Goldie Tomato is Staying on My Growing List

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This is the second year I grew Goldie Tomato plants from seed and I plan to keep it on the list. Those who purchased the starter plants of these this year have all reported they are one of the best tasting golden heirlooms they’ve had and I couldn’t agree more.

Beautiful Heirlooms

These heirlooms have the most perfect golden yellow color with no blemishes on the skin and grew from baseball to oddly shaped almost grapefruit sizes (or perhaps a bit smaller than grapefruit sizes).

Size of the Goldies

I like using the terms of other fruits and veggies to explain the sizes of my tomatoes. They do not get as big at the Oxheart tomatoes which I have grown in years past however (which were up to 3 lbs and a soft pink color when ripe and up to grapefruit or larger than grapefruit sizes).

In my container plants at home, my Goldie tomato fruit grew to about baseball sizes but friends showed me pics of theirs’s which were much larger – and shaped like the typical heirloom odd shapes where the tops may be bumping or ridged, and odd looking.

Goldie Heirloom Tomatoes in 2022

In the photo above, with 3 Goldie tomatoes in a bowl at my house, this shows the size but they do grow bigger. The are sweet golden, melt in your mouth flavor and texture. These are the type we easily sliced, put a tiny bit of salt on, and ate with a fork right to our mouths from a plate! Not even on a sandwich! So yummy.

Picked Early to Ripen in House 2022

In this photo above, you see what I try to explain about the bumpy ridged look of some of the tomato fruit of the Goldie (typical of many heirlooms). I picked this set early because I was going away for the weekend so I didn’t want the chipmunks to get them. They ripened very easily on the kitchen counter and I took a few with me on vacation too to eat while away.

Skins are Perfect

Perfect Firm Skins

One of the things about this tomato which impressed and impresses me is the fact the skins are perfect. They are fleshy inside but the skins remain smooth and firm. BTW, this is an indeterminate variety so they need staking, support, twine, whatever but the fruit hangs on tightly. The plants grow very tall, up to 6 feet, and I use twine to train them from my containers up to house light fixtures on my deck. They are considered a beefsteak fruit size, and will get soft to the touch somewhat if you allow them to ripen to a more orange color. However, if just placed on a counter, they seem to just retain a firm skin and never really bruised, etc.

Starting Seeds

I was a little worried when I saw a tad bit of brown on the bottom of the tomatoes in this photo above, but they did not get blossom end rot – thank God! The seeds are started indoors in my greenhouse about 6-8 weeks before our last frost date in CT and I then harden off the plants for my pick-ups by mid-May. If you think you will be interested next season, be sure to note my email and let me know to record your name. See below for more contact information.

Goldie ripening on the plants 2022

Every season, I try to add new varieties to my tomato growing list. I cut back on the number of plants I grew this year, only because the cost of all supplies and such have gone up, so I thought, try to restrain myself. That is not always easy to do when starting seeds.

Pretty Color

These tomatoes are very pretty in color – and I like mixing colors when making an appetizer with tomatoes so this one definitely added to the artists’ palette of beautiful sunny colors. For example, slicing and laying them down on a pretty plate with purple toned Cherokee Purple tomatoes was just lovely and made your mouth drool just seeing the colors and textures.

My husband joked with a friend about how I coddle my tomato plants when growing from seed. What he means is I’m constantly inspecting them, checking at least twice daily for watering needs, and looking them over. Scouting for any problems is one of the most effective management techniques of anyone growing tomatoes from seed. It allows you to catch any potential problems before they get worse. It may seem easy but there is lots of time that goes into caring for the seedlings from seeding them to watching them grow. I make sure to give air circulation, water as needed, inspect, and admire – and I guess my husband calls that “coddling.” Whatever, it means, I can assure you that man LOVES my tomatoes and he usually asks now if he may eat one because sometimes he eats them all before I get a chance, so now we have “tasting sessions.” After tasting the Goldie tomatoes again this year, we both agree this one is a keeper to grow next season.

Cathy Testa
Located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT
containercathy at gmail.com
Plant Blogger, Very Small Tomato Grower, Container Garden Designer and Installer, Holiday Creations with Plants, Plant Enthusiast, and basically a “One Woman Owned Small Business.”

UP NEXT IN OCTOBER!

Next on the list will be making Succulent Topped Pumpkins in early October by order. Here’s a reminder of what those look like.

For more information on my tomatoes or other items, see www.WorkshopsCT.com too.

Tiny Tim Tomato – Not so Tiny!

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Tiny Tim Tomato are a perfect sized plant for smaller containers, window baskets, hanging baskets, and patio pots. The plant has a dwarfing habit and I planted mine in patio pots which are 11″ deep and 14″ diameter on the top. The plant stays smaller and so do the fruits, but this year, many of the Tiny Tim fruits reached almost the size of my Fox Cherry tomatoes. Tiny Tims are about the size of a regular marble or maybe one of those bigger marbles you played with as a kid. Remember those?

Pot Size: 11″ Deep and 14″ diameter on top of the pot (Drain holes in base)

I ended up putting the 3 patio pots I planted with Tiny Tim’s on high top chairs. We find the chairs someone uncomfortable for ourselves, but they were the perfect fit for our Tiny Tim pots! They branched out and I would drape the stems and branches over the back of the chairs and onto the adjacent table. The squirrels and chipmunks never jumped up there either which was really nice. I was sure they would try but they did not fortunately. The fruit stays on the hanging clusters well and didn’t drop off.

Clusters like grapes!

I was super impressed with the abundant clusters of fruit which formed on the plants this season. It’s been a hot dry season, but I watered the pots daily with a good soaking. The sweet-to-tart fruits are ready earlier in the season than my other tomatoes, and grew to the 1″ fruit size or bigger size this year, due to the weather pleasing these plants. It probably helped that they were set on high back chairs to allow for perfect drainage and air circulation below the plants and pots. No major issues were encountered. They were the perfect dining guests all summer and still are now.

Tiny Tim Tomato Plants

In this above photo, the patio umbrella is closed but I typically kept it open. During rain storms, I made sure it was open so the plants were somewhat protected. Another bonus of having these 3 pots situated on the high-back chairs is it was easy to reach the plant to harvest the tiny tomatoes and water daily. It is a great plant when you don’t have much room outdoors, or have room to spare on a table. The seed packet indicates it does better in pots than in gardens of the ground.

Fruit Ripened Beautifully

The fruiting clusters ripened beautifully and are still ripening many fruits right now as I type this on 8/26/2022. The flavor to me is more on the tart side than sweet. I find Fox Cherry tomato fruit to be much sweeter for example, but we still enjoyed these. They are the perfect appetizer size on small crackers with cheese, or mixed with other yummy summer goodness. One day, I tossed them with fresh avocado, shredded mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, pasta, and crushed black pepper.

I also planted Tiny Tim tomato plants, which I started from seed as well, into long rectangular planters at a high rise balcony site (think typical large window box sizes). My client’s told me the fruit has thrived all season. The planter is a self-watering type but the plants are high above on a high rise with exposure to lots of the elements and with a dry year at that – and the plants did well. I’m happy I chose them this season to try. I have photos of the balcony plants, but I have to find them in my iphone, which is overloaded with photos at the moment!

Various Sizes

In this photo above, you can really see the sizes. I have grown these before and the fruit was much smaller, but again, our tropical heat probably helped them to grow larger. I used a typical potting mix with added slow release fertilizer. I don’t recall ever applying liquid fertilizer later – they have been doing just fine all along. These would be the perfect candidate for small children to grow in pots – they are adorable plants.

Sitting Upon the Patio Table

Tiny Tim Tomato are sown 3-9 weeks before your last frost and transplanted after frost, and these may just last until mid-September. We will see. Another side bar: They probably will hold up well to the stormy afternoon weather being predicted for today. They are compact and probably, hopefully, won’t topple over. I’ll be sure to harvest all the ripened bright red fruit today before the storms arrive.

Have a good weekend,

Cathy Testa
Blogger Today!
http://www.WorkshopsCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com

Holding the Tiny Tims – They aren’t so tiny this year!

Green Zebra Tomato – Toss them with Cilantro for an Amazing Treat

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Green Zebra: Tangy flavor; green color to green and yellow striped colors as they ripen, medium sized round fruit (about the size of a tennis ball), and a good long yielder. Indeterminate so it grew to about 7 feet tall and keeps branching out further. My plant on my deck still has fruit hanging on it as of this date, August 25, 2022.

Planted with: Professional potting mix by SunGro with “Espoma Tomato-Tone with Calcium added” to soil upon planting (Tomato-tone is a dry fertilizer powder mixed into the soil; comes in a bag) and I also fertilized the plant later in the summer, maybe once or twice with Espoma tomato food (liquid feed) with a 1-3-1 NPK ratio (comes in a bottle and mixed with water) as needed.

Cherry tomato on the left. The GREEN ZEBRA ON RIGHT IN FABRIC GROW BAG at the start of the planting.

Planted in: A black fabric grow bag (I believe it is the 15 or 20 gallon size) and placed on the east end of my deck facing south, bag located against the house. The plant has reached the gutters and expanded so much, it looks like a Christmas tree from the inside of my house by the end of August. I kind of get a chuckle when looking at it right now.

The Green Zebra plant is way over to the right of the chair in this photo by the door which is barely visible!

Taking Notes: When I planted my tomato plants here, I made notes of the potting soil used and fertilizer upon planting as noted above. In my other planters, I added compost to the base of the pot and mixed it in somewhat, but I did not add compost to the Green Zebra fabric grow bag components. The Green Zebra fruit never got the dreaded blossom end rot, and another bonus – it did not get munched on by squirrels or chipmunks, which I’m guessing maybe because they are green and not red, thus less visible to them as a sneaky snack. Lastly, as noted, it is still holding some fruit while my other tomatoes like the Cherokee Purple and Goldies are done fruiting now.

Fruit is ready to eat at this stage of coloring

When to pick it: For the folks who bought the Green Zebra plants from me in spring time, a couple texted me to ask when they should pick them? I responded with, “The packet says when soft to the touch,” but what I found is the flavor was better when I saw the yellow stripe coloring within the green color of the fruit.

Clusters of the Green Zebra tomatoes on the plant 2022

Pruning: The packet also indicates to prune it to have no more than 3 main branches for a healthy harvest, but I pruned it just to reduce the size a bit and started to attach twine to light fixtures and other things on the deck and would take branches and train them along the twine. It looks rather messy and silly, but that is how I roll. I like it – it adds a jungle affect to my deck and this is fine with me. I was happy the plant experienced no major issues, no blossom end rot on the fruit, no bites from critters, and no blemishes or blight on the leaves.

Color before it starts to get some yellow tones

Size of Fruit: I did expect in my mind to have bigger fruit but most of them didn’t grow larger than a tennis ball. Maybe one or two about the size of a baseball. All smoothed skins, soft to the touch when nearing ready to pick, no blemishes, and rather interesting patterns made it a fun one to try. I like putting tomato slices on pretty plates and adding slices of mozzarella or other red tomatoes. This makes a colorful appetizer! Oh, and many of the fruit produced in clusters too on the Green Zebra plant. They start off looking a bit like cherry tomato clusters but grow much larger than cherry tomato fruit.

Comparing to other tomatoes (At first, I was picking the Green Zebras too early).

Its Unique Flavor: Now, for the true test! The flavor. My husband will eat any tomatoes of any kind. He loves tomatoes. And he slices, gobbles, and grabs as many as he can and approved of the taste of the Green Zebra. (He also asked me one day why they weren’t turning red yet so I reminded him these are green new ones I was trying out this year for the first time.).

As for myself, I did think it was “tangy” and I just wasn’t sure how to use them other than adding them in for a beautiful color affect with cheeses and or with red tomatoes, but then one day, I decided to toss them with chopped up fresh cilantro and a couple small cherry red tomatoes, and OMG! That is when I decided these are a keeper on my list. The flavor with the cilantro was very delicious. And by this point, the tomatoes were the juiciest too. Some people don’t like the flavor of cilantro but I absolutely love cilantro and this was the best taste to me with these tangy juicy tomatoes. Perfect as a salsa too or to put on taco’s on taco night!

Green Zebra Tomatoes with Chopped Fresh Cilantro and a few small red cherry tomatoes.

I probably won’t take down this plant for another few weeks but I’m starting to feel like I need to say good-bye to the other indeterminate plants with no more blooms or fruit. My cherry tomatoes are still producing and turning red right now and I’ll write about those later. Hope you are still enjoying your Green Zebras too if you got some from me!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Blogging today
Other websites:

http://www.WorkshopsCT.com

http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Also on Instagram and Facebook under Container Crazy CT

Located in East Windsor, CT

Nature All Around

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One of the wonders and benefits of growing lots of plants and being surrounded by woodlands in my yard is the invitation of wildlife. This year, I’ve seen lots of snakes, so, if this is not your thing, brace yourself, because one made it’s way into my greenhouse!

Garter snake – harmless, I believe!

I’m not too afraid of snakes but I definitely don’t want to find one in a pot I’m carrying in my hands! Fortunately, this guy made it out safely when I left the greenhouse’s screen door open just a crack. I think they found their way in via a drain (they, yes, there was a ring neck snake in my greenhouse this winter as well).

I felt badly that it would not survive in there because I do not have mice or slugs in my greenhouse, nor a source of water, so I’m glad this guy found his way out. In fact, he was drinking water from the rims of pots – so I knew he was thirsty. It took a while. I had to leave him alone to travel across the floor to the screen. He had his face right against the screen and I was like, “Dude, slide to the right to the opening!” Finally, he did.

Luna Moth 2022
Luna Moth Side View

Then, just yesterday, I spotted a beautiful Luna Moth on a shrub on my driveway at 7:30 am. What a sight. I’ve seen them before, but this one was absolutely perfect, so I rushed out to take a photo or two. What a sight – they are just beautiful.

We have two huge groundhogs and lots of rabbits in the yard now. This is typical. And of course the squirrels and I’ve seen a chipmunk spying at my pots already. The list goes on and on. It is a wild life jungle. We even have five huge blue heron nests in the woodlands. I can hear them make their bird calls when they arrive. I am in tune with the sounds of these animals in my surroundings. And there have been quite a few hummingbirds this season. They zoom up to my flowers, pop around, investigate, and I have my hummingbird feeders in various places.

It is just wonderful to watch the wildlife, but it is also tricky because I have to watch them from getting my tomatoes later this year on the deck (that is for the chipmunks and squirrels). I want to build a huge garden enclosed some day in my yard, but that is a huge project for a later date/year.

Fox Cherry Tomato 2022

I plant all my tomato starts in large pots and fabric grow bags. Usually a minimum of 22″ in diameter and about as deep for pots, and the grow bags range from the 15-20 gallon sizes. I know you can grow them in 5 gallon buckets, but that is not my thing. I use quality potting mixes, usually add compost, and this year, I’m adding Espoma Tomato food with calcium because I had the Blossom End Rot issue last year. Long story there, but I want to test if this plant food will help prevent it. Whiskey barrel (1/2 size barrels) are a great visual to determine the size of pot you should use, unless it is a compact variety for patio pots that stays small, but the tomatoes on my deck are mostly indeterminate and will get large. Never use soil from the ground – it is too compact, harbors diseases and insects, etc.

This year, I have planted one of each: Fox Cherry Tomato, Cherokee Purple, Goldie Heirloom, and I need to plant a Ground Cherry, which that one is new to me. Just I have to rush to do these things for me between plant work for others. That is fine, the weather has been stupendous! Let’s hope it stays that way. Anyhow, I take lots and lots of photos if you are interested in seeing the progress, and more wild life photos – go to my page on Instagram under Container Crazy CT. I posted a few of the Luna Moth yesterday.

Well, that is all for today. Just wanted to share a quick photo or two.

Have a great week!

Cathy Testa
Zone 6b
Connecticut

Hardening Off Tomatoes 2022

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This week’s weather in my part of Connecticut is fantastic. My tomato babies will love the heat in the greenhouse from the sun and the breezes flowing thru the doors and vents. I am not, however, putting my tomato plants outdoors yet too much because it has been very breezy and windy. I use caution because I don’t want to dry out the delicate tomato start leaves.

This time of year is very busy for plant business people so I don’t really even have that much time to write this am, but as I sip my coffee no. 2, I wanted to post a quick hello and a pic or two. When the breezes subside, I will be rotating out my tomato starts in groupings this week to harden them off (acclimate). I try to avoid full sun and place them on trays where there is some shade from a nearby dawn redwood tree (a tree very useful because it looses its needles in the winter (thus, no shade is cast during winter on my greenhouse) but gets the needles growing now so it provides the shade I enjoy for my hardening off of the tomato plants.

If you put your tomato plants out in full sun immediately from your indoor growing environment, it will burn the leaves and white patches will appear on the leaves afterwards (usually you will see it the next day on the leaves). So I always do shade, part shade, part sun and luckily I have that available. I also use tables, shelves, and it becomes a little crowded, but in addition to focusing on hardening off the plants in non-full sun locations at first, I make sure things are spaced inside and out to allow air circulation around the plants. This helps prevent diseases on the leaves or other issues.

Some of my tomato starts are ready to be potted up and I usually do some to one gallon pots as needed. Others are still okay in their smaller pots, but if they start to lean, I know it is time to twine them to a small wooden stake.

Most of my plants are spoken for now, but I believe I still have some of the wonderful heirloom Cherokee Purples available. And Ground Cherries, those are still small and I’m not sure why, but I have faith they will perform when the time is right. This is the first year I am growing the Ground Cherries from seed. They are like hot pepper plants apparently, they really need heat to grow well from seed. I discovered the ground cherries last year, they taste like pineapple!

Ground Cherries from a site I visited last year in New Hampshire – inspired me to try them this year!

Well, this is all I can write for today, I have to get out there, get plants watered, out and then off to a site to prep for planting later this month. BTW, I wait to put my tropical plants and tomatoes/warm season vegetables in their permanent outdoor pots and or grow bags till Memorial Day. Hardening off is taking place now on good days with sun and not too windy or cool conditions. And I will rotate them out in groupings. Plus they still need to grow some. So happy about the great weather to do all!

Have a great day and week! Enjoy this weather!!

Cathy Testa
containercathy at gmail.com
860-977-9473
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
Zone 6b
Container Gardener
Plant Enthusiast
Nature Lover!

Seedlings and Transplanting

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I started to transplant seedlings from my seed tray into small pots yesterday. It was a very sunny warm day and a pleasant time to work on this, but it did take me half the day to complete, and I cut back on the amount of seeds I have sown as compared to last year.

Seedling Tray as of 4/11/22

Most instructions or reference books will indicate to transplant once the first true leaves have developed. Above is a photo of the stage at which I transplanted them yesterday. Usually, I wait a bit longer for those two top true leaves (above the cotyledons) to be a bit larger, but I had time to work on this and will be away from my greenhouse for the next few days. It will be sunny for a day or so and the temps will rise so putting them into bigger pots will help to reduce moisture loss or chances of soil dry out while I am not here to attend to moisture monitoring. (Tip: Water your seedling tray so the soil is moist before removing the seedling to transplant into a pot.)

Into Potting Mix

I used 5-6″ round pots and added fresh slightly pre-moistened potting mix (not seedling mix) and I used a clean golden knife to make a hole to insert the seedling into. I’m probably over cautious and handle all with care as to not damage the small seedlings. The golden knife was from a utensils set I received as a gift over 30 years ago – yes, as a wedding gift. The funny thing is I never really liked the gold color so I stored the set – and now they are used as gardening tools for me in the greenhouse. I can’t remember who gave that set to me. They would be surprised to know I’m using them this way today.

Seedling Size as of 4/11/22

I make a nice pocket to insert the seedling into the round pot. I do not fertilize at all at this point. The seedlings’ roots are still very fine and tender. I tend to not fertilize at all until a month later. Some recommendations will say to start fertilizing with half-strength with soluble plant food. I don’t do this at this stage. They will be able to stay in these pots for a 2-3 weeks, I think. I’ll keep you posted as I go along. It really depends on the amount of sunshine we get for growth results. (Tip: Remember, it still can snow in April – it did on 4/16/21).

On a table

I put some of them on a table set in the middle of my greenhouse and others on table racks. (Note: I do not recommend leaving on the glass like I did above, it is better to have air circulation below the pot as well as above, in my opinion. But sometimes I run out of space.) These are Cherokee Heirlooms above. Again, I usually wait till the seedlings are a bit larger but I had the time to do the work yesterday, so I got it started.

Fox Cherry Tomatoes

I also have quite a few Fox Cherry (yummy!!) tomatoes potted up (transplanted) as well. They are looking nice. I’m sure when we get more sunny weather, these will pop up rather quickly in growth. (Tip: If a seed shell is still stuck to the tip of a leaf, use a spray bottle to mist some water lightly on the seed, and it will remove easily.)

Liking the Look of My Foxes!

You can use seedling mix if you wanted to, but I tend to use potting mix at this stage. I handle them carefully, not pulling by the leaves but gently inserting the golden knife into the seedling tray cells and pushing up the root area as I remove them to put in the black pots. Sometimes I will bury the tomato plant just a little deeper. The stem has tiny hairs that turn into roots, but it is not necessary to do this (plant deeper) if you don’t want to. If your seedlings are leggy and stretchy however, this can be helpful.

Goldie Heirlooms

I sowed these for the first time last year, the Goldies! See photo below. We had too much rain last year when they were outside, but I am hopeful this year will be better for these babies. I am careful to not over water them right now, because they are so tiny and tender right now, I don’t want any rot to set in at the base of the stem. Good air circulation on hot days in the greenhouse is helpful. If the sun is out and the temps rise quickly, vent the doors, and turn on a light fan. It is important to not make the soil soaking wet, and checking them often. At least I do.

Last year’s Goldie!

Well, just a short post for today. We are getting rain all morning, up to 1 pm, then will be sun this afternoon, some of tomorrow will be sunny too. Bring on that sunshine. My new little tomato starts need them.

Remember, if you are local and interested in some of my tomato starter plants in mid-May, get on my list. I am not growing as many as last year, due to trying to conserve expenses (pots, soil, etc).

Thanks,

Cathy Testa
Zone 6b, CT
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
containercathy at gmail.com
860-977-9473
www.WorkshopsCT.com (products)
www.ContainerGardensCT.com (container designer)
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com (blog)

Cherokee on a Plant in 2021

Growing Tomatoes Sucks

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Ha! Ha! April Fools!

Growing tomatoes definitely does NOT suck. It is one of the most rewarding aspects of summer container gardening!

I’m in the early stages of seed sowing this year, and here are some photos to share with basic tips, with all kidding aside! 🙂

Pre-Moisten

Tip No. 1 – Pre-moisten the seedling mix

I use a clear bowl and pour a small bag of “seedling” mix into it and then add water from my watering can. Using a clean and sterilized small scoop or utensil, gently stir the mix. It is best if you are able to do this a night before to allow the mix to absorb moisture, but a few hours before is fine as well, but this step is crucial. Allow that mix to take up a bit of moisture so it won’t float out of your seed tray and also the mix sometimes needs to rehydrate before use.

Close Up of the Seedling Mix in a Tray
Make a little hole

Tip No. 2 – Use a clean tool to make a tiny hole

Sometimes I have used a bamboo skewer, or you may just use your hands, I guess, but I prefer to make a tiny hole with a tool and then drop the seed into the hole with tweezers. You have the option of one seed per cell or a few seeds (and separate them later), but I tend to do one per cell in most cases. Again, make sure the tool you use is clean and I avoid reusing them unless they are easily cleaned. What I mean is after one tray, I may toss out that little plastic straw I used or put it in a recycle bin for use other than seed sowing. Be careful not to transmit things from tools. I’m referring to sowing tomato seeds in this post (and some of the hot pepper seeds).

Tip No. 3 – Seeds In Hand

Pour some seed into your hand or a paper cup as you work to drop them into the seedling mix – guess this is not really a tip but I have a good pic of me with some tomato seeds in my hand. Make sure if your hands happen to be wet to not to put an unsown seed back into your seedling packet because you will transfer some moisture from your hand to the seed to the packet. If you don’t use all of the seeds in your seed packet, store the packet in a cool, dark, dry place away from hot sun, temp flux’s, or moisture or damp conditions. And know how long seeds last for whatever you are sowing. Some seeds last 25 years, others last 2 years.

Seeds in Hands
On Seedling Heat Mats and Under Grow Lights

Tip No. 4 – Use a Grow Light

This is the first year I am using a high output energy efficient high bay fixture grow lamp. My trays are in my greenhouse BUT we get lots of cloudy days when I start to sow seeds in my area of Connecticut (usually starting in March thru May). On the cloudy days, I’ve been turning on the light. It hangs over the trays with a pendant chain which I am able to lower and rise the position of the lamp fixture by taking the chain and an S-hook to adjust it. I do not have it on a timer, I turn it on in the mornings on cloudy days, and turn it off by dinner time. It is only needed when the seeds germinate and are showing above the soil. This is a fluorescent lamp style. Tip is to watch it carefully as the seedlings grow so you do not burn the foliage as they grow higher.

Covers – Natural Sun was Hitting them in this photo one morning

Tip No. 5: Use clear covers to help maintain moisture of the seedling mix until they germinate is very much recommended, however, I tend to not do that – because I work from home, I check the trays every day at least twice a day. I look to see if some cells have dry soil (lighter in color, touch top to feel moisture if need be), while others are still are moist. I literally will carefully water only the ones that are dry, so because I am home and a plant addict, I check them often. If I was not home all day, I would be concerned about them getting too dry and go with the clear dome covers instead to help retain moisture during the phase of waiting for the seeds to germinate.

Tip. No. 6 – All same type of seeds in a tray

I made one minor error, I put tomato seeds in the same big tray in several rows and in the same tray, some hot pepper seeds in adjacent rows. Pepper seeds take a lot longer to germinate (3 weeks) because they really like very warm soil and air temperatures, while the tomato seeds germinated in five days! So now I am like, ah, I have to put the tomato side under the light. Next time, I will avoid that scenario. They only need the light when they rise above the soil. Hopefully this is making sense, LOL.

Other General Tips for Sowing Stages:

Don’t sow too early. Don’t sow too late. Know the timing. I’ve discussed in prior posts.
Visit trays twice a day to monitor watering, as noted above unless using dome covers.
Take photos, its fun and it allows you to see adjustment ideas for the next season.
Label seed packets with a Sharpie marker if seeds are still in the packet (I put a dot on the back if I used only some of the seed and a check mark on the back if all seeds were used.)
Record the date sown on the plant label and on a wall calendar or notebook. When the planting season arrives, you will get too busy. Taking notes is important.
Remember that in mid-May (for CT zones), you have to harden off the seedlings outdoors for a while before you actually plant them in patio pots, grow bags, raised gardens, etc.
Watch the weather forecasts.
Target your weeks before based on the expected last spring frost in May (usually mid-May).
Target your planting time when safe to plant outside (usually around Memorial Day, usually).

Types of Lights

I did minimal research on lights to be honest. There are several types of artificial lights for the greenhouse world. You do not need lights when the sun is shining in a greehouse for seedlings of this type, and the heat rises in a greenhouse quickly on sunny days, so you may need the alternate – a fan, or small gentle fan for your trays. Using a light should help the strength of my seedlings this year. As I’ve noted above, for many years, I did not use grow lights at all and I was successful. There are incandescent lights, high intensity discharge lights, fluorescent lights (the type I got), and light emitting diode (LED). All of these I will research when I have time I guess! LOL. Some are more expensive than others and some are hotter than others. Note: Some fluorescent fixtures are not good enough for other types of plants, but they work for seedlings with the right T strength. It is too complicated for me to go into and I’m still just learning about them so not much more I can offer on that for now, but if you do get lights, be sure you consider the placement, how you will adjust the height of them or the trays below. I read someone said they use books to raise the trays, rather than lower the light fixture but I also have a heat mat below. And I don’t want to bring books that may get wet into my greenhouse and keep dampness below the trays. Yes, I’m an*al that way – I over think it. Do research on the lights first if you have never used them, there are lots of neat setups now for indoor home growers. I just read of one that is a small shelving system perfect for apartments with lights already installed, etc. Many options out there.

My Tomato Jungle Last Year (2021)

And tomatoes do not s*ck – I was just kidding – it was a joke. Don’t slap me. Sorry, couldn’t help it.

Have a GREAT weekend!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Container Garden Enthusiast
Zone 6b
Connecticut
Dated: 4/1/2022 April Fool’s Day

Places I’ve Put My Tomato Plants in Containers at My Home

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When my husband and I searched for our house, many moons ago, I was absolutely sure I wanted a house with some property. I grew up on a farm in East Windsor, CT and I knew I liked having space around my home, but never in a million years, would I have imagined how much I would enjoy the spaces and land as much as we have over the past 30 or so years.

When I get my tomato plants ready to put in pots, grow bags, or containers, I have some choices on where to place the containers around my home.

The Driveway

Driveway Area

The driveway area located between our garage and house is fairly large. Never would have I thought when we had a wrought iron fence built that it would be a great place to line up tomatoes in pots later in life. The warmth of the paved area is great for keeping the soil warm for the plants, the wrought iron fence serves a bit as a protection from wild animals on the back side, and the garden hose from the house’s outdoor faucet is close enough to reach the potted tomato plants for daily watering in the summer months.

Upon Planting

I think the first year that I lined up the pots with tomato plants on this driveway space area, I didn’t need any fencing around it, but the wild animals learned. They (squirrels or chipmunks) started to discover this was “the sweet spot” and thus, the following years, I had to put chicken wire around the pots to protect the fruit from the little critters. The chipmunks were particularly a nuisance one year, because they would creep up and sneak in by going on the backside. The chicken wire I used was attached to a large dog pen portable cage I picked up somewhere. It worked, somewhat but it was a pain to open and close it to get to the fruit at times.

Driveway, Plants Surrounded by Chicken Wire attached to a Dog Pen Fence

Turns out back then, the driveway area between the house and garage served as a great place to also harden off my tomato plants before planting them in bigger pots. The paved area is level and a great surface to place portable tables there, so again, I could keep the critters away by elevating my starter plants, and for ease of transporting them daily, as I would move them back and forth sometimes from the inside to the outside each day to acclimate them before their permanent home in a large pot.

Hardening Off Tomato Plants on a Table along with some other plants

The Deck and Deck Tables

I knew when we built a wooden deck along the back side of our ranch style home that it would be immediately filled with flowers in patio pots, and it was, but later in life, I started potting up tomato plants and herbs as well. The deck is nice because fresh tomatoes are within reach of our kitchen area. Plus if any wild animals wish to investigate, which they do, such as squirrels, I’m close enough at times to yell at them to get lost. Last year, I decided to put some of the tomato plants in big tubs on an old deck table. I wanted to try to see if it would help from the investigating squirrels. It kind of did. We didn’t have the best weather last year for tomatoes (too much rain) but they were so beautiful and large before we started getting harsh rain storms with damaging winds, etc. Anyhow, using the deck table on the deck was a nice place to put some of the pots. Some of the pots are also on the deck floor.

Because the indeterminate tomato plants will grow taller and taller, I came up with a strategy to take garden twine and s-shaped hooks and train them up to the house gutters. It looks rather messy but heck, it works. I guess I don’t mind the jungle feel of tomatoes on my deck. We can just walk by and grab ripened ones anytime we wish. And yes, I did sit in that cozy deck chair and admire my plants from time to time. That makes them grow better. Didn’t you know that? LOL.

Tomato Plants on the Deck

North Side Area by Garage

To the north side of our garage, where our leaching field is located under the ground, is a nice flat open space. Years ago, I considered putting a hoop style greenhouse there because it gets full sun all day but that area gets very hot. There are no shade trees and the lawn bakes there. You can see the grass is usually dry as a bone on this area in the photos below. I didn’t end up putting a hoop style greenhouse there, and I’m thankful because it would get too hot in summer. I could imagine it having to have fans on all the time and things would bake. Plus, often it is not a good idea to build over leaching fields.

Anyhow, one year, I put a rather large black pot there with an Oxheart tomato. The plant grew so large, I wrapped hard wire fencing around it with bamboo poles. The bamboo poles were inserted into the inside of the rim of this large pot that is about 4 feet tall. It worked great – the critters could not climb up the large black pot (because it is large and not easily grabbed onto) to get to the amazing huge Oxheart tomatoes.

Inserting the Bamboo Poles
Before I decided to line the bamboo poles around it

I used to drag a very long garden hose up to that area and actually set the hose in the big black pot and let it run for a bit to water it. I developed tennis elbow from doing this here and everywhere for other containers on my property (always too many! LOL), so this area was not the best for watering routines. However, it was probably one of the best spots for keeping animals away. I think the pot’s height and the fact nothing was around it, maybe the animals felt threatened in that area (unprotected) but it definitely kept them out. However, to get to the gorgeous huge 3 lb sized Oxheart tomatoes once they were ripe, I had to get on a step stool to reach down into the plant and carefully grab these huge tomatoes. It was tricky, but worth it.

Zip Ties used to Secure the Hard Wire Fence Material to the Bamboo Poles
Look at the lawn area – burnt and dry

No matter where I put the containers with tomatoes around my home, I still envision an enclosed garden area in my backyard surrounded by a beautiful white fence with a gate and arbor entrance. Alas, my husband says, that will have to wait until he retires because he never has time to build it. We get lots of wild animals in our backyard, so any fruiting plants must be protected. It would have to be carefully protected with fencing all around and I envision it filled with those square raised beds. Ah, that would be tomato heaven.

Last Year, 2021, On the deck by my bedroom slider

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Zone 6b
Thanks for visiting!

Patio Umbrellas on the deck offers shade as needed
Welcome to the Jungle!
Plants around the Patio Table – Adds Ambiance!

Tomato Seed Sowing and Planning

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Tomato Plants 2021
Tomato Pots Deck 2021

These photos motivate me to sow and grow again in 2022. I know we experienced some rough wet summer weather (as noted in my prior post) last year, but photos are what prompt me to grow again. Let’s hope we have a good growing season this year!

Goldie Tomato – an Heirloom

Nothing pleases me more than when a person who purchased a starter plant from me sends or texts me a photo as they start their harvest, such as in this photo above, sent by Shannon. Doesn’t that plate of fresh Goldie tomatoes make your mouth water?! I am planning to grow these golden delicious heirlooms again in 2022.

I also add a new tomato or two to my sowing and growing list for each season and will be providing that list to my regulars or post it on www.WorkshopsCT.com soon.

Paul Robeson Tomato – 2021

This photo of a tomato, with a bit of a purple hue, sliced up on a white plate was taken by me last summer. It is the Paul Robeson tomato with orange, green, and purple hues. It produces large sized fruit and the fruit resists cracking. I plan to sow some of these seeds as well this year. Another keeper on my list. And I pray for better weather so I can eat more of these this summer!

Basil 2021

An an absolute must to repeat sowing again are the basils. OMG, how can one have a fresh home-grown tomato sliced up on a plate without fresh basil leaves? I can smell it now – almost!

So in January, as I write this, on 1/13/2022, I have decided on which I will sow again and have ordered my new varieties for sowing. Check! Seed ordering done!

Cathy Testa
Zone 6b Connecticut
Container Crazy CT
WorkshopsCT
Container Gardens CT

Turning on the Lights

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On winter days like today, with soft white fresh snow falling, many of us start daydreaming about the seeds we will sow in a few months, and perhaps start planning out our key sowing dates, as well as ordering various supplies for starting our seeds.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds indoors is something I’ve been doing for a few years now for warm season vegetables (tomatoes, hot peppers, and some herbs), and every year, I like to try new varieties or heirlooms. I’ve been successful with using my greenhouse to grow my seeds indoors, along with using appropriate supplies and soil mixes, and providing care (watering, monitoring, etc.) without the use of grow lights, however, this year, I think I’m ready to take the plunge and experiment with supplemental lighting.

Types of Lights

This post will not explain what you need, what type of lights you should get, or any of that, because I will be in the midst of researching and starting with just testing out one system of lights above some trays of seeds in a couple months in my greenhouse, however, I can tell you why I feel I should turn on the lights over my trays of seedlings for the first time this year.

Because it will improve the results – I think…

With a greenhouse, you have lots of advantages, such as space, heat, and “natural” sunlight. However, many winter days are cloudy and cold, with not much sunlight at all in the months of February and March (March is usually about when I start my warm season vegetable seeds). Cloudy days limit growing progress, but it won’t stop progress. I have been able to grow my seedlings fairly well but it does slow things down not having sufficient sunlight every day.

Heating Mats, Nursery Pots, Soil Mixes, and Labels…

I thought, because I’ve invested so much already by investing in using the heat mats for seedling trays and everything else, not to mention the cost to heat a greenhouse, why keep on spending? But, in the world of gardening, you always seem to be getting another item to improve your growing processes. I decided I would purchase one of the fluorescent lights sets to hang over the trays during germination and help the plants once they start to grow. My thought is I will only use the lights when the days are cloudy. On sunny days, I’ll allow the sun to warm up the greenhouse and provide the natural sunlight for the plants.

Seeing Lights in Greenhouses

I remember walking into a very large nursery up north once, and they had lights all hanging above, and thinking, hmmm, they use supplemental lights. From what I’ve been reading, the lights should be placed about 3-6″ above the seedling trays once they germinate, but you have to watch you don’t burn anything when you move them this close to the trays. I will be doing so and monitoring how the plants look. There are signs to pay attention to if the lights are too close, which I will know, because I’m accustom to monitoring plants.

Baskets of Herbs I Grew without Supplemental Lights

Are Lights Needed to Succeed?

Some people will argue that you most definitely need artificial supplemental lights to succeed with growing seedlings indoors, but I’ve always argued that is not 100% true. I’ll let you know what I think after my first season trial with supplemental lights for my seedlings. But, I have done it without supplemental lights for years, so you can do it, but using the lights will improve the seedlings health overall. I’ve used heat mats to help keep the soil warm in the greenhouse, and adding lights may give the seedlings an extra boost. It may take them from normal to champion status. Kind of like training an athlete. Improving each time.

Types of Lights

There are fancier and more modern light options out there beyond the fluorescent types, but I’ve decided I will take baby steps this year. I want simplicity, ease of hanging them, plug in style to an outlet, and give the lights a try. I’ve just ordered the system, and some more nursery pots because I know I’ll go thru them light crazy. Then I decided I need more labels, and the supplies list begins!

Light to Germinate

Most of the seeds I grow require light to germinate (some seeds require darkness), and they need light to grow well once they have germinated in order to grow strongly. Using a greenhouse really helps of course, and/or using the fluorescent lights will improve the results – but if you use both a greenhouse and supplemental lights – it should be awesome, I hope. As long as all other factors are done appropriately along the way, such as using good seedling mix, accurate timing of starting seeds before the frost dates, and monitoring. I usually check my seedlings every day once they germinate.

Plants Produce Their Own Food

Plants use light to produce their own food. If light is not available after they germinate, they are slower growing, they may be stretchy looking from reaching for sunlight, but once natural sunlight is provided on sunny days, if they experienced a day or two of clouds, they tend to rebound very quickly in a greenhouse setting. Plus a greenhouse gets very warm on sunny days! Once I use the new supplemental lights on the cloudy days, I should see them be stronger than ever before. Stay tuned as I share my progress.

Cathy Testa
containercathy at gmail.com
Broad Brook, CT
Zone 6b Area