Have you ever thought about becoming a gardener but aren’t sure how to start or maintain a healthy garden that will provide for you and your family? You aren’t alone. A lot of beginner gardeners feel intimidated by upkeep and care because of lack of knowledge or budget. This blog includes several budget-friendly and free options that any home gardener can experiment with to maintain tomato plants.   
Is that blossom end rot destroying the bottom of your tomatoes? You can fix this calcium deficiency with a 4-lb bag calcium nitrate granules for less than $10 at your local hardware store, but you can also substitute eggshells as a free alternative. Instead of discarding those eggshells you have after making your breakfast, toss them into your garden soil to supply a great source of calcium and add ample nutrients to your soil to reduce blossom end rot.   
If you don’t regularly (or ever) fertilize your plants, they can develop a nitrogen deficiency. You may notice that the more mature leaves will begin to lose their color and transition to a light green or yellow color. Don’t panic, sprinkle your coffee grounds at the base of the plant each morning as a DIY fertilizer to add nitrogen back into the soil. Not a coffee drinker? There are a wide range of store-bought fertilizer options available for every budget.    
If your tomato leaves turning yellow and brown towards the bottom stem, tomato blight is likely the culprit. Blight is induced by water and soil splashing up onto the plant foliage. Baking soda and dish soap are both easily accessible and will kill the blight by altering the plant’s pH level. To remedy blight for free, you can regularly prune the bottom stem of excess limbs and suckers. This can also help increase the quality of your tomato harvest! Click here to watch a video from the University of Maryland’s Home and Garden Information Center that shows how to prune a tomato plant. 
For a free and natural remedy to control those pesky hornworms and cut worms, you can pick the worms directly off the plant and either remove them from your garden beds or treat your chickens with a healthy snack. If you’re short on time, you can also treat these with Dipel Dust or Diatomaceous Earth for less than $10 from the local hardware store.  
Aphids are tiny bugs that suck that feed on the fluid inside your tomato plant’s leaves and flowers. Neem oil is a natural and relatively inexpensive way (around $10 per bottle) to control aphids, but you can also tackle the pest by hand. Simply spray soapy water onto the affected plants or knock the aphids off into a bucket of soapy water, whichever you prefer. 
There are many different challenges that can come your way in your gardening adventure but there are also many different solutions no matter what your budget is. Be sure to “like” the Quapaw Farmers Market Facebook page for more helpful videos. Happy gardening!