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Earliest Tomato experiment.

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Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 4/9/2013, 2:52 pm

Remember I am trying to get my earliest tomato this year by the Fourth of July. Unheard of here in Maine.
On 2/19 I started 3 varieties, Jetstar, New Girl, and Taxi which I potted up to 2" blocks on 2/24.
I moved those to either 8" air-pruning pots or 6" air-pruners on 3/17. The idea is that the larger pots should produce a root strong enough to get them going ultra early once outdoors.

Today, 4/9 I placed those pots outdoors to harden off. The 3 in the 8" pots are robust 12" tall and those in the 6" pots are between 9-10" tall. If you want big plants, put them in larger pots.
I put them outside to harden off today. Its overcast and 45*F in my yard today.
I have the plastic ready so in a few days I plan to transplant these right outside in the garden, with stakes around them and plastic wrapped around the stakes.

The Taxi (Det., produces 4-5 oz yellow fruits, OP) already has a blossom but contrary to belief, I will leave it. After all, the purpose is to get the earliest tomato so we'll see how that works out. Gosh, I love this experiment. I'll keep you posted.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/9/2013, 3:05 pm

OMG! I can't believe how big your toms are! I'm right there with ya on trying this exeriment. Apparently I need to pot mine up again. They are about 6 inches and I'm pretty sure I planted mine around the same time you did, altho they've been living in my cold window of 50 degrees or less at night, rather than under lights. Maybe that stunted their growth a bit.

Did you use any fertilizer or anything? Will you be putting the plastic over the top also or just around them?

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 4/9/2013, 3:20 pm

When I transplanted mine, I put them deep enough so that lots of root room could develop near the top. I removed the bottom branches. I left some room at the top of the pot so as they grew a bit more, I just added another 2 inches or so of compost to the top to bury them deeper in a natural way.
I didn't use fertilizer, but used an organic potting soil when I buried them.
I also made sure I ran my hand over the tops of my plants to strengthen their stems and I talked to them. Yes, I love talking to my 'babies' and tell them how lovely they are or how much they've grown. Its just fun. Living alone, I guess it just happens. lol!
Mine were under lights like everything else but I'm sure its the depth of the bottle pot and then refilling more as they grew that gave them such sturdy stems. They should have nice healthy roots so when I transplant them outdoors, I won't put them as deep and hope they'll use their energy in making fruits instead of roots.
Yes, I'll cover them at night on the top as well. I might just toss an old towel over the tops and remove in the daytime.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  bnoles on 4/9/2013, 3:29 pm

WOW QB! Those are great looking plants I will stay tuned to see if you meet your goal. This makes for an exciting experiment.


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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  camprn on 4/9/2013, 4:57 pm

QB, do you have any idea how many GDDs those varieties of tomatoes need to reach maturity?

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 4/9/2013, 5:10 pm

Camprn......What are GDD's? Since I don't know what they are, you can be sure I don't know how many it takes. lol!

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  gwennifer on 4/9/2013, 5:36 pm

Well I know what GDD's are, but what I don't know is how to find out crop specific GDD information. Seems like seed companies might have it, based on e-mailed responses I got last summer after contacting several companies, but they aren't sharing.

quiltbea, GDD stands for Growing Degree Days, but another name for the same thing which is easier to understand is Growing Degree Units. It's been brought up on the forum fairly often if you want to do a search. BTW, didn't you do the tomato experiment last year with planting some regularly and others with the "lay me down" method? I'm asking because LavendarDebs posted a neat video on how to lay your tomatoes down and get them to turn up naturally so you can plant them without breaking them. But I guess I see you want to focus on fruit and not more roots, so you're probably not going that route.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 4/9/2013, 5:52 pm

gwennifer....Last year my tomato experiment was transplanting depth. Deeper made much better roots and the plants grew bigger than those set out only an inch deeper than in their pots. The deeper ones (buried about 6" deeper) quickly caught up in size and beyond the other ones. I had pics of the roots. The deeper ones had lots more roots. So deeper was better.

I know about laying them down. I've done that before but not as an experiment, just to try it. The plants grew very well but I can't recall if they were bigger or more productive than those planted normally down deep. I'll be interested to learn definite results of that experiment.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/14/2013, 4:47 pm

QB, where are you with this experiment? I haven't even been able to leave any toms out over nite yet, but I'm hoping to after this next (last?) cold snap. Then I will try planting one out under a cloche.

Will you be doing over nighters before planting them out in the garden?

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 4/14/2013, 8:54 pm

Hi Cape, I was thinking I might put out my earliest three tomorrow with a forecast of better weather. I'll put stakes in the ground in a square around them, pin plastic around the stakes and maybe even put a clear plastic bag over them for nites when I want the top blocked to keep in the heat.
I'll post pics when I get them outdoors. They did fine hardening off outside today.
I'm really wanting to eat a fresh tomato on the Fourth of July this year.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/15/2013, 8:41 am

@quiltbea wrote: They did fine hardening off outside today.
I'm really wanting to eat a fresh tomato on the Fourth of July this year.

Home grown on the fourth of July! Wouldn't THAT be something...especially without a greenhouse.

I hope to put mine out today in full sun for the whole day. Are you hardening off in full all day sun yet?

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 4/15/2013, 12:41 pm

Cape.....Mine have been hardening off in full sun a couple of days but when they go outside, I'll still shade them a bit for a couple of days to keep them safer. With moving them, they'll be a bit weak until they get established in their new home.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 4/16/2013, 1:41 pm

Its April 16th, a month sooner than I'd dare put out a tomato plant.
But today the experiment continues.

I found enough assorted stakes to put them in the garden to support the plastic. They'll only be there as long as it takes for frost date to be behind me. I'll close up the tops overnite.

Here I've got all 3 enclosed. What a big job with the wind whipping around. I was trying to capture plastic ends to contain them but finally managed. Each one is contained separately.

The first one is Jetstar.


This is New Girl, not nearly as hearty. Tip: Don't keep the growing seedlings too close together. The one in the center, New Girl, didn't get sufficient light or space so its rather ratty. I'm still crossing my fingers.

This is Taxi. I'm experimenting with only three and hope one will give me a tomato the Fourth of July.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  yolos on 4/16/2013, 1:46 pm

Looking pretty good quiltbea. Where do you get that nice clear plastic. Everything I see is frosted.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 4/16/2013, 2:48 pm

I got it at Walmart in the fabric dept. They have different weights of vinyl plastic for projects. I didn't get the lightest ones that crinkle too much, but a medium weight. I didn't want it too heavy either. It was less than 2 bucks a yard. I bought 6 yards so I could have the leftover to cover other plants in the beds when I want to keep them warm.
I needed a bit more than 4 ft length for each one to wrap and secure firmly each plant.

I just went out and slid a clear trash bag over their tops to keep in the warmth for tonite. Its getting windy and dark out there. The rain is coming soon.

I just saw a utube by a guy who wraps tomato cages in Saran wrap/plastic wrap from the kitchen drawer. He places them around tomatoes to get earlier fruits. Looked like a great idea if you have tomato cages handy. He just wrapped it round and round a couple times and moved upwards and continued wrapping a couple times. He puts a plate over the open top nites to keep in the heat. Looked good. It should work well for determinates you can keep in cages thru the whole season. Just cut off the wrap when it gets warm enough.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/16/2013, 3:55 pm

This is great! Thanks for the photos, QB! It's amazing to me that you could do that in this wind. We're having gusts to 25 mph. I have my plants outside but lost a tomatillo to the wind. It snapped in half.

Thanks for sharing the idea of using tom cages. I think I'll use them but put them upside down becoz of the wind. That way it's more like a clotch with a small top opening that I can plug it up with a towel or something at night. I'll put a few plants out tomorrow or Thursday to give it a try.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  Triciasgarden on 4/16/2013, 8:02 pm

It sure looks doable for you to get tomatoes by the 4th of July! This is such a fun experiment, good luck!

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 4/16/2013, 8:51 pm

Cape....Be sure you anchor down those cages. Wrapped like that they will be easily blown over by the winds.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  FamilyGardening on 4/17/2013, 2:30 am

what a great idea of using a tomato cage and Saran wrap affraid

may just try it for some of our tom's

thanks for keeping us posted on what and how your tom's are doing....

hugs
rose.....who hopes quiltbea gets the first tom by the 4th of july and we get corn knee high bounce

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/17/2013, 3:36 pm

@quiltbea wrote:Cape....Be sure you anchor down those cages. Wrapped like that they will be easily blown over by the winds.

I thought I might bury the tops, but have since decided to use those 3 legged plant stands instead. Altho, my nite time temps for the next week to 10 days is going back down into the 30's. affraid
So unless something changes I'll have to bow out of the experiment for the time being.

I ascarred... pale

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  judyj on 5/4/2013, 11:28 am

wow! I planted about the same time, and my tomatoes look puny compared to those!
I only grow Romas; but I did discover this year that Ferry Morse seed produces a better looking plant than the Burpee seed I bought. I'm pretty disappointed with mine right now, usually by now they are about 10 - 12" tall and ready to go; instead they are tiny little things this year Sad
Anyone else find mushrooms growing in their Miracle Gro potting soil??

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  jjlonsdale on 5/4/2013, 11:45 am

judy, I have mushrooms growing too! Both in some miracle gro potting soil AND in some high-quality topsoil/compost mix from a local nursery (both bought before I fully understood SFG and MM Sad ). I was putting it down to the unusual damp and cold we've had in north Texas.

quiltbea, do you have any updates on your tomato experiment???

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  quiltbea on 5/4/2013, 12:37 pm

Here's an update this morning May 4th.
I have fruit on the Jet Star tomato outdoors.

The Taxi is still struggling to make a comeback from its frosty night a couple weeks ago and the New Girl was the one that got crowded and was not vigorous when transplanted outdoors so nothing on that one yet.

I had 4 tomatoes (2 Jet Star, 2 New Girl) started at the same time but transplanted into smaller 2-liter bottle pots that I have been putting out to harden now for a few weeks. They are all healthy looking and robust and on one of the New Girls, this is what I found:

I plan to transplant these outdoors this week after the last of the 30s nites pass us by early Mon morning so hopefully they will keep right on growing.
This is a side experiment to see if keeping them indoors longer and with fruits, will they produce an early crop or be set back from the transplanting procedure.
Keep watching this thread for the answers.

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  CapeCoddess on 5/4/2013, 12:54 pm

Geez, this is very exciting...better than TV!

Thanks, QB!
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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

Post  CapeCoddess on 5/5/2013, 3:55 pm

Quiltbea, what's the lowest temp at which you've left the toms uncovered without harm (not including the blow off)?

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Re: Earliest Tomato experiment.

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