Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

What do I need to know about Growing Tomato Plants in Hot Weather?

We are experiencing extreme high temperatures here in Colorado.  It can cause havoc with the tomato plants, it is a matter of providing what they need to survive and thrive.  If you live in an area that is always hot, you can prepare for it ahead of time by choosing your tomato plants wisely.

What do I need to know about Growing Tomato Plants in Hot Weather?

But you can start growing tomato plants successfully in hot, dry areas by using a few special techniques … and by choosing appropriate varieties.

When Growing Tomato Plants look for tomato varieties with these qualities:

Short- to mid-season maturity. Tomatoes that flower early (even when nighttime temperatures are cool) and reach the picking stage sooner than later can be harvested before the desert climate’s hottest season.

Disease resistance. Early blight spreads easily in hot climates.

Thick stems. Strong tomatoes can withstand wind and exposure that’s so common in hot, dry climates.

You can purchase tomatoes that typically grow well in hot, dry climates. Here are some of them that can flourish in hot weather.  There are more, you can research what is good for your climate.

  1. Brandywine OTV Tomato
  2. Burbank Slicing Tomato
  3. Eva Purple Ball TomatoMarvel Striped Tomato
  4. Yellow Pear Tomato
  5. Roma VF tomato


But every once in a while, you could start having extreme temperatures or an abrupt change to hot weather.  This can  have a very negative impact on your tomato plants.

What you need to do to save and protect your tomato plants :

  • Monitor your tomato plants closely.
  • Provide shade if the vine does not provide enough for the fruit on its own.  Make some artificial shade in the most intense part of the day for your tomato plants.  Get creative, how do you create shade for your self?
  • Flower drop usually shows up as the first problem, especially with a sudden sharp increase in temperature.  Usually this will become worse as the temps go above 90 to 95 dregrees.
  • Keep your soil at a constant moisture.  Extreme changes in moisture will crack you tomatoes as they ripe.
  • Avoid over fertilizing your tomato plants, especially with the threat of hot weather, as over fertilized plants are higher risk or losing flowers.  Remember each flow is a possible tomato.
  • Use mulch to keep the soil cooler
  • If you can, allow your tomatoes to ripen on the vine.  You will have great flavor, but they can ripen off the vine.  Some people let them ripen on a window sill, but I prefer in a brown paper bag.  It is less damaging to the fruit.


Chuck Marr, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension, shared the following information in an article dated 15 July 2004.  You can find it at this website:

[jbox color=blue]

Harvested Tomatoes
Can ‘Vine-Ripen’

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Every tomato lover knows fresh, “vine-ripe” flavor is by far the best.

At the same time, many don’t know what “vine ripe” means. So, whether growing or buying tomatoes, they may be limiting their access to the top flavor of the season.

“Tomatoes develop their optimum nutrition, color and flavor when they’re in the full red-ripe stage. But getting to that point doesn’t have to occur on the plant,” explained Chuck Marr, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.

Tomatoes go through specific steps, Marr said, in developing “vine ripeness”:

* A gas called ethylene regulates the ripening process. Tomatoes start producing this gas internally when they reach full size and become pale green.

* When tomatoes turn about one-half green and one-half pink (called the breaker stage), a layer of cells forms across their stem, sealing them off from the main vine. At this stage, tomatoes can ripen on or off the vine with no loss of quality or flavor.

* Tomatoes don’t ripen at refrigerator temperatures. If harvested in the breaker stage, however, keeping them in a cool place (to a minimum 50 F) will slow down their ripening process.



How do you manage the ripening process?  Temperature .  Keep them about 80 degrees, I prefer a brown paper bag, until they are ripe, then you can place them in the refridgerator.  That allows them to stay fresh longer to provide great tomatoes for a longer period of time


Again, the answer is being prepared and taking care of the food you are growing to eat, sell and share.

Also if your still having with your tomato plants, you can

Click Here

to get our book on “How to Grow Delicious Heirloom Tomatoes”,

and that will help you get started.


Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on

Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

I have limited space, and live in an arid environment.  I probably should have started with fewer containers and plants, but they are planted now.  The containers need more attention than I thought because of the heat and low humidity.


So is container gardening possible without multitasking?

This is a question that I have read and heard more of as our lives seem to get busier and busier.  What happened to all of the “Stuff” that is supposed to make our lives easier to manage and free us up?


What does multitasking do to you, and for you, and what is multitasking?

Multitasking is the act of doing multiple things at once. It is often encouraged among office workers and students, because it is believed that multitasking is more efficient than focusing on a single task at once. Numerous studies on multitasking have been carried out, with mixed results. It would appear that in some cases, multitasking can be an effective way to utilize time, while in other cases, like medicine or aviation, the quality of the work suffers as a result of split attention.  You probably do not want your surgeon or your pilot to be multitasking much while they are working.


Is Container Gardening Multitasking possible?


What about the studies that say that the stress from multitasking will cloud your judgement?

Kendra Cherry from Psychology had this to share about multitasking:
[jbox color=blue]


  • Multitasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40-percent according to some researchers.
  • Switching from one task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and can cause mental blocks that can slow down your progress.


Take a moment and think about all of the things you are doing right now – obviously you are reading this article, but chances are good that you are also doing several things at once. Perhaps you’re also listening to music, texting a friend, checking your email in another browser tab or playing a computer game.

If you are doing several different things at once, then you may be what researchers refer to as a “heavy multitasker.” And you probably think that you are fairly good at this balancing act. According to a number of different studies, however, you are probably not as effective at multitasking as you think you are.

In the past, many people believed that multitasking was a good way to increase productivity. After all, if you’re working on several different tasks at once, you’re bound to accomplish more, right? Recent research, however, has demonstrated that that switching from one task to the next takes a serious toll on productivity. Multitaskers have more trouble tuning out distractions than people who focus on one task at a time. Also, doing so many different things at once can actually impair cognitive ability.


What the Research on Multitasking Suggests

First, let’s start by defining what we mean when we use the term multitasking. It can mean performing two or more tasks simultaneously, or it can also involve switching back and forth from one thing to another. Multitasking can also involve performing a number of tasks in rapid succession.

In order to determine the impact of multitasking, psychologists asked study participants to switch tasks and then measured how much time was lost by switching. In one study conducted by Robert Rogers and Stephen Monsell, participants were slower when they had to switch tasks than when they repeated the same task.1

Another study conducted in 2001 by Joshua Rubinstein, Jeffrey Evans and David Meyer found that participants lost significant amounts of time as they switched between multiple tasks and lost even more time as the tasks became increasingly complex.


You can read more from Kendra about multitasking and see how it may affect you with container gardening multitasking.


So what does that mean for you and container gardening?

I admit that I am a huge multitasker.  I do too Many things all at once, but I have discovered the secret to container gardening multitasking.  Are you Ready for the secret? Planning and tools to do most of the work.  In some of our larger container gardens, we have used drip

Water systems that have been set up with automatic controls.  It works great for smaller container and Gardens also.


Multitasking does not have to be a struggle, we have all of these tools, my hardest lesson has been to stay organized and only allow a certain amount of time to get things accomplished.  It works great as long as I keep everything Neat, clean and orderly.  So most of the time I am multitasking with everyone else, because as you know,  life happens.  Flow with it and enjoy the journey.


Plan as much as you can, learn to implement tools and get help from other people (outsourcing) but enjoy your family and friends while learning new skills!  So it is possible to be successful with even large amounts of container gardening multitasking!

Life is great, I am blessed everyday to wake up and be able to breath and have clean air and food. Our container garden increases the enjoyment of life even more.


Sign up here now to get more of the stories and learn from my many years of exploring how not to do things so that you can get to your dreams faster.


Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on

Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

I have a small yard, are raised garden beds better than container gardening?  Containers are easy to move around on the deck, but I want to grow more.

Here is the problems with raised garden beds in a small area:

  • Do you have at least one square foot of space per person in the home?
  • Can you purchase good topsoil and compost where you live?
  • Do you have the time and skills to build the raised bed, or do you have friends or family that can help you?
  • Do you own the land, or do you need permission to build the garden from you landlord if renting?
  • Is there sod on the ground?
  • Containers can cost quite a bit of money
  • They take a bit more attention, as there is a limited amount of soil to hold water and nutrients

Are Raised Garden Beds Better Than Container Gardening?


If your current planting goals involve plants that require good water drainage, I am sure you know how frustrating it is to have a yard that just won’t cooperate. Some plants can handle the excess water that comes about from being in an area that doesn’t drain properly. In fact, it might just cause them to bloom more lushly. However, other plants don’t cope as well, and it will cause them to die a gruesome, bloated death.

You should always find out about the drainage required for every plant you buy, and make sure that it won’t conflict with any of the areas you are considering planting it in.


The usual method for improving drainage in your garden with raised garden beds involve the following steps:

  • creating a border for a small bed,
  • adding enough soil and compost to it to raise it above the rest of the yard by at least 5 inches.
  • I recommend that you lay down a good organic paper bottom, the add a seedless organic straw (about 4 inches) then add the soil and compost. You’ll be amazed at how good your water drainage will be by this small modification.

If you’re planning to build a raised bed, your prospective area is either on grass or on dirt. For each of these situations, you should build it slightly differently.


Planting your plants in your new area shouldn’t pose much difficulty. It is essentially the same process as your usual planting session. Just be sure that the roots don’t extent too far into the original ground level. The whole point of creating the raised garden beds is to keep the roots out of the soil which saturates easily. Having long roots that extend that far completely destroys the point.  But remember, when planting in a raised bed, you still need to ensure that you rotate crops within the raised  bed to prevent disease.  With container gardening,  you can remove the soil, sanitize the container, then place fresh clean compost and soil into the container.


Are Raised Garden Beds Better Than Container Gardening?


Once you have plants in your new raised garden beds, you’ll notice an immediate improvement over conventional gardens that are in hard or difficult soil. The added soil facilitates better root development. At the same time, evaporation is prevented and decomposition is discouraged. All of these things added together makes for an ideal environment for almost any plant to grow in. So don’t be intimidated by the thought of adjusting the very topography of your yard. It is a simple process as I’m sure you’ve realized, and the long term results are worth every bit of work.


But remember, it is a bit of work.  Look at all aspects of your gardening area. Is creating a raised bed better than container Gardening?

For a real small yard or garden, I say no.  There is a lot less work in container gardening in the short term and it allows for quite a bit more experimentation.  Once you know what you want to grow, and where it will grow best (taking into consideration crop rotation for a raised bed), then consider the time and cost of a raised bed.


We grew in containers for 2 years before we put in our raised garden beds, and that preparation time allowed us to find the best solution for what we wanted to do and kept our costs to a minimum.


Sign up here now to get more information on gardening and farming as well as many other aspects of living a sustainable life.


Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on

Posted by & filed under water.

What is the story about different types of a Water Treatment System?

Water, everyone needs it to survive.  Where does it come from, and how to you know if it is clean enough for you to drink, swim, bath or cook in?  How about brushing your teeth?  Have you ever heard of acid rain?

What are some of the concerns with drinking water, as well as water used for daily use such as recreation, farming, gardening and human sports?  The Clean water act is the federal law in the United States that is responsible for curtailing water pollution.  They first act was started in 1948, and was added to in 1972, 1977 as well as 1987.  But that was not good enough.

Diagram of Water Treatment System

That is where the Safe Drinking water act comes in to focus.  The purpose of the Safe drinking water act is the main federal law that ensures that the water quality that you drink meets the standards set by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)  passed by Congress in 1974.  It was updated in 1986 and 1996, and has been extended to include rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs and ground water wells. Unless, there are less than 25 individuals being served by that private well.


The national health-based standards for drinking water are set to protect against both naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water. US EPA, states, and water systems then work together to make sure that these standards are met.  The US EPA has oversight, but usually leaves states and Indian Tribes responsibility to meet the required standards set by law.

That is a mouthful!  So there is a lot of laws regulating your drinking water and distribution system of where you live.  What are the problems that you are being protected from?


There are a number of threats to drinking water: improperly disposed of chemicals; animal wastes; pesticides; human wastes; wastes injected deep underground; and naturally-occurring substances can all contaminate drinking water. Likewise, drinking water that is not properly treated or disinfected, or which travels through an poorly  maintained distribution system, may also be a risk to your health.


I will be speaking of small water treatment systems, since those are the systems I am most familiar with and managed in different locations.  For a small water treatment system, the challenge is to determine which treatment technology is appropriate in terms of cost, reliability, operation, maintenance, and compliance. Treatment technologies fall into three broad types:

  • Removal of Particulates and Total dissolved Solids (TDS)
    • Simple filtration
    • Advanced filtration
    • Reverse osmosis
  • Removal of Chemical Contamination
    • Ion exchange
    • Sorption (Sorption is a physical and chemical process by which one substance becomes attached to another)
    • Others (aeration, softening, electrodialysis, reverse osmosis)
  • Removal of Biological Contaminants
    • Chlorination
    • Ultraviolet light
    • Ozone
    • Other disinfection technologies (ammonium compounds, nonoxidizing biocides [i.e., formaldehyde], heat, and peracetic acid)


I am going to share an overall view of the EPA site:  you can read it in its’ entirety, or just look at the overview that I share here.

So you want to be an organic gardener or organic farmer, you can see all of the items just in your water that you should have a basic understanding of in the world we live in today.


Millions of Americans receive high quality drinking water every day from their public water systems, as long as you are not allergic to chlorine or other chemicals that are used to treat your water including the distribution of it (which may be publicly or privately owned). Nonetheless, drinking water safety cannot be taken for granted. The Safe Drinking Water Act applies to every public water system in the United States. There are currently more than 160,000 public water systems providing water to almost all Americans at some time in their lives.


There are a number of threats to drinking water: improperly disposed of chemicals; animal wastes; pesticides; human wastes; wastes injected deep underground; and naturally-occurring substances can all contaminate drinking water. Likewise, drinking water that is not properly treated or disinfected, or which travels through an improperly maintained distribution system, may also pose a health risk.


A water treatment system is great for getting a reasonable quality of water to your Home/ Garden or Farm.  It is up to you  from this point forward to turn that water into the water that you know is not only safe for everyday living, but also for drinking/cooking and helping you to stay healthy.


Click here now, to learn more as we share information on what it truly takes to live a sustainable life in a possibly hostile environment.


Turning Your Dreams Into The Life Of Your Dreams

Chris Downs ————   The Caretaker

Posted by & filed under Plants.

“How do I grow my ghost pepper successfully?  My business partner David, received a Ghost Pepper plant as a gift, and asked me that question.

The plant was given as a start, and had about 4 or 5 inches of growth so starting the plant was not a concern.  He lives in southern California where it is warm, since the plants need a temperature range of between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate, that would not have been a concern anyway.  But what problems did he face?

  • This was a new plant for him and me
  • His water supply was very high in chlorine
  • The container it came in was a solo cup, so it was a small container
  • David had never grown a pepper plant before
  • The ghost pepper was at one time the world’s hottest pepper, what to do with it once it was producing peppers

A Ghost Pepper Plant In North Hollywood


The first thing I want to talk about, is the water quality that you will use to water your Ghost Pepper Plant.  Chlorine does not occur naturally in nature, the form of chlorine most often added to pool water is solid calcium hypochlorite which forms an acid ( hypochlorous acid (HOCl) when place in water).

Sodium hypochlorite is the active ingredient of common household bleach. Commercial liquid chlorine (compressed chlorine gas) is used as a water treatment to kill bacteria. Hypochlorous acid is the effective agent that controls algae growths.  Some water treatment plants will use the Sodium or the Calcium hypochlorite, while larger treatment plants may use the compressed chlorine gas.

If your water has a high chlorine content, fill up a large container, leave it open to the atmosphere to allow the chlorine to dissipate before using the water for irrigating the landscape.  You can also use sodium thiosulfate, add it to the water (not recommended by me) to chemically remove the chlorine.

I am sure that you will know that I recommend filtering the chemicals out using a water filtration system, or if that is too expensive, purchase some RO or distilled water from your store.


When you do start your ghost pepper plants from seed, use sterilized soil or a light well-draining soil like a peat-based soil, and keep the soil moist but not wet during the germination season. Do not use potting mix.  Keep them in a warm area, out of direct sunlight or anywhere they will be between the 80 to 90 degree temperatures but not too hot to where the seeds will burn.


You want the soil moist, but not soggy.  Make sure that you soak the seeds overnight before planting them in the soil.


If you purchased a start, transplant your young pepper plant into three or four inch pots as soon as the second set of true leaves begins to form. About two weeks before you plan to put the plants in the garden, harden them off by exposing them to the outdoors for increasingly long periods of time. Make sure both air and soil temperatures are consistently warm before setting your plants out.


If you have more than on ghost pepper, plant your ghost peppers 24 to 36 inches apart, and keep the soil moist but not wet. Add mulch and compost from time to time to keep the soil moist and to prevent weeds. You may need to provide extra water during hot dry spells.

Now how about eating Ghost Peppers?

I read this quote from a forum, but I cannot remember  which one.  I will paraphrase what was said: “drug-like in its effect: not so much heat as a dizzying effect, with what felt like an eruption of water blasting out of the scalp”  That was for the fresh pepper.  Other comments for the dried peppers I read stated that the heat comes on quickly, but dissipates somewhat quickly also.


If you are tolerant of hot spices, this would be a great pepper to substitute as an ingredient instead of a habanero pepper.  You decide, David is growing his green pepper, and after first using tap water and having it almost die, now using bottled water it is growing great.

We will let you know what the Ghost Pepper tastes like and whether or not we have to drink lots of cool ice water during the taste test.

Sign up here now to continue to get our information and follow what happens as the peppers produce pods.

Turning your dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs ———–The Caretaker

Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

What is the Secret to sustainable gardening?  I understand that I can grow my own food, sell some of my excess to friends and relatives while eating healthier.
That is true to a point, you will have some challenges to prevail over, as well as a learning curve.  But let’s look at the question that you are asking, and how to answer it most precisely.


  • The “Secret” to sustainable gardening and what is it?
  • The answer is first this:  “What does sustainable gardening mean to you?”  Do you envision a set it and forget it gardening system that doesn’t take much time on your part?
  • How much money are you willing to spend creating your “sustainable garden”?
  • What zone do you live in, or what is the climate that you are growing in?
  • Do you want to save water and grow hydroponically?
  • Do you want to grow only in containers?
  • If you want to grow in soil, how much land do you have?
  • Do you want to have all sorts of flower and make your garden a place to rest , relax and share with others?


What is The Secret to Sustainable Gardening?

As you can see, the secret to sustainable gardening is hidden in many questions.  Considering that you are living in an apartment, and you wish to grow food for yourself and your family, these are the answers for your needs.

  • You can use the original square foot garden which called for a 4 foot by 4 foot section. This can supply one person with vegetables and salads.  But since we are assuming that you have 4 people in your household
  • To Supply enough food for 4 people, we will need to multiply that by a factor of 4.  That is a bit of a problem for most decks.  You will then use 2 rows of containers that will equal 2 feet by 8 feet long, laid out on your deck or in your backyard to produce
  • Square foot beds should face the sun, so there’s a front and a back to your garden containers then. At the back there’s a trellis for climbers ,have them in line or scatter them about wherever you can fit them in.
  • Depending on the soil you purchase and  the water content, the average garden will weight 40 lbs per sq ft .  Take that into consideration when building your garden.  You can also use your roof top for a garden if it is usable for containers.
  • You can break up a unit any way you like to fit the space available, right down to single one-foot squares, in boxes or baskets or whatever containers you can find.
  • Where to get soil?  Use compost. Check the municipality and the agricultural extension office for sources of compost suitable for gardening, and , and the local landscaping center.  Better yet, make your own compost.  It will take a while to make your own, but it is worth it.
  • Use Hydroponic systems that you can hang on a wall, from trellis to trellis, or lay flat on the deck for some of your crop.  They use less water, very little weeding, and are easier to keep clean and disease free if you are willing to check on them daily.

So the actual answer for Sustainable Gardening is this:

  1. Know what you like to eat, and what you and your family will eat
  2. What foods do you need to provide great nutrition
  3. Proper Planning for what you want
  4. Laying out your Sustainable Garden so that it is not only functional, but also prolific
  5. Plan your crops and follow your plan
  6. Be flexible in all that you do, and ensure you know that stuff happens
  7. Ask for help from other gardeners and farmers in your area
  8. Remember, Sustainable does not mean there is no work involved.  You will need to work both smart and efficient to not only enjoy the produce, but to also enjoy the journey


My wife Heather and I enjoy the entire process, the more you can eat right from your own garden, plan for it, and think long term, the easier it is to keep your efforts sustainable.


Sign up here now to receive more great information as we share with you some of our best “secrets” and successes as we share our stories.


Turning dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs   ————–    The Caretaker