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Garden Series: Planting Tomatoes

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Spring is in full swing, and that means it’s time to get the garden going. Late April is the perfect time to get your tomatoes in the ground. Tomatoes are finicky plants at the best of times, so we want to provide some tips to help you get the most fruit from your labors (har har).

Garden Series: Planting Tomatoes

Spring is in full swing, and that means it’s time to get the garden going. Late April is the perfect time to get your tomatoes in the ground. Tomatoes are finicky plants at the best of times, so we want to provide some tips to help you get the most fruit from your labors (har har).

1. Tomatoes are a warm weather crop.
Thinking you should get a head start on your vegetable garden is a good idea, but tomatoes won’t do much growing, and can actually be stressed too much to bare much fruit, if you put them in the ground too soon. In order to grow, tomatoes need a ground temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and air temperatures of 50 degrees at night and 70 degrees during the day.

2. Determinate or indeterminate?
Determinate tomatoes grow to a set height and width. They are usually great for smaller gardens or containers. Indeterminate tomatoes will get as large as you allow, so make sure you either keep the pruning sheers handy, or allow a larger space for them to grow. The information tag that comes with your tomatoes at the nursery will tell you what type you’re buying.

3. Plant them deep.
When putting your tomato plants in the ground, plant them about half as deep as the plant is tall. Since tomatoes are a vine, the stalk will root wherever it’s underground. Buying a plant that’s bigger, then planting it deep will ensure a strong root system that will help it produce more fruit.

4. Keep them off the ground.
Cage them or train them to grow vertically using twine or a trellis (or chicken wire, or chain link fence…anything, really) to keep them off the ground. Indeterminate varieties can get very large, and because they’ll root where they find the nutrients to do so (even laying on the soil), it’s important to keep them under control. Keeping them off the ground will also help guard the plant from disease.

5. Pinch the suckers.
Suckers, in the realm of tomato gardening, are growth in the joint of two “branches” on the plant. Pinching these off of the plant will help light and air circulate through the plant as well as keep growth under control. If you have room, and want more plants, you can root these by sticking them in the ground. If not, just toss them in the compost pile.

6. Mulch, mulch, mulch.
Did we mention mulch? Spread a layer of mulch around your tomatoes to help with water retention and pest control. You can use anything from dead leaves and grass clippings to wood chips.

7. Water regularly.
Tomatoes need a steady supply of water in order to produce the best fruit. A good standby is to make sure you’re giving them an inch a week. Just make sure you don’t let them dry out and then drown them. The fruit you get will be small and cracked if you do.

8. Let them breathe.
If your plant is getting a little too thick, prune some growth off of the bottom of the plant to leave a few inches between the ground and where the plant starts. Be careful, though. Taking too many leaves means your plant can’t photosynthesize properly, and that means less fruit.

9. Shade tomatoes from extreme heat.
Here’s where tomatoes will get a bit finicky. They like heat, just not too much. If the weather turns too hot where you are, try shading them during the hottest hour or two of the day.

10. Fertilize, but not too much.
Apply fertilizer to your tomatoes after they’re planted, and then wait a few weeks before feeding again. Too much fertilization will make your plant grow nice and big, but it will put out less fruit. This rule doesn’t apply to tomatoes grown in containers, though. Feed container tomatoes once a week.

Planting Tomatoes is the first in a spring gardening series brought to you by My Storage. Stay tuned for more gardening tips in the coming weeks. Have a fool-proof tomato tip? Tell us in the comments below!

Spring Cleaning Part Two: Deep Cleaning the Kitchen

In past generations, kitchen were tucked away in the back of homes and shut off from the rest of the house. Now, they’re the nucleus of the home – often the first thing you see when you walk in, and centrally located in the house. No matter where your kitchen is, it’s important to keep it clean to keep your food safe. Keep reading for a deep cleaning task list that will have yours sparkling for months to come.

1. Plan ahead.
In part one of our spring cleaning series, we talked about the Band-Aid approach not being the best way to get your house clean. If you’re planning to deep clean your kitchen this weekend, make sure you make it as easy as possible on yourself. Check your stock of cleaning supplies and make sure you have everything you need. Make sure the dishes get done after every meal so you will not have to clean before you clean. This is also a good time to give yourself a break during dinnertime and spend a few days eating all those leftovers that have piled up in the fridge. It’ll make it easier to clean and easier on your evenings!

2. Clean from top to bottom.
This is a page out of the cleaning 101 manual, but it never hurts to reiterate. Start with ceiling fans, crown molding and light fixtures. You’ll knock dust and debris down as you go, and starting at the top makes it easier to get all the stuff that falls picked up as you go.

3. Organize and reline your cabinets.
The fact that cabinets have doors and aren’t always visible to company makes it a prime place for disorganization (we’re looking at you, Tupperware drawer). It can’t be helped. We’re busy and don’t always have time to stack everything just so. Take the time to straighten everything up, move things you don’t use to your garage sale pile and replace any liner that has outworn its welcome.

4. Clean the dishwasher, oven and microwave.
While you’re sorting through cabinets and drawers, go ahead and multi task by getting your big appliances going.

Dump a cup or so of vinegar into the machine and run it without any dishes. This will help clean it and keep it running correctly.

If you have a self-cleaning oven, start the cycle. It will be ready when you are that way.

Throw a bowl of vinegar mixed with water into the microwave and run it for about five minutes. After it’s done, leave the door closed for a minute or two. This will soften and lift all the cooked-on grime inside and all you have to do is wipe with a damp sponge.

5. Organize the pantry.
Take a look at your pantry. Can you get to everything? Do you know what you have? Knowing what’s in your pantry cuts down on grocery costs as well as wasting food you didn’t remember you had until it went bad. Use baskets, bins and boxes to get everything organized in your pantry. Organizing by shelf is always a good idea.

While you’re at it, be aware of vegetables you have stored. Some, like potatoes and onions, don’t do well if they’re too close to one another.
6. It’s time to tackle the fridge.
You knew it was coming. Grab your trash can, fill your sink with hot, soapy water and put on your gloves. We’ve all cleaned a refrigerator before, so you know what to do. Take everything out, toss the science experiments, and scrub the shelves and drawers. Use that water you prepared in the sink to soak anything that needs it.

7. Almost done…
At this point, all you really have left to do is wipe down counter tops and the sink, then on to the floors.

8. Floors.
Grab any mats or rugs you have on the floor and go ahead and take them outside to be cleaned or toss them in the washing machine. Making sure you pull out any appliances that can be pulled out and swept behind, sweep your floors. Once you’ve done that, go ahead and mop. Once it’s dry, you can replace your mats and enjoy your spanky clean kitchen!

What’s your go-to deep cleaning method? Let us know in the comments! Need some general cleaning tips? Check out part