Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Update from TomatoLand

Hey, everybody! Happy hot weather ... So I've been getting the occasional email with variations on the same question: "Did you get run over by a bus? What happened to you?"

First, no, I did not get run over by a bus. I'm still alive and kicking, although I'm eating a lot fewer fresh veggies because I had to take the garden out already this year. This last season, though, was just wonderful. I grew fewer plants than normal and had to scale back some of my loftier ambitions, but still had one of the most spectacular harvest years I've had in a while. The four main varieties I grew--Better Boy, Paul Robeson, Kellogg's Breakfast, and striped zebra--all performed like mad. I had to give a special notice to the Better Boys, which must have put out 30 pounds of fruit quickly. The Kellogg's Breakfast were also pretty amazing ... huge, juicy orange fruit. Now, it turns out I'm not the world's biggest fan of orange tomatoes (I like my tomatoes a little more acidic), but I'd still grow them again just for the sheer novelty of tomatoes that look like small basketballs.

But why, then? Why did I take the garden out early?

Well, referencing my last post (ye ole robbery), we are in the process of moving. We're relocating locally, but we've been getting the house ready and doing repairs, etc. That unfortunately included taking out the winter garden. Like many people, we have a small yard, so every winter I build an edifice to veggies in the backyard, but every trace of it disappears in the summer so the family can actually use the yard and pool without dodging containers. This year, it happened a bit early so we can have people through the house.

I am also getting a fair number of people enquiring about starting veggie gardens now. Here's my answer: resist the urge. I can already anticipate there are those among you who are outraged at the very idea. "But I've been growing veggies in South Florida summers for years!" Yes, yes. I know. I know people who do it too, and do it well. But in my opinion, that's a game for the experienced grower because there are many more challenges. Nevertheless, if you must plant veggies this summer, stick with hot-season crops like okra, African long beans, and eggplant. In terms of tomatoes, you can also grow the tiny and quite tasty Everglades cherry tomato. The trick is finding seeds, but they're rampant growers even in the summer.

Anyway, thanks everybody for sticking with me this season and it's been great to hear that so many people had great harvests this year. Take that, bland mass-produced tomatoes! We're coming for you ...


  1. Hi , I am trying to grow tomatoes for the first time, I planted the seeds in the middle of April and have sturdy little plants which you can see in my pictures
    I was wondering when I should expect to start seeing tomatoes?
    Also, if I transplanted my plants without taking off the bottom two leaves, can I still take them off now and then add soil to allow for roots to grow from the stem?

  2. Hi, Mrs. T. Thanks for dropping be ... When you harvest depends on the varieties. If you look at the label or seed packet, there's usually a "days to harvest" number included in there somewhere. Typically, it's between about 65 (short-season maters) and 90 (long-season maters). That's days from transplanting, btw, not sprouting, and tomatoes do often seem to take longer by a few weeks. So given that, your tomatoes should come in around July. However, you should start seeing little tomatoes within the first month or six weeks or so--assuming your plant will set fruit in the heat. As for the stem/soil question, yes, you can pile dirt up around the base of the plant and it will sprout roots, but if your plants are already healthy and growing well, there's probably no reason to do it. Good luck with the summer grow!