Friday, September 11, 2009

Fall tomatoes are starting to bloom

I started "Green Zebra" tomato seeds from Botanical Interests and "Matt's Wild Cherry" from Southern Exposure in mid-June, and started another batch of tomato seeds at the end of June. The second group included the "Heirloom Rainbow Blend" seeds from Park Seed, plus cherry and roma tomato seeds I collected myself from tomatoes purchased at the farmer's market. I started transplanting seedlings at the end of July, and finished getting everything into the garden by mid-August.

The plants have done well despite the extremely hot, dry weather we've experienced until recently, and most are tall and full now. Both types of cherry tomato plants are already loaded with flowers, and the Green Zebra's are starting to bud out. The Heirloom Rainbow Blend seedlings were the last to be transplanted (it's only been about 3 weeks), and they are still small compared to the earlier transplants, so they will be the last to bear fruit.

This is my first experience with tomatoes started from seed rather than nursery seedlings, and the plants look much sturdier and healthier than those I planted back in the spring from purchased plants. It's still too early to make a full comparison because there aren't any fall tomatoes yet, but my early assessment is that starting with seeds is the way to go for healthy plants. Of course, another advantage is that seeds are a lot cheaper and there are many more varieties available.

I already have several varieties selected for next spring, although I'm trying to only select tomatoes that will thrive in our weather. It's hard not to be seduced by all the gorgeous photos and descriptions in the seed catalogs, but many varieties were not bred for Houston weather. For example, if "Siberian" is in the name, that's probably not a variety for us. I am definitely going to plant yellow pears again, and the Matt's Wild Cherry seems like a winner. For full-sized tomatoes, I'll see how the Green Zebras and Heirlooms work out this fall.

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