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Vermont Garden Journal: It's Time To Start Thinking About Tomatoes

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There are always new tomato varieties on the market. Now is a great time to start planning your tomato crop.

The days are getting longer and you know what that means for the veggie gardener, it's time to start thinking about tomatoes. First of all, thinking about tomatoes and actually sowing seeds are two different things. You shouldn't be sowing tomato seeds until early April in our climate. Don't follow the folklore of starting tomato seeds on town meeting day. You'll end up with giants in April and that's too early. However, that shouldn't stop you from shopping.

There are always new tomato varieties on the market. This year I'm curious about the breeding of small-fruited cherry and paste tomato varieties. If you like to grow cherry tomatoes in containers, but don't like the massive size most varieties grow, try "Tidy Treats." This is a dwarf-indeterminate variety that will continue to grow and produce fruit all summer, but stays relatively small. Pop a standard-sized tomato cage over the plant in the pot and you should be eating delicious red cherry tomatoes all summer on plants that don't take over.

Speaking of cherry tomatoes, "Indigo Kumquat" is a colorful new variety. It's in the purple-fruited Indigo series and features yellowish-orange fruits with a purple splash. It's a unique color combination for tomatoes and guaranteed to prompt questions from friends and neighbors.

I've been growing the heirloom "Speckled Roman" paste tomato for years and love the meaty texture and large size. Now there's a hybrid version with better production and fewer problems. "Red Torch" features smaller red fruits mottled with yellow stripes on vigorous plants. A similar looking cherry tomato is "Supernova." Bred at Cornell University, it has the same unique external and internal coloring as "Red Torch," but is cherry tomato-sized.

Now for this week's tip: instead of getting your loved one cut flowers for Valentine's Day, consider an easy-to-grow potted beauty. Some red colored plants include Anthurium, moth orchids and chili peppers. The first two are easy to grow houseplants. Chili peppers are attractive and edible, adding a little spice to the celebration.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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