Tomato season in high gear

Tomato season is in high gear at Little Cedar. You know we’re calling our property Little Cedar, right? That’s because my sister-in-law, Maria, said our garden reminded her of Big Cedar Lodge when she visited us in spring, and she dubbed our garden “Little Cedar.” We loved the name so much it stuck. In fact, Bill had a sign made for my little she shed out back.

We go to Big Cedar almost every year so this name means a lot to us.

'Honey Drop' tomato from Hudson Valley Seed Co. is the best and sweetest cherry tomato I've ever eaten.
‘Honey Drop’ tomato from Hudson Valley Seed Co. is the best and sweetest cherry tomato I’ve ever eaten. I started this one from seed and have been eating them for a month. These are much sweeter than my former favorite, ‘Sungold.’

But, back to tomato season in my Oklahoma hills, and what a tomato season it is.

Whopper tomatoes in the green. Good eating coming soon.
‘Whopper’ tomatoes in the green. Good eating coming soon. I always grow ‘Whopper’ tomatoes. They aren’t huge, but they have a great acid balance, and you don’t always need a giant tomato on a sandwich although I ate a huge ‘Cherokee Purple’ one on a sandwich today.

I spoke to the Tulsa Perennial Club on vegetable gardening the day before yesterday so I’ve been taking a few photos here and there with my iPhone while I’ve been out working. Vegetable gardens are unforgiving this time of year. If you don’t go out every single day, they expire from hot weather–we’ve been over 100F lately–or the squash bugs arrive without warning and kill your squash plants in a day. Use diatomaceous earth on squash bugs nymphs, but be careful not to get it on blossoms. You don’t want to kill your pollinators. If anyone has any other great organic squash bug killing advice, other than squishing them–I do–please let me know. I told my Tulsa friends that I didn’t have any, but they arrived that night.

This is my two-day harvest from seven raised beds. The new raised beds are 8' x 16' so they are pretty big, but over halfway full of flowers for cutting.
This is my two-day harvest from seven raised beds. The new raised beds are 8′ x 16′ so they are pretty big, but over halfway full of flowers for cutting. Those large tomatoes on top are ‘Cherokee Purple’ which is one of my favorites. It’s often available locally in spring.

Stupid Insect-tards.

You can plant tomatoes now and reap a harvest in September before sunlight lessens. Just be sure to keep everything well watered. We’re having some terribly hot temperatures this week in the 100s°F. When the temperatures soar above 100°F, tomato blossoms just fall off.

Try not to worry. Just keep your plants healthy and water because temperatures will lessen, and you should have time to grow and ripen more fruit. Speaking of ripening, I usually harvest my tomatoes just when they start to turn like the photo below. I know articles tell you to wait, but if I wait, the stink bugs will suck them dry and cause sores on the skin which is just gross. I bring partially ripened tomatoes inside and finish them on my kitchen counter. They still taste delicious and don’t even need the sunshine to ripen. I also don’t refrigerate tomatoes until I must because they don’t taste as good and quit ripening. Any tomato you grow at home tastes 100 times better than one bought in the store.

Partially ripe tomatoes on the vine. I harvested these and brought them indoors to finish ripening.
Partially ripe tomatoes on the vine. I harvested these and brought them indoors to finish ripening.

I started a bunch of seeds in the greenhouse last February, and while I didn’t have time to write about it on the blog, the tomatoes didn’t know. They grew just fine.

My transplants never look as big and bulky as those you buy at the nursery or box store, but they quickly catch up. After transplanting in late April or early May, I watched my plants grow all spring and worried over them. We had very cool temperatures and loads of rain. I planted some tomatoes in the potager in new spots–crop rotation to repel root-knot nematodes–and after the raised beds were built, I planted more out there.


The good folks at Burpee Plants/Burpee Home Gardens sent me several tomatoes and peppers to try. I really appreciate the markers they sent with the plants, along with a very helpful laminated card. Vegetable and flower companies who send out trial plants don’t realize how easy it is to lose tags in the middle of spring planting season. If you receive plants from several companies to trial, as I do, you may not be able to identify the plant later on. I so appreciate Burpee’s extra step. All of the plants showed up super healthy and not stressed for which I was thankful. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the plants they sent me.

When I start seeds, I always choose unique varieties. Then, I run up to my local nurseries and buy my standard favorites like ‘Supersteak,’ ‘Big Beef,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Rutgers,’ ‘Beefmaster,’ ‘Super Sioux’ and ‘Whopper.’ I may not grow all of these in a particular year. It depends on what I find locally. The ones I start from seed will almost always be weird like ‘Artisan Pink Tiger.’ This elongated cherry tomato has a very complicated taste and such thin skin it is easily bruised. These are the vegetables I like to grow at home, the ones grocery stores don’t carry because of shipping considerations.

Artisan Pink Tiger tomato is tiny, but packs a big punch. Very thin skinned and sweet.
Artisan Pink Tiger tomato is tiny, but packs a big punch. Very thin skinned and sweet.

It’s been a great tomato season so far. One step I made sure to complete was to ferilize the tomatoes again when they started to bloom. In other words, I fertilized their planting holes when I transplanted them and mulched them heavily to stop dirt and diseases from splashing up on the leaves. Then, when they started to bloom about five weeks later, I fertilized them around the drip line with an organic fertilizer like Jobe’s Organics All Purpose fertilizer. If you’d rather, you can buy  Jobe’s Organics Vegetable & Tomato Fertilizer, but I just use the all-purpose one everywhere. I don’t have time to mess with all these distinctions. For my Tulsa friends, this is the fertilizer I was talking about the other night.
I also tied everyone up nice and neat and braced my tomato cages with rebar. It’s how I like to do it. I could build more extensive cages, but I haven’t so far. I like the colored cages, and so many of the determinate and patio type tomatoes do just fine in these as long as I tuck in their canes as they grow. The rest I tie up as needed.

I think that’s all I have this Saturday. How is your tomato season going?


  1. Your tomatoes look mouth-watering. Here the tomatoes are all still green, though some of the ‘Juliette’ cherry tomatoes are big enough to start ripening.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you! Well, most of them are still green here too, but we are starting to get the middle season harvest. I can sure understand why they’re still green in Chicago Land. I like Juliette a lot. ~~Dee

  2. Laura Wills says:

    The tomatoes are looking great! I got an early start this year, which means they finished early as well. I pulled all of my plants several weeks ago. Have you tried a hand vac for the leaf-footed bugs? It works pretty well.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Laura, I just started a couple more plants a week or so ago for a fall harvest. Also, I grew a few Indeterminate ones along with the determinates to get a crop all summer long. I find that works pretty well most years. ~~Dee

  3. KaTinka Bolding says:

    I really enjoy your blog. Our tomatoes are really coming on now too. Cherokee Purple is still my favorite but I enjoy them all. We are getting enough now that I can start saving them for tomato jam which if I am not careful could become an addiction. It is such a treat in the dead of winter when fresh garden tomatoes are just a distant memory.

  4. I love the name! And those veggies are mouth-watering. I don’t really have enough sun for veggies and I’d have to use flower space so I just support the local farm markets.

  5. Summer isn’t summer without the smell of tomato leaves on one’s hands for at least part of the time – which means for me this year summer hasn’t even started.

  6. Norma says:

    This is our third year on our current property which was completely barren when we first moved here. And it is the first year I have had any luck with growing tomatoes here. I did two new things 1.) I planted the seedlings into well-prepared straw bales and 2.) I set up drip irrigation on a digital timer so the plants get the same amount of water at the same time of day, every day. I have the best batch of tomatoes I have ever had in 17 years of growing! I’m going to add new varieties next year and expand my drip irrigation system.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Norma, I am with you on the drip irrigation. I think it’s the one thing that really makes a difference. Well, that and well-prepared soil of whatever kind. I’m so glad you’re having a fabulous tomato year. Yay! Don’t forget to rotate your crops in those vegetable bales next year. Happy hot summer.~~Dee

  7. bittster says:

    We’ve had enough rain this year to keep everyone happy and the tomatoes are really soaking it all up! The bigger tomatoes are only just starting to reach full size, but sun gold already has a few ripening. I need to keep my eyes open for ‘Honey Drop’, sounds like it will be a keeper!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      If you can’t find ‘Honey Drop,’ ‘Sun Gold’ is awfully good too. I grew it many times, and the nice thing about cherry tomatoes is they just keep on producing all summer long.~~Dee

  8. We have had so much trouble with late blight. It is really discouraging, because just when you think you evaded it this year, your tomato plants start dying. So far, they look nice and healthy but in our cold climate they are just now flowering.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Kathy, I didn’t mention it in the post, but Oh Happy Day is very resistant to early and late blight. Maybe it’s an option for next year? I know you have had a terrible time with late blight the last few years. It’s so discouraging. I’m hoping your plants produce lots of bright red fruit in coming weeks.~~Dee

  9. Sally says:

    Dee, You grow such wonderful veggies and tomatoes. My mouth watered over your tomato sandwich….nothing store bought can compare to home grown. We have a few tomato plants. The Saver sees to them. He mostly grows them so he can have BLT’s.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Sally! BLT’s are my favorite sandwiches, hands down. They are simply fab. Here’s to lots of them in your future. Thanks for the sweet words too.~~Dee

  10. gardenannie says:

    Our tomatoes did quite well until the last couple of weeks. Are you like me? When you get your first tomatoes, you eat them at every meal for a couple of months then slowly get tired of them. It happens every spring to me. . .

    How do you keep raccoons out of your tomatoes?

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Annie, I do get a little tired of them by the end of the season, but fortunately, my mother is a tomato freak, and she eats whatever Bill, the kids and I don’t want. My son doesn’t like tomatoes, and I think that’s just sad. 😉 ~~Dee

  11. My tomato season is pathetic. I guess I need to learn to water. Not enough rain here. I have been busy watering other things but the veggie garden is in the forgotten corner. It isn’t called the forgotten corner for nothing. I love the name of your garden, Little Cedar is perfect.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thanks Lisa. If my garden wasn’t on soaker hoses and drip irrigation, it wouldn’t be watered either.

  12. Leslie says:

    I struggle with my tiny space and root knot nematodes so am grateful that this year I have had plenty of tomatoes. However some critter has also been happy to see my crop and I keep finding tomatoes half eaten. I am not sure if it is squirrels, possums, roof rats, or birds but in any case I have started picking them a day or two sooner than ripe and ripening on the counter too. You are right…they still taste pretty darn good!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Leslie, I struggle with root nematodes too since most of my garden is perennials and such. I have a fairly small veggie garden although bigger this year! I just can’t wait for them to fully ripen outside. Too many things want to eat tomatoes. They are so good to eat.

  13. Carol says:

    My tomato season is going well here in Indiana, too. I need to go out first thing in the morning and pick a bunch of them and then figure out what I’m going to do with them. By the way, I love the name LIttle Cedar.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Carol, I think Indiana was made for tomato gardening. Oklahoma not so much so I’m really enjoying this summer veggie garden. Thanks so much!

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