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.


  1. Gary says:

    Hi Dee, us in North Carolina have had quit a warm winter this year. I was thinking of starting my tomato plants out in a container and covering them at night or cool days with an old window sash to make a small green house. I did this in January to grow some spinach. It worked great.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Gary, if you do, it will be like you’re making your own cold frame. We’ve had such warm weather I say go for it! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  2. Sonya says:

    Hi, Dee! Just dropping by to say hello. I was so nice meeting you today. I had such a great time. I’ve grown a few tomatoes in the past and I’ve been wanting raised beds for a while now. Reading this post has inspired me again! Time to start pestering my husband to build those beds for me! You’ve got me hungry for fresh tomatoes!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Sonya, it was lovely to meet you too. I love the title of your blog and can’t wait to read it. Get on Twitter girl!~~Dee

  3. Ann says:

    Last year for Mother’s Day, my sister gave me a flat of tomatoes she had started from seed. She bought the seeds only because the names of the tomatoes were funny. Those were the best tomatoes – producing late into fall, in the drought, in the piney woods of east Texas. Did I save the names? No! Dang!

    BTW, I am from Edmond. I remember my mother bemoaning the fact that she could never get the red dirt out of our white socks!

  4. Greggo says:

    looks like fun in the sun.

  5. Kathy says:

    I started a few tomatoes on the first day of the year. Set them out in Wall-a-water’s on the 8th of February. They are doing very, very well! We have had a very mild winter here in SE Texas so I am way ahead of the game. I highly recommend the wall a waters!

  6. Oh man.. it’s that time of year again, huh? It feels much too cold in CA for tomato planting… but I guess I should get started, too. We had a summer of fog where I live… so I’m not super excited (as you might be able to tell!). I’ll live vicariously through yours! 🙂

  7. Kay G. says:

    Oh Dee, I can just taste a tomato sandwich! I like the sound of that “Lumpy red” tomato. If you click on that website, they won’t ship seeds to the USA. My Dad is the big vegetable gardener…I will just remember that name…Lumpy Red, and see if he can find some seeds…

  8. Rose says:

    Wow, what an impressive list, Dee! It’s too early here to start tomato seeds yet, but I have vowed this year not to plant too many…once again:) I used to always buy my tomato plants, but now that I’ve discovered how easy it is to start them from seed, I won’t buy any plants unless I find a variety I absolutely “have” to try.

  9. Sonia Kirk says:

    Nothing tastes better than a homegrown tomato…wish I could keep all the critters away from mine…as soon as they start to ripen they become critter food. I just grow flowers and herbs..they don’t seem to bother them. So glad you are getting an early start on spring! Sounds like you have grown some great varieties! I will just have to continue going to the farmer’s market which is always a treat!
    Miss Bloomers

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Sonia, yes the critters love tomatoes. I think, because I grow them in such raised beds, it helps a little. My dogs help too. Supporting farmers markets is a great way to get that luscious fruit too. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. That’s quite an impressive list, Dee. I’m excited to see how they all turn out. I grew many varieties of seedlings last year and pests got most of them after I put them into the garden. I was so disappointed. I put some plants out early – went in yesterday. I’m also hoping cooler nights will help me set some fruit before the death star shows up.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Diana, you know me one for variety. I get lost in those seed catalogs. I always forget how much earlier you guys plant. Yes,we all trying to beat the death star. Bad summer sun!

  11. That is a ton of tomatoes! I don’t know many of the varieties you listed. We have enjoyed Cherokee Purple and German Johnson Pinks…though we have a local farm that we usually buy most of our ‘maters.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Janet, I’ve grown both ‘Cherokee Purple’ and ‘German Johnson Pink’ before. The potato-leaf type of tomato doesn’t always perform here. Depends on the weather and pests. We may have a lot of pest this summer because of the mild winter. Hard to tell. With tomatoes, I’m always taking a chance. Thanks for visiting.

  12. I bought a similar shelving unit from Target. My shelves are adjustable, but you have to take it apart to change the shelves. I have my lights on chains and adjust the lights, not the shelves.

    1. Dee Nash says:


      Lights on chains might work better. Might be easier to move about. Good luck with your seeds too.~~Dee

  13. Have you every tried Arkansas Traveler? It’s an heirloom tomato that we’ve had very good luck with in Kansas; hardy, handles heat well, and tastes great.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I have, and it’s a good one. I bet I’ll buy a plant of it nearby. Thanks for the reminder.

  14. sweetbay says:

    You did start a lot of tomatoes! I’m still trying to decide which ones to grow. We have not had much success with tomatoes the last couple of years.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Sweetbay, I did, but we’ll see how many actually sprout. Last year, I had tomato failure, but 2010 was grand.~~Dee

  15. Carol says:

    I won’t be starting tomato plants for another 3 weeks or so. I recognize some of your tomato varieties but not all of them. And I don’t think I am growing any of those varieties that you are growing. I look forward to hearing how yours grow and how they taste. Maybe I’ll be trying some of those varieties next year.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Carol, it will be fun to see which varieties do better where like we have in past years. Good luck with yours.

  16. Robin Ripley says:

    A lot of these are new to me. Good for you for the seed starting activities. I’m doing more seeds this year too in an effort to be more frugal with my garden spending.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Robin, a lot of these are new to me too. It will be an experiment.

  17. CurtissAnn says:

    Ohmygoodness! Your post is so inspiring as to make me almost believe I could start tomatoes and corn, and anything my heart desires. 🙂

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Rosebud, you can start anything your heart desires. Of course you can.

  18. Terry says:

    Today I started ‘Momotaro’, ‘Chocolate Cherry’ and ‘Health Kick’ along with ‘Blushing Beauty’ and ‘Yellow Cheese’ peppers. I’m hoping to have several more tomato and pepper varieties in hand to start in a few days.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Terry, I’ve done ‘Chocolate Cherry,’ but no the others. I can’t wait until you grow those tomatoes and share the bounty via photos.

  19. Leslie says:

    I am teetering on the seed starting edge here. You may have just nudged me over! That is a great point about the frying peppers vs bell. I can never have enough peppers!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Leslie, I can’t wait to see what you grow. I’m tired of the bells. I like the thinner walls of the sweet, frying peppers.

  20. Annie says:

    Each year I drive 45min over to the Tomato Man’ Daughter. I love the 1884 Pinkheart & Juane flame! Never had much sucess with Cherokee Purple but keep trying. My husband is about to start work on my Greenhouse/Potting Shed. So excited! Next year I will be able to start things from seed. Please let us know how each variety works out. Since you are a fellow “Okie” what works for you should work for me!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Annie, thanks for stopping by. I grew 1884 one year. I would definitely 45 minutes for some of her varieties. I have so much trouble getting there during spring though. So much to do. So little time. I’m excited about your potting shed/greenhouse. I want a greenhouse of my own. 🙂

  21. I won’t be starting my tomatoes until mid March using my grow station…wow that is a lot of different tomatoes…

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Donna, you know how I am. I just have to try new things. We shall see. Mine are only a couple of days old so we’re not far apart.

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