A Garden Blog by Kevin Milaeger

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Kevin 2015 

Tomato Planting Date Inches Closer!

May 18, 2016     
(See below for archives)

Once mid-May arrives, it’s awfully hard to keep from planting things you should be waiting on---especially if the weather is pretty good. I spend some time tending the onions, radishes, peas, and greens that I planted earlier. But I am itching to plant the warm season plants, like tomatoes and peppers. To suppress the urge, I’ve been transplanting my tomato plants from 3” pots to 7” pots. Not only are the new pots more than twice as wide, but the soil volume is six times as great. In another day or two I’ll stake the plants, and then move them to one of our cooler greenhouses, around the 60 degree range. I don’t want them growing too fast. I’ll do the same with my pepper plants, but I use a smaller pot, since they grow slower.

Once June arrives, I plan the outdoor planting date carefully. I only plant if the weather is warm, and the forecast must also be favorable. (Not that the weatherman will guarantee the forecast.) I don’t want to set out the plants if we are expecting night temperatures to dip below fifty degrees, or if we are expecting windy weather. My tomatoes are in pots, sheltered from the north wind off Lake Michigan, but my peppers are in the ground, in a different area, and are exposed. Some years ago I planted the peppers early one June morning. When I got home that same evening the plants were stripped of their leaves from the day’s windy onslaught. Lesson learned.

I’ve pared down my home tomato list. Not because I couldn’t take care of them. I decided to grow them further apart, for more air circulation and direct light. We’ll see if that helps reduce disease and increases yield. Tried and true varieties that I am growing are ‘Bloody Butcher,’ to me the best tasting early tomato. ‘Brandy Boy,’ is a newer hybrid with an interesting heritage that includes the famous ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Burpee Big Boy.’ It is a pink slicing tomato, which means it is sweeter than most true red or orangey tomatoes. ‘Ananas Noire’ is my favorite novelty tomato. It is a very large slicer, and has a tangy, rich flavor. Even when fully ripe the skin color is mostly mottled green, with irregular flecks of red. The interior is wildly colorful---various shades of green, accented with brilliant red markings. When you serve these sliced on a plate, they will dominate your table talk for at least a few minutes---and even longer, after your guests taste them. Another great novelty is ‘Green Zebra.’ It is streaked vertically with several shades of green. When ripe, some of the streaks turn golden yellow. It has a tangy flavor, and is a little bigger than a golf ball; I use it for salads. For a large red tomato I grow ‘Wisconsin 55,’ and ‘Goliath.’ The former has been a standard since the late 1940’s, and ‘Goliath‘ is a tasty modern hybrid with superb disease resistance. My favorite red cherry tomato is ‘Sweet Baby Girl,’ which is wonderfully sweet, and very prolific. We often get requests for “low acid” tomatoes, but every once in a while someone asks for “high acid.” Some like the tang, but most often they are using them for canning. One such variety is ‘Druzba,’ which I’ll be trying this year---I want to taste how much acid is discernable. The rest of the tomato “garden” (the plants are all in 15 gallon pots) is devoted to varieties I haven’t tried before. All were part of our Vintage Veggie program. A few that I am particularly intrigued with are ‘Florentine Beauty,’ a yellow tomato with a scalloped edge, and ‘Giant Pink Belgium,’ a pink beefsteak type that averages well over a pound. In the cherry category I’m going with ‘Orange Paruche,’ a yellow/orange variety that is super sweet. We offered it some years ago but then our seed source dried up. We were able to secure some his year so I’m looking forward to tasting that one again. I’m going to give ‘Mr. Stripey’ another chance. I grew it some years ago and it was not memorable. However, it is frequently found on lists of favorites of tomato aficionados everywhere. Maybe my taste buds need a tune-up. The same is true for ‘Cherokee Purple.’ It is praised everywhere, but our customers haven’t responded well to it. I’m trying it again to see what the fuss is about. The others I am growing I have mentioned in previous blogs, so I won’t repeat that information here. But you can find a list of our Vintage Veggie selection at this link. We still have some of most varieties. My current personal list totals twenty-six plants, but I usually add a couple at the last minute. I just hope that’s enough….

You will recall my mentioning that, in January, we started a few tomatoes in the greenhouse just for fun. They are coming along nicely, over six feet tall now. The first to bear ripe fruit were ‘Sun Sugar,’ an ultra-sweet yellow cherry tomato, and ‘Husky Cherry Red,’ a popular determinate tomato that yields tons of golf ball sized red fruit. I ate one of each on May 16th, the first homegrown tomatoes of the season. ‘Juliet’ and the larger fruited ‘Early Girl’ are blushing, but are at least several sunny days away from picking. My favorite early tomato ‘Bloody Butcher’ is still green, and the fruit is much larger than their normal golf ball size. Some of them are twice that big. No explanation, like many things in life.

Please email me (kevin@milaegers.com) if you have any questions or comments.



 Archives  (Click on the green text for links)


May 2016 - Tomato Planting Date Inches Closer!
May 2016 - Vintage Veggies Now & Disease Resistant Tomatoes!
April 2016 - A Few New Plants & Garden Updates!
April 2016 - Go Outside---It's Time for Planting!
March 2016 - Yep! ----It's Time to Plant Greens!
March 2016 - The Quest for the Perfect Tomato
March 2016 - Think Green! It's almost time to plant
February 2016 - Pepper Pointers: it's all about patience
February 2016 - I See Greens on the Horizon
January 2016 - Tomato Disease --- What can you do?
January 2016 - Tomatoes on my Mind!

November 2015 - My Late Harvest (The tomato picking continues...No Kidding!)

October 2015 - Its Mid-October---the End is Near!

September 2015 - 2015---Not the Year of the Pepper!

September 2015 - Top Varieties at Tomatomania 2015!

September 2015 - Get the most from September tomatoes!

August 2015 - Tomatomania 2015---Coming Soon!

August 2015 - Oh No!!!......Freaky Tomatoes

July 2015 - A Marvelous Community Garden

July 2015 - Finally----the first ripe tomato

July 2015 - Is it Possible to overdose on peas?

July 2015 - The Garden in July --- I'm still planting!

June 2015 - And Just When Things Were Looking So Good...

June 2015 - Tomatoes, Cukes, and a Whimsical Onion

June 2015 - Trials and Tribulations in the Veggie Garden!

May 2015 - Trouble in Tomatoland!

May 2015 - Tomatoes are Claustrophobic

May 2015 - A Little Chilly, but it's Rhubarb Time!

May 2015 - Joan's Rhubarb Torte Recipe

April 2015 - "Ketchup and Fries" plant video

April 2015 - Early May in the Vegetable Garden

April 2015 - What Vegetables Can I Plant Now?

April 2015 - Making Salad Interesting

March 2015 - Ready... set... GROW!

March 2015 - Unusual Potatoes --- Not Just for Tots Anymore!

February 2015 - Next Month is Spring!

February 2015 - Greens to Grow 2015


September 2014 - Tomatomania Review 2014!

September 2014 - Tomatomania Results by Category or Cummulative

August 2014 - Kale! Kale! The Greens are Here! Click here for Recipe

August 2014 - The August Harvest Begins

July 2014 - Greens to Grow for Fall!!!  Click here for Spreadsheet

July 2014 - My Tomatoes are Blushing

June 2014 - Some Tomato Concerns

May 2014 - Garden Update --- the Cold Weather Experiment

May 2014 - Is it Time to Plant Tomatoes?

May 2014 - Vintage Veggies #4 and Vintage Veggies List 2014

April 2014 - A Chilly Spring... What Can I Plant Now?

March 2014 - Start Growing Your Own Food Right Now

February 2014 - Greens to Grow   Click here for Spreadsheet


October 2013 - Keep Calm and Garden On!

October 2013 - Autumn Vegetables

September 2013 - Tomato Popularity Poll Results Blog

September 2013 - Tomatomania Category and Cumulative Results

September 2013 - Tomatomania 2013 Blog, Video and T-Shirt

August 2013 - Greens to Grow and Spreadsheet

July 2013 - Spaghetti Squash

July 2013 - New Tomato and Zucchini Recipe Blog
July 2013 - Tomato and Zucchini Recipe

June 2013 - Cold Spring - What it Means for Vegetables
May 2013 - Tomatoes in Containers
May 2013 - Vintage Veggies 2013
April 2013 - My Tomato Garden Preview 2013
April 2013 - Don't Forget Rosemary!
April 2013 - It's Planting Time
March 2013 - Onions
March 2013 - Vintage Veggies
March 2013 - Greens to Grow Update
February 2013 - Hot Peppers
February 2013 - Grafted Tomatoes
February 2013 - Greens to Grow

September 2012 - Tomatomania Results
July 2012 - Compass Plant
July 2012 -July 2012 - Heat Wave
June 2012 - Okra
June 2012 - Potato Onion
May 2012 - Gas Plant

May 2012 - My Tomato Garden
May 2012 -
Vintage Veggie Fest
March 2012 - Growing Raspberries in SE Wisconsin
March 2012 - Winter Tomato Project
February 2012 - Success with Sweet Peppers
February 2012 - Vegetable Cukes Miniature
January 2012 - Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2011 -Tomatomania Review 
August 2011 - Tomatomania Preview
August 2011 - Racine Vegetable Garden Tour
Summer 2011 - Vegetables in my Garden
July 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
June 2011 - Vegetables - Diseases made Simple
June 2011 - Vegetables - Container Growing
May 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
April 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Event Preview
March 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Announcement

September 2010 - Tomatomania Review 
August 2010 - Flowers Late Summer Color
July 2010 Vegetables Cukes and Tomatoes
June 2010 Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2009 - Tomatoes End of Season Review 
September 2009 - Tomatomania Review
July 2009 - Tomatoes General and Fruit Set Problems
June 2009  - Tomatoes Fertilization
June 2009  - Tomatoes Personal Experience
May 2009 - Tomatoes General
May 2009 - Tomatoes Diseases
May 2009 - Tomatoes Selecting and Growing
April 2009 - Tomatoes General

Any questions or comments, please contact us at: gardenquestions@milaegers.com