Category Archives: Garden Planning

Be Sure to Check this Chart Before Starting from Seed

Seed starting?

We have a FANTASTIC resource you will want to bookmark. It tells you what conditions the particular variety needs to help it germinate. Some seeds need it dark. Some seeds need bright light to germinate. Some need to be soaked beforehand. No matter the situation, this is where you want to start.

This is an active reference we update from time-to-time as we learn through researching and growing new varieties. Be sure to bookmark the page and check back for updates! https://growyourhealthgardening.com/seeds-that-require-special-treatment/

And remember, when you start from seed, even though you are taking a bit of a gamble on some seeds, the thing that is so awesome is you can grow varieties not commonly found at big-box retail garden centers. A whole new world awaits you!

Oh — and if you’re new to seed starting, be sure to check the “Seed Starting” tab on our Web site for other helpful tips to help you in your quest to start seeds at home.

Hope this helps!

5 Hydrangea Care Tips to Maximize Your Blooms this coming Growing Season

Erin Castillo | GYHG and Certified Hydroponic Grower, Gardening Writer
Wednesday, February 16, 2022

For those wondering when to prune hydrangeas in Georgia or in Zone 7, now is a fantastic time to think about these beautiful ornamentals and learn any basic care considerations to act on now for big blooms later in your growing season. Here we will deep dive into how to grow hydrangeas in the South and five care tips to consider.

Location depends on cultivar — Be sure to check your variety’s sun or shade needs before planting. If you messed up, you may want to move it while dormant in cold months

The Hydrangea is a perennial typically in Zones 5-9 (with a few rare varieties that are exceptions and can live in Zones 3-4 with winter protection), but this can greatly differ depending on your cultivar, so be sure to check the growing tag that comes with your plant from your local nursery or Monrovia has put together a good resource page you might want to check out as well.

The location you place your hydrangea also matters in the Southeast. You’ll want to protect your hydrangea plant from the extreme summer intensity of the sun (we don’t call it “Hotlanta” for no reason!) Note: be sure to check your cultivar as some hydrangeas do prefer full sun, part sun, or shade.

Conversely, if your Hydrangea is too exposed to extreme cold winter winds and extreme cold weather temperatures, your plant may not form adequate bud formation. Planting your hydrangea near a structure that retains heat while also offering a wind break (like a brick building or foundation) will help your plant produce the stunning of blooms for display you seek. If your temps reach down towards zero degrees or lower, you will want to carefully wrap your Hydrangea plant with a layer of thick burlap to protect forming buds from cold injury. Take wire fencing the height slightly taller than your hydrangea bush and make a circle around your plant then wrap burlap or a cover designed for protecting plants from frost around your plant. This will protect those forming buds and dramatically affect your plants ability to bloom for the following growing season.

What to Add to Your Soil and When You Should Make Adjustments

Before adjusting anything with your soil, be sure to do a soil test at the same time every year (preferably in the fall (October-November). A soil test can be submitted to your local County Extension Office and costs between $7-$12 depending on your particular extension. Be sure to note when submitting your soil test, that you want to get recommendations for hydrangeas. The County Extension will send your soil sample off for a test and you will get detailed instructions on what exactly needs to be added to your soil to feed your hydrangea plants and to keep them healthy.

While waiting for your soil test results to come back, you can do a quick test with 2 tablespoons (30 mil) soil + 1 tablespoon (15 ml) distilled water) and add vinegar. If your soil fizzes, your soil is alkaline! If there is no fizz, get a new sample. Test 2 tablespoons (30 mil) of soil + 1 tablespoon (15 mil) of distilled water + add baking soda. If your sample fizzes your soil is acidic. If it doesn’t fizz, soil is in the neutral 7.0 range most likely.

In the late fall or early winter months (when no snow is present), a top-dressing of compost will feed the soil micro-biology surrounding your plant and make nutrients available to your Hydrangea plant feeding it through the winter. You can also mix in some used coffee grounds and crushed egg shells into the soil and even a fine dusting of wood ash left over from your Green Egg (if you have one) or fire pit (just make sure any coals/ash scooped are cold). You can also add Bone Meal at this time which is slow to break down and only utilized by the plant with soil pH is below 7.0. These additions add acidity and alkalinity to the soil. But remember, these adjustments take three months or more to take effect, so act now if you haven’t prepped your soil beneath your beautiful hydrangea.

How to Get New Hydrangea Plant Starts with Little Effort

And while we are discussing fall / winter soil amendment strategies… if you take a low-lying branch from your Hydrangea and allow it to touch the soil and place a stick with a hook on the end (where you have broken off a branch from the main stem) or a metal u-pin if you have one on hand (even a light rock may do the trick) and essentially have the stem touch the soil and the “mother” plant will put down roots and create a baby plant come spring with adequate moisture. Check it again in 3-4 months and then prune that branch from the mother plant early spring (typically here in Georgia, you can see roots forming on propagated stems by late February.)

When to Prune your Hydrangea in Georgia

Hydrangeas (Bigleaf H. macrophylla, French, and Oakleaf H. quercifolia) flower buds from on old wood. Big Leaf cultivars include Mophead, Lacecap, Mountain hydrangeas. You want to prune these after flowering and shape your bush at that time.

If your Hydrangea is (Panicle H. paniculata, Smooth Hydrangea arborescens also called wild hydrangeas), flower buds will form on new wood, so prune when the hydrangea plant is dormant and remove spent blossoms after flowering (aka: deadhead). This will include your Snow Ball variety.

As a general rule, plants that flower before May ideally should be pruned following their bloom. Plant that flower after May can be pruned just prior to spring growth during dormancy (Jan/Feb). There are of course plants that are exceptions — those being late-flowering azaleas that bloom during May, June, or even July as well as the hydrangeas that bloom on old wood (mentioned above.)

You will want to prune away any disease, dead, stray or broken branches at anytime.

How to Change Your Hydrangea Bloom Color

Not all hydrangea species change color. White cultivars are an example of this, however, varieties such as Hydrangea macrophylla and H. serrata can range in color from pink to blue, fuchsia, plum and even periwinkle. High levels of aluminum in the sol plus having acidic soil pH will generate the coveted bright blue to purple flower shades.

For blue hues, you will want to use soil amendments like elemental sulfur and gypsum. You can also use an organic fertilizer containing cottonseed meal when feeding the plants. Adding aluminum sulfate to the soil isn’t necessary and could be harmful. Aluminum is plentiful and not an essential plant nutrient and too much of it can actually be toxic.

Recipe for blue flowering hydrangeas:
1/2 cup (120 ml) sulfur per 10 square feet (1 square meter) to alter the soil’s pH.

Recipe for pink flowering hydrangeas:
1 cup (235 ml) garden lime per 10 square feed (1 square meter) to alter the soil’s pH.

Remember, changing the pH of your soil is a gradual process that can take up to a year for the color change to take effect. You may also want to use pine straw as a mulch on top of the soil which will naturally break down over time, but will feed the micro-organism in your soil. Pine Straw, though minimal, may make your soil slightly more acidic over time and multiple applications. These hydrangea plants require plenty of moisture to get to the flowering stage, so put some sort of mulch (Pine Straw, wood chips, leaf mold, straw, or a living mulch that is a low spreading ground cover) down to help suppress weeds and maintain moisture. (Remember, you don’t want to ever have bare soil!)

How to Preserve Hydrangea Blooms to use in Home Decor

When your Hydrangea begins to bloom, pick a full new bloom in the morning and dry it slowly and hang upside down with a clothespin to a hanger in a room with good circulation (preferably indoors where humidity levels are lower due to Air Conditioning.) Allow the bloom to completely dry and then use in whatever decorating application. They are especially pretty as a wreath. Just spray with a clear craft finishing spray to preserve color. The also look pretty as a dried floral bouquet arrangement.

If you haven’t explored growing a hydrangea bush, I encourage you to give it a try! It’s a wonderful showy flowering bush that will bring enjoyment whether fresh or dried! Do you have a tip that has worked well in caring for your hydrangeas? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Happy Growing!

Erin

PS: If you are married, the Hydrangea is traditionally the fourth anniversary flower to give your love. I personally think any day and any year is a wonderful time to give a flower to someone you love. 😉

Erin Castillo is a wife and mother to five in Atlanta, Georgia. She grows food using organic methods for her family and also produces seed to sell, some of which is grown hydroponically and adapted to those growing conditions making it ideal for Tower Garden, FarmStand and Aerogarden home growers. If you want to check it out, you can find it at GYHG Seed Co. She is also certified in hydroponics and volunteers as a guest writer for her local gardening community.

Sources:

  • Dorn Ph. D., Sheri and Sawyer, Sarah. Georgia Master Gardner Handbook, 8th Edition. University of Georgia Extension. Copyright 2021 University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences ISBN 978-0-528-94356-8
  • Monrovia “10 Things Hydrangea Lovers Should Know
  • Hudson, Jr., Charles. Hudson’s Southern Gardening Published by Topper and Love, Atlanta Georgia. Copyright 1953, 1958
  • My mother (God rest her soul) who shared with me what worked for her gorgeous blooms and how she would dry them and save them for me to enjoy in my own home decor.
  • For further reading: Success With Success With Hydrangeas: A Gardener’s Guides: A Gardener’s Guide Lovers

Start your journey to health and gardening with this one simple step

KEY TAKEAWAYS AT A GLANCE:

• The key to giving your body better nutrition is to grow your own food.
— You will be able to eat what you grow shortly after harvest, thereby getting the highest level of nutrient that the plant can provide because the plant is allowed to grow to full maturity where nutrients will be at a peak AND you will be able to consume it shortly after harvest.
— You have control over how your food is grown meaning soil health, hydroponics, and anything applied to the plant to control pest pressure or enhance nutrition profile in plant like beneficial biological foliar tea applications.
— You will benefit not only physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually from being more connected to your food and outdoors.

• If you’ve never grown your own food, taking that first step can feel overwhelming. Begin by just choosing to focus on how to grow a food that you eat already and taking a moment to think about why you are motivated to make the effort.

• A simple and very doable approach to getting started growing your own food is to simply ask one question, “What one new thing can I learn to grow this year?”


The key to moving to better nutrition for your body is to grow your own food. That’s how my journey began. What did I do? I simply became curious and had an attitude to learn — and I picked just one plant to learn about. I deep dove into learning everything I could about that one plant and what it needed to grow. Single focused. One simple step. A willingness to change and grow through gardening.

Step 1: Pick 1 (one) plant to learn more about.
Background Image credit: Kim Kight Moda Fabric Nov 2021 Release

Here’s how you can make a BIG difference this year in your health by just learning to grow one new plant:

Step 1: Consider healthy grown food choices you are already enjoying.

You’re more likely to eat what you grow and if it’s already something you’re familiar. Research has even shown this to be true with children — children are more likely to eat what they have grown. Why would we be any different? 😉

For example, I like to eat Kale. I noticed that Kale was on EWG’s (Environmental Working Group’s) Dirty Dozen List. I didn’t want to give up eating kale simply because it was often sprayed by those growing it and wanted to reduce the amount of chemicals I was putting into my body. I also found that my kids like the cheesy kale chips at the store, but my pocket book felt the pain every time I had to purchase that in bulk. The best solution? Learn to grow it.

Bok Choy and greens growing on hydroponic and aeroponic Tower Garden.
Tower Garden growing hyroponic lettuce, kale and bok choy. To learn more visit: erincastillo.towergarden.com
Spinach growing in a hydroponic Tower Garden vertical garden growing system.
Tip: If you’re new to growing Spinach and gardening altogether, I recommend that you don’t pick spinach as your first plant to try growing from seed. Instead, purchase a start and grow it from that stage or read our article on how to start spinach from seed.
Step 2: Learn everything you can about that plant.
Background Image credit: Kim Kight Moda Fabric Nov 2021 Release

Step 2: Learn everything you can about what the plant needs to grow.

Single-tasking has been proven to be THE BEST way to get something done. Keep it simple. Don’t over-complicate things. Just choose one thing and learn it well. Focusing on learning one new plant will set you up for success and lead to better nutrition for your body!

We are so blessed to live in an age where we have so much information at our fingertips with a simple search. Take advantage of this and devote at least 15 focused non-distracted minutes a day to look-up details about the plant you’re wanting to learn how to grow. Record what you learn on a sheet a paper and put it in a 3-Ring Binder. This becomes a handy-reference in seasons to come as you add other plants to your ever growing notebook.

You’ll find that after a couple of growing seasons, you’re able to add more than one plant to your ever-growing “new plants I’m curious about” list. And you’ll be able tackle more because once you know a plant, you can grow a different similar variety with ease because you’ve already studied that plant group.


“Take advantage of this and devote at least 15 focused non-distracted minutes a day to look-up details about the plant you’re wanting to learn how to grow. Record what you learn on a sheet a paper and put it in a 3-Ring Binder”
— Erin Castillo, Owner of Grow Your Health Gardening


Tomato Lover’s Heirloom Tomato Seed Collection by Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Co. is our top pics for anyone who wants to grow tomatoes not found in the big box chain or grocery store. A true culinary delight.

Let curiosity guide your research. Ask questions like:

  • What temperature does this plant like to grow in: Cool or Warm? Knowing the temperature preference of a specific plant cultivar will tell you what time of year to start growing that plant. For example, kale likes to grow when it is cooler. Okay. How cool? Is there a certain range of temperature it prefers? Okay. We find that it likes 70ºF-80ºF, but some varieties like Lucinato (Dinosaur Kale), Dwarf Siberian, Vates Blue Scotch, Premier, White Russian, and Red Russian can tolerate SOIL TEMPS as low as 20ºF. I can look up those temperature ranges for the area I live in and look to see about when those temperatures are occurring. Then, when I look at the days to maturity, I can use a calendar calculator and count backwards from that temperature range and I can get my seed start date. Not sure how to quickly find a date? Just do a keyword online search for “count days calculator” or pull out an actual monthly calendar and physically count the days backwards with your finger.
  • What sort of lighting requirements does the plant need? Most vegetables need 8-10 hours of full sun a day. Consider watching where you have a sunny patch for the longest hours in a day. This is going to be your growing area. Don’t have a sunny patch and just a lot of shade? No problem! Invest in an indoor growing system with grow lights where you can control the temperature and grow year round.
  • What is the ideal pH range your plant needs to take up nutrients?
    Your pH level plays a very important role in which nutrients a plant can access and use to fuel it. I’ve provided a chart (below) to illustrate which nutrients a plant can take up when it’s within the ideal pH range. Most plants need somewhere between 5.5 to 6.8. Leafy greens prefer the 6.0 pH to 6.5 pH range whereas tomatoes prefer between 6.0-6.8 pH. Notice how kale, which likes it between 6.0-7.0 pH, when soil or water in a hydroponic or aquaponic system is kept between this range will be able to access nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, Boron, Copper and Zinc and Molybdenum. If you’re growing hydroponically, you can quickly and easily test pH levels with a pH meter like this. If you’re growing in soil, you can get a soil test from your local county extension office for around $10. You can also get a device like this that will get you fairly close. Remember, soil takes several months to adjust the pH level. Hydroponics and Aeroponics takes only a few hours with either pH up or pH down.
pH Absorption Chart
pH Absorption Chart shows which nutrients are available to a plant based on pH range.
Grow heirloom beans and enjoy different flavor and texture profiles not found in your grocery store.
Heirloom Beans are a fun way of exploring a healthy and high protein food group. There are so many different types of beans (bush beans, pole beans, runner beans, etc.) that the options are endless in enjoying new types of beans you can’t find in the grocery store. Check out our line of heirloom beans at https://store.growyourhealthgardening.com
  • What sort of nutrients does my plant require?
    If you’re working in soil, it will be helpful to understand your soil food web and how micro-organisms and beneficial bacteria within the soil work together to help replenish nutrients in the soil for the plant to access. If you’re working in hydroponics or aquaponics, you’ll want to purchase a TDS meter and a well-rounded nutrient like this Mineral Blend. When you go to add your nutrients, simply keep your PPM levels within the ideal range the plant prefers. You can find a fantastic hydroponic cheat sheet here that we’ve created for your convenience.
  • How long does it take for my plant to grow?
    Knowing this tidbit of information helps you figure out when to start growing your desired plant and calculating days to ensure you can get your plant to harvest stage. For example, I know that kale takes about two months to go from seed to ready for harvest. Again, you can reference most of this information in a simple chart here.
  • How many should I plant to produce enough food for myself and my family? How does that fit in with the growing space that has enough lighting that I have to work with at home? Learning how big a plant gets and if it continues to grow after a harvest can help you understand what sort of return you’ll get from starting one plant and growing it out.
  • Are there any diseases or pests that may target the plant I intend to grow? Can I take any preventative measures that don’t require chemical applications? For example, kale can get hit by the army worm. The eggs are laid by pretty white butterflies on the underside of the kale leaf where their young can have an instant food source. By simply covering your food crop with a net before these butterflies show up, you can dramatically increase your success rate and achieve your goals in growing healthy food. And know that it’s perfectly fine to learn as you go… don’t feel that you have to have a handle on all of this before you begin. When something shows up, you can look up what it is and how to deal with it. It’s part of the learning process.
Fall Winter Spring Cool Season Lettuce Chicory and other Greens Harvested and grown hydroponic organically grown
  • What can I do with what I grow?
    How can it be preserved? For example, if I have a lot of kale, I can dehydrate it and make cheesy kale chips to store in my pantry (which my kids love). I can freeze it and use it in morning smoothies. I can dehydrate it and use in soups for added nutrition. Thinking how you already use this food will help you anticipate and plan ahead when the plant is ready to harvest.
  • How will growing this benefit me?
    We are such a consumer culture that wants things ready in an instant. We have to break this cycle. We forget that there is joy to be found in the rhythm of being more connected to our food and the process of seeing something from beginning to end — from seed to harvest to table. There are intangible benefits to note, like getting more exercise and being outside in the sunshine and fresh air which produces Vitamin D in your body and (sleep chemical). It relaxes your body which reduces stress and cortisone levels giving your thyroid a break. Then there’s the actual nutritional benefits. What vitamins does the plant you intend to grow give to your body? How will those nutrients help you be healthier and stronger? Sitting down and focusing on these things and having them written down will motivate you to keep going when you encounter any challenges to overcome along the way.
Background Image credit: Kim Kight Moda Fabric Nov 2021 Release

Step 3: Reap the rewards. Bask in the benefits of your time and effort.

I just can’t describe how good it feels to have those you love, enjoy eating something that I grew. It feels good knowing I gave them the very best thing that they could eat and KNOW that it wasn’t sprayed or treated with any chemicals. One of the best feelings ever. I remember when I learned to grow basil and made pesto. My kids loved it! (And I did, too!) I loved that I could easily make it and put in the freezer for a quick week-night meal and that it was immune boosting. It’s the “new elderberry syrup” for improving our health. (Yes, basil is that healthy!)

organically grown hydroponic aeroponic basil in vertical garden growing system called the Tower Garden
Herbs are an easy starting place in learning to grow your own food and you reap the rewards of better flavor in your dishes
Rosemary Lemon Chicken is a tasty dish and the flavors are more pronounced with freshly picked and harvested rosemary. Check your growing zone to see what rosemary varieties are frost-hardy in your area.
Rosemary harvested can be dehydrated and stored to add to any dish later on.

If your plant didn’t grow or produce like you thought it would, that’s okay, too! In our home, we know that not meeting our goal or objective doesn’t equate to failure. Failure is when you don’t even try. If you feel discouraged, pick up your bootstraps and realize you have already succeeded because you took that difficult first step when so many others wouldn’t even attempt it. You are further along than you were before you ever tried. We can learn from everything we do. And as you’ll see in growing plants, every plant has very specific needs that must be met in order for them to grow (which also may make you reconsider the whole antiquated evolution theory and how things just may have “coincidentally happened” … more on that another time… but I think you may discover that plants are more complex than just throwing a seed in the ground. They were designed with a purpose and need specific parameter to grow and thrive.)

Backyard chickens eat from a metal basket hung at pecking height during the winter full of kale.
Even the chickens can enjoy the fruits of our labor. Kale is a FANTASTIC healthy green (or purple in this case) to feed chickens in the winter. Here, we hang a wire basket and share some of the bounty with our girls knowing what they eat will benefit us as well when it comes time to enjoy the eggs they produce.

So remember, there are countless benefits to consider. Think about and write down how learning about that one plant has or will benefit you. When I consider my own journey, growing my own food has been more than just plants though…. I have gotten off the couch and out from behind my desk and computer (except for this moment of course as I write to you) and it gets me actively moving my body which is good for me. I love to wear earbuds and listen to music or Podcasts as I work, so it is a moment where I can step away from my life responsibilities and refuel my mind and spirit while accomplishing a gardening task like pruning, checking on water lines and levels, or checking for pests. Know that you’ll benefit as well in the same way; research tells us that those who garden are happier. I’m also getting a good dose of Vitamin D from that sunshine and producing melatonin which both help your immune system. I have a college degree and could work in any corporate setting, but I have purposely chosen this natural permiculture and hydroponic organic method of growing food, because it is healthier for me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Plus, it is something a can do with my children, teaching them how plants grow and why they should grow them. I am sowing into not only myself, but the next generation.

Background Image credit: Kim Kight Moda Fabric Nov 2021 Release

Step 4: Repeat.

After you’ve finished the growing cycle of your plant and have accessed how it went in your gardening journal, repeat the process the next season. Pick another type of plant you’re interested in learning more about and pursue it. But here’s the cool thing… because you have already learned how to grow that other plant, you can now choose another variety within that same plant group and grow it AND the new plant you’re interested in learning more about. As you repeat this process season after season, before you know it, you’re growing a whole slew of healthy plants and enjoying reaping the benefits!

Let us know which plant you’re curious about and plan on learning more this year in the comments below!

Happy growing,

Erin

Erin Castillo is the owner of Grow Your Health Gardening and Lead Grower of GYHG Seed Co. She is certified in hydroponics and growing food using organic methods. She believes that life is to be lived to the fullest.

Shop seed grown by us GYHG Seed Co using organic methods.

Erin’s Top 9 Tomato Varieties to Grow

Happy New Year! As we look forward to the year ahead, it’s time to start thinking about what kind of nutritious food can be grown!

We’ve wrapped up our trials from 2021 and data and out of all the many cultivars grown of tomatoes, I’ve settled on these being my favorites to try in 2022.

When growing tomatoes, it’s always a good idea to think about HOW you plant to consume and use them. It will be a big help to you to evaluate this as it will determine what kind of tomato you should grow. And the BEST part of growing tomatoes is you can enjoy great taste as well that surpass anything that can be found at your local grocery store!

Here’s Erin’s tried and tested picks:

  • Casady’s Folly Paste Tomato (Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    “This variety is from tomato and potato breeder, Tom Wagner, of Washington State. It is a fantastic producer and beautiful on and off the vine. It is super versatile as well… you can slice it and add to any recipe that asks for a chopped tomato. It excels for making sauce. When compared to equal number of plants, it even out-performed 3.65x times the popular similar Speckled Roman paste variety. Casady’s Folly had more bud production and peaked in mid-July, but just kept pumping out the tomatoes until the end of September earning its spot as my top pick this growing season.”
Casady's Folly Open Source Tomato Paste Variety bred and developed by Tom Wagner Tomato breeder. Seed for Sale Hydroponic Adapted

  • Cancelmo Family Heirloom Paste Tomato (Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    Cancelmo Family Heirloom Paste Tomato is a wonderful oxheart-type tomato variety. It steadily produces good size meaty fruit making it a wonderful option for great tasting sauce, but can also make a nice slicer for BLT sandwiches as the size fits a slice of bread well and has low seed/pulp ratio. Because doesn’t produce as many seeds, we may swap in another variety once we sell out of our inventory with another variety that also performed well, so grab it while it’s part of the collection while you can.”
Cancelmo Family Paste Heirloom Tomato Oxheart Type good for Sauces Seed for Sale Hydroponic Adapted

  • Charlie Chapman Heirloom Tomato (Slicing or Stuffer)
    Why Erin chose it:
    I was originally attracted to Charlie Chapman Heirloom Tomato for it’s ruffled mid-size appearance and that it was touted as a good stuffing cultivar. I think part of the fun of growing food you can’t find in the store is using it in new ways in the kitchen. It’s a great way to add interest to what you’re eating and delights younger children as well. It did not disappoint and actually produced well throughout the growing season. This is a red tomato, but an orange-tinted red. I love how they look like miniature pumpkins.
Charlie Chapman Heirloom Tomato Seed for Sale Hydroponic adapted

  • Cherokee Purple Tomato or Paul Robeson Tomato ((Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    Cherokee Purple is one of our favorite tasting tomatoes. It’s not our biggest producer, but I chose this variety based on its flavor profile. Our seed comes from local stock and has been adapted over several generations. In fact, when I compared my seed to other seed providers, our seed was larger and more plump — these are traits that World Guinness Book Record holder, Charles Wilber, recommends looking for in seed with good DNA.
Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato Seed for Sale Hydroponic Adapted

  • Wagners Salad Green Tomato (aka: Green Elf) (Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    “We love fried green tomatoes and this determinate variety just pumped out nice firm green tomatoes much to our delight. The multiple buds it produced and actually set was amazing. I did have to prune it a bit for the Southern climate and for airflow, but I loved the thick sturdy stalk it had and the amount of production we got out of it. It’s a versatile tomato that looks pretty when added to red varieties in diced salsas or topping tacos or salads as well.
Green Elf (aka: Wagner's Salad Green Tomato) developed by Tom Wagner tomato breeder. Hydroponic adapted. Grown using organic method.

  • Nostrano Grasso Italian Tomato (Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    I was drawn to this variety because of the rariety of it in the United States as an Italian variety. I also thought the slight ruffled look of it was pretty and it did not disappoint. The production was wonderful and the tomato taste true Italian tomato flavors rang through checking all the boxes for me for a fantastic cultivar to grow.
Nostrano Grasso Italian Heirloom Tomato Hydroponic adapted seed for sale Rare variety in the United States

  • Blue Cream Berries Cherry Tomato (Salad Topper or Snacking)
    Why Erin chose it:
    This is a most unusual tomato. It looks unimpressive on the vine, but I always love to share it with my guests that come to the garden, just to see their look of surprise when they taste it. Your mind thinks it’s going to tart, but it’s not. It’s unlike any other tomato I have tried to date and the fact that it is known to also have those purple shoulders containing anthocyanans, well, it’s a tomato we should all be enjoying on salads or for snacking. What’s interesting is that the second year of adapting this variety the first fruits that came on where actually bigger than the previous year. This will be one I continue to grow out and adapt through hydroponics in the Southeast.
Blue Cream Berries Cherry Tomato hydroponic adapted grown with organic methods seed for sale

  • Black Cherry Tomato (Salad Topper or Snacking)
    Why Erin chose it:
    Our entire family loves the Black Cherry Tomato variety. Cherry Tomatoes are also easier to grow in the Southeast, so it’s a good starter tomato for anyone who hasn’t grown tomatoes before from seed. Like our other cultivars that have been adapted through hydroponic growing conditions, Black Cherry Tomatoes were larger and super tasty — especially early on in the season. These can be used for snacking, salads, sliced for tacos, or even sun-dried.
Black Cherry Tomato hydroponic adapted grown using organic methods seed for sale

  • + Bonus: Naughty Marietta French Marigold (Co-planting and other beneficial uses)
    Why Erin chose it:
    I wanted to include a marigold to encourage new growers to think of co-planting beneficial plants near one another. The marigold is fantastic for keeping some pest pressure down. You can grow and place in-between and around your plants that are growing, but the real benefit will be if you harvest some leaves and petals and make a biological tea and spray on your tomato plants once a week as a pro-active pest deterrent.
Naughty Marietta French Marigold beneficial flower seed for sale

If you want to learn more about this collection, feel free to click here. We wish you the best and a wonderful 2022 Growing Season! Be sure to let us know in the comments below what your favorite tomato variety was from your last growing season. We all learn from each other through sharing!

Erin's Top Picks Tomato Seed Collection

GYHG Seed Co. Receives Star Seller for January 2022

Grow Your Health Gardening (GYHG) Seed Co. was identified as Star Seller on Etsy for January 2022. To achieve Star Seller of the Month status, orders met on-time shipping guidelines, communication response within 24 hours was 100% of the time, and Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Co. received 100% 5-Star Ratings from customers who received their seed orders.

Here’s some of what our customers are saying about Grow Your Health Gardener Seed Co.’s service and quality grow with organic methods seeds:

★★★★★ “Wonderful seed company with lots of information that comes with your seed order. Also check out their website. They have ton of wonderful seeds and information on it.” — Royal W

★★★★★ 
Liked that a lot of this company’s seeds are adapted to hydroponics. Love the large selection of heirloom cherry tomatoes which should be perfect for my large indoor Aerogarden. I haven’t had a chance to start any yet, but will try to update review once I do.” — Danielle H.

★★★★★ 
Seeds look great. Looks like a huge tomato can’t wait for a tomato sandwich I’m looking forward to spring to plant. Thanks for the gift pack of seeds!!
—GiGi

★★★★★
Not only was a cute piece of tape holding my seeds, a note was hand written. The best part, it came with a chart of repellent plants for pests. Put of all my orders, this was the best.
— Davena

★★★★★ 
Arrived quickly and was very well packaged, thank you so much!” 
—Kate

★★★★★ 
Can’t wait to buy again
—Allen 

★★★★★ 
Awesome service on all the seeds I bought. So excited to watch these guys grow! 🙂” 
—Anna 

★★★★★ 
Super fast shipping can’t wait to plant these thank you!!!” 
— Lushes Lips Lotions

★★★★★
Purchased several seeds, and received them all safely, including a gift pack of calypso bean seeds. Very friendly, easy to communicate, and the seeds came packaged very neatly. I truly enjoyed shopping from this company. Thank you!
— Carrie C. 

★★★★★ 
The seeds shipped promptly and were well packaged. I planted them three days ago and two have already sprouted.” 
— Be Sure to Loop

★★★★★ 
Seeds came quickly. I can’t wait to grow them in my hydroponic setup.” 
—Christine G.

To purchase hydroponic-adapted seeds and soil-grown seeds grown in the Southeast Zone 7B, you can order on Etsy.com or visit Grow Your Health Gardening.

The Star Seller badge is Etsy’s way of recognizing sellers with a proven record of providing a great customer experience. To become a Star Seller, your store must meet certain criteria for messages, shipping, ratings, orders, and sales. 

If these core fundamentals of delivering great customer service are achieved, a shop may receive a badge that shows buyers that a shop has consistently provided an excellent customer experience.

8 Reasons GMOs are not good for our food system (and gardens)

Know that there shouldn’t be GMO seed available to consumers and is sold to producers only at this time, but you need to be aware of what is happening in our food supply chain as it could affect you in what you consume from the grocery store.

With genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we risk transforming our food into a patented commodity controlled by a few multinationals, and stripping farmers and consumers of their rights. GMOs are unreliable from a scientific point of view, inefficient in economic terms and unsustainable in an environmental analysis. Little is known about them from a health perspective and from a technical standpoint they are obsolete.

What are GMOs?

A GMO is an organism in which a gene belonging to one species is transferred to the DNA of another – for example a bacterium to a plant. This process cannot occur in nature through breeding or natural genetic cross over.

What aren’t they?

Supporters of GMOs would like to make consumers believe that they have always existed. In reality, they are intentionally confusing the genetic engineering that produces GMOs with other biotechnologies such as grafting, interbreeding, seed propagation, etc. These techniques, some of which are thousands of years old, actually underlie the fundamental developments made by agriculture and humanity itself. GMOs are born exclusively in laboratories; there is no way in which they can be created in nature.

Some stats on GMOs

  • 14 million agriculturists across 25 nations plant genetically modified seeds on 134 million hectares. (2009 data).
  • Of the crops grown worldwide, GMOs represent 77% of the soya, 49% of cotton, 26% of corn and 21% of rapeseed. This is a clear sign of the great decrease in biodiversity on cultivated land.
  • In the first phase of GMO cultivation, between 1996 and 2005, they were used primarily across the Americas. Since 2006 however, the greatest growth has occurred in Asia and Africa.
  • GMOs have been around for 30 years, with the first GMO plant dating back to 1981. But after a great amount of research, in practice only four GMO plants are being used commercially – soya, cotton, corn and rapeseed – and only two characteristics have been integrated: tolerance to herbicides and resistance to insects.


1. GMOs don’t feed the world

99% of GMO crops are not destined for human food, but rather for animal feed and biofuels. Land dedicated to growing GMOs is being expanded at the expense of food production.

2. It is not true that GMOs are more productive

GMOs have not increased productivity. According to official data from the United States Department of Agriculture, there has been no recorded increase in the soya and corn yield following the introduction of GMOs to American agriculture.

3. GMOs do not reduce the use of chemical products

Genetically modified plants are resistant to specific herbicides. For example, Monsanto sells genetically modified corn seeds and also sells Roundup Ready, an extremely potent herbicide that is the only one able to be used with cultivation of this corn. However, using Roundup on the GMO fields doesn’t eliminate all of the weeds: some resist the herbicide and this resistance is strengthened with each generation. These weeds become problematic and new chemical products must be invented to deal with them.

According to the Environment Working Group (EWG) this is a problem and why they, as a ‘think tank’ to monitor the government’s role in managing this with our food system.

“Nearly all corn and soybeans in the U.S. – totaling more than 150 million acres – are genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. But over-reliance on glyphosate has led to the growth of “super weeds” that are resistant to the weed killer. Today, more than 60 million acres of U.S. farmland are infested with weeds resistant to glyphosate.

Because of this super weed problem, farmers are turning  to a chemical cocktail of glyphosate and 2,4-D, a possibly cancer-causing herbicide linked to Parkinson’s disease and thyroid problems. The leading cancer researchers at the World Health Organization recently classified glyphosate alone as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans.'”

4. GMOs impoverish biodiversity

GMOs require larger areas of land and intensive monoculture cultivation to reduce production costs. This in turn means farmers are displaced from their land and cultures and traditional knowledge are lost. In fact, a team of researchers reviewed 34 years of USDA census data on every recorded crop species grown in U.S. counties and found a “steady decline in diversity in almost every food-growing part of the country.” 

5. GMOs allow multinationals to control food

The multinational companies that patent and produce GMO seeds control the majority of the seed market and often also produce herbicides and fertilizers.

6. GMOs compromise food sovereignty for communities

How can organic, biodynamic and conventional farmers be sure that their crops haven’t been contaminated? The spread, even limited, of GMO cultivation in open fields will change the quality and state of our agriculture, taking away our freedom to choose what we cultivate and eat.

7. GMOs compromise freedom of choice for consumers

At the international level, labeling laws regarding GMO products lack uniformity and are insufficient. In Africa and Asia no legislation exists at all. In America there is no acknowledged difference between products containing GMOs and conventional products, and therefore it is not deemed necessary to inform consumers of the presence of GMOs. In Europe, producers are obliged to declare the presence of GMOs if in a quantity above 0.9%. However, also in Europe the majority of animal feeds commercially available contain genetically modified soya, but it is not obligatory to declare derivative products such as milk or meat on the label.

8. GMOs contribute to problems with bees and birds and an unbalanced ecosystem

In the last several years, numerous scientists have shown that neonicotinoids such as clothianidin are lethal for pollinators at agricultural field concentrations and are the most likely cause of colony collapse disorder in bees. Other studies show correlations between environmental neonics and the loss of birds, especially species that consume aquatic invertebrates.  

Learn more about herbicide use and GMO crops below.

STOP GMOs! 

Know that there shouldn’t be GMO seed available to consumers and is sold to producers only at this time, but you need to be aware of what is happening in our food supply chain as it could affect you in what you consume from the grocery store.

When choosing seed for your garden, always look for seed providers that have made a commitment to biodiversity and preserving seed DNA as seed stewards through non-GMO open-source, non-patented and heirloom seed (like seed grown by Grow Your Health Gardening.) Not only will you play a key role in helping to maintain biodiversity within our food supply, but you’ll also enjoy the nutritional benefit of these fantastic seeds!

Shop seeds adapted to growing in the southeast (hot and humid zone 7B) in hydroponic systems at store.growyourhealthgardening.com 

Sources: 

How to Have Your Own Personal Produce Aisle in Your Own Home

This time of year, many a gardener will begin breaking out their seeds from storage and gather up their recent purchases in preparation for the upcoming growing season. With earnest, one cell tray or by one rock wool at a time, life will begin inside the gardener’s abode, protected from the cold weather outside.

Seed starting, used to be an annual event for me until I realized the importance of succession planting. If I wanted to have a continual supply of greens or move from one season to the next seamlessly, a little bit of planning was all I needed to do the trick.

If I was going to do succession planting, I needed to make it part of my everyday planting and tending tasks (even if all it means is a quick glance to check moisture levels or that your “babies” (as I affectionately call them) are growing as they should was the only task that day.) And as an everyday task, it needed to be part of my environment. The end result to succession planting throughout the year? A seed starting station.

If you’re only planting seeds one time a year, I encourage you to read on and challenge yourself to look at seed starting in a whole new light (pun intended). We want to set you up for success for the ENTIRE growing season ahead!

What is a Seed Starting Station?

Okay, I’m probably being “Captain Obvious” here, but a Seed Starting Station contains everything you need to start seeds. If I may recommend a few tips as you consider setting up your own Seed Starting Station:Your Seed Starting Station needs to be in a location where you walk by it at least once a day; two times or more a day is even better. Why? Seedlings need nurturing. Watching that they have proper light, temperature, moisture, and humidity levels are all key to successful strong seed starts.

Your Seed Starting Station need to have the proper temperature.

Temperatures do matter with germination and each seed / plant has different temps they prefer to germinate at and a “sweet spot” temperature range. For example, warm season plants typically prefer to germinate at temps above 65ºF. On the flip side, cool season plants, typically prefer to germinate at cooler temps. Spinach, for example, can be started in a container between two wet paper towel sheets in the refrigerator and after about 7-10 days you’ll see the root emerge. At this point, you can move it into soil or a wet rock wool and allow it to continue to grow into a young seedlings under bright light while maintaining high 60º-low 70ºF temps.

Seed heat mats can be a great tool for warming soil or rock wool when you set a tray on it. Just be careful to not overheat the young seeds. A thermostat on your heat mat can keep it in the proper range. Below is a quick cheat sheet for common veggies of optimal temperatures seeds typically germinate at:

Minimum (F)Optimum Range (F)Optimum (F)Maximum
Beet40º50º-85º85º85º
Cabbage40º45º-95º85º100º
Cauliflower40º45º-85º80º100º
Celery40º60º-70º70º85º
Chard40º50º-85º85º95ª
Cucumber60º60º-95º95º105º
Eggplant60º75º-95º90º100º
Lettuce35º40º-80º75º85º
Melons60º75º-95º90º100º
Onion35º50º-95º75º95º
Parsley40º50º-85º75º90º
Pepper60º65º-95º85º95º
Pumpkin60º70º-90º90º100º
Spinach35º45º-70º70º85º
Squash60º70º-95º95º100º
Tomato50º70º-95º85º95º
Source: PennState Extension. Adapted from Kemble and Musgrove (2006)
(Soil temperatures should be taken by inserting a soil thermometer
3-4 inches deep into the soil surface and noting temperature.

Your Seed Starting Station Needs Bright Light

Seedlings need a lot of light once they emerge — a nice bright strong light. If you don’t have a green house that can be temperature controlled for heat and cool air, you will need to grow your seedlings indoors. That means you will need artificial lighting intended for growing plants. Lighting could get real technical quick, so I’m going to try to keep it simple. When it comes to lighting and seed starting you need to keep three things in mind to make adjustments as needed to ultimately save money on seeds:

INTENSITY: You need to have enough lighting.
LED bars: 8–10 inches apart from each other
T5 fluorescents: 4–5 inches apart from each other

COVERAGE: You need to place lighting in the sweet spot — not too far from seedlings.
LED bars (like Phillips): 8–12 inches away from seedlings
T5 fluorescents: 5–6 inches away from seedlings

DURATION: You need to leave lights on long enough.  14-18 hrs a day

Your light needs to be bright (this is like the one we use) and you need to have a way to adjust the light so that it is the correct distance from the seedling. And if you’re planting into a hydroponic growing system where your seedling will mature into an adult plant, you’ll want lights that can be adjusted distance-wise from the plant (closer when they are young and further away about 8″-10″ when they are older). If you’re using a Tower Garden HOME or Tower Garden FLEX, these are the lights you will want to invest in as they can be adjusted from the plant as it grows and they have a built in timer making it easy to set it and go about your life never having to worry about the lights turning on and off again.

Don’t rely on a window with sun coming in as it will make your seedlings “leggy” where they stretch for the light and ultimately that makes them weaker plants as they mature. Today’s windows have a UV rating which actually blocks the essential UV light that seedlings crave. The window is designed to protect your home interior textiles such as the furniture, drapes, and carpet from fading — it is not taking into account seed germination needs at all.

Some love to say “You can just start your seedlings in your Tower Garden — I do it all the time.” A couple of cautionary words are needed when you hear or read this advice posted in social media groups. Simply, don’t do it. Seedlings started in this manner often become leggy and are overall weaker plants when they mature. Secondly, you can “burn” your tender seedling with high levels of nutrients that other mature plants may be getting within your growing system, as seedlings don’t require as much nutrients when they are teeny tiny. Remember to, instead, start your seedlings off strong in a Seed Starting Station under bright grow lights. Look for a light that has all the color spectrum of the sun and avoid cheap $20-$30 grow lights as they are just not strong enough for seedlings to thrive. We recommend a grow light like this that has a full-spectrum. A decent grow light for seedlings will cost between $60-$100. I’ve also used my Aerogarden Harvest as a light for seedlings when I don’t have anything growing in the ports.

You’ll want to keep a quick reference to the needs of different seeds.

Not all seeds need darkness or to be covered to begin the germination process. Some require light to germinate like lettuce. Some need to be scarified (slightly chipped) or go through a cold period before they will germinate. We recommend printing off our Seeds That Require Special Treatment Reference Chart and laminating it or sticking it in a 3-ring binder sheet protector to use as a quick reference (or just bookmark our reference page and come back to it as you need to).

Click above screen shot to access full list of seeds that have special requirements to germinate.

Your Seed Station needs to have supplies relating to starting seeds and nurturing stored nearby

Here’s a list of some common supplies I use for soil and a list for common supplies I use for hydroponics.

Hydroponics:
1.5″ rock wool
• bowl for soaking rock wool
• vermiculite for seeds that need to be covered
(see our list here if you’re unsure)
liquid kelp (I add a TBSP to my water soak)
seeds you intend to plant (those that are not in the freezer)
plant tags
permanent marker
• access to a water source and/or some sort of watering can to “water in” seeds
• and a tray of some sort (I use an old cookie sheet) to rest your starts upon under lights for easy moving around from under your grow light to outdoors as temps allow or to your indoor growing system.
heat mat with temp gauge
grow light

Soil:
• Seed starting tray cells, recycled containers that can be repurposed as small pots, or small paper pots
• potting mix or screened peat moss
worm castings (to mix into your potting mix) (Note: don’t purchase and ship during hot months as temps of 85ºF in shipment will begin to kill beneficial bacteria in castings.)
• access to a water source and/or some sort of watering can to “water in” seeds
seeds you intend to plant (those that are not in the freezer)
plant tags
permanent marker
• and a tray to rest your seed starts on and move them easily from under your grow light to outdoors as temps allow.
heat mat with temp gauge
grow light

Now to the best part. Your own personal produce section!

To have a continual harvest, you’ll want to implement a sequential planting system. Pick a day that you are at your leisure (i.e.: Sundays are usually a restful day for most folks) and put a reminder on your calendar to plant at a certain time every week or every two weeks paying attention to your growing conditions (i.e.: indoor, cool season, warm season) and available space.

Let’s say you want to have a continuous supply of Bibb Lettuce. If you have a 28 port Tower Garden, you can plant 4 rock wools with Bibb Lettuce seed making sure to include a couple extra seeds per rock wool of which you’ll thin down as they germinate to the strongest one. You’ll repeat this process, planting several lettuce seeds into a single rock wool cube, filling four cubes total. As shown in the below planting chart, by week 4, your week 1 seedlings will be ready to transfer into your system. With each passing week, you’ll put the four seedlings that are ready from previous week plantings into the next row up of your vertical hydroponic / aeroponic Tower Garden. By week 10, you will have harvested your row 1 Bibb Lettuce (four ports = four heads of bibb lettuce to feed a typical family of four for a week). Once your lower lettuce has been harvested (pulled out of the port), the following week, replace the net pots and wipe down the port entrance with a cotton ball with alcohol on it and put a new clean net pot in it’s place. You are ready to plant the next set of four seedlings in these empty ports. As you continue to harvest up the vertical garden, you will clean each port and then plant the next seedling into it.

Note, if you are growing outdoors, sequential planting will get trickier, because temperature will be a variable. As temps raise towards summer time, bibb lettuce will begin to bolt (or go to seed) quicker or go limp if it is not a heat tolerant variety. This type of sequential planting works best if growing greens indoors and if the green has a 6-week grow cycle. This could work for Bok Choy and most greens. Consider putting some herbs like chives in the top row… these are cut and come again meaning that once they are a certain height, you can start cutting them 3″-4″ from the base of the plant and they will continue to grow from the center. Keep in mind that at some point, you will need to clean your system and restart the process, but in theory, if growing indoors, plants should continue to grow at a steady rate if you get in the habit of planting enough to fill four ports each week.

BIBB LETTUCE OR BOK CHOY EXAMPLE OF SEQUENTIAL PLANTING SCHEDULE FOR 1 TOWER GARDEN WITH 28 PORTS:

Week
1
Week
2
Week
3
Week
4
Week
5
Week
6
Week
7
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Trans-plant into Tower Garden…Week 1 seedlings Btm Row 1 of TGWeek 2 seedlings Btm Row 2 of TGWeek 3 seedlings Btm Row 3 of TGWeek 4 seedlings Row 4 of TG
Copyright 2021 Grow Your Health Gardening
Week
8
Week
9
Week
10
Week
11
Week
12
Week
13
Week
14
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Start
4 cubes
w/seeds
Week 5 seedlings Row 5 of TGWeek 6 seedlings Row 6 of TGWeek 7 seedlings Row 7 of TGWeek 8 seedlings Row 1 of TGWeek 9 seedlings Row 2 of TGWeek 10 seedlings Row 3 of TGWeek 11 seedlings Row 4 of TG
Harvest off of btm row 1 lettuceHarvest off of btm row 2 lettuceHarvest off of btm row 3 lettuceHarvest off of btm row 4 lettuceHarvest off of btm row 5 lettuce
Copyright 2021 Grow Your Health Gardening

No matter what you want to grow, evaluate about how long the plant(s) you want to grow take to get to maturity for harvest, calculate when it will be ready for consumption, and enjoy your bounty continuously throughout the season with weekly seed starting in your own personal Seed Starting Station.

Happy Growing!
— Erin

PS: Be sure to post your pics of your Seed Starting Station on social media and tag us at #gyhg and maybe you’ll get featured on our Instagram or Facebook channels and get some FREE seeds!

7 TIPS FOR THE MAKING OF A GOOD AND USEFUL seed label

The more plants you begin to grow, you’ll begin to realize the importance of staying organized. As the plant begins to mature, knowing when you started the seed and when it should be mature will aid you in gauging when to begin harvesting or even how old a plant may be and if you should pull it and replace it with another.

We grow hundreds of varieties of plants per season on our property and have found that labeling is essential. Even if you are not planting many plants, knowing what you planted and having a quick reference will be essential to knowing and learning more about your plants. Here’s what we include on our labels and some tips that help along the way:

  • Use a label that offers space enough to record data/info
  • Record plant variety and kind
  • Record start of seedling date
  • Record anticipated maturity date for when you should be able to begin harvest
  • Optional: Record any special characteristic that helps to identify it — especially if you have more than one variety growing of the same kind of plant (ie: seed stock source, ppm range)
  • Use a non-fading permanent marker
  • Point the label away from the sun.
  • A best practice to do a back-up label as well

The Foundation: Your Actual Choice of Label Style

We love the look of bamboo labels, which is a recyclable material, so if your budget allows, this is a great option. This is cost-prohibitive on a larger scale for our seed production, so we opt to use plastic labels and recycle them. When we are finished using the label, we give them a quick rinse with soap and water and then place them in a sealed jar of 91%-94% rubbing alcohol to soak and process them (clean them) during the winter months. After a bit of soaking in 91%-94% Rubbing Alcohol, you can strip off the permanent ink pen writing when you rub with a cotton ball or paper towel and apply a little bit of pressure.

For those growing in soil, if you have access to an old white window covering blind (the kind you put in the window to shade your home interior from the sun), many Master Gardeners like to cut these down and use them as plant markers / labels using a permanent marker or wax pencil.

Tip: If you use plastic labels like the ones shown above and a permanent marker and you make a mistake, simply use 91%-94% isopropyl rubbing alcohol to remove marker.

Use rubbing alcohol to remove permanent marker (Sharpie).

Some Tower Garden or Lettuce Grow Farmstand hydroponic / aeroponic home growers will use painter’s tape and write info on that and stick it to the actual vertical garden growing system. We’ve found that if it is outdoors, it can weather and come off if you have a longer season of growth, but it works great if you’re growing indoors. We like this tape and use it for our Grow Order Client Orders that are grown indoors. We like that it is 2″ wide so we can write our client’s name as well as the plant variety, start date, and harvest date all on the same short strip.

Click photo above to find on Amazon

Tip: When placing tape on your vertical garden growing system, try to place ABOVE the port as sometimes water can drip downwards from a leaf. And try to only use tape if growing indoors as weather can cause removable tape to loose it’s adherence to your grow tower.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use duct tape on your hydroponic / aeroponic vertical growing system. It may be difficult to remove and will leave a sticky residue.

We’ve also heard of some people writing directly on their Tower as well. The challenge with using an erasable marker is if the Tower Garden gets bumped in any way, you may lose valuable information. The other challenge is that a vertical garden like the Tower Garden or Lettuce Grow Farmstand will need weekly maintenance of wiping down the exterior so that you don’t get minerals building up in the nooks and crevices. The other factor is if you’re growing outside, you may want to periodically spray down your plants with a shower level of pressure of water to not only rinse off the exterior of your hydroponic growing system. This not only cleans your tower but also helps to knock-off any aphids or bugs that may be hiding underneath leaves or in plant crevices. If you were to have removable ink on your growing system, you would lose valuable information with the introduction of water.

So, when looking at your foundation of the kind of plant tag or plant label you plan to use, consider how the weather (rain and sun) is going to affect it as well as water and routine cleanings around where it will remain.

Record Plant Variety and Kind

We always list variety first and plant kind in caps on the second row. This makes for a quick visual check when grouping similar plants together as seedlings or when placing in a growing area or hydroponic system.

Record Start of Seedling Date

We like to put our seed start date in the left-hand corner of our label and the harvest date on the lower right. The key here is just to be consistent as it speeds up efficiency when you’re in the garden checking on plants. Our eyes scan when they read and having information in the same spot on every plant tag or label will save you time in the long run. Consistency is your friend when your looking to make things efficient in your garden.

Record the Anticipated Days to Maturity Date

Often you will see in seed catalogs or on seed packets “Days to Maturity” noted. This notation is not determined from seed start date, but is intended as what to expect from the date of transplant. To figure out days to maturity, use the following loose formula:

Days to Germination + 2 weeks + Days to Maturity = When you can expect to harvest

To quickly calculate your harvest date, use the formula above and enter that number into this handy date calculator. (Make sure you use the tab for “Add or Subtract Date”. (See blue line under “Add Days” in example screen shot below.) Begin by entering your date of seed starting and calculate days of germination, plus two weeks for seedling growth, plus days to maturity from seed packet or catalog description. This will give you total number of days. Make sure the Add/Subtract drop down has selected “(+) Add” and then enter a numerical value under “Days” and hit “Enter” on your key pad. Below, you will be given the “Result” date. This is what you will write on your label.

https://www.timeanddate.com/date/dateadd.html

Granted, each plant and growing condition is different (i.e.: plant receives more light and more nutrients and may grow faster than standard days to maturity. Note: If you’re growing hydroponically, realize that plants in general grow 30% faster, so don’t be surprised if you check your anticipated maturity date and your plant is already maturing before that date has arrived.

Record Any Special Characteristic that you want to Remember for Future Reference

When I was starting out growing food hydroponically, I would put PPM ranges on my tag to make sure I grouped plants together that liked the same range. Then I sat down one day and did some figuring and came up with these handy charts for reference. Now, I simply refer to the charts to know what plants go best with each other depending on whether it is a cool growing season or warm growing season. I no longer need to put that information on my label and can use that space for other information.

If I am growing a special collection (ie: Tom Wagner Varieties of tomatoes), I may want to grow those plants together so I can observe their growth patterns and development. An indeterminate or determinate tomato would grow differently from one other, so knowing the growing habits of the seedling I’m holding helps me to quickly place it in the best suitable spot in my garden. A micro-dwarf tomato can grow at the top of a vertical garden growing system like the Tower Garden because it is a determinate and will stay a certain small size that doesn’t need support whereas an indeterminate tomato will need to be trellised from the side and grown towards the lower part of the Tower Garden.

Sometimes we grow the same variety using two different seed stock sources. Diversity is good for strengthening seed stock. So sometimes, I will designate the seed stock source so I can compare plants while in the garden to see which line perhaps has more rigor before I do any cross pollination. In these situations, I just use the first letters of the seed stock sources name as a reference (ie: “SSE” would be Seed Savers Exchange).

red flower fields
Photo by Magnus D’Great M on Pexels.com

Think of the Sun with Labeling

You may not realize, but some permanent markers are not very permanent when those UV light waves begin to hit them day after day. My sweet son had gotten me some permanent markers from the dollar store with his own money as a Mother’s Day gift and I used them on a few labels and they faded within months. I had to go over them with another type of permanent marker. Here are some options that should last through the season:

Another easy thing you can do to prolong your tag’s writing is point it away from the sun — at least until the plant has developed leaves to shield it from the sun’s rays.

The other good practice you can do is implement a secondary label. I’ve heard of some gardeners who grow in soil, bury a second label under the soil level near the plant for future reference. I tend to forget where I bury things if they are not marked, so instead I like to use these Tyvek wrist bands to loop around the plant as it gets big enough. This is especially helpful on plants that take a good while to mature like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. You can create a system of your liking using different colors, but I tend to just stick with neon yellow, because it’s quick to find when I need to find it.

As you tackle your seed starting, I hope this has inspired you to consider what information your plant will need to follow it in it’s journey towards harvest. With just a few simple considerations, you can be set up for success and at the end of the growing season have the information you need to make decisions for the next growing season!

Happy Growing!
—Erin

Announcing our 2021 Tomato Seed Line Up

We have been busy seeding tomatoes this week inside in preparation for the 2021 growing season and we look forward to bringing you hydroponic adapted seeds once our trials have completed. I search far and wide for unique varieties that cannot be found at the grocery store or big box gardening centers and even from large seed producers. We even have some rare varieties we are excited to try and share with you if they do well in our trials.

Every season, I feel it’s important to have FUN while you grow food for you and your family, so here are some of my personal FUN goals…

In particular, this year, I think I’m going to try and tackle growing the largest tomato I’ve ever grown. I’m thinking like, state fair size. My seed stock for this challenge comes from a private grower in Italy and we shall see how it adapts to our growing region.

I’m also focusing on more plum varieties this year, so we can make some amazing sauce and preserve it for the winter to feed our family of seven. I did some extra research and selected varieties that were favored by other tomato connoisseurs.

I’m also particularly excited about our new line-up of micro-dwarf tomatoes that don’t require a trellis and have usually one or two flushes of tomatoes before they complete their growing cycle. Because of their compact habit, they are ideal for growing in the vertical Tower Garden and for those who want to grow in small spaces like in the Aerogarden, Farm Stand, or even in a pot on your back patio or deck.

Our seed is adapted to hydroponic growing conditions in Zone 7 just west of Atlanta, Georgia. I share this info not because tomatoes are a perennial (which is typically the reason for looking at growing zones), but instead to help our home growers know where their seed is grown, so they can match it to their own growing conditions for success. Our tomatoes are all grown outdoors in heat and humidity and hand-pollinated with the exception of our micro-dwarfs which are grown indoors to limit cross-pollination.

We give our mature tomatoes a PPM range of 1400-2000 and a pH of 6.0-6.5 for maximum nutrient uptake. We recommend using the Tower Garden Mineral Blend for healthy plants and maximum growth. If you’re wondering what grows well with tomatoes in a hydroponic system, we encourage you to visit this page on our Grow Your Health Gardening Web site for more information.

If you wonder why tomato seeds can cost more than other seeds, know that tomatoes are very time-and-labor intensive to grow and require a lot of personal management with seed starting, pruning, scouting for any pest pressure, or any efforts to boost immune system through foliar application of comfrey tea and molasses tea (which helps to bring out flavor).

15 Slicer Tomato Variaties:

  • Apricot Brandywine Tomato
  • Black Passion Tomato
  • Big Rainbow Tomato
  • Delice De Nevilly Tomato (Rare)
  • Genovese Tomato (Rare)
  • Great White Heirloom Tomato (Low-Acid)
  • Green Elf (Tom Wagner Variety)
  • Merveille Des Marches Tomato (Rare)
  • Nostrano Grasso Tomato (Rare)
  • Orange Orangutan Tomato
  • Paul Robeson
  • Pineapple Tomato
  • Pomodoro Gigante Farina Tomato (Rare)
  • Thornburn’s Terra Cotta Tomato (Rare)
  • Wagner Blue Green Tomato (Tom Wagner Variety)

8 Paste Tomato Variaties:

  • Black Plum Paste Tomato
  • Cancelmo Family Ox Heart Tomato
  • Cassidy’s Folly Plum Tomato (Tom Wagner Variety)
  • Cream Sausage Plum Tomato (Tom Wagner Variety)
  • Dwarf Sneaky Sauce Micro-Dwarf Plum Tomato
  • Goatbag Plum Tomato
  • San Marzano Plum Tomato
  • Speckled Roman Plum Tomato

8 Cherry Tomato Variaties:

  • Black Cherry Tomato
  • Blue Cream Berries Cherry Tomato
  • Brad’s Atomic Grape Cherry Tomato
  • Green Doctor’s Frosted Tomato
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato
  • Red Pear Cherry Tomato
  • Sweetheart Cherry Tomato
  • Yellow Pear Cherry Tomato (Low Acid)

24 Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomatoes:

  • Annie’s Singapore Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Bonsai Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Dwarf Suzy’s Beauty Tomato
  • Gold Pearl Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Fat Frog Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Florida Petite Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Hahms Gelbe Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Hardins Miniature Micro-Dwarf Tomato
  • Inkspot Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Kookaburra Cackle Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Little Red Riding Hood Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Mo Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Monetka Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Olga’s Round Chicken Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Peachy Keen Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Pigmy Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Purple Reign Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Regina Red Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Regina Yellow Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Snegirjok Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Vilma Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Wherokowhai Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Willa’s Cariboo Rose Micro-Dwarf Tomato
  • Yellow Canary Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato

What do you look for in a tomato? What are your tomato aspirations for the upcoming growing season? Drop us a line in the comment section below!

Happy Growing!
— Erin

Grand Opening of GYHG Seed Co!

We are excited to announce our Grand Opening of Grow Your Health Gardening (GYHG) Seed Co.!

As committed Seed Stewards, we understand the importance of good quality seed, because strong seed means strong plants that can better fight-off pest pressure and diseases … and strong plants also mean the best nutrition possible for your body. It’s important to know where your seed comes from because the plant that seed came from has adapted to its growing environment — and if it’s different than your environment, that plant may struggle which means you struggle.

But it doesn’t have to be a struggle to grow your own food — in fact, we think it is FUN to be connected to your food from seed to harvest! Our seed for sale has been cultivated from seed and nurtured using organic growing methods on through to harvest by our family of seven. We take great pride in our seed stock knowing each generation of plants we grow only strengthens our exclusive line of seeds. We are thrilled we can now share our extra seeds with you!

We are unique in that we have thoughtfully chosen heirloom and open source varieties of vegetables, herbs, and greens (and sometimes extremely rare seed) and have grown these varieties out in one season adapting them to hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic growing conditions in the Southeast region of the United States.

As a friend of GYHG and follower, enjoy today through November 14, 2021, 21% off your first seed order! Enter code: GYHG-LOVES-ME-21 when you check out.

Thanks and we hope that this year is the year you especially grow your health gardening!

— Erin & Jesse + Joshua