I dream at this time of the year of a BLT sandwich with the biggest, juiciest tomatoes that Mother Nature can provide, straight out of the garden.
Yes, I dream, while there are some of you out there - and you know who you are - who are just about ready to start eating tomatoes that they have been growing in their greenhouses. I am still glad to hear that even tomatoes grown by those in our area in greenhouses still are not the same as growing them in the garden.
However, beggars can't be choosers sometimes.
So, how can we hope to have the earliest tomatoes that we can grow outdoors in our own backyard gardens? How about trying your hand at growing zone 2 or 3 tomatoes in our zone 4 area? You can call them short-season tomatoes or extra early tomatoes but whatever you call them, they are relatively good and generally ready for eating by the end of June if you start the seeds now.
You will find that most of these early or extra early tomatoes only come as determinate plants or plants that only grow so big and then stop. In comparison to indeterminate tomatoes which keep on growing, vegetatively speaking until frost takes them out of the picture.
They tend to be rather bushy and will need to be staked or tied up for best efforts. There are many of these varieties that you can purchase as a plant in our area instead of having to start plants. These are Early girl and Celebrity. I think that many, if not all, of us have heard of these two plants. There are, however, several other varieties that are extra early that you would probably have to purchase seeds and get them started soon.
There are a couple that I have tried that have pretty good taste and provide with a fair number of fruits for either canning or eating. These are Stupice and Siberian. I have heard from others who have tried these two varieties and have had mixed thoughts on the taste of both varieties.
They were extremely early, with seeds having been started early- to mid-April, with many tomatoes ready to be eaten by the middle to the end of June.
Finding these seeds or plants isn't as complicated as it used to be, with the first step involving a phone call to your local green house. Before spending the time and money on locating these seeds from a catalog, it never hurts to ask our local greenhouses what they have for seeds and what they will be getting in for plants later this spring. Generally speaking, many of the locally-owned greenhouses already know what kind of plants they will be getting in.
For those who like to surf the Net or look at a catalog, your areas to look in or at are immense. There are a few places that have been widely known for carrying many different varieties of seeds and some plants.
These include but are not limited to: Territorial Seed, Pinetree Garden Seed, Tomato Growers Supply, Stokes, Burpee, Totally Tomatoes, Jung Seeds, Seed Savers, Park Seeds, Seeds of Change, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, just to mention a few.
These varieties can make for a fun neighborhood challenge for who can have the first edible tomato of the year.
For more information on gardening, you can email me at Stephanie@starpoint.net