Most years I can get by planting my tomatoes during the last week of April, with some protection against unexpected freezes. This year I'm hoping to get them planted around the second week of May, but just in case the weather man and Mother Nature decide to finally bring on the warm, I'm getting everything ready for the biggest event of my gardening season.....tomato planting time!
As you know, I've already prepped the "tomato fortress". That's where the Brandywines will be planted, as they grow so huge. I can't be that aggressive with large structures elswhere in the yard and garden, as there isn't space for them, but I do have to make sure I have a really sturdy support for the heavy plants. I would really like to have some CRW cages (that's concrete reinforcement wire), but being the weak old woman that I am, I'd probably keel over if I ever tried to build them. Nah, that wouldn't happen, but I really do not have the strength in my hands that it takes to cut that heavy wire and form the cages. Instead, I must rely on the biggest (and cheapest) cone shaped cages I can find. Two years ago I got some really heavy duty ones from Wal-Mart for under $3 each. I wish I had bought about fifty of them! But I didn't, and when I purchased more of the same size last year, they weren't nearly as heavy duty. The wire was thinner than what was used the previous year, and some of the welds have already broken.
But I digress. On to tomato planting preparation.
Yesterday I looked over the west garden. Yes, I have an east garden, north garden, west garden, shed garden and patio garden. That's what happens in small yards like mine, you garden wherever you can find a spot. It keeps me running in circles to tend them all! Anyway, I decided the west garden could hold four tomato plants this year. As usual, the bottomless buckets will be used here, so I can take advantage of the surrounding soil for planting other things. I had already put the new rhubarb in this bed, and it probably won't achieve enough growth this year to need more space than I've allowed, so four Cherokee Purple tomato plants will be its companions. As usual, before setting the buckets, I amended the soil with a couple of inches of composted cow (not steer) manure. The buckets were set and the supports were installed. The stakes were screwed into the neighbor's fence (I didn't ask him, but I have to look at that ugly thing, so the least he can do is allow me to use it as a tomato stake anchor).
I moved on to the patio garden, and set two buckets on the east side, installed 8' long stakes, and screwed them into the patio eaves. The cherry tomatoes will go here, and I'll just try to keep them tied to the stakes rather than double decker two cages.
I then filled all the buckets with a mixture of half top soil and half compost, both of which I had to buy as I'm completely out now. I pulverized the last of my saved egg shells in the food processor with a few aspirin tablets, a handful of old calcium tablets, a cup of corn meal and two cups of alfalfa pellets, and divided among the six buckets (two others by the patio). Now, with the tomato fortress, I have prepped 9 buckets for planting. One more bucket will be set at the west corner of the patio today, and I'm contemplating a third one for the east side of the patio. That spot is a bit iffy, as the nearby dryer vent might provide too much heat. I'll have to think about it.
If I use that third bucket on the east side, that brings the total to 11 places for the tomato plants. Today, if it doesn't rain on me, I'll prep the remaining planting spots, which will all be in-ground rather than in-bucket. I think I can crowd five plants into the east garden, and two plants next to the shed, for a total of 18 plants. That's five more than I had originally planned for this year, but didn't you all know I'd never make do with only 13 tomato plants? I have 20 plants growing, and I'm going to (gasp) buy (gasp) one from the nursery. All but one of the dozen Sungold seeds I planted failed to germinate, and that one is less than an inch tall, compared to most of the others that are 8-12" high. I haven't much hope for the wee thing. When I bought the rhubarb plant, I checked to see if they had Sungold. They didn't, but they had Sun Sugar, which is similar. I'm going back for one.
Speaking of the nursery, which is less than a mile from here, I might be buying all of my tomato plants in the future. Not only do they have lovely specimens, and a huge selection of heirlooms, they are priced at $1.49 a four pack. I don't think I can grow them from seed for that price, considering the cost of the planting medium, the electricity to keep them warm and under lights, and the personal time spent on them.
But, back to what got accomplished yesterday. After I got all those tomato buckets prepped and secured, I moved two pots into the west garden and filled them with California Poppies and blue lobelia. Then I moved eight strawberry plants from next to the patio, and planted them for a ground cover. Lastly, since that west fence has a dog on the other side that Otto just absolutely hates, I constructed a short fence to keep him out of the bed. When Otto met up with the little fence, he actually sat there and cried! He has now been banned from nearly every garden area in the back yard.
The west garden doesn't look like much yet. I'm thinking I'll move those white pots and add some taller flowers to help hide the ugly buckets. I'm also thinking I need to unscrew the stakes from the fence and add a second cage to each bucket, because the Cherokee purples got so tall they blew over last year and broke where they flopped over the edge of the cage.
OK, Mr. Weatherman and Mother Nature, I'm ready for that warm!
You've been super busy busy, I can't keep up with you Granny. Holy moly JUST 13 tomato plants? LOL (you're hiding some from us right?)ReplyDelete
Hope we all get some heat wave sooner. Its all raining and gloomy in northeast now. Wow, thats a great bargain for tomato plants. I would never start from seed if I get that price :)ReplyDelete
I had no luck with starting my own tomatoes this year...so I picked some up at the local hardware store. They are relatively cheap and far less hassle on my end. I have to agree with you!ReplyDelete
I put tomato plants out in the garden today. It's considerably warmer here than where you are. In a haphazard way, I followed your bucket planting method out of curiosity and because my plants were still so spindly that I thought they needed the protection of bucket sides. And now, you've gone and mentioned that your Cherokee Purples fell over. I planted two of them, and I bet I didn't begin to reinforce as much as I should have.ReplyDelete
Now you are getting up to a respectable amount of tomatoes. I have 20 planned right now. Surely you can beat me. Usually you have three times my number. I'm cheating this year since I have a larger garden then before. It leaves more room for tomatoes. Once upon a time I grew a lot of seedlings in my basement. Then I moved and found a great nursery and quit doing it. When the nursery closed down I had to start up again. at 1.49 per four pack, I wouldn't grow my own transplants either. At least if they had a really good selection. Usually here packs are about $3/pack and the selection is terrible. Sometimes you can get a good selection in 4" pots, but then each one costs $4. Way way too much money.ReplyDelete
I usually make do with on large stake for each tomato plant including brandywine. My brandywine doesn't grow much more than 4-5ft tall, same as beefsteak or rutgers. Maybe all the stuff that you add to the plant makes a difference! I do plant it in full compost(leaf & twig)ReplyDelete
Mac, with luck and restraint I'll plant fewer than twenty....but NO MORE than 20!!! I always plant too many, I'm being ultra conservative this year.ReplyDelete
Sarada, I saw that they were selling the heirlooms last year, and said then I was just going to buy them this year...but I caved. My plants aren't doing as well as in the past though, so I might just give up starting my own...except for peppers and flowers of course.
Katrina, it has been a hassle moving the plants in and out and battling the cold spring. It has taken a toll on the tomato plants, too. Heck, I have everything under lights today, just for the warmth.
Dianefaith, do make sure they are secured! Especially in the buckets...if they are subjected to a wind storm, or even if the top growth gets too heavy, they will topple and it will most likely kill them. Been there, done that, that's why mine get staked down, tied down, screwed down, stapled and nailed down! I make my supports solid enough to grab with both hands and shake hard, and they don't budge.
Daphne, you just watch them raise their price next year! But yes, they have such a good selection of both heirlooms and hybrids. I saw such names as Black Krim, several Brandywines, Cherokee Chocolate and many, many others. I'm not sure what the price was on the single plants, but I'll check them out. I don't need (nor want) four Sun Sugars!
Poornima, mine have grown to about 10' or higher both years that I planted them. I use dairy compost in that bed, but I bought leaf and twig for the rest of the garden last year and was disappointed in how it grew. I went back to the dairy compost this year, and it's cheaper too. I can't pound stakes or fence posts into that bed because of the old tree roots below, that's why such a structure was necessary.ReplyDelete
Hey $1.49 a four pack is a steal. I just came back from our nursery and their 4 packs are $3.69 (and they don't look so good). I wish I could find someone to make me some heavy duty tomato cages...I have this huge shop with several welder/fabractors and I can't get one to do a tomato cage! Grrrrr!ReplyDelete
I have to count, but I think I'm right there with you at about 20 tomato plants. I know I'll lose some branches and maybe a plant or 2 due to splitting in the high winds and hurricanes. I've also entertained the notion of buying my plants since I know it would be cheaper and less frustrating for me. On the one hand I want to be able "to do for myself" but on the other it gets pretty stressful at times in this small space growing all that stuff indoors. And, at least I already have the knowledge now to grow them if I had to, right? :)ReplyDelete
Lynda, I think I should put them on my Christmas list. I would think two strong sons and a son-in-law could handle it. On the other hand, how would we get a dozen of those big cages under the tree? That's another problem with them...storing them for the winter. At least I can stack the cones.ReplyDelete
Hey Erin, I've heard of the Home Grown Revolution, how about you and me starting the Let's Buy 'em Revolution?
Great looking garden, very well laid out and nice pictures. I just started my backyard garden last year with my daughter. We are in Georgia in Zone 8. Please check out my site and tell me what you think. wgeorgiahomegarden.blogspot.comReplyDelete
I am planning to put in 18 tomatoes this year. They are all growing well and should have been in the ground (with protection) by now but the weather is way too cool this spring. I am doing the hardening off process though and they are getting sturdy and strong and will be giants by the time I get them (eventually) into the ground.ReplyDelete
I am willing to bet you find some pots and other places to grow even more tomatoes because when you purchase the Sun Sugar you will have to get a couple and you have a few more from your seed starting... so I would be willing to bet the number grows before you are done. ;D
Georgia Gardener (Kris?), I checked out your blog and became a follower! It will be fun watching your garden grow as you learn a new way of gardening. Welcome to the wide world of garden blogging.ReplyDelete
Thanks, I joined yours as well. Over a thousand pounds of harvest is awesome. I guess I never thought of keeping up with that, it's a neat metric to track. As I can see there is a huge world of garden blogging, I just wish I would have found it sooner. Do you grow any snow peas? I know the Washington area is supposed to be a great climate for them. I absolutely love snow peas, but I have to plant them super early before the Georgia heat zaps them.ReplyDelete
Georgia gardener, I have a short row of Oregon Sugar Pod II peas that are just barely beginning to peek through the soil. It has been a cold spring for us, and the crops are quite late. I'm on the east side of the state, where we get really hot summers. The west side does much better with the cool weather crops.ReplyDelete
I set up a spread sheet where I can enter my harvest weights. It's sometimes a pain to remember to weigh everything, but a challenge to see just how much can be grown in a small backyard garden. I'm afraid I won't have such large amounts this year, as I'm not growing so many of the heavy items like pumpkins and winter squash. This year it will be more carrots, beets and turnips, and about half of my usual tomatoes.
Kitsap, you have no faith in my ability to bypass a tomato planting. I refuse to admit I was looking for a couple of big pots out in the shed today. Now.... hush! I heard you, and Daphne and Erin chuckling!ReplyDelete
Granny, It's no better here west of the mountains, We have 60 degree sunny days, but 37 degree nights...can't put the poor tomatoes out without pj's! I will plant my normal 10 tomatoes, 2 of each variety: Brandywine, Isis Candy (cherry) Sun Gold, Yellow Pear and a Gil's All Purpose. I can't imagine planting more as I use all I get, and usually have some left over by harvesting time next year!ReplyDelete
I am so excited to have found your blog. I am new to veggie gardening and am learning so much from your posts here. I'm looking forward to following your blog!! Cheers JuliaReplyDelete
Hi, Urban Homestead WA (AKA Sinfonian's brother)! I always plant way too many tomatoes since I began growing my own from seed. I'm kind of the running joke around here because of my tomato passion. I give so many away, I even get to the point of threatening to throw them at passing cars. I need a 12 step program for my tomato addiction! I really am trying to cut back this year, because I still have so many canned from last year.ReplyDelete
Julia, thank you! Welcome to my blog, I hope I can be of some help to you in your gardening adventure.ReplyDelete
Hang in there! I think the warm weather is just around the corner. My first batch of tomato plants are getting to big inside. I hope we have had our last light frost so I can get them out soon. I have to grow my own cause I can not find Wolford Wonder, Dancing with Smurfs, Val's Red Nibbler, etc. in the stores. Always something new to try.ReplyDelete
I'm hangin', Happyskunk! I don't know about that warm weather, though. My feet haven't warmed up since I left Arizona!ReplyDelete
I totally agree about the weather. For how bad it's been for you, it's been even worse for us on the Wet Coast. Nothing's growing and there's now way I'm even letting my monster tomatoes out for a walk during the day for fear of wind/rain and cold damage.ReplyDelete
That's an insanely cheap price for tomatoes, especially heirlooms. Nowhere near that price here, all the nursaries here are trying to pay off their expansions with huge price hikes. /sigh.
I think if I could find decent tomatoes at that price - and the types I wanted I would cut WAY back on what I grew from seed myself. But, then What would you entertain us with through the winter? ;-) We like watching you invent new ways to house your seedlings.ReplyDelete
I cut back this year too, from 30 to twenty, but I didn't pull in anywhere NEAR as much as you did last year!ReplyDelete
Poor Otto! It's sad to think of his little whining outside the fence!
Looking forward to seeing what the final number ends up being! :)
Sinfonian and Barbie, I went to the nursery today, and couldn't find the 4-packs of Sun Sugar, but got the 4" single pot for $1.39. My daughter wanted a single Roma, which they didn't have, so she ended up with the four pack for $1.49! The plants in her 4-pack were the same size as my single plant. I did check out some of the heirlooms, and I think I'll definitely go that way next year. They had Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter and Black Krim that I saw...it was too darned cold and windy to look any longer!ReplyDelete
Megan, I can't remember how many I planted last year, but I think it was close to 30. Way too many, I know. Some didn't give me many tomatoes, but others gave me too many!
Otto can look very pitiful. Especially when he's crying and his ears are upside down ! He's such a little dork :-)
If you thought my pepper count was bad.. you'll really be shocked at how many tomato varieties I planted.ReplyDelete
I am a complete and total seed addict. :P
So far, only 9 tomato varieties have popped out of the soil. I look at most everyone else's tomatoes and they're all nice and tall and green and mine are still just lil babies.. but I started them outdoors and the ones that have come up are already nice and strong. I don't have anywhere to start them indoors..at least not the numbers I tend to plant! lol
No pepper seedlings yet.. I'm just trying to see if I can get anything at all this year. Last year was just plain pitiful for peppers..
That $1.49 is an awesome deal though! Around here a single plant is $3.33 - $4.00. Crazy huh?
I'm trying to picture the set up for the cherry tomatoes, did you take pics of that one?
and p.s. I love your green buckets. I have ugly old cat litter buckets I would trade for your green ones any day! :)
Wendy, here are a few pics of the cherries:ReplyDelete
and when they got too tall: