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Slow, but Steady Tomatoes



Written by: Kevin Milaeger

August 1st, 2023


I keep hearing how this has been such a warm summer. We’ve had our warm spells, but I think if it were truly excessively warm I would have been picking tomatoes before now. I planted my plants on May 28th, and growth has gone on uninterrupted. No cool evenings. I reviewed my notes from years past and this is definitely late for the first fruit. But I finally picked my first large fruit a couple days ago, a variety called ‘Brandywine.’ There are a number of strains under this name, and this is ‘Sudduth’s Strain,’ supposedly the original. It has “potato” leaves and the fruit has pinkish colored skin, with red flesh. Some say its the finest tomato there is. There are many opinions on that subject.


Tomato 'Brandywine Suddith's Strain'

Tomato dead flower


Although all my tomato plants are healthy, there have been some challenges. The most frustrating this year is the failure to set fruit. That is, the flowers look great but pollination is somehow thwarted and the fruit never forms. This could be part of the cause of delayed production this year. Blossom failure can occur for several reasons but the most common is environmental. Tomatoes are self-pollinating, but complete pollination is accomplished with the help of insects. Some kind of extreme weather, too hot or cold, excessive wind or a rain that lasts several days are the most likely. Another possibility is some kind of spray but since I really don’t use much in the way of sprays, I feel the cause was environmental, and so beyond my control. You can buy “blossom set” products, but I’ve never used them. I guess if the problem were persistent, I might resort to that. Anyway, there were plenty of other blooms, so much fruit is in the offing.

Speaking of pollination, you have no doubt come across some malformed tomato fruit at some point in your gardening history. This is called catfacing. Its not the result of anything you did or didn’t do. Its from incomplete or partial pollination. Tomatoes are self-pollinating, but insect pollination is a big plus. If the insect activity is disrupted because of the weather, you can end up with catfacing. The fruit tastes the same and I eat them all the time, but they are cosmetically imperfect. If you want to assist in pollination you can gently shake the plants when they’re flowering. When I was a kid in our family greenhouse, that was one of my jobs.


Tomato catfacing


This is the time of year when we’re sometimes attacked by the tomato hornworm. This is a green caterpillar about the size of your little finger, with diagonal stripes on its body. The green color of its body is nearly the same as the color of tomato stems, so its hard to spot, until you find your first one. Telltale evidence of its presence is the chewed up leaves of the plant. These buggers like the new, soft growth so they would be near the tops of your plants. Another sign is their frass, or feces. This is dark brown and will be scattered around where they have been feeding. They have healthy appetites and will eat lots in a short time. They will also eat the fruit itself. What to do with them? If you google around a bit you’ll see that they eventually turn into beautiful, large moths. If you’ve been growing tomatoes for some years, you may well have some “volunteer” plants coming up. Plants you didn’t plant, but they sprouted from seed that got scattered around the previous year. I pick off the hornworms and release them on those unwanted plants. Problem solved. If by chance you see a hornworm that is covered with white eggs, you can observe another of nature’s wonders. These are eggs laid by a parasitic wasp. When they hatch the young will devour the worm. Painful to watch, but part of nature.


photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden


photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden

Hornworm infected with wasp eggs


We sell lots of Roma (paste) tomatoes at Milaeger’s. They’re characterized by a meaty, dense flesh with few seeds and an elongated shape. There are many kinds so I thought this year I’d put a few to the test. I’m growing our most popular variety simply called ‘Roma,’ another called ‘La Roma II,’ and a relative newcomer called ‘Early Resilience.’ ‘La Roma II’ was the first to bear fruit, followed closely by ‘Early Resilience.’ In addition to earliness, I’ll be keeping track of overall production, and of course, flavor. Lots of folks can the paste tomatoes, and they also make wonderful sauces and salsa.

My one cherry tomato plant is also late. I’m growing ‘Sweet million,’ a variety I haven’t grown in many years. The fruit trusses are so beautiful I almost hate to pick them.


Tomato 'Sweet Million'

Cucumber 'Green Light'


Many of you are aware of my fondness for the cucumber ‘Mini Munch.’ I’ve had great success with it. At Milaeger’s we offer it for a limited time around mid-May as part of our Vintage Veggies program. This year I failed to secure my plants. I know, with my total access you’d think I would have no trouble, but sometimes even I come up short. Fortunately, I was able to get some of the variety ‘Green Light,’ another mini cuke, one we offer all season long. It rivals ‘Mini Munch,’ and the seed is less expensive, so the plants are too. This morning I picked for less than five minutes and found 28 cukes. I think I planted four pots (usually three seedlings per pot.) I favor the mini cukes because no skinning is required. Also, I use an entire cucumber at once. No half cucumbers in the fridge that can turn ugly. You have to pick them when they are small though, about four inches. ‘Green Light’ is a winner!

Please email me ( with your questions and comments!

Click here to see Kevin Milaeger's Vintage Ornament Blog



August 2023 - Slow, but Steady Tomatoes

June 2023 - Plants Look Good, Keeping Fingers Crossed

May 2023 - Time for Vintage Veggies!

April 2023 - Early Spring Garden Update

January 2023 - January in the Greenhouse


October 2022 - The Fun Miracle of Seed

August 2022 - End of August Garden Review

July 2022 - A Bit of Garden Levity

July 2022 - A New Tomato Problem

June 2022 - Unda Unda! An Italian Tomato Salad

June 2022 - The Dreaded Blossom End Rot

June 2022 - Tomato Test and Cucumber Review

May 2022 - Is it Safe to Plant? Do You Feel Lucky?

April 2022 - Fun with Turtles & My Favorite Tool

March 2022 - Jump Start the Season with Greens to Grow!

February 2022 - I See the Future and it’s Green


September 2021 - Tomato Tales, Trials, and Tribulations

July 2021 - Putzing with Pumpkins

July 2021 - July Tomato Observations

June 2021 - Late Spring Garden Update

May 2021 - Picking Peppers and Pepper Pointers

January 2021 - Paste Tomatoes—Searching for More Flavor

January 2021 - New Gardeners - Dig In!


October 2020 - The End of the Season

September 2020 - Planting Now for Fall Harvest

August 2020 - Midsummer Garden Notes

July 2020 - Cukes Now! Tomatoes for the Fourth?

June 2020 - Tomato Plant Supports and Fertility

May 2020 - Time to Plant

April 2020 - Making Salads More Memorable

April 2020 - Victory Gardens Then and Now

April 2020 - Turn Off the News and Get in Your Garden

March 2020 - Stay Healthy---Plant Some Greens

February 2020 - Winter Planning, Winter Reading


September 2019 - Planting Fall Greens---what's your excuse?

September 2019 - 2019 Tomatomania Review

August 2019 - The Hypochondriacal Garden

July 2019 - Tomatoes 2019---A New Record!

June 2019 - Tomatoes---Early Summer Progress Report

June 2019 - Dwarf Tomatoes---The Next Big Thing

May 2019 - The Urge to Plant is Getting Stronger

April 2019 - Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Greens

April 2019 - Jefferson's Tomatoes & Tomato Nutrition

March 2019 - The Year of the Potato

March 2019 - Tomatoes---America's Favorite Vegetable

February 2019 - The Greens are Coming

January 2019 - Long, Chilly Nights Make Me Think of Tomatoes


June 2018 - Learn the Rules Before You Break Them

May 2018 - To Plant or Not to Plant

March 2018 - Brrr...Can You Plant this Early?

February 2018 - February's Climatological Shift


October 2017 - Remember: Every Tomato Variety is Someone's Favorite

August 2017 - A Tomato Miracle

July 2017 - Our Big Garden & Some Unpleasant News

June 2017 - Mid-June Tomato Report

June 2017 - Tomatoes----The Acid Test

April 2017 - It's Time to Plant Onions

April 2017 - Raspberries: It's time for annual pruning

March 2017 - Warning! Internet Garden Danger!

March 2017 - Tomato Talk---Shorter Varieties are Trending

March 2017 - It's Only the Start of March, but...

February 2017 - Tasty Greens and Winter Tomatoes

February 2017 - Green is Right Around the Corner


October 2016 - Autumn Greens, Eggplant and more

September 2016 - The Tomato Polls are Closed, the Winner is...

September 2016 - Pity the Hornworm? Maybe not.

August 2016 - It's true!---Sometimes tomato beauty is only skin deep!

July 2016 - Summer Heat Means Fast Ripening

July 2016 - July Tomato Update---a few concerns

June 2016 - The Great Bell Pepper Challenge!

June 2016 - Super Start for 2016 Vegetables!

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 BlogVideo 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

July 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