Monthly Garden Experiment – Fishnure (June)

In February while seeking a break from the snow and ice I came across Fishnure Fertilizer. Some guy on Twitter was posting pictures of side by side plant comparisons with and without the use of Fishnure. That guy was Jim and he’s the main person behind the Fishnure line of products.

I did not know Jim, so naturally I was skeptical and asked him to send me a sample so I could try my own comparisons.

A week later some Fishnure arrived in the mail! Good to see he was confident enough in his product to take up the challenge.

Waiting to try Fishnure was difficult because I had planned on using it for a tomato comparison. That meant I had to wait until May!

Fast forward a few months and there I was with my son, “The Tomato Shark”. Together we began the Fishnure Tomato Experiment. If you missed last month’s experiment on growing bucket loads of potatoes click here–>Potato Experiment.

We chose Supersweet 100’s tomatoes for the Fishnure experiment. The 2 plants were purchased from the store as starts and came from the exact same package. Our plan was to have two potted tomato plants. Potting them allows more control over soil, water, sunlight and nutrient differences. Both pots got identical garden soil right from the DIY Backyard Farm Edible Garden Beds. The only difference was that I mixed Fishnure into the soil of one of the plants.

The picture below shows the plants at the 2.5 week mark. The plant on the right is the one growing with Fishnure. We certainly noticed more foliage on the Fishnure treated plant at this point in the experiment. However, as I write this post we are almost into week 4 and the control plant seems to have caught up.

Plants at the 2 week mark in the experiment

Plants at the 2.5 week mark in the experiment

At this time we decided to add a top dressing of Fishnure. The product labeling recommends 2x a year feeding with Fishnure. This feeding will be the only additional application of the product we use this season.

Using Fishnure is fairly easy and not too messy. Ours came in a resealable bag. The product we tested had a tendency to clump and we had to break it up a bit before using. I was surprised by how little smell there was. I was expecting something that smelled like old fish tank or maybe fish oil capsules.

The plan is to update this post as the season progresses. My son and I are excited to see the final results of this experiment and will be sure to share them on the DIY Backyard Farm blog. Will the Fishnure treated plant produce more tomatoes? Will the tomatoes taste better or different from the tomatoes on our control plant? Only time will tell! Stay tuned…

The Proper Way to Plant Tomatoes

My 9 year-old son, locally known as “The Tomato Shark” shows us how to plant tomatoes the right way. Yes, there is a wrong way to plant tomato plants.

Don’t be afraid to bury them in fairly deep like you see in the video. The tomato plant will develop a better root system. Better roots usually means better plant too!

Here is a more detailed tomato planting video we put out last year for the folks who want a bit more information.

What types of tomatoes are you growing this season?

Companion Planting Ideas

March is a frustrating month for many of us. Sure St. Pat’s Day is fun, but March is still kind of frustrating. I guess March has one thing going for it…it is not February!

Edible gardeners are often perplexed by this much maligned month. To plant or not to plant is often the question. I say don’t plant until you are sure the conditions will be just right. Instead of planting spend your time planning.

More specifically, I find this to be a great time of year to think about and plan some companion planting. My style of companion planting embraces the unique characteristics of our family gardens. For example, we love growing lettuce because it tastes great when freshly picked and saves us a lot of money. The challenge comes during July and August when heat causes the lettuce to bolt, wilt or even disappear. Fortunately, we also love tomatoes and cucumbers. Over the years we learned to plant our lettuces and tomatoes in the shade of the sun-loving tomatoes and the succulent, crunchy cukes.

I also use the above technique with basil. However, basil typically prefers a bit more sun than most types of lettuce do. Basil is everywhere in our garden!

Another companion planting I find really useful comes from our friends, onions and garlic. I like to use these plants around the borders of our gardens. Onions and garlic are not a preferred target of many pests and critters. In fact, it is said these plants deter many bugs and even animals.

What types of companion planting do you do in your edible gardens?

Secret To A Successful Garage Sale

My friend Dave recently shared a story with me about the power of Sungold tomatoes. Maybe I should put pictures of my tomatoes on the signs for our next garage sale???

Here is the story as told by Dave:

Thought you would get a kick out of this story….

A friend was having a garage/moving sale and a guy was looking at some golf clubs that were up for sale. He noticed the guy was standing in the same spot for a long time. Then my friend noticed the guy was picking SUNGOLD cherry tomatoes off his plants. After seeing him eat 5 or so tomatoes he walked over and said, “those tomatoes are pretty good huh?” The guy said he has never had a tomato this good and wanted to know what the name of them was. He proceeded to pick 10 or 15 more to go!

Top 3 Edible Gardening Myths

Time to dispel these!

Myth #1 – Edible gardening is too much work.

DIY Backyard Farm – sure, having a thriving edible garden is work. However, it’s good for you work. Working your edible garden is not like sitting at the computer all day or commuting in the car to a thankless job. Working your edible garden is healthy exercise too!


Working the soil!

Myth #2 – Our yard lacks sunlight.

DIY Backyard Farm – I hear this all the time. Someone may lack the sunlight to grow tomatoes or peppers, but there are many other edible plants that do well in part sun. My book has a section devoted to vegetables, herbs and even some berries that grow and produce fine in part sun. If you are not sure how much sunlight an area receives you can use a simple sunlight measuring device like the SunCalc we recently reviewed.

suncal,sunlight measuring, device

The SunCalc Sunlight Measuring Device

Myth #3 – It is less money and more convenient to buy your own produce from the store.

DIY Backyard Farm – No way! In 2014 we started to loosely track the amounts of vegetables, fruits and herbs our edible gardens produced. Consider our golden raspberry bush. One bush has produced roughly 7 pints of golden raspberries so far this season. One small harvest in early summer and one larger harvest in late summer/early fall. This type of raspberry is hard to find in the store. Plus, the few times I have seen them they are usually $5 – $7 for 1/2 of a pint! At those prices we grew $70 – $98 of golden raspberries alone!

How about tomatoes? We are unsure of the total harvest because our son, AKA “Tomato Shark”, eats many of them before we are aware of their existence. However, on a recent visit to a national gourmet market chain we saw heirloom tomatoes “on sale” for $4.99 a pound. Each tomato they sold was at or just under 1 pound! At that price our Cherokee Purples would be worth a small fortune.

Wait, there’s more! We forgot to discuss travel. We travel from our home to our backyard gardens to pick our organic, fresh produce. Just a few steps and we enter our own personal farmer’s market. How long do you spend driving to the market, selecting/paying for produce and driving home? Our carbon footprint is zero for this activity, what is yours?


Part of the daily golden raspberry harvest

heirloom tom prices

That is one expensive tomato salad!

Watch This For Tastier Tomatoes

Your desire to taste one of the best fruits of summer may have you picking them at the wrong time. Let the resident 8 year-old DIY Backyard Farmer show you how it is done!

Note, he meant to explain that it is important to harvest tomatoes that are close to ready before a major rain. Often times those tomatoes will swell and split. If no major rains are expected than most tomatoes benefit from longer hang times. This is especially true for cherry-type tomatoes. Not sure if that was clear in the video, but that is what he meant to say.

Now go make some BLT’s!

Edible Gardeners Take “Note”

The title of this post says it all. Taking notes throughout the year is a great way to make sure you are learning from your edible gardening experiences. In fact, garden note pages are a key component of my book, “The DIY Backyard Farm Edible Garden Planning Guide“.

garden notes photo

Example of my 2014 edible garden notes

As you can see in the picture, I practice what I preach! Plus, taking notes is a great way to engage my kids even further with their foods. We take turns noting garden observations and writing reminders on what to grow next year.

We use the notes when planning future gardens, deciding on seeds/plants to order and for troubleshooting.

How has your edible garden done this year? Have you been taking notes?



Never Waste A Tomato Again

Every season we say the same thing, “we can’t wait to jar our plum tomatoes”. Every season we do the same thing, “Nonna, can you please jar our tomatoes?”

We just do not have the time to deal with the abundance of San Marzano plum tomatoes that we harvest all at once. These past few seasons we discovered oven roasting them. It is a quick, easy way to ensure not a single tomato goes to waste. Anyone can execute this recipe with ease.

Roasted tomatoes taste great alone, on top of a crusty piece of bread or mixed into a pasta Primavera. I hope our readers will share their favorite uses with us.

oven roasted tomatoes

finished and ready to eat, or save (not)

Here’s How To Do It

Simply slice each plum tomato in half lengthwise. Then place the cut halves onto a lightly oiled baking pan cut side up. We season ours with some dried herbs (from our garden of course), garlic powder and a touch of grated Parmesan cheese. Of course, you can roast them plain as well.

Next, place the pan into an oven set to 400 degrees. You can slow roast them at a lower temperature as well for an even more intense flavor. We usually roast at 400 degrees because it is much quicker. Check on them often because cooking times depend on thickness of the tomato halves.

The tomatoes are done when they look like the ones in the picture above. Look at those nice charred edges and super concentrated flavors!

Note, in the summer we use our grill and BBQ a lot. I often roast tomatoes on the grill to keep from heating up the house too much. Instead of a baking pan I use a sheet of heavy-duty foil (well oiled) placed on the top rack of the grill or away from the coals if using a BBQ.