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How to save tomato seeds

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It is really easy to save tomato seeds is a little more difficult that other vegetables seeds, but with a little patience and the right technique you can save your seeds with very little effort.

Step 1: Get the seeds.  The easiest way to get to your seeds it do cut the tomato across the hemisphere as shown below.

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This will give you easy access to the seeds, though if you are slicing your tomatoes at a different angle you can easily pull out some seeds with a prong of a fork or spoon.  The cutting board will normally hold more than enough seeds than I will need for the following year.

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Step 2: Get the junk off the seeds.  The seeds have a gel-like substance that surrounds the seeds along with some pieces of flesh that you did not take the time to pick out.  There are a couple of techniques to do this:

  1. Add some water to the seed mixture, cover with plastic and let them ferment for a few days.
  2. Mix tomato seed mix with equal amount of powdered disinfectant cleanser and let sit for 30 minutes

Given the fermentation methods can stink up your kitchen and the powdered disinfectant methods doesn’t exactly sounds organic I went with my own method I call the soak and rinse technique.

Drop the seeds in a small bowl with some water and let soak for a couple hours.  Pour off anything floating to the top (seeds too they won’t germinate) into your sink

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Pour what remains into a strainer and give a quick rinse with water.

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Repeat the soak and rinse process twice a day and notice the amount of gel decreasing.

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Once the seeds look like the ones below (about 2-2.5 days) they are ready to be dried.

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Step 3: Drying the seeds.  I do this by spreading the seeds on a labeled coffee filter trying best to keep seeds from touching.  Once they dry (couple days to a week) store them with your other seeds.

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With very little effort and a few days of waiting you can collect seeds to use/share/trade for next season.

Tomatoes: Upside down, Ground, and Self Watering Container

On of a common questions I still get is, do you still grow tomatoes upside down?  Does that really work better than just planting in the ground?

Well I decided to do a little experiment and start several tomato plants from seeds and grow two in an official Topsy Turvy planter, two in the ground with fertile soil, and one in a homemade self watering container

Each plant was placed in the same area in my yard and was watered the same amount at the same time.  About every 10 days I would also water with a diluted solution of water with fish emulsion.  You can see some results in the pictures below.

Upside Down Planter

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Self Watering Planter

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Ground

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Overall the upside down planters by far are having the best yields getting fruit 3 weeks before other plants.  The self watering planters had the healthiest looking plants though yields were decent though taking their time.  The plants in the ground are having some serious issues though still producing some tomatoes though doubt the plant will survive to have red fruit.

After this and previous years results I really don’t think I will be planting tomatoes in the ground in the near future…

how to fix crystallized honey (chunky)

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Got that little bear of honey but it is all chunky and won’t come out?  Just place it in a mason jar and fill with hot water (tap or boiling can work) and loosely add a lid to keep some of the heat in.  Check on it in a few minutes and you should have nicely flowing honey again.  Still a little chunky?  Repeat the process again.

This happens because well honey is sugar and as time goes on small crystals can form and then grow making this chunky mess…this is the same process you would do to intentionally make some sugar crystals like below.

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By heating the sugar up you dissolve these crystals making nice looking honey again which pretty much has a shelf life of forever.

Strange banana ripening

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This is definitely a first for me, sort of a happy accident so the bananas do not ripen all at once and end up with a bunch of overripe ones before you can eat them…if only I could determine how to make this happen on purpose I could make millions :)

Ultimate Plant Cage/Stake/Plant clip review

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This nice people at Global Garden Friends were nice enough to send me a few of their product to try out with my garden this year and given today I was bringing out my cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and pumpkins from the grow box it seemed like a great time to put them to the test.

The first product I tried out was their Ultimate Plant Cage which is a plastic ring that comes in four parts with spikes you can stab into the soil.  I used this on my self watering planter which I just planted a tomato plant into today.

What I like about this system is you can actually assemble this around your plant which is helpful if you are a bit late adding a plant cage to your plants.   Also on this right are six small posts which you can attach their Ultimate Plant Stakes (included with the kit) where you can adjust the height and the width as needed to support your growing plant.

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I also use a few more of their Ultimate Plant Stakes to give my peas a little help as they start to take off in the next couple weeks.  The only complaint I have for these is there is not a lot of resistance when you extend these stakes so supporting from an angle may work ok but if your weight is a direct downward force I could see these potentially collapsing under some load.

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In addition they also sent me some plant clips which you can use to assist your vegetables to climb their trellis until they have adequate support on their own.  I have done twine and zip ties in the past but what I like about these is they are much easier to remove when the time comes and also pretty large so easy to find to reuse on other plants as needed.

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I suspect I will be able to use them to help my peas, tomatoes, and cucumbers find their trellises when the time comes.

Cheap desktop aquaponics system

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I wanted to create a fun project with my daughter and a proof of concept for an aquaponics setup to have running in my grow box.  For those of you new to this concept this is growing plants in a soilless environment (much like hydroponics) but instead of paying for expensive nutrients you use naturally occurring bacteria and fish poop to grow plants.

Now there are fish farm kits out there but given most of the parts for this build I had sitting idle in my garage I decided to construct my own.

First after a trip to IKEA I found some plastic tubs just the right size for my grow box.  I got two of the bins and one lid.

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This is the basic idea of how this goes together, fish in the bottom plants on top.

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Next I took a 1/4 inch drill and made several holes on both the bottom of the top tub and also through the lid.  I also added a few extra hole in the lid to ensure water can drain faster from the lid than the water coming in from above.  I also drilled a big enough to fit some 1/2 in plastic tubing from an old fountain pump I had lying around.

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It is a bit hard to see from this picture but I cut the top of a 2 liter bottle off and drilled a hole in the cap just big enough to fit the top of the plastic tubing through.  I then drilled six 1/4 holes and pushed a 6 small pieces of irragaction tubing (pieces of straws could probably work here as well) and positioned them right under the plants roots.

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I then filled the top tub 1/3 with aquarium gravel (washed pea gravel would work as well) that I had sitting the the garage and topped the rest with some clay pellets.

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Next add some plants and pour water from the top until the tub below is full, start the pump and add a few goldfish and the process begins.

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As the fish breath, poop, and pee they will produce ammonia (NH4) this is pretty worthless to the plants but after a few weeks Nitrosomas bacteria will begin converting the ammonia (NH4) to Nitrates (NO2) which plants can absorb some of the nitrogen from but not very efficiently.  Finally Nitrospira bacteria will convert the Nitrates (NO2) to Nitrates (NO3) which is easily converted by the plants producing some nice vibrant greens with fish poop.

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You can even do this whole process without even having fish by simply adding pure ammonia to you water which will create the same natural bacterial processes without having to remember to feed your fish and a small bottle of the stuff only costs a couple dollars on Amazon.