This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he always thought the garden was his. Even though I do all the work, he always stood by me. I'm located near Boston (in USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot and a backyard vegetable garden. I use sustainable organic methods and try to grow all of my family's vegetables.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

tomato blossoms

tomato 2
tomato 1 tomato 3

My first tomato flowers! The rule of thumb is 30 days from flower to fruit, so, lets see, that's July 14 for my first tomato. That would be super timing for me. I usually get my first tomatoes at the end of July.

In fact, for the past THREE years, my first ripe tomato has been on the same day - July 31! Here's my 2008 first, my 2007 first, and my 2006 first.

To get earlier tomatoes, this year I planted a few tomato seeds very early (Feb 21) and the rest at my normal timing (March 25). The early plants are about 2.5 feet tall now and the others are half that height. Only the early ones have flowers now. The early ones are New Girl, Beefsteak and Brandywine.

I like the way the strings are working so far. Its fast and easy to wrap them around the growing tomato vines. To maximize space, I pick off the suckers and plant the tomatoes close (12 inches). This way I'll get very tall plants. And (HOPEFULLY) lots of tomatoes...

tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)



Blogger Laura said...

I may have to give the string method a try!

June 14, 2009 1:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do suckers produce fruit? Every place I have looked says something different...So I have just ignored them and let them grow! My tomatoes are about 3 feet tall now and just starting to flower (I cut off the first blooms since the plants were too small) I am using regular tomato cages which seem to be working well. Your garden looks great and the string method is intriguing!

June 14, 2009 1:31 PM

Blogger kathy said...

Personally, it seems to me that the suckers produce just as much fruit as other growth. (But I haven't done a real controlled experiment or looked into this online.)

However, there are several other reasons for removing the suckers.

Removing suckers will:

- make the plants taller and conserve garden space,

- reduce the number of growing tips so the plants put more energy into making bigger tomatoes,

- make the plants less dense so there is better air flow and less chance of fungal diseases,

- make the plants a shape that gives more of the leaves exposure to sunlight

Here's a very good article at Fine Gardening

June 14, 2009 9:16 PM

Anonymous Aaron said...

I did not know the 30 days from flowers to fruit rule of thumb. That is very exciting sing I got my first flowers at the beginning of last week! Kathy, thanks for the continued pearls of wisdom.

June 14, 2009 10:04 PM

Blogger Dan said...

Your trellised tomatoes are going to look very nice once it is a wall of maters.

June 14, 2009 11:24 PM

Blogger Matron said...

Yes, that string method works well for me under glass where I have something to tie it on to at the top. It is also a great way to grow cucumbers too.

June 15, 2009 4:32 AM

Blogger SNJGardener said...

I may have to try a few plants earlier next year. I don't usually get my tomatoes until mid July either here in zone 6 of soutnern NJ.

I had never heard of the 30 day rule of thumb.

I trim my suckers too. However, if I happen to miss one and it has flowers on it by the time I notice it, I leave it and just tie it up with the rest.

June 15, 2009 7:57 AM

Anonymous Mary from Toronto said...

Kathy, I'd like to use this system here in Toronto for our tomatoes. We've got about 60 plants. Can you please give me a simple how-to-make tomato supports with poles and string? And how do the tomatoes stay in place? How would this work for indeteterminates - hard to tame the unruliness, don't you think? I suppose you'd tie them to the string, right? Thanks.

June 15, 2009 1:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are there male and female flowers on tomato plants? I looked at my plant today and some flowers are white while others are yellow.

June 15, 2009 4:56 PM

Anonymous brad said...

I tried a new trick this year that my mom read about somewhere. Before I put my tomato seedlings in the garden bed, I put two or three big handfuls of kitchen scraps (like you would normally throw in your compost)in the holes. I saved scraps for about three weeks, but instead of putting them in the compost, I just kept them in a big bucket. I put a thin layer of soil over the scraps, then put the tomato seedlings on that and filled in the holes the rest of the way with soil. This is supposed to generate a lot of heat that keeps the growing roots warm. It totally worked. It is June 15th and my tomatoes are 4 feet high and my first little green tomatoes started showing up over a week ago!

June 15, 2009 5:22 PM

Blogger Kara said...

I am so jealous of your new tomatoes! Down here in 10b, I just pulled my plants out. The poor things were cooking on the vine in the heat! But I still have a few eggplants and peppers to go before I have to turn the whole thing under...

June 16, 2009 1:02 PM

Blogger kathy said...

OK, I just turned it into a "rule of thumb". I was trying to write quick. But it is something a very experience gardener told me. Friends of my parents who grow a giant plot of hundreds of tomatoes every year.

They say 30 days from buds til the fruit come in. Why not call it a rule of thumb. (Tom Thumb?)

June 17, 2009 9:12 PM

Blogger kathy said...

About those male and female flowers...

all tomato flowers are "complete", that is they have both male and female parts and

even better they are self-pollinators - they can receive their own pollen. It helps to have a bee or the wind shake the flower a bit, but tomatoes are pretty independent.

I think maybe the different colored flowers are the older and newer flowers?

June 17, 2009 9:33 PM

Blogger kathy said...

Mary - I'll eventually post instructions for the tomato string supports, but its the first year I'm trying this. Details soon.

June 17, 2009 9:44 PM

Blogger It's me ...Mavis said...

After reading your post about the 30 rule of thumb for the tomatoes I am VERY excited!!!! I went out to the garden and counted about 80 yellow flowers....being the ocd person that I am I'm going to write it down on the calendar and see if it indeed is true. I love your blog...thanks for the garden advise.

June 18, 2009 10:24 AM

Anonymous Dawnie (CT) said...

Your tomatoes are looking great! Mine.....well....kinda pathetic! I don't think that any of the ones that I started indoors are even a foot tall yet. I started them on 3/7, 3/12, 3/18 and 3/20. There are several "stray" tomato plants popping up in odd places in my garden from the kitchen scraps I had worked into the soil. Those are doing better than my seedlings; but those too aren't very tall. Maybe a foot or a little more than that.
I kept all of my seedlings on my Mother's front, south facing porch. It's enclosed but not heated. Could that be my problem? My peppers are the same way.....pathetic! And I'm sure that the lack of SUN, WARMTH and all this rain isn't helping much since I transplanted all into the garden. GRRRR....I can't win!

Is it too late to sow tomato and pepper seeds directly into the garden?

June 18, 2009 4:00 PM

Anonymous Dawnie (CT) said...

Does anybody subscribe to
It seems that many of us have slow growing crops this year...

June 20, 2009 5:18 PM

Blogger kathy said...


My guess is you seedlings wanted more light. Its been so dark this year.

And they should stay above 50*F most of the time. I keep mine inside until its above 50 most nights. Too many nights below 40 is a problem.

Once they get stunted by the cold, it can take a while for them to grow.

Watch out for the volunteers. They tend to make plants with lots of leaves and few small fruit.

June 20, 2009 9:07 PM

Blogger kathy said...

PS. Maybe I'll post a photo of my pathetic peppers soon. :( and my pathetic basil :-(

June 20, 2009 9:08 PM

Blogger kathy said...

dear ocd mavis,

when I actually counted once - it was 40 days. don't hold me precisely to 30 please.

June 20, 2009 9:10 PM

OpenID dancharles45 said...

It looks like it was a great start to the season. Last season I had trouble with aphids. What do you recommend I use to prevent aphids this season? I've heard about the Safer Brand tomato insect killer, but wasn't sure if anyone tried it yet. I like how it’s organic.

April 14, 2010 3:38 PM

Blogger kathy said...

I think that aphids means there's a problem with the health of the plant. A healthy tomato, or other, plant should be able withstand aphids and you won't see more than a few here and there.

Is your soil healthy (pH, nitrogen, organic matter)? Enough sunlight, the right amount of water? Is the temperature right?

The last aphid problem I had was my fava beans, that got overcome and killed "by aphids". Then I learned they were planted way too late and the temperature was too hot for them. And they do not like semi-shade. The ladybugs showed up en mass to feast, but the plants died. In subsequent years, I plant favas as early as I can and in full sun. No aphids until the end of the season as the summer heats up and the plants are petering out after a lots of production.

Good luck.

(Other ideas, you could try ladybugs, or check out this forum:

April 14, 2010 4:16 PM


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