Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day is for Love... of Tomatoes!

It has become a tradition now that I start my extra-early tomato varieties on Valentine's Day. After all, tomatoes used to be called "Love Apples" because of the belief that they were a powerful aphrodisiac.

Of course that's not the real reason I start my early tomato seeds on Valentines Day. As I described last year, it is easy for me to remember planting dates based on holidays. One of my major goals each year is to have ripe tomatoes about two months before my neighbors. The normal time around here to pick ripe tomatoes is late July or early August. Last year I harvested my first tomato on June 5th. It took quite a bit of effort to get that to happen. You can read about the entire season's efforts in the early tomato department here.

The goal for the first tomato harvest this year is... May 25th - Memorial Day!

Is that too ambitious? Is it even possible? I really don't know. This year's process for getting extra early will be about the same except now I have a greenhouse with permanent growing beds inside. If the greenhouse helps like I think it can, then Memorial Day is not out of the question. May 25th is exactly 100 days from now. If I can't hit Memorial Day, May 31st will be my secondary goal. I will outline all of the steps I take again this year as I go along. Today however was just the beginning.

Even though I now love using my soil blocker to start seeds, I still use the cell packs for the early tomatoes. I plant one 6-pack for each early variety and I put two or three seeds in each individual cell. Later I will thin to one plant per cell and when it comes time to transplant, I will pick the best plants available. Eventually I will have 2 of each variety to move outside in the greenhouse.

It makes it easy starting with six of each tomato cultivar because I can label the whole cell pack with tape and a marker.

The varieties I started today were Siletz, Sub-Arctic Plenty (World's Earliest), Orange Blossom, 4th of July, Early Girl, and since my new variety Mountain Princess has not arrived yet, I also planted some New Girl.

After covering the seeds with light soil mix, I added some hot water to the tray and put on the clear lid. It fogged up quickly.

I hope I can keep it warm in there so the seeds will germinate quickly. Usually they do pretty well in the Laundry room where the dryer and the furnace keep things toasty.

I plan to keep better records of each variety's progress this year. Last year 4th of July was the first to ripen. I wonder which one will win this year.

The 2009 tomato season has begun. Let the race begin!

Happy Valentine's Day and happy gardening!


Chiot's Run

When I was young my mom always had a race to get the earliest tomato. We lived in zone 5. One year she had one May 15th. The next year all the water froze in her wall-o-waters and killed the plants. She also grows tomatoes and keep for a long time, so she can be eating fresh tomatoes from the pantry at New Year's.

I may give this a shot this year. I have a cold frame that can move from one raised bed to another. I think I could plant them inside there much earlier in the spring. If I used some early girl tomatoes, maybe I could get tomatoes in May.


Hey Marc! this is going to be interesting because I planted a few varieties of tomatoes in identical modules on February 14th. I also planted sub arctic plenty! Let's see who gets there first?


Hi, I will be joining you for your challenge of having early tomatoes. I am starting siletz and seeing how things go, I'd be happy to have tomatoes by the first week of June.

Best of luck with your crop!


what fun! My neighbor used to do this, then rub it in to us without tomatoes.:) I know my roses have to be cut back on Valentine's day-which hasn't happened yet! Keep us up to date on your experiment:)

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