15 Things You Need To Know To Grow Lemons

15 Things You Need To Know To Grow Lemons

15 things you need to know to grow lemons

Growing Lemons

When life gives you lemons………. you know how to care for your lemon tree properly! Lemons have so many uses, from cleaning solutions to lemon meringue pies. They are generally heat loving plants, but you can grow them in containers and greenhouses as well. Read on to get your 15 tips for growing a healthy lemon tree with a high yield.

1) Lifetime of a Lemon Tree

Since a lemon tree will not typically breed true from seeds, most lemon trees you find have been propagated by grafting. Lemon trees will take between 3 – 5 years to produce fruit, but they are long lived trees. A well cared for plant can live between 50 and 100 years. You will probably find that the production decreases in older trees though.

2) Varieties of Lemon Trees

These varieties can be grown outdoors in zones 9 – 11. Dwarf trees are the best choice for container gardening.

Meyer Lemons are excellent for container growing. They are a cross between a table lemon and an orange that originated in China. They will produce some fruit throughout the year, but most of the fruit is harvested in the winter. The fruit is sweeter with less acid than other lemons.

Ponderosa Lemons will fruit and bloom at the same time. Fruits can be left on the tree ripe for several months. They will fruit year-round and have large fruits that almost resemble a grapefruit in size.

Eureka Lemons have nearly no thorns. They bear fruit and flowers throughout the year. They are seedless and have a tangy citrus flavor. These are one of the most commonly found varieties.

Lisbon lemon trees are almost as big around as they are tall. If you grow them in containers you can prune them to a narrower shape. It is an heirloom variety with a thick, smooth skin.

3) How many lemon trees do I need?

You only need one, as they are self-pollinating. You do not need insects to pollinate the trees. Also, you will not need to hand pollinate the flowers.


4) Temperatures for Lemon Trees

Lemon trees, like all citrus trees, like it hot. The ideal temperature for setting fruit is between 70 F and 85 F. The lowest nighttime temperature should be between 50 – 55 F. Trees will become damaged when temperatures drop below 29 F.

5) Soil for Lemon Trees

The optimal pH range is 5.5 to 6.5. When planting in containers use a good soilless potting mixture. This will be mostly perlite, peat moss and vermiculite.

6) Lighting Needs

When planting outside place the tree in an area with 6 – 8 hours of full sunlight. Indoors you can try to place the tree by a sunny window or use supplemental lighting. LED lighting would be a good choice. You should run your lights for at least 8 -12 hours.

7) Fertilizer

There are fertilizers specifically for citrus.  Citrus requires a fertilizer high in nitrogen. You can use a liquid, granular or slow release fertilizer.

8) Pruning

Lemon trees typically do not require pruning. You do want to remove any diseased or dead branches. For bigger trees you can prune for better light penetration.

9) Watering Your Lemon Tree

You should water lemon trees in containers often. Keep them moist, but not wet. Lemon trees don’t like wet feet. Be sure to use soil that drains well. Stick your finger into the soil 2”. If it is dry, it is time to water.

For lemon trees growing outside you will not need to water as often. The lemon trees have a large feeder root system. If you scratch the surface of the soil under the plant, you will find a network of feeder roots. If you keep the lemon trees outside well mulched it will help to retain any moisture.


10) Troubleshooting

Although lemon trees are relatively trouble free, you may encounter these problems. If you encounter these problems and are not sure how to diagnose them properly you can take a leaf to your county extension agent and they will help.

  • Dropping Leaves – This may be caused by overwatering.
  • Leaves turning yellow – Lack of water, insects, pests, nutritional deficiencies.
  • Fruit drop – This may be caused by the fact that there is just more fruit than the tree can support. It could also be due to improper watering, improper fertilization, disease, insects or too vigorous pruning.

11) Growing in A Greenhouse

Keep the temperature above 50 degrees in the greenhouse. Once the temperature outside has reached 55 at night you can move the plant outside for the summer. Keep in mind that your tree will probably be in a 10-gallon container at least. Make sure to have a container that is on wheels to facilitate the move. Also, keep in mind that some greenhouses have narrower doors. Be sure that you will be able to move the plant in and out of the door that you have.

12) Growing in the Ground

Picking an area that has well drained soil is critical. Also, be sure to get a spot that gets at least 8 hours of full sun every day. Pick your variety based on your climate. Also, make sure that you will have room for the mature tree when planting. Do not overcrowd.

13) Growing in Containers

You should always use containers with drainage holes. But you need to be aware that containers will dry out faster than plants in the ground generally. Lemons like a lot of humidity. You can supply this by misting your trees daily or by placing pebbles in the saucer the pots drain into. You can also run a humidifier in the dry winter months when the heat is running in your house. The pot size will determine the plant size. Use a 10 – 15-gallon pot size. You should buy dwarf varieties to grow in a container.

14) Storage of Lemons

We have all seen the beautiful baskets of fresh lemons hanging in the kitchens on TV. This is a great way to store lemons if you are going to use them in less than a week. I don’t seem to go through them that fast. I just place my cleaned lemons in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

Lemons can be juiced, and the juice can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container. The juice can also be stored in a freezer in ice cube trays. I then place the ice cube trays in a sealed bag. This gives you some portion control when it is time to thaw the juice.

The zest can be removed and place in a sealed jar or frozen.

15) Usage of Lemons

Well, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or you can use the zest and juice in many ways in the kitchen. Who doesn’t love a lemon meringue pie? They are great squeezed over many dishes to brighten the flavor. The list goes on and on.

Lemon juice can be used for cleaning many different items. It can be used from cleaning your glass shower door to being used to polish copper and brass.

Lemons can also be used to help eliminate odors.

Conclusion

Lemons are fun and easy to grow. These plants will last a lifetime once you get them growing properly indoors and out.


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Learn About Greenhouses

hobby greenhouse association

hobby greenhouse association

Have you always dreamed of owning a greenhouse? But you are overwhelmed with all the decisions to be made and learning how to properly grow in one? Maybe you already own a greenhouse and just have a few questions you would love to ask someone with experience.

There is a solution. Become a member of the Hobby Greenhouse Association.

A lot of people think that you buy a greenhouse, set it up in the backyard, and voila you have beautiful plants growing with no problems. Not so. I am not suggesting that this is a torturous process but growing in a greenhouse is a learning curve. And it is a different process for all of us. Just consider all the different types of plants we are growing, not to mention our differing climates and plant needs.

A lot of people make the mistake of loading up their new greenhouses with every piece of equipment that they can find. Others go the opposite way and think that the greenhouse is the only piece of equipment they will need.

I suggest that when purchasing a greenhouse, you consider the ventilation needs, whether you will be having electricity or will be cooling your greenhouse without electricity. If it is the middle of winter, I suggest thinking about how you will heat your greenhouse. Will you use a gas heater, or heat it by taking it off the grid? Other accessories can be added as the need arises.

This is where the HGA comes in. The members who already have greenhouses are more than willing to share their experiences and knowledge on these types of concerns. They have been there and done that. But, don’t take that to mean you have to already own a greenhouse to join. All interested parties are welcome.

What will the HGA do for me?

Lots. You can go to the website and review the current newsletter. Or, you can even opt for receiving this by regular mail if you prefer. You can join discussions in the members blog area by asking a question or sharing a bit of knowledge that you think other greenhouse growers would find helpful. You can also submit a question by email to other members. Flowers as well as vegetables are discussed.

Current topics on the blog include pictures of a mystery plant that someone is trying to identify. Also, someone in Massachusetts is looking to connect with other greenhouse enthusiasts. There is a lively discussion about starting new plants. Also, a question with lots of comments is “How are your plants surviving the winter?” Of course, this question was asked last winter.

One of the neatest benefits of the organization is the round robins. The robins are focused on a greenhouse gardening topic including management (of the interior environment), vegetables and others. They consist of a packet of letters from each robin member. When one arrives, always by snail mail, the recipient writes a few paragraphs about how their greenhouse has done with the robin subject since receiving the last packet, typically a few months previously. Then he/she adds paragraphs addressed to each in the group, answering questions and/or commenting of what that person wrote in the last round. Then adds this letter to the packet, removing their last letter, and mails it to the next person on the list of about eight members. Then the person e-mails the coordinator with when the packet was received and when sent on. The description of the robins is from Tom Karasek, the President of the Hobby Greenhouse Association.

Discounts for Members

There is also a group of hobby greenhouse businesses that offer a discount to HGA members. All you need to do is find them on the list and ask for your discount. Advance Greenhouses has offered this discount for years.

How did this organization get started

In 1975 a gentleman named Wander Mall got a brand new hobby greenhouse. If you remember this was way before the internet and the information overload era. He found that there was just not that much information available on how to use the greenhouse. He decided that a club with a few like minded growers would be the answer. It would be a free exchange of information with people learning from others mistakes. He sent some letters to the editors and had a more than acceptable response. There was also a radio and TV show hosted by (Doc) George and Katy Abraham that promoted the newly founded organization. Membership quickly increased to over 1000 members. It seems like a lot of people had similar questions. And, I have got to tell you from my personal experience that there is not a group that is more willing to share their knowledge than gardeners. Of course, there are a lot of us with strong personal opinions of how things need to be done. We just can’t help ourselves.

The HGA today

The HGA continues to prosper today due to the many volunteers who have contributed their time and effort through the years. Of course, there is not enough room to personally list and thank each of them. But they know who they are.
If you are interested in hobby greenhouse growing, you will enjoy the camaraderie among this group. I suggest that you check it out today and join. Get your questions out there and get help from people who truly enjoy growing in a greenhouse. And, get your own greenhouse up and growing. There is nothing more satisfying.

Conclusion

In full disclosure I will tell you that I am currently the Vice President of this organization. And, we have participated in their member discount program for over 15 years. Tammy

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Polycarbonate Sheets, Not Just for Greenhouses

Polycarbonate Sheets, Not Just for Greenhouses Anymore

Polycarbonate Sheets

Many uses for Polycarbonate Sheets

Want an easy to use building material with superior qualities? Time to try polycarbonate for your next building project.

What is Polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate is a plastic material. It is used in many different formulas for many different applications. It is used for eyeglasses, auto parts, bulletproof windows and even for CD’s (compact discs).

8mm clear twinwall polycarbonate

8mm clear twinwall polycarbonate

We are going to be discussing multiwall polycarbonate. That is a polycarbonate sheet that is made up of multiple layers.

One of the more popular configurations is an 8mm twinwall. That means there are 8mm’s (3/16”) between the two outside sheets. It is kind of like looking at the edge of a cardboard box. There is a sheet on each side with a rib running between the two sheets. The rib is straight between the two sheets, not wavy like it is in a cardboard box.

You can get sheets anywhere from 4mm to 25mm and sometimes even thicker in the multiwall configuration. Many sheets are also available with a third wall, such as 8mm, 10mm, 16mm and sometimes 25mm. There are also sheets that have an X between the sheets going anywhere up to a 7 wall material.

The sheets are readily available in clear, opal (or ice), bronze, with specialty coatings such as Polycoolite or Softlite. A clear sheet of 8mm will have crystal clear sheets on both sides. But, you will not get a clear view through the 8mm panel. That is because the rib will distort your view.



Benefits of Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate is a lightweight material, which makes it easy to work with. For example, a 4’ x 8’ sheet of 8mm twinwall weighs only about 13 pounds.

It cuts easily with a skill saw, table saw, jig saw, etc.

It can be bent within certain limitations.

It has a high light transmission with a higher insulation factor than glass.

Polycarbonate sheets will last a long time. They will have anywhere from a 10 year to 20 year warranty depending on the material and the manufacturer.

It is great for areas with high traffic where breakage may be a concern. The manufacturers typically offer a 10 year warranty against hail damage, as it is so tough to break.

Polycarbonate can be easily installed on wood or metal frames.

Polycarbonate for Greenhouses

Of the top 3 most popular glazing options for greenhouses, polycarbonate is my favorite. These options are 6 mil, 4 year greenhouse polyfilm, polycarbonate sheets and tempered glass. These are listed in the order from lowest priced to highest priced.

The polyfilm will not last as long as the other 2 options. The 4 year refers to the length of the UV protection. If you get the full 4 years you will definitely not get much more. The polycarbonate sheets will have a 15 – 25 year lifetime depending on the manufacturer and the sheet. Tempered glass will last pretty much forever unless it is broken.

Many people choose a specialty sheet for their greenhouse such as Polycoolite or Softlite. Polycoolite will help to keep your greenhouse cooler in warm climates.

Softlite or Polymatte both offer 100% light diffusion. This means that the light is scattered all through out the greenhouse so that all parts of the plant, even under the plant canopy, get good light.

Bronze and opal are not recommended for greenhouses as they have low light transmission. You would only use them for plants with low light requirements.



Conservatory

Polycarbonate Conservatory

Polycarbonate Conservatory

A conservatory is much like a greenhouse, but it is typically meant for more of a living space rather than a space for plants. These may or may not be attached to your home.

Patio Covers

Polycarbonate Patio Cover

Polycarbonate Wrap Around Porch

Polycarbonate is an excellent choice for a patio cover. You can choose between clear, opal, bronze, or specialty sheets designed to keep out heat. The main benefit of polycarbonate over solid materials is that it lets light into your home and does not darken it like solid materials can.

Skylights

Polycarbonate Skylights

Polycarbonate Skylights

Polycarbonate can be used for skylights in homes, or even commercial skylights. There is even a polycarbonate panel that is made with a standing seam for commercial skylight applications. This totally eliminates the possibility of leaking around the seams. You would have to have several inches of rain standing on your roof for it to get to the seams.

Fencing

2 UV Polycarbonate Fencing

2 UV Polycarbonate Fencing

Polycarbonate is an excellent material for fencing. It gives you privacy, but you can still get your sunlight in. You must be certain to use 2UV polycarbonate for fencing. This is a sheet that has UV protection on both sides of the sheet. This is because both sides of the sheet are exposed to sunlight. The UV protection is what gives this product its longevity.

Office Partitions

Polycarbonate Office Partition

Polycarbonate Office Partition

Who wants to spend the day in a dark, closed in cubicle? No need to do that anymore. Polycarbonate will give the needed privacy while lightening things up.

Hurricane Panels

Polycarbonate Hurricane Panels

Polycarbonate Hurricane Panels

Having spent more than 15 years in a hurricane area, I can tell you that hurricane panels are a great invention.

Plywood is heavy and it will darken your house. Chances are that if a storm hit you may be without electricity. This means you can’t even see to make your way around in your house. Sometimes there are back to back storms and you don’t want to remove the covers and have to reinstall them.

Polycarbonate hurricane panels are lightweight and easy to handle. Plus they will let the light in. If there is an active hurricane season you can even leave these on for an extended period of time.

Porticos

Polycarbonate Portico

Polycarbonate Portico

Polycarbonate sheets can also be used to cover a portico to a commercial building such as a hotel. The guests will be protected from the weather, and still have plenty of light. This is just more inviting than a dark, solid cover.

Conclusion

In conclusion, polycarbonate is a versatile, easy to use material. What can you think of to build that I did not mention? Let us know in the comments below.



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Taking Your Greenhouse Off The Grid

Taking Your Greenhouse Off The Grid

Taking Your Greenhouse off the Grid

Taking Your Greenhouse off the Grid

Want to save money on heating and cooling your greenhouse? Want to become more self sufficient? It is quite possible to take your greenhouse off the grid. But first you should determine if this is what you need. Sometimes you do not need to heat the winter greenhouse, although you will probably need some ventilation.

How Does A Greenhouse Work?

Greenhouses are covered with glass or translucent materials to let the sun’s rays enter the structure. That is why you will notice that the R value (insulation factor) for a greenhouse is much lower than a wall for your house.

The rays enter the greenhouse and hit a solid surface such as the ground, a pot, leaves etc and they are turned into heat. The shorter wavelength infrared rays that entered will become longer wavelength energy that is absorbed. The greenhouse will stay warm during the day as the light is entering and being transformed into energy faster than the heat can get out.

At night you will lose heat to the outside by radiation cooling. This is because the objects in the greenhouse are much warmer than outside. They will lose heat by emitting infrared radiation through the glazing. But, there are several solar methods you can apply to assist heat retention.



Water

I just read about a huge greenhouse operation that put in ponds and a recirculating system to water their plants. They are using 100% rainwater irrigation. This was at a cost though of 1 Million Dollars. This is not practical for the small grower or backyard hobby greenhouse. And I believe the system required electricity.  Although there are several things we can do.

I have talked to people who use ponds and recirculate their water on a smaller scale than the operation mentioned above. But, probably one of the simplest things to do is use rain barrels or cisterns to catch the rain water. If you are going to do this be aware of your local codes. This is illegal in Colorado. I am not aware of any other States at this time, but just check and be sure.

Solar methods of taking your greenhouse off the grid

Of course you can try to “trap” as much heat during the day as possible to be emitted into the greenhouse at night. One way to do this is to place dark containers full of water in the greenhouse. I used to have black 55 gallon drums under my benches filled with water. This will hold the heat that is built up during the day. It will then release it at night to warm the greenhouse.

You can place a solar blanket on the outside of the greenhouse at night.  A good heavy blanket will help hold in any escaping heat.

You can ” double up” your glazing by placing smaller cold frames inside your greenhouse. This will give you extra insulation.

Heating the Greenhouse

Once you have determined that your crops need additional heat, you will need to supply a heat source.

A compost pile is a good source of heat. The piles will heat up to 150 degrees F. You will have to set up a heat exchange system with tubes filled with water. Some will keep the compost pile inside their greenhouse. Others will leave the pile outside, to conserve valuable space,  and run their tubing through the greenhouse.

Manure can be put in crates and placed inside the greenhouse. You can place plants on the tops of these crates for additional heat.

You can use a wood burning stove, such as a rocket heater. These have a large thermal mass that will hold the heat for a long time even after the fire is out. These are very efficient for heating.

Geothermal heating and cooling can be done in some climates. This utilizes the temperatures in the ground to control your greenhouse. In the winter it takes the heat from the earth. In the summer the ground acts as a heat sink.

Cooling the Greenhouse

The greenhouse will build heat much earlier in the season than some people think. I tell people who are only overwintering plants that they too will need some type of ventilation.

The simplest way to vent air is to use roof and side vents. The roof vents allow the hot air which rises to leave that way. When you use side vents in conjunction with them you get a chimney type affect.

These are simple to control with the solar powered roof vents that are readily available. These have a wax cylinder in them and work on contraction and expansion.  When the wax gets warm it expands and pushes the vent open. When the wax cools it contracts and pulls the vent shut.



A shade cloth is a simple way to cool the greenhouse a few degrees. If you think about this it is pretty much the same as standing under a shade tree in the summer.

Roll up side curtains can be placed on any greenhouse with straight sides. These can be motorized, but they are also available with hand cranks. These open up the greenhouse considerably for a fresh air flow.

Solar powered ventilation systems are now available. These include an exhaust fan, intake shutter(s) and a thermostat. They operate the same as electrically powered ventilation systems, but they are powered by solar panels.

If you have water available you can add a misting system on a battery operated timer. These will help cool the inside through evaporation.

 

Conclusion

A greenhouse is a wonderful addition to your backyard, homestead or farm. But, you must have them set up correctly for your climate and  your crops. Even if you are unable to take it completely off the grid, try a couple of these methods to save on your power bills.

Let us know in the comments which of these methods you have tried and how they worked for you. Also, if you have any additional methods you have used that worked, please feel free to share those with us.




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Diagnosing Tomato Troubles

Diagnosing Tomato Troubles

Diagnosing Tomato Trouble

Tomato Pests and Disease

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Imagine my disappointment the other day went I went out to my garden to check my transplants and found that a cutworm had attacked my Green Zebra and Principe Borghese tomato plants. Grrr.

I planted them from seeds, tended them, and watched them grow into my beautiful healthy seedlings that I put in my garden. Unfortunately sometimes there is just nothing we can do to win the battle against Mother Nature. But, on the plus side there are a whole lot of things we can do to tip the scales in our favor. One of the best ways is to take preventative measures.



Prevention

Prevention is the best way to keep from having problems at all. The cleaner and happier you keep your area, the less problems you should have.

  • The first line of defense is don’t over crowd. Plant your tomato seedlings no closer than recommend. Make sure there is plenty of good air circulation. Don’t plant right up next to a solid fence or other obstacle.
  • Make sure to supply a support in the form of a cage or a stake when planting your seedlings. I like to use cages as I feel they give them better support. We wrap the bottom 12″ of the cages with clingy wrap to protect the tomato seedlings from strong Spring winds.
    • Keep the area free of dead leaves and over ripe vegetables. These are just an invitation to disease and pests. Also, be sure to keep the garden well weeded. Weeds tend to fight for the nutrients and water.
    • Do not over water. Do not get water on the leaves. The best way to water is with drip irrigation or a soaker hose. Test the soil by putting your finger down in about 2″. If it is dry – If the ground is still wet at 1″ down wait to water when it is drier.
    • Don’t over prune. As you will see later, this can lead to other problems. Honestly, I do not remove my suckers or prune my tomatoes at all. This is the way I have been gardening for 20 plus years.
    • Make sure your soil is warm enough and at the correct pH of 6.0 to 6.8 before planting.



  • Oh no, I have a problem!

    If you monitor your plants regularly you should be able to see and treat your problem quickly. Here are a few of the problems you may find

    • Blossom end rot – This will show up as a dark , rotted spot on the bottom of your tomato. This could be a Calcium deficiency, or could be due to irregular watering. A lot of times this will go ahead and correct itself as the season progresses. It is safe to cut off the affected part and eat the rest of the tomato.
    • Blossom drop – Your blossoms will not fertilize and they will drop. No fruit is produced. This can happen when temperatures are too high or too low. Not much can be done about this except waiting it out. Be sure though that you buy varieties that are suited for your climate. For example, if you are in a hot climate, buy tomatoes that are heat resistant.
    • Fruit cracking – This can occur when there are heavy rains or hot dry weather. Again, you may just have to wait this one out. The fruit is safe to eat.
    • Sunscald – This is like your tomato getting a sunburn. You will see white areas on the skin. The taste will probably be off. This is caused by the plant canopy not providing enough protection. If you over prune this is an issue. You can or cannot remove the suckers on tomato plants. These are found between the main stem and branches. They produce no fruit, so some argue that they take away nutrients from the “good” producing parts of the plant. Just be careful not to get carried away.
    • Leaf roll – You may encounter this if you have excessively wet soil, or soil that does not have proper drainage. The leaves will curl up towards the center. Monitor your soil conditions and cut back off on watering until the ground is dry 2″ down.
    • Leaf spot – This does not affect the tomatoes, only the leaves. Be sure to water your plants at ground level and do not splash water on the leaves. Make sure you have good air circulation.
    • Early blight – This is caused by a fungus in the soil. To avoid be sure to practice good crop rotation. It starts as small dark spots on the leaves. They will eventually yellow and turn brown. You may have a problem with sunscald if too many of the leaves die.

    Bugs That Love Your Tomatoes as Much as You Do

    Of course there are always bugs that may come into play. Again, regular inspection should lead you to find these before they are an epidemic.

      • Tomato Hornworms – You will know when these bad boys are around. I use white on black plastic garden mulch in my garden. I never have any problem spotting the “calling card” (droppings) from the hornworms. Plus, it is easy to spot the large holes in the tomato leaves. These pests can be hard to spot as they are pretty much the same color as the tomato leaves. But, they are a big caterpillar size, so it is hard for them to hide too much. Best way to get rid of these it to pluck them and squash them. Unfortunately, they turn into the intriguing sphinx, hawk or hummingbird moth. I had one in my garden one year and I just had to run in and search for what it was. They are pretty.

    • Cutworms – These guys like to get after your seedlings. They will come out at night (convenient for not being spotted) and “cut” the seedling off just above ground level. As I said earlier, I had this happen to 2 of my plants this year. Fortunately there was enough still there that they grew back on their own. They are a little behind the other plants at this point, but not really all that significant of an amount. You can make a paper collar to prevent these worms from getting to your tomato plants. Or, you can take a paper cup and cut out the bottom and put it over your seedling for protection.
    • Whiteflies – These are found feeding on the bottom of the tomato leaves. They are small, moth like in appearance and white in color. Your tomato will experience stunted growth, leaf yellowing and reduced yields. You can use neem oil or natural predators such as the ladybug to control these.
    Juicy Tasty Tomatoes

    Juicy Tasty Tomatoes

    Conclusion

    Experiment with different varieties to find the best tomato suited for your weather conditions. You may also ask local gardeners or your local extension office which varieties you should try. Don’t get discouraged. In gardening you will win some and lose some. Fortunately for gardeners the wins always outweigh the losses. And the end result, that juicy ripe  tomato, is worth the effort. Leave a comment below letting us know any problems you have had and the best solution you have found. Thanks!




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