Archive for February, 2011

Healthier Tomatoes

Friday, February 18th, 2011

During the last few years tomatoes have been gaining ground as one of the healthiest foods that can be grown in the garden.  They contain lots of vitamin C,  have very few calories and are a rich source of lycopene.

Lycopene,  a nutrient produced by tomatoes and other red colored vegetables,  has been found to be an antioxidant that helps people resist certain diseases and health disorders.  Maybe you have seen some ketchup labels extolling the virtues of lycopene.

Until recently red tomatoes were thought to deliver the highest amounts of lycopene.  Now according to a report published in the February issue of USDA Agricultural Research Magazine, preliminary research has shown that an orange colored heirloom tomato called ‘Tangerine’ actually has more usable lycopene than the typical red tomato.

The difference seems to be in the different types of lycopene produced by red vs. Tangerine tomatoes.  The lycopene in the Tangerine variety is of a form that is more easily absorbed by our bodies.

It sounds like ‘Tangerine’ was the only orange colored variety tested in this study. It remains to be seen if other orange colored varieties produce similar results.

I’m sure there will be a run on Tangerine tomato seeds this spring, so it may be a good idea to get your order in early. Another  good thing about this variety is that like most old heirloom varieties it is not a hybrid.  Seeds saved from these tomatoes will come back true to type year after year.

Snow and the Garden

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

“Think snow!” the skiers say. That’s something gardeners should say as well.

When most people see snow the first thing they think of is how to get it off of the sidewalk and driveway.  For me and many other gardeners, shoveling snow is the second thing we think of. The first thought is how thankful we are that mother nature has provided a blanket to protect our plants from the harsh extremes of winter.

I'm sure your driveway looks much like mine.

Many folks don’t realize that snow is a good thing.  I’ve had people say to me that they hated to see the snow because it would damage their plants by freezing them.  The only way snow can damage a plant is by breaking branches due to excessive amounts accumulating on trees and shrubs.

Snow acts as a natural blanket that keeps the soil from freezing too deeply or thawing too quickly during winter time warm-ups. The alternating freezing and thawing of soil can wreak havoc on plant roots by heaving them.  The roots are actually pushed up through the soil causing much damage. Mulching around plants can reduce this effect but there is nothing like a good snow cover like the one we have this winter.

Farmers who grow winter wheat love snow because it protects their fields in the winter.  Winter wheat is planted in the fall and left to overwinter. Wheat plants that are exposed to winter winds can dry out.  If it gets bad enough the plants will die. With snow on the ground wheat can survive most anything old man winter can throw at it.

In years gone by snow was called “the poor man’s fertilizer” and indeed it does have some fertilizing value. Back in the 1920’s a study was done to measure the fertilizing value of precipitation.  Over a period of ten years  snow and rainfall in the area of study averaged around 33 inches of equivalent water per year, which is close to what we get around here. The scientists found that this precipitation provided over 6500 lbs. of nitrogen (a critical plant nutrient) per acre annually. That’s a lot of fertilizer.

What about all of that snow in the driveway? Fortunately I did get my snow thrower fixed this year after two years of sitting in storage.  It’s all in the timing. :)

Bob