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hendi_alex
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Ready to start my earliest tomato transplants

Two or three weeks to sprout and get ready for transplant to individual pots. That gets me into the first week of January. January usually has numerous 60 degree days, so out in the direct sunlight on those days, growing under grow lights other days. Step up the pot size every three weeks or so. By March the plants are blooming. And by the time that they go in the ground in mid April the plants will be in two or three gallon pots and will have set their first batch of small fruit. Goal: in the ground by April 20th, first harvest of salad tomatoes by Mid to late May.

I won't start all of my tomatoes this early, but will start a few, and then will start a few more every two or three weeks through May or June. The latest starts will be the plants for the fall garden. This method provides a continuous supply of transplants of different ages/sizes and helps to ensure against some disaster.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
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ruggr10
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Sounds fun...

Snowed today. 25 degrees right now. :( :cry: :( :cry:

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GardenRN
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60 degree days in Jan? How far south is Camden SC? On one hand, it's your home, I certainly believe you. On the other, my grandparents live in Seneca and their weather doesn't seem to differ much from mine here in Richmond, Va. We would never be lucky enough to see 60's in Jan!! lol

Sounds like well laid plans though. I always start a bit earlier than I should have. Don't forget (as I usually do) to account for when the plant does most of its root growth and at what stages you don't want to disturb the roots.
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lakngulf
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Sounds like a good plan. Will they stay in containers? Seems I remember you are totally into container growing for tomatoes, or was it that you just plant a ton in case some find wilt or disease?

Late January has been my normal time to put first seeds under the grow light. I may try some a little earlier this year
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hendi_alex
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Garden RN, our typical high in December-February is low to miud 50's, but most years we have a cold week followed by a warmer week. The warmer weeks often get into the 60's, some years about half of the time. My brother lives in the upstate near Greenville, not much distance but lots of elevation and air flow differences between here and there. He is always 6-8 weeks behind me. I imagine that Seneca is similar to my brother's climate and much like the hilly parts of interior Virginia.

Lakngulf, I grow quite a few plants in containers, but most of the tomatoes get moved into the ground, either totally or in my hybridized version of setting the 3 gallon pot a few inches in the ground. Last year the plants which had pots set in the ground seemed to be less affected by disease than was the case with plants totally repotted.

Marlingardener, My transplants that are in the nursery, waiting to be planted, seem to almost never get affected by disease until after they get moved into the ground. With respect to disease, last year's plants that were placed under 40% shade cloth seemed to do even better than others during the hottest part of the summer in July and August. They stayed nice and green under the shade cloth and patiently waited to be planted in late August/early September to form the late crop. I'll break out the shade cloth again this year, when temperatures settle above 90 degrees. I will also try growing some full sized plants under the shade cloth this coming July.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
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gixxerific
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Starting tomatoes in Jan, are you nuts? Oh wait I have some growing now myself. Forget it. :lol:

I wish I could start that early for the outside plants. My climate and yours just don't match like that. :oops:

Good luck and keep us posted.

Dono

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hendi_alex
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This fall has been extremely mild. Last year at this time it had already been very cold, for our area, over two months. This year we have only had a few mild to medium frosts, with only the most tender plants getting killed. I have a clematis located in a corner on the south side of the house. It has six or eight flowers swelling with one within a few days of bloom. On the front porch, we still have a couple of planters with a spike plant and some annuals. The annuals are still in full bloom. Very strange weather!

Our average high this time of the year is around 54-56, but this year the highs have generally stayed in the mid sixties to mid 70's, with only a few days below so far.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
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TheWaterbug
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gixxerific wrote:Starting tomatoes in Jan, are you nuts?
Heh. My Cherokee Purple plant is still thriving, and it even put out a few fruit last month. They're thinking about ripening now; I just have to encourage them.

Maybe I have to think about tomatoes as perennials here in So Cal.

They're perennials in their native lands, aren't they?
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That is great... I am going to get a couple of cherry tomatoes started right now.

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I have about 6 tomatoes still growing from this past summer in my greenhouse. In will start my seeds early too like this weekend! Hey green and red is christmas right?
I enjoy fishing ,gardening and a solar greenhouse! carpet installation repair and sales for over 45 years! I am the inventor of the Bobber With A Brain - Fishing Bobber!

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hendi_alex
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Largest plants were planted in mid December, at time of the start of this thread. Smallest plants, just sprouting, were started about 10 days ago. Set up is cheap and simple. Two reflector lamps (about $5), a heat mat purchased for the dog, and a reflector shield surrounding the plants, made of left over aluminum flashing.

The temperature started moderating a couple of days last week, and look to gives highs over 60 degrees for a while. On those days the plants are moved to the sunlight but inside a portable cold frame. Today I'll move the larger plants which are about 7 inches tall, into 1 gallon nursery pots. I have six reflector lights which will be used, especially if the plants need to stay indoors for several days in a row.

[img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7174/6760464015_15221ba8fa_z.jpg[/img]

[img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7163/6760464635_f17b93a359_o.jpg[/img]
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hendi_alex
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Started extra early egg plants in December this year also. Here is one of two very early plants. I was disappointed at how late my plants started producing last year. It is looking like this year the egg plant harvest will start a lot earlier.

[img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7064/6858990067_1e7d3ea594_o.jpg[/img]
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
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vebyrd36
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I have several tomato plants waiting to go outside to the garden. The problem is the weather here. Here is some almost ready to go outside. As yo can sseed in the background I have more seeds on the stove.

[img]https://i985.photobucket.com/albums/ae336/vebyrd36/07460f83.jpg[/img]
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hendi_alex
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Nice! Very healthy looking plants.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

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vebyrd36
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Thank you. I wish I could have planted my strawberries and onions today, but it is snowing.
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Looking good Alex! I'm still biding my time. I have a few seedlings going to curb my appetite. But I am fighting the urge every single day to start some serious seed dropping!! :)
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hendi_alex
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You probably only run 2-3 weeks behind me, better get things going! I've now got my second planting several inches tall. Those include bell peppers, jalapenos, egg plant, and more tomato plants. That is about 32 plants total. Plus have seeds just starting to sprout in three community pots. Those are two new varieties of tomatoes and a second batch of bell pepper plants.

I'll make my biggest starting this week. Will plant cucumber, squash, more tomatoes, more peppers, and a few other things. May start a few sweet peas inside this year. Sweet peas and spinach are slow to start and quick to die from the heat, so they might benefit from a start inside. I'll put some potatoes in the ground this week. Planted arugula, lettuce, spinach in the outdoor beds last week.
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lakngulf
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hendi_alex wrote:I'll make my biggest starting this week. Will plant cucumber, squash, more tomatoes, more peppers, and a few other things.
You are quite ambitious. I think we will have to make you chairman of a group I started: PETS--plants everything too soon. I am trying to resist this year getting things outside too quickly, but I do plan to have them making good progress in the greenhouse.
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hendi_alex wrote:You probably only run 2-3 weeks behind me, better get things going!
Bad influence!! lol. My target date is supposed to be May 1st. Although I believe that's a bit late. I usually aim for the 2nd or 3rd week of april depending on the temps. I have another week or two before I have to get the big batch going. I think you get your plants a bit taller inside than I do as well. I have shelves but not a ton of room inside so I don't try to get the plants too big before I move them out. I think the heat will allow them to make up for lost ground anyways.

I am on the verge of planting my potatoes out as well. I have to get another load of manure and some hay. I'm trying the no-dig method this year. Probably going to get the niece and nephew, as well as my own kids to get out there with me and put down all the cardboard and potato cuttings. Just waiting for the temps to come up just a hair. I think 3/1 is a good target date for the potatoes for me.
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hendi_alex
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My plants are outside in the cold frame today, and should be able to spend the days outside all of this week. Out of the past two weeks we only have had two three days that the plants had to stay inside.

My last frost date is the third week in April, but if the ten day forecast looks good, I plant a few tender plants in the ground at the end of the first week in April.

In December I plant enough seeds for 8-10 tomatoes and a couple of egg plants. These get quite large, usually with fruit, before they go into the ground in April. They represent my biggest effort as season extenders. When we plant regular sized tomato plants in the ground in April, our first fruit usually ripens the last of June. With my earliest plants, we usually get ripe tomatoes by mid May. That early harvest makes the extra work worth while for me. Plus, it is really just a little work, keeping up with two small trays of plants from December until the end of January. The work increases a bit in February when the plants get up potted to one gallon nursery pots. But even then, it is only ten or twelve plants. I'm retired plus have plenty of room inside and outside. So no big deal in terms of effort, and the reward of those mid May tomatoes is priceless.
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I started all my tomatoes and peppers yesterday. I still got herbs, flowers, melons, and cukes to go. Oh, and I also planted some bush beans in the ground yesterday.


Will wait to plant melons and cukes in the ground, but might start the herbs and flowers over the week or coming weekend.

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I moved my December started seeds into three gallon containers today. Most of the plants are in bloom. A daily tickling of the blooms will probably allow some early fruit set. Most of the second batch of plants were moved into one gallon containers. The space requirement and moving inside to outside are now becoming fairly demanding. But the weather has been co-operating and allowing the plants to stay outside in the cold frame for two and three days at a time. In another couple of weeks, there is a good chance that the plants will remain outside for a week at a time, with only occasionally coming inside.

[img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7200/6772787032_4118c62cc8_o.jpg[/img]

[img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7069/6772787376_2cd9c876d4_o.jpg[/img]
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hendi_alex
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We have lift off! Two plants in the three gallon containers have set clusters of fruit. As is always the case, 'Juliet' is my earliest plant to set fruit. 'Juliet' is always early, is always reliable, and is always extremely productive. The fruits always get great reviews from us and friends, as to the flavor and quality.

[img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7177/6780810984_f00a17f1c4_o.jpg[/img]

I've never had fruit to set this early. Maybe ripe tomatoes by late March or early April!
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SPierce
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Beautiful looking plants :D Sadly, it's snowing/freezing rain for us here today. Augh- no planting yet!

leave it to mother nature to give me a gentle reminder to not even try!

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hendi_alex
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When my plants are disease ridden and dying, yours will be thriving in the first wave of summer heat. If a typical year, I'll manage to keep a few plants going and will continue to harvest until fall, but the plants really look awful and it is quite a struggle for them to overcome the heat, humidity, and disease of July and August.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
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hendi_alex - My Grand Parents lived in Camden SC. My Grandfather worked at Dupont and along with being an avid golfer, liked to garden. His gardens, I'm sure, inspired me. I remember as a young boy thinking it was cool he was growing "real" food :-)

I always enjoyed our trips to Camden.

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hendi_alex
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My dad worked and retired at the DuPont plant, worked in maintenance. My brother worked there for about ten years and I worked there for about six years. My time was interrupted with a two year stretch in the navy, and then in 1974 I left DuPont to go to Carolina as a full time student. Sure am thankful for the GI Bill!
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
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My Grandfather worked in maintenance ... I'm pretty sure.

His name was Charlie Moore. Did your paths ever cross ?

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hendi_alex
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My dad was Charlie Henderson. Worked on the Orlon side for about 15 Years, then moved into the Nylon textile plant. They must have known one another, but I don't recall the name. There were several Moores who attended high school at the same time that I did: Ray Moore, E.J. Moore, Kaye Moore, William Moore, Betty Moore. Some must have been from the same family.
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lakngulf
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Alex, your pictures are great, especially the ones up close of the healthy blooms and that first fruit.

Will the 3 gallon containers be large enough for the tomatoes?
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hendi_alex
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Some of the plants will be moved into the ground in April. The others will be moved into 15-25 gallon containers. I wouldn't attempt to grow tomatoes in less than a 5-7 gallon container unless using some kind of drip irrigation to give a fairly constant supply of water. For me, 3 gallon is simply a step up to keep the plant growing and to keep the roots from getting crowded prior to planting in April. These plants were started in December and were moved to three gallon just a week or so ago, at the time of the previous post with photos. The three gallon pots will easily accommodate the plants until planting time.
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lakngulf
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hendi_alex wrote: The three gallon pots will easily accommodate the plants until planting time.
That is what I thought, but it seems like a lot of transplanting, especially if they have already bloomed and put on fruit. But then, your results speak for themselves.

I have four sets of tomatoes at this time: (1) some in five inch peat pots that are under grow lights, very healthy and putting on several leaves without getting too tall (2) some about three weeks old in a starter flat under grow lights, just now putting on the second set of leaves (3) some seed going into a starter flat today and (4) some plants in 10 gallon pots that have lived and bloomed during the winter in my greenhouse, and they are blooming like crazy now, with one little tomato showing about as big as the one in your picture above.

I love springtime!
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hendi_alex
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As posted earlier, these plants were started in mid December. So in two and a half months I've moved those six plants from a group pot to three inch individual pots, then to one gallon, and just recently to three gallon where they will live until planting time. I only advance to 3 gallon pots for my few earliest plants. My second group of plants will likely last in 1 gallon pots until planting, but perhaps a few of the biggest ones will need to move to three gallon pots in late March.

Last year I ran an experiment with pretty good results, and will try a few again this year. Some of the plants in three gallon pots were placed in the ground pot and all, with the pot only 'planted' about 4-6 inches deep. Those plants grew very well and seemed more resistant to disease than was the case with plants which were pulled from the pots and planted directly into the ground. The plants in pots were easier to water, with the pot rim preventing any water run off. The roots grew right out from the holes in the sides and bottom of the pots, and that kept the plants from drying out nearly as badly as the plants which are totally container grown, not in contact with the ground.
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hendi_alex
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Largest plants were seeded in mid December. They have clusters of tomatoes now. The next batch of plants were seeded in mid January. The smallest plants were seeded in mid February. I'll plant a few more tomato seeds in the middle of this month and another batch in the middle of April. Will plant more seeds or will do stem cuttings in May. Those will be primary plants for fall harvest. With luck will be able to keep a continuous harvest from mid to late April through mid November, with tomatoes lasting into December.

Right now all of the plants can be contained in two cold frames of maybe 22-25 square feet. By the time the next group of plants get potted up to one gallon or three gallon pots, the weather should be settled enough for plants to stay out overnight, but will be brought in any time that temperatures drop below 40 degrees.

This cold frame is about 18 inches tall on the back side. The only reason the plants are in it is to protect a bit from the wind which has been pretty strong recently.
[img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7042/6969544645_07bbcd7f6c_o.jpg[/img]

This cold frame is only about 14 inches at the back. All of these plants were seeded in January or February.

Home grown transplants are most tomatoes. Also have egg plant, sweet bells, jalapeno, and most recent seed starts, not in photo, are cucumbers, squash, and zucchini.
[img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7062/6969544921_085408bfd6_o.jpg[/img]
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hendi_alex
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We have liftoff! Harvested first ripe tomato today. It is a 'Juliet'. Also noticed others starting to turn. We have about 8 tomato plants in the ground so far. They are about 2-3 feet tall, having been started in mid December. Last frost date is around April 21st so still am holding breath, hoping to avoid a final frost. The ten day forecast looks good and ends in a warming trend. So things are looking pretty safe. I have good sized squash and cucumber plants in the garden. Picked first snow peas today. Lettuce is producing very well. First two blocks of corn are planted, and will plant green beans tomorrow. Should be a very early garden this year.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
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hendi_alex
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Tomatoes have been trickling off, usually keeping about half a small bowl of ripe tomatoes available. Went to check on the garden this a.m. and harvested my first zucchini. What an early start to the season! While at the garden was pushing some leading tomato stems back inside the 5 foot tomato cages. Was surprised to notice that several of the plants are now above the top of their cages. Unbelievable! That doesn't usually happen for my plants before about the third week in July, and here we are still in April.

I'm keeping a string of replacement transplants of various ages. So seedlings are just getting first true leaves, but also we have several plants in both one gallon and three gallon sized containers. This will be my biggest effort ever to keep healthy tomato plants going all summer. Disease has become such a problem, that rather than trying to squeeze extra life from mature plants, I'll strive to have a healthy young plant waiting in the nursery area, to go in the ground as a replacement if necessary.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

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