On the Cusp of Tomato Season

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone! My region is welcoming in summer with a Code Red Air Quality Alert, thanks to a southerly wind that is blowing forest fire smoke directly on top of us.  I am blessed with strong healthy lungs, but even I am coughing a bit indoors as the smoke saturates Summer’s arrival. Yuck.

I managed to get in two hours of gardening this morning just after sunrise before the smoke arrived, and I am delighted to report that I believe the first tomatoes from our garden will be fully ripe tomorrow — the first entire day of Summer. They will be our cherry tomato variety — Sweet Treats. Here’s one of the nearly ripe beauties that I photographed yesterday.

A nearly ripe Sweet Treats cherry tomato

I expected the cherry tomatoes to ripen first. After all, they are smaller fruits, which gives them an advantage. However two other tomato varieties are showing signs of ripening: Ferline and Purple Russian. You may recall that I sowed the seeds of these two varieties in my greenhouse two weeks before the other varieties due to space limitations. I chose these two varieties because their catalog descriptions said they’d take the most number of days to produce ripe fruit. That two-week head start has allowed them to near ripeness first. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the other varieties to catch up. Here’s a Ferline tomato starting to color up.

Ferline tomato showing some color

Ferline is my tomato experiment this year. I chose it based on its catalog description that touts its resistance to late fungal blights, which always destroy my tomatoes as the season progresses. The plants have been impressive from the moment they sprouted. Thick, almost burly vines stand so tall and straight that I’m mostly tying them to the trellis to support the weight of their abundant medium-sized fruits. They are gorgeous, profoundly robust plants.

However, all seven tomato varieties are performing spectacularly so far this season. Wonder Spouse built me two magnificent tomato trellises this year. He attached seven-foot-tall deer fencing to eight-foot tall posts. We thought this would be the year the tomatoes didn’t reach the top of the trellis and tumble over the other side. I’m thinking we were wrong about that. Here’s a shot of one end of one trellis that I took yesterday. See the white top of the metal post at the left top of the picture? See the fencing material coming off the top? Now note the height of the tomato vines. Have mercy!

Tomato Trellis nearly topped!

This weekend I’ll be buying some kind of step stool that I can use in the garden to reach the top of the trellis. Even Wonder Spouse is having trouble reaching the top to tie these enthusiastic vegetables.

You can see the size of the deer fencing mesh in the Ferline picture. It’s working pretty well. We’ve only had to liberate a few fruits that grew stuck into the squares. The plastic mesh is easier to manipulate than the wire trellises we had been using previously. I think the tomatoes prefer this trellis. They seem to weave themselves through it without any prompting from me. As I said, I’m mostly tying the increasingly heavy fruiting branches to try to prevent the weight of the fruits from breaking the tomato vines.

I’m going to try to keep a running count this year of how many of each variety I pick. However, as all sixteen (yes, I know I’m overenthusiastic) plants begin producing, my ambitions may be cast aside in the name of efficiency. They aren’t the only vegetables I’m growing, you know. The beans — pole and bush — are flowering now, as are the cucumbers, and I’ve been picking zucchinis for a week; they’re just approaching serious production mode.

As long as the shallow well we use to water the garden holds out, I’ll continue to water. However, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees Farenheit predicted for the next few days, I’m worried that my garden may shrivel and die just as it begins to produce significantly.

Here’s hoping that Summer’s searing start will soon be softened by abundant, frequent rain.

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  1. #1 by Karen on June 24, 2011 - 8:37 am

    Your tomatoes look wonderful. I have two tiny tomatoes out of my nineteen plants and a few blossoms on the others. It looks like you will have a bumper crop …good luck with the well.

  2. #2 by piedmontgardener on June 24, 2011 - 8:52 am

    Thanks, Karen. Yes, so far, the tomatoes are looking exceptionally wonderful this year. I imagine your cool, wet weather is slowing down your tomato production. Pollinators don’t like to fly on such days. I’ll do my best to send you some of our heat to warm up your tomatoes. 🙂

    We dined upon our first two Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes on June 22. They were SO GOOD! This morning we picked the first ripe Ferline. Can’t wait to try it on a sandwich later. Soon, I predict, I’ll be seeing ripe tomatoes in my sleep, because I’ll be picking them every day. I can think of worse things to dream about. 🙂

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