Tomato growing

Quaker Hill, CT(Zone 6b)

A passion of mine in the past is getting an early start on tomatos and trying to get early fruiting. What are your strategies? When do you start seed? What do you start seed in and under what types of lighting? Favorite varieties that do well in the Northeast? Watering strategies? Soil amendments? OK, I know there is a separate tomato forum but thought we could share here too.

Linda

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Linda, How much time do you have? I could post your ear off on tomatoes, LOL.
Here in south east MA I feel safe to put the tomato plants out the 3rd week of May.
I start my seed in flats the 3 week of March (I start everything in small flats to save space on my sunny window sill.)
When they get transplanted into yogurt cups (with holes in them), they go into the cold frame, around the end of April.
I do 3 kinds.
Berpees 4th of July, very early, small, red, flavorful.
Parks Beefy Boy, mid-season, large, red, flavorful always beautiful. My favs.
And one new one each season which has yet to be determined for this year.
Planted 2 feet apart with one spade full of screened compost amended with peat moss, fireplace ash, lime and some granular 10 - 10 -10 in each planting hole.
My first tomato (4th July) is usually ready the 3rd week of July.
I prefer this early one over Early Girl because it's about 10 days earlier and IMO it has a better flavor. It is susceptible to splitting if I don't keep a regular watering schedule.
Here is a pic of the last of last seasons 4th of July, early October I think. These little guys just keep on coming.
Andy P

Thumbnail by Sarahskeeper
Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Don't know why the pic didn't post the first time.

Edited to say that I had a confusing Error Report about image size. The pic is only 86 KB, ? ? ?

Andy P

This message was edited Jan 31, 2006 4:54 PM

Thumbnail by Sarahskeeper
Quaker Hill, CT(Zone 6b)

I have put them out 3-4 weeks before last frost date of May 15th using wall-o-waters. Generally have success with this although at times a cold spring has hindered progess. But I have never lost them all. In the basement I have a discount store bakers rack that I rigged up with regular flourescent lights...so about 5 lighted shelves for starting seeds. They get started in warmth upstairs, sometimes over a heating pad set on low. I pile books up on the shelves to bring the seedlings close to the lights then gradually remove book layers as the plants grow taller. I incorporate a small fan sometimes to provide air movement.

I didn't grow any tomatos last year because we were putting on an addition to the house, very little time left for gardening. Varieties I like, well Juliet stands out. I want to try a golden cherry this year.

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Dave says posting pics will work today, lets see.
The last bunch of my "4th of July" from early October, '05.
Andy P

Thumbnail by Sarahskeeper
Rutland , MA(Zone 5b)

i start all my tomato seeds on april first. i have two different methods. sometimes i start them in little flats and when they get their 2nd set of leaves they go into a 2 1/2 inch container. when they get about 8 inches tall i put them in 4 inch containers. this year i am starting them in the 2 1/2 inch containers and leaving them there until i put them in containers on june 1st. i always wait 2 weeks after my last frost date.

all my seed trays are placed on a heating blanket with the heat nbr set on 7. also have grow lights overhead. keep both of them on 16 hours a day.

when they get their true leaves i put them down into my unheated basement with grow lights over them. about a week or two before i plant them outdoors i harden them off. when they are in the basement i usually run a fan a few hours a day to get the stems moving a bit.



Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

I would second celtic's endorsement of wall-o-waters. They let me put my tomatoes out 2-4 weeks early, plus even after the frost date plants in wall-o-water grow faster than those that don't have them.
Dave

Springville, NY

I'm glad to hear the good words about the wall-o-waters, I just ordered them from Gurney's. Now my only problem is determining when to start the seeds indoors.
There is one thing I've been wondering lately. Why not start the seeds in larger pots instead of the tiny seed starting trays? The plants always get rootbound if you don't transplant them into larger pots anyway.

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

KingFisher, What zone are you? Based on my May 15 frost free date: You can start some of your seeds now (enough to put in your wall-o-waters) then the rest start in April .

W Hartford, CT(Zone 6a)

KingFisher - I suspect that seedstarting trays are more about economy of space - but I always ran out of container long before they were ready to go outside! Then I started using the extra large styro cups from my local coffee shop - cut out the bottoms and used a bottom watering setup with a capillary mat. Plants got evenly watered, and had plenty of room to grow, cups lasted a couple of years each and my coffee cups got recycled. Works likea charm!

Springville, NY

Thanks, everyone!!! I am in zone 5a(although I've never seen a temperature lower than -4 here) and I have trouble finding any official source as to when the "frost free" date is in my area. In past years I have gone by Memorial Day weekend as the time to get all my plants in the ground, and I've never had a problem with frost after that.
I've been trying to start my plants from seed for just the last two years now, but I haven't had much success. Most of my seedlings start out ok, but when I go to the local nursery or Walmart and see their healthy, robust plants I end up buying them instead of using my pathetic leggy shoots. As a result, I have amassed a good supply of four to six inch pots which I would like to use for starting this years tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, etc... I would get more satisfaction from growing my veggies from seeds, and it would justify my compulsive February and March seed buying binges.
I found out last year that the same truck that delivers the plants to my local nursery(privately owned and operated) then goes a quarter mile down the road and delivers to Walmart. The plants come from an anonymous greenhouse in New Jersey. The plants are healthy and produce well but the varieties are limited and many plants are in bloom and some have already begun to set fruit. I have read that this causes poor development when transplanted.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I like the wall-o-water idea. I am planning on wintersowing mine this week along with some other veggies.

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Anita, I don't think you can wintersow wall-o-waters. ;^)

Kingfisher, Add 2 weeks to what I posted for my zone 6 dates.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

hahaha - I can try...Where have you been hiding???

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Worked late tonight. Last night, Academy Awards.

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

KingFisher, Don't be discouraged by spindly looking tomato plants, plant them deep and watch them take off.
In the second post of this thread I described how I start mine. If you don't have a cold frame set the young plants in a sheltered outdoor location and bring them in if it might get too cold.
Don't start them too early either, 6 - 7 weeks is plenty.
The only veggie I've started so far is onions.
Andy P

Quaker Hill, CT(Zone 6b)

If you are like me you are craving Spring's advent and enjoy eye candy or any reminder that it will be here....Here's a picture from last year. At this point the tomato girls (2 in the back) were pretty big. The key to my success has been the regular flourescents, 16-18 hours a day at close quarters. Air movement, fish emulsion fertilizer.

Thumbnail by celticgarden
Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

That's what I wanted to get at the nursery...fish emulsion fertilizer..I knew there was something. Thank you for reminding me Celtic

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Celtic, Excellent job of growing nice thick tomatoes indoors. Not the least bit spindly.
Dave

Springville, NY

I just started some Mortgage Lifter tomato seeds. I was wondering if anyone has grown this variety and how they turned out?

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I just got my wall-o-waters from Gardener Supply. I'm wondering if my wintersown tomatoes will sprout early so I can use it or if I should sow a few in the house under lights..

Rhinebeck, NY(Zone 5b)

Kingfisher, I grew Mortgage Lifter once and they were very nice. I have a friend here in this area who also likes to grow them.

But my favorites last year were: Purple Cherokee. Delicious and beautiful. I bought some seeds from ebay this year and just planted them in seed starting mixture yesterday.

I hope this ebayer didn't just send me some anonymous seeds from his store bought tomatoes! LOL!

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Anita, Start a few tomato seeds inside, it would make a nice comparison test for you.
Andy P

Potsdam, NY(Zone 4a)

Kingfisher, I grew mortgage lifters last year, and they did fine, but not as big a crop as Brandywines and some other heirlooms. I usually aim for two transplants before they go outside. Stems get thicker when the roots have plenty of room. I am in zone 4, so cannot grow a lot of things I would like to. But, tomatoes are always in my little garden. BAM

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

Good idea Andy!

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Anita, Just put your biggest tomatoes (house or w/s) in the wall-o-waters. They are all about getting a headstart. Start soon. Your plants can go out in the w-o-ws in April.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I've already w/s some, but I am going down now to sow a few under lights.

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