Black From Tula Tomato and Other Yummy Things

The Black From Tula Tomato is a heritage tomato that originated in Tula, Russia. We’re it up to me, I might have given it an easier name to remember.

The fruit can grow as large a 5-6″ in diameter and they darken to a purple-black color as they ripen. Apparently they have a smoky taste, but I’ve yet to try one. I’m giving this tomato a few more days on the vine before I devour it.
Tumbler tomatoes are packed with fabulous flavor. The fruit mature quickly on compact plants well suited to containers. I’ve already taken 4 lbs of tomatoes off of this one plant pictured above.
This is a pumpkin, or so I’ve been told. I have no idea whether it will mature before frost, as I’ve never tried to grow them here before.
I’ve decided to grow cucumbers on a trellis this year in hopes of keeping the bugs off the fruit. So far so good 🙂
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Six Weeks From Seed to Six Inches

Tumbler Tomatoes

I started my tomatoes indoors on March 20, 2011 and transferred them to their own pots on April 8th. This week it was warm enough (ok, just barely) to start putting them outside a few hours every day.

The Tumblers are doing great; I’ve already transplanted some of them to larger pots as you can see in the photo. I made sure to plant then even deeper in the new pot, burying another 2-3 inches of the central stalk.

When I put the tomatoes out to harden them off, generally about two weeks before last frost, I begin by only exposing them for a couple of hours per day. Ideally they shouldn’t get any significant wind or direct sunlight for the first while. Hardening off is critical to the success of seedlings which have been raised in a safe indoor environment devoid of significant air circulation and UV radiation.

My grocery store began using these new non-refillable water bottles a few months ago. The deposit is a paltry twenty-five cents, so I decided they would make great cloches for the bigger tomatoes. I use the top of a juice bottle for the smaller ones.

It’s exciting to think that I’ll be able to transplant many of my seedlings to the garden in only a couple of weeks!

I planted the tomatoes in a large flat on March 20th

Pricking out on April 8th

Tomatoes Ready to Harden Off Outdoors April 28th

Eight Weeks and Counting (to last frost)

Starting to get a bit crowded already

Right now is the easiest period of seed starting – those quiet first few weeks before anything has begun to germinate. Once things start to grow, it takes a whole lot more work and energy to keep all of the tiny plants happy and healthy. 

Yesterday (on the spring solstice) I planted my tomato seeds and my Spanish onions. 

I started by soaking my pots from the bottom a few hours in advance of placing the seeds. This gives the planting medium a chance to be thoroughly moistened, which is critically important to germination. 

I like to use the bottom of a similar pot as a guide to mark the seeding holes, and a pencil with an elastic wrapped around it to control the depth. Maybe I’m just a bit retentive, but I like the look of evenly spaced plants. 

Onions aren’t keen on being transplanted as they develop so I planted four in each four inch pot, and they’ll stay there until it’s time to be transferred outside. 

I dropped two tiny onion seeds in each 1/4 inch (5 mm) deep hole and covered them with sand. Labelling each and every pot is so important that I can’t stress it enough. You may think you’ll be able to tell one from another a few months from now, but don’t count on it. 

These eight pots (32 plants once I remove any duplicates that come up in the same hole) were placed under my grow light and covered with plastic to help keep the soil moist until they germinate. 

Tomatoes need to be started well in advance, as they take a good eight weeks to grow sturdy enough to be transplanted outside. I love tomatoes, so plant four different varieties to enjoy; three are bush varieties and one is a staking tomato. More about that in a later post. 

Using a pencil to make a trough the length of my flat, I placed 9-10 seeds in each. I’m hoping for 50% germination, but I’ll pinch out and transplant any successful seedlings as soon as they have a set of true leaves. That’ll be in a few weeks, and I’ll blog about that when the time comes. 

Truth be told, I don’t need that many tomato plants, but I can’t help but plant more than I should. I’ve never had a friend or neighbour turn down a free tomato plant, and it never hurts to give away what you have excess of. 

Once the tomato seeds were sown, I placed them under the lights and next to the peppers from last week. They should germinate within the next 7-10 days. 

It’s starting to get crowded already under my lights and I’ve only just begun!