Four Helpful Tips For Plant Growing Success

Four Helpful Tips For Plants Growing Success

Susan, The Nature Nurse, and I are frequently asked gardening questions. Some examples include questions such as, “When should I plant my tomato seeds?” or “What type of vegetables grow best in my area?”

There’s not always a specific answer to those questions because it really depends on where you live, your climate, and what time of year it is.

I am sharing four helpful and essential tips that can help answer those questions and contribute to your plant growing success. Whether you are a novice who is just starting a new garden or an experienced grower with years of experience, following these four helpful tips can help you succeed with growing plants of your own!

On a humorous note, I cannot stress enough to please learn from my mistakes! Every tip I am sharing with you are tips that I have had to learn all over again after moving from California to Mobile, Alabama. I have almost had to relearn all over again because I have been in California mode since moving here! What grew easily in California is not necessarily the same case in Alabama. Nature can be very humbling!

 The first tip is getting familiar with your plant hardiness zone. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map is available free on-line and can help you determine which plants are most likely to thrive in your location and help rule out which plants most likely will not.

 While knowing your plant hardiness zone and average annual extreme minimum temperature is important, I have found that it is equally important to know that frost can sometimes kill our plants and seedlings. That is why tip number two is knowing the average date of the first and last frost in your region. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a free virtual tool on their website to help you find the average date of the first and last frost in your region. It is important to know both dates because planting before the last frost could cause the frost to kill your seedlings and planting after the first frost could result in failure to germinate. The average dates of the first and last frost are just averages. Frost could arrive earlier than anticipated and can also occur later than expected. Check your local weather forecast for the latest updates and expectations.

 Tip number one and tip number two are both interconnected with tip number three! Tip number three is to follow your plant and seed planting instructions. Generally speaking, plant and seed companies will provide seed planting instructions on the seed packet. Instructions should include when to plant your seeds in your region. That is why it is helpful to know your plant hardiness zone. Seed planting instructions should also include when to plant regarding the frost dates! So, can you see how it would be helpful to know those frost dates?

See how this all ties together? Knowing your plant hardiness zone, identifying the average frost dates, and following seed sowing instructions will help ensure your success in growing your own plants!

 My fourth and final tip is establishing relationships with your local garden centers, farmer’s markets, and like-minded growers can be invaluable sources of information. I can attest to this on a personal level. For example, while working at my local farmer’s market, I am always chatting with other farmers about what they are growing and asking questions about how to grow some of the more popular items. They are always more than willing to share information and tips for success.

I hope you find these four tips helpful! Be sure to follow me, The Nurse Farmer, as well as Susan, The Nature Nurse, for our Healthy Green Thumbs campaign. We will be providing more helpful tips, advice, and recipes through our blog posts, videos, and bi-weekly e-mails. You can sign up for our e-mails at either or

Thanks and good luck with your plant growing success!

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Clifton Joullian R.N., B.S.N.

The Nurse farmer ™

Heirloom Tomatoes & Good Health


I have long advocated for growing and consuming heirloom vegetables, particularly tomatoes.

The definition of an heirloom seed or vegetable may have different meanings to different people. Basically, an heirloom is an old variety that has been passed down from seed to seed, year after year, usually through many generations. Heirlooms are ‘open pollinated’, meaning they are naturally pollinated by the wind or insects such as bees. Heirlooms also breed ‘true to type’, meaning they come back looking exactly like their parents. For example, a black heirloom tomato grown from the seed of it’s black heirloom tomato parent will look exactly like it’s parent. That is not necessarily the case with mass-produced, hybrid type tomatoes generally found at the supermarket. My favorite analogy is that a tomato grown from the seed of a hybrid tomato may come back looking like an aunt or an uncle instead of the parent!

Phytonutrients, such as Lycopene, are compounds found in vegetables such as tomatoes. Lycopene is thought to have health-protecting qualities. Scientists believe that Lycopene may help prevent some forms of cancer such as prostate cancer. There is research that suggests Lycopene may also help protect us from some forms of skin cancer. In addition to fighting cancer, research suggests tomato consumption may also slow lung decline and may also help repair lung damage from the long term effects of smoking. Now, that’s not to say that eating more tomatoes will counteract all of the negative health effects of smoking or that smokers should continue smoking while increasing their tomato intake in hopes of preventing disease. Quitting smoking reduces our risk for getting cancer and other forms of COPD. The research simply implies that eating tomatoes may help repair some of the damage caused by smoking.

The best way to obtain Lycopene is by eating foods that contain Lycopene instead of taking Lycopene as a dietary supplement. Tomatoes have large amounts of Lycopene. Tomatoes are delicious and nutritious when eaten raw. However, cooking tomatoes prior to consumption allows tomatoes to release even more Lycopene for our bodies to absorb.

Tomatoes are not only an excellent source of Lycopene, but also an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. In fact, one medium-sized heirloom tomato contains about 20 percent of our daily recommended intake of Vitamin A and about 40 percent of our daily recommended intake of Vitamin C.

Tomato seeds should be sowed about 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep when the soil is at least 70 degrees. Tomatoes should be spaced about two to three feet apart. Two feet is sufficient for compact, bush like tomatoes (These are ‘determinate tomatoes’). However, long and vine-like tomatoes (These are ‘indeterminate tomatoes’), should be spread about three feet apart. When growing tomatoes in containers, remember, bigger containers are better! Bush-type (Determinate) tomatoes grow best in ten gallon or larger pots. Vine type tomatoes (Indeterminate) grow best in twenty gallon or larger pots.

In closing, growing heirloom tomatoes from seed benefits our health, our kitchens, as well as our wallets! Our health may benefit from the potential cancer preventing effects of Lycopene. Our kitchens will benefit from the tasty meals we will be creating (How about a home-made pasta sauce or shrimp creole sauce made from heirloom tomatoes? You will never want store bought tomato sauce again!) We will also save money by not having to spend a pretty penny purchasing heirloom tomatoes from someone else.

Clifton Joullian R.N., B.S.N.

The Nurse Farmer