SOLANACEAE, The Nightshade family
It’s time to start tomato seeds! Two of the varieties I’m trying are greenhouse types from England. They must be very special because one package had 10 seeds and the other had 6, and they cost $2.99 and $2.79! I plan to keep several of each of these varieties in 5 gallon pots in my unheated greenhouse the whole season, and see how they produce in that environment, with extra warmth day and night and protection from rain.
The big full moon is tomorrow, so it actually might have been best to start a week or two ago, as the waxing moon cycle draws up water and speeds germination. Faster sprouting means less time for the seed to be in a stage that is especially vulnerable to fungal disease.
*’Vilma’ – 95 days – Bush type (determinate) with cherry sized red fruits. Heavy crop over a long period.
*’Cherrola’ – 60 days – Vine type (indeterminate) with cherry sized, dark red fruits. Outstanding flavor.
Other varieties for this year’s garden:
‘Early Girl’ – 55 days – A classic, good producer that is truly early and disease resistant
‘Sweet 100′ – 60 days – A favorite cherry type
‘Tigerella’ – 60 days – Small, striped fruits. Heirloom.
*’Stupice’ – 60 days – Developed for the Pacific Northwest
‘Sun Gold’ – 65 days – Sweet gold cherry type
*’Falcorosso’ – 65 days – Also a good greenhouse type. Plum shape, disease resistant hybrid.
*’Violet Jasper’ – 70 days – Chinese variety, purple skin with green stripes. Small fruits, highly productive
‘Chocolate Drop’ – 70 days – Large, dark cherry type with great flavor
‘Green Zebra’ – 75 days – I just love these tangy, pretty fruits. Medium size with yellow stripes.
*’Persimmon’ – 80 days – Large yellow fruits. Heirloom.
*’Speckled Roman’ – 85 days – Paste type with yellow stripes. Excellent flavor. Can be stuffed. Heirloom.
*New to me this year, I cannot vouch for flavor or performance yet.
All are indeterminate except ‘Green Zebra’, ‘Vilma’ and ‘Falcorosso’. Not that is matters (except for how you’ll stake them) in our cool climate.
Clearly I opt for mostly early season varieties. Even though the last spring frost in Portland is early to mid-April, conditions are usually right to plant out seedlings in late May (warm soil, relatively warm nights, drier weather). The number of days to maturity counts from when the transplants are set out, not when the seed is planted. So count back 6 to 8 weeks from the end of May, and seeds should be started late March/Early April. If you have adequate light (ie. grow lights or a bright greenhouse) and space for all the starts to be potted up from cell packs to pots, then a little earlier is fine.
March 15 has always been my target date to start the solanaceous seeds (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc.), even in Minnesota where the average last frost date is a full month later. But they don’t waste time there: the soil promptly dries and warms. With the warm nights through the summer and higher humidity, it’s actually way easier to grow tomatoes there. In fact I am trying to limit the amount of time and energy I put into tomato growing here, or at least manage expectations. My family used to can 60 gallons of tomatoes a year in St. Paul. Not jars, gallons. With about 30 plants in tall wire cages, the harvest was abundant even in a so-so year. And the warmth influences flavor too.