Growing Tomatoes

Growing tomato plants from seed can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and they are relatively easy to grow. Only a few seeds from a packet are required to produce enough tomatoes to feed a family of four. If stored properly these seeds will remain viable for 4 to 5 years, so one packet of seed can provide you with tomato plants for a long time.

black cherry tomatoes - Illustration by Helen KrayenhoffIn coastal California, tomato seedlings can be started indoors in a bright location during March or April and should be ready to transplant into the garden after 5 to 7 weeks. Plant these tomato seedlings out in the garden during April or May. Provide them with a wind-protected, warm, sunny spot for best results.

In the Bay Area
Growing tomatoes in the Bay Area can be tricky. Lack of heat in combination with summer fog is not ideal for growing many varieties. Most varieties require a lot of sunlight and heat until they will bear fruit. Seed packages often list these requirements as days to maturity. By selecting early maturing varieties (70 days or less), you are likely to end up with more fruit. We recommend the following varieties:

Japanese Trifele Black
A beautiful purple pear-shaped tomato. It is less prone to cracking and bruising than other tomato varieties. Incredibly rich flavor. Continues late into the season.

Green Zebra
This is fast becoming a customer favorite, with the high productivity of yellow and green marbled, mid-sized fruits that hold up well after harvest. Excellent classic flavor. 

This old Czech heirloom is a standard for those growing in cooler pockets of the Bay. It produces delicious small red treasures that are perfect for a salad or to put right in your mouth.

Sun Gold
We have found that this golden yellow cherry has an unfair advantage in taste comparisons due to its high sugar content. Give it plenty of room to grow!

Black Cherry
While Sun Gold may be the sweetest cherry, this variety produces a complex flavor that will please all. The tall vigorous vines produce abundant crops. 

Happy sowing to all!

Salad Greens All Year Long
Succession Growing in Containers

Do you love fresh salads from your own garden?  Have you tried the cut-and-come-again technique? It gives you plenty of greens at the baby leaf stage in a relatively short growing period. This quick, fun project offers great rewards. 

Planting in containers is a way to add gardening areas to your yard by taking advantage of spots that might not otherwise support plants, and it can allow you to keep your harvest near the kitchen door.

Choose pots that are at least 1 foot deep to accommodate the roots and as wide as possible for larger harvests. For a continuous supply of greens, use 3 pots and seed each one 2 weeks apart for successive crops. 

Fill your containers to within 1 inch from the top with high quality potting soil like Recipe 420. Water thoroughly, and then scatter seeds so they lay approximately 1 inch apart. Barely cover with soil as lettuce needs light to germinate. Firm the soil lightly with the flat of your hand. Water well with a gentle spray and keep evenly moist while the seeds germinate.

In the cooler months, you’ll want to place the plants so they get full sun exposure. In the hot months, move any pots containing small plants to a place where they will be sheltered from the sun during the hottest part of the day. Morning sun, dappled sun under a tree or bright, reflected light is great. Keep well watered.

When the plants are 4-6 inches tall, cut them off about 1½ inch above the soil with scissors. Another crop of new leaves will grow from the center of the plants. After cutting, you might fertilize the cut plants with a diluted liquid vegetable fertilizer or fish fertilizer to support the new crop.

After harvesting twice, discard the plants in the compost and start harvesting from your next container. Keep it going and you’ll have custom gourmet salads all year! Here are some delicious seed mixes we have in the seed racks right now:

‘Chef’s Choice’ Lettuce Mesclun Mix from Botanical Interests combines 6 colorful lettuce varieties with arugula, frisée endive and mizuna, a mild mustard.

‘Gourmet Baby Greens’ Mesclun Lettuce Mix from Botanical Interests has a mix of 6 butterhead, leaf, and romaine lettuce varieties that grow into colorful and multi-textural harvests.

‘Sea of Red’ Cutting Lettuce from Renee’s Garden is a single variety of deep mahogany red lettuce that makes a gorgeous addition to salads.

‘Mild Mustard Mix’ from Renee’s Garden contains 4 different varieties of mustard that when harvested young have a mild flavor that is perfect for salads.

If you decide to make your own custom greens or lettuce seed mix, try to match the days to maturity so the plants will all be ready to harvest at the same time.