What is the Difference Between Mint and Peppermint?

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Peppermint is really a sub variety or a plant that is part of the larger mint genus of plants. It forms a subset of the larger mint collection of plants. Depending on how discriminating you are, there can be as little as 13 mint species or 24.

What makes this really challenging is the fact that peppermint is actually just a cross between different mint varieties, so it’s not even a pure mint sub variety. It’s kind of like a wild offshoot of mentha piperita, which is its larger variety. But when you look at the actual plants that gave rise to the commercial version of peppermint, it can actually be traced to mint variety spearmint and watermint. Peppermint has a much higher menthol content than its spearmint parent.  Interestingly, watermint has no menthol at all.

Mint, on the other hand, is just the larger grouping of all plants that share the strong flavor, the same general leaf shape, as well as certain flowering qualities of the up to 24 different species that make up the mint genus.

Think of the designation “mint” like the designation “luxury sedan”. When you look closer, there are of course many different makes and models of luxury sedans. You have your Daimler-Chrysler-Mercedes Benz. There’s also the ever-popular BMW, and of course, the Lexus, which isn’t too shabby.

They are all within the family of luxury cars and they share quite a wide range of characteristics. If you sit inside a top of the line Mercedes Benz, you would know that you are inside a luxury car. That’s the same kind of impression you get when you sit inside a 7-Series BMW luxury sedan.

By the same token, when you try watermint, peppermint, spearmint, sweetmint, and other varieties of mint, you can easily tell the differences, but are also reminded of the aroma, the overall flavor profile, and the general leaf shape and size that unites this plant genus.

Avoiding Confusion

To simplify things, “mint” is the general or umbrella term referring to the different varieties belonging to the Mentha genus, when talking about the plants.  They all share some common properties that define them as being a mint even though they each have their own unique qualities.

These qualities are what differentiate them from one another. Some have qualities that make them stand out.  Peppermint is one such standout from that group, having a strong menthol taste and aroma, and is one of the most popular mints.

To avoid confusion, when you hear a product or recipe described as having mint without mentioning the specific variety like peppermint or whatever mint, it usually refers to spearmint.  

General Characteristics of the Mint Genus

All mint types can thrive just about anywhere they’re planted.  They grow and spread fast and quickly form into patches. They love sunlight and are somewhat tolerant to drought.

While providing many medicinal benefits, they’re also known to have powerful flavors and aromas. That’s why they’re favorite herbal ingredients in many cuisines.

Can you imagine the taste of spaghetti sauce without oregano, pesto without basil, or your mint julep without spearmint? Did you know that thyme, rosemary, basil, marjoram, lemon balm, and sage are mints?

As for scents, the Lamiaceae mints they’re used in soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, household cleaners and air fresheners. Arguably Lavender is the most famous fragrant herb.  Yes it’s also a mint!

Uses of Peppermint

If bought directly from stores, peppermint comes in the form of fresh or dry leaves and powder. It’s rich in menthol and has a higher menthol taste than other mints like spearmint. Many use it often as a flavoring ingredient in meals, desserts, sweets, or as caffeine-free tea. Its essential oil is concentrated and distilled in steam for use in rubbing oils, tinctures, creams, and salves.  

In traditional forms of remedy, peppermint is popular in helping treat a wide number of conditions. It’s known to help ease anxiety related to depression, relieve headaches, muscle and nerve pain, menstrual pain, and even itching. People also use it to treat nausea and vomiting, as well as several gastrointestinal disorders like indigestion, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and even flatulence. 

Points of Difference Between Mint and Peppermint

Since both spearmint and peppermint belong to the same genus, they share very similar properties, especially when comparing their appearance, flavor, uses, and how they’re grown.

In addition to classification differences, the big difference between peppermint and mint is fragrance and taste strength. If you’re looking for a very strong minty taste, go with peppermint.

Peppermint has been used for therapeutic purposes precisely because of its strong aromatic qualities and its distinctive taste. It is also used as a topical oil. Either it is boiled down into an oil or its extract is compressed and mixed into other plant oils to produce a very fragrant topical concoction.

Mint, on the other hand, is more mellow than peppermint and is more often used for food and culinary purposes. Its distinct taste is featured in Vietnamese spring rolls, for example. It also goes well with certain types of soup. A lot of the times, mint leaves are dried and crushed and added into a spice mix.

Peppermint, on the other hand, is often used for fragrances as well as certain types of recipes that require a very strong mint taste. Peppermint is also mixed with other herbs as a flavoring for chewing gum.

Peppermint contains a higher concentration of menthol at 40%, while its parent spearmint only has less than 1%.  If a dish or dessert calls for a stronger minty flavor, you can’t go wrong with peppermint. However, if you’re looking for a more subtle hint of mint with a sweeter flavor profile, spearmint will do the trick and not overwhelm your food.

The thing to understand is that if a food or an item has a prominent menthol flavor, it’s more likely to use peppermint. Spearmint would be used more to enhance the taste of a dish, and not dominate it.

What is the Best Way to Keep Basil Fresh?

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Basil, whether the Italian variety or its sweet Thai version, has long been a favorite ingredient in many regional cuisines. It is very versatile and can be used in all sorts of dishes.

Whether you’re looking for an added kick or a much-needed dose of complexity and exoticism, basil has your back. If you’re looking to capture a traditional Mediterranean flavor, you can readily lean on basil’s culinary effects.

With that said, making sure that you have a constant supply of basil is easier said than done. A lot of gardeners throughout the United States can start out basil plants easy enough. They can plant basil indoors.

At first, things look awesome. The plant takes hold and it grows easily. Before they know it, they have a lot more leaves than they know what to do with.

So far so good, right? Well, this is where the problem begins. A lot of indoor gardeners are just simply too busy that they overlook the fact that a lot of their basil have started to sprout buds. These are flower buds that, if left unattended, will become flowers.

What’s the big deal? All plants develop buds that sprout into flowers. The flowers are needed to produce seeds. Why is this a cause for concern?

Well, most basil varieties change dramatically the moment they bolt or go into the process of developing seeds. Flowering, of course, is the beginning of the bolting process.

If you’re too busy to constantly prune and take out the buds from your basil plant, don’t be surprised if the next crop of basil leaves you cut from your plant aren’t as fragrant or aromatic as before. The reason for this is the fact that your plant has matured.

When basil bolts, it becomes more fibrous. There’s less energy and nutrients going to the leaves and they tend to get smaller and less fragrant and aromatic. In particularly bad situations, the leaves on your basil plants don’t smell like basil at all.

This shocks a lot of gardeners because when they started out their plant and they tear off a few leaves here and there, it gives off a really strong fragrant basil smell. Not anymore. It’s as if the plant has changed dramatically, and now it’s more of a shrub. It might as well be an entirely new plant, and for all intents and purposes, it really is.

If you’re wondering why this is happening, it’s not complicated.  Basil is an annual plant.  That means it has a short life cycle. If it was in the wild, it would want to propagate its own species before it bites the dust.  When it starts to flower, most of the energies of the plant would now concentrated on going to seed.  Whereas before the focus was on growth and leaf production. 

This shift will reduce the quality of the leaves drastically. That’s why you have to fool it by nipping its flowers in the bud. That way, it would continue producing those wonderfully aromatic and tasty leaves.

So, to ensure that you keep getting fresh basil with all its fragrant power and aromatic appeal, you have to do two things. First, keep your basil plant pruned. You have to monitor your plant closely.

Keep in mind that basil is highly tolerant of pruning, which promotes the production of new leaves and growth. Pruning is necessary every two weeks because the plant can get large and unwieldy. The best time to harvest the leaves is early in the morning when they’re at their at peak condition.

You can’t let it bolt. You can’t let it develop buds. Either of these situations is going to be bad for the quality of the leaves that you’re getting. So, you’re going to have to either reduce the number of basil plants you have, or you have to make it a point to constantly monitor them for any sign of budding or bolting.

This is non-negotiable. You have to start from this stage. Anything past this point is no good. You’re going to be a day late and a buck short.

Second, when you harvest basil leaves, trim their stems and quickly put them in a jar of cold water. Treat the freshly harvested leaves of your basil plant like you would freshly cut flowers. Make sure to cover the jar or the container to keep the basil leaves fresh in the liquid until you’re ready to use them in a few hours.

If you’re going to be “packing” your leaves, it’s a good idea to put them in ice cold water and then drain the liquid and put them in an airtight container. This is crucial because you don’t want the leaves to oxidize by getting into contact with oxygen in the air. This would go a long way in ensuring the leaves stay fresh.

Another method is to wrap the basil in paper towels and placing them on a zip-lock plastic bag.  You can put them in the crisper drawer of your fridge. It will protect the leaves from moisture and preserve the aroma and taste.

How Do You Keep Your Basil Leaves from Turning Brown or Dark?

Another hassle to managing basil involves coloration. If you’re not careful, your basil can easily turn dark brown in no time.

Use the tips above to keep them green, and drain the water, and then seal the leaves in an airtight container and store in the fridge. If you do this correctly, you won’t see any discoloration, nor would the strong and aromatic basil scent and flavor change.

The problem with exposing basil leaves to the air for a long time is that they not only get dark, but their taste becomes “grassy”. You don’t get that nice aromatic kick that fresh basil produces. There’s a hint of that, but a lot of it is replaced by a somewhat grassy taste. Depending on how long you leave it out, the texture can also be affected.

Aeroponics vs. Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics – What’s the Difference?

It’s very easy to think that because all these cultivation methods end with the suffix “-ponics” that aeroponics, hydroponics, and aquaponics are not much different from each other. Well, these types of indoor gardening are very different from each other, and it all boils down to how nutrients are introduced to the root system of plants.

In aeroponics, the roots are exposed to nutrients in pure air. There is no medium around the roots. No soil, no composite materials, and definitely no water. All nutrients in very measured liquid form is misted or sprayed to the roots of the plants.

Hydroponics, on the other hand, involves very specific and measured exposure to a very calculated mixture of nutrients. This is given to the roots using a wide range of artificial and non-artificial materials like Styrofoam, certain types of plastic, even PVC. The key is to hold the roots in some kind of standardized medium to maximize its absorption of very minutely calculated nutrient solutions.

Credit: True-Veg.com

Aquaponics, on the other hand, involves indoor gardening using water. So basically, all plants have roots that have water passing through them. This water is of course packed with nutrients.

Generally, aquaponics systems include fish. The idea is for the fish to feed on some of the plants and produce waste. This waste is then carefully passed through biochemical filters or biological filters that turn the fish waste into natural fertilizer, which is then recirculated through the water to grow plants.

Ideally speaking, an aquaponics system is a closed system. You grow fish and plants at the same time, and they feed off each other.

Of course, this isn’t completely sealed off because there is wasted energy due to inefficiency. There is going to be input of energy as well as nutrients to keep the system going.

Still, the idea behind aquaponics is to close the biofeedback loop as much as possible so you have a very efficient ecosystem where food is generated on both ends. You end up harvesting fish while at the same time growing a wide range of plants that can not only be fed to fish, but can also be sold.

The Pros of Aeroponics

The great thing about aeroponics is that it’s a really fast and extensive growing system. It’s also very efficient in that the water that you use is so measured that you save quite a bit on water costs.

The disadvantage of aeroponics is that it requires a tremendous amount of technology. We’re talking all sorts of switches and controls.

If there is any kind of malfunction in the control system, your whole indoor garden is at risk. You can basically kill all your plants throughout the system because of a bad centralized control panel.

Of course, the workaround to this is to localize controls in sections by using a modular aquaponics system. You can reduce the risk of system failure to specific modules. This way, if one part of your system doesn’t work or malfunctions, it doesn’t jeopardize the rest of the plants that you’re trying to grow.

Advantages of a Hydroponic System

Hydroponics has been around for a long time. It is actually the indoor standard. In fact, it’s the well-accepted standard for indoor gardening. It can accommodate large scale growing, and it is pretty much the most “battle tested” of indoor plant cultivation systems.

The downside to hydroponics is that it requires a tremendous amount of chemical inputs. This also requires energy to get to the plants.

There’s a tremendous amount of calculation and fine tuning to make the system work. It is a very sensitive system. If the PH or water temperature, or some other critical factor is off, then your harvest might be less than optimal, assuming you have a harvest at all.

The Advantages of Aquaponics

The aquaponics system is a great way to grow both fish and plant crops. It also uses a water medium so cleaning both growing sections is very easy. It also allows for a fairly controlled flow of nutrients.

The great thing about this system is that the water filtration process is built in, so you don’t have to take waste out of the system. Instead, it is used as fertilizer.

The Downside to Aquaponics

The downside of aquaponics is that it has to be designed right. It can get quite expensive. Also, if you live in a part of the country where it gets really cold, your aquaponics system might experience some downtime. If not, you might have to spend quite a bit of money on heating costs.

Comparisons with Conventional Farming (Geoponics)

Because these three innovative methods are soilless, controlling the amounts of nutrients that the plants receive can be precise and much more efficient. They are not dependent on the quality of soil like crops are in traditional farmlands.  Plants consume less water since their roots feed directly from the solution. Hydroponics, for example, use an average of 10% of the water needed in conventional planting.

Furthermore, most of the water is recycled within the system. It results in considerable water conservation and cost savings from irrigation. It also vastly reduces the use of fertilizers so that no excess waste ends up flowing into the rivers or contaminating the groundwater that people use.

There’s a vast reduction in the use of harmful insecticides as well since the plants are less prone to disease and pests indoors. They are also not exposed to the harsh elements outside.  The ideal temperature range can be maintained within the enclosure, ensuring the most optimal conditions at all times. 

The Final Word

Deciding between aeroponics vs. hydroponics vs. aquaponics really boils down to cost factors, infrastructure, types of crops you want to grow, as well as geography.

Depending on where you are in the country, aeroponics, hydroponics or aquaponics (not necessarily in that order) may be out of the question. So, you have to consider all these different factors so you can make a truly informed and effective choice.

How Often Should I Water My Vegetable Garden?

You should water your plants depending on the type of plants you’re growing and the weather conditions in your area.

If you are doing indoor gardening in the southern portions of the United States, you should set your automatic watering or hydration system to deliver water and nutrients to your plants’ root system on a fairly regular basis.

Maybe you can set up times throughout the day that are specifically hot. Maybe noon and certain hours in the afternoon.

Also, it’s a very important to note the water requirements of the specific type of plant you’re growing. Some plants are notoriously water hungry. On the other hand, some plants can tolerate little watering or underwatering.

What is Worse, Overwatering or Underwatering?

Believe it or not, overwatering is actually harsher on your plants. The reason for this isn’t what you think.

When you overwater, in many cases, it looks like your plant is doing fine. You’re looking at the stems and the leaves and it seems that the plant is doing well. But what you’re not seeing is the fact that your plants are actually drowning because its roots are not getting enough oxygen and nutrients from the soil. How can it? Its roots are surrounded by too much water.

You have to understand that plants respire. They take in gas from the roots.

On top of this, when you overwater, there’s a strong chance that the growing medium or the soil will become too moist and this would lead to fungal growth. Don’t be surprised when your plants start developing splotches on its stems and leaves, or its roots start to rot.

The Dangers of Underwatering

The threat of underwatering plants is actually quite obvious. When you don’t give your plants enough water, your plants’ leaves seem to shrivel up. In the case of basil, for example, it would seem like the leaves have wilted.

The good news about underwatering is that it’s very easy to notice compared to overwatering. You just need to add moisture to your growing medium to correct the problem.

Another good thing about underwatering is that it’s fairly easy to detect because the soil or the growing medium will dry out from the top first. It doesn’t dry out from the bottom. It dries from the top, so this gives you enough of a visual cue that there’s something wrong.

How Do You Know When You’ve Given Your Plants Enough Moisture?

It all boils down to the average temperature of the part of the country where you’re from. It also depends on what medium you’re using to grow your plants.

Some medium can absorb a lot of moisture and remain dry enough so as not to choke your plants’ roots. Other media can do this only for so long until they can’t absorb any additional moisture. So, it really depends on what media you’re using.

It also depends on when you water during the day. If you’re watering near nighttime, it’s going to be different than if you were watering in the middle of the afternoon where it’s very hot.

Know Your Soil

Water needs to go at least six inches deep into the soil so that your veggies can grow longer roots that can anchor them more securely. It will make them more resilient to hot and dry weather conditions. However, you don’t want the water to filter right through because the soil is too porous. It’s a common issue with sandy soil.  Clay, on the other hand, can retain the water much better. That’s why it’s also necessary to determine what type of soil you have.

MORE: Does potting soil go bad?

As you can imagine, watering the plants on porous soil would take longer until you’re able to meet their needs, while you can water those grown on clay a lot quicker. It’s better to water your plants deeply at least three times a week rather than to give them a brief but shallow daily watering.

MORE: Growing microgreens in coconut coir

Another good idea is to have your soil tested to determine its texture and how much nutrients it contains. For a small fee, you’ll know more accurately the amount of water and fertilizer you need.  If your soil is already nutrient-rich, adding compost may be unnecessary, and it can save you a lot of money in the long run. 

When is the Best Time to Water Vegetables?

You will waste more water to evaporation if you wait until the heat of the sun has already set in. The best time to do it is early in the morning. While you can water your veggies late in the day or even at night, they won’t dry as quickly and can succumb to fungal infection or other diseases.

Drip Irrigation

While watering each plant by hand with a hose or can isn’t detrimental to them, it can be too time-consuming and tedious.  Drip irrigation makes it significantly easier to water your veggies all at once. It will allow you to control more precisely the amount of water that your plants get. The chances of overwatering or underwatering them will be significantly reduced, not to mention the daily effort needed when doing it manually.

Some Things to Avoid

Using a sprinkler system isn’t recommended at all. It can’t distribute water evenly, and some plants would end up getting more water than the others. The result is more water wasted. If some plants get too inundated, it will result in overwatering. They’ll also be prone to bacterial and fungal diseases, which can end up affecting the entire crop.  Some gardeners love to mist their plants, not realizing that it’s a terrible practice that can also cause infection.

The Final Word

It’s crucial to pay close attention to your growing medium as well as the overall temperature of your garden to get your water input levels just right. It takes quite a bit of experimentation. You have to pay close attention to the effects on your plants so you can fine tune your watering and maximize growth.

When Is Basil In Season? We’ve Got Answers

It all depends on the variety of basil you’re keeping. Please understand that basil is a member of the mint family, and there are many different varieties, sub-varieties, and hybrids of basil. You have to account for all these differences because there is no such thing as one type of basil that is good for everybody.

For example, if you’re going to be cooking mostly Italian cuisine, your best bet would probably be standard Italian basil with a slightly tangy, aromatic taste. On the other hand, if you prepare mostly Southeast Asian, Thai, Vietnamese food, you would be better off with sweeter varieties of basil.

These don’t just differ from each other in terms of flavor profile. They also differ in terms of their growing season. But generally speaking, basil is in season during the summer.

If you’re looking to plant basil indoors with as little attention and care as possible and still enjoy a nice healthy plant with lots of wide aromatic and crisp leaves, summer is your best bet. This is when basil is generally in season.

End of Its Season

When basil starts to bloom, you’ll know that it has reached the end of its season. It usually happens during September in the US and the rest of the northern hemisphere.

You can’t allow this to happen, though, if you want to continue enjoying its tasty and aromatic leaves. The basil is nearing the end of its lifecycle and wants to propagate the next generation of plants before it dies. Your basil will start to go into a reproductive mode, and it will divert all its energies from foliage production and focus on going to seed.

As a result, the quality of the leaves would go down dramatically. They will lose most of their original flavor, texture, and aroma and turn bitter.  The basil will stop growing, and then it will die.

There’s no need to worry, though. If you pinch all the flowers or buds as soon as you see them, the plant will continue to produce healthy leaves. In fact, pruning promotes leaf growth producing a bushier plant.

Basil is an annual plant, however, and will eventually succumb at one point or another. You could buy another plant or grow another one from seed. You can also extend the life of potted basil by moving it indoors. It may even last throughout the winter.

What About Indoor Basil?

The good news is, if you are growing basil completely indoors, then you don’t have to worry about seasonal issues. You can pretty much grow basil all year round.

It depends on one key factor. You have to be in an area of the United States where fall and winter seasons are fairly mild. We’re talking about the southern portions of Florida, maybe Southern California, and certain areas of the American Southwest.

MORE: Kratky Method to Grow Basil Indoors

For the rest of the country, you may have a tougher time growing basil during the winter. You definitely have to spend a little bit more money on equipment to ensure that your basil gets the right amount of light and heat so it can continue to produce leaves through winter months. It may be a little bit on the expensive side, but it is definitely doable.

As you probably already know, a lot of indoor gardeners grow tomatoes in the middle of December. Where there is a will, there is a way. Because if you really want to grow warm season plants in the dead of winter, you can do so provided you have the right equipment and enough electricity.

If you don’t mind paying a little extra when it comes to electricity bills, growing basil in the middle of winter is entirely doable. You have to have fans making sure that warm air circulates in your indoor growing area. You have to also invest in hydroponic grow lights to bring out the best in your basil plants.

Basil thrives in bright and warm locations, so find a suitable spot inside your home, preferably near a large window that receives direct sunlight most of the day. Don’t put them where it’s drafty, and be sure to keep those windows shut at night when temperatures drop considerably. If the color of the leaves starts to fail, use liquid fertilizer in the ratios recommended by the manufacturer.

Economic Considerations

A lot of indoor gardeners don’t really look into the dollars and cents of growing basil off season. They look at their basil plant simply as a source of the basil leaves that they need for the dishes that they’re preparing for their family.

This is all well and good, but if you are going to have to invest in heaters, blowers, and special grow lights as well as nutrient mixes for optimal winter cultivation, you might want to consider the economic aspects of your project.

In other words, look at how much fresh basil will cost in your local farmer’s market or farmer’s coop markets and see if you can stand to make a little bit of money. The key here is not so much to get rich off basil farming, but more along the lines of offsetting or compensating for the amount of cash you would have to shell out to get an off-season basil garden going.

Small Scale Indoor Gardening Can Make Economic Sense

If you are just growing basil for your personal consumption, it can make sense to buy equipment and just give out whatever leaves you harvest.

MORE: Check Out the Aerogarden for Indoor Gardening

On the other hand, if you are looking to actually make money from your basil cultivation because you want to offset your expenses, you really have to pay close attention to market trends at your local community farmer market. The numbers might not make sense.

So instead of going all the way and buying the most expensive equipment, you might want to hold back and try to come up with halfway measures or a more micro-operation that doesn’t require expensive equipment and inputs.

How to Care For Your Moonstone Succulent

A popular choice for home gardeners, succulents are prized for their diverse, varying pigments, exotic appearance, and their ease of care. The Moonstone Succulent, scientific name Pachyphytum Oviferum, also known as the “Sugaralomond Plant,” is no exception. 

Easily identified by their round, silvery, egg-shaped leaves that vary in color from peach, pink, pale green to blue-ish purple. Or by their stems that grow up to eight inches long, with flowers that have red-orange petals, Moonstones are eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing. 

Requiring infrequent watering, minimal pruning and minimal space, a Moonstone Succulent would make a wonderful addition to your indoor or outdoor garden.  

While they are known not to require much maintenance, there are certain growing conditions, soil preferences and lighting conditions that help Moonstone Succulents thrive. This article outlines how to care for your Moonstone Succulent and the conditions in which they will flourish and grow! 


Watering

Succulents are plants that store water in their thick, rubbery leaves, stems, and / or roots. They are adapted to do this because they are native to hot, dry, arid areas where rainfall can be scarce for long periods of time, and storing water and nutrients enables them to survive. Interestingly, they will actually appear swollen when storing water. 

This is an advantage for you as a gardener if you’re busy, or have other plants that require more consistent attention, as Moonstones need time for their soil to dry out between waterings, and do best when left to use all of the water you have already given them.

It is important to make sure you do not overwater Moonstones because when their roots sit in water for too long, they are likely to develop root rot and die. Make sure the soil has dried completely before watering. Touching the topsoil can let you know if it’s had adequate time to dry. Make sure it is dry a couple of inches down into the soil before you supply your Moonstone with another drink.

Another way to tell whether or not your succulent needs to be watered is by checking its leaves. If its leaves feel firm, it means it doesn’t need to be watered yet. If they’re soft, deflated, or shriveled it means it’s watering time. 

When watering your Moonstone, avoid allowing the water to touch its leaves and do so deep into the soil. This will help prevent your succulent’s leaves from being damaged, or beginning to rot and will help allow excess water to run out of the drainage hole. 

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to watering your Moonstone is that it will need to be watered more frequently in the winter, as that is its growing season. This is something that is more specific to the Moonstone, and is not true of all succulents. 


Temperature & Light 

Moonstones can be grown indoors or outdoors, but there are certain temperatures, lighting and environmental conditions that these plants prefer. 

Whether inside or outside, they thrive when placed in a sunny spot. If you hope to keep your Moonstone inside, be sure to place it near a sunny window, or under a grow light. If adding one to your outdoor garden, choose a place that gets full sun year-round. But, if the location where you live experiences intensely hot summers, place your Moonstone in a spot that receives shade in the afternoon to help protect it from too much extreme sun exposure. While your Moonstones leaves are coated in a powdery layer of farina for sun protection, there is no need to over expose them and risk damage.

Ideally, Moonstones prefer warmer temperatures (65-80°F) and low humidity, which makes them perfectly suited for a sunny spot in your home. However, Moonstones cannot survive in temperatures below 20°F. If you choose to add a Moonstone to your outdoor garden and you live in an area where winters have temperatures at or below freezing, you need to cover it with a sheet or blanket, or move it inside to protect it from these low temperatures. 

When succulents experience a shock, such as an extreme temperature change, or a lack of or excess of sunlight, they may “blush” or turn a different color. Their leaves may also become more oblong or change shape as they grow towards the sun. If you are hoping to maintain the same shape and color of your Moonston’s leaves they had when you procured them, you will want to turn them as they adjust towards the sunlight and to protect them from experiencing a shock.


Soil Preferences 

The soil you use to re-pot your Moonstone, or to plant it outside, is one of the most important aspects of your plant’s care. While they may be slow-growing and require minimal care elsewhere, Moonstones are specific with requirements when it comes to selecting a soil. The key is for you to purchase or create a soil that is loose, gritty, well draining, and provides proficient aeration. Aeration allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate your Moonstone’s roots. Again, if water is trapped within sticky, compact soil and the roots remain moist for too long, they run the risk of developing root rot or a fungal disease, which can lead to your plant’s death. 

If you are looking to purchase a pre-made potting soil, use a well draining cactus and succulent soil with 50% to 70% mineral grit such as coarse sand, pumice, or perlite. The purpose of pumice or perlite is to aid in aeration and drainage. If you want to create your own, you have more than one option when it comes to materials you can mix. A mixture that has shown to yield excellent results is sand, perlite / pumice, and regular potting soil. A great mixing ratio of these three ingredients is two parts sand, two parts gardening soil and one-part perlite or pumice. This translates to three cups of sand, three cups of soil and one and a half cups of perlite or pumice. Another mixture you can make is one of compost and sand.

Be sure to use an appropriate soil mixture when re-potting your Moonstone after purchase, if it outgrows its container, or if you are planting it outside. If planting outside, mix equal parts of compost with sand or pumice, and fill in the area where you plan to plant it to a depth of 10-12 inches. If you are repotting your plant, it is also advisable that you do so during winter and that you replant the stem to the same depth that it was planted in in its previous container. 


Planting in Pots 

One of the most appealing aspects of growing Moonstones is that they require minimal space and can easily thrive when planted in a pot. This can be done because they will stay relatively compact, though they can spread to 12 inches wide. One of the advantages to planting them in a pot is that they can be moved inside and outside easily, and that they can be moved around inside to anywhere they can receive adequate sunlight or be under a grow light. 

When planting your Moonstone in a pot, make sure your pot has drainage holes and that the plant itself sits above the pot’s rim. If your Moonstone is too far below the rim, water can pool, and rot your leaves. Which, as you can imagine, would not be great for the health of your Moonstone. It’s okay to plant more than one succulent in the same pot, but planting them extremely close together can make watering your plants difficult. Leaving a small amount of space between them encourages your plants to grow larger, and makes watering the plants a bit easier. However, when there’s too much space between them, the plants tend to stay the same size and dedicate more of their energy to growing their roots. If you plan to place more than one plant in the same pot, I encourage you to try to put a small amount of space between each plant.


Final thoughts 

While Moonstone Succulents may have a unique, exotic appearance, they are a plant that is ideal for both inexperienced and seasoned gardeners. Not requiring anything over the top or overly complicated, these plants thrive when provided plenty of sunshine, deep, infrequent waterings, and loose, gritty soil. They also grow well indoors, outdoors, in small pots, and with or without another succulent. So they are relatively easy to fit within many gardening set-ups, and locations. 

Not only are they a hearty plant that is straightforward to care for, but they are well known to help brighten rooms and moods, to improve mental clarity, and to provide oxygen and air purification. They are even easy to propagate, or you can grow an entire new plant from your existing Moonstone without hurting it. 

So if you are considering adding a new succulent to your garden or are looking for a great gift for a new or seasoned plant enthusiast, don’t hesitate to consider a Moonstone Succulent. They would be a beautiful, minimal maintenance addition to many outdoor gardens and most indoor growing areas.

How to Grow Microgreens Without Soil – Go Hydroponic!

Microgreens are definitely the ‘in thing’ in today’s day and age. These young vegetable greens are becoming more popular because first of all, it’s nutritional and beautiful to garnish. And secondly, it’s very easy to grow them, without soil! Yes, you read it right. These baby greens don’t need soil whatsoever and can thrive on some basic supplies. So what are these supplies?

Today, I will take you to a detailed step-by-step guide tour to help you grow microgreens without soil- hydroponically. It’s easy, fun, and most importantly, clean! Yes, no longer will you have to go through the strenuous process of getting your hands dirty with soil, and the outcome will do wonders to your health as well.

Benefits of Growing Microgreens Hydroponically

Before delving into the ways to grow microgreens without soil, it’s important to know what its benefits are. After all, you can’t simply be growing microgreens just because everybody’s doing it. I have listed below a few of the benefits of hydroponically growing microgreens:

  • You can grow microgreens throughout the year
  • Microgreens don’t take up much space
  • They are easy and don’t leave much of a mess
  • You can grow them inside your home
  • You won’t feel the pinch when buying supplies for growing microgreens hydroponically

What You’ll Need

Now that you’ve read about the benefits of growing microgreens without soil, I’m sure you’re all geared up to find out what’s next. Listed below are some of the basic necessities that need to be in place for you to start your experiment:

  • Seeds: Of course, you can’t possibly grow anything without the seeds! But the most important thing you need to keep in mind is to buy organic seeds that are specific to growing microgreens. You can get your microgreen seeds from nurseries and even online retailers.
  • Trays: You will definitely need a tray in order to grow your microgreens. You can use any tray which isn’t of much use at home. But you need to remember that the tray should be in perfect condition and thick without any holes in them.
  • Growing medium: You will also need a medium in which you plan to grow your microgreens. I would suggest you go for coconut coir or grow pads as these are designed specifically for growing microgreens.
  • Light: I’m sure you must have read about the process of photosynthesis and how light is important for plants to grow. Similarly, to grow microgreens hydroponically, it is essential to have a good source of light. You can purchase an LED grow light or even use sunlight if the room in which you grow your microgreens get ample sunlight. Check out our article on the color of light affecting plant growth!
  • Strips or pH testing kit: The water you use to grow your baby plants might have a good pH level, but it’s always better to be sure. Getting a pH testing kit will ensure that your water’s pH level does not hamper the growth process of your microgreens. From my experience, the pH water level should be around 6. You can get your water tested and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Nutrients: Your microgreens definitely need some nutrients in the water to survive. Some may suggest that nutrients are not necessary as they microgreens their nutrients from the seed itself. Believe me, having additional nutrients will definitely do no harm! You can opt for organic nutritional products that are made specifically for growing microgreens without soil.
  • Spray bottle: Lastly, you will also require a spray bottle to water your baby greens. You need to make sure that you get a brand new bottle rather than one that has already been used.

Preparing the Growing Medium and Water

It’s not enough to just know what you’ll require if you don’t have an idea of how to go about using them. Below is a detailed instruction on how to prepare the growing medium and water for you to grow microgreens hydroponically. 

Growing Medium Preparation

First things first, you need to make a decision on which growing medium you’d like to use. As I mentioned earlier, it’s best recommended to use coconut coir or grow pads. Although coconut coir is the safest bet as it’s cheap, growing pads are quite easy and simple to use with considerably less mess. 

If you plan on using coconut coir, you’ll have to prepare the coir first by placing it in a bucket filled with water. I would suggest that you look at the instructions on the packet so you’ll get an idea of how much water to add. Stir the mixture well until its consistency is like soil. You can drain the excess water after 30 minutes or so, and voila, your medium is good to go!

There’s not much work involved if you plan on going with the second option, i.e., growing pads. All you have to do is taking the grow pads out of the packet and keep it moisturized. You can also spray the pads 10 to 20 times in order for it to stay wet and moist.

Water Preparation

As previously mentioned, the most important thing you need to take care of while growing microgreens hydroponically is ensuring the pH level of water. Again, if the pH level is nowhere near 6, you can always adjust it by adding some baking soda or fresh lemon. Keep in mind that this adjustment is a one-time thing; you can store the water for future use in case there’s extra. 

Steps to Grow Your Microgreens

Garden cress, young plants on old wooden table. Lepidium sativum, edible herb. Microgreen. Peppery flavor and aroma. Also called mustard and cress, garden pepper cress, pepperwort or pepper grass.

Now, we’ve finally reached the most interesting part of the article- how to grow your microgreens. As promised, I have given below a step by step guide on how to grow your microgreens without soil. So, sit back, relax and let the information sink in!

  1. First, take the growing medium you prepared and place it in the tray. If the growing medium is coconut coir, spread the coir evenly on the tray. You need to make sure that the coir fills up to an inch. In case you opted for growing pads, you’ll have to place a single mat on to the tray.
  2. The next step is to place the seeds evenly on the tray. I would recommend two or three tablespoons. You can also check for instructions on the packet if you’re unsure. Again, make sure that the seeds are evenly spread. (I can’t stress enough on the word evenly!) If there are spots without seeds or there are too many seeds in one spot, the result will be of bad quality. Remember that since microgreens don’t take much time to grow, maybe a few weeks, they won’t take up much space for their growth.
  3. The third step after spreading the seeds is to moisturize them with the help of your sprayer. After this, take another moist tray to cover the tray with seeds. You need to make sure that you don’t completely cover the tray as it needs air to breathe. Now take the tray to a dark and warm room for it to germinate, which will take about 3-4 days. Remember to keep the tray moistened by spraying water 20 times every 12 hours.
  4. Once the germination process begins, take the tray out of the room to a room that has access to light so that it can start the photosynthesis process. Now, for the next 10 days, you can relieve your sprayer of its duty and get hold of a cup to pour water in the tray. After about 15-20 minutes, remove extra water from the tray. This is very crucial for the growth of your microgreens, so make sure to do this religiously!
  5. Step 5 – Now, all that’s left for you is to harvest the microgreens. But how do you make sure that it’s harvest time? Simple, just look out for true leaves which will be identical to future leaves. For harvesting, get a pair of scissors and make sure to cut the microgreens a little above the growing medium. This way, you won’t be cutting the roots of the baby greens. 

Now that your microgreens are ready to eat, make sure to do so the same day. If not, you can store them in a cool place between some damp paper towels. This will keep the microgreens fresh for a few days. Remember, you don’t have to seal them in a bag because they need air to breathe.

Final Thoughts!

So, there you go- a detailed guide to grow microgreens without soil. Interesting and fun, isn’t it? Not only does growing microgreens hydroponically keep you preoccupied, but it can also serve as a great hobby as well. And for those who have a green thumb, you’ll know exactly how it feels to see your babies grow! Now go ahead and get working and serve these delicious microgreens on your sandwich or burger. Trust me, nothing tastes better than greens which you grow right at your home!

How to Harvest Lettuce So It Keeps Growing! The Right Way

Lettuce is actually made up of a crown with leaves growing in waves radiating from that crown. If you are patient and you know where to cut, you can keep cutting the leaves as they grow further and further away from the crown without having to worry about killing the lettuce. The lettuce can keep growing as you harvest wave after wave of lettuce leaves.

The great thing about harvesting lettuce this way is that you get a longer supply of lettuce leaves.

Typically, gardeners would harvest the crown and its surrounding leaves once and for all. When you do that, the plant dies. There is nothing left even though the roots are still in the ground. There’s just simply not enough plant material to keep producing leaves, much less a crown.

It All Boils Down to How You Cut

First, you need a very sharp set of scissors. This is crucial. Here are our favorite pair of pruning shears!

You have to use the right tool because if it isn’t sharp, you cannot cut at the right angle. It might also take you several attempts to cut off the leaves and you might end up cutting too deeply that you damage the crown. It’s much easier for you to make mistakes when you’re using a dull or badly prepared set of scissors.

It’s also a good idea to sanitize your scissors with some sort of rubbing alcohol. You have to do this before you cut leaves, and right after. By doing so, you cut down on the chances of contaminating the remaining plant.

Remember, you’re going to be cutting leaves in such a way as to preserve the life of the plant. You want to keep the crown growing so it would produce wave after wave of leaves for you. It’s hard to do that if your leaf cutting leaves contaminants on the crown that ends up rotting it.

Next, make sure to harvest early in the day. The closer you get to the morning, the better. Try to cut leaves before the sun rises or as close to the morning as you can. This ensures that the leaves are very crispy. The crispier the leaves, the more precise your cutting.

Remember, you have to cut the leaves precisely because you don’t want to damage the crown. As much as possible, you have to cut the outer leaves one inch away from the crown. You have to leave this much leaf matter on the lettuce crown so that it can adequately protect this part of the plant. This is the growing part and it has to have enough shade to continue growing at full speed.

Make sure to also cut only leaves that are long enough. This is where a lot of gardeners mess up. They think that as long as the leaf is a few inches away from the crown, it’s fair game. Not so.

The leaf has to have a total length of a minimum of 3 inches, and optimally 6 inches. This way, there will be enough leaf matter left on the plant so the crown can keep growing and keep providing you with wave after wave of leaves.

Don’t Cut Back on Watering

Once you have started harvesting lettuce leaves, maintain the water intake of your plant. Water it as regularly as possible. This ensures that it will get the nutrient it needs to keep producing leaves.

This also prevents the plant from going to seed. This is called bolting. And when you put a lot of stress on the plant, namely through cutting its leaves, it has a tendency to preserve its nutrients and divert it to seed production. This makes the lettuce tougher and more fibrous.

When you water it in the same amount as when it first entered its vegetative state, it’s less likely that the plant would bolt despite the amount of stress it’s experiencing from your leaf cutting.

Be on the lookout for tall growth in the center of the lettuce plant. If you notice that the center of the lettuce plant is growing too tall, cut it down. This can delay the bolting process.

Remember, when you cut your lettuce, you’re causing it a lot of stress. And one of its coping mechanisms is to go to seed.

One smart way to relieve your lettuce of stress is to plant different batches throughout the growing season.  You can collect from another batch while you allow some time for the group you previously harvested to recover. That means you’ll have a steady supply all season long with this staggered method of harvesting.

Not only will it be beneficial to your crop, but you can also plant enough groups so that you will shorten the time waiting for leaves to mature. The next batch would have grown to the proper length after you’ve already cut from the others just a few days earlier.

Resilient Lettuce Varieties

There are three hardy types of lettuce than lend themselves well to frequent harvesting.

Black-seeded Simpson lettuce is a tall variety with large frilly leaves and has been around for more than a century. They can withstand dry, hot, and frosty climates while having one of the most tender and nicely flavored lettuce leaves. It’s no wonder why they have remained popular for many years. 

Lingua di Canarino or “canary tongue” lettuce is a variety from Italy that’s easy to cultivate and has plenty of leaves. It is also known as oaked leafed lettuce because of the shape of the light green leaves.  They have a crisp dark green head, but their leaves are medium-sized and have a light taste. This variety is known for having high resistance to bolting.

Merlot is a loose-leaf variety known for its antioxidant properties and has striking burgundy colored leaves. They are sure to be an eye-catcher in any garden being the darkest red-colored lettuce. Because they’re resistant to bolting, they can endure cut-and-come-again harvesting. They can thrive in both hot and cold climates as well.

How Much Cold Can Succulents Tolerate?

How much cold can succulents tolerate? Well, there’s a big difference between temperature tolerance and the ideal temperature for your succulent plants to look their very best. For example, in terms of Fahrenheit, if you want your succulents to preserve their deep colors, 40 degrees would be ideal for most succulent varieties.

Keeping Succulent Colors Vibrant

On the other hand, if you want a nice flush mid-range color between deep colors and variegated or exotic colors, you should gun for temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, if you want the very best colors of your succulent plant to really come out, you have to aim for the ideal temperature range of 90. A little bit above or a little bit below would be fine.

It’s important to note that for optimal color, you should keep the temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But as temperatures plummet, succulents can tolerate quite a bit of cold, but their tolerance really depends on their variety.

Cold-Adapted Succulents

Generally speaking, most succulent varieties can tolerate 40 degrees Fahrenheit and above. That’s pretty much the low point for most succulent varieties. There are, however, specially cold-adapted succulents like sempervivum.

This species can do well at temperatures as low as 30 degrees if not lower. They are quite hardy and can tolerate really cold temperatures. But they are pretty much the outlier. If you are keeping a tropical variety like lithops or euphorbia, you should aim for, at the very least, 50 degrees. That is the minimum tolerance for these tropical succulents.

Another variety of succulent that can tolerate deep freezes of -30 degrees is Stonecrop Sedum. These hardy plants can also withstand high temperatures under the full sun.  Not only that, their colorful fleshy leaves can store enough water to last a 3-month drought.  They also thrive on poor soil so you can place them practically anywhere. 

You have to look at the background of the plant species that you’re thinking of cultivating. If the succulent originated from the tropics, you should aim for an indoor garden temperature range starting in the mid ’50s. If the succulent comes from a more temperate part of the world, then you have a lot more leeway as far as the lower end of the temperature scale goes.

But you really can’t go too crazy. There has yet to be a succulent that can withstand freezing weather. So 30 degrees, as a rule of thumb, should be your lowest threshold. There are workarounds to this, of course.

Using Air Blowers for Your Succulents

You can use air blowers. You can turn on a fan at a fairly moderate speed to circulate the air in your indoor growing space. In many cases, this is all you need to do to properly modulate and control internal heat levels in your growing space. How come?

Let the power of air convection keep your plants warm. When air is trapped in an indoor space, warm air usually rises. And as it cools down, it starts to sink. When you turn on a fan, you push the warm air down to your plants.

So you end up moving warm air from the top part of the room to where your plants are. In many cases, assuming you have a heater or some other source of warmth and provided that there’s enough sunlight, this may be all you need. Keeping the airflow going would ensure that they will remain relatively dry, which will help them ward off pests and rot.

How Winter Affects Succulents

The hardy succulents like Stonecrop Sedum and Sempervivum can stay outdoors in temperatures below freezing. They like it better outside, even during winter because they need a lot of light. You can take them inside, but be sure to place them near windows.

Succulents regularly shed their leaves as they grow and replace them with new ones. The key to keeping them healthy is to remove all of these old leaves. If those dried leaves are still on them by the time the cold sets in, they will become soggy and begin to rot.  It will expose the succulent to infection and disease. 

On the other hand, winter would be very tough for the softer varieties.  They’re not tolerant of frost and will have to remain indoors or else perish outside. Frost will expand the liquids inside the leaves and this will burst the cell walls, which causes irreparable damage. 

Keep in mind that they are also sensitive to sudden and extreme temperature changes, so bring them in before it dips below the freezing. From here on out, you can only take them back outside when spring arrives.

Dormancy in Succulents

Depending on the variety, there are three different dormancy states succulents go through in the cold of winter.  Some grow, while the others will remain either partially or fully dormant. 

Most types will go somewhat dormant and have only limited growth. But there are those varieties that will become fully dormant and start shedding their leaves. The reason they stop growing is because they’re trying to survive. They may seem to be dying, but don’t be alarmed. Their roots will remain intact. Once winter is over and temperatures drop, these succulents will begin to recover and sprout leaves again.

All of these succulents that become dormant need less water during winter.  It will take longer for the water to evaporate.  Water them thoroughly but not frequently, and only when the soil is dry. You have to make sure that the soil will drain quickly and be dry between waterings.  Sometimes succulents can go without additional water for an entire month, which is just fine during the cold season.

They also don’t need any fertilizer during the entire season, but be sure to feed them fertilizer one last time before winter.

Some varieties, however, begin their growth spurts in the colder months.  You can give them more water and fertilizer during this period. 

You can start giving all your succulents some half-strength liquid fertilizer when spring finally arrives. Gradually reintroduce them to the stronger direct sunlight.

Final Thoughts

There are so many succulent varieties out there, which need differing temperatures. But in general, the general idea is the same. Hopefully, this article can provide some assistance. Happy Gardening!!

Are Your Mint Leaves Turning Yellow? Here’s Why!

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What causes the leaves of your mint plant to turn yellow? The most likely causes are overly moist soil, over-watering, and not enough sunlight. Let’s tackle each of these causes in order of probability.

The most common reason why the leaves of this otherwise rapidly growing herb would turn yellow involves overly moist soil. Your soil can retain quite a bit of water depending on its components. For example, if your soil is mostly clay, it’s drainage is going to be very different than if your planting medium is mostly sand.

Clay tends to hold quite a bit of moisture. This can lead to root rot. This, of course, can have a very negative effect on your mint plant’s health. If root rot is not the problem, the clay in your soil might just retain too much water so as to choke your plant. You might even say that your plant is drowning, and that’s exactly what would be happening in this case.

Please understand that plants normally breathe through their leaves. But they also respire through their roots. When there’s not enough aeration at the root level, this can cause a lot of health problems for the plant and in the case of fast-growing mint, this can lead to yellow leaves.

Moist soil can lead to fungus issues

Whenever there’s excess moisture in the soil, fungus problems are not far behind. A wide variety of fungi species prefer moist soil. They can spread easily through the soil and this leads to a wilting disease that severely restricts water flow in plants.

The mildest version of this disease produces leaf yellowing. Believe it or not, this is the least of your worries because if your mint plants get hit by the worst forms of fungi, your plants will die. They can be so virulent that they flat out choke water transport through the stem of your plant. Put in another way, fungus, regardless of type, are bad news.

Verticillium Wilt

In particular, be careful of verticillium wilt. This is one of the most common fungal infections afflicting mint plants which cause leaf yellowing and other problems.

Rust

Rust is another common fungal attack that can affect mint.  It can cause severe stunting to your mints and can even kill them.  You’ll start seeing what seems like blisters at the bottom of the leaves. Eventually, the leaves would turn yellow and start falling off.

Flame weeding is effective in killing rust.  It’s a thermal method to kill weeds with flames.  In the case of rust in a small garden, however, a propane torch is quickly passed over the infected areas of the plant.

If the infection is severe, it’s best to remove the plant quickly and destroy it.  The healthy plants should be transplanted to a new bed and monitored regularly for symptoms.  It would also be a good idea to burn the roots in the infected bed to kill the spores on the soil.

Insects

Another common cause is insects, in particular, aphids. You can tell if you have an aphid problem on your hands if your mint leaves pucker, curl, and then turn yellow. This is due to the fact that aphids are underneath the leaves feeding.

They suck nutrients and this leads to yellowing. The good news is you can easily handle aphids by using organic insecticides involving soap mixtures. If you want to get rid of your aphid problem as quickly as possible, you can use a wide variety of insecticidal soap formulations.

Powdery Mildew

Another common cause of yellow mint leaves is powdering mildew. You can tell your plant is suffering from this when you flip over the leaves and you see this powdery, grayish fungus growing underneath. This is a serious problem because not only are they unsightly and turn your mint leaves yellow, but they actually kill the leaves and as you know, plants without leaves aren’t going to remain alive for long.

So, it’s really important to get a handle on the problem by spraying fungicide on afflicted leaves and surrounding areas. You’d also do well by inoculating the soil with fungicide to prevent the problem from coming back

Underwatering

If your mint isn’t getting enough water, its automatic response would be to drop leaves to conserve water. The leaves would turn yellow and then wilt before falling off. If you see this happening and notice that the soil around the base is dry, then the most likely reason is that your mint is thirsty.

Try to remember the last time you gave it some water.  If you realize you may have been remiss in watering your mint, then make it a point that it gets the attention it needs. But if you’ve been watering it regularly, then there may be another reason why your mint is acting up.

Soil and Water Quality

Deficiency in nutrients will cause mint leaves to turn yellow. The soil may lack some nutrients your mint needs like nitrogen.  Hard water can also be the culprit because it will cause salt and calcium to build up around the roots that will deprive your mint of water.

Shade

In certain low nutrient situations, too much shade and inadequate nutrition can lead to yellow mint leaves. This problem is pretty straightforward. In an indoor setting, you’ll know this is the case if the leaves are yellowing on the side facing away from the source of light.  You only need to move the plant to where there’s a lot more light or you may want to open your shade or direct your light source so it can reach more parts of your mint plants.

Also, it’s a good idea to schedule the light cycle in your indoor space in such a way that your plant gets a longer light exposure. You probably would have to wing it and improvise until you get the right amount of light exposure to your plant.  If it’s still not enough, you might consider rigging up some artificial light.

Growing Microgreens in Coconut Coir – No Soil Required!

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First things first, what is coconut coir (or coco coir)?

Coconut coir is plant fiber made from the coconut husk. And growing microgreens in coconut coir is definitely a viable option as a growing medium.

pea microgreens

The coconut, of course, is the world’s largest seed. Inside the tough coconut shell is soft coconut meat that can be turned into coconut milk, coconut cream, and other products. The shell can also be processed into a wide range of industrial products. The husk can, in turn, be recycled to produce coconut coir.

The reason why a lot of gardeners are turning to coconut coir for microgreen cultivation is actually quite simple. Coconut coir is 100% organic. It will degrade naturally.

You don’t have to worry about it filling up landfills and taking forever to break down. In fact, coconut coir can easily be composted if you mix it with the right activator ingredients and composting materials.

It is also sustainable because coconut coir is a byproduct of coconut production. Coconut is grown every year and you don’t have to worry about depleting a finite global resource when you use coconut coir unlike petroleum.

Growing Microgreens in Coconut Coir

The first step in growing microgreens in coconut coir is to make sure that you use a properly processed coconut coir. My favorite brand is here!

In its raw form, coconut coir is made of really long fibers. You can’t use it in this form. It is just too long. You have to get coconut coir that is pre-chopped up and ultimately allowed to break down quite a bit.

Put simply it should have been “fermented”, much like wood chips are left exposed to the elements so microorganisms in the air would work together to break down wood chips into usable finer mulch. The same goes with coconut coir.

While you can get coconut coir that is freshy harvested and cut, it’s a good idea to go with a source that has allowed it to naturally break down into finer form. In this form, coconut coir is easier to work with. It’s softer and it’s more accommodating to your seeds.

It’s also more flexible in these that when your microgreens start developing roots within the coconut coir fiber, it’s not going to be constricted. This ensures that the plant can grow optimally to the desired height so you can have a sizeable harvest.

This is a big deal when growing microgreens because your profitability, as well as the overall flavor and texture profile of the final product depends on the right length of your crop. And if you grow on a medium that leads to uneven heights and stages of growth, the texture might not be all that consistent. The same goes with your crop’s overall profile.

How to Grow Microgreens in Coconut Coir

Step 1

The first thing you need to do is to gather all the materials you will need. Pick the seed variety of your choice. For a single bed of microgreens, you’ll need two 10×20-inch plastic trays and another of the same size with holes.

Step 2

Then you’ll need the coconut coir for your growing media, which is easier to work with than soil.  Be sure it’s the peat type that you get, and not the chips. They come in bags or brick form.

Step 3

Lastly, you’ll need pH Down and some nutrient solution (our favorite brand is Fox Farm). The pH down will allow you to adjust water acidity levels higher, which most microgreens love.  The nutrient solution is optional.  The seeds can germinate without fertilizer, but adding more mineral nutrients tend to increase yields.

Step 4

Unpack the coconut coir. If it’s a brick, cut a chunk of it you’ll need and put it in a large container. Pour water on this, and it will start to expand.  Once it fully expands, break it down into little pieces with your hands.  Keep adding water as needed until it has an even consistency.

Step 5

Now get the tray with holes and fill it with coir.  Make sure you spread it as evenly as you can to get a nice flat surface. Put this tray on one of the regular trays, which will serve as a catch basin.

Step 6

Grab your seeds and sprinkle them over the entire surface, making sure you get as much even coverage as you can. Mist the seeds generously with a spray bottle filled with the pH-balanced water.

Step 7

These seeds need a warm and dark place to germinate properly.  Get your other tray and put it on the bed face up.  As the seeds start to grow during this blackout period, they will push against the bottom of the tray, and this will help them break free of their husks.

Step 8

Be sure to weigh down the top tray with something around 10 lbs and store it on a shelf, ideally somewhere around 70F. Keep in mind that some crops don’t need weighing down during germination, so find out if that applies to your seeds.

Step 9 

You’ll need to mist the seeds lightly and weigh them back down with the top tray twice a day for about 3-7 days depending on the type of plant.  During this time, you can lift the middle tray and take a peek to see if any roots have started coming out of the holes. 

Step 10

Once you see the roots forming, you need to mist the bottom tray as well to make sure they don’t dry out and turn brown. You will know when you don’t have to weigh them down anymore when you can’t see the husks at the top. When that happens, cover them with the bottom of the top tray facing up this time.

Microgreens are more convenient to harvest if they’re taller, and they stop gaining height once you take them out of the blackout phase. So once they’ve reached the desired height, you can stop covering them. 

Step 11

From here on out, give them water mixed with both the pH down and nutrient solution, and pour it on the bottom tray. The microgreens will begin growing leaves, and you’ll need to water them morning, noon, and night until they’re ready to harvest.  Make sure that they receive a lot of light!

Give it about 7-10 days and you’ll have tasty microgreens to enjoy!

What is the Difference Between Microgreens and Sprouts?

As microgreens take America by storm, more and more people are putting these amazing superfoods into their salads and sandwiches. It seems that regardless of who you ask, more and more people are excited about microgreens.

A lot of people are talking about the tremendous amount of nutrients, vitamins, and the antioxidants typical microgreen blends bring to the table. In this excitement, it’s very easy to lose track of the difference between microgreens and sprouts. In fact, for a lot of people who are really into microgreens, they’re one and the same.

No, they’re not. Understanding this distinction is important because you don’t want to overpay the next time you go to your local grocery. You may be there to pick up a nice packet of microgreens, but you may be thinking that you should just pick up sprouts instead.

The worst thing that you can do is to think that they’re one and the same. There is a big difference.

What are Microgreens?

Microgreens are vegetables like radishes, broccoli, as well as flowers like sunflowers, grown from seed to a vegetative state.

Pay close attention to the last part of that sentence. We’re talking vegetative state. In other words, they are several weeks into their growth cycle so that they are high enough, long enough, and wide enough to start developing some of the characteristics of their adult stages.

This depends on the variety of plant we’re looking at. A 3-week old broccoli plant is going to be different from a 2-week old radish or pea. But at the end of the process, they’re way past their cotyledon stage. After the blackout phase, microgreens are allowed to grow further so they’ll need more light, water, and nutrients as they start developing leaves.

Microgreens Actually Hit the Vegetative State

This is the key difference between microgreens and sprouts. When you’re harvesting microgreens, you’re getting them at their tender, crispy, succulent vegetative state. They haven’t quite gone through the major internal hormonal stage that would toughen them up.

This is why they’re great for salads and sandwiches. They have a crunchy texture, and depending on the microgreen blend that you’re eating, they can deliver quite a nice range of flavor accents. From tangy to slightly sweet, to even aromatic, to celery-like textures and tastes, they are quite versatile. They definitely deliver a much-needed dose of diversity to your palate.

However, you shouldn’t confuse microgreens with baby greens as well.  Baby greens are leafy plants that have grown their first real leaves but aren’t allowed to get bigger, so people harvest them before they mature.

As far as flavor concerned, microgreens are tastier than sprouts and their full-grown counterparts.

The Big Difference with Sprouts

Sprouts, on the other hand, are cultivated primarily to stay within their cotyledon stage. Cotyledon are the two halves of the seed that provide sustenance to the baby plant as it sets down roots. Sprouts don’t need light or nutrient solutions to begin germinating. However, they do need a lot of moisture, but they don’t require soil to grow. More often than not, they’re germinated in water.

For example, if you plant a mung bean into a growing medium, the mung bean would sprout a root that will draw sustenance from the growing medium or liquid. It would also split the two halves of the seed that contained it, and then it would grow a stem.

The stem would be very light in color. It’s very sensitive, yet crispy.

The idea behind growing sprouts is to not let the plant get way past its two cotyledon stage. You’re harvesting the plant for its root and its tender stem, and not much else. In fact, if you notice that your sprout’s cotyledon has withered or fallen away, then chances are, it’s too mature to be eaten as a sprout.

Why Eat Sprouts?

When you eat seed sprouts at the two cotyledon stage, you get to enjoy a dramatic increase in the nutrient and vitamin content of that plant.

Put simply, if you were to take the seed of the plant before it sprouted, you’re going to get only so much nutrients from it. But once it sprouts, it’s as if all these other nutrients came out of nowhere. That’s how explosive the nutrient profile of sprouts can be. Not to mention, its texture is going to be different because now you’re going to be eating its root and its stem.

Also, sprouts can be eaten whole. You don’t have to necessarily cut off its roots if you grow them in the right medium. For example, mung bean sprouts are usually grown on water or are misted so they can be consumed whole.

Flavor Differences: Microgreens vs. Sprouts

The different parts of the plant have slightly different tastes and texture profiles. This is not the case with microgreens. Microgreens can be grown in a wide range of mediums – including without soil. But generally speaking, their roots are cut off so you enjoy mostly the middle and the top parts of the plant.

Depending of course on the specific microgreen variety that you are eating, you might be leaving a lot of flavor behind when you cut it off a couple of millimeters above the roots.

Lifecycle Differences: Microgreens vs. Sprouts

Another great difference between microgreens and sprouts is their life cycle. Sprouts have a much shorter planting and harvesting cycle than microgreens. We’re talking of a few weeks’ difference. That means growing sprouts is cheaper and you can harvest them faster, which is good news if you plan to sell them.  Microgreens will need longer TLC before they’re harvested.

This, of course, can have a big impact on your bottom line if you’re trying to decide whether to sell microgreens or sprouts at your local organic farmer’s market. Obviously, the more crops you harvest, the more money you stand to make. Since microgreens have a longer growing period, you harvest less. The good news is, depending on the microgreen variety you plan, this may be offset by the higher pound price of the microgreen you are selling.

How to Handle Brown Spots on Basil Leaves (…and can you still eat it?)

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If you have been growing basil in your garden for quite some time, you would notice that some plants would have leaves that have brown spots. You might be thinking that these leaves are automatically bad and that you shouldn’t eat them. After all, the main reason why people raise basil plants in the first place is to clip the leaves to add to their favorite Italian dish.

Whether we’re talking about a few whole basil leaves arranged on a margherita pizza, or ground up in a pesto pasta sauce, basil is quite a stand by in traditional classic Italian cuisine. Seeing brown spots on basil leaves might seem like a monkey wrench has been thrown into your Italian gardening plants. But in the big scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal.

What Causes Brown Spots on Basil?

There are several reasons why basil would develop brown spots. Almost all of these have to do with other microorganisms. In other words, the plants are infected. The most common is fusarium wilt.

Fusarium Oxysporum

There’s a fungus in the soil that is called fusarium oxysporum. This fungus is spread through transporting infected soil from one plant to another.

Fusarium wilt usually creates brown spots on basil leaves until the plant eventually dies. The reason for this is that fusarium oxysporum kills the plant’s ability to transport water. Without water transport from the roots, the basil plant eventually dies. So, if you see brown spots and a lot of your leaves are beginning to wilt, you might have a case of fusarium wilt on your hands.

Fungal Leaf Spot

Fungal leaf spots are caused by another fungus called colletotrichum. This fungus attacks only the leaves.

At first there would be a small spot, and then the leaf would start to brown, and eventually, it will fall off. This tends to be fairly localized to the leaves. Now, depending on how severe the infestation of this leaf-based fungus is, your basil plant might end up dying.

In fairly controlled infections, just a few leaves are affected. They look really bad, and they start to fall off. But since they don’t really have much contact with the rest of the plant, all the other leaves are spared.

In extreme cases, all leaves are pretty much infected, and this leads to your basil plant completely shedding its leaves. Just as getting its water transport system cut off by fusarium wilt is fatal, completely losing its leaves due to fungal infection is equally bad.

While you can’t do much about fusarium wilt, you can do a lot to prevent fungal leaf spots. Be proactive. Once you see infected leaves, just cut them off quickly. As much as possible, cut off whole branches. This usually does the trick unless there’s a spot that you missed.

Downy Mildew

First, the good news. Downy mildew is not usually fatal to basil plants, but they can be annoying. Basically, when you see yellowing or browning on the leaves, this is just the beginning of downy mildew infestation.

You have to look under the leaves to see if there is some sort of fuzzy powder present there. This is a clear indication of downy mildew.

To avoid this problem, make sure you get clean seeds. Also, try to water the roots of your basil plants as directly as possible. Downy mildew requires moisture to thrive.

Cercospora Leaf Spot

It’s a common mild fungal infection caused by too much moisture on the plant.  The common culprit is an overhead irrigation system that keeps the basil soaked in water beads. It may also be from improper watering of the plant by hand. 

Simply put, you don’t want your basil always draped in moisture. It’s the ideal condition for different types of fungal infections to develop, and not just Cercospora. The trick is to keep your basil dry by carefully watering the soil around it.

Some growers love to mist their plants regularly, which is one of the worst things that you can do. Sure, you can rinse your basil with water every once in a while if it becomes dusty or dirty. Ironically, it can even wash out fungal spores. However, you have to make sure the plants don’t get wet for extended periods, as it will allow the fungus to germinate.

Cercospora is pretty easy to get rid of if you spot it early. Just prune the infected leaves and dispose of them properly.

Preventive Measures

Generally speaking, never get water on the leaves.  As much as possible, water the soil near and around the base of your basil.  Spacing your plants a bit further apart would help stop the spread of diseases. You could also try to put a layer of mulch around the basil to keep it healthy.  

Is it Safe to Use Fungicides?

Organic fungicides are the most trusted by gardeners who grow their own vegetables to eat.  Here are a few we recommend:

  • GardenSafe Fungicide3 – This one does several jobs. It serves as an insecticide, fungicide, and miticide. It’s a triple threat! It is also OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed, so you can rest assured that you’re using an organic product on your basil babies!
  • Trifecta Crop Control – Another triple threat product! And it is also OMRI listed! It is on the pricier side, but it comes highly recommended by gardening pros.

Furthermore, fungicides can either be curative or preventive.  The preventive ones are applied to keep the fungus from developing on plants.  Curative ones are more of a last resort and used when an infection has already set in. Some fungicides can do both.

Can You Eat Brown Basil Leaves?

Here’s a rule of thumb. As long as there are no fungal powders from downy mildew or fungal slime on the otherwise brown-spotted leaf, you can actually eat it. The question is whether you want to eat it because the flavor profile might not be there.

But assuming that you’re looking to use as much of your basil plant as possible, you can safely eat browned basil leaves.

There are alternative uses. You can dry these leaves and add them to your Italian spice mix. You can use brown leaves in the bottom of sandwiches to add a little bit of basil flavor. You can cut out the nasty-looking parts and add the bits and pieces to fresh salads.

9 Easy to Grow Vegetables for First Time Gardeners

First-time gardeners can look forward to a fairly long list of plants that have proven themselves to be quite newbie-friendly. You don’t necessarily have to have a green thumb to get into indoor gardening.

As long as you can stick to a schedule and you are sufficiently eager to garden, there are lots of low maintenance, low impact plants you can cut your teeth on, figuratively and literally, as you master indoor gardening.

Check out our article on the Kratky method, if you want to learn how to grow most veggies! It works great for lettuce in particular.

Here’s a short list of easy to cultivate plants. They’re listed in no particular order.

Lettuce

Lettuce is very easy to grow. It has very small seeds. You can put several seeds in one planting medium, and once it starts to sprout, you can weed out the seedlings to ensure that the stronger lettuce seedlings have enough space and access the nutrients to fully mature.

Scallions

Scallions are popularly known by their other name “green onions”. They grow from a small bulb or from seed.

Beginner gardeners usually use starter bulbs to get the hang of growing scallions. They don’t take much effort. You pretty much just plant them in your growing medium, water them regularly, and they pretty much grow on autopilot.

Carrots

Carrots are root crops that are surprisingly very easy to grow. You just need to plant carrot seeds into your growing medium and wait for the seedlings to sprout. Pick out the weak seedlings to make space for the stronger seedlings, and that’s pretty much it. They don’t require much hand cultivation and management for them to grow fully.

Radishes

Radishes grow very fast, and sometimes in only a matter of days. They’re a root veggie that produces a mildly pungent but juicy and sweet flavor. They’re also a great source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. They’re rich in fiber and add a crunchy texture to salads and other meals. 

Radishes don’t require too much attention, which makes them ideal for those just starting with a new greenhouse. Just burry them an inch into the soil spread out an inch from each other and add some organic compost. They’ll require sufficient water that keeps the soil wet but not too saturated for the roots to start decaying.

Onions

Onions are a vital ingredient in many tasty recipes. They’re also a very resilient plant and can survive even during wintertime. As soon as you notice their tops starting to wilt, they’re ready to be harvested. It takes about 3-4 months before you can pick them, ideally in the fall.

The easiest way to plant them is with onion sets, which have small bulbs intended for planting. They grow best in raised beds, and you can also grow them from seeds. In cold climates, the perfect time to plant them is during the spring, since they need milder temperatures at around 10C to germinate successfully. They do need constant feeding to grow into big bulbs, and it’s good to use a fertilizer that’s rich in nitrogen every couple of weeks.

Garlic

Many culinary experts consider garlic as a superfood that provides many health benefits. They have antibiotic properties and help prevent heart disease.

They’re also a great source of vitamin C and b6, as well as other essential nutrients and minerals the body needs. It’s often used in a lot of popular dishes around the world and is one of the easiest to grow in a greenhouse.

Cloves are divided from a fresh bulb and are pushed two inches into the soil while keeping their husks. If you want bigger bulbs, choose larger cloves to plant.  Next, cover them with a layer of organic mulch composed of hay or dried leaves. After that, you can top them off with fertilizer compost. 

Potatoes

Potato is another staple food and is an easy crop to grow that you can harvest all year round. Growing potatoes in a greenhouse is a sure way to protect them from frost. You can plant seed potatoes in beds just as quickly as in farm fields. All you need is to mix your soil with some organic fertilizer.

They can start to germinate out of the ground, and some gardeners even wait for this to happen before they start planting them. You can also cut large ones in half and plant both pieces separately.  Just make sure that they have bulging eyes.  It would help if you allowed the cut surfaces to harden for at least a day. It will prevent these exposed areas from rotting in the moist soil.

Kale

Kale is very popular nowadays in most farmer’s markets throughout the United States. It’s easy to see why. It’s a great source of fiber, it is very healthy, it has antioxidants, and it is also packed with nutrition. All the good stuff!

On top of this long and impressive list of advantages, kale is surprisingly easy to grow. You just need to plant kale seeds in your growing medium or in a strip and pick out the weak seedlings and everything pretty much goes on autopilot.

Microgreens

Microgreens are taking community gardening throughout the United States by storm. Ideally suited for indoor cultivation, microgreens don’t take up much space but grow quickly and cost quite a bit of money. As more and more discriminating diners look for the exotic and varied taste of microgreens, you can bet that you can make quite a bit of money with this type of indoor horticulture.

The surprising thing about microgreens is that there’s a wide range of plants that you can grow and sell as microgreens. Some are extremely easy to take care of in an indoor setting. So, if you’re looking for a great mix of high commercial value and ease of cultivation, the place to start are microgreens.

Keep the tips above in mind if you are a first-time gardener or if you are helping somebody who is. Indoor gardening doesn’t have to feel like you’re pulling teeth. There are crops out there that are fairly straightforward and easy to manage in an indoor setting.

Are Basil Flowers Edible? Well, It Depends…

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Usually, when people eat basil, they prefer the leaves. This pretty much explains 95% of culinary basil use. For the remaining 5%, there are some gourmets as well as artisan chefs that swear by the distinctive aroma and texture of basil flowers.

The good news is that basil flowers are quite edible. It all depends on how mature they are.

You Can Eat Basil Flowers. The Question is, Should You?

Well, it depends on what dishes you use in the grid and how mature the flowers are.

Should You Let Your Basil Plant Blossom?

Source: Wikimedia

The first question that you need to ask yourself when it comes to harvesting basil flowers for your recipes is whether this is a good idea or not.

If you have been raising basil for even a short period of time, you would know that the moment flowers develop on your basil plant, your basil plant starts to change.

Before, you could look forward to really fragrant, fluffy and tender leaves. You just love pinching them or adding them to your soup or just munching on them. They’re that easy to handle and this is what you planted basil for in the first place.

Well, a lot of that goes away the moment your basil plant develops flowers. And if you let the flowers mature into seed pods, you are basically looking at pretty much a different plant. Seriously.

If your idea of a basil plant is a fairly succulent plant that you can just pinch off parts anywhere, you’re going to be looking at a different plant because once a basil gives off flowers and those flowers turn into seeds, it becomes woody. It’s like a shrub almost and the leaves are no longer as fragrant as before, nor are they as tender.

In fact, it would seem that a lot of the taste that you’ve been counting on is basically gone. And all of this is brought by the internal biochemical changes triggered by allowing the plant to develop flowers.

This is why a lot of basil gardeners are always on the lookout for any flower buds. Once they see these buds come up in certain parts of the branches of their basil plants, alarm bells go off. They spring into action. They just nip the flowers literally in the bud because they don’t want their basil, as sweet, succulent and tender as they are, to turn into essentially almost woody shrubs.

But if you are looking to raise basil for edible flowers, you can. Understand that you basically are going to have to let go of its leaves because its leaves are not going to be as tender as before. You basically are just growing the plant for its flowers.

Basil Flowers are Edible, But Texture Varies

While it’s true that you can eat basil flowers pretty much throughout their whole life cycle, you have to also consider texture. Because when you harvest basil flowers too late, they’re almost ready to produce seed and they can be very tough. There might be some cellulose-heavy portions inside that may feel a bit too tough as you bite down on them.

As a rule of thumb, it’s generally a good idea to harvest basil flowers when they have just begun to transition from buds. So, the moment they start producing petals, that would be a good time because they’re tender enough, and at the same time they have their distinct flavor so you get the best of both worlds. But the longer you wait past this point, the tougher the texture will get.

Some people would love the extra crunchiness, while a lot more don’t care for it. So, it really all boils down to your personal taste and the timing of your edible basil flower harvest.

Source: Jalexartis/Flickr

Harvesting Basil Flowers

Many experienced growers find that allowing the basil to bloom won’t alter the plant’s edible characteristics suddenly just as long as they pinch the flowers off as soon as possible.

Lusher leaf growth will continue as it did before.  The trick is not to let the flowers linger on the plant for too long.

Fortunately, for most tastes, this is when the flower is most tender and palatable.  You can snip the entire flowering branch off without detaching the petals from the stamen or even the whole flower from its stem.  With the flowers gone, the plant’s focus will shift back to growing new leaves, and it will become bushier.

Ways of Consuming Basil Flowers

Depending on your basil’s breed, the flowers may be pink, purple, or white.  Sweet basil is one of the most popular varieties of homegrown basil, and it has a white-colored flower. Of course, not all basil varieties taste the same, and the same goes for their flowers. It’s up to you to determine which one is your favorite.

Since basil is a very edible plant, you can add the entire flowering top to the dish you’re cooking. For salads, you can add the flowers with their stems still intact and toss them with the other greens. They are also great for garnishing your favorite meals like pasta, pizzas, cheeses, or even meat and other vegetables.

Basil flower oil is simply olive oil enhanced with basil flower flavor.  Wash the flowers and pat them dry, then drop them in a clean glass jar and fill it with olive oil. You can also make basil flower vinegar for use in salad dressings.  It’s the same procedure, only this time you add vinegar instead of olive oil and let it sit for a week before you start using it. It will ensure that the flower’s flavor would totally infuse with the vinegar.

Another way you can enjoy basil flowers is by brewing basil tea. Cut the flowers into tiny pieces and drop them into a pot of boiling water. Allow it to steep for several minutes, after which you can pour it through a strainer, and there you have your delicious basil tea.

When to Harvest Buttercrunch Lettuce: Get Your Answers Here!

When is the best time to harvest buttercrunch lettuce? Usually, buttercrunch (or “butterhead”) lettuce is best harvested during the latter end of the year. The cool season in most growing zones in the United States starts around September to October.

Keep this in mind because buttercrunch lettuce normally needs as much as 75 days for optimal development. Around that time, you can be sure that it’s pretty much ready for harvesting. The key here is to harvest it in such a way that it keeps growing. This means removing the first head and then allowing the leaves to grow and create another crown.

Source: Cheryl Colan/Flickr

Here are some basic tips to follow to ensure that you get a lot more lettuce from your buttercrunch harvest.

Step #1: Harvest only in the coldest part of your day

I can’t emphasize this enough. You should harvest only at the time of day that puts the least stress on the plant. If you harvest or remove heads during the heat of noon, the plant is doubly stressed. Not only are you stressing it out by removing its parts, but it’s also stressed from the heat and light of noon.

As much as possible, remove heads when it’s relatively nice and dark or cool, preferably both. Of course, you shouldn’t harvest in total darkness. You might hurt yourself because you’re using cutting equipment. But near the break of dawn would be an ideal time.

Step #2: Select only the firmest heads

You’re looking for the right texture. You can’t wait for the buttercrunch lettuce to fully mature and get really hard. Instead, look for enough firmness. It shouldn’t be tough because if you harvest buttercrunch lettuce once it has matured to peak toughness, you miss out on its best flavor and texture.

You want something that is nice and crisp to the bite, but at the same time delivers optimal freshness and flavor. The best way to get this, of course, is to harvest only firm heads that are not yet fully mature.

Step #3: When to harvest another head

Take a long look at the plant that you just harvested from. Ideally, you should have left enough leaves there for the plant to be able to produce another head that you can collect later on. This ensures that the lettuce will remain productive longer through the growing season.

You should be proactive, however. If you notice that there are too many leaves on the base of the plant, you might want to cut these back. Cut them individually. Why? You’re trying to reduce the chances that the plant will blossom.

You don’t want your buttercrunch lettuce base sprout flowers because this would change the internal chemistry of the plant and the lettuce head that it produces will be bitter or would have an overly tough texture.

So, understand that whenever lettuce starts producing flowers, the plant is basically changed for the worst. You have to prune the leaves in such a way as to discourage the production of flowers.

How to Harvest Buttercrunch Leaves

Buttercrunch lettuce leaves grow outwards from the center of the head. The younger leaves replace the outermost leaves that fall off or have been harvested. That means you can pick the outer leaves as you need them.

Because you can eat buttercrunch leaves of any size, wait at least 24 days if you want to harvest young lettuce leaves. You can start picking the leaves when they have grown to at least 2-3 inches or wait for them to develop fully.

You can do this repeatedly, and the lettuce leaves will keep growing back. It’s commonly referred to as cut-and-come-again harvesting.

Use one hand and gently hold the head steady, and use the other to pick the leaves off. Insert your thumb into the inner side near the base, then grab the leaf with the rest of your fingers. Gently detach the leaf from the base by twisting it off.

You can also use gardening shears or scissors to trim the individual leaves off the base.  Whichever method you use, be careful not to disturb or damage the delicate roots.

Source: Dwight Sipler/Flick

How to Harvest Buttercrunch Heads

Buttercrunch lettuce heads take about 50 to 60 days to mature and grow to about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. The leaves are broad and fan-shaped and have a vibrant green color. There’s an ample window of time for you to pick them before they go to seed.

You can use a very sharp and long knife or pruning shears to harvest a lettuce head. First, raise the outer leaves with one hand until you can see the base. With your other hand, begin to cut roughly an inch from the bottom, making sure to keep the leaves are still attached together.

You will leave a short stub with the roots intact allowing the lettuce to re-sprout back and form a new head that can be harvested again in two to three weeks.

Storing Harvested Buttercrunch Lettuce

Of course, whether you plan to eat lettuce or store it, you have to rinse it first in cold running water. It will wash away any dirt, dust, insects, or insecticides that may have accumulated inside the lettuce head or on the leaves.

While you’re at it, you can dispose of any damaged leaves. Shake off the excess water and pat the head with a paper towel. If they’re individual leaves, scatter them on a paper towel and allow them to air-dry. You can also cover them with another paper towel, so it will absorb whatever moisture is left.

When they’re dry, wrap the head or leaves with a paper towel and put them inside a plastic bag. After that, you can store them in the crisper drawer inside your refrigerator.

It’s best to eat lettuce fresh, so you must refrigerate them right after harvesting them. If stored correctly in the fridge, the leaves will be good for ten days, while lettuce heads can last up to three weeks.

How to Prune Basil Without Damaging It: Keeping Hope Alive!

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It’s very easy to kill basil by pulling it the wrong way. If you’re reading this, you have probably gone through at least a few basil plants. You thought you were just taking off some leaves for that nice bowl of pesto pasta you had in mind. It turns out that doing so shortened the life of your plant.

To prune basil without damaging it, you need to cut in precisely the right spot. You also need to know when to cut your plant. Read on for details!

Wait Until Your Basil Plant Is At Least 6 Inches Tall

This is non-negotiable. If you cut a plant shorter than 6 inches, you are probably going to shorten its life. It’s not going to produce a lot of leaves over its lifetime. Wait until the plant is half a foot long. No matter how hungry you are! 🙂

Cut the Central Stem

Make sure that you don’t cut the leaves or some random branches. Instead, you’re going to be cutting the central stem of the basil plant.

This stem is very easy to spot. It is the main stem of the plant. All the branches grow from it. It’s the exact middle part of the plant and it is what connects the rest of the plant to its roots.

Find the Central Stem

Cut your basil from its central stem’s fifth leaf set. This is the most important part of this guide. You have to know which part of the central stem to cut.

Starting from the top of the plant, look for leaf sets. These are two leaves or two branches sticking out of the central stem. They appear in pairs.

So, starting from the top, count to five. Once you have identified or located the fifth leaf set, you would know where to cut.

Find the location about 0.5 inches from the fifth leaf set. This is where you will be cutting your basil plant.

Do not cut in a straight line. Angle your pruning shear or gardening scissors so that you cut at an angle.

Also, make sure that your cut is above the fifth basil leaf set. Don’t cut right at the same height or level as these leaves. There has to be enough leaves left on the plant so it can continue to produce branches and leaves that you can then harvest later on.

Handle Your Basil with Care

Like any other plant, your basil would still need some leaves to thrive. Make sure there are at least two sets near the bottom left untouched.  These would be essential in absorbing sunlight and producing nutrients. They also help the central stem develop into a sturdy foundation.

Basil is very delicate and gets damaged easily, especially when it’s still young. To avoid injuring the plant, never break the central stem with your fingers. Instead, use a good pair of gardening shears or scissors when you need to cut it. 

Frequent Asked Questions (FAQ)

Should You Allow Basil Flowers to Form?

No! As soon as you start seeing the buds for basil flowers, cut them off. This is very important because if you let the buds appear and they produce flowers, your basil plant will never be the same. It’s going to be tougher to achieve healthy leaves.

Also, the taste produced by the basil leaves is not going to be the same. Depending on how long you let the flowers bloom, this may drastically reduce the basil flavoring and scent that you expect from your basil leaves.

Remember, you are growing basil primarily for its leaves. You want them to be as fragrant and as flavorful as possible.

Flower blossoms as well as flower buds take away nutrients from the leaves and can drastically change the nutrient flow of your plant. As soon as these blossoms appear and you let flowers grow uninterrupted, even if you nip them and you continue to prune these, the flavor of that basil plant may have been changed for good. So, don’t let the problem get out of hand.

How Often Should You Prune Your Basil Leaves?

If you follow the directions above, your basil plant should produce a lot of leaves regularly. It’s important to wait for the stem to recover and then prune every one to two weeks.

The frequency of your pruning really depends on how fast your plant grows. If your basil plant is located in a sunny area and it has a lot of the right nutrients it needs for rapid growth, you probably would need to prune more frequently.

You might think that the cutting of its central stem will reduce its productivity. Think again! This is how basil is normally managed.

You may have cut off a lot of its branches for your next bowl of pasta or for pizza toppings, but don’t worry. When managed correctly, basil plants actually grow back very quickly. In fact, if you’re not careful, it might grow so fast that it starts producing flower buds.

It’s really important to make sure that you prevent basil flowers from appearing.

How Do You Protect Your Basil Plant’s Moisture Levels?

It’s important to note that basil tends to dry out very quickly. Normally, when it’s getting the right amount of water, its leaves are flush and fully opened. But when it’s dehydrated, the leaves look dried up.

To prevent this from happening, make sure that you water the plant’s base at least two times a week (or less if you choose the Kratky method). Also, make sure you put a thick enough mulch in the form of ground-up plant material or special mulch fibers that you get from your local gardening store.

However you do it, make sure that the base of the plant is covered so the roots don’t dry out too quickly. This is especially crucial indoors.

Since you’re gardening in a controlled environment, you may be thinking that your plant is moist enough. Don’t be so sure. Be on the lookout for the condition of the leaves and make sure that they don’t look wilted.

When to Prune Basil for The First Time… And More!

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Basil is one of the best plants to have growing around your home. It’s incredibly easy to grow and doubles as a great ornamental plant. I like to hang mine on a window by the kitchen, but anywhere it can get some sunlight is fine.

Basil doesn’t need much more than watering, sunlight and basic nutrients to grow into a tall, strong plant. Although, to get the healthiest plant possible we need to take some extra steps. We’re growing a winner, after all.

For example – it’s important to know when to prune basil for the first time. Cut too soon and you could chop off a leaf vital to the plant’s growth. Cut too much and you could slow down growth.

Remember that basil I keep near my kitchen? Whenever my nephew visits, he likes to help me make salads or add the finishing garnish to a dish by picking a few leaves off by himself. It makes him feel like quite the chef!

Growing Basil

when to prune basil for the first time - pruning shears and pot of basil

When you’re ready to grow, you have 2 options. You can either buy seeds and plant them directly into some kind of pot or buy a sapling and transfer it at home.

Our recommendation is to go hydroponic with the Kratky method using seeds and a mason jar!

Personally, I prefer to buy the seeds. Knowing that I’ve been involved in my plants’ full life cycle makes me care more for it.

If you’re like me and go for the seeds, small plastic cups should do just fine. They hold the right amount of soil. Just cut holes in the bottom to drain excess water.

Just make sure to transplant the sapling into a more size appropriate pot when it begins to reach about 4 inches and develop its first set of leaves.

You can save time by buying the sapling from a store and manually moving it into a larger pot. Just be careful with the roots and leaves and you should be fine.

Pruning your basil is essential if you want to increase your yields or want a fuller-looking plant to brighten up your living room.

You want to wait until the herb is about 6 inches tall before trimming the leaves. At this point, the stem should have anywhere between 2 or 3 sets of leaves.

This can take about two weeks.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Now we get ready for the trimming.

Time for Action – Pruning the First Time

Just bear in mind, when you prune you’re cutting off the central stem and allowing the plant to split off and grow two central stems.

This doubles the amount of leaves and stems.

Things get wild pretty quick.

If you keep your plant healthy, you will have more basil than you can store and give to friends.

Do you want to eat pesto three times a week? Pruning your basil is how you get to eat pesto three times a week.

Did I mention you can plant the stem you cut off to make a new plant?

It’s at times like these that I sit for a moment and ponder on how amazing nature is.

Let’s continue…

If you prune too soon, the plant will not receive enough energy. The more often you prune the basil plant, the bushier and leafier it becomes. This is the key takeaway here.

If you don’t prune your basil, it will grow slim, tall and begin bolting. We do not want this so we prune to keep it healthy, in control and flavorful

The Basil Pruning Process

pruning shears and basil

Trimming down your plant is quite simple. You just need a few things.

First comes the plant. Check? Good.

I like to use my special pruning clippers. They come with a special design to not damage the stem so much.

If you don’t have special gardening equipment. Scissors should do fine. I like to use gloves when handling scissors but that’s because I’m a bit clutzy and cut myself often.

All in all, the trimming should take about 15 minutes.

Alright, so it’s time to get our hands dirty. The first prune seems the easiest, but there are some things to keep in mind.

Treat the plant with care, especially the bigger, they’re the plants’ most important energy source.
Basil tends to damage easily. When it does, it begins to release the essential oils which give it its particular aroma and flavor. Damage the leaves too much and you could get some pretty bland tasting pesto.

Count up 2 or 3 sets of leaves. These give your plant the solid foundation it needs to grow strong.

After you’ve chosen the set to cut off, you should see two little branches beginning to stick out on both sides of the stem.

genovese basil leaves
Photo by Lavi Perchik on Unsplash

Cut the central stem about a quarter of an inch above the little branches. This will kill off the central stem and the plant will begin to grow from the side leaves.

Now you have 2 central stems, coming off from the previous main stem. Leave these to grow for a week or two, until a couple sets of leave have grown.

Pruning from here on is a little different.

On the first stem we want to leave 2 or 3 sets of leaves. After the first division, you want to cut down to the last set of leaves, one after the previous cut.

The process is the same from here on out. Once the plant has had time to grow and you want to harvest again. Choose one of the last branches. Look for the previous cut and repeat one set of leaves above.

Things to Keep in Mind

You do have to look out for bolting in the plant. As soon as you do, just pinch ‘em right off.

You see, when a plant begins to bolt, it gets ready to flower. It sends the available nutrients to the flower and stops distributing them to the leaves. We do not want this.

In other words, when you notice the plant begin developing flowers look for the previous cut and just twist it with your fingers to remove it.

There’s no ‘right’ moment to stop trimming. It’s more of a feel. Just don’t go overboard and you will be fine.

When proper care is taken, just one plant can easily provide two months worth of basil for cooking.

mortal and pestle - grinding basil for kitchen preparation
Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash

In conclusion, you want to prune your basil to keep it healthy, lovely and vibrant green. Be careful when handling the plant and only cut off true leaves. Pruning is quite a therapeutic session, it’s oddly relaxing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How often should I prune down my basil?

I would recommend pruning every week or two. If you prune too often, the lower plant leave won’t receive enough sunlight and it won’t grow to its full potential.

Does this work for all types of basil?

Yes, most basil species fundamentally grow the same. They grow their leaves by sets. Above each set, you will see two baby leaves. A quarter-inch above is the right place to cut.

How long can a single basil plant survive for?

Basil is typically an annual plant. Although some species can be grown perennial. A healthy basil plant with proper care can grow for up to 2 years. After this, replanting should be necessary.

Can I grow basil with low sunlight?

I would recommend planting basil somewhere that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, though I’ve found that it grows quite well in a sheltered, shady location, as long as temperatures are warm.

How big can a basil plant get?

Given enough space, basil grows between 2-4 feet high and 1-2 feet wide, though you can grow smaller basil plants in little containers. These are great for indoors.

It’s important to give basil enough space between plants because growing it too close together increases the risk of fungal and bacterial diseases. It will do better if the leaves have the space they need to dry quickly and thoroughly after rain.

Don’t grow more than 3-4 basil plants in a square foot of garden or container space, and allow at least 6 inches of space between plants (more for bigger plants).

How do I store basil, and how long will it keep?

You can put away a couple of sprigs of basil in a cup on the counter for a week or maybe a bit more. Put a little water in, just enough to keep the stems submerged. Change the water every couple of days. You can also put it in the fridge to extend it for a few more days, although the cold will develop a dark, black color on it.

If you want to store if, for an extended period of time, you can freeze the basil leaves. There are a few ways of going about this, the easiest is to chop basil leaves, put them in ice cube trays, cover them with water, and freeze. Once frozen, move the cubes to sealed freezer bags or containers. When you want to use them, just pop the herbal ice cubes into your soups or sauces. They should last for around 4-6 months.

Does the Color of Light Affect Plant Growth? Heck Yes… and Here’s Why…

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Growing plants indoors requires many things that may not be mandatory for plants being grown on your front porch or in a garden in your backyard. To properly grow plants in places where they will not receive naturally occurring nutrients or direct sunlight every day, you need things such as proper growing containers, good-quality potting soil and grow lights.

Growing lights are perhaps one of the most important factors in successful plant growth. There is much debate amongst avid gardeners about what kind of grow lights are the most effective in producing plants that are healthy and helping to maintain the quality of those plants throughout the year.

When choosing the right grow light for your indoor garden there a few factors you must consider. First, there are different types of light that can be used to successfully grow plants indoors, such as LED or HPS lights. Both of these lights are great for plants. Perhaps more important than the type of light you choose for your indoor garden, however, is the color of the lamp that you choose. There are many different types of colored lights that can be used to grow inside your home.

The question many novice and experienced gardeners ask is does the color of the lamp greatly affect the results of your plants’ success? The short answer is yes, the color of the light that will be hovering over your plants for months on end can have an effect on your growing process. In this article, we will explore why that is and what types of lights are the best bet for having a flourishing indoor garden.

Why does the color of your lamp affect plant growth? 

If you’ve ever taken a science class in your life, you’ll know that light exists on a spectrum. Light that we can see, i.e. visible light, is only a small fraction of the overall electromagnetic spectrum. Light, or electromagnetic energy, can come in a wide variety of forms including visible light, gamma rays, infrared light, etc. Each of these forms comes with rays that can harm plants or help them turn the light into crucial nutrients needed to grow.

Visible light also behaves in a wave-like pattern and, depending on the light color, the wavelengths will vary from short to long and change the amount of energy that is expelled from that particular light. Plants need a specific amount and type of energy to properly cultivate.

The process known as photosynthesis is the way by which plants turn sunlight into food and is dependent on a few things like energy emitted from the light source and a thing known as Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green hue and is necessary for photosynthesis. So, should you choose a green growing light, for example, it would not be very effective in helping the plant to grow because Chlorophyll is already green and needs colors on the opposite end of the spectrum to thrive.

The wavelengths would not be emitting the proper energy that the plant needs to produce Chlorophyll and to go through the process of photosynthesis. This can cause the plant to not grow to its fullest potential.

As you can see the color of the light you choose can and will have different end results for your plant due to the wavelengths and energy emitted from different lamp hues. So, which colors are the best for growing plants indoors and are there benefits and results you can get from different colors depending on the type of plant and the yield you wish to get from it?

What are the different lamp colors and their benefits? 

As stated previously, not all colors are created equal. Different colored lamps will produce different results for your indoor plants. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, the colors on the spectrum can be used to help you get the results you want from your plants. Let’s briefly explore each color on the visible light spectrum and what results they may generate.

Ultraviolet light

An ultraviolet light or UV light, as it is more commonly known as, can be harmful to plants in the same way that it is harmful to humans. It emits an amount of energy that can damage plants with prolonged or intense exposure. This type of light is not recommended for any type of plant you wish to grow indoors.

Violet light

Violet light can be highly beneficial to plant growth. It possesses a higher amount of energy and can produce better plant color and aroma, enhanced flavors in fruits and vegetables and increase the amounts of antioxidants that a plant contains. So, if you are looking to grow certain foods indoors, violet light may be one of the best choices to ensure you get the best look and flavor from your produce.

Blue light

Blue light is another good choice for indoor vegetation. Plants can primarily benefit from a blue hue during the earlier stages of its life. This is because blue light can help with the plant’s production of chlorophyll, an essential component for photosynthesis. Blue light is easier for a plant to absorb and convert to energy and can help your plant reach maturity quicker. Check out this option here.

Green light

Green light, as mentioned before, is not the most ideal light for proper plant growing. This is because plants reflect green light, unlike the many other colors which they absorb fairly easily. Green lights can be used to enhance the chlorophyll in the plant and therefore the appearance but it is not very useful otherwise. 

Yellow light

This color of light is pretty similar to green light in its effects on plant growth. There aren’t many instances to show that this is an effective color to choose for abundant plants. Much like green light, yellow light can be hard for plants to absorb and does not provide the energy it needs to enter into full photosynthesis.

Red light

Red light is often seen in indoor gardens and growing rooms. It is a solid choice for proper plant growth, however, on its own, it is not very effective. Often times, red light is combined with blue light, like this light here. Red light, when combined with blue, is great for plants that have already reached full maturity. Red light can help to make flowers bloom, while the combination of the two lights can increase the number of leaves a plant produces. 

So, what is the best color for growing? 

You may be asking yourself, what the best color lamp is for growing your beloved plants under? Most of the colors seem to have one benefit or another that could make it a viable option. There are some standouts, however. The most crucial colors in the development of your plants are definitely red and blue. Blue being the best color for the early stages of your plants’ life and red combined with some blue tones will be the best option for your more mature plants and maintaining their healthy status.

Some people may choose to add in or take away other colors from the spectrum throughout the process to yield different results from varying types of plants. Lights, such as this one, provide the full spectrum of light, and do the work for you, should you wish to use an array of colors for the duration of the growing process. Some argue that a full spectrum light is the most efficient way to go because you can get the best benefits from all of the different colors and grow the best-looking plants.

Conclusion

Growing plants indoors can be a big undertaking when you factor in all the variables you need to make it a successful process. Grow lights are essential to any gardener’s collection if they plan to have a flourishing indoor garden that will yield the best produce and the most aesthetically pleasing vegetation.

As explained before, not all colors of light are created equal when it comes to growing the best plants possible. Planning to grow fruits or vegetables indoors so you can have fresh produce year-round? Perhaps consider purchasing a violet light to help enhance the flavors, aroma, and appearance of your food. Want to grow your typical house plants with beautiful blooming flowers? Start those seedlings out under blue light and then combine it with red when they have reached maturity to help those flowers bloom! Or purchase a full-spectrum light to make sure all of your bases are covered when it comes to light sources.

One thing we can all agree on is that different lights will affect your plant growth and results will vary depending on what the plant is and what you wish to get out of it.

Have some experience with different colored grow lights? Let me know in the comments what you’ve had success with! Happy gardening!

How to Tell Determinate from Indeterminate Tomatoes: A Quick Guide

I am someone who looks forward to fresh, homegrown tomatoes every summer. 

There’s nothing quite like biting into a perfectly ripened, backyard beauty. (That’s what I call homegrown tomatoes.) They’re so juicy and delicious. In my opinion, they are so much more flavorful than those you get at the grocery store. Plus, you are able to experience a wider range of tomato varieties if you grow them yourself, versus what you can find in most conventional stores and markets. 

There are literally thousands of different varieties of tomatoes, but most of them can be classified as either determinate or indeterminate. The terms are often listed on the plant’s marker when purchasing plants or on the seed packet if growing tomato plants from seeds.

The words determinate or indeterminate are words used to classify tomato plants by their size, growth habits, and length and time of harvest. These characteristics are where you can recognize the key differences between the two. 


Essentially, the ways to tell the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes is duration and form of growth, along with their size. Generally speaking, determinate tomato plants are smaller, and have a shorter growing season, and indeterminate tomatoes are larger and have a much longer growing season. The differences ultimately lie in the length and time of harvest, and the size of the plants.

Though the majority of tomato plants are indeterminate, there are currently more determinate varieties to choose from than ever before.

In this article, I outline the key differences between indeterminate and determinate tomatoes, and how to identify them when inspecting mature plants. Plus, I provide a quick guide for choosing which to grow in your own backyard. So, let’s dig in!


Size of the Plants

One of the key differences between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes is the size of the plants. 

Determinate tomato plants are often grown in cages, containers, or even without support, as they have a smaller, more compact shape. While the expected height of determinate tomato plants vary depending on the exact variety, they can be expected to grow anywhere from 2 – 4 feet tall. Due to their smaller, more petite size, determinate plants rarely require staking. (Though they may need stakes once they are heavy with ripening fruit.) Often, determinate tomatoes are marketed as “bush,” “patio,” or “container” plants, due to their compact size, and because they can grow very well in smaller spaces and pots. (But, you can grow them in your garden too.)

Not only are the plants smaller than indeterminate, but determinate tomato plants often produce smaller tomatoes, too. 

Indeterminate tomato plants have much longer stem growth and can reach staggering heights. Remarkably, it’s not uncommon to hear of plants growing to be 12 – 15 feet tall. Though, on average indeterminates tend be 6 – 8 feet tall. 

You can help control indeterminate tomato plants size by pruning them, and they can even be consolidated down to just a couple of stems. Due to their ample size and lengthy branches, indeterminate tomatoes are best suited for growing in a large garden plot where they have plenty of space. A tomato plant that’s not labeled as a “patio,” “bush,” or “container” is likely indeterminate.

Indeterminate tomato plants have numerous long, pliable branches that require staking to keep them upright, and to keep their fruit off of the ground. They’re commonly referred to as “vining plants,” though they aren’t actual vines. These branches can be trained to grow on a vertical support such as an a-frame or lean-to style trellis.


Growth Habits 

Determinate and indeterminate tomato plants differ in their growing habits.

Determinate tomato plants will flower nearly all at once, and they will stop producing shoots once flowers form at the terminal end of the branch. This signals the stem to stop growing.

Indeterminate plants, however, will form flowers along the sides of the shoots, and will have buds, flowers, and flowers that have been pollinated all on their branches at the same time. Indeterminate tomato varieties have a much longer growth period and will produce flowers and fruit until colder weather and frost arrives. On the contrary, determinate tomatoes will stop growing once all of their flowers have finished forming. The indeterminate tomatoes will continue their cycle of forming new buds, flowers, and fruit all season long.


Fruit Production

Fruit production is another key difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. 

Determinate tomato plants produce fruit early in the season, usually within a two – to three-week period, with all of the fruit tending to ripen all around the same time. Then, the plant yellows and is finished producing fruit for the season.

Indeterminate varieties, however, will produce fruit all along the stems and throughout the growing season, but they will ripen much slower and only one at a time. 


Semi-determinate varieties

It is important to note that in addition to determinate and indeterminate, there are some semi-determinate varieties.

In terms of size, semi-determinate varieties may grow slightly taller than 2 – 4 feet, but they will still keep their compact form and fall between the two main varieties in growth habit.


Other characteristics to examine

Unfortunately, you can’t tell the difference between determinate and indeterminate by looking at the seeds or seedlings, so you will have to wait until the plants are more mature to distinguish between the two. 

A considerable clue as to whether the plant is determinate or indeterminate is whether it has long branches or is more “bush-like.” The plant that has longer branches, with sparse foliage, is likely to be indeterminate and the bushier plant is more likely to be determinate.

The formation of new leaves at branch areas is a characteristic of both types of plants, so that won’t help you in distinguishing the two. But, a way that you can tell them apart is to check for suckers at the base of your tomato plant and at the crotch of a leaved stem. These are small growths that will not flower and they are characteristic of only indeterminate plants. These suckers draw energy that would be better used for developing and producing fruit, and removing them is advised to help prevent problems with mildew and with fruit ripening.


Should you go with determinate and indeterminate tomatoes for your home garden?

There are multiple different factors to consider when choosing between growing determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. 

Three of these are the length of the growing season where you live, the size of the space you where you’d like to grow them, and the ways you are hoping to use your harvest. 

Determinate tomatoes are a more favorable choice if you are planning to grow tomatoes in a pot or small space, have a shorter season, or would like them to ripen all at once. (Something that is favorable for canning or cooking.)

If a determinate plant is best suited for you, but you’re hoping to have a longer harvest times, consider buying multiple different varieties that have varying maturity dates, or try stagger your plantings. That way, you won’t be limited to only having the single harvest that doesn’t span the entire growing season. 

Some determinates that have proven to do well in backyard vegetable garden are: Celebrity, Small Fry and Oregon Spring.

If you have a larger space, and you’re interested in having fruit throughout the growing season, indeterminate varieties may be better suited for you. But it is important to bear in mind that indeterminate varieties can be much slower to ripen, and require support.

If you’ve determined that an indeterminate tomato variety is more appealing to you, and you have a shorter growing season, be sure to plant them as early in the season as possible so they have plenty of time to mature and ripen. 

Some common indeterminate types that have proven to do well in a home garden setting are: Brandywine, Early Girl, Mr. Stripey, Beefsteak, Red Cherry, Sweet 100, and Cherokee Purple.


Final Thoughts 

Determinate and indeterminate tomato plants are most distinguishable from one another based on size, growth habit, and length of growing season. Each variety is better suited for a different set of circumstances and will flourish in varying settings.

A great way to help you remember the difference between the two is that determinate have a “determined” number of ripened fruit, and growing season, while indeterminate have an “undetermined” size or growing length. 

There are quite a few varieties to choose from when deciding which variety of tomatoes you’d like to grow. Depending on the space you have available, and the use you have in mind for your bounty, it is probably quite clear which of the two you’d be better off choosing to grow in your garden