The Joy of Seed Catalogs
Some Quick-Start Tomatoes
My daughter, who is feeling the pull of spring cleaning, has urged me to bulldoze through a pile of seed catalogs that has been gathering on one of my kitchen tables for months. She’s right. It’s high and unwieldy and looks rather like a ziggurat ready to splurge its way across the floor, with the slightest touch from one of our cats.
The pile is calling for my attention! But rather than bulldoze my way through their joys, I’d really prefer to luxuriate, taking my time with every page. Well, I will let you know if that happens.
Back in the old days, when time passed for me more slowly, I would feel a surge of emerald adrenaline every time one of these magazines arrived in my mailbox. And within a week, I would have the catalog memorized!
Along with that activity, the wish lists would begin to build up on scratch pads and in my imagination, containing crops I knew I could grow – and the dream harvests, like watermelons, honeydews and others that require lots of hot days to grow and bear fruit.
Those were the days, indeed.
I once grew a watermelon the size of a softball, but it was sweet as heaven.
Thus far, this spring, I have placed just one seed order, and I did it late: yesterday.
I have found Pinetree Garden Seeds (www.superseeds.com) to be a source of affordable and diverse seeds and plants, and even things like ingredients to make homemade soap, another of my passions.
Like most people, I have to shop carefully and admit that the price of some seeds – $6-7 for a pack of tomato seeds– gives me more than pause.
At the same time, yes, I understand that if those seeds give you plants when they come to fruition, they will pay for themselves many times over.
Pinetree has kept their seed prices within the reach of most gardeners – and I give them a great shout-out of thanks for that!
Since I have not had time to really dive into this season’s seed catalogs yet, I can only tell you about what I have purchased so far.
Tomatoes always push themselves to the front of the line!
What is it about Italian (American) girls and tomatoes?
Do they reflect our Mediterranean personalities?
But now they come in almost as many colors as an earthy eye shadow palette: white, black, maroon, pinks, ivory, all sorts of purples and indigos, not to mention vibrant yellows, greens and oranges.
Among my favorites are the spicy, sultry browns.
Some like “Chocolate Cherry,” a plump globe of an heirloom, even dare to imitate cocoa, in name and color.
And while I have ordered mustard greens and a few other starters, tomato talk is probably most germane today.
I still have a half package of Burpee’s “Italian Ice” cherry tomato seeds left from last year. This is a hybrid – and its appearance truly makes me think about vanilla Italian ice or the translucent vanilla popsicles of my childhood. Are you getting the image?
It is the truest white I’ve ever beheld among tomatoes, wherein the “whites” of today’s tomato-land tend to be really more like a shade of cream with an egg yolk thrown in and swirled for good measure. I love those, too!
Thus far, there is no real true white tomato amongst heirlooms that has come to my attention. But I’m thinking that “Italian Ice” may take the prize.
I did not have success with “Italian Ice” last year, but, as the old gardener’s saying goes: “Here we go again!” I really want these to grow.
It’s hard to imagine what these tomatoes would cost if you could find them in a local grocery store. I challenge Wegmans in Wilkes-Barre to try to get them onto the shelves.
But the chances of that happening are slim (as young asparagus!)
My farmette is small, and space is a big issue among everything I plant. But I do have a large fence that makes climbing plants very attractive choices. So, the “Climbing Triple Crop,” tomato is my choice to mix in with the morning glories and other flowers that spread skyward.
For containers, I am going with “Tumbling Tom” in both red and yellow varieties. I had success with this variety, meaning we harvested early, luscious tomatoes by the end of June last year.
Along with these, I am sowing “Sub-Arctic Plenty,” which as its name suggests, is a quick determinate tomato suited for colder climates. “Determinate” tomatoes boom and then stop bearing fruit, unlike more moderately paced “indeterminate” types. I make sure to plant a mixture of both kinds.
Is Hazleton, Pennsylvania, now a “colder” climate? That will be the subject of another blog coming soon. However, yes, we do have our cold spells, and we can’t separate ourselves from the rigors of global climate change. In a nutshell, our area is experiencing a roller-coaster of temperature changes.
In a previous blog, I told you my secret for getting bushel-loads of tomatoes, without buying expensive plants, right here in this mountainous zone of the Pocono Northeast.
Happy Gardening! Remember even your small plantings give us all more oxygen.
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