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Gambling with Tomatoes

As mentioned in the April Gardening post May 26 is the average last frost date for the general area our vegetable garden is in.  Other than cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini tomatoes are the garden’s most frost-sensitive, common plant.  The consensus advice is to wait until a week after your average last frost date to put them in the ground.

I’m partly motivated by a competitive drive to be the first with backyard tomatoes; I’ve been very good about staying away from mealy, pink-white winter tomatoes and it would be great to break the fast even earlier in August; but at this point there is also a strong desire to get all of these pots off the kitchen windowsill and outside.  The temperature this week are supposed to be above seasonal with highs in the low- to mid-twenties and lows not below ten degrees celsius so it’s definitely time for the tomatoes to go into their final home in the garden.

A Red Currant tomato seedling

In the previous two years tomato growing I have always hit an isolated rough patch or two.  In 2008 a couple seedlings didn’t make it after the first transplant then one seedling disappeared entirely from the garden the week after it was set out.  We also fought the vicious Tomato Hornworm all summer.  Last year (2009) more of the seedlings were stunted or didn’t make it at all after being transplanted from the seeding tray.  This year the problem was at the germination stage where few seeds in the first round germinated and the ones that did were mainly attacked by mold.  After switching to a non-soil starting mix for a new round of seeds things finally took off but this uneven start means that some of the tomato seedlings are pushing eleven inches tall and a stem diameter close to that of my pinky finger (like the Black Krim in the photo at the top of this post) while others are barely four inches tall.

We were lucky last year to avoid the late blight that wreaked havoc on commercial crops across the eastern half of North America.  I’m not entirely sure that it was late blight but our neighbours had a very poor crop of tomatoes so I’ll be particularly vigilant this year.

I’ll be growing a new record of tomato cultivars this season with Pollock, Canabec Rose, Montreal Tasty, (all three saved as seed from last year) Black Krim, Amish Paste, and Red Currant.  Some of these were profiled in this post from last year.

In other news, the last of my indoor seed starting was completed last week with pumpkins (White Caspar and Jamboree Hybrid), cucumbers (lemon and Mathilde Hybrid), and zucchini (a mix of seeds that hopefully will produce a variety of types) all going into four-inch starter pots.

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  1. Did you know that sprinkling cinnamon over the seedlings will often stop an attack of mold?

    We’re hardening ours off; they look about as far along as yours. We have White, Black, Isis Candy, Amish Paste, Red Pear, Green Zebra, Blondkopfchen and several others, if you have room for any more.

  2. Kat P says:

    Abbey def ate the plant that went missing last year.

  3. foodwithlegs says:

    Sarah: Thanks for commenting and for the great cinnamon tip. I did less hardening-off than usual and didn’t have the sunburning (white leaves) that I’ve seen in the past two years. We’ll see if this has any ill effects down the road.

    Unfortunately, I’m out of room. I’ve farmed out my Pollock and Canabec Rose plants and still have a Red Currant waiting to be delivered.

    Kat: No way. It was too much of a surgical strike for Abbey. (For the benefit of everyone else Abbey is my cousin’s not-so-bright Golden Retriever who eats everything but always leaves tracks.)

  4. [...] May was probably drier than is strictly optimal for my vegetable garden but June has brought even hotter temperatures (particularly warm nighttime temperatures) and a more optimal amount of rain. [...]

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