This is a big weekend coming up at Casa SoupAddict: I’ll be sowing the seeds for all of the indoor-started vegetable plants for my 2012 gardens. I’m beginning a bit earlier than usual, because I’m betting, based on our super-mild winter, that spring will be equally mild and seedlings-in-the-ground-friendly as early as mid-April. (The last frost date here is May 15th, the first safe planting date for frost-sensitive plants.)
However, regardless of the weather, my plan all along was to get a month’s headstart on things. I made a few mistakes last year that, coupled with extremely unusual summer weather — although for the last 4 years, unusual weather has been the norm, unfortunately — meant I didn’t have regular yields of ripe tomatoes until the last half of August. Which was absolute torture for this tomato-lovin’ girl. (Thank goodness for farmers’ markets jumping on the heirloom tomato bandwagon [muah! to heirloom growin' farmers!])
One mistake I made was ordering 75% of the tomatoes I would need as transplants rather than growing them all from seed, as I’ve done for years and years. The nursery experienced severe storm damage and lost part of their seed crop, which both delayed my shipment and required substitutions with varieties I had no interest in.
Then, once the plants did arrive, we had a stretch of bad weather ourselves, and it took nearly two weeks to get the plants in the ground, further delaying their spring kickstart. A chilly, damp June didn’t help matters, as tomatoes and peppers like bursts of moderate heat followed by cool, dry nights to flower.
So, while my early planting plans might find me wearily wrangling cloches in a dark, muddy garden every night in the month of April, I’m bound and determined to have tomatoes in July this year.
[Shakes fists] July!
I’m still sketching out the final configurations of my gardens. This 12′ x 12′ plot holds most of my allium plantings — garlic (planted last November), shallots (ditto), and storage onions, which will go in the ground in late March (leeks, chives and bunching onions live elsewhere). I also stick 3 or 4 short-growing tomato plants in the back of the bed, as it’s one of the rare locations in my yard that gets full sun all day long.
Most of the heirloom tomatoes I grow exceed 12 feet in height, and require special staking against a custom wood fence I had built for that purpose. Roma-type tomatoes, like San Marzanos, are manageable enough to stake normally and can grow in an open plot like this one.
Here’s what I’ll be sowing this weekend: basil (Genovese, Red Rubin, Thai), cumin, celery, leeks, bell peppers and tomatoes. I haven’t finalized my tomato selection for the year, but the varieties that have made the cut so far are San Marzano and Opalka (both for canning, freezing), Black Cherry, Violet Jasper, Brandywine Red, Beefsteak, Rowdy Red, Flamme, and Blondköpfchen (a yellow cherry).
Fresh tomatoes — I can’t wait!
(The tomato photos at the top were taken by me in my stone-landscaped tomato garden in 2010.)