Monday, March 8, 2010

Let Them Eat Tomatoes!

Tomato 'Machine Gun Charlie' - great name, right?!

These tomato seedlings are from my neighbor - he saves the seed every year and always starts them early.  This year he started far more than he needed, knowing a few of us in the hood would welcome his generosity!  This year these delicious and productive 'Machine Gun Charlies' are the only tomatoes I'm planning on growing. 

Usually I grow a few different varieties - with two constants:  my favorite all around tomato, 'Black Krim'.  In my opinion, the perfect tomato sandwich tomato; my favorite cherry tomato - 'Sunsweet'.  These rarely make it to the kitchen - I eat them right off the vine.  Actually, when our dog was a puppy she eagerly ate these as treats.  I truly knew we were soulmates!  I may cave and pick this one up if I see it, or if anyone starts any extras I'd bet I could find a home for it (hint, hint, Mom!).

I do have a preference for heirlooms...the very few times I tried a 'Better Boy' type I was impressed by the yield, yet disappointed in the flavor.  I know last year a lot of the country had issues with tomato woes that the hybrids are bred to withstand, so please, trust yourself when choosing varieties.  I was lucky enough not to have experienced a tomato crop failure.

Margaret Roach (who has lots of excellent tomato advice for avoiding last year's issues) recommended 'Reisentraube'.  I decided to forgo a seed order this year (to avoid requiring an addition to the house for starting seeds and storing the packets in the off-season) yet after reading her post I nearly caved.  I had the shakes for about a half hour then I remembered the famous gardener saying - there is always next year.  If you grow it, let me know what you think!

If you are without a garden or have limited space, why not try growing your tomatoes in pots?  White Flower Farm has several recommended varieties in their catalog and this link includes their growing information.   I also had a friend recently recommend growing the tomatoes upside down.  Now I've never tried this but it does seem to me it's such a unique idea that is also fairly well there must be something to it!

One last thing on tomatoes - my favorite tomato companions.  Dahlias, Ageratum 'Blue Horizon' and best of all, Basil.   Mmm, I can almost hear the cicadas!

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