Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bustin’ Their Britches



My tomato and pepper plants are still huddling inside under the grow lights where it is warm. They are getting leggy and it is past time they go into the beds, but it is still  too cold. We had the rain they forecast last week, off and on, but even if it wasn’t raining it was grey and ugly. And cold. Saturday daytime temperatures were in the mid-40s all day, and 42F overnight. In New Hampshire and Vermont it snowed last night, heavy in some places! Down South of us they have been having cold weather and even occasional frosts, giving them a little taste of New England gardening. Europe is experiencing similar unseasonably cold weather.


I have had the plants outside when I could, when it is sunny with reasonable temperatures and no threats of hail storms. I just can’t see exposing my pepper and eggplant starts to 40F daytime temperatures if I can avoid it. I’m trying to avoid any stunted growth from cold temperatures, since both types of plants are real heat lovers. The tomatoes can take a bit more cold weather, so I am hoping I can get them planted next week, maybe even Monday. Later in the week daytime temperatures are supposed to be in the low 80s so maybe we are seeing a break in this weather. It’s really dependent on the jet stream, which has moved very far south and is sucking in cold air from Canada.


The grafted tomato experiment is also shaping up. The grafted plants were potted up into plastic cups and have recovered from their trip to the east coast from California. Unfortunately, they are kind of spindly plants and are starting to get leggy. And I have to keep the graft above soil level to prevent the scion from rooting and negating the disease resistance of the rootstock, so burying them deep is not an option. I acquired a Juliet plant from a neighbor, Jem Mix, who grows organic seedlings and had her annual plant sale Saturday. It is a really stocky, well grown and robust plant (shown below on the right) and is going to be real competition for the grafted plant (on the left). Is the grafted plant up to the challenge, and can it justify its $8 price tag? The Juliet variety is already a robust grower and pretty disease resistant, so will the grafted rootstock add anything?





With the acquisition of the Juliet yesterday, the tomato planting list for this year is now finalized and my precious 14 squares allocated to tomatoes are going to be planted with  the following varieties:

  • Sun Gold cherry (2)
  • Black Cherry (2)
  • Gilbertie paste (1)
  • Striped Roman paste (2)
  • Juliet (2, 1 grafted)
  • Big Beef (2, 1 grafted)
  • Cherokee Purple (1 grafted)
  • Pineapple (1)
  • Green Zebra (1)

Originally I planned on two Gilbertie plants but I had germination problems with it and only one of the plants is really acceptable. The other is a runt and I decided not to give it a coveted spot in the garden. After all, I’m not running a plant hospital here, I’m tying to grow some tomatoes. This is my first year for Gilbertie, but NE gardeners on the Square Foot Gardening forum like it a lot. Seed is hard to find, got mine from High Mowing Seeds. It takes a long growing season to ripen these, with fruits that get seven inches long and weigh 10-12 ounces, so hopefully we have a good tomato summer.


  1. I didn't care that much for Juliet, but I have to admit it not only grew well for me, but it also volunteered the following spring. I normally pull the volunteers, as I never felt the season was long enough to allow them to fruit (abt. May 1-Oct. 10), but I decided to let one go and it not only produced fruit, it produced a LOT of fruit! Last year I tried the same thing with a Cherokee Purple volunteer, and it was also a good producer. I guess that shows I could start all of my tomatoes by direct sowing, but one hates to take the gamble.

    My peppers aren't growing much in this cold weather, but they are setting fruit. I have one bell that's probably a good 2 oz. already. Some tomatoes are the size of a dime. Our temps have been 10-12 degrees below normal, with nights in the 40s and days in the 65-75 degree range. All of the plants, toms and peppers, survived a few low to mid 30s nights, but still managed to set fruit.

    1. Granny, I agree, I did not much care for the taste of Juliet. They had to be fully ripe to have any flavor, but some gardeners swear by them. So this is their second and final chance to convince me. I hear they are good dried and I plan to buy a dehydrator and try my hand at drying some produce this year. The volunteer story is funny. We have a Chinese gentleman in the community gardens who plants his tomatoes from seeds. They usually catch up with and match the transplants of all the other gardeners.

  2. I know what you mean! It has been a real juggling act for me too. Some days the chillis, cucumbers and tomatoes are outside in the sunshine, and sometimes they are huddled together for warmth indoors. My tomatoes are looking surprisingly good, so maybe they have adapted to the cold conditions? I too have Cherokee Purple - for me it is a first. I have high expectations of them, but most of my faith is placed in "Ferline" which is pretty blight-resistant.

    1. I hope you like CP, it's one of my favorite toms even if it is a shy producer. That's why I am trying a grafted one this year, to see if I get a few more. Pineapple is another great slicer, meaty yellow flesh mottled with magenta, great flavor.


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