Q. I recently saw some information on the Internet about pressure canning food in flexible foil pouches. Is that safe?
A. Absolutely not. There are no research-based processing times for canning at home in flexible foil pouches. The times developed for canning jars are not transferable to foil pouches. Commercial food processors conduct their own heat penetration and process research on any foods processed for the marketplace. Just because a product is available in the marketplace does not mean it can be safely made at home. For safety, stick to well-researched home canning methods, using the equipment and following instructions as intended.
Q. My tomatoes are sprawling all over the place. Should I prune them?
A. Indeterminate tomatoes (tomatoes that flower and set fruit until frost) should be pruned in order to maximize yield and quality. Pruning will assure that leaves have plenty of room to grow and they receive maximum light. Additionally, a properly pruned plant will be less likely to develop bacterial and fungal diseases. When the leaves receive maximum light, larger, sweeter fruits will develop. Never prune tomato plants when the leaves are wet, give plants plenty of room and keep the leaves from touching the ground. Determinate tomatoes, or those that set all of their fruit in one short period, do not benefit significantly from pruning.
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Q. Can lacking one nutrient in the soil cause other crop nutrients to appear low as well?
A. We are conducting a research trial looking at rates of nitrogen. It is amazing how a low nitrogen soil can make visible phosphorus deficiency symptoms in a soil where you would not expect these symptoms to occur. Other nutrients can interact as well, such as phosphorus and zinc. Adding phosphorus in a zinc-deficient field can actually hurt production and adding zinc to an iron-deficient soil can have negative effects as well.
The best way to fertilize a soil is by using a soil test and looking for enough of most of the essential mineral elements, which includes nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, manganese, iron, copper, zinc and boron. Although, some essential elements such as chloride, molybdenum and nickel are not always included in a soil test.