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Tomato Planting Time in the Greenhouse

April 29, 2013

While I rarely water the outside garden crops, the greenhouses are a different matter.  We know we need to irrigate in these growing spaces, so we plant much more intensively in the greenhouses.  As with most things, the prep work sometimes takes more time than the actual task at hand.  Installing the mulch and soaker hoses took  more time than the actual tomato planting.  I’ve had good luck with the SRM red plastic mulch with our tomatoes, and found that it is tough enough to get more than one years use, if I’m careful when it is removal time.

My trellis twine is already in place tied off on the purlins, so my plant spacing is already determined.  This saves a step in marking the plastic mulch at planting intervals.  Once I decide which variety goes where, I can just set out the plants accordingly.


At this point my plants need potting on or planting.  The weather report looks to be clear with no chance of frost so I’ve decided to gamble and plant.  We will have cool nights for a while yet, but the combination of pre-warmed soil and mulch should provide enough warmth to get the tomatoes off to a good start.  If I was to plant outside I would be waiting at least another month, and even then I would not be sure I would harvest many ripe tomatoes by seasons end.

The planting is fairly straightforward,  tear a hole in the mulch with your fingers, and plant.  At this time while I can get my hands in there, I check to make sure the hose is correctly positioned.


Earlier, we planted small beds of greens in between the spaces where the tomatoes would eventually be planted.  These areas will not be mulched, leaving us some room for continued succession plantings of greens.

As the tomatoes grow they make great shade for salad greens even in the heat of the summer.  Yesterday I saw a symphylan heading for cover when I planted this Juliet tomato.  I suspect I will have a very stunted tomato plant growing here with the most flavorful tomatoes evah.  This one spot is notorious for the little creatures and the stress they put on the tomato plant really makes for an odd plant with a tasty set of fruit.  Apparently arugula and Senposai greens aren’t to their liking 😉


As always, we’ve got a mix of OP and hybrid varieties.  Some new to us and some old reliables.

Planted yesterday indeterminates only:

Costoluto Genovese – Cook’s Garden, Seeds of Italy, Seeds of Change, Salt Springs Seeds and our own saved seed.
Pantano Romanesco – Seeds of Italy, and our own saved seed.
Japanese Black Trifele – Johnny’s.
New GirlF1 – Johnny’s
JulietF1 – Johnny’s
JasperF1 – Johnny’s
SunSugarF1 – Totally Tomatoes

Next tomato planting – determinate varieties.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. RockinLady permalink
    April 29, 2013 12:51 pm

    How many of each variety do you plant?

    • April 29, 2013 1:02 pm

      RL, I planted 16 Costoluto as those are my main sauce and salsa toms, the rest are range from 2 to 4, and I’ll plant about 16 determinates as well. I had room for 34 indeterminates using 4′ spacing. I’ll have enough for us, some to sell, and some to barter or give away.

  2. Chris permalink
    April 29, 2013 1:11 pm

    Great lookin tomatoe plants…you’re so lucky you’ve got that wonderful greenhouse to plant early in. The rest of us won’t see a plant outside yet for quite sometime. Since our summers aren’t warm enough here either in western washington and because I don’t have a greenhouse, I only plant the itty bitty varietes…our fave…Sungold, so far!
    Where do you sell your produce, etc.?

    • April 29, 2013 1:44 pm

      Chris, I know, I never could get more than a taste of tomatoes until we built the greenhouse. Once in a while, maybe but never enough to process. It’s astounding how many pounds of tomatoes it takes to make a quart of tomato sauce 😦

      Just through word of mouth – nothing earth shattering 🙂

  3. Chris permalink
    April 29, 2013 3:20 pm

    Man, I sure wish we lived nearby!! I would LOVE to buy some of your lucious looking produce and of course the beef. We do have someone close by that raises grass fed like you do and we split with our neighbors! 🙂

  4. Lorna permalink
    April 29, 2013 4:54 pm

    I’ve only ever ‘staked’ tomatoes, so I’m curious–how do you use the trellis twine with them? Do you tie the twine to the plants, or clip the plants to the twine, or something else all-together?! I’m hoping to have a greenhouse up next year and would absolutely want to grow tomatoes in there–your system sounds great, so I’d love to duplicate it.

  5. Theresa Katuski permalink
    April 29, 2013 6:57 pm

    Great info, thank you. I wonder, how old are those toms already? What are your irrigation lines hooked up to? (water source, pump type, hose size)
    Thanks to you and your wonderful demos, I will manage to get stuff done with some success; without having to go to Hort 101 University!
    I am truly grateful for the guiding hand your posts can provide to us “know-nots”. Heheh

    • April 30, 2013 5:22 am

      Theresa, I started them on March 14th, so about 6 weeks. I use the municipal water for the greenhouse, it is a gravity system, and currently I’m using soaker hoses instead of drip irrigation. I water the tomatoes once a week until the first week of August and then I stop. We use the spring water for our us and our cattle, and that system uses water power to pump water to a storage tank which gravities to the household, barns, and greenhouses.
      Our low tech water system:

  6. April 29, 2013 10:16 pm

    DAAANG…..your tomatoes are hearty looking suckers. Dispite the grow light my tomatoes came out leggier than a New York runway model. How did you get yours to grow so stoutly?

    • April 30, 2013 5:12 am

      Erika, thanks, I start mine in the unheated greenhouse, bottom heat, natural light, they grow a little slower, but they are stocky!

  7. April 30, 2013 1:29 pm

    Okay, I live up here by Seattle and spent years looking at green tomatoes in August and getting annoyed. So last year I built individual greenhouses around them of whatever plastic I could find – old clear soil bags, leftover contractors plastic, leftover greenhouse plastic – etc.
    I fertilized with fish concentrate (diluted, a’course) for the first month the starts were outside (started them inside from saved seed until about 6 weeks old…or 7 inches tall) and protected them well from cold.
    I pruned really aggressively and deep watered once a week. Mulch mulch mulch. Stopped watering about the start of August, too.
    And I got tons of red tomatoes.
    I am trying this again this year, as I’m on different land, with a few tweaks. It has been the ONLY thing that works to get red tomatoes or peppers in this area. At least for me!
    I am just so jealous of your beautiful greenhouse – I would love to plant rows and rows of tomato plants!

    • April 30, 2013 2:59 pm

      Lindsey, I know exactly what you mean, I spent the first half of my whole gardening life, growing green tomatoes! I bought canning tomatoes from the tomato growers down the road, who raise tomatoes commercially in heated greenhouses – they start theirs in January and have ripe tomatoes for farmers market before the 4th of July, not bad for 1000′ elevation. I would not want their heating bill, but their tomatoes are delicious despite being coddled pets. I like having my own though it’s well worth the effort. My girlfriend made individual A-frame greenhouses for her tomatoes out of the polycarbonate sheets and 1 x 2’s. Easy to move around and work with, although this year they bit and put together one of Johnny’s moveable high tunnels.

      The nights are just too cool in the PNW, we don’t get the heat units in the short time we have to get ripe tomatoes before the fall rains set in.

      Congrats on your tomato harvest last year!

  8. Nicky permalink
    April 30, 2013 5:44 pm

    Hi When it comes to the easiest greenhouse to construct and the cheapest. I use 1-2 inch PVC pipe. Without getting technical, I cut the pvc pipe to about 14 foot long. Pound some rebar into the ground about 12 foot apart and bend the pipe over. This gives me a nice “hoop”. I do a second and then a 3rd about 3 feet apart and keep going for as long as I want my tunnel. I cover my tunnel with a big sheet of plastic and weigh down the sides with my old chicken feed bags, filled with dirt. Ths works very well and gives me a place to harden off my starts. I also grow my peppers in there as they need the heat. Not fancy, but it works.
    Here in CA we have had almost no rain this winter and I have had to redesign my garden completely. My water is from a natural spring which will dry up around the beginning of Aug. So I have planted lots of spring veg a good 3-4 foot apart and inbetween have set out a tomato plant. I will have enough water to get them off to a good start and then when the water runs out, dry farm. Very interested to see what happens as this is the first time I am trying this way of growing. Very sad though, no corn this year! But, I now have over 800 tomato plants! I think I might just have enough for a little canning this year!

  9. May 1, 2013 11:37 am

    Our flotsam is a little different. There was no farm building on our land, but what we do have is quite a few relics from the war – gas masks, exploded bomb cases, an old rifle and we had an unexploded grenade removed from our land one year by the bomb squad. It just goes to show what happened in our area 70 years ago, only five of the original buildings in our village are still standing, so I’m told.

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