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How to Grow Dahlias

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Growing Dahlias
Dahlias are truly stunning perennials in any sized flower garden. Their bushy forms fill borders, containers, and fence lines with mid- to dark green feathery foliage. The green contrasts nicely with dahlias’ outstanding blooms. Flowers delight in a broad spectrum of bright and pastel colors. The diameter of those happy blooms range in size from a petite two inches up to a full ten inches.

Dahlias are native to Mexico and Central America. This heritage gives them a wildflower-like appearance and disposition. Depending on variety, dahlias are hardy to US Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone three though most varieties will feel most at home in warmer climates similar to their native climate. In many regions throughout the US, dahlias are grown as annuals. Continue reading…

How To Freeze Tomatoes: The Go-To Guide to Freezing Your Tomato Harvest

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freezer bags sharpies
Frozen tomatoes retain their color and a large proportion of their nutrients. However, their texture becomes mushy, though they can still be used in cooking.

Here’s what you need to know to freeze tomatoes:

Selecting Tomatoes to Freeze

Only use tomatoes in peak condition. Overripe fruit won’t taste as good or keep as long.

Remember, once you thaw your tomatoes their original shape and texture won’t matter. Freeze your best-tasting tomatoes. Heirloom varieties like Pink Brandywine, Golden Jubilee, Cherokee Purple and dozens of others may be odd-shaped or soft, but they tend to have rich and complex flavors. Include some paste tomatoes like Roma, Amish Paste, Opalka etc. if you want to end up with a thick tomato sauce.

High-acid tomatoes work better for canning. Low- and high-acid tomatoes are equally safe to freeze.

Freezing Fresh Tomatoes

The quickest and easiest way to get your tomatoes into the freezer is simply to wipe them clean, cut away stems and the tough green-and-white core under the stems, and set them whole on baking sheets in the freezer. Once they’ve frozen you can pack them into plastic bags–don’t stuff the bags too full. Label them with the date and seal them tightly. When you’re ready to use them take them out and run them under warm water. As they thaw their skins will crack and can be peeled off. Don’t leave this too late or your tomatoes will have turned into piles of goo and the peeling process will be messy indeed.

If you want your tomatoes to be ready to use when you get them out, you’ll need to process them a bit more before freezing. Drop your tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds or so, until their skins crack. Pull tomatoes out with a slotted spoon and remove both the peel and the core. Also cut away any blemishes. Pack into containers leaving one inch of headspace empty at the top (because liquids expand as they freeze, and tomato juice is no exception.)

Freezing Stewed Tomatoes

If you want your tomatoes cooked down and ready to go into your recipe as soon as you thaw them, dip them in boiling water as described above, peel and core them, and then cut them into halves or quarters and cook them over low heat for 10-20 minutes or until they are tender and blended. Set the pot of stewed tomatoes into a sink or larger pot full of cold water to cool it as rapidly as possible. Pour the cooled tomatoes into containers leaving one inch of headspace empty at the top. Label with the date, seal and freeze.

Freezing Tomato Juice

Wash tomatoes and remove stems, cores and blemishes. Cook tomatoes as quickly as possible after cutting into them if you don’t want your juice to separate. Quarter them into a saucepan; turn it on as soon as the first tomato is quartered and bring to a boil promptly. Keep adding tomato quarters, keep the pot boiling and keep stirring it. Crush tomatoes in the pot as you go. Simmer for 5 minutes after adding the last tomatoes. Then press tomatoes through a sieve to remove skins and seeds. You may add 1 teaspoon of salt to each quart of tomatoes, or not–it’s a matter of taste. Pour into containers leaving 1″ of headspace, label with the date, seal and freeze.

Freezing Other Tomato Products

Tomato sauce, chili and catsup can also be frozen. Prepare them in the usual way. Cool them quickly, pour them into containers leaving 1″ of headspace, cover, label with the date, and freeze.

Using Frozen Tomatoes

Tomatoes will keep for about 8 months in the freezer. Once thawed, they can be used in sauces, soups and casseroles. If you’re substituting stewed tomatoes or chopped whole tomatoes for tomato sauce in a recipe, you may need to add tomato paste to bring your tomatoes to the desired thickness. If you freeze a large proportion of paste tomatoes this may not be necessary.

Want to learn more about how to freeze tomatoes?

Check out these helpful resources:
Freezing Tomatoes from National Center for Home Food Preservation
Resources for Home Preserving Tomatoes from National Center for Home Food Preservation

The 7 Deadly Sins of Tomato-Growing & How to Avoid Them

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By Jodie Perry One of the most satisfying feelings of home gardening is to harvest a bumper crop of beautiful tomatoes at the end of the season. Tomatoes are one of the most popular plants grown by home gardeners because they are relatively easy to grow and they produce a fruit that has many delicious […]

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Survival Seed Vaults: Our Top 3 Picks

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Seed vaults are awesome for gardeners interested in self sufficiency or survival storage. They were created for the preservation of certain seeds. Heirloom seeds and other special seeds that have been kept for biodiversity purposes are stowed away in seed vaults. Seed vaults can be as small as an oatmeal container, for example, and contain […]

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Complete Guide to Starting a Home Orchard: Apples, Pears, Cherries, Plums and Peaches

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A home orchard can supply you with delicious, low-cost fresh fruit, attract pollinators and provide shade and beauty. It requires a small investment of money and a large investment of time and patience. Choosing Orchard Trees Select trees adapted to your climate. Consult your local Cooperative Extension about varieties suited to your area. Visit USDA […]

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7 Cool DIY Garden Stepping Stone Ideas

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Garden stones often serve a practical purpose. When spaced properly, they help gardeners tiptoe through their tulips without compressing soil or upsetting plants. But garden stones can be so much more than just useful. Done well, garden stones can represent your own individual flare and add a touch of interest or intrigue to your landscape. […]

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How to Grow Plums

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If you love the juicy sweetness of plums, and the plum season doesn’t last nearly long enough for you, consider growing your own. When you couple the beauty of a plum tree with the delicious, healthy produce, you’ve got an all around win. And speaking of health, plums are chock full of nutritents. From fiber […]

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DIY: Recycle Light Bulbs for Vases, Flower Planters and Terrariums

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With industrial decorating themes trending right now, why not consider an industrial look for your gardening? Some creative Thomas Edison sort of genius decided to use a light bulb as a planter. This idea has inspired a very cool and modern looking gardening method. Not only is a light bulb an element of unusual interest […]

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Why You Need Fertile Soil to Successfully Grow Vegetables

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By Phil Nauta, author and gardening educator Important: We’ve just learned that your chance to get into Phil’s comprehensive online organic gardening course ends this Monday night at 9pm Eastern Time. He’s been kind enough to give me a coupon code for you to get 30% off the course! The catch? He’s in the process of updating […]

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7 Brilliant Mason Jar Gardening Ideas

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Have you noticed everything just seems to look better in a Mason jar? You really can’t go wrong when you involve the homey, country feel of a shiny, reflective Mason jar. They’ve been indispensible in the kitchen for years, and we’ve determined to take those rustic good looks and use them for several delightful garden […]

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