While harvesting some kale this morning, this little guy hopped off of one of my leaves. If you’re a little squeamish of critters, keep in mind that tree frogs like these help eat aphids and other bugs that want to munch on your plants.
We also have green anoles (a type of small lizard) here in Zone 7 near Atlanta, Georgia. We used to spray 15 years ago and I noticed the anoles disappeared — we took away their food source!
Since then I have come to understand that these critters keep a balance to nature and show a healthy eco system is in place. Plus, my kids love to catch them! What helpers have you found in your garden?
Why you should be growing your own arugula instead of buying from the grocery store or Big-Box Retailer
You know how you go to a fancy restaurant and they bring you your salad course and before they leave your table they offer fresh pepper for your salad and with your permission proceed to grind cracked pepper onto your salad? Think of arugula as your cracked pepper of the salad world.
Why Grow Arugula and How To Use It
I wanted to feature Arugula, because I just don’t think people understand how versatile this plant truly is and that it is beneficial in so many ways. It is chalk-full of beneficial nutrients (which we will cover later in case you wanted to know) while also being low in calories.
It is ideal for new home gardeners in building confidence of gardening skills as it grows quickly from seed (aptly nicknamed “Salad Rocket” in some countries) and can begun to be harvested off of and tossed into salads with other greens when the leaves are still young and small at 2″-3″ in length. (Note: If you leave the center 3-4 leaves, it will continue to produce as a cut-and-come-again plant.) Arugula is often found in the produce aisle in salad greens mix and called “mesclun”.
Mature Full-Grown Leaves and How to Use Them
I as a mother of five know that life can get busy, so if you fall behind on harvesting leaves when small and the plant gets more mature, that’s okay! It will be “spicier” or “peppery” in taste as a mature plant. Take these 6″-8″ long leaves and slice them from tip to base into 1/4″ or thinner strips and sprinkle over your salad or mix in (think of it like your freshly ground peppercorn). Diced leaves can even be added to dishes that call for cilantro or parsley, or mixed into pastas, side dishes, put on top of sandwiches, in wraps and/or added to soups. Its flavor compliments goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic, making it perfect to blend into dips or spreads.
Arugula can also be added to your basil pesto as added flavor or if you like the peppery flavor, you can substitute arugula in place of basil and make an entire pesto out of arugula leaves. We like this happy medium of a pesto recipe in particular over at PCOSbites. It’s great if you are looking for something that isn’t the same ol’ pesto recipe, but full of nutrients while still tasting delicious. We think of it as the new “elderberry syrup” as an immune-boosting meal for our family.
We also love to add arugula baby leaves to our sun-dried tomato, goat cheese, and pine nut mini pizzas! The kids don’t bat an eye-lash at the greens on their personalized pizzas because these taste so good!
Mature leaves can also be cooked or sautéed much like you would cook collards. With a TBSP of sherry, soy sauce, minced garlic, and vegetable oil + 1/2 tsp of salt and granulated sugar you can have a quick healthy side dish to accompany your sun-dried tomato mozzarella chicken. YUM!
If you don’t plan on eating a salad and just want to move it out of your system to put something else in, simply clean harvested leaves with water and pat dry with paper towels and spread out on a dehydrator. Dehydrate at 110ºF for 6 hrs until it breaks crisp (no moisture left in leaves.) Do not crush leaves, but place in a glass jar with an oxygen absorber and put in your spice and seasoning cabinet. When a recipe calls for pepper or if you’re making a soup, simply add in your dried arugula. BAM! (As Emeril would say…) or YUMMO! (As Rachel Ray would say…) You will get a hint of that pepper flavor as well as all the amazing nutrients that this little power-packed leaf holds.
Tip: After you dehydrate your arugula, don’t crush the leaves. Store the leaves as one piece as much as possible. When you “crush” or break up the leaves, it releases the flavonoids and other beneficial nutrients. We want those to stay in tack until we are ready to consume it in our cooking, so I always encourage folks to hold off crushing your leaves for this reason. This is also why you may notice your home-grown herbs and spices have so much more flavor than the crushed and processed ones from the grocery store.
—Erin Castillo, Owner Grow Your Health Gardening and GYHG Seed Co.
Nutritional Benefits You’ll Get from Eating Arugula
So, we’ve covered how to use arugula. Let’s briefly touch on why you should be eating this green. According to the USDA, a half cup (approximately 10 grams) of raw arugula has about:
0.4 gram carbohydrates
0.3 gram protein
0.1 gram fat
0.2 gram fiber
10.9 micrograms vitamin K (14 percent DV)
237 international units vitamin A (5 percent DV)
1.5 milligrams vitamin C (2 percent DV)
9.7 micrograms folate (2 percent DV)
16 milligrams calcium (2 percent DV)
In addition, this leafy green contains some iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and choline. It also is rich in phytonutrients offering 1,424 mg of Beto-Carotene B
Did you know that one cup of Arugula can meet over a quarter of the daily recommended value of Vitamin K? Vitamin K is essential to blood clot formation and bone formation. Some researchers even believe that vitamin K may be a key factor in bone development, more so than calcium. I want my children to have strong bones as they grow and I encourage them to eat salads daily. One way to help provide their bodies with what they need is to mix in some arugula into their daily salad.
Tip: If you’re having difficulty getting your children to eat greens, involve them in the growing process. Give them a garden that is completely their own area to tend and help them grow plants from seed. As they feel more connected to their food, their natural curiosity will kick-in and they will willingly try the food they have patiently waited for to grow.
—Erin Castillo, Owner Grow Your Health Gardening and GYHG Seed Co.
How to Grow Arugula in a Hydroponic System
In this article, I’ll focus on growing it hydroponically, because that’s my preferred method of growing, but a lot of the same tips can be applied to growing in soil.
You can grow arugula in any hydroponic or aeroponic system. In a vertical garden growing system like the Tower Garden or Farm Stand, you’ll want to place this plant towards the top as you will most likely be harvesting from it continuously and keeping the plant size small.
Starting your arugula from seed: Choosing your arugula variety
If you’re growing in a hydroponic / aeroponic system, we strongly recommend you opt of seed that has already adapted to these growing conditions. Can seed from soil-grown parent plants grow hydroponically? Absolutely, but plants adapt epigenetically each growing season, so you’ll have a stronger healthier plant if you start out right with seed that has already adapted to the growing conditions you want to match. According to growers at the Seed Savers Exchange, seed DNA can hold 5+ years of growing seasons in which it can tap to survive and thrive. Choosing your seed stock source is more important than most realize.
Our arugula seed has been grown outdoors in the cool season of the Southeast in Zone 7 (not mentioning the zone here because it’s a perennial, but to help you get an idea of where the seed is grown so you can best match it to your own growing conditions.) GYHG Seed Co arugula seed can handle heat and humidity to a point before it bolts, but definitely plan on growing this during the cool season and start your seedlings 2 weeks before your last average frost date with the intention to move it outdoors as a transplant.
How many plants should you plant:
If you are wanting arugula on hand to pick fresh and mix into salads, I recommend planting four plants on a rotation (see below charts.) Place in upper level of Tower Garden or Farm Stand.
This is also a seed that you will want to plant on a continual basis on a four to five week cycle, so if you don’t have a Seed Starting Station set up already, you will want to read up about how to get one set up here. We recommend to plant four plants and keep them in your upper level of your Tower Garden or Farm Stand vertical garden growing system.
Start 2 rockwool cubes
Nurture Week 1 seeds
Start 2 rockwool cubes
Nurture Week 3 seeds
Start 2 rockwool cubes
Transplant Week 1 Seedlings into TG
Transplant Week 3 Seedlings into TG
Harvest baby leaves
Harvest baby leaves
Copyright 2021 Grow Your Health Gardening
Nurture Week 5 seeds
Start 2 rockwool cubes
Nurture Week 7 seeds
Start 2 rockwool cubes
Nurture Week 9 seeds
Pull Week 1 Plants. Transplant Week 5 Seedlings into TG
Pull Week 3 Plants. Transplant Week 7 Seedlings into TG
Continue pattern of pulling older plants and transplanting seedlings
Outdoor planting in a hydroponics system: If planting in the spring, you will want to start your seeds indoors or in a greenhouse so that your seedling start will be about two to three weeks old by the time your last spring frost date rolls around. If planting in the fall, you’ll want to factor in your harvest date range and count backwards 4-6 weeks from your frost date.
Arugula likes to live around 45° to 65°F (10-18°C). Plant arugula so that it comes to harvest in cool weather. It may fail to germinate if it’s too warm. Use a UV light system of some sort to grow your seedlings indoors keeping the light source 8″-12″ if LEDs and 5″-6″ away from seedlings if fluorescent lighting.
How many seeds to plant per rock wool: We recommend planting about 3-5 seeds per rock wool cube. Arugula typically germinates within 4-8 days. Be sure to use seed that is packaged for the current growing season as it will aide your ability to germinate the seeds. You can always remove any excess seedlings down to two plants as the plants mature if you are concerned about crowding. Our philosophy is start out with more and thin down as needed (but don’t toss those microgreens you pull — they are healthy for you to eat as micro-greens).
How much nutrients you should give your seedlings: Keep rockwool moist to the touch but not drenched. When you see a sprout, you can add a tsp of kelp to your water and water the young seedlings while giving them bright light from a grow light.
Thinning out your seedling starts: As the seeds germinate and grow, you will want to pull (or also called “thin out”) the weaker seedlings from the rock wool. (Remember, this is not a wasted plant — you can simply enjoy eating it as a microgreen.) You will want to leave leave 1-2 plants per rock wool to grow to maturity.
Transplanting your seedlings into your hydroponic system: Seedlings should be ready to transplant to your Tower Garden or hydroponic system about 2–3 weeks after sprouting. Seedlings plants should be about 1-2 inches tall, with 3-4 true leaves, before they are ready to leave the nest and enter into the hydroponic / aeroponic Tower Garden or other related system.
Finally, remember that arugula plantings should be staggered in roughly 2-3 week intervals in order to ensure a continuous harvest. If doing a spring planting, your growing season will be longer than a fall planting. You can extend your fall outdoor planting season by adding a professional grade heater to your Tower Garden reservoir keeping water temps in the 50-65º F range for the root zone to continue to uptake nutrients — just be sure to cover your Tower Garden outside with a weather protection blanket like this when freeze warnings appear.
Nutrient levels for optimal growth throughout the growing season for arugula:
Nutrients: EC: 0.8 – 1.2 (We recommend Tower Tonic Mineral Blend™ for a well-balanced nutrient solution to feed your plants the proper N-K-P and micro-nutrients. You can purchase a 1 gallon set of Part A and Part B here.)
PPM: 560 – 840 (We recommend Tower Tonic Mineral Blend™ for a well-balanced nutrient solution to feed your plants the proper N-K-P and micro-nutrients. You can purchase a 1 gallon set of Part A and Part B here.)
pH: 5.5-6.2 (pH is essential to help the plant uptake nutrients.)
Light: (Amount of sun or light exposure throughout the day) Hydroponic arugula should get between 10 and 14 hours of light per day.
Arugula Temp Tips: (Root zone temp is essential to help the plant uptake nutrients)
Maximum Temp 75º Degrees Fahrenheit
Optimal Day CycleTemp 65º – 70º Fahrenheit
Optimal Night CycleTemp 60º – 65º Fahrenheit (Note: arugula can handle some frost so long as the root zone stays above 50ºF, so use a water heater in your reservoir if you want to try pushing the limits on it growing in the cold.)
Seed Storage 40º to 70º degrees Fahrenheit
Germination 60º to 75º degrees Fahrenheit
SOIL Growers: Note — Do not grow in soil with pole beans or strawberries. Good companion plants are bush beans, celery, carrots, nasturtium, mint, dill, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, rosemary, potatoes
HYDROPONIC Growers: See first chart on Cool Season Plants on this page for reference of what grows well at similar PPM ranges and pH ranges in a hydroponic / aeroponic system.
Harvesting your arugula:
Make a note of how many days to maturation on the variety of arugula you are planting and mark your calendar or in your gardening journal. When your plants have reached the baby leaf stage, take a sanitized clean pair of hand trimmers or scissors and cut the outer leaves of your arugula plant, leaving at minimum three center leaves to continue to grow. The plant will continue to produce leaves for you but will become spicier as the plant matures. If you don’t want spicier leaves, simply pull the mature plant at 5-6 weeks of age and replace the plant with a new transplant (see chart above). Ideally, your arugula should be eaten within a few hours of harvest; however, if storage is necessary, the correct conditions to prolong shelf life are rapid cooling down to 34°F (we accomplish this with an ice bath of water) and then spin the leaves dry and place between dry paper towels in a sealed lettuce container with and 95-98% percent humidity.
How to store arugula that is not consumed right away:
If you have more arugula producing faster than you can eat, there are a couple of options: dehydrating or freezing. To dehydrate your arugula leaves, place on a dehydrator rack at 110º F for 6-24 hours. When the leaves are crunchy (you can break them in half), remove from the dehydrator and place in a tightly sealed pouch or Mason jar with an oxygen absorber. Dehydrated arugula can be used in soups and ground into a powder to add to pestos, soups, or even on meats for additional nutrients.
You can also freeze your crop in an air-tight bag or container and use in smoothies or defrost and use in recipes that may call for herbs.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below and happy growing!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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
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!
I was listening to a podcast by one of my favorite market growers from Alabama, Noah Sanders, and he had a guest on from Kaleva, (Northern) Michigan, Craig Shaaf, from Golden Rule Farm who mentioned that he put red dye in an empty soda bottle and it helped his tomatoes mature earlier than anyone else’s tomatoes in the area while also sighting a Clemson University Study.
So, being that we drink a lot of sparkling water in our house, I had an empty liter lying around (we typically repurpose these for terrariums in cold hardy annuals but that’s a something to discuss for another day), so I filled it with some water and added several drops of red food coloring to it and sat it on my indoor Tower Garden near some micro dwarf unripened cherry tomatoes I was growing. Low and behold, two days later, the cherry tomatoes closest to the red-colored water began to ripen from the bottom up!
Red reflective Far-Red light encourages tomatoes to ripen.
Studies using Red Plastic Selective Reflecting Mulch (SRM) Show Increased Yields for Certain Plants
Research originally started during the 1980s and led to development of SRM-Red, a selective reflecting mulch that has been available commercially since 1996. Plant physiologist Michael J. Kasperbauer, who retired from the Agricultural Research Service‘s (ARS) Coastal Plains Soil, Water and Plant Research Center at Florence, S.C. found that plastic colored-mulch’s controlling factor is not the colors themselves, but how the colors adjust the amount of blue light and the ratio of far-red (FR) to red light that plants receive reflecting from the ground upwards.
The studies used a red plastic mulch (also referred to as Selective Reflecting Mulch, or SRM for short). It is similar to black plastic mulch used frequently by growers to help warm the soil, prevent erosion, and retains moisture. The red plastic mulch is often thinner than most black weed block and allows more light (and sometimes weeds) through it.
But red plastic mulch’s true strength is in its ability to reflect certain red light waves back onto the growing plant, thereby accelerating fruit production and increasing overall yields. Past ARS work showed that red plastic mulch produced larger tomatoes and produced 20% more than black plastic mulch counterparts and the red plastic mulch also sweeter-smelling, better-tasting strawberries.
Similar results were found on peppers and eggplants as well as with lettuce.
ARS’ also tried the red plastic mulch with cotton, carrots and basil. They found that color of the plastic mulch can affect the roots, stems, leaves and seeds, as well as the fruits, of many other food and crop plants.
Research on cotton showed that cotton fibers grew longer in bolls exposed to increased FR-to-red light ratios. Another study, on carrots, showed that concentrations of nutrients and compounds such as vitamin C and beta carotene in the roots of food crops could be changed by reflecting the right waves of color onto the plants’ leaves.
What’s more, in studies with basil, the amounts of blue, red and FR light reflected onto developing leaves affected their size, aroma and concentration of soluble phenolics. The phenolics are natural compounds, including tannins and pigments that can induce color, some flavors and odors, and antioxidant activity.
Basil leaves developing above red mulches had greater area, succulence and fresh weight than those developing above black mulch. When grown above yellow and green mulches, basil leaves developed significantly higher concentrations of aroma compounds and phenolics than did those of plants grown above white and blue mulches.
The concept of colored mulch sprouted when Kasperbauer wondered whether phytochrome was equally distributed in leaves. He became curious about what would happen if light impinged on the leaf’s lower, rather than upper, surface. “The plant response was the same, no matter which surface received the light,” says Kasperbauer. “Although that experiment seemed somewhat unconventional in 1962, it became highly relevant about 22 years later, when we determined that red and FR reflected from the soil surface could act through the plant’s phytochrome system to enhance yield and quality. That led to our colored-mulch work.”
Red Plastic Selective Reflecting Mulch (SRM) helps to Deter Nematodes
What’s more, tests done by USDA’s plant physiologist Michael J. Kasperbauer and Clemson University nematologist Bruce Fornum showed that nematode damage can be lessened by red plastic mulch. They did an interesting study where they planted tomatoes into sterile soil — some rows covered in black plastic mulch and some covered in red plastic mulch. They then inoculated both rows with 0-200,000 nematode eggs. Their findings showed the black mulch produced 8 pounds of tomatoes whereas the red mulch produced 17 pounds! That’s roughly a 113% increase in yield battling the same conditions.
USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found that red plastic mulch suppresses root nematode damage to tomatoes because the light reflection keeps more of the plant’s growth above ground. The plant’s energy goes into developing fruit and foliage, rather than roots. Nematodes feed on roots. The far-red light reflection to the above-ground plant draws away nutrients from the roots – and nutrients away from the nematodes. Fewer roots mean less food for nematodes. Less food = fewer nematodes.
Things to Consider When Using Red Plastic Selective Reflecting Mulch (SRM)
Carefully secure red plastic selective reflecting mulch underneath your plants so that there is at least a foot on every side of the plant in it’s mature stage of growth.
Do not place the red plastic selective reflecting mulch in walking paths as it is thinner than other weed blocking materials.
Consider placing a weed block material underneath your red plastic SRM to help limit weeds from growing underneath.
Drip irrigation will be necessary underneath
Two other Bonus Tips for Boosting Flavor in Tomatoes:
Place 1-2 TBSP of pure natural Molasses in a gallon of water and stir well to dilute it down and place into a spray bottle and spray your leaves. This will aid in bringing out flavor in your tomatoes.
When your tomatoes are about 18″ tall, a little bit of stress at times can really boost flavor as well. Spray your plants about every 2 weeks with 1 standard strength 325 mg uncoated aspirin tablet mixed in a gallon of water and mix well until the aspirin is completely dissolved and then spray the tomato leaves with the aspirin solution (Salicylic Acid) to trigger tomato defenses. This will especially really beef up your Beef Steak varieties and boost the flavor profile as well.
Find Red Plastic Selective Reflecting Mulch for your Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant, Basil, Cotton, and Lettuce (and more) Crops
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!
Thank you for a fantastic year! We have wrapped up another season and are preparing for the next even as I pause to write this I am working on our own plans for the upcoming growing season.
Let’s begin with the essentials. What is your goal in growing your own food?
As we coach others in growing their own food for themselves and their families, I’ve realized that each person has a different reason for growing food. And that’s actually the first thing to sit down and reflect upon… what motivates you to grow food?
I’ll use myself as an example to get the wheels turning for you hopefully…
“I grow food because…”
• My spouse and I need to eat more greens and veggies to be our healthiest. Having greens and veggies growing in our home and in our yard brings a convenience that the store just can’t provide. We jokingly say that we “shop” from our own produce aisle right outside our door — and once you get a taste for that kind of freedom there’s no going back. Nurturing those that you love the most is my main motivation!
• We want our children to learn to eat these same foods so they will develop good healthy habits. We know that children who participate in growing their own food tend to eat that food because they are more connected to it.
• We want to know what is on our food. We had relied on convenience-based foods for too long. Couple that with food grown for mass market and we had those chemicals going into our body. How do I know? Because I was diagnosed with PCOS many years ago and research has shown these chemicals are also hormone disruptors. As we’ve grown our own food and limited chemicals in our environment, PCOS symptoms have decreased. So, if I grow my own food, I know what is literally, going into my body and those that I love. And that brings not only health, but peace-of-mind.
• We want the maximum nutrition from our food. When I realized that the produce I was buying had traveled thousands of miles and was on average 10-days old by the time it hit our plates and mouths, I knew from other studies that the plant was losing nutritional benefits with every day it went from point A to point B and point C. Further, the produce that is mass-marketed is not picked at it’s peak maturation (because travel time to market has to be factored in.) Since it’s picked early, it is not at it’s maximum nutrition. If we grow our own, we can pick at it’s full maturity and consume right away, thereby getting the MOST nutritional benefit from what we are eating.
• We save money in the long run. Growing your own food does have a cost, (so does eating nutrient deficient food) but when you have a family of seven and five of those eating male adult portions, organic greens, fruits and vegetables quickly add up and end up being more expensive than the effort to grow yourself. One head of organic lettuce goes for about $4 a head in our local grocery store. If instead, I purchase one pack of lettuce seeds, for that $4, I get about 25 pelleted seeds. If I plant a few seeds every week, I would have continuous lettuce and if 20 of those pelleted seeds grow to maturation, I would have saved $40 over the course of time. What could I do with an extra $40 in my pocket? Buy more seed!
• It provides our family with food security. When we went through the Covid Pandemic self-quarantine, we quickly realized what a blessing it is to have the know-how to grow your own food and the tools in place to have that fresh supply of food. It brings peace-of-mind knowing that we could provide food for our family without worrying what other germs might be on the food we were purchasing, who had handled it previously, if it had been cleaned properly, or if there would even be food available. All those concerns others were experiencing, never affected us, because we had already altered our way of living so it was a natural flow to our day and lifestyle. What’s more, any extra in our harvests can be saved for future use through freezing, canning or dehydrating with a little planning. Some call it homesteading. Some call it self-sufficiency. It’s just our new normal and we’ve learned to re-prioritize things in life to accommodate our desire to produce good clean nutritious food.
• Growing our own food provides for those in need. Even with a large family, we purposely plan for extra to share with widows and those who may not have as much. We are to treat others the way we would like to be treated. I may not always have extra money to give to someone, but I can certainly share from my harvest to encourage them emotionally as well as meet their physical need of food.
• It naturally lends itself to grow our family-run Seed Company Business. Seeds can be collected from the food that we grow for our family to utilize. Nothing is wasted. What’s even more important is intentionally choosing a home-based business model that fits our goal of being the primary ones to raise our children which includes at the fore-front educating them. A farm and garden is a great tool for teaching valuable life skills and helps our children grow into healthy adults.
• Growing our own food fits into our lifestyle and supports our other food systems. As we prune and process, any excess can be given to our chickens and good green waste given to our worms. The worms provide worm waste which believe it or not provides beneficial bacteria for our plants. It is all interconnected and with a little tweaks to our daily routines, is totally feasible.
• Gardening brings enjoyment to life — it helps us try new things and satiates our love of always learning something new. Take for instance our 2020 challenge. My son and I decided to try growing watermelons in the shape of a heart… and it worked! We are tweaking a few things and will try again next season hoping the next watermelon variety will have fewer seeds.
So, before you trying growing your first seed, determine WHY you want to grow food in the first place. This will help direct you in the next step… HOW to determine what to grow (based on your “why”) and your available growing space.
Why you should be growing your own spinach instead of buying from the grocery store or big-box retailer:
If you follow EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ report that comes out around March every year, you’ve probably heard that conventionally grown spinach has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested, with three-fourths of samples tested contaminated with a neurotoxic bug killer banned from use on food crops in Europe. It has moved from being ranked 8th on EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list to number two in containing the most pesticides in fruits and vegetables presently being sold in supermarkets and grocery stores around the United States. The USDA has also detected pesticides on frozen and canned spinach, which suggests that washing and cooking reduces, but does not eliminate pesticide levels. (You can read the full findings on spinach in a press release here.)
As you may already be aware, Spinach is a great source of vitamin A, folate and vitamin C and a good source of vitamin E and potassium. But for your body to receive all these nutritional benefits, it is essential to consume the spinach as quickly as possible following harvest. Baby spinach leaves have a very high respiration rate and studies have shown that the temp these leaves are stored at plays a key role. For example, one Hort Technology study found that Baby spinach leaves (harvested 36 days after planting) experienced significant losses in nutritional benefit. Both total antioxidant activities and Vitamin C content showed a decrease after 6 days when stored at 39.2°F, whereas the total antioxidant activities and vitamin C for leaves stored at 71.6ºF decreased immediately after 2 days. The concentration of magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn), and iron (Fe) for example, declined after 8 days of storage at 39.2ºF, while at 71.6ºF they declined after 2 days of storage. Total phenolic compounds gradually decreased in samples stored at 39.2ºF whereas, samples stored at 71.6ºF showed a rapid decrease after 4 days. Results demonstrated that quality of baby spinach deteriorates as storage time and temperature increase. (You can read more about the study here.)
Research shows that nutritional benefits degrade with every hour following harvest, so the sooner you can consume your food after it’s been harvested, the more nutrients your body will receive from the spinach.
Degradation happens not only with temperatures, but you also need to factor how long it takes to move the spinach from harvest, transportation, to the product sitting on the shelf to be purchased at the store. It is estimated that it takes about 10-days for produce to be shipped from where it is grown to get to the consumer’s plate. Ten days!!! And you, the consumer are relying heavily on whether or not that spinach was kept at a constant 39.2ºF or lower in the post-harvest transportation and storage process. Could the reason be it is cheap at the store is it is an inferior product compared to what can be grown in your own home?
With a little know-how, you don’t have to settle for sub-par spinach and greens. You can grow in your own home and harvest when you’re ready to consume your spinach and greens for optimal nutritional benefit.
For the purposes of this article, we are writing it with aeroponic / hydroponic Tower Garden by JuicePlus+™ growers in mind for either indoors or outdoors growing spinach in their own home of on a backyard deck, but the info will also work in related hydroponic systems so long as the environment fits the plant’s needs.
Growing your own baby spinach will offer you the peace of mind and gain self-assurance knowing that your home-grown baby spinach is clean. You will also be able to harvest for maximum nutritional benefit when the plant is at it’s peak nutritionally going directly from your Tower Garden to your dinner table in a matter of minutes!
Growing your own spinach:
To grow your spinach, here are some things to keep in mind with what spinach needs to grow successfully. Depending on the time of year and whether you are growing inside or outside are key factors to consider. Spinach is a COOL SEASON crop, so you’ll want to avoid extreme heat which can cause it to bolt (go to seed and become bitter).
Choosing your spinach variety:
Plant from seed making sure that you have new seed as older seed has a greater difficulty in germinating. Those varieties that are most suitable for the Tower Garden are recommended as follows:
Monnopa Spinach is a perfect choice for those who need low-acid foods in their diet.
– Extremely delicious and one of the most sweetest spinach varieties you can grow in your Tower Garden or hydroponic system – Very easy to grow.
Noble Giant Spinach is heavy, glossy, dark green plant with leaves that are heavily savoyed and crumpled.
– Extremely delicious and one of the most popular spinach varieties you can grow in your Tower Garden or hydroponic system – Very easy to grow.
Matador Viking Spinach will produce beautiful large and smooth dark green spinach leaves in only 45 days.
– Excellent flavor.
– Full of nutrients.
– Extremely easy to grow.
– Grows best during the cooler months.
– Grows really well in containers and other small spaces.
Winter Giant is a variety of Spinach which is a member of the Spinacia family. It is a Vegetable and is treated mainly as a Annual, this means that it grows best over the course of a single year. source: myfolia
Known for growing to a height of appx. 2 feet.
Days to Maturity | 55 days
Choose slow-bolting varieties for later spring plantings. Disease resistance is more important for fall crops. Savoyed (curly) leaves are handsome and keep better. New Zealand spinach and Malabar spinach are warm-season greens similar to spinach, but different species.
Common spinach cannot grow in midsummer. (For a summer harvest, try New Zealand Spinach or Malabar Spinach, two similar leafy greens that are more heat tolerant.) — Old Farmer’s Almanac
If you’re later in the season and have missed your seed start date, you can always purchase spinach starts from an area hydroponic grower. We recommend driving to a local grower to pick-up any seedlings vs. shipping (remember shipping containers can be extremely warm or extremely cold which can damage tender young plants.)
How many plants should you plant:
It is estimated that you will want ideally 15 plants per person. For a family of four, you will want to plant an entire Tower Garden with one extension for 28 plants and keep two spinach plants per rock wool making for 56 plants total.
Starting your spinach from seed:
Cold stratification: One to three-weeks prior to planting some growers will store seeds in the refrigerator. It has the effect of hardening them and may lead to a healthier plant.
If you’re planting outdoors, you’ll want to pay attention to your frost and freeze dates in your area. You can find these dates doing a google search or here. (If planting indoors, you can ignore the next paragraph and skip down to the next paragraph as you can plant spinach any time of the year using the Tower Garden LED Indoor Lights with the assumption that you will keep your home in the temperature range spinach requires.)
Having trouble getting your spinach seed to germinate? Try this pro tip: place seed in a plastic container in between two wetted paper towels and seal by placing lid on top of container. Check your seeds in 7-10 days and if the seed is viable, you will see some seeds with a root breaking out of the seed casing. You’ll want to move this germinated seed into a wet cube of rock wool and place a few bits of vermiculite around the germinated seed to retain moisture. DO NOT place on a heat mat. Place under bright artificial grow lights while keeping rock wool and vermiculite moist, but not drenched/soaked. Make sure to have a fan in the room for air movement as well as this will help to control humidity levels and stave off any fungal disease from setting into you seedlings.
Outdoor planting in a hydroponics system: If planting in the spring, you will want to start your seeds indoors or in a greenhouse so that your seedling start will be about four to six weeks old by the time your spring frost date rolls around. If planting in the fall, you’ll want to factor in your harvest date range and count backwards from your frost date. Note: in the fall, you will want to expose your seedlings to UV rays without excessive heat. Spinach likes to live around 45º-75º and may fail to germinate if too warm. For example, in the southeast, you will want to select a variety that has a short maturation date for a fall planting and use a UV light system of some sort to grow your seedlings indoors keeping the light source 8″-12″ if LEDs and 5″-6″ away from seedlings if fluorescent lighting.
How many seeds to plant per rock wool: We recommend planting about 5 seeds per rock wool cube. Spinach typically germinates within 1–2 weeks. Be sure to use seed that is packaged for the current growing season as it will aide your ability to germinate the seeds. You can always remove any excess seedlings as the plants mature if you are concerned about crowding. Our philosophy is start out with more and thin down as needed (plus the seedlings will be healthy for you to eat as micro-greens).
How much nutrients you should give your seedlings: Water daily with 1/4 strength nutrient solution until the seeds germinate and sprout. After sprouting use 1/2 strength solution.
Thinning out your seedling starts: As the seeds germinate and grow, you will want to pull (or also called “thin out”) the weaker seedlings from the rock wool. (Remember, this is not a wasted plant — you can try to replant in soil or simply enjoy eating it as a microgreen.) You will want to leave leave 1-2 plants per rock wool to mature.
Transplanting your seedlings into your hydroponic system: Seedlings should be ready to transplant to your Tower Garden or hydroponic system about 2–3 weeks after sprouting. Seedlings plants should be about 2-3 inches tall, with 3-4 true leaves, before they are ready to leave the nest and enter into the hydroponic / aeroponic Tower Garden or other related system.
Finally, remember that spinach plantings should be staggered in roughly 2-3 week intervals in order to ensure a continuous harvest. If doing a spring planting, your growing season will be longer than a fall planting. You can extend your fall outdoor planting season by adding a professional grade heater to your Tower Garden reservoir keeping water temps in the 70º F range for the root zone to continue to uptake nutrients — just be sure to cover your Tower Garden outside with a weather protection blanket like this when freeze warnings appear.
Nutrient levels for optimal growth throughout the growing season for spinach:
EC: 1.5 mS cm-1 (1.2 for warmer temps)
(We recommend Tower Tonic Mineral Blend™ for a well-balanced nutrient solution to feed your plants the proper N-K-P and micro-nutrients. You can purchase a 1 gallon set of Part A and Part B here.)
(We recommend Tower Tonic Mineral Blend™ for a well-balanced nutrient solution to feed your plants the proper N-K-P and micro-nutrients. You can purchase a 1 gallon set of Part A and Part B here.)
(pH is essential to help the plant uptake nutrients.)
Light: (Amount of sun or light exposure throughout the day)
Hydroponic spinach should get between 10 and 14 hours of light per day.
Spinach Temp Tips: (Root zone temp is essential to help the plant uptake nutrients)
Maximum Temp 75º Degrees Fahrenheit
Optimal Day CycleTemp 65º – 70º Fahrenheit
Optimal Night CycleTemp 60º – 65º Fahrenheit
Seed Storage 40º to 70º degrees Fahrenheit
Germination 60º to 75º degrees Fahrenheit
Harvesting your spinach:
Make a note of how many days to maturation on the variety of spinach you are planting (found on your seed packet) and mark your calendar. When your plants have reached maturation, take a sanitized clean pair of hand trimmers or scissors and cut the outer older leaves of your spinach plant, leaving three center leaves to continue to grow. The plant will continue to produce leaves for you throughout the growing season. Simply return and harvest the outer leaves leaving 3-4 center leaves each time for multiple harvests. Ideally, your spinach should be eaten within a few hours of harvest; however, if storage is necessary, the correct conditions to prolong shelf life are rapid cooling down to 34°F and 95-98 per cent humidity (i.e inside a plastic bag).
How to store spinach that is not consumed right away:
If you have more spinach producing faster than you can eat, there are a couple of options: dehydrating or freezing. To dehydrate your spinach leaves, place on a dehydrator rack at 110º F for 12-24 hours. When the leaves are crunchy (you can break them in half), remove from the dehydrator and place in a tightly sealed pouch or Mason jar with an oxygen absorber. Dehydrated spinach can be used in soups and ground into a powder to add to pestos for additional nutrients. You can also freeze your crop in an air-tight bag or container and use in smoothies or defrost and use in recipes that may call for spinach. The benefit here is that a) you know what is on your spinach (no pesticides!) and b) your ability to harvest and process immediately vastly improves nutritional value of the spinach you’re consuming.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. And happy growing!
Tips for Hydroponic, Aeroponic, Aquaponic, and Soil-based Gardening Methods