Neil Moran gardens in northern Michigan and is anxious to see gardeners succeed in the cold climate. To this end he has published two books on gardening in the north country and an ebook on how to save money when buying garden tools and other products. He also taught horticulture for over 12 years and conducts garden workshops.


Seeing red…ripe tomatoes!
by Neil Moran - posted 03/03/13

Jasper (F1) (OG)  (Solanum lycopersicum)
Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seed.

I’m seeing red! No, I’m not mad. I just miss red ripe tomatoes. In fact, last night I woke up in the middle of the night with a start. The juicy tomato I thought I was picking was a tennis ball. Those darn dreams! It happens this time of year. I start going through the seed catalogs, picking out the tomatoes I want to grow, and my mouth starts watering and I get to thinking how delicious a red ripe tomato would taste about now.

But for now the closest I’ll come to those luscious tomatoes I grew last summer is the tomato sauce and salsa we canned last summer. Thank God for that.

What got this all started, the dreams and drooling, was looking through the garden catalogs. There’s a bushel basket full of new and tried and true varieties for the home gardener. Here’s a few that I thought might keep you awake at night.

‘Jasper.’ I’m not sure where Johnny’s Selected Seeds they got this name but this new tomato   sure sounds promising. This All American Selection winner came right out of Johnny’s breeding program.  Jasper offers intermediate resistance to early blight, Septoria Leaf Spot, fusarium races 1 & 2, and late blight.  It produces a 7-10 gm tomato on an indeterminate vine. At only 60 days it is a pretty sure bet to ripen in the northern climate.  Oh, and it tastes great!

Mountain Merit is a medium to large (8-10 ounce) mater meant for slicing (BLT, here we come!). It is also resistant to late blight. It’s a larger tomato than Defiant, a variety that showed good resistance to late blight in the past. 75 days to maturity. It has a taste that is described as not quite as good as Defiant.

Veronica is an F1 hybrid they say is better than Juliet (a variety I’ve grown in a commercial greenhouse with a lot of success). It’s a good choice for hoop house gardeners. It resists fusarium races and keeps well on the vine. At only 59 days to maturity it is almost a shoe-in to ripen in the short season (3-4) zone. All three of the above varieties are offered by Johnny’s Selected Seed.

If you’re one of those people who think bigger is better when it comes to tomatoes, check out Super Sauce Hybrid, from Burpees. This bad boy weighs up to 2 pounds and produces a whopping 5 ½ inch by 5 inch wide tomato (enough to feed Sasquatch!) on an indeterminate vine. A dozen of these babies should make a lot of sauce! 70 days to maturity, which means with a little pampering it might ripen here in the cold climate. I’ll let you know how it goes.

A good time to set out tomatoes is when the ground warms. They won’t grow much at all while the nights are still cool, so don’t get too anxious and put them out too early. This means you can start them from seed by late March and have plenty of time to grow transplants to set out in late May or early June.

This year, experiment with some new tomato varieties, then let me know how it went.

Happy gardening!





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