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I promised myself I would not do this. I was not going to grow toms from seed again until I had a good set up for it.
so much for promises.
My question is, starting seed indoors (and without a bunch of fancy lights and that) how soon should I plant the seeds? Once there are true leaves I will do some other mess, like arrange them in a tray I can move around into sun and even outside if it is a warm day...
so the questions are, when to start seeds? and, when do you plant out?
I have had horrible luck trying to start them from seed, I don't have a greenhouse, and don't have any particular hankering for one. On the other hand, I am more interested in the varieties only found in seed, not at the local nurseries as starts. So... I would like to winter sow mine, if that works. Any pointers on timing for that?
I did wintersow some toms a couple years ago I believe... but that was in a whole different climate. Getting the seeds to germinate is not the problem really, it is how to get them enough sun and warmth after that and for long enough before they need to go in the ground. though I do understand they need a period of cool temps to flourish!
I may be answering my own question, sorta, as I could probably start seeds anytime, as long as I am prepared to nursemaid them once they've sprouted.
the year I did it so successfully, I had two windows, one facing east and one west, and the seedlings on trays I moved back and forth each day. Here the east window is not going to be useful probably so they will only get the western sun, that window is good... and then outside on good days. just like little babeez.
Anyway, if you are doing true wintersowing and not planning to bring stuff inside, probably March is the soonest to start tenders like toms...
When do people around here plant out tomatoes? where I was before there was a clear guideline that had nothing to do with when it felt like spring (because it could hard freeze in a flash and often did) but I bet they could go in earlier hereabouts...
I'm far from the best tomato grower around here, but I can give you a bit of an answer. It doesn't make sense to put stuff out too early because the soil is slow to warm up and we can still have pretty cool nights-and days. Most folks don't really plant them out until May or so-they just sort of sit there if they go out much earlier. They just look cold, sad & forlorn.
Well, thanks, that is a help! That's around when we could plant them out down in Weed (CA) too, but it usually ended up being quite late in May...
So I figure if I start seeds in March and keep them mostly inside from then on, given enough sunlight (which is the nursemaid part, carrying them around and such) they should be ready to go out in May sometime...
(edit) OR alternatively, wintersow them in March... But with tomatoes I like to do the thing of transplanting at least twice to bury the stems and strengthen the root system, before planting out, so wintersowing wouldn't really let me do that part...
May tends to be really variable here. :) Some years it's wonderful, others it's cold and wet, so it's a play it by ear sort of thing. To give you another idea, the old-time "rule" about hanging annual baskets around here is to hang them on Mother's Day...so... Of course, that also helps sell lots of big hanging baskets, so maybe a bit of skepticism is warranted there, lol.
I'd guess the transition down in Weed was a bit more abrupt than here-once it starts to warm up down there the altitude & lots of sun probably helps things along. (I've stopped in Weed a couple of times on my way to or from trips in CA. As a gardener, I sort of felt it was mandatory, lol...)
Tomatoes are very good at catching up quick once it warms up, so experiment a little to see what works best. I've never lived on Whidbey, I don't have any good local knowledge for you, but it sounds like your plan is very workable. :)
Well, in Weed we had to wait til the snow melted off of Black Butte. It could be hot but if there was still white showing on Black Butte, it was too early. And a lot of that was because the soil was still too cool... but it was a real clear sign!
Sow in later March and set out later May. Too late is better than too early. You can bury the stems when you set them outside. I use an umbrella over mine if it is rainy or cold after set-out. 60-70 days is all the days we get for ripening. Small sizes are best.
Cisco Morris gave a very good talk on tomatoes last spring at the UW shopping center.
He likes Stupice, med., Sungold and Sungella, Small Just a few names he droped and I tried.
He said to start them in six packs. Then when they out grow that plant in a 4inch pot, Then went they out grow that put in gal. size. Every time you change pots leave just the leaves sticking out of the soil. This gives you a very sturdy plant.
Makes sence? I start mine in March too
My rule of thumb is never plant out before Mothers day, annuals or toms. In fact I think Memorial day is best for toms. Mother nature likes to play tricks with the sun here.
I had more than we could eat last summer.
I have them on a west facing wall. They also get warmth from the foundation and protection from rain as they are covered by the eaves.
Even better, thanks! Being new around here I have just discovered who Cisco is (like, a couple days ago heard of him for the first time)
that thing you describe of repotting and burying up to the top leaves, yes, that is what I do. And Stupice is the slicing tom I chose, at this moment cannot recall the others, not that many but my notes are across the room... but I did think about ripening time each time, so fingers crossed!
Interesting about the west wall... How many hours of sun do they get? I might just put some in front (west) to try that...
Not sure about amount of sun, maybe from 12 to sunset. Read some place it is the warmth that toms need not so much the sun. Anyone else read that?
I also think protection from the rain is important around here. I am no expert and i'm sure there are others out there will more ideas.
I put tomato cages over my tomatoes and tie the umbrella down over the top of the cage with the handle down inside the cage. This is just when they are small. Those cheap little fold up umbrellas work great. Mine are also in a brick-paved and walled courtyard facing SW
we are far from really good at this yet, but we managed to raise 48 plants on site and Alex sold 40 additional plants. Froze some, ate lots, gave away the rest. Trouble with disease this past year. We've grown mostly heirloom, Indeterminates. We start all of them from seed usually end of February and set them out end of April to Mid May. We cover with plastic hoops until July and recover them end of August. We pulled plants end of October. Early to mid season ususally works best for us. We're just finishing getting our new seeds in for different varieties to try. We like the plums and hearts... unfortunately they are more mid-late season. We'll start some from seed we saved this past year and see how they do. I have yet to get out to the seed house and get things organized for this year for the kids, they like to start stuff under the lights too but we're not heated and the water isn't on yet for the season. we'll start trays in the house and move them out when we need to up pot. Seems we start way more than we have room for here! I'd love to hear how it goes for everyone else this year... we're still learning to live in this climate.
Well, you're a heck of a lot more of an expert than I am, that's for sure! Thank you so much for those specifics. I am already cogitating on how to cover, so this does help a lot! giving those timeings... I am pretty sure going to use clear plastic of some sort, just not sure how I will set it up.
I have been successful starting tomatoes in a south faceing window with bottom heat...I have been searching for years to find a tasty variety that does well in my yard..I'm surrounded by tall trees and get maybe 12 hours of sun during the solstice then rapidly declines. Last year I grew a Territorial determinate heirloom variety called silvery fir tree in a pot. It was of good flavor and ripened all its fruit and was done before any of the others (even early girl).
We are similar to you Kyla and we have good success with cherry toms and they produce some wonderful fruit. The big toms are too difficult to pinch grow and enlarge in our limited space. So we buy the greenhouse raise plants for the larger toms. Just an idea.
Silvery Fir Tree did well for me, too-and it's such a pretty plant! :) It does stay pretty small and worked well in a pot. I think I read it's originally from Siberia. I'm planning to grow it this year also.
I know everyone seems to love Early Girl, but for some reason it's just never really impressed me. It's possible I tried it as a gardening newbie way back when and didn't have good success because I didn't know what I was doing and it biased me.
I'm going to try some other Russian types this year, too, I think. They have a pretty short growing season also. The most interesting thing for me is trying at least a few different ones that are new for me every year just to see what they're like.
I just looked back at previous years' records and have realized that NOW is the time I should be starting my seeds. Hope to get that done tonight, except for the Silvery Fir Tree ones that are still on order. I have had pretty good luck with Siletz, also a determinate, and was very happy with the Terrirorial one I got seeds for last year called Applegate. I do have the advantage of growing them over at the house in EWA, and was TOTALLY unsuccessful here on this side of the hill. Even my cherries did poorly here. Speaking of cherries, I still believe Sweet 100 to be one of the best. Any thoughts?
We definitely go for the more acidic, jucier types of tomatoes so that is a improtant criteria for us.
I have a friend in the Centralia area who has his whole tomato row protected on the windy side and on top with clear plastic and they do well for them every year, Another friend in that area puts black plastic around the base of the plants that are in black plastic pots to retain the heat.
I do believe I have heard that it is heat during the night that helps the tomatoes mature and ripen. That is where we really fall short. Any way of keeping their feet warm should be of benefit
Hello, everyone from WA- I guess you are all in a warmer zone than I am here in TriCities- zone 5b, I think. I did my first winter sowing this year- not a thing showing yet, but I guess since we have been freezing, that's to be expected. I don't want to rely on them, so I did some back ups in the house with bottom heat and lights. Germination is erratic, but I have been able to pot up about 18 seedlings that are the biggest. I planted Silvery Fir Tree, and have 3, Medford-3, Florida-2, Bush Early Girl, 3, Oregon Spring, 3 so far. Today I did another planting of some that haven't germinated- Hilltop, New Big Dwarf, Bush Beefsteak, and Black Krim. I had been given 4 seeds of Phoenix but unless they show up late I am outta luck. I really wanted to try them, too. Maybe my winter sown ones will grow later.
Hi and welcome, Jo.
My vacation house is on the Potholes Reservoir near Othello, which is where I primarily grow my tomatoes. I still start all of the seeds now and try to get the plants in the ground over there mid-May. It is hard to believe that you are having germination problems...I am of the theory that I only need to plant one extra seed for back-up and that one usually germinates too.
I've been wishing I had a cold frame for about five years.
I've lived in WA for just over five years.
And for the first 2-3 of those years, I didn't even have a space for a garden!
I also thought that cherry tomatoes might be easier around here than big ones.
I finally bought one soil-heating pad (and 2'x2' squares of dry wall for insulation).
And I got my seed-starting mix to drain really well (lots of screened pine bark mulch, and Perlite, some small orchid bark, some very coarse vermiculite ... with hardly any of that "powdered peat" Jiffy-Mix).
Cutting the rims off my propagation (plug) and insert trays, and putting some rayon batting into the bottoms of trays, make me think that bottom-watering seed-starting trays is going to work for me this year.
Those, plus some flourescent lights, will soon tempt me to add "tomatoes" to the list of gardening challenges that already provide such a bountiful harvest of humility each year.
Well, Rick, from the photos I have seen from you, you certainly have made fantastic progress in just a few years. It is obvious that you are determined to win the war against all the obstacles of gardening! Every year I have a disappointment or a failure, but you just keep trying! I just hope this wind will go away. It howled all night last night again.
I do believe that is the main characteristic of a gardener: bone-deep stubbornness. :)
This morning I harvested nettles. I understand that simply drying them removes the "sting" (as does cooking) and that I can add them to soup and stuff after they dry and still get the mineral nourishment from them. I also intend to make sure I put a layer of them in my compost every now and again.
Three one-quart tomato plants followed me home form a nursery last spring: I couldn't stop them. I figured I would learn something about growing them even if nothing ripened.
Lo and behold, I have been taking almost a quart of small tomatoes every week or two for a few weeks now! And I never put up a plastic tunnel.
I did carry them indoors each night for the first several weeks. Then, when they went into the soil, they just looked at me in disgust for weeks, refusing to grow until they got some warm soil. Finally the vines sprawled over a a bigger area than I could imagine, and many green marbles taunted me for weeks.
Finally, a few started ripening! Hurray! I am no longer a tomato virgin.
Sungold orange cherry and Stupice have actually given me some ripe tomatos.
"Supersweet 100" is still teasing me with green marbles and I'm about to get even by yanking it out by the roots.
Next year, to get more room for tomatoes, I may not start any annual flowers!
I have 4-5 varieties I'm thinking of putting in the soil, and wiondering what cool-climate, extra-early, compact determinate varieties might grow in pots. No part of my yard is really sunny, but there are spots that get sun part of the day.
Here are some varieties I'm thinking about, if anyone has suggestions:
* Oregon Spring
? Ildi yellow grape
? Sub Artic Plenty
? Early Cascade from Sequee
I have other tomato seeds as well, if anyone recomends some in particular
for short-season cool-climate and/or containers:
Husky Cherry Red
Morden Yellow (I'm still looking for Vorlon seeds!)
I'll move Matina up higher on my list. But "indeterminate" makes it sound like it would not like growing in a pot, so it would have to be one of the ones that find room in a rasied bed. Would you agree with that?
My notes for Matina say:
"dependable even in cold/wet summers"
EARLY (58 days)
2-4oz red globe small salad
German Comm. Heirloom
Matina is indeterminate, so it does take up space, but if you stake and prune (which I admit I never do) it should grow in a more constrained location. The tomatoes are kind of like a small slicer and have good flavor.
Juliet is also indeterminate and is an early ripening roma tomato (60 days). I got this plant in really late this year, so it has only just started giving me ripe tomatoes in the last few weeks.
I have grown both Stupice and Sungold other years and both have done well, even with our slow-to-start Summers.
I started seeds early and babied them and set them out under protection when the time was right. As the summer got going and the rain ceased, seedlings galore volunteered and began fruiting as fast as the babied seeds did. I could not believe how wasted my efforts were. I got several varieties, cherries and full size, from my volunteers. That proves to me that I should just throw my seeds out there now and when the time is right they will pop up. I'm a real fan of self sowing anyway, I have carrots and chard and endive that self sow each year. It doesn't make for much order but it does seem to produce healthy plants.
I'm really impressed that you're getting ripe tomatoes from seed. Mine were shivering (well, not growing) for a month or so after I put them into the ground, and they were 12-16" tall then. If "green marbles" count, they were fruiting 5-7 weeks before I saw any ripe ones.
>> seedlings galore volunteered
Tomato seedlings volunteered outdoors without plastic cover? During this last cold spring? Wow!
Yeah Rick every year I pull out lots of volunteer tomatoes. I allow a few to grow just to see what happens. They did set fruit and turn red as fast as the ones I babied. Even as fast as the starts I bought and babied.You can imagine how un-enamored I am becoming of starting tomatoes. Or of buying them early to get the season going. As you say they just sat there shivering.
Wow. Well, that's why started fiddling around: to learn.
Some new neighbors are moving in; they say they are into raw foods and permaculture, and plan to convert some lawn to raised beds.
I was able to show off (as if I had a clue what i was doing) and give them a handfull of Sungold cherry tomatoes, and some leaves pinched from a "leaf brocoli" I have ("Broccolo Spigariello", "Spigariello Liscia", Brassica oleracea var. 'Spigariello') just like I knew what I was doing.
I unfortunately didn't have such good luck with volunteer seedlings. They came on much later and most didn't ripen. I t might have been that the seeds were not an early variety to begin with,maybe from the compost I dug into the bed, or they may have crossed with tomatoes from the neighborhood somehow.
I have read that tomatoes are mostly self-pollinated even when grown close-together. Like, 90% or more!
I have a vaguely-formed idea that starting warm-weather crops in coastal WA much depends on how fast your soil warms up, which may depend on soil type, slope, how completely water-soaked or well-drained it is, sun angle, shade, weather, microclimate and who-knows-what-all.
In a year or three, I'll have some idea whether Patti and I have similar results with tomato volunteers. Unfortunately, most of my volunteers will probably be random-pollinated Sungold F2 of variable cold-tolerance and earliness. I should see a few self-pollinated OP Stupice, which are allegedly ultra-early and cold-tolerant.
Next year I plan to plant all or almost all very-early cold tolerant OP plants like Glacier, Manitoba, Sub Artic Plenty, maybe Matina. Plus some (hybrid ) Sungold F1s somewhere I DON'T expect to allow volunteers.
However, it would not amaze me if soil, slope, sun angle, shade or even a few miles distance or 50-100 feet of elevation make a difference. For sure, half-day-shade must make a huge difference!
You are spot-on with the soil-temp theory. People out here have had huge success with that. I'm trying to remember where I saw a good discussion on that here on DG. Black plastic of course, and digging out the holes & mounding them.
Thanks! I knew that both soil and air temp played a role,but don;t know when which was more critical.
>> Black plastic of course, and digging out the holes & mounding them.
I do have raised beds, and ONE RB that gets fair sun and has a south-east-facing wall. My plan for that was to drape clear palstic over bed-plus-wall so that solar heating kept its feet warm as well as the surface.
But all my beds are heavy wet clay (huge themral inertia). And if I don;t provide some umbrella, they will have lots of cold rainwater pouring through them all spring.
I always get a laugh out of how different our climates are, even if we are all Zone 8. In Texas Zone 8, the spring tomato-growing was over before mine started, and their temps were stewing tomatoes into sun-dry or paste before my nights went below 50 F.
I have lots of new things to try, including volunteers with and without plastic umbrellas and foot-warmers.
Does anyone know if the desire for a conclusive list of
"which variety is earliest"
"which variety is most cold-hardy"
are just vain desires?
Can those lists even be meaningfull for just one region or microclimate?
I'm guessing that "which variety is earliest" changes depending on how fast your spring warms up, and how far it warms up. Would daytime max or nightime min matter more?
And I'm guessing that "most cold-hardy" varys depending on things like
"which seedlings can be set out effectively in colder night-time temps"
"which seedlings can best tolerate plastic hats during mild frosts"
"which will ripen at all in the coolest summers"
And I;'m sure the lists would depend a lot on whether you're tlaking about direct-sown plants, volunteer plants, transplants put out naked at optimum time, or transplants put out with warming gadgets and coddling.
But I would love to be wrong, if someone could just my varieties in Post #8849316
from earliest to latest ripening (or earliest to latest set-out date)
and coldest to warmest nights in late spring (or coolest to warmest summer days).
We have had lots of Tomatoes this year but we don't go for the big ones. Romas (sp) are quite productive, of course all sweet little ones, and all we do is keep them in the sun room until our soil is 60F and warming. Usually mid June. Then we pull off all vegetative branches and keep only the fruit bearing.
We are still picking Raspberries and we have had frost every night for the last 2 weeks. This is today's haul. Most sweet too.
I guess I don't read what you should do and not do. I do what I always have done. We got another quart of rasp today. Very sweet and firm. The early ones we had are not so good and so glad Karen got these. Love picking Rasp in late Oct.