Greenhouse tomatoes were fantastic once they ripened

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On one of the coldest nights of the season (it’s minus 2 with a wind chill of of minus 20 as I write this), I feel the need to remember warmer — and greener — times. So it seems appropriate to write about something good in my garden this past summer.

My biggest experiment was planting greenhouse tomatoes in February.

The goal, I’ll admit, was to be able to stop eating the woody, relatively tasteless tomatoes I was forced to buy from local grocery stores over the winter. As someone who eats salads for lunch a lot, what I was finding in the store couldn’t hold a candle to what I grew each summer in my own garden.

So I purchased a small greenhouse that I set up in my basement, and planted a variety of tomato seeds. I went with all cherries — an organic Chadwick, Patio Princess Hybrid, Cherry Falls, Super Sweet 100s and a Valley Greene heirloom cherry. By mid-March, the seedlings were doing well — anywhere from 3 or 4 inches to 7 inches tall. Throughout April, they seemed to grow a bit each and every day and it was a thrill to see and smell them when it was snowing outside. By early May I thinned out the crop to the best dozen or so and by late May I had them transplanted into the garden. The only one that didn’t survive was the Super Sweet 100, which I found ironic because it was the only variety that I had planted every year in my garden and was familiar with. All others were new to me.

I absolutely love Super Sweet 100s, so I bought another plant from a local garden center, along with two other plants that would yield bigger tomatoes.

By early July, the tomato plants were starting to fruit pretty heavily, but ripe ones just trickled in until mid-August, when I could fill a three-gallon pail — or several pails — every other day. As I mentioned in a post over the summer, I’m not sure why it took so long for them to ripen, given I started them in February, but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that my basement — where my greenhouse was located — never got above 65 degrees. And although it was warmer in the greenhouse, it was only a couple degrees. Maybe it just wasn’t warm enough for them. This winter, I think I’ll have to find a way to get some more heat in the greenhouse. I did use grow lights, but I don’t think they threw off enough heat — just light.

If I had to grade my greenhouse experiment, I’d probably give myself a B. Yes, I did get a lot of ripe tomatoes out of the plants, which can be considered a success in itself. Especially since I had numerous friends who told me their tomatoes never made it past the green stage the entire summer. But, since the ultimate goal is to have fresh, flavorful tomatoes much earlier (like several months earlier), I don’t really consider it a complete success.

Maybe it’s time to pull out the greenhouse and get started on my second season. Anyone have any tips on how I can speed up the tomatoes’ growth this winter?

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5 responses to this post.

  1. So I have found out, when it says how many days until you get ripe fruit… That means from “transplant” to harvest… But that doesn’t necessarily always happen. Tomato flowers can fall off when temps get to 90 degrees, which is always a disaster. Then you wind up with loads of green tomatoes that don’t ripen. It looks like you sure had plenty though!

  2. Posted by forestmtnhike on December 12, 2013 at 4:25 am

    You have a beautiful garden there!:)

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