Beltane or May Day signified to our ancestors the beginning of the summer season. While I celebrate these ancient holidays, the day that really means the clicking of the season is the day I plant my tomato plants.
This year I decided to grow 5 varieties of heirloom tomato. I prefer the growing habits as well as the fruit of heirloom tomatoes rather than the average taste and selected traits of hybrid varieties. It is difficult to find heirloom tomatoes as seedlings so if you want a good selection, you will need to order or purchase seeds. There are terrific sources in your local area, you can also select an online retailer. If you look to the right of this blog entry there is a link for The Cooks Garden where you can order heirloom seeds (at a nice discount for your first order). I selected two varieties of mini pear tomatoes (Yellow and Red) and three varieties of larger tomatoes. I selected the medium size, richly flavored Black Krim tomato from the Russian Black Sea area. It is the most reliable grower of the black tomatoes. I also selected a Sweet Persimmon tomato that develops large meaty globe shaped fruit (that sounds dirty) that matures to a delightful orange color with great flavor. Finally I selected the deep red lobe style Costoluto.
To grow tomatoes from seed, you will need to start them indoors approximately 6 weeks prior to your last frost date, start them in a soil-less potting mix in small pots. Keep them moist and warm with plenty of light until they are ready to transplant. About a week prior to planting, begin to put the seedlings outside (in good weather) for increasing times to climatize the seedlings and prepare them for transplanting into your garden.
This year I also chose to make my own tomato supports. After four years of different kinds of epic failures of the supports I bought (why can’t the industry make something that works?), I decided to buy 50 feet of vinyl coated fencing that helped me create my cucumber trellises and also gave me material to make simple supports that I reinforced with bamboo. After making the supports, I placed them in the garden to mark the spots I wanted to plant the seedlings.
Next, I dug holes for the seedlings, I dig the holes for the tomatoes deep and plant the seedlings close to the first set of leaves. When you plant them that deep the plants develop roots along the stem and makes the plants stronger. Water the seedlings in well and secure the supports around the seedlings. The next time I cut the lawn (tomorrow) I will use the clippings to mulch around the supports (but not let the mulch touch the seedlings.
These varieties are indeterminate so they will produce fruit all season long and should produce ripe fruits in about 75 days from germination. This is much longer than some hybrids, but totally worth it.
Growing heirloom varieties of vegetables is very rewarding, not only do they taste better, but by growing these varieties, you keep these historic varieties alive for future generations (if you save the seeds from some of the harvest).
Welcome to Summer and Happy Gardening!