of taxes and tomatoes: time to pay, time to sow

Juliet small paste tomatoesEVER SINCE MY FRIEND ANDREW instilled it in my head years ago, I’ve taken the sting off tax time as he does by making April 15 tomato time, too. In much of the north, where tomatoes can go outside after Memorial Day or early June, as frosts subside, mid-April makes a perfect time to sow tomato seeds indoors. A roundup of tips and how-to’s, like these:

Easy does it: You don’t need a flat of cherry tomato plants; one or two is plenty for most households. Give the majority of space to paste tomatoes for making sauce, and others for eating fresh in salads and sliced.

Hybrids or heirlooms? A mix is better, probably, as hybrids sometimes fare better under duress than heirlooms, which don’t have the benefit of bred-in disease resistance. (That’s ‘Juliet,’ a delicious and prolific hybrid small plum, up top, for instance.)

At planting-out time, rotate the crop to minimize the chance of soil-borne troubles. A three-year rotation is best, but at least skip a year between planting tomatoes or their cousins in the same spot.

Always rogue out volunteer tomato seedlings from previous years. There is a chance they can transmit disease to the new season’s plants.

Lots more tomato tips, from seed to harvest:

  1. kristi says:

    If only I could resist the temptation to plant flats of tomatoes that end up homeless in the summer time. Tomato loving and restraint don’t seem to go together.

  2. We need as much growing season as we can get for tomatoes on the Oregon coast! I start mine on bottom heat with lights in February, keep them greenhoused until usually late April but this year it will be later. Too wet and cold outside, and in the chilly greenhouse they are growing slowly…

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Oregon Coast Gardener. It has been wet and cold here, too, but our setout date isn’t till Memorial Day or even June, so plenty of time for the weather to settle. Bottom heat really helps, doesn’t it? Nice to “meet” you!

  3. KK says:

    Margaret: I have a ticket to your event today but can’t find the address anywhere. If you get a chance could you email it to me. Looking forward!
    Kathy Kling

  4. Naseer says:

    Hi Margaret,
    We started our tomatoes and a bunch of other veggies a few weeks ago. We did everything the same as last year (fluorescent lights, warm house, Pro Mix seed starting soil) except we’re now using APS starting trays for the first time, based on your posts.
    We have noticed some problems recently. The leaves of all the plants are starting to curl a bit and yellowing, and haven’t grown past their first two leaves for the most part. Have you ever seen this problem? Do you think the APS system may possibly over-water the plants by keeping it too wet? We’re worried we may lose our whole crop. The good thing is it’s not too late to start some new trays today!

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Naseer. I don’t know what the cause is, but I will say that I am careful not to let the babies be both cold and wet (I grow them fast and warm — I think you use heat mats, no?). Did you leave the lids on after germination? I take them off pretty quickly so things aren’t all sweaty inside the dome, and also run a fan on low in the room… If the medium is wicking up too much moisture too fast and not drying a bit between perhaps don’t refill the reservoir until the plants need watering again — so it’s not a constant state of soggy soil?

  5. shirley taylor says:

    I planted 20 little tomato plants last week in 80 degree weather,and then a cold front blew through! It got down to 38 night before last,and it will be 80 again today!! Spring in Oklahoma!!At least we dodged the tornado bullet….barely!!

  6. Naseer says:

    Great ideas, Margaret. We used to use warming but found it really only helped the peppers most and so wasn’t worth setting up again this year. But we have kept the trays constantly full and the soil has been constantly wet and (I suppose) cold. We called Gardener’s Supply and they recommended letting them go dry for a bit to see if the plants bounce back, and after that we plan to refill less frequently. Also, I planted a few new trays yesterday with a subset of the original planting. Thanks for the rapid response! Best of luck during what is starting out as a slightly colder season than last year!

  7. KATHY says:

    hi margret; this ? is way out in left feild, but I have noticed you also wear an apron to garden in. Could you share where you buy your cross over the back aprons? I have worn mine completely out, tried the typical bib type and don’t like it hanging from my neck. Thank you so much.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Kathy. The aprons I have used for many years are by a company called Utility Canvas. Here’s their website…I Only see aprons now sold online as part of gift sets, but you could call and see what they have.

  8. Terryk says:

    Kathy I found one of their pages list the apron separately, if this is the one. All those pockets must be grea for carrying in a few tomatoes from the garden. I bought seedlings from terrestrial seed to avoid the over seedling problem.


    If you are in the Hudson valley, four wind farms has a seedling sale in May that looks very interesting

  9. KATHY says:

    Good Morning margaret; Thank you so much for the web site.I found just aprons on the

    “Home” tab at the top of their page. I have so enjoyed you books and blog this winter, and look forward to following this season of growing as well. I live in northern Ohio and we are still cold and today a mix of rain and snow is expected. Fortunately I work at a nursery and can spend lots of time in our green house!!!
    Have a great week, Kathy

  10. Eileen says:

    I don’t practice restraint! Too many seedlings is not a problem for me because I’ve found that if I leave the extras in the coffee room at work others will take them. It’s especially gratifying to share seedlings from harder-to-find varieties like heirloom tomatoes and the Aji Limo peppers I found on eBay. It’s so much fun and doesn’t cost a thing.

  11. Joanna says:

    We had loads of cherry tomatoes last year and we found they were great for dehydrating and add a lovely flavour to our food all winter, so we will be growing lots of them again this year.

  12. Donna Campbell says:

    Margaret, I have green worm bites on my hierloom beef steak tomatoes. How do I fight these hungry critters in my organic garden?

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