The Q&A Archives: Ripe tomatoes in May?

Question: I read in the January '89 issue of National Gardening that Dennis Schweitzer in Connecticut harvested tomatoes in May. Connecticut is further north than my home and our last frost date is May 10th. How can he get ripe tomatoes before I can even set my transplants out? Clayton Meyers Bartonville, IL

Answer: It isn't easy, but here are the steps I follow, says Schweitzer. Choose a 50 to 60 day, small fruited variety such as Siberia, Santiam or Pixie. Plant the seeds under grow lights in mid January and transplant seedlings into progressively larger containers until they're in 10 to 12 pots by transplant time, the end of March here in Connecticut. That's still five to six weeks before the last frost date, but you can take steps to warm the soil and protect the plants. About one month before transplanting, place black plastic mulch over the bed to heat up the soil. Transplant into the black plastic, protecting plants with Wall O'Waters. Shake the plants every day or two during flowering to insure pollination. Remove the Wall O'Waters after the last frost date and have a tomato sandwich on Memorial Day.

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