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lakngulf
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2015 Tomato Starts?

What are your plans for tomato starts for 2015?
When do you start your seeds under grow lamps?
How many do you plant?
What is your process--from seed to garden?
What varieties do you start from seed?

Seems I keep moving up my starting dates. Getting greenhouse ready now to give it a go. I saved some seed from this past years Giveaway seeds--Amos Coli, Lush Queen and Indigo Apple. Really enjoyed the taste of these this past summer, along with Brandywine, Fantastic, Better Boy and Celebrity. This year I will add Cherokee Purple and Gary'O Sena.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Hmmm .... I keep moving my tomato starting date back, when I end up with tall leggy plants with no where to put them and it is still cold outside. My traditional indoor tomato seed starting date used to be Valentine's Day. One year I decided if early is good, maybe earlier is better and started tomato seed in January. That was a disaster. Now I have moved tomato seed starting to 1st of march, which is only 6 weeks before my average last frost date.

I do start some things in Jan, mainly slow growing/ cold hardy perennials and the cold weather stuff like broccoli. In 2015, I will start some lavender seed in January. Last winter was so hard, it killed all my lavender, but by the time I realized it wasn't coming back, it was too late to start it from seed.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

I still have tomatoes in the pots and Jicama in one of them.

Next I will probably try

New Big dwarf
Red cherry or sweet 100 since the birds are eating all of my black cherry tomatoes. I want to make sure I actually get some.
sungold
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digitS'
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

When do you start your seeds under grow lamps? I don't use grow lights these days. Just about all my starts begin life above my refrigerator. It is consistently warmer up there but not very light. I have to check them a couple times a day to know when to get the seedlings into a good south window. It isn't so warm there because the room is cooler but they have (nearly) sufficient light. After a couple of weeks, they can go into a heated greenhouse.

I try to grow the plants a little cool because so often, our spring weather is cloudy. Yes, supplemental lighting would usually help but setting it up is always a little awkward.

How many do you plant? I have lots of starts because I have some to give my neighbors, some to sell, and about 60 tomato plants will go in my garden.

What is your process--from seed to garden? The seed is started in fairly ordinary, organic potting soil in cookie boxes from the supermarket. Once they go in that south window, the lid comes off and is used as a tray. True leaves prompts me to get the cookie boxes out into the greenhouse. When the dangers from crowding get too high, and the soil is getting a little tired by then anyway, I will move the seedlings into 4-packs. They will stay in those, 48 to a tray until overcrowding prompts another move - into 3 1/2" pots.

By now, I'm running out of room on the greenhouse bench. The potted plants can go into a high tunnel where overnight heat will only come from a little electric heater and be moved around by a fan. This heat will only be on to keep the plants well above freezing on cold, spring nights.

Hardening off may make use of the big tunnel or little "hoopies" on the lawn. Being so close to the outdoor air will afford little protection from the cold. As soon as I think they can stay out overnight without protection, the plants are ready for the open garden.

What varieties do you start from seed? About 25 varieties have been started each year but there may be less in 2015. It's fun growing so many varieties but I have to get decent production. Something that the hybrids can do is stand up to conditions that will trip up some heirlooms.

I've enjoyed reading about your experiences with Fantastic, Lakngulf. It was one of the varieties I relied on a good long time. I don't have one that is rated any earlier but Big Beef seems to be more likely to come in a little earlier with ripe tomatoes in my garden. The hybrid cherries are also hard to beat, IMO.

Well more than half of the 20-some varieties will be non-hybrids even if they are only represented by 1 or 2 plants in the garden. I'm looking forward to another season to stabilize 2 unintentional crosses that occurred to others in their gardens and were sent to me. Also, another gardener "dehybridized" a variety I have never grown. I'm curious to grow the original F1 to see how it does since its offspring had such a good season in my garden. Some heirlooms are like old friends and will be welcomed back.

:) Steve
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Re the how: I start them under fluorescent tubes in my basement. The seeds are crowded in to little cells, to conserve space on the heat mats. I run two heat mats and don't want to add more re the power usage. After they have one or two pair of true leaves, I move them in to their own individual cells off the heat mats. When they start getting crowded there, I pot them up in 4 inch pots. Mostly that is where the stay until they go in the ground, but if they are really getting too big, I may up-pot into deeper pots.

I start taking them out to harden off as soon as the weather cooperates, even though that means bringing them in and out for awhile.

Last year I started seven varieties of tomatoes, a mix of hybrids and heirlooms.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

My average low temperatures in December and January are in the low 60's with a few dips into the low 50's. With those night temperatures how long would it take for a tomato from seed to be ready to plant out.

I haven't figured this out yet. I want the tomatoes ready for February, but if I start them in December it is too early and if I start them in January sometimes they grow too slowly or fail to sprout.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

I fully agree with everyone on how difficult to time the plants just right, to avoid them becoming too spindly. I want tomatoes in the ground as early as possible avoiding the last frost. Problem is I hate to dedicate some prime growing areas to plants that may or may not make it. Last March we had a bone chilling few weeks, and early plants suffered.

When to plant to avoid that last frost? The answer to that question should drive the seed starting event. But just to be sure I start around Jan 1 and just keeping planting.

This is my process:
1. I start seed in flats, either in rootmaker trays, or a regular potting flat with miracle gro.
Image

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If I use the regular flats then I separate the seed/plants by using cut sections of the core of toilet paper. This cardboard gives some separation but easily dissolves. Makes it easy to get the small plants out for the next transfer. The plants do well in the rootmaker flats. I was introduced to these when I grew a greenhouse full of Sawtooth Oak trees from acorns. The design is supposed to aid in "root pruning" to produce a healthier plant. They are especially good for larger seeds like squash, beans and corn.

2. When the little plants get their second set of leaves I transfer to 4.5 inch peat pot. I plant very deeply in these pots so that only the leaves are showing. This helps for root development on more of the stem. Also, it is easy to use a magic marker to write on the pots for future reference.

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These pots fit nicely in some plastic coke bottle containers, are placed on south window of greenhouse, and protected from the cold.

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3. With any luck the plants will do well in the peat pots, with normal watering, a shot of miracle gro every week or so, and a small heater for those way too cold nights. When temps allow they are placed outside for some daily sunshine.

4. When hardened and temps are right, they are transferred to the garden, or containers.
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lakngulf
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Almost time to get the 2015 Party started!! Merry Christmas everyone
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

I ordered a package of sun gold & a pkg of black cherry from johnnyseeds this week.
I plan on using miracle grow potting soil in the small cells (jiffy seed starter), and I will place it on top of the fridge.
Since I am in zone 8b if the weather is 50 or above I will place them in the sun before I leave,
And bring them inside at night. According to others this works well in our area. Of course, if we have bad weather I will have to supplement with artificial lights. experimenting is fun, although it doesn't always work. If not I will go to the nursery and purchase them.

Plus I know I could start them in May for a fall crop so I will save some of the seeds.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

This will be my sixteenth year of starting tomatoes from seed. From my inventory of about 200 varieties and 20 or so purchased new-to-me varieties this year I will start between 40 and 45 different tomato varieties totaling around 400 plants. I grow out tomato plants for a few local greenhouses which takes about half the plants. I plant out 35 different varieties for myself; the rest go to family, friends and whoever else want tomatoes.

Being in the cold mid-west, our growing season begins in May so the seed starting process begins in late February or early March. Seed starting all takes place in my basement where I have built benches and have fluorescent lights on chains and pulleys. I use plastic flats and 2'' plastic pots (12-6packs per flat) filled with soilless mix as growing medium.

My process is to plant maybe six or eight seeds in a pot, when they are at the two true leaf stage, transplant each plant to its own 2" pot and let grow to about 10 inches tall and whenever the weather allows, plant in the garden after a week of hardening off.

Over the years I have grow maybe 500 different varieties which makes me a novice compared to many other growers. This year's list has maybe 20 new to me varieties and 20 or so of my favorite ones. I won't bore anyone with this list. I save seeds from hard to find varieties but like to support my favorite seed vendors, too.
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lakngulf
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

The Official Start of 2015 Tomato Crop

Had some great visits with grand children over the holidays. Ben helped me open up the 2015 tomato start season. Here he is carefully poking the seed into the soil. He is the little brother of the gardener in my avatar.

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Happy Tomato-ing!
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Paul - your seed starting system sounds awesome. Post a picture?

lakngulf - if the peat pots work for you, that's great. Personally I hate them. Once I up pot my seedlings into the 4" pots, they may stay in them for a month, being bottom watered. The peat pots get moldy, hold too much water, or dry out and suck all the moisture away from the soil and plants. I much prefer plastic. I reuse my plastic ones year after year. Some have lasted a decade, so I get my money's worth out of them! :)
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

I just planted a few beefsteak tomatoes yesterday 12/29/14, as a test. My seeds are old so I am also testing their viability. If they do well, I might start a couple of more. Even if I have to kick out the current residents of my tomato containers.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

lakngulf wrote:The Official Start of 2015 Tomato Crop

Had some great visits with grand children over the holidays. Ben helped me open up the 2015 tomato start season. Here he is carefully poking the seed into the soil. He is the little brother of the gardener in my avatar.

Image

Happy Tomato-ing!
What a cute little helper! He and his brother are going to love eating the tomatoes he "grew" next summer :D
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

rainbowgardener wrote:Paul - your seed starting system sounds awesome. Post a picture?

lakngulf - if the peat pots work for you, that's great. Personally I hate them. Once I up pot my seedlings into the 4" pots, they may stay in them for a month, being bottom watered. The peat pots get moldy, hold too much water, or dry out and suck all the moisture away from the soil and plants. I much prefer plastic. I reuse my plastic ones year after year. Some have lasted a decade, so I get my money's worth out of them! :)
Yes, it would be good to see pictures of Paul's process. I make it fine with the peat pots. I buy them in bulk so the cost per is not outrageous. I top water and that process works well. The roots do well and the plant stems develop a hard tone. Also, I can use a marker to indicate the type of tomato.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

The marking is important. After several years of getting tomatoes mixed up, this year I decided I will put a masking tape strip on each pot and mark on that what is in the pot.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Being in Miami, Things are radically different for me. My seed starting date is early October. No need for heat, we have plenty of that. Heavy rain can destroy me. We almost never have a frost. Not even in mid winter. Here, summer kills everything. I only had one plant survive summer this year and it wasn't by much. It now has a few blooms. I have a massive amount of seed, but have started only seed from supermarket tomato this year. It is working better than I would ever believe possible.

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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

What are your plans for tomato starts for 2015? This will be my second year starting tomato plants from seeds. Last year was pretty successful I think growing a handful of different varieties. My major plan is growing a Roma type for making sauce, I will still have a few other to try that are new to me and a two I grew last year I liked and will bring back.

When do you start your seeds under grow lamps? I am looking to start all my tomato seeds around Valentine's Day this year. Maybe a week later.

How many do you plant? My sauce tomatoes I'm thinking maybe 20 plants but I really don't know yet. Everything else will be 2 - 3 plants.

What is your process--from seed to garden? I start them in a Jiffy seed starter try and once they get the second set of leaves I transplant into clear plastic drinking cups that have holes in the bottom. The cups are big enough till I can get them outside and the clear cup allows me to watch the root development. Once they are about a foot tall I will start to harden if the weather allows and hopefully two weeks later they will go into the ground. I plant my tomatoes to where the lowest set of leaves on the stem will be an inch or two in the ground.

What varieties do you start from seed? I will be growing these as of right now: Tomatillos, Sweet Aroma Tomatoes, Big Rainbow Tomatoes, Cherokee Purple Tomato, Virginia Sweet Tomato, Eagle Fork Big Red, Kellogg's Breakfast Tomato, Steakhouse Tomato (3lb Burpee Exclusive). Only Cherokee Purple and Virginia Sweet are returning from last year. All the others are new to me.

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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

I test planted some seed some time ago. Germination was good and now I have plants. Decided it was time to up-pot them on Friday. Some good roots on the little plants

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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

The first 2 tomatoes from the 18 gallon tub have a bad case of blossom end rot. I just examined the whole lot today. They are the only bad ones. Very disheartening.

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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

What are your plans for tomato starts for 2015?
This is my second year as well starting from seeds and first year in the garden instead of containers. This year I'm trying a mixture of early, mid and late season varieties.

When do you start your seeds under grow lamps?
I'm starting my seeds early to mid March.

How many do you plant?
I haven't decided. Ideally I want 3-4 of each.

What is your process--from seed to garden?
Seed starting mix in seed cells and peat pots. Once they have several true leaves, I transplant them to larger pots until the weather warms up and I can harden them off.

What varieties do you start from seed?
I didn't save any seeds from last year. This year will be my first.
In the garden - Beefsteak, Cherokee purple, Paul Robeson, and Roma
Container - Baxter bush cherry and glacier
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Mid-February Starts

Fantastic, Lush Queen, Brandywine, Fantastic and Better Boy -- can you tell which is which?

Image

Also, started a flat with Bell Pepper, Multicolored Bell and Egg Plant. I put it over a heat pad since peppers are slow to start. I placed the tomato flat in a south window to serve as its heat pad. I have a few plants couple inches tall but these cool temps do not offer the best growing weather. I will be gone for a few days and plan to crank up the greenhouse heater when I return. Time to get serious with 2015 tomato crop.
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lakngulf
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Not sure I got an early a start this year as in the past but I have some tomatoes in different stages of growth.

Some babies. These are Lush Queen from saved seed.
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Some a little larger. Several varieties of tomatoes on right, egg plant and pepper on the left. Using the heating pad for the peppers was a big help. Also, the fluffy seed that I mentioned in another thread seem to germinate well.

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And some that might go in the ground soon (probably too early but I always have enough to give them a try)

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Garf
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

My plants are declining in the Miami heat. The last 3 backup plants are holding their own except for leaf miner. I am thinking about trying a few heat resistant varieties. I don't know if it's worth it.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

The tomato seedlings, etc. went out for a daytime greenhouse visit, today.

Those are the peppers to the left. It's about time to go out to bring all of them in for the night. There are more tomato seeds just now popping up in the kitchen. I'll have those containers uncovered and in the South Window tomorrow.

Very, very soon - the furnace in the greenhouse will have to be turned on in the mornings. The South Window will not accommodate all the plants. The next step will be from fatigue and I won't be bringing them back in the house at night. Sure hope that the furnace will be able to fire up and do its job ...

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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

digitS' wrote:The tomato seedlings, etc. went out for a daytime greenhouse visit, today.

Those are the peppers to the left. It's about time to go out to bring all of them in for the night.
Looks like you have some good germination and plants look healthy.

I have all my plants in the greenhouse now, and hope I will not have to use the propane heater. Temps for the next couple weeks look great. As you can see in the picture below I have a large greenhouse door that can be opened for the plants to get direct sunlight.

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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Here are the ones just out of the warm kitchen, this morning.

The first seedling batch were a bit leggy. They had to show up just as we had several rainy days. It is supposed to rain tomorrow but it should only be one sunny day "lost."

A couple varieties haven't emerged. The lid will go back on and they will spend 1 or 2 more nights in the kitchen.

:) Steve
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Tomatoes in Various Stages

Either the weather is being nicer earlier this year or I am behind in my tomato seedling production. But that is fine as I have been way ahead of schedule in years past. I do have a few seedlings with some size, and with the warm temps we had mid-March I could not resist the temptation to put a couple in the ground. Had to cover them on March 27th and 28th but they made it so far and are doing well. Good healthy dark green. Brandywine on left, Amos Coli on right.
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I hope to get a few of these in the ground today or tomorrow. Plants are still not as large as I like but should take off in the soil mixed with some barnyard dirt.
Image

And here are the little guys that I just up-potted in the last week or so, many of them just yesterday. My Mother always wants the temps to be very warm before we plant her tomatoes. In years past the plants have gotten too large before she was ready. These should be planting size mid to late April, and should be just right
Image

Varieties for this year:
Better Boy
Fantastic
Believe It Or Not
Gary O'Sena
Cherokee Purple
Lush Queen
Amos Coli
Indigo Apple

And here is some pretty Wisteria, to let us know spring is among us
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

I find my tomatoes do best if I start them in trays, transplant to cell pack, then to individual pots and keep up potting if needed. The trays stay covered with "domes" and on heat mats until they germinate, then I transfer the trays to grow lights until large enough to transplant and then they go to the greenhouse.
I started my patio tomatoes Better Bush and Bush Goliath Feb. 16. The are now in individual 3" pots, large and healthy and ready to transplant into still larger pots, probably gallon size. I transplant into pots as you would do outside, with the stems down into the soil, not sticking way up out of it.
The first round of the 14 other tomatoes varieties I started 3/31. They are now up out of the soil and under lights.
They get planted in the garden once the danger of frost is well over, lots of time not till the end of May. They seem to do better if not stressed by the changing temperatures in Ohio spring.

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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

lily51 wrote:They seem to do better if not stressed by the changing temperatures in Ohio spring.
I totally agree with this, and that is the reason my Mom will not let me plant tomatoes for her early. Me = I have so many little tomato seedlings that it is worth it to see if I can get a jump start if we have decent early weather. But there have been times when the warm planted tomatoes shot right above those that had been in the ground early.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

My first two plants survived the cold temps and have jumped at the recent spring temps

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Several others are not in the containers on the pier and show that "Hey I really like this rich soil" color of green.

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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

lakngulf wrote:What are your plans for tomato starts for 2015?
.......
What is your process--from seed to garden?
....
These plants have been in an unheated hoop house through the daylight hours, lately. It's evening, so they are back in the heated greenhouse.
IMG_20150413_175935079.jpg
It is now time to move some of these out of the 4-packs, 48 plants/flat, into 3 ½" pots, 18 plants/flat.

Rain in the morning with a temperature in the 30's (maybe a little snow with that rain ;)). It should be a good day for a little work in the greenhouse.

Steve :)
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

I finally have my three tomato tubs planted with beefsteak, which is already fruiting, red cherry (old reliable) and I kept one of the wild tomatoes in my third pot.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

onelittlebutterfly wrote:Hi,

I let the seeds soak in water for a day or two until i see a little green peaking out :) Them i place them between wet napkins. This way it will stay wet and sprout faster instead of having it try to break through the soil. Once it is a few millimeters, i start planting them in starters "soft' soil in a small green house to keep them warm!

And you?
I have soaked some seeds before (mainly okra) but do not do so for tomatoes. I am sure the process works great, but so far my germination rate has been good. I fill the seed starting flat with potting soil, water it a bit and let sit. Then I gently push the small tomato seed into the soil with the point of a knife, water again and put under grow light.
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

I soak 1½" to 2" of the soil mix in those community containers, thoroughly. It sits in a basin of water for about an hour then moves out to drip for a couple of hours, or overnight.

Then, I line up seed right out of the packets on that wet soil mix. Dry potting soil goes over the top. The containers are then moved into the kitchen. The moisture in the containers is good for about 2 weeks.

If I have problems with germination, I can usually blame the delay on old seed. Having both old and new in the same container can get me into trouble but that is my own fault ... so is crowding.

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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Pruning

This year I hope to prune lower limbs/leaves of at least some of my tomato plants, hoping to avoid some issues caused by soil contact. What is the process? What should I prune? All lower limbs, or just suckers?

Here are two plants that could be candidates for pruning. What should I remove?

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I remember going to Calloway Gardens with my parents and we were amazed at their tomato crop, running up on bailing twine. They had cut off everything about the plant except the main runner. My Dad thought about doing the same thing, but as a cattle farmer with big hay crops, there was just not time to spend on pruning in the garden, especially when those plants were producing great tomatoes every year by just letting them grow full in cages.
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PumpkinBlythe
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

I have at LEAST 30+ good size tomatoes but it just has not gotten hot enough to turn them red yet. My tomato plant is taller than my corn right now. I had to put a bamboo stick in there because it was flopping over into my giant sunflower.

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lakngulf
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Heirloom Farm

At my Mom's house I planted 6-8 tomato plants each year, along with some pepper, cucumber, okra, eggplant and radish.
She is 90 and still enjoys helping the plants along and seeing that they reach their potential in production.

Her garden soil is excellent, so I plant some extra tomatoes there as well. This year I have a Heirloom experiment going, to see how well several different types will produce in that soil. These are plants from seed that I have collected from various sources, including the Helfulgardener See Giveaway last year. Here are the plants I have going this year:

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Included are:
Brandwine
Cherokee Purple
Gary O' Sena
Lush Queen
Amos Coli
Indigo Apple
Believe It Or Not

And I have some Better Boy and Fantastic for comparison. Looking forward to the results.
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digitS'
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

Of those, I used to grow Fantastic each year and came to know it well.

I have had Gary O Sena each of about the last 5 years. You realize, Lakngulf, that it isn't quite a heirloom but isn't a hybrid ... It is a stabilized cross of the first two on your list, Brandywine and Cherokee Purple. (I'm just saying this because others reading may not know ;).)

I like Gary O a lot. I was wondering if it does real well in my garden because of its hybrid vigor but how many generations must it be from the original cross - 10? 20?

It came through some real bad windstorms last year with good vigor and real nice fruit! This year, the plants have blooms early. I won't have to worry that it won't have enough time to ripen fruit like happens so often with beefsteak varieties in my garden. Fantastic even had problems some years with ripening a crop.

Your gardening environment must be just about the opposite of mine here in the Wild West. I'll be curious how Gary O comes through for you this season.

Steve
Make everything as simple as possible but not simpler. ~ Albert Einstein

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lakngulf
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Re: 2015 Tomato Starts?

digitS' wrote:Your gardening environment must be just about the opposite of mine here in the Wild West. I'll be curious how Gary O comes through for you this season.

Steve
I will post some updates along the way. It is already interesting to see the growth characteristics and rate of each variety. The Lush Queen is the shortest but lots of full growth. The Gary O has a unique stem structure that is different from tomato I have grown.

I have grown Brandwine for several years and like it a lot. Last year my favorites were Lush Queen and Amos Coli.
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