Tomatoes I’m trying this season

Seed starting is easy really if you have enough light and don’t overwater.

Time to start tomato seeds in Oklahoma. I want to set my plants out toward the end of April. A bit early perhaps, but if I must, I’ll use row covers for a week or two, or coffee cans to hold in heat while foiling cutworms. I’m trying to get an early start on the tomatoes because, well . . . you remember last summer. It got so hot so early, I hardly got any fruit.

We gardeners are always trying to find a way to beat the system aren’t we?

So, indoors, in my seed-starting station, and at my potting bench–a/k/a my kitchen sink–I am sowing seeds. With warm weather crops like tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, it’s important to have a warming pad beneath the trays to get the best germination. I bought Hydrofarm MT10006 9-by-19-1/2-Inch Seedling Heat Mat. I bought the larger one which will accommodate four, standard seed trays. They eve have one for a windowsill if you want to go smaller. How cool is that?

Bill and I built the DIY seed starting station which is larger than I need for simply seeds, but it’s so pretty I have it in my dining room with houseplants too. No warmers under the houseplants.

Tomatoes from last summer

The last couple of years I’ve bought tomato plants, and there’s no shame in that. I simply want to try some new varieties, and although the best place to find heirloom tomatoes and other favorites is Tomato Man’s Daughter, I can’t always motor up to Tulsa because it’s a smooth ninety minutes from my house. I don’t order tomatoes through the mail because of shipping and shopping local which I’m trying to do more of. I’m not promising I won’t buy some plants too. Because I’ll start too many as usual, I’ll give some to my friend, Helen Weis at Unique by Design Landscaping and Containers. She is going to grow tomatoes in her garden probably in containers and in some of her clients’ gardens.

I’m starting the following varieties, about eight cells of each. Yes, that’s way too many for my small potager. By the way, I’m considering taking the front flower garden which faces the street and turning it back into a veg garden for corn. I miss sweet corn, and it does’t grow well in the potager’s raised beds. It wants to be in the ground as does okra. I’m thinking about planting potatoes in buckets to easily turn them over for harvest. I hate harvesting potatoes, but I love eating them. I also started a pepper and an eggplant.

‘Doux D’Espagne’ or Spanish Mammoth pepper; I’ve grown to like sweet frying peppers better than the standard bell. I can buy bell peppers anywhere, and gardening for me is about doing something different and tasty.

‘Principe Borghese’ an Italian drying tomato with few seeds. I’ve grown it before.

‘Japanese Oxheart’ a pink variety with supposedly high yields and richer flavor than most pink oxhearts.

‘Zapotec Pink Ribbed’ an heirloom from the Zapotec Indians of Mexico. Anything from Mexico usually performs well her unless it is from a mountainous area. We shall see.

‘Tie-Dye VFA Hybrid’ yellow and orange variety with really good disease resistance. Important here in the land of bugs, diseases and heat.

‘Homestead’ a lovely red, semi-determinant tomato developed in the 1950s for southern states. I’ve grown it before. It performed well.

‘Lumpy Red’ According to the Heritage Harvest Seed website, it is: “A wonderful heirloom that was grown for many years by a lady in Clay City, Kentucky. This variety is said to date from the early 1900’s and has that old fashioned taste and large size making it perfect for tomato sandwiches.” A good main crop tomato.

‘Cherokee Chocolate’ Call me contrary, but I just didn’t want to grow ‘Cherokee Purple’ again this year. This is a darker variety, which is supposed to be more stable–whatever that means, and still good for the south. ‘Cherokee Purple’ is a wonderful performer too.

‘Sprite’ the worlds tiniest seeds for a grape-type of tomato on a smaller plant.

‘Sweet Gold’ Yellow-gold, cherry tomatoes. Need I say more?

‘Beefmaster VFN Hybrid’ One of the best-tasting, disease resistant, main-harvest tomatoes I’ve ever grown. Yes, the fruits crack, but who cares. A nice acid flavor and not too sweet. Will always be in my garden.

‘Church’ I just like the name. Just kidding. Beefsteak tomato and a favorite of Chuck Wyatt, a man who championed the heirloom tomato.

‘Marianna’s Peace’ This is a real trial because it is a potato-leaved type, and they often succumb to disease in our landscape. I just wanted to try it, and seeds are cheap.

‘Red Rocket’ a determinate and early season red.

‘German Giant’ is supposed to mature faster than Brandywine which takes all season to get started.

Also planted white eggplant from Thomas Jefferson’s garden because Helen gave me some seeds. I still need some hot peppers, but I’ll probably just buy local plants or use my seeds from last year. I had beautiful hot peppers. I will plant them far, far away from the sweet frying peppers to stop cross-pollination.

Rejoice friends, it’s nearly spring.

Oh February, you doll you! Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

February, you gray month of mournful passing, what has come over you? Light snow, a smidge of rain . . . do you think you’re April or May?

Mossy stone in my front garden. The moss is especially pretty right after a rain.
Mossy stone in my front garden. The moss is especially pretty right after a rain.

Well, even if you are confused, I thank and hail thee well, February my former foe, but now, friend.

For flowers are popping up everywhere cheered by warmer temperatures and gentle raindrops falling on their petals.

Viola F1 'Rocky™ Violet Blue, pretty thing isn't it?
Viola F1 ‘Rocky™ Violet Blue, pretty thing isn’t it?

Flowers can tell the rest of the tale here at Red Dirt Ranch. Most hellebores are still in bud, but ‘Red Lady’ protected by some stones in the front garden is already in full, nodding form.

She is an exquisite beauty as belies her name.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Red Lady’

Even from far away, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ glows beneath cloudy skies. She will be opening more and more in coming weeks. Only two seasons here, she is settling in.

Hamamelis ‘Diane’

These iris stopped me in my tracks as I walked back up to the house with Megan. Next to the black mondo grass and in front of my statue of Mary, they are something. I hope they multiply

Iris reticulata ‘Purple Gem’

Because this is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day hosted by my dear friend Carol of May Dreams Gardens, I have zoomed in on the flowers. I hope you don’t mind. The actual gardens aren’t much yet, but ooh, in a few weeks, they will be splendid.

Tiny, but bright Crocus chrysanthus ‘Goldilocks’ really shine in the front border.

Happy Bloom Day to all of you. I hope February is also being kind to you.

Viola x wittrockiana ‘Delta Tapestry’ because pansies and violas are cousins you know.