celeriac, radishes, rutabagas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Fruits (that are often confused for vegetables) including cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and summer and winter squash also fall into this category. Luckily, they all come with handy built-in wrappers (their skin) and are the easiest to wash effectively.

You should also clean all stem vegetables. The outer stems of celery and fennel can be removed (just remember to save them for cooking), and then you’ll want to wash the rest of the vegetable.

In the flower and bud family, you’ll want to wash globe artichokes, broccolini, broccoli, and cauliflower—but these are all vegetables that are hard to wash perfectly. If you’re cooking them, there’s nothing to worry about—harmful bacteria that you missed during the washing process will cook off. If you want to enjoy the crucifers raw we recommend peeling and eating broccoli’s thick, washed stems, or the crunchy core of a cauliflower.

Beans and peas in shells should be placed in a strainer for cleaning; rub them well while rinsing under running water. Certain vegetables in the onion family do not lend themselves to washing. Case in point? Washing onions and garlic with dry skins is not practical, but do peel them and wash your knife and hands after peeling, and before chopping or slicing. Soak leeks to get rid of lurking sand, but then rinse them under running water. Ditto with scallions.

For leafy greens like cabbages and Brussels sprouts, be sure to remove their outer leaves before washing. Swiss chard, chicories, dandelions, spinach, all the Asian greens, beet greens, lettuces, and arugula are impossible to wash 100 percent effectively. In fact, washing may even spread a contaminant like E.coli around. Cooking-heat will destroy any pathogen. Cooked greens are still very healthy and are sometimes more nutritious than raw (think spinach). The bad news is that we love raw salad, and people get sick more often from eating contaminated lettuce and other salad greens because they are rarely cooked before being eaten.

Are pre-washed, bagged greens safer? No. Pathogens may have been present in their washing water, or on hands when they were bagged. The only way to eliminate any chance of foodborne illness from leaves is to cook them. But if you love salad as much as we do, you may prefer to rinse them under running water, take a deep breathe, and trust the statistics. The chances are excellent that they will do you more good than harm.

The most reliable method of destroying foodborne pathogens is heat: If you want to be certain that dangerous microbes are not present, wash, and then cook your vegetables. Experts recommend that any fresh produce, whether it’s organically grown, purchased from a supermarket or a farmers’ market, or even from your own garden, should be washed. Microscopic pathogens hide in plain sight. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites are the tiny culprits that cause foodborne illness.

Bacteria are everywhere and are essential for life (and sourdough!). A million could fit on the head of a pin. In terms of food safety, undesirable bacteria come mostly from unwashed hands. They may also be spread through dirty water (in irrigation or, ironically, triple washing), livestock or wild animal feces, coughing, sneezing, insects, rodents, or dirty utensils. Viruses are tinier than bacteria. Unlike bacteria, viruses do not reproduce in food; it only serves as their vehicle to a human host. The presence of a virus on fresh produce is usually a sign of contamination due to poor hygiene: like not washing hands thoroughly after using the toilet, or coughing, and before handling food.

Parasites are rare in vegetables (raw meat and fish are the more common vectors). But parasites can be transmitted by poor hygiene (wash hands after cleaning the litter box), or via wild foods—like mushrooms collected where animal scat is present, or watercress from streams where liver fluke occurs. When in doubt, cook vegetables thoroughly. Washing will not help.



I always love finding new uses for ordinary household items, especially when it comes to gardening because it could cost money to maintain. Epsom salt not only good for you but also has several uses in organic gardening for healthy plants.


Using Epsom salt as a soil amendment before seeding will give your garden a powerful boost right from the start. Magnesium aids in seed germination and helps to strengthen cell walls, leading to more and stronger seedlings.

For best results, incorporate 1 cup of Epsom salt per 100 square feet of tilled soil or mix 1 – 2 tablespoons into the soil at the bottom of each hole before dropping in seeds.


Many commercial fertilizers add magnesium to help plant roots take up vital nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur.) For those using all organic materials to feed their gardens, adding Epsom salt to soil will improve absorption naturally, eliminating the need for processed chemical fertilizers.


Wilted sprout seedlings

We’ve all seen how our plants and seedlings wilt when we move them from a small pot to a larger one, from indoors to outside, or from greenhouse to ground. Try feeding transplants with Epsom salt once they’re in their new environment to help injured roots overcome transplant shock.

Remember to add a layer of soil on top of salt sprinkled in holes so roots don’t come into direct contact with these concentrated minerals right away.


Plants that aren’t getting enough magnesium can be identified by their yellowing leaves. This is because magnesium is an essential component in the production of chlorophyll. Try sprinkling Epsom salt around your plants to achieve healthier foliage.

About 1 tablespoon per 12 inches of height once a month will benefit the plants in your vegetable garden, as well as any trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses you want to green up.


Magnesium deficient plant

Leaf curling may also be caused by magnesium-deficiency in plants. Again, add Epsom salt to the soil around the base of the sick plant.

Alternately, for faster absorption you can mix 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt in a gallon of water and apply directly to the leaves.


While Epsom salt won’t dehydrate slugs and snails like table salt (sodium chloride), it can still be used to deter pests. Hydrated magnesium sulfate crystals are sharp and when sprinkled around plants, they can scratch and irritate the bodies and feet of unwanted critters in much the same way as diatomaceous earth.

(Keep in mind that Epsom salt dissolves very easily in water, thus any amount of rain will likely wash them away.)


The production of fruiting bodies is the most taxing process in the life cycle of a plant. Apply Epsom salt to fruit and nut trees, bushes, and vines using the same methods and quantities stated above to boost chlorophyll levels inside the plant cells.

Increased energy means more sugar, allowing the plant to produce higher yields of sweeter, healthier fruit.


Ripe tomatoes on vine

Tomato vines are one of a handful of common garden residents whose fruit to plant size ratio is heavier than average, leading to an even higher likelihood of magnesium-deficiency. For this reason, tomatoes should be fed Epsom salt twice as often as other plants.

Also, because tomato vines are prone to calcium-deficiency (blossom end rot), the majority of tomato fertilizers contain calcium which will compete with magnesium for root absorption. Therefore, foliar feeding is the more efficient method for delivering magnesium to these plants.

Water tomato vines with dissolved Epsom salt – 2 tablespoons per gallon of water, every 2 weeks.


Peppers are another popular garden plant with a higher-than average fruit to plant size ratio. As such, they should also be fed magnesium every two weeks to achieve higher yields of larger fruits. For hot peppers, over-watering can lead to fruit with less heat, thus the soil amendment method may be preferable in this case.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt for every foot of height around the drip line of your pepper plants once per week.


Not only does it help roses to produce larger blossoms in greater numbers, many successful rosarians will agree that magnesium also aids in the growth of new canes from the base of the plant. And of course, Epsom salt increases chlorophyll production meaning darker leaves. For maximum benefit, roses should at the least be fed with Epsom salt at time of planting, then again at the first sign of new growth, and once more when the flowers are in full bloom. Bare root roses may also be soaked in water containing dissolved Epsom salt before planting.

It is almost impossible to use too much Epsom salt in your garden. Magnesium sulfate is pH neutral, so it won’t harm your soil. The crystals break down into water, magnesium, and sulfur – three components which are beneficial in some way to most plants.

Epsom salt is safe, easy to apply, and works fast to correct a variety of problems and increase the overall health of your garden.

As if that weren’t enough, Epsom salt is also inexpensive making it one of the most perfect tools for the health-conscious, responsible gardener.

Check out for even more gardening tips!

20 Vegetables You Can Plant in Late Summer


Thinking it’s too late to grow a home garden not if you check out page. They have answers for all your questions to be about growing a garden in the later months of the year.

Even if you didn’t get a spring garden planted, there is still time, late summer, to plant vegetables and harvest them before the first frost. A late summer garden means you can harvest fresh produce well into fall and sometimes even into winter. Here are 20 vegetables that grow well when planted in late summer.

What Vegetables Can You Grow in Late Summer?

Though it’s a bit early yet to be thinking about spring garden planning, or even how to start seeds indoors. There’s still a small window of time that you can plant more vegetables to harvest before winter.

Many plants will grow well when planted in late summer and will continue growing well into the late fall and early winter. Others, still, will winter over and start growing first thing in the spring.

Another favorite tip for growing into the shoulder seasons (or even all year long in front of a sunny window) is to plant an instant garden using a vertical tower garden.

What vegetables can you still plant in late summer?

  1. Beets
  2. Carrots
  3. Radishes
  4. Rutabagas
  5. Turnips
  6. Peas
  7. Bush Beans
  8. Cauliflower
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Chard
  12. Kale
  13. Spinach
  14. Mustard Greens
  15. Lettuce
  16. Arugula
  17. Sorrel
  18. Bok Choy
  19. Mescalin Mix
  20. Cilantro

Succession Planting

Even in early spring we like to use succession planting to stagger our harvest. Because we’re planting in such large volumes, if we don’t do this we’ll be overwhelmed once harvest time rolls around.

By planting a little bit each week, this means we’re able to eat fresh all season long, and we’re also harvesting in stages so not ALL of one crop is ready at one time.

Use a Garden Planner

In order to successfully grow a late summer garden for a late fall harvest you need to know when your first average frost date is. Then, working backwards accordingly, you’ll know which crops you’ll be able to get into the ground in order to harvest before the frost hits.

We love using Clyde’s Garden Planner. If you don’t have a garden planner, pick one up as they’re an invaluable resource that’s very inexpensive (use code: HOMESTEADINGFAMILY for a discount!).

Root Vegetables to Plant Late Summer

As mentioned above, there are quite a few root crops you can plant and harvest before the ground freezes. Certain varieties even do quite well when you leave them in the ground and cover them heavily with mulch.

If you plant beets in late summer, be sure to plant them densely and harvest the leafy greens as you thin the plants out.

Certain varieties of carrots actually get sweeter if they’re left in the ground once winter hits.

Other root vegetables like radishes are pretty fast growing and you’ll have plenty of time to harvest for fresh eating throughout the remainder of the growing season.

Always check your seed packets for the growing window as well as how well the variety handles cold. Even within a specific vegetable, there will be varieties that do better growing into the winter season.

Peas & Bush Beans to Grow in Late Summer

Peas will be happy through a light frost, however beans will need to get in and harvested before a frost as they don’t handle the cold as well.

It’s also better if you plant a bush bean variety, not a pole bean.

Our kids love planting the dragon tongue beans and they’re a great variety to grow!

Brassicas You Can Plant in Late Summer

When planting brassicas you’ll want to be sure to check the length of time they need to grow to maturity.

For cauliflower, there are some quicker varieties you can grow, so choose accordingly!

For broccoli, a sprouting broccoli will be best. They won’t grow those large crowns we’re used to seeing for broccoli, but you’ll get a lot more side sprouts. These are also wonderful because they’ll die back and winter over, then it will be one of the first things you’ll see come back in the garden come springtime.

Cabbages do great when planted in late summer as they can handle the winter cold much better than other vegetables. We specifically love the Chinese cabbages and they’ve done very well for us in the past.

As always, check the seed package or the catalog for a variety that does well with colder temperatures. 

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are wonderful because they grow up so quickly and can be harvested young as microgreens if you don’t have time to let them grow to full maturity.

Some greens like kale and spinach can handle colder temperatures quite well.

But what we love about lettuces is that, when planted densely, they will grow upright and be very easy to harvest. We’ve found that leafy greens will continue to feed our family well into the winter, especially when we utilize our greenhouse to extend the growing season.

There you have it! 20 vegetables that you can still grow, even in late summer!

Do keep in mind that these are the vegetables we can grow here in the far north of Idaho. If your climate is more mild, you’ll likely have a larger list of vegetables that you’ll still have time to get in the ground and harvest before the weather turns too cold.

10 Healthy Herbs You Can Grow in Water


Have you seen those 5 min craft videos and wonder if some of the stuff they do is real? Well growing herbs in water to start a garden is, and it’s pretty easy. has 10 healthy herbs you can grow in water to start:

Put some herb cuttings in glass bottles with plain water, and it is best to use spring water if possible, as it is high in minerals. You should not use chlorinated water, as the bleaching chemical can damage the plant tissues. You should leave some tap water to air overnight or store some rainwater.

Choose a glass bottle, a mason jar, or even a plastic bottle for the herbs. Yet, use colored bottles or warp a piece of paper around the bottle as the roots should not be exposed light.

The darkness will help you avoid algal growth on the bottle and on the root. The narrow-mouthed containers support the cuttings and keep them upright.

Yet, avoid narrow or tight-fitting ones as the mouth of the container should support a free transition of air for the roots to be able to breathe.

You should pick soft cuttings roots, and cut some 6-inch sections from the growing herbs. Put them in the containers and remove the lower leaves as they can rot in the water and spoils it.

You can change the water once a week in the case of herbs like rosemary cuttings. As soon as the roots start growing, within 2-6 weeks, you do not need to change the water.

To stimulate the rooting, place some willow branches in warm water overnight, and then use them as a soothing hormone mixture. You can use some rooting hormone powder as well.

Rosemary – The root of the semi-woody cuttings of rosemary need more time, but the new shoots in the spring grow faster. Keep the plant in a sunny spot.

Sage – You should take some sage cuttings in the spring and place them in water. Place the herb on a bright spot in a well-aerated place as it is prone to mildew.

Peppermint – This herb is high in the volatile substance menthol which provides a cooling sensation on the skin or tongue and does not change the temperature. Just put a few fresh cuttings in water, as it is the easiest herbs you can grow in water.

Tarragon – You need some spring cuttings after new growth appears, and place the herb on a warm and bright place. Tarragon can be of various types, and the French one is best for culinary purposes while the Russian is better to be used for salads.

Basil – This herb is easily grown in water. Place the cuttings in water before they start flowering and place the container in a sunny place.

Spearmint –Peppermint is a natural hybrid of spearmint and it is easily grown in this way.

Thyme – Take some newly grown, green cuttings, in the mid-spring or early summer before the thyme starts flowering, place them in water, and spray the parts which are under the water to avoid its drying. As soon as it is grown, cut the stems to boost branching.

Oregano – Place the fresh cuttings of oregano in water and pinch the growing tips as the herb grows.

Lemon balm – You should pick several cuttings in spring or fall, and place them in water in a bright spot. After 3-4 weeks, the cuttings will develop roots. Change the water often, or you can keep the plant outdoor if the weather is warm. You can prepare tea from the leaves.

Stevia – You can add stevia to some beverages and teas. Just place some stevia cuttings from actively growing branches in a container full of water, and keep it in a sunny and warm place.