Ask a Specialist: Tomatoes in Winter a Possibility


By: Taun Beddes, USU Extension horticulturist, 801-851-8460, taun.beddes@usu.edu

Most people would love to eat freshly grown tomatoes year round. Though tomatoes can be grown in the winter in a greenhouse, this can become expensive with the costs of heating and supplemental lighting, in addition to the cost of the greenhouse. The most likely option for hobbyists who want homegrown tomatoes throughout the year is to grow them in containers indoors. Consider this information.

  • Since most tomato varieties suitable for indoor use are only available as seeds, it is important to learn the basics of starting seeds indoors. The University of Minnesota has a helpful fact sheet available at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/flowers/starting-seeds-indoors/. Since the tomato plant will be grown indoors, planting dates can be disregarded.
  • Smaller tomato varieties are best suited for indoor growing. These often only grow 1 to 2 feet around. A few varieties that may work well include Tiny Tim, Micro Tom, Terenzo or Lizzano. These seeds can be found online.
  • For growing, choose a bright location such as a south or west-facing window to maximize the amount of sun the tomatoes receive. The window should not be drafty. Temperatures below 50 degrees can harm tomatoes, and temperatures above 90 degrees may inhibit fruit set. Grow tomatoes under a cool-white florescent light. If using compact florescent bulbs, make sure they are at least 100 watt equivalent or greater. Make sure the tops of the plants stay within 3-6 inches of the bulbs. Adjustable desk lamps or inexpensive shop light fixtures suspended from chains are commonly used lights. It is not necessary to purchase more expensive, specialized grow lights or systems.
  • Make sure the container is large enough to accommodate the root system. For the smallest varieties, a 1-gallon pot is sufficient. For larger varieties, choose a 2 or 3-gallon pot, and note that it is better to have a pot that is too large rather than one that is too small. Additionally, as long as the growing container has drainage holes, the material it is made from is less important.
  • Choose a good peat moss-based potting soil for indoor plants. Never use soil from the yard. Fertilize with a well-balanced houseplant fertilizer, either granular or liquid, and follow the package instructions. Be careful not to over water, and allow the soil to dry out moderately between irrigations.
  • A large plant that is well cared for will likely produce more, but may require more maintenance. The smaller varieties are more of a novelty and are less work, but will likely only produce enough fruit for an occasional salad or sandwich. At any rate, tomatoes in the winter can be a delicious treat and can also help brighten up a dreary winter home.

USU Extension Co-sponsors Utah Marriage Celebration


Utah State University Extension co-sponsors the Northern Utah Marriage Celebration held at the Weber State University Shepherd Union Building Friday, Feb. 6, from 4 to 9:30 p.m.

Designed as a date night for those who want to prepare for or strengthen their marriage, the marriage celebration features workshops presented by professionals from Northern Utah. Workshops include such topics as intimacy, communication and staying connected. Keynote presenter is Liz Hale, Studio 5 marriage and family coordinator and former radio host of the Dr. Liz Hale Show,who will address “Creating the Best Ever Marriage.” Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist and has worked in the field for 23 years. Her presentation concludes the evening.

The conference begins at 6 p.m. and includes two workshop sessions. Bonus workshop sessions, including topics on second marriages, finances and others, are available from 4 to 5 p.m. with entertainment by nationally recognized musician Greg Simpson from 5 to 6 p.m.

“We are excited about this conference,” said Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences faculty for Weber County. “We have a fantastic lineup of speakers and we are confident that those who attend will come away with information and skills to enhance their relationship.”

Tickets are available by calling 1-800-888-TIXX, by visiting www.smithstix.com or at Smith’s Tix box offices. Early registration is $30 a couple or $20 an individual throughJanuary 25. Tickets purchased after January 25 are $40 a couple or $25 an individual. A limited number of tickets may be available at the door and purchased with cash or check only. More information can be found at www.strongermarriage.org.

Additional co-sponsors for the Northern Utah Marriage Celebration are Strongermarriage.org and Weber State University.


Pucker up and Enjoy the Benefits of Citrus Fruits

By: Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension associate professor

Pucker Up and Enjoy the Benefits of Citrus Fruit

There is an abundance of citrus fruits in grocery stores this time of year. The prime harvest time for most of these fruits is in the late fall and early winter months, which makes right now a peak time to enjoy these healthful foods.

Citrus fruits are full of vitamin C, which helps maintain a strong immune system and helps protect against scurvy. Citrus fruits promote heart health and reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. They can also aid in cancer prevention and are useful in diabetes sugar level control. Citrus fruit skin is high in essential oils used in flavorings or as fragrant essences in aromatherapy oils, cosmetics and soaps. Other important nutrients found in citrus fruits are fiber, folate, lypocene, potassium and vitamin B6.

Each fruit color provides different nutrients that our bodies need. It is important to include a variety of colors every day for these important nutrients. Consider this information.

  • Red fruit contains antioxidants that help fight heart disease, lower cholesterol and prevent some cancers.
  • Green fruit provides phytochemicals to help protect eyes and prevent cancerous tumors. Greens have essential vitamins including folate, minerals and fiber.
  • Orange and yellow fruit contain beta-carotene that is essential for a good immune system and is rich in vitamin C, folate and vitamin A.
  • Blue and purple fruit provide phytochemicals which are antioxidants that protect against cancer and disease. The blue and purple also provide vitamin C, folic acid and fiber.
  • White fruit provides allicin, sulfaforaphanes, polyphenols and phytochemicals that help in fighting cancers and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

Citrus fruits are also objects of beauty and decor. A bowl of fresh fruit makes a great centerpiece. It can also remind you that selecting a piece of fruit rather than candy or cookies is a wise choice. It is smart to keep fresh fruit within reach to encourage daily consumption. USDA’s MyPlate recommends eating 2 cups of fruit every day. This may be in the form of juice, fresh, canned or dried fruits.

There are many ways to increase fruits in your daily diet. Add oranges and lemons to water to allow infusing overnight. Add fresh lemons and limes to drinks. Eat half a grapefruit every morning for breakfast. Have a citrus snack every day. Prepare salads using citrus fruit with lettuce and spinach. Top entrees with a fruit sauce.

As the peak fruit season begins to level off, you may want to try home canning grapefruits and oranges. This simple and fast process provides you with home-canned fruit that makes a wonderful breakfast fruit mix and prevents the waste of fruits. Begin by selecting firm, sweet grapefruits and oranges. Peel and remove the white tissue. Break the fruit into sections and fill jars with the fruit. Next, fill jars with water or hot syrup. Water works well, but a light syrup of 1 cup sugar to 4 cups of water provides an enriched flavor. Pour the liquid over the fruit in the jars, leaving one-half inch headspace. Apply the lids and rings and process pints or quarts in a water bath for 15 minutes at an elevation of 2,000 to 4,000 feet. Adjustments will need to be made for other elevations. Further information can be found in the Ball Blue Book, available at: http://freshpreservingstore.com/search/ball-blue-book/ or from your county Extension office.

Do You Have an Emergency Kit for Your Car?

By: Cindy Nelson, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, with information from Carolyn Washburn, USU  Extension associate professor and Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension educator

Do you have an car emergency kit?

The best gift you could give yourself and your family this holiday season may be peace of mind. One gift to help bring peace of mind is an emergency car kit that includes needed supplies in the event of a misfortune on the road such as a flat tire, engine trouble, being stuck in a remote area or something more serious like poor road conditions due to bad weather or natural disasters such as floods, fires or earthquakes.

An emergency car kit is like a 72-hour kit on the go but also includes tools specific to vehicle emergencies. You can purchase a ready-made emergency car kit, or you can assemble one that fits your family’s needs.

Your kit should include items typically found in a 72-hour kit:

  • Snacks, water, non-perishable foods and a can opener.
  • Water bottle with a purifier or a filter so you can use water from a stream or melted snow.
  • Emergency thermal blanket to provide warmth or shelter.
  • Warm clothing, including gloves.
  • Contact information for family members, doctor, insurance, mechanic, etc., either on a piece of paper stored in the glove box or stored in your cell phone. Be sure to have a car charger for your phone as well as a backup charger that is either battery or solar powered.
  • Tissues or toilet paper and diapers if you have young children.
  • First aid kit, including basic first aid supplies and necessary medications for allergies, pain, etc.
  • Microfiber towels that are highly absorbent and quick drying, and/or compressed towels that save space.
  • Matches or a lighter.
  • Cash.
  • Notebook and pen.

Then add items specific to vehicle emergencies:

  • Distress sign or emergency sign to hang in car window or on antennae.
  • Orange safety vest.
  • Portable power unit, which can be invaluable in many emergency situations.
  • Jumper cables.
  • Snow and ice scraper.
  • Flares.
  • Flashlight or spotlight with extra batteries, or solar powered or windup lights.
  • Portable radio that is wind up or battery powered.
  • Rope, tie downs, bungee cords.
  • Spare tire, jack, lug wrench.
  • Basic tool kit and a shovel.

It can be difficult to find space in a vehicle to store all of the necessary emergency equipment. Rather than using one big container, items can be stored in multiple small containers that can be tucked into cubbies, under seats, in the glove box, trunk or door compartments.

Other things to consider for peace of mind on the road:

  • Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full at all times.
  • Check weather and road conditions before leaving home.
  • Assess your surroundings for safety.
  • Stay with your vehicle.
  • Carry a roadside assistance card at all times, or know how to use assistance services such as OnStar.