tomato decision time

As it turns out, There’s only one hybrid tomato I’ll be growing next year; Jet Star. Horrible name. Not even in the same ballpark as Druzba or Moskvitch or Mortgage Lifter. But a good tomato that bears cooler temperatures for earlier planting.

My strategy for tomatoes is probably as unique as yours. We all have our quirks. I plant two or three homegrown seedlings out earlier than I should, well before our last frost date. The objective is to get as long a tomato season as I can, not to impress anyone.

The early seedlings are slightly quicker-maturing varieties that have served me well; Moskvitch (heirloom) and Jet Star (hybrid). I start them two weeks earlier than my other tomato seedlings.

What makes it work (usually) is protection; double protection. I tuck the early babies under two layers. A covered wall-o-water and a hoop house. That provides maybe 10-15 degrees of heat above the outside temperatures.

the wall o water is slipped over a tomato cage, topped with bubble wrap and then covered with a hoop house

And every single year I believe these plants will shrivel and die. Come mid-May I regularly complain to my wife that I’ve screwed up, that I’ve been too impulsive. But in the warm glow of January, I realize that that’s never happened. The early seedlings almost without fail survive and then thrive, despite their scary starts.

All I have to do is look at the records. If you don’t keep garden records, start. Get yourself a spreadsheet and log what you plant, when you planted it, and what happened. Then your lying mind won’t play tricks on you.

I put the early seedlings out on April 24, (last frost date, usually Mid-May) and got first fruits on July 6 last year. The seedlings were big and healthy, but the weather didn’t cooperate (it seldom does).  They got way too big by the time I finally felt it was safe to plant them out. Being warm weather plants, the tomatoes didn’t like the shock and withdrew into themselves for a while. I kicked myself and swore to be more patient next year.

But with a few more weeks of warmth and sun, they bulked up and performed like champs, yielding a nice, early crop.

Actually my earliest tomato was an Early Girl bush plant. But even though it’s been consistently the earliest tomato I’ve ever grown, it lacks something, IMHO. Not much taste, not much character. It’s plain.

So back to the thesis, Jet Star is my hybrid this year. Can’t explain why I like it better than Early Girl, but I do. It’s a redder, slightly larger fruit and it tastes better, I guess. Moskvitch is an heirloom that always makes me happy, and always does well in my abusive early starts, and then continues throughout the season.

New this year for me besides Druzba (a Bulgarian Heirloom) are Amish Paste and Olpaka. Two open pollinated paste tomatoes that are standbys in the tomato growing world. And I’ve never tried either. I get too fascinated by the big slicers, and though they’re awesome, there needs to be a balance. Something to save for later.

Dang, this is a treatise, isn’t it?  It was meant to be more like a note. Now it’s long and windy and…whatever.  Just needed to talk about tomato plants.

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9 thoughts on “tomato decision time

  1. Wow! I never really considered starting tomatoes in January. Maybe I’ll give it a shot with those water tubes. I did buy some basil, though, for the windowsill… It will almost certainly get too leggy, but oh well. That’s January for you. 🙂

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    • RG, I don’t start them in January. Sorry if that was unclear! I do start a couple of plants earlier than others, which are pictured. But even those aren’t started till mid-March for planting out in April under that protection.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew Opalka paste tomatoes the year before last and I found them to be easy and prolific. The taste was okay, not great, but it was a bad year for tomatoes. The Cherokee Purples – a big heritage variety – didn’t ripen at all. I am going to grow Opalkas again this year. Good to know about Jet Star. I ordered some seed called Mountain Something-or-other Hybrid just to try it.

    Liked by 1 person

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