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My method for growing tomatoes from seed

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in gardening, tomatoes galore | 0 comments

Even after all these years in the garden I am awestruck that a tiny seed, not even ¼ inch long, can not only grow into an eight foot tall plant, but also provide us with something so incredibly delicious and healthy to eat!

Growing anything from seed is a magical experience. Growing tomatoes from seed provides the magic and allows you to grow some special varieties that you won’t find at most nurseries or seedling sales (there’s no way they can have them all)!

To start tomatoes from seed you need to have seeds, growing medium, light, a warm place for the seeds to grow, water and some plastic bags.

The growing medium for seed should not be garden soil or potting soil. Don’t use anything that has fertilizer in it. I use a mixture of equal parts peat, perlite and vermiculite. These ingredients are all easily found at the local nursery.

The growing medium needs to be kept consistently warm, about 85 degrees. It needs to remain moist but not soggy. Once I plant the seeds ¼ inch into the medium I cover the seedling trays loosely with plastic but do not tie or close the bags. They should not be airtight.

When the seedlings emerge I introduce light. Keep the light about 4 inches from the tiny leaves. Fertilizing begins when the second set of leaves, called true leaves appear. In about 30 days the seedlings will be ready to moved to larger containers.

Before planting outdoors you want to harden off the seedlings, exposing them to increasing amounts of sun and wind.

Seedlings can be transplanted into the ground once the soil temperature is consistently about 55 degrees and daytime air temperatures remain between 70 – 75 degrees.

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Rough Weather Got You Worried About Your Tomato Garden This Year?

Posted by on Mar 4, 2014 in classes, News and Events, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Don’t despair – Knowing how to prepare your soil and water effectively will allow your tomato garden to flourish this summer!

It’s been a tough winter across the country…Some are enduring one polar vortex after another and here on the west coast, with almost no snow to speak of, we’re wondering how we’re going to be able to garden at all without any water.

It’s sad to think that we may have to amend our gardening plans and possibly not enjoy that activity that brings us so much pleasure, not to mention really tasty gifts from the garden this summer!

Don’t despair, though. Knowing how to water your tomatoes and how to make your soil work for you will allow you to grow a great crop this year!

Whether you’re a tomato novice or a seasoned grower in the Southern California area,  you’ll want to learn how to grow in this unique growing climate. That’s why we’re offering our garden tour and TOMATO ‘SSENTIALS class at a reduced price this year. We want you to be successful in the garden, not just wishing you could be! The class will be held on Sunday, March 16, in the Tomato Matters Garden. In this class you’ll learn Six “Ssential” Steps for Tomato Success, yes, the ‘Ssentials for growing great tomatoes!

There’s lots of new information so the class is perfect for the first time grower as well as those experienced gardeners who need a refresher or to be updated. You’ll go home with a complete handout and a tomato plant to get your garden started.

Best of all, we’ve lowered the price of the class so more people can participate. Even more great tomato information at a better price. You don’t want to miss it!

For time, price and to reserve your spot for this fun morning in the garden, click here.  See you in the garden!

Tomato Growing Essentials


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Spider Mites…ugh!

Posted by on Dec 4, 2013 in gardening, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Spider Mites 002Spider Mites – Common yet mighty pests in the garden.


Spider Mites feed on just about anything…fruit trees, vines, ornamental plants and vegetables.  There are various types and colorings of Spider Mites, but what you really need to know is that they are undesirable in the garden and no matter the type of Mite, their damage is similar as are the steps you can take to control them.


Spider Mites are difficult to see without magnification.  They’re tiny. But, they live in colonies, sometimes made up of hundreds of Mites and that’s what you’ll see when there’s an infestation.  They tend to colonize on the underside of leaves so it’s often the telltale webbing that you’ll discover first.


In cold areas, Spider Mites overwinter in layers of tree bark or in piles of garden droppings and trash. In warmer areas, where plants remain green (Southern California gardeners take note) they can feed and reproduce throughout the year.  Either way, when the weather is warm, Spider Mites lay their eggs.  It doesn’t take long for the next generation to appear.


Spider Mites prefer dry, dusty conditions. You’ll often see them first along the outer edges of the garden or on plants that are water stressed.   Their damage is first visible as stippling on the leaves. Affected leaves will eventually yellow, red or brown and fall off.  You’ll see webbing over areas of leaves, often at the tips of branches.  They not only cause leaf damage but can also cause direct damage to the fruit or vegetable pods.


If you suspect a Spider Mite infestation the first action to take is to confirm it.  Shake an affected leaf over a piece of white paper.  When mites are present they move quickly.  Only think about treating when the mites are present.  In minor occurrences of Spider Mites insecticidal soaps or oils or even sprays of water may keep them under control.  Please heed this warning:  There are many sprays on the market said to control Spider Mites.  These should only be used as a last resort as they are not only often ineffective, but they target the natural predators of Spider Mites as well as the Mites themselves. This, in fact, then allows Spider Mite reproduction to increase.


Spider Mites 001The best ways to manage Spider Mites are with biological and cultural controls.  Adding natural predators to the garden is the most effective way to control Spider Mites and most other pests.  The predatory insects are available for purchase and release at many garden shops or online.  They are easy to use and highly effective in maintaining control of harmful insects.


In terms of cultural controls try to keep plants from being water stressed.  That can be difficult for tomato growers since they should be kept on the slightly dry side.  If you can keep surrounding areas moist and dust free it will help.  Water down the pathways now and then.  Be sure to keep garden areas tidy and rubbish free.  This is helpful in controlling all sorts of things you would rather not have taking up residence in your garden.


Whether you’re growing a Fall garden or just looking ahead to Spring, it’s worth it to take the time now to be sure the garden is neat and tidy.  It’s one simple step you can take that will help prevent future problems.

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The Seed Catalog Conundrum

Posted by on Jan 14, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

 Choosing the right seed catalogs and seeds to fit your garden and lifestyle needs.

Choosing seeds to grow for your garden can be an overwhelming task. There are so many seed catalogs to choose from, each with pages of vegetables that all sound fabulous.  I’m going to share with you how I approach the task  and make it less daunting, keeping the fun in the process.

seed catalogsIn anticipation of buying seed or putting in a garden you need to give it some careful thought and really consider your needs, space and desires. A little advance planning will help keep your thoughts clear and will be more useful than you can imagine.

Even before you select the seed, I suggest you weed out some of the seed catalogs.  They may all be pretty but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same.  This is the perfect time to remember not to judge a book by its cover!

As soon as the calendar turns to January, my mailbox fills up with seed catalogs, booklets and pamphlets and I’m sure yours does, too.  I’ve decided that if I use a simple system I can make selecting seed almost as enjoyable as planting and growing the crops themselves.

So, here’s my plan and I think it will work for you, too.

Some seed companies are easier to work with than others. There are those that I’ve worked with in the past and had a good experience.  I know they have a quality product that meets or exceeds my personal standards. So, I begin with the ones I know and trust.  I also know that if I have questions, they will gladly and within a reasonable amount of time answer them – even if I call multiple times.  When considering seed catalogs, I urge you to invest a few minutes and see who gives the customer service you may need.  Call up and ask a question or send an email to see how long it takes for a reply.

Do you have some idea of what you want to grow? Knowing what you want to grow might help narrow down which seed catalogs have what you are looking for.  Some catalogs are all about one vegetable while others will offer seed for a cornucopia of crops. Start with the definite’s and then later you can look at the others. Obviously, I’m rather tomato obsessive. The seed catalogs that feature mostly tomatoes are very appealing to me.  I know that whoever assembled the publication and all that it offers “gets” me.

I try to flip through each catalog as soon as it arrives.  A pile of them on the counter will frustrate me and I would probably just throw them all away.  Handling them when they arrive eliminates the mess.  So, as I’m flipping through I’m looking at pictures. I want to see beautiful photographs of every single thing they offer. This is not a time when I want to use my imagination.  Photos need to be in color! Black and white means nothing to me in terms of tomatoes or any other vegetables.catalog page

I like seed catalogs that offer several varieties of each vegetable. I want choices.  No matter which one I’m looking at, the descriptive paragraph needs to be concise and full of details.  I want to know some basic information about each variety like whether it’s a hybrid or an heirloom, the approximate days to maturity, and anything they can tell me about growing habits. In the case of tomatoes it will also indicate whether the plant is Indeterminate” or “Determinate”, referring  to the plant’s pattern of growth and setting fruit. I also want to know something about the plant that reflects the writer’s personal experience. With so many varieties sounding so fabulous, something about flavor, shape or how the vegetable is used can be very helpful.

Lastly, I want to look at the catalogs from the brand new companies. These are probably somewhat limited but companies that are young are usually really on top of what’s new.  They’re enthusiastic and eager to share all that they know and do.

Once you’ve narrowed down which catalogs to devote your time to you’re ready to use page markers, sticky arrows or post its to keep track of what interests you most.

I’m going to give you a day or two to get to this point.  In my next post, we’ll explore how to narrow it down to which seeds you want to order and grow. I suspect that you’re probably already on overload so let’s break this down into small steps.  You’ve got a little bit of time.

To be continued…..


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Gardener’s Holiday Wish List Day 7 – Ultimate Plant Clips

Posted by on Dec 12, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I have absolutely fallen in love with these little green things.  These innovative plant clips are perfect for gently holding tomato branches up to stakes or cages.  They are roomy enough to steady the central stem without cutting into the plant like some materials will.Ultimate Plant Clips

Ultimate Plant Clips snap together easily and attach to plants without any tying or twisting. One of the reasons that’s important is it’s hard to tie or twist with gloves on but attaching these really is a snap!  Removing them when they’re no longer needed is just as simple. The best part, though, is that they are reusable.  Use them from one season to the next so there’s less clean up and waste from your garden.

These wonderful little plant clips were designed by Global Garden Friends who you can easily find on Facebook.  In addition, they’ll soon be available for purchase here at Tomato Matters!

No matter where you buy your plant clips, you’ll want to be sure to order more than a few. Your favorite gardener will love using them all over the garden.

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