Friday, May 25, 2007


I've been a bit low about my tomato situation this year. I mean, a garden without tomatoes is like popcorn without butter. And, honestly, I've had my fill of Early Girl and Better Boy that every single retailer sells. I really wanted to try some of the dozen or so heirlooms that I have in my seed collection.

But it was not to be this year. My soil blocks were about 0-for-50. I may spend part of the hot summer months in the cool basement, experimenting to try to find out what went wrong. I just can't get over the fact that none of them sprouted. It's not like I was making up the technique from scratch or something. Oh well, live and learn.

I did manage to find an heirloom plant sale at a historical site a little way south of us. I picked up a few interesting heirloom plants, but at that point, I still had hopes for some late starts in the basement. Those hopes have passed.

I stopped by the occasional farm market or garden center, just on the off-chance they'd have something different, but they never did. I was close to breaking down and buying those hybrid standbys, but I kept hoping for something different.

Yesterday, it happened. I was driving through Mt. Sterling on my way back from Cincinnati. (Just as an aside, Mt. Sterling has to be the flattest place between here and Kansas. I can only assume that the town founders had a love of irony. But back to the tomatoes.) I stopped at one of the two traffic lights in town, and noticed the hardware store had some flats of plants out. The tomato plants immediately caught my eye.

There was something different. Maybe it was the color of the leaves. Or the size. Or the fact that they weren't comically oversized in tiny cell pots.

The light turned green, and I hesitated. I pulled into an open parking space around the corner. The first thing I noticed as I approached was that the labels didn't have little pictures on them. Then I noticed they were in individual pots rather than little six-packs.

I checked the names, and realized I had found the mother lode... Brandywine. Arkansas Traveller. Italian Heirloom. Radiator Charlie's Mortage Lifter. Oxheart. Riesentraube. Yellow Pear. Mule Team. Black from Tula...

Give me joy of my tomatoes. The garden is whole.



At 5/30/2007 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hey, I, too, had trouble starting heirloom tomatoes, at first. For me, the trick is NOT to bury the seeds at all (even though that's what the seed packets and seed catalogs say), but put them right on top of the soil. And mist them, and keep them warm, and you'll see them sprout, and the root hair will go down, and then you can lightly dust them with a little soil. Of course, you'll want to make sure that you have decent seed to start with, though it's been my experience that tomato seeds are pretty tough and pretty long-lived.


At 6/02/2007 8:22 PM, Blogger LauraHinNJ said...

Brandywines are my favorites!

Lucky you to find heirloom seedlings! If I get out early enough, sometimes plant sales sponsored by the master gardener's or the local agricultural college will have interesting heirlooms, but usually I get there too late for much of a selection.

At 6/03/2007 1:50 PM, Blogger Beo said...

Sorry to hear about your blocks flubbing. I completely lost my basil and 50% of my tomatoes diong nothing different than I have the last 2 years. Spinach was also a failure. LEttuce thrived though...

Congrats-I went to fair expense and had mine shipped in from Seed Savers (Speckled Romans, Yellow Pair, Stupice and my fave: Amish Paste) as I couldn't go without due to a bad sprout.


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