The case for tomato transplants. February 11, 2009Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: growing tomatoes, Tomato Casual, tomato seeds, tomato transplants, tomatoes
Time was when the backyard gardener had two choices: buy a flat of six identical tomato transplants—usually hybrids like ‘Early Girl’, ‘Better Boy’, or, if you were lucky, ‘Sweet 100′—from the local garden center, Agway, or hardware store, or, if you wanted more interesting varieties (technically, cultivars, cultivated varieties), grow them yourself from seed. But what if your garden space was limited and you wanted to grow, say, 10 to 12 different varieties, one plant of each? You either had to buy 10 to 12 seed packets and plant one seed from each packet, or you were the hell out of luck.
Fortunately for all us small-space gardeners, things have changed dramatically in the tomato universe in the past few years. Garden centers have expanded their transplant offerings to include more interesting varieties. And mail-order transplants are becoming more and more available.
Our friend Ben is lucky, since I live relatively near James Weaver’s Meadowview Farm in Bowers, Pennsylvania. Jim Weaver loves heirloom veggies, and grows numerous types of transplants of tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, eggplants, melons, cukes, squash, and much more, along with herbs, annuals, and a nursery of perennials, shrubs, and trees, as well as offering decorative containers, homemade jams, jellies, and canned goods, customized hot pepper powders, and much, much more. For many years, Silence Dogood, Richard Saunders and I have made the annual spring trek out to Meadowview to select our tomatoes, peppers, decorative hot peppers, nasturtiums, herbs, golden zucchini, ‘Lemon’ and pickling cukes, melons, and ‘Moon and Stars’ watermelon transplants (OFB and Silence) and the hottest hot pepper transplants known to man or beast (Richard).
Thanks to Jim Weaver and Meadowview Farm, our friend Ben has never had to order transplants through the mail. But I’ve been most impressed with the selection of tomato transplants offered by an ever-widening group of highly reputable mail-order companies. If any of you have experience with mail-order transplants, please share it with us!
Meanwhile, here are some sources you should definitely check out if you’d like to go the “one or two of each but really wonderful varieties, please” route:
Totally Tomatoes (www.totallytomato.com): Offers tomato and pepper transplants; minimum purchase is eight plants, four each of two varieties of eight of a single variety. They also offer a number of collections, including the Brandywine Collection, Heirloom Tomato Collection, Paste Tomato Collection, Lil Bit Tomato Collection, Big and Little Tomato Collection, and Main Crop Tomato Collection. Since you’re still getting four plants of each type, you might want to go in with a friend (or four).
Burpee (www.burpee.com): The venerable seed house now offers transplants of most of its tomatoes, three plants per variety, as well as collections like Burpee’s Hot Tomato Collection (no, they’re not fiery hot, just “hot” new introductions), Best of Show Tomato Collection, Burpee’s Tomato Sampler, Burpee’s Tomato Hall of Fame, and Heirloom Taste Tomato Collection. Burpee’s collections include one of each plant, or you can order a double collection with two of each variety.
Seeds of Change (www.seedsofchange.com): Certified organic and committed to preserving biodiversity and supporting sustainable organic agriculture, Seeds of Change takes the higher moral ground. If you’re not pressed for cash and want to put your money where your principles are, check out their Heirloom Tomato Seedlings. You can buy their collection of six excellent organic heirloom transplants as a one-plant-each set or save by buying two of each.
Territorial Seed Company (www.territorialseed.com): Territorial offers a wonderful selection of tomato transplants, including lots of heirlooms. Best of all, you can buy them by the plant for just $3.25 each. Check it out!
White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com): Hard to believe but true, the venerable perennial firm White Flower Farm has gotten into tomato transplants in a big way. Check out their Tomatomania Collection, Early Pickers Collection, Tomato Sampler, Heirloom Sampler, and huge assortment of individual tomato plants, including lots of heirlooms (available individually or in groups of three). As you might expect from an upscale company, the plants aren’t exactly cheap—$6.95 each or three for $19.95—but if you’ve got the money, they certainly have the selection.
Hmmm. Our friend Ben sees that a number of my very favorite seed companies aren’t represented here. That’s because they don’t offer transplants. But they do offer a ton of wonderful tomato seeds, and they all offer free catalogues as well. Our friend Ben suggests that you request their catalogues if you don’t already have them, and think about following up with a seed order: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com), Johnny’s Selected Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com), Abundant Life Seeds (www.abundantlifeseeds.com), Park Seed Company (www.parkseed.com), Renee’s Garden (www.reneesgarden.com), and last but certainly not least, Tomato Growers Supply Comapny (www.tomatogrowers.com).
If you have other favorites our friend Ben has overlooked, please let me know! Check out my earlier post, “Ben Picks Ten: Tomatoes,” for my own top tomato choices. And if you aren’t familiar with the tomatocentric blog, Tomato Casual (www.tomatocasual.com), check it out for “all things tomato.” Happy tomato growing!