in Rosings Park

Totally Tomatoes (by Kris)

Just thinking about a warm ripe beefsteak tomato fresh from my garden is enough to make me drool in the depths of January. Since the harvest at that point is six long months away, I do what I can to make the wait seem bearable. In short: I obsessively shop for tomato seeds and start them indoors. Yes, I could just buy greenhouse plants in May and put them directly in the soil, saving myself the worries of non-germination, wilt, and dampening off, but where’s the fun in that? A friend recently asked me, “You mean, you start your tomatoes from seed?” I wondered if she realizes that all tomatoes are started from seed by somebody!

Starting your own plants from seed allows you to choose exactly what you want to grow. You can experiment with heirloom varieties or the latest hybrized-resistant-to-everything invention. You can customize your garden to your particular climate zone or go exotic and specialize in South American wonders that hearken back to the original species. Or, go with a theme: all tiny varieties, all named after their hybridizers, all bi-colored, all Russian-types, all named after states (Oregon Spring, Carolina Gold, Alaskan Fancy, Georgia Streak, Kentucky Beefsteak, Nebraska Wedding, and New Yorker). Tomato names conjure up Country Fairs and contests of tall tales. Each hybrid a dream of the perfect tomato: early in the season, mouth-watering to taste, pest-resistance and loaded down with ripe fruit until frost,

This year, Craig B. and I placed a shared order from Totally Tomatoes, which carries about 250 varieties of tomatoes as well as over a hundred peppers and a smattering of cucumbers, melons, and squashes. There was a shipping mixup in which my shipment went astray, but the company quickly sent out another batch and they arrived in time for my February 25th seed-starting target. And a big thank you to Rhonda B. who gave me her indoor grow-lights. I think they made the difference; this year’s tomatoes look better than ever.

I chose eight varieties this year (leaving room for the two plants I won’t be able to resist buying at the Garden Show next weekend). And I displayed uncharacteristic restraint in starting only two plants of each kind (four seeds total, since I double plant and then snip one seedling off). Then, I actually composted one plant of each when I transplanted into pots, leaving me with one plant of each kind, ready for the garden. I selected the eight kinds based on: variety/color and days-to-crop. Here are my picks:

  • Quimbaya Hybrid — from Colombia, small 4-5 ounce fruits, blocky shape, 65 days
  • Aunt Ruby’s German Green — Heirloom green beefsteak, 12-16 ounce, with spicy undertone, 80 days
  • Caspian Pink — from Russia, this beefsteak has supposedly beaten the legendary Brandywine in taste trials, 80 days
  • Dr. Wyche’s Yellow — Golden-orange beefsteak up to 1 pound, 80 days
  • New Yorker — early 4-6 ounce salad tomato, 66 days
  • Bloody Butcher — Just loved the name on this one! High yield of 4-ounce fruits that are deep, dark red. Strong tomato flavor, 55 days
  • Riesentraube — German heirloom pear-type cherry tomato. Prolific, 70 days
  • Hard Rock — Free seed with order. 3-ounce fruits good for canning, 80 days.

Now I just need to get Jd to re-till the garden (when he feels better) and we’re less than three months away from a crop! He doesn’t like tomatoes, but he sure loves the Best Salsa Ever!

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  1. Note that this is Kris’ second weblog entry. Her first weblog entry was My Husband, the Chef, in which she describes what it’s like when I bake in her kitchen. I’ve managed to restore than entry, but unfortunately I’ve lost the comments. It’s a funny tale, I must admit, even though it’s at my expense.

  2. Oh, woe is Kris!

    It froze last night! After the trauma of having me till the ground while sick, and after her valiant effort to plant the tomatoes while sick, the may now be dead, or stunted. She’ll have to check later this morning (she’s home sick from work). Our forecast low was only forty-degrees, so we both felt safe.

    Oh, woe.

  3. Oh, say it isn’t so! I sure hope they didn’t freeze. We planted our tomatoes, also started from seed, last weekend, but with nighttime protection (row covers). Your plants look so beautiful . . . .

    And, get healthy you two!

  4. I think they’re fine! Last year I put cloches over them, but this year the plants were too tall. Darn the forecast! I haven’t made it outside to check out all the annuals in the flower beds, but I don’t think it was a hard frost so I’m optimistic.

  5. That is good news. You and JD will be the first to see the changes we’ve made to our back garden. It looks very different after a few long weekends of labor. The only major piece not in place is our patio but that will come sometime in the next two months.

  6. Ya u can choose which plant to grow. There is a scope of experimentation and hybreed variety. Why just Tomatoes.There is lots more to be grown. I also do this experiments in my small kitcen garden. It works sometimes and fails sometimes. Totally reddish blog.

  7. This morning was even colder. There was actual frost on the ground out by the garden. I don’t hold out much hope now, despite the fact that Kris threw up some weak cloches.

  8. JD– you are being a big worrywort! The plants looked fine when I left this morning. Just because frost collects on your windshield doesn’t mean that it was cold enough to burst plant cells. You’re gving my tomatoes a complex– sheesh!

  9. J.D. can worry about our tomatoes – they don’t look so happy. The neighbors report tomatoes don’t do so well in our area because of the wind/cold air from the river valley. I am planting extra to combat this (plus I don’t have the restraint to compost seedlings!). On the other hand, peas, corn and onions don’t seem to be doing too badly, especially since everyone told me I planted my corn way too early. We may have to swap corn for tomatoes!

  10. If you check your plants for freezing before the sun hits them in the morning, you can pour water over them and save them. I read this in Laura Ingals Wilder’s book Farmer Boy and used to do it to some of our tomatoes so they would last longer in the fall. The ones that got water lived and the ones that didn’t died.