Monday, June 02, 2008

Garden Journal Entry 6/2/08: Planting Tomatoes Later Is Better than Never (I Think)

Eight Tomato Plants (No, Really, they're in there)

Realization of the Day:
It's the second of June and I have a pathetic total of 9 tomato plants in the ground - which is more than double yesterday's count of four. Most years I have at least 40 or 50 - sometimes as many as 80.

Oh yeah, and they're tomato plants I broke down and bought, too - not started from the couple of dozen packets of heirloom seeds still safely sitting in my office.

How did this happen? I have no idea. I'm still trying to figure out how it got to be June already. I think it has something to do with the concurrence of lambing season and seed starting season each year. While my foodie mom was visiting the farm back in April (because she wanted to be here during lambing season), the running joke was that at 10pm when we staggered back to The Shack from the barn I would say brightly, "So are you ready to go out and work in the garden now?" Instead we poured ourselves glasses of wine, scrounged up something to eat, and collapsed into bed.

Back on February 14th I was flailing around trying to figure out what I could direct seed (and get to germinate) in the greenhouse that wouldn't either a) freeze to death in the coming months (basil, zinnias, bush beans) or b) suffer from heatstroke when the temps shoot up into the 90s in there like they do every time the sun comes out (lettuce, broccoli, kohlrabi, spinach). I thought about bunching onions (which I buy every year and never plant - it's like a tradition), but settled on my beloved Swiss chard instead. It's thriving, but what I really should have been doing back then was starting tomato and pepper seeds in containers. At the time, though, the thought of 2+ months of dealing with growing stuff indoors under lights seemed like a total pain. Yes, sometimes I can really be that stupid lazy.

Mr. Midnight Inspects My Work

This morning I took a break from planting to see if the guys working on our new building (the hardwood floor is looking great!) were interested in taking home some Jerusalem artichoke plants (more about growing these soon, I hope). Our contractor, who puts in a large garden every year, happily took me up on my offer even though he had no idea what Jerusalem artichokes were. His two helpers politely declined.

"I only grow tomatoes and green onions," one of them told me.

"I have plenty of green onions," I said. "But I'm really behind with my tomato plants." They nodded understandingly. "In fact," I sheepishly admitted, "I'm in the middle of planting some right now."

"Oh," they said in unison. "That is late." Being polite types, they left it at that, though I have a feeling as soon as I was out of earshot they probably had a little more to say.

In an attempt to look at this embarrassing and depressing tomato plant situation in a more positive light, I've been telling myself that since the weather is already hotter than hell and humid beyond belief nice and warm, my tomato plants will probably be big and tall in no time. The one I planted last week has already grown a couple of inches and is putting on new leaves. None of that chilly April and May stunted growth for these babies.

This will be an interesting experiment, though I really hope I'll never break this late planting record. I'm not a fan of Missouri summers by any stretch of the imagination (in fact I've already started counting down the months until fall), but I can't help hoping that our first frost arrives a little late this year.

The best thing about all is that in the future I'll always be able to console myself by saying, "Sure I'm behind with the tomatoes this year, but it's nothing like what happened back in 2008!"

And of course if you happen to be behind on your own tomato planting progress, my situation should make you feel a whole lot better - because it can't possibly be as pitiful as mine. At least I hope not.

Tomato plants already in the ground:
1 Black Cherry
4 Celebrity
4 Cherry (that's all the sign at the feed store said, but in my experience you can't go wrong with cherry tomato plants of any kind)

Next on the planting list:
27 more tomato plants (purchased)
20 Golden Bell pepper plants (purchased)
2 heirloom eggplant plants (purchased on a whim)
seeds to start: lemon cucumbers, various summer squash, more beans, several types of basil, parsley, & some other stuff

What, you thought I was only behind with tomatoes? Oh, I wish.

So what kind of tomatoes are you growing this year? Did you start your own seeds? Buy plants? Just get everything in the ground? Don't forget to tell us where you're located.

Related posts:
Growing Kellogg's Breakast Tomatoes & Colors of Summer Salad Recipe
How To Trim Tomato Plants & Why You Should
Growing Arkansas Traveler Tomatoes & How To Save Your Own Tomato Seeds
What To Do With All Those Green Tomatoes? Make Green Tomato Relish!

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where a raucous thunderstorm dropped a lovely half inch of rain on us today, and that was on top of the 1-1/2 inches we had two nights ago. Everything is growing like crazy!


  1. If it makes you feel any better, this is the first year I've planted seeds (except for basil) and I always buy my tomato plants. And some years I cheat and buy the really big ones. All that matters is the tomatoes you end up with, and I have a feeling you'll be fine!

    Looking forward to hearing about Jerusalem Artichoke. I've never eaten it but I think it's good for my way of eating.

  2. This is such a reassuring post! Things came up right about the time that I was going to make my Very First Excursion into starting tomatoes from seed this spring. Fast forward and suddenly it was the middle of May, and I still had just a bunch of chard and some broccoli in my tiny urban garden (aside from the many herbs and a bunch of green onions that held over from last year). EMBARRASSING, to say the least.

    I took the plunge and started some heirloom tomatoes (Black Prince, a black cherry, a yellow tomato the name of which I can't remember, idem for a red beefy one.) that night. I figure I'm far enough South (L.A.) that I may just make it... and if I don't, I love how tomato plants smell, so I can always go out and brush my hands over their leaves and enjoy them that way.

  3. We bought all our Roma plants, and will buy a few generic heavy bearers at the farm store soon (see, we haven't got all of ours in yet, either! And we're a lot farther north, so I'm thinking this is not good . . .). We also seed-started Moonglow, Kellogg's Breakfast, Stupice, and Raad Red, then planted them in Walls o' Water a couple of months ago. They seem to be doing okay, though I'm afraid my dreams of tomatoes in June are going to remain dreams. And the Romas, which are not protected, actually got a little bit of frost damage, and they weren't even PLANTED until after Mother's Day. Frosts in late May. Bummer.

  4. Hello, I am writing you from Barcelona (Spain) about a Book about the kitchen gardens that grow in the periphery of my city.
    This work has been recently shown at the Contemporary Cultural Center of Barcelona and has been written both in Spanish and English.

    I just want to invite you to visit the web where you can read and freely download the book. Hope you find it interesting.

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  5. I cannot tell you how much better I feel after reading this. I have about 24 heirloom tomatoes waiting to go in the ground. I purchased mine as well. And I have a lovely large package of seeds that will have to happen next year. Of course as I just moved into my house I STILL haven't even prepped the garden. Maybe we'll have a nice long summer. You know, into Novemeber or something!How DID June happen soooooo fast?

  6. Well just so you don't feel so bad I just only planted the last of my tomatoes in the ground last night. However this is not due to my own inability to get in the garden as it is the very unseasonable FROST we had on June 2!!!! The other 12 plants in the ground on that night all suffered from the light touch of Jack Frosts finger tips. So I'm glad that I forgot about a few.
    Right now you are probably wondering where I am from so that you decide to never come visit. Well you can strike Manitoba, Canada off your list of places to grow tomatoes successfully!! It is a great place to live you just have to keep on top of the frost warnings in spring and fall (make that all the months of the year!!)

  7. I ordered fancy heirlooms last year, got them in early, tended to them and got 3 tomatoes. Total.

    This year I bought plants (big) and put them in the ground this past weekend. Celebrity, Brandywine and Golden Girl.

    We shall see...

  8. I had already planted my tomato plants before the last frost. I also live in Missouri. I had to replace about four of them. I went to Lowes and those plants are awesome! I had picked up other plants on sale at Sutherlands, a few of them got the frost, but we covered everything, so we only lost a few. This year I bought all of my plants, last year I tried starting them from seeds, but I just didn't have time for it this year. I already have 2 little bitty baby tomatoes on my plants! It looks like I will be picking broccoli soon!

    Have you ever tried raising brussell sprouts? I tried last year and did not get anything, so I am trying again this year.

    My tomato plants last year were just horrible, I bet that I didn't even get even 5 tomatoes off of them. This year I heard about straw bale gardening, so I am giving it a try with my tomato, peppers, cucumbers, watermelon and canteloup.

    One of these days I will get pictures posted of this experiment on my blog.

  9. opps, I forgot to link my blog.

  10. I'm behind in blog reading and I'm responding to your 5/27 entry about blogs. I started a blog about my beekeeping in April and it will probably include my vegetable garden (or lack of), flowers and my children (the four-legged ones). And I have yellow cherry tomato plants to set out that I got this weekend and some pepper plants.
    Check out my blog if you have time - your blogs are one of the reasons I started mine. Always look forward to reading and seeing your photographs.

  11. I feel so much better.

    In the ground, growing both from indoor-seedlings and from direct seeds, I have:

    radishes & beets
    arugula, red deer-tongue lettuce, roxy lettuce, golden swiss chard, spinach, cilantro, parsley
    sweet dakota rose watermelons
    2 kinds of squash
    2 kinds of zucchini
    corn & pumpkin

    All my tomato seedlings wilted. I think I over-watered them, which is a pity as I had some nice choices from Seeds of Change.

    Last night I ordered live plants from The Tomato Girl; I'm very excited to meet my tomato babies.

  12. I've got some black cherry in the ground now (and Risenstraube - thanks for the Baker Creek Seeds tip!). My seedlings languished on the counter for far too long and only one of each type survived to the garden, but I replanted the failed ones and it looks like I'll get at least 5 good plants out of them.

    Lettuce is doing swell, carrots are a bit more reluctant. Peas are doing -great-. Oddly enough, peppers are the ones lagging behind this year.. I've got sight of -maybe- one seedling, out of the six I planted. Disappointing, to say the least.

    Next year I hope to landscape around the garden a bit more, at the very least!

  13. I planted my veggies last Saturday. 8 tomato plants. 4 each of Brandywine and Early Girl. I don't do well with seeds. We had a weird spring here in MI- I don't think we should get any more snow, though.

  14. I'm in Seattle, and we're COLD still - nights still in the 40s, days in the 50s and 60s - I'm tired of this cold damp! I have a small city garden, space and sunlight are at a premium, but I use all the yard I can for veg and fruit. I have raspberries, a few strawberries, and just put in 2 blueberry bushes. Green beans, swiss chard, lettuce, zucchini, pumpkins, delicata, and beets. We'll do broccoli and garlic later on. Anyways, I've bought tomato plants this year - I have 3 in big pots - Aunt Ruby's German Green, Gold Rush Current, Costoluto Genovese - and just bought 2 more - Cherokee Purple, and Italian Heirloom, which sounds generic but isn't. Those will go in big pots, too. I have a lot of frustrating shade, but I'm going to start shiitake mushrooms soon.

  15. seriously? You've had 80??? I had more than 20 one year. It was a "I'll buy these cool tomato seeds" type of thing. I thought I was going to drown in tomatoes. Good thing I have lots of friends who DON'T have tomato plants! I still had almost 100 jars of salsa in the basement. It took us 2 years to get through it! Last year we had a manageable 2 or 3 plants. This year my husband wants 'us' (read 'me') to have enough to can tomatoes. I am having him remove sod, and he was kind of surprised how much room 8 plants take up! (he wanted 12, I put my foot down on 8). They are still not in the ground.

  16. I laughed my butt off at this post. I just put my tomatoes in last week...and that's our normal 80% frost date (Wisconsin zone 4).

    Your babies will be just fine. You'll just have to wait until the end of July for a fresh tomato like the rest of us. lol

    I raised Opalka (paste), yellow heirloom (paste), and German Pink (globe) and bought 2 plants (Aunt Ruby's German Green and Black Krim) from Jungs on a whim.

    This week I finally get to plant the eggplant (little fingers) and cucumber. I need to reseed the melon (didn't come up!) and maybe the bush and soy beans (washed out from all the rain?).

  17. This post made me feel better too! I usually start my tomatoes, peppers and eggplant from seeds, but was an entire month late this year in getting those seeds started. I just got those seedlings planted in my garden this week. The peppers and eggplants are still very small, but should perk up now that they have the nutrition available for good growth. I also started some seedlings for two other gardeners in my family. This year in my own kitchen garden I have:

    14 Roma Tomatoes
    5 Peacevine Cherry Tomatoes
    5 Burbank Slicing Tomatoes
    4 Golden Bell Peppers
    4 Red/Green Bell Peppers
    2 Long Purple Italian Eggplants

    All of those and more in a 16x8 ft raised bed.

    I buy most of my seeds from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply at

    I love your photos and your candid writing. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

  18. I'm in Southern Oklahoma. This spring I had the good luck/misfortune to work at a greenhouse so I was able to tuck some of my own seeds into a corner. I now have 48 heirloom tomato plants lovingly nurtured from seed. The problem with this is that I only have 12 pint canning jars. I'm most excited about the yellow pears. I've heard such great things! Thanks for the blog.

  19. Hi Everybody!
    I'm having so much fun reading about your tomato planting adventures - and misadventures. Thanks for all the great comments.

  20. I love this post. I always seem to get a late start on the garden and never make very good use of my space. I only planted two tomato plants this year (1 cherry, 1 big boy or better boy, I can't remember) because I still have tons of tomatoes in my mum's freezer and in mine. As I said, I only planted two, however, I have about 10 others coming up. I think some of the seeds from tomatoes not harvested last year got churned up when I tilled and so now they are coming up everywhere! I really need to learn how to can vegetables!
    Take care!

  21. Don't feel bad. I'm having to start over completely!

    I had 12 varieties started from seed, and I had 4 others delivered as live plants. I also started all my herbs. I went out of town and came back. EVERYTHING was dead. My Boyfriend's response to my shriek of dismay? "Oh, THAT'S what you wanted me to water!" He showed me what he had watered, and I found a drowned basil.

    I lost all of my herbs, my lemongrass, my new Tarragon, almost all of my tomatoes. The ones from seed were about 2 weeks from being ground-ready. What wasn't dead mostly died within a week of my return. I transplanted the dregs today, and am going to spend another $70 on plants this weekend. I also will have to re-start my heirloom tomatoes from seed.

    I am a very sad tomato.

  22. I planted my tomatoes around the same time you wrote your post.

    I did pick up starters on May 10th, but there was still too much risk of frost this season to put them in the ground (Southern Wisconsin).

    After that I was down with a cold and busy with a wedding -- then it was June!

  23. There was NO excuse for me to have have started the $100 in seeds I got in March; I have an Aerogarden seed starter unit, I have tomato beds and I live 10 miles away from San Diego. What we do have is an incredibly small yard, with things planted in square foot increments, and a family of skunks who went in every single night digging up the plants I had put in for winter crops. End result; hubby returned from 6 months overseas last week and now I have in the one tomato bed:
    4 Brandywine
    1 Purple Cherokee
    1 Arkansas Traveler
    1 Box Car Willie
    1 Black Prince
    1 Roma
    1 unlabled potato leafed variety
    Never have I been this late, nor used purchased plants exclusively.
    I do have plants I started from seeds that I broadcast (we have a long summer) and one tomato that was growing well in the Aerogarden and was outgrowing it.
    Looking through the seed packs, I consoled myself with knowing that I can grow stuff in the Aerogardens for the winter time and have fresh non-salmonella tomatoes, like what is in my kitchen in the one Aerogarden. I feel like a slouch when I read your blog. I have to say, I am dreading moving to Missouri.

  24. LOL. I container garden in Illinois, and I, too bought my tomatoes this year. They came in a pot with their very own cage, USDA organic. Yay! I have a yellow pear variety, a Patio Picnic, and a French Heirloom. I also have in three peppers - red, green and jalapeno, a pattypan squash. a zucchini, one strawberry plant and some herbs - garlich chives, tarragon, basil and lemon thyme.

  25. SO here it is, June 19th, and I've suddenly realized I have a burning urge to start a garden... better late than never? What can I plant that I can hope to see results from this late in the season?

  26. Oh good, I'm not the only one who hasn't started any summer squash or cukes yet...I was getting a little ashamed of myself!

  27. I wanted to save money this year so instead of buying seedlings I ordered tomato seeds from Artistic Gardens, which sells smaller quantities in 35 cent packets. My rookie mistake was starting the seeds too late (in late March). So after planting tiny seedlings, I broke down and bought a few larger seedlings from the nursery so that I can have a few tomatoes sometime before the end of summer. Some of the plants (tomatoes, cukes) that I grew from seed are growing like crazy and others haven't kicked in yet. Since I live in AL, my tomatoes should grow well into October. I estimate that fruit will appear by the end of July. Next year I'll start the seeds in January!

  28. I live in Michigan, a zone 5. I thought I saw you write somewhere you are a zone 5 as well....And you have a raised bed/greenhouse in which you start seeds in February??? I didn't know that was possible.

    I'd love to plant things from seed this coming season. We had two 4x8 raised beds last year in which we just had lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. In the fall we decided to add 6 more beds for garden '09. We proceeded to trash pick a door and other materials for a green house we'd like to build. I've been reading your archives for nights on end now, taking notes. Do you have any suggestions on books that would help a young couple wanting to grow their own food?

    Thanks for your wonderful helpful blog!

  29. I love this site! The pictures, recipes cuz there made with real ingredients and the commentary. I bet i'm the farthest north; Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada! Zone 1 for sure, zone 2 closer to the house. :) If we don't start our bedding plants by end of march, april for sure, we are definitely off to the garden centre, so cheer up you did good.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!