The Secret To A Great Tomato

The secret to a great tomato is to grow it yourself. Whether you have one pot growing outside your backdoor or a large vegetable garden in the country, there is nothing as rewarding as the flavor of a freshly picked and sliced tomato, sprinkled with a little sea salt and perhaps drizzled with extra virgin olive oil that mingles with the tomato juices.

Vine Ripe Tomatoes From Our Garden
Vine Ripe Tomatoes From Our Garden

Ask anyone who has a summer vegetable garden what their favorite crop is and the answer will usually be tomatoes. For all the pleasures of growing the perfect tomato that you will talk about for years, tomatoes may be one of the most challenging crops to grow because of weather, disease, and critters. In the end, is it worth it…absolutely.

I like to grow mostly heirloom (heritage) tomatoes. While not as disease resistant as many of the new hybrid tomatoes that are available today, I grow them because I believe their incredible flavor can’t be beat. There is certainly no comparison between a homegrown heirloom tomato and the perfectly shaped, blemish free but totally tasteless red ones that you buy in your local grocery store.

I start my tomatoes from seeds, either in late March or early April, germinating them in my home. Once the plants have their first two sets of true leaves, they are then moved out to my heated potting shed. They are coddled while they are growing under lights for sixteen hours a day. When they are three inches tall, they are transplanted to four inch pots and then later into six inch pots. Once the weather has turned warm enough, I take them out of the potting shed for a few hours each day to harden off  and get used to the weather they will face when they are planted outdoors.

At the end of May when the weather is warm enough for the tomatoes to be planted, we place the large tomato plants in our car which we nickname “the rolling green house” for the occasion and make the two hour drive from our New Hampshire home to our summer home in Maine where they will then be planted in our lakeside garden.

Tomato Plants Buckled In The Backseat With More Headroom
Tomato Plants Buckled In The Backseat With More Headroom

Unfortunately, the weather this year has not been ideal for planting the vegetable garden. There have been heavy rains, temperature swings from the 50’s to the 90’s and back again and 30 mph winds. We decided that it was best to delay the planting and used another “rolling green house” of sorts until the weather improved.

John Deere Wagon Used As  A Rolling Green House
John Deere Wagon Used As “A Rolling Green House”

All the tomatoes were placed in the wagon of my John Deere garden tractor. During the day, the wagon was placed in a sheltered location out of the wind and where there was lots of sunshine. At night, the tomatoes were rolled into our garden shed. After several days, we decided to plant half of the tomatoes and some of the herbs in the garden after amending the beds with eight cubic feet of composted cow manure and peat moss.

Planting The Tomato Garden
Planting The Tomato Garden

We saved one tomato from each variety to bring back to the potting shed in New Hampshire until tropical storm Andrea had cleared the area.

Almost Three Feet Tall Tomato Plants With Blossoms Ready To Go Into The Garden
Almost Three Feet Tall Tomato Plants With Blossoms Ready To Go Into The Garden

The nearly three feet tall plants are being considered insurance…if the wind and heavy rain has damaged the tomatoes we have planted, we will still have nine tomato plants that can replace them next week when the weather improves. After all, I can’t image going without homegrown tomatoes. Just think of the pasta sauces, sandwiches, salads and other meals to be made all summer long with delicious tomatoes.

Caprese Salad
Caprese Salad

If  you grow tomatoes, do you worry about and baby your plants like they were your children?   I would love to know your secret to a great tomato.

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272 thoughts on “The Secret To A Great Tomato

  1. oh my… I’ve grown a lot of tomatoes in the past and you’re right, there is nothing like picking a really ripe tomato off the vine and biting into it and then wiping your chin with your sleeve. (okay maybe that’s just me)

    I don’t think I have any secrets on you where tomatoes are concerned.

    1. Hi Maureen, I’m glad you agree with me about the terrific taste of a homegrown tomato. I’m looking forward to this year’s crop.

    1. Hi Angie, The first photo is one day’s harvest from last year. I’ve just planted half of my plants and the rest will be planted at the end of this week when all the rain has stopped. 🙂

    1. Hi Eva, I’m hoping we get a good crop of tomatoes this year. I don’t think I could give up growing tomatoes…they are so much a part of summer. 🙂

  2. I like your idea for saving back some plants for “insurance”.
    I wish I had extra plants for back-up. We lost two already to ??? I found them literally snipped in half the following morning after planting. Of course, mine were not as robust and large as yours.
    It will be interesting to see what survives this year. It’s been a very challenging spring for us. I couldn’t imagine having a hurricane on top of that-LOL!
    Have a wonderful week, Karen!
    : )

    1. Hi Sue, We really debated about planting any of the tomato plants because of the weather. Sorry you have already lost two plants. I start my plants early and they are always pretty large when they go into the ground because we get such high winds coming off the lake in Maine. Let’s hope we both get a nice crop from our gardens this year. Have a lovely week as well, Sue. 🙂

  3. Karen, I believe your are the only person that I know that goes through so much lovely trouble in order to be able to harvest those unbeatably delicious homegrown tomatoes, respect! I love everything about this post, the pictures, the way you describe what you do and the thinking behind your taking the initiative to plant those tomatoes!
    Thank you also for letting me know about those (darn) comment problems – I had my IT guy check out every possible problem/solution and the only explanation that he has is that there must be a problem that happens when you log in/register…other than that, no solutions…
    In the meantime, I shall hope for the best and wish you a lovely Monday!

    1. Hi Andrea, Maybe I’m just a little too overprotective of my tomatoes. You raise them like children…you baby them but one day they have to go out and face the real word. 🙂 I’m happy that you enjoyed the post. As to my problem with commenting on bloggers who are part of Blogspot or Blogger, I think your IT guy is right…I think it has something to do with the systems not recognizing my WP log in/register. Sometimes there are no problems and other times I can’t comment on anyone’s posts. I do appreciate all the time you put into checking it out…thank you!

  4. Karen this is a very interesting post…. I have yet to have success with tomato plants that I’ve bought from either the farmer’s market or the local garden centre. The BEST ones I grow are actually self sown… mostly cherry tomatoes of various sizes. I sooooooo miss the Ox hearts and other heirloom varieties my father used to grow. Perhaps once I retire I will have time to follow your lead with growing from seed. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Hi Lizzy, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I have to agree with you about having problems with tomato plants bought at garden centers…they never seem to be as healthy as the ones I start from seed. The other problem that I have is that the growing season in Maine is so short. The plants available to buy are just too small to get a good size crop ripened before the first frost that comes the first part of October. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  5. Love your tomato garden Karen. You really know what you are doing. We don’t have much room in our herb/flower garden, but we do grow about three or four tomatoes each year. Our favorite is an Indian heirloom – the Cherokee Purple. It is hard to grow because it is a big heavy tomato and wants to pull down the vines. I grew up in tomato country in south Arkansas where the Pink Tomato was king and there’s nothing like a home grown tomato.

    1. Thank you Sam, for your nice compliment. I grow Cherokee Purple each year as well. You are right about the heavy chop pulling down the vines. Not only do I plant my heirlooms in cages but the cages are held in place with 8 foot metal fence posts. Later in the season, they will also be tried to the wooden fence behind them because of the weight of the tomatoes. I’ve grown an Arkansas tomato before…I believe it was called Arkansas Traveler.

  6. We are growing tomatoes this year. Two types of large heirlooms and one cherry tomato heirloom. They are doing great so far. I agree with you about the taste of heirloom, so much better! I hope you get beautiful tomatoes this year 🙂

    1. Hi Ann, I hope you have a great crop of tomatoes this year. I’m growing three kinds of cherry tomatoes…Black Cherry, Sun Gold and Super Sweet l00’s. You can usually count on them to ripen before the heirlooms. All four cherries had blossoms on them when they were planted.

  7. We grow Heirlooms from seeds and tend to do exactly what you have done – put some out and hold some back. We love the taste of the Heirlooms and just cope with the bugs and blight and hope for a large enough crop to satisfy our appetite for fresh tomatoes. Hope our weather eases up a little for both of us. 🙂

    1. Hi Judy, Let’s hope the weather improves…with all this rain, I’ll be on the lookout for signs of stress and disease. What we need is some nice sunshine to stay around. My husband goes out early every morning to check each plant…he also does tomato hornworm patrol. Hoping we both have a successful crop of delicious tomatoes…thanks.

  8. So true Karen, home grown tomatoes are certainly something else!! It’s the middle of Winter in Sydney at the moment, and I’m still somehow growing tomatoes, they’re green but we’re getting enough sunlight during the day to turn them red (or so I keep hoping and will keep my fingers and toes crossed 😉 )

    1. Good for you Lisa, I’m impressed that you still growing tomatoes now that it is winter in your part of the world. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you as well. 🙂

  9. Oh yes, I baby my tomatoes (and eggplants) seedlings also, onto the driveway during sunny and not too windy days, into the garage at night. I too plant heirloom tomatoes but this year I am also planting one blight resistant variety.
    Agree, there is nothing like the taste of a home grown, vine ripened, heirloom tomato.
    Love the stone walls surrounding your tomato bed. Must have taken you a while to collect all those rocks and then build the walls, beautiful job. .

    1. Hi Norma, I’m happy that you are among the ranks of the plant babying group. I thought about buying one of the grafted tomatoes this year to try but they are very expensive. I would love to know if they are anymore resistant to blight. Maybe one of the gardeners we read will give them a try. I had late blight hit my plants last year but I had already gotten more tomatoes than we could eat. I’m concerned about all the rain causing disease problems this year, I hope I am wrong. We bought a pallet of stones to line the garden with as we like the natural look it gives…I’m glad you like them.

  10. Everything you say is so true Karen. I am doing some experimenting in my garden this year….growing some of my tomato plants in straw bales instead of the ground…so far so good…the tomatoes in the bales are three times taller than the ones in the ground! Now…..if I just had a second house in Maine on a lake…..hmmmm.

    1. Hi Teresa, I’ll be interested to hear about how your bale tomatoes do compared the the ones in the ground at the end of the season. The bales certainly eliminate soil born disease problems. Do you cage or stake the tomatoes that grow in the bales? I’m a lucky girl to have the cottage on the lake…it does make summer special.

  11. I only know three things about growing tomatoes well:
    – use soaker hoses – tomatoes like to be watered at the roots
    – pick off the suckers for (fewer) larger fruits
    – you can’t plant them deeply enough
    OK, four things: a tomato sandwich in summer is food of the gods.

    1. Hi Kathy, I have to agree with you on all four counts…especially a tomato sandwich. My husband and I count the days until we can have our first bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich of summer. 🙂

  12. I used to think benign neglect was the only way I could guarantee great tomatoes. And maybe that’s true of the cherry tomato pots I keep on the back porch. But attention — watering, pinching, weeding — is all I can do to up my odds. (Scarecrows really help, too.)

    1. Rosemary, you gave me such a chuckle this morning with your “benign neglect” secret to a great tomato. I’ve never tried a scarecrow in the garden…I wonder if squirrels, chipmunks and ground hogs are afraid of them. I don’t know, they are pretty brazen critters. 🙂

  13. Boy I wish I had a good answer as mine are not great yet….I need to give mine a little less light and maybe a bit of fertilizer to develop better leaves indoors. I do baby mine. I am using manure tea spray and seaweed fertilizer this year and they seem to be responding. Both are said to help with disease resistance. I will let you know. Yours look so good already.

    1. Hi Donna, Another plant babier…yea! I was thinking of trying seaweed fertilizer this year as so many of the products come from New England. I’ll be interested how you think it works. My plants are very healthy right now, I just hope they stay that way.

  14. Hi Karen – first I want to say that it looks like you live in “heaven” during the summer ! As always, loved your post – and the wonderful photos. I’ve been having problems with a woodchuck who lives under my barn – he really “goes to town” when I’m “out of town”. I guess he thinks he’s In Charge when I’m away – but your post has motivated me to try again !

    1. Hi Cecile, Our summers in Maine really are special. I’ve never done a post about what the lake looks like from the water, I’ll have to do that this summer. I’m very sorry to hear that you have woodchuck (groundhog) problems. Have you tried a Havahart trap to try and catch it. If you haven’t, try putting a few slices of apples in one. Once you catch it, release it in an area several miles away. Just never leave it out at night because you will catch a skunk…believe me, I know from experience. 😦

      1. I loved it last year because Mrs. Skunk moved and had her babies under my barn. She wasn’t afraid of people and would come out and eat the cat food which I leave out for a stray even when people were outside. Now the groundhog is back… He/she won’t go in the Havaheart trap… so it’s possible it was trapped before. I did, however, catch an opposum – which is far better than a skunk ! Can’t wait to receive your post with photos of what the lake looks like when you’re on the water. I love Maine !! ; o )

      2. Critters…they can be such a problem. I will definitely do a post with photos about the lake…it reminds me of the movie “On Golden Pond”, especially because we have loons that swim just off shore from our little beach.

    1. Thank you Larry, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I’m sorry that your tomatoes aren’t starting out well. It will be interesting to see how our tomatoes that have already been planted do as we are supposed to get several more inches of hard rain tonight. I’m happy that I have “insurance tomatoes” just in case. I hope you get a good crop from your garden this year.

  15. Your photos are marvelous. Our garden is producing wonderful veggies this year; however, it has been very overcast (VERY strange for southern Texas) and our tomatoes are not as happy as the rest of the garden. We brought back seeds from tomatoes we ate in Spain and they are growing so we are excited about that. Lovely garden……..with there was a lake and the end of mine!!!

    1. Thank you Tin Man, for your nice compliment. It is unusual for southern Texas to be overcast…hope you start getting a little more sunshine. I know we sure do need some. Seeds from Spain, how terrific! Our garden is in a lovely location but we get lots of wind coming off the lake which can be challenging for growing plants, especially when they are young and tender. When they are tall, the wind can pull them right out of the ground so be careful what you wish for. 🙂

  16. I agree but I don’t have much luck with tomatoes. Not enough sunlight I guess so I stick with mostly herbs. I get them from the next best thing though, the Farmers’ Market!

    1. Hi Liza, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice comment. Sunshine is so important for growing good tomatoes. There are several varieties of tomatoes that are perfect for pots and hanging baskets. Perhaps you could experiment with one of them. You are right, farmer’s markets are wonderful when you can’t grow your own.

  17. We too grow our own tomatoes. This year, hubby planted them at the cottage and unfortunately a cold weather snap came in and kind-of hurt them. Poor little babies! We’re going to give them another week and decide if we need to plant new ones. Sigh! Your tomato garden is great, by the way.

    1. Hi Lidia, I’m glad that you like our tomato garden. I’m sorry that a cold snap got to your plants a little…hopefully they will make a come back. You take such loving care of your plants, that we hate to see anything happen to them.

  18. I agree that home grown tomatoes are the best! I always choose a variety of heirlooms for my garden too. Have a wonderful week Karen!

    1. Thank you Sibella, for your lovely compliment…I’m happy that you enjoyed the post. I agree with you, tomatoes do rank number one in my garden.

  19. Hi Karen–I jumped at the picture of that platter filled full of delicious red tomatoes as I’m waiting to fill this season’s platter full down here as well. The weather has not cooperated all over the country I fear–as we are having too much rain this year as to also getting a very late start planting—crazy weather indeed.
    I do the heirlooms as well—some not being the heat, drought tolerant necessary for life in Georgia summers….but those that make it are worth the effort.
    Did I ever tell you that it has always been my dream to move to Maine? My husband and I took our son, years ago, when he was little—I fell in love then–having been back many times….I love the whole mountains and coast being so close–the best of both worlds. The buoy bell that I have hanging on my deck constantly keeps a part of Maine close to my heart, each time the wind blows 🙂 Happy growing…..

    1. Hi Julie, I hope that this year gives me another bountiful crop of tomatoes so that I can fill that platter at least every few weeks. I’m glad that you agree that the heirlooms are worth the trouble because their flavor is outstanding. In total, I have 17 plants…all heirlooms except for 4 cherries. Maine is a terrific place to spend time. Our little cottage is only 45 minutes from Portland and the mountains are nearby. I’m going to try to plan a couple of short trips this summer so that I can show everyone a little more of Maine. Thank you for your nice comment and good luck with your growing season as well.

  20. Hi Karen, this is a fabulous post! You are absolutely correct…there is nothing better than a home grown tomato…or any vegetable for that matter. Your lakeside gardens look terrific…raised beds are the way to go!

    1. Thank you David, for your kind words…I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I agree with you about the raised beds, they do help make gardening easier. We did a lot of work in the beds this spring amending the soil so I have my fingers crossed and hope it will be a good year.

  21. I grow ours from seed, minding them on a shelf in our office. Opening and closing the blinds on their window each day January (seeds sown around New Year’s) through February. They’re hardened off on porch and planted out in the setting sun early or mid March. Now if I only remembered to stake them before they got so big…

    1. Hi Allison, Thank you for stopping by for a visit. Hopefully the weather in Texas this year will be kind to your garden. I’m from Texas originally and know how hot and dry it can be some years…good luck.

      1. Thanks! We’ve had an unseasonably “spring like” spring this year. Nothing like last year (and definitely NOTHING like 2011.) They might survive til September this year 😉

    1. Hi Southern, I’m sure your tomatoes from the farmer’s market were great. Unfortunately the weather has been pretty rainy so far this spring. Those beautiful tomatoes you see in my first photo were from last year…I’m hoping we get a bountiful crop this year. 🙂

  22. Our spring has been wacky as well, although many of my plants seem to like it, which I don’t quite understand. The tomatoes are not in this category, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. Unfortunately our furry companion (read deer and squirrel chaser) left us a few weeks ago and without his help I’m afraid most of what I grow will be lost to invaders – those squirrels are unbelievable. Your plants look amazing. Hopefully summer will settle in soon.

    1. Hi Little Sis, For the last two years the first week or so of June has given us way too much rain and wind. Hopefully next week will bring some sunshine. I’m sorry that you are having critter problems. I hope we will both have a good gardening season…I know you are doing well with your strawberries. 🙂

  23. Karen, I am truly impressed with your gardening prowess. I think that we should “baby” all the plants we tend to, or else why grow them, right? I have expanded my edible garden a little bit this year. I only have two tomato plants in containers, yellow pear and cherry tomatoes (we prefer the little guys, eating them like grapes), and assorted other vegetables and herbs that are the “easy to grow” ones. Every morning, I visit all my vegetable plants and examine them for bugs, etc., talk to them a little and tell them to have a good day. LOL! A little TLC and they produce all summer long. Can’t beat that!


    1. Hi Daisy, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. I talk to my babies as well…every little bit helps. 🙂 I love the cherry tomatoes too. Many never make it into the kitchen. They are too tempting and sweet and get popped directly into my mouth.

  24. I agree with you completely. Not only are homegrown of better quality, but I think everything tastes better when you grow it yourself. Here in Colorado it is normally a race for me to see how many heirloom tomatoes I can harvest before the cold weather hits, but for that short space of time I am in heaven.

    1. Hi Karen, I believe homegrown vegetables taste better because we can harvest them when they are perfectly ripe and then use them immediately. I know you have a short growing season in Colorado like we do in Maine. Maybe that is why we enjoy the tomatoes so much…we know they are here for such a short amount of time. Good luck this year.

  25. I especially like the rolling green house. We are unable to really set our tomatoes out until mid to late June here in the Pacific Northwest. Then sometimes by mid to late August the temperatures start dropping during the evening! I have the best harvest with the little cherry tomatoes in these conditions. A rolling green house sounds like a great idea!

    1. Hi Tiny, I’m real happy with the “rolling green house”. I move it around all day to keep it in the sunshine. When the sun sets, the tomatoes go into the garden shed to escape the cold and wet.

  26. I planted several varieties of tomatoes in my back yard this year, partly inspired from your series of last summer. I have some in large patio pots and the rest in the ground, and have started to get a few tomatoes. That is, until some ‘critter of the night’ has discovered then. This weekend, it took bites out of several of the ripe ones. Last night, it ate entire tomato that I was going to harvest in another day or so. I found tiny bits of tomato fragment as evidence! I think it’s the possum I sometimes see walking the fence and taunting my dogs. I live in a very wooded area in Houston, so I have enough problems just finding a sunny spot! Next stop – a roll of chicken wire to build cages around the plants.

    And I don’t really like tomatoes all that much…

    1. Hi Naomi, I’m so happy to know that I was a little part of inspiring you to plant tomatoes…that is so nice. I have planted all my cherry tomatoes in large buckets again this year. I’m experimenting with a new location for them…not as much sun but less wind. I’m sorry to hear that you are having critter problems…woodchucks or groundhogs as they are know in many areas took one bite out of 26 tomatoes one year. Why couldn’t they have just eaten a couple of tomatoes completely? No…I think they wanted to compare each variety of the heirloom tomatoes I was growing. Havahart traps work well…just don’t leave them out at night or you might catch a skunk. If you catch a critter, just take it to a nice wooded area several miles away from your home so they don’t come back. I grew up in the Houston area…my parents had a ranch in Richmond, Texas.

  27. You are so right! Growing tomatoes is such a wonderful and rewarding experience. We are now in our second year and only doing a couple plants (with more to be grown starting next year). So still getting a feel for ‘best practices’. But I truly love it! 🙂

    1. Hi Kenley, If this is your second year of growing tomatoes, I’m sure you already have some ideas of what works in your area. Each year is a guessing game but I’m sure you will do good. I’m absolutely sure that you will be growing more. Each year I say I’m going to cut back but each year I find myself trying to find space for the extra tomato plants that I have. That is after I give plants to all my friends. 🙂

    1. Thank you Jo, for your lovely compliment. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post. A lot of people have great success growing tomatoes on their balcony…I’m glad you are one of them. 🙂

    1. Hi Julie, I’ glad that you agree…there is nothing better than a fresh heirloom tomato picked right off the vine in summer.

  28. Karen, what a beautiful setting for your Maine tomatoes! I can’t grow outside here but they are safe in my tunnel, doing very well just setting second truss now. I grow a mix of big heritage and F1 cherries. I start to feed them now with dilute liquid feed poured from my wormery, seems to be the key to my success anyway. Great post, thanks. Tracey

    1. Thank you Tracey, for your nice compliment…I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I do have to agree that our garden is in a pretty setting. The liquid fertilizer from your wormery sounds like the perfect boast for your tomatoes.

  29. Very nice practicum on tomato growing. These days we are out of town so much – and in our current severe drought – it is hard to provide the babying our home grown tomatoes need. I confess my fall back is the local farmers market

    1. Hi Darryl, Having grown up in Texas, I do know the problems involved in having a garden in all the heat. Add traveling to the mixture and it would be almost impossible to successfully garden. Thank goodness for our local farmers markets. Thank you for your nice compliment…I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  30. Terrific idea to use the Deere as a rolling greenhouse, especially with this crazy weather we’ve had.
    For some reason my tomatoes were a complete bust last year. I only planted 4 plants but got a total of 2
    tomatoes 😦 Ah well, I always have a couple great local farms for backup.

    1. Hi Diane, When there is a will there is a way. 🙂 My John Deere wagon is working out so well. I move it around during the day to keep the plants in the sun. At night or if it is stormy, I roll the wagon into the garden shed. I hope you have better luck this year but just in case, it is nice to have the availability of a good farm for your tomatoes.

  31. I so agree the only way to get a decent tomato is to grow it yourself! Even a lot of tomatoes I buy at farmer’s markets these days don’t have the flavor I crave. But like you, I grow heirlooms too – wonderful flavor. And interesting shapes! Luck seems to be my secret – I don’t have too many problems, thank goodness. I do always spread them out in several different beds, so if disease hits one bed, I hope it won’t make its way to the other ones. Fun post. And now you have me dreaming of picking my first tomato of the season!

    1. Hi John, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post…thank you for your nice comment. I agree with you that even the tomatoes that you buy in the farmers markets may not be great. I think sometimes they are growing the tomatoes that are disease resistant and will produce a good crop rather than the ones that have the best flavor. Luck is the best thing for success…I’m glad that you seem to have it on your side. I separate my tomatoes as well but if you get an airborne disease like late blight, it can travel for miles. My first big tomato will be going into a BLT. 🙂

    1. Hi Amy, I’m happy that you like our tomato garden. Tomatoes are delicious and I love growing them but they can be a challenge to grow at our cottage in Maine. If Mother Nature treats us kindly, we get a good crop but that is not always the case. 🙂

    1. Thank you Roger, I’m so looking forward to when I can have another one of the caprese salads. I do believe you are a little ahead of us, weather wise, so no need to be envious. If we are lucky, our first tomatoes won’t be until the end of July….something I’m really looking forward to.

  32. Where there’s a will (and you have plenty of that Karen) there is always a way! We’re lucky in Spain as they pretty much grow themeselves here. Protecting them from the very fierce heat of summer is sometimes an issue and keeping them well watered. We use sheep poo fertiliser (does the trick!). I spied some lovely basil plants on your back seat too – perfect for those tomato salads!

    1. Hi Tanya, Tomatoes that pretty much grow themselves sounds great. You did spy basil…it is the perfect companion plant to grow with the tomatoes and a perfect pairing on the plate. 🙂

  33. My two secrets – buzz pollination – I use an electric toothbrush to mimic the vibration of a bumblebee – improves tomato set, and a handful of soft rock phosphate to eliminate blossom end rot.

    FYI – the old timers told me that they would beat their tomato plants to help with pollination….it is the shaking of the flowers that aids in pollination.

    1. Hi Bishop, I have enjoyed your posts about using an electric toothbrush for pollination. With all the wind coming off our lake, I don’t have to worry about shaking the flowers. 🙂

  34. Heck yeah, homegrown tomatoes are the best! We are growing a few of each this year – beef, cherry and roma. If it’s a good tomato year, then it’s a good garden year. Tomatoes are our garden monsters and we love them dearly. Ours grow so tall we stack 2 cages on top of each other… monsters! Just spotted a few green tomatoes.. can’t wait for them to all start turning red!

    1. Hi Pamela, I am always amazed that the tiny plants that I baby turn into plants that are taller than I am. Although that isn’t too hard…must things are taller than I am. 🙂 Nice that you already have green tomatoes.

  35. Hi Karen, I’m not as good a “tomato mom” as you! I simply throw caution to the wind and plant Memorial Day weekend and the weeks following! I think I’ve planted about 12 plants (some in MA & some in ME) and I need a few more – I enjoy canning & this year I want as many tomatoes as possible to come out of my garden.

    I have yet to start from seed – maybe next year, I’m inspired by your seedlings!

    1. Hi Mary, This spring’s weather has been so wet that I’m worried the rain might cause one of the fungal diseases. I guess I might be an overprotective “tomato mom” trying to keep some of them dry and warm. 🙂 This will be an interesting experiment. I have had so much luck growing seedlings and like that I can grow varieties that I can’t get at the garden centers.

    1. Hi Mad Dog, I do put a lot of care into growing the tomatoes. Hopefully I will be rewarded this year with a good crop of delicious tomatoes.

  36. I am always sooooo jealous of your homegrown tomatoes, heirlooms, to boot. I just can’t get them to grow in this Texas heat. 😦 There just isn’t much better than a homegrown mater. 🙂

    1. Hi Richard, I know that Texas can have brutal heat in the summer making it hard to grow your own tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes don’t seem to need as much sun. Perhaps you could try growing one that would get morning sun and then afternoon shade…just a thought.

      1. Hi, Karen. We tried cherry tomatoes last year and didn’t fare any better. I have now given up. 😦 We do, however, grow wonderful chiles, herbs, spices, garlic, leeks, swiss chard, arugula, & radishes. 🙂 I still miss homegrown tomatoes because they are just soooo good when they are freshly picked, vine ripened.

  37. I have 2 cherry tomato plants that I grew myself from seed. Now, they are each 1 meter & half large & grow bigger each day! We have had 5 days of full sunshine each day & today, it is bad, rainy! I grow mine each in 1 large pot & they need tomato fertilizer too! Yours look great & I love your tasty easy recipe! Fresh tasty & yummy!

    1. Hi Sophie, I grow my cherry tomatoes in pots as well because I run out of room in my garden. It sounds like yours are doing very well…I hope you get a good crop. I love the flavors of caprese salad…simple and delicious. Thank you for your nice comment.

  38. My only “secret” is to grow heirlooms. No other tomato has ever tasted so good. And yes, I baby them as if they were my kids, lol. I think that’s a great way to put it 🙂

    I love every single thing about this post! I’m sorry the weather hasn’t cooperated (here either) but I’m sure you’ll have a great crop of tomatoes anyway.

    Ohhhhhh that salad!!!

    1. Thank you Sarah, for your nice compliment. I’m happy that you enjoyed the post. I’m glad that you agree about heirlooms tomatoes having great flavor and that it is worth babying them like little kids. 🙂

  39. Hi Karen, so I planted my seeds around the same time as you and just transplanted the tomatoes this week as well but mine were much smaller than yours (about 1 foot). I never transferred to really large pots like you, do you find that that makes a big difference in size? I also didn’t have a great grow lamp, do you use a special plant bulb or just regular fluorescent?
    Also I loved your opening remarks of “the best tomato is… ” I’m going to have to start using that quote 🙂

    1. Hi Jon, I do think that transplanting the tomatoes into bigger pots does make them grow stronger and larger. If you click onto the link in my post about transplanting them for 4 to 6 inch pots, you can see how much of the stem gets buried during each transplant…I get more roots that way. When they go into the ground they get planted deep again. I use a standard bulbs for the fluorescent fixture on very long chains. The light stays about 2 inches above the plants and I keep raising the light as they grow. Good luck with your garden this year…I hope you have a great crop. 🙂

      1. You are welcome, Jon. I think you will see a change in the growth of your tomatoes. Please get back to me next year…hopefully you will be happy with the results.

  40. That’s so true Karen, there is absolutely nothing like a fresh picked tomato, still warm from the summer sun. I could eat them like apples and let the juice run down my chin. My husband is the gardener so, sad to say, I don’t have any “secrets” 🙂

    1. Hi Frugal, There are some dwarf varieties of tomatoes that don’t grow more than about 18 inches tall. If planted in a six inch pot and grown in a spot with lots of sun or light, you might be successful.

    1. Hi Donna, You are right…water is critical to successful growing. Not enough and they are stressed, too much and you can have real problems with blossom end rot and fungal diseases.

    1. Hi Laura, I have never grown Early Girls and I should because of our short growing season in Maine. How wonderful that you have tomatoes that are almost ripe.

  41. My secret is to build a wall like Fort Knox around my garden so the goats don’t devour my tomato plants like they did this year. 🙂 Thankfully a dear friend is STILL getting tomatoes even though it’s winter here in Oz, and she sent over a whole bunch for me. They’re wonderful. 🙂

    1. Hi Krista, I have had problems with lots of critters but never a goat problem. How terrible to grow a crop and then have it devastated. I do hope that next year you have much better luck with your tomatoes. How lovely of your neighbor to give you some of her crop…I’m sure they were most appreciated.

  42. That seems such a lot of effort but given your wonderful results, it sure looks well worth it. Over here, because we don’t get your extremes of temperatures, our tomatoes plants survive year round although the plants don’t fruit as much in the winter. At the moment I only have cherry tomatoes growing but I’d like some of your heirloom varieties – they look amazing and yes, I’m very sure they are full of flavour xx

    1. Hi Charlie, One thing I love about blogging is all the wonderful information you get from around the world. You are indeed lucky that your tomato plants survive all year round. Besides heirlooms, I grow cherry tomatoes too. Some of them as so sweet that you would think they were sprinkled with sugar.

  43. When I used to have a garden I couldn’t grow tomatoes in anything other than large pots well off the ground as there were so many neighbouring cats. Won’t go into details! Apart from adding that I only grew cherry tomatoes. Anyway, someone I used to know grew eight differing varieties every year, and those were extra special. The salads I used to have…

    1. Hi Johnny, Thank goodness we don’t have a problem in the garden with neighboring pets although we do get the occasional nibbling by other critters that roam around. There are so many wonderful varieties of tomatoes…I would love to taste them all.

    1. Thank you Cristy, for your nice compliment. My plants are very healthy and I’m hoping for a good crop this year…I hope yours will be too.

  44. No wonder your tomatoes love you! Look at the beautiful beds you have prepared and the view they’ll have whilst growing 😉 ! What are the companion plants you have put down? Something to keep away the insects? I too love heirloom tomatoes but since I am limited to pot culture with a superb patch of almost windless and sunny area in my side garden, I keep more to the cherry kind ++ . . . quite sufficient for about 5 months of delightful salads for someone usually living on her own!! Homegrown basil and other herbs as well . . . would not miss that experience!

    1. Hi Eha, We do put a lot of work into having good beds to grow the tomatoes in and yes, they do get to grow up in pretty surroundings. 🙂 What you see planted in front of the tomatoes are part of the basil plants I have been growing. On each end of the beds, I have oregano, rosemary, sage, parsley, and chives. I also grow some herbs in my shade gardens as well. Next week I’ll plant marigolds to keep away some of the bugs. I don’t know how well they work but they add pretty color. It sounds like your side garden provides you with some nice eating. I use pots like you do for my cherry tomatoes.

      1. Have meant to plant marigolds for years! They are relly meant to ‘work’, but I don’t like their smell nor their look particularly: ha! must not be so fussy, so next season 🙂 !

    1. Hi Elizabeth, I’m glad that you had nice weather…Denmark is only about 14 miles away from Naples where our cottage is. From what I’ve heard, we got about an inch of rain and are supposed to get about the same amount today. If the wind off the lake hasn’t been too bad, the tomatoes that we planted should be fine.

  45. Those tomatoes look wonderful! I don’t have any tricks I just put them in a pot in the side yard where the most sun is and water it daily. Usually I get a bunch of tomatoes! I’m better at growing peppers for some reason though.

    1. Hi Kelli, One of the secrets to a good tomato is plenty of sun which it sounds like you have. It is great that you have good luck with peppers. We had terrible luck with the Italian frying peppers that we grew last year and decided to skip them this year. I’m planting extra tomatoes in their place…after all, you can’t have too many. 🙂

  46. I’ve never had much luck with tomatoes here.. We typically keep them in pots for the summer and pray for a somewhat ripe one that we can pluck and allow to finish ripening in a window in the fall. I’m envious.. we ate tons of heirloom tomatoes in Sorrento and the flavor was just incredible! I love your whole method and system for growing them, Karen, maybe some day I’ll be able to do this! xx

    1. Hi Barbara, I’m glad that you like how I grow my tomatoes. I grow cherry tomatoes in pots and although we get plenty of tomatoes for the two of us, they don’t grow as well as what we plant in the ground. We are experimenting with a new location this year to see if they do any better.

  47. I hope that the storm did not do any damage! This year I will try again with my tomatoes until I find a perfect spot for them to grow 🙂

    1. Hi Tandy, I’m hoping the tomatoes that we planted did OK. As long as the wind wasn’t too bad, I think they will be fine. We have limited sunshine in certain areas of our yard from the huge trees that surround our property. We are experimenting with our cherry tomatoes this year…as you say looking for the perfect spot to grow them in pots.

  48. I love this post. My secret is keeping them in garden boxes in the greenhouse for the whole season. Although they like the heat I do believe they miss being in the ground with the ability to send roots as deep as possible. We have such bad blossom end rot and late blight though. I’ve got green tomatoes setting now and I’m watching them daily. The caprese salad makes my mouth water!
    My issue this year is the basil. The little guys are stressed an greenish yellow. I’ve got back ups but don’t know what’s up with what i planted out. Tried a little fish fertilizer… we’ll see how that goes.

    1. Thank you Wendy, for your nice compliment. I happy to know that you enjoyed by post. Several bloggers that I read have greenhouses and I think that is wonderful…sure does eliminate a lot of problems. It sounds like you will be harvesting tomatoes real soon. The basil that I planted this year isn’t doing that well either. I’ll probably have to buy some additional plants as I use a lot of basil.

  49. I grew some tomatoes last year but this year I have such a heavy schedule I am afraid I do not have this luxury. Your tomatoes look perfectly made and I am sure your love for them played a big role!

    1. Hi Katerina, I know that a garden takes a lot of work. Even though I know you will miss having your own tomatoes this year, I’m sure you will find some good ones at one of the markets.

  50. Lovely post, Karen, I agree the best tomatoes are home grown, especially the coeur de boeuf ones. We’ve used to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and all other vegetables at home too!

    1. Thank you Gourmantine, for your nice compliment…I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I have never grown coeur de boeuf but have enjoyed them when we were in Europe. Not only are the great tasting, but I like their unusual shape.

    1. Hi Joanne, When you live in the city sometimes it is impossible to grow even a pot of tomatoes. Perhaps in the future, you will live in a spot where that will be possible.

    1. Hi Paula, I’m glad you like our backyard in Maine…it is pretty. Wind can be a real problem when trying to grow tomatoes, especially when they get big.

  51. Karen, I wanted to finish the title with exactly the same words 🙂 Nothing tastes better than one’s own tomatoes (well maybe if a friend or someone from our family offers us their own crop…). I wish I had more than a small balcony and could grow lots of tomatoes. This being said, I once grew cherry tomatoes on my balcony, and they tasted great!

    1. Hi Sissi, Cherry tomatoes are so nice to grow when you have limited space. We grow our cherry tomatoes in pots and they are so good, especially the Sun Gold variety…they are extremely sweet.

  52. I really do try hard to grow tomatoes at home, but it’s a serious challenge. I think our yard is home to more mean squirrels than any other property in town. Then, there’s our heat and searing sun. I’m trying three different types of plants this year. One of them is an Ark of Taste Brandywine. Enjoy your homegrown bounty!

    1. Hi Lisa, Squirrels can be a real problem. Having grown up in Texas, I know the heat can make it hard to have a successful garden. I grow Brandywine every year and love them. I hope you have a nice crop this year. Good luck. 🙂

  53. OH OH OH!! I have a serious tomato addiction and this post is killing me!! I am jealous that your plants are so far ahead!! I just always buy my plants well established already from a reputable nursery and put them in around Memorial day and hope for the best. That way I can have tomatoes sooner than later with the least amount of effort 🙂 Luckily I have a great Nursery nearby and I can get lots of different varieties including heirlooms – this year I have some Mortgage lifters and brandywine (my favorite!) among others!

    1. Hi Carol, I used to buy all my plants until we got the cottage in Maine. The frosts come so early in the fall that I decided that if I grew my own plants that I would be better off. When they go into the ground they are much bigger than ones I could buy. I’m growing Brandywine but this is the first year that I’m not growing Mortgage Lifters…I’ve got three new varieties that I have never tried. Won the seeds from one of my dear blogging friends. 🙂

  54. Great tips, thanks Karen. We never seem to do brilliantly with tomatoes here because of fruit fly, but we do sometimes get tomatoes in winter, when the bugs are taking a hiatus. Do you dust your tomatoes? We resist because of the chickens, but are going to try organic diatomaceous earth and see if that makes a difference..

    1. Hi Celia, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post and tips. Gardening in the land of Oz reminds me of when we lived in Florida. I sometimes use an organic powder that contains BT when I see the first signs of tomato horn worms…it doesn’t work all that great but slows them down a little. I understand why you would hesitate to use anything on your plants with chickens. You have to keep your girls happy and healthy. 🙂

  55. I’ve never grown anything.. I just don’t seem to have a green thumb. But your tomatoes look absolutely gorgeous. I know my mom would love to grow tomatoes like these. She will be starting her garden next year 🙂

    1. Hi Kay, If you have never grown anything, then you don’t really know if you have a green thumb or fingers as many of my readers say. Someday you will get a chance to give it a try and you may surprise yourself. 🙂

  56. Wow Karen, I am so impressed with the amount of tomatoes that you harvest…and they are beautiful.
    Nothing like fresh picked tomatoes for the caprese salad…
    Thanks for this awesome post…and have a lovely week 😀

    1. Hi Juliana, If the weather cooperates, we normally do get a large amount of tomatoes. I usually plant more than a dozen plants. The number seems to grow each year even though I say I should plant less. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post…thank you and have a wonderful week as well.

  57. Hi Karen, I’m truly impressed! Taking seedlings for a two hour drive to your summer home in another state … that’s dedication! We buy our seedlings from Love Apple Farm; the owner recommends putting fish heads in the planting hole (just like my dad taught me) and spraying the tomato plant leaves with an aspirin/water solution. Do you have your tomatoes on a drip system? I’ve found that helps quite a bit, watering by hand was eating up all off my free time. Cheers!

    1. Hi Carolyn, Thank you for stopping by to visit. It sounds like you are doing everything to ensure that you have a nice crop of tomatoes. I have a drip system but have not used it the past two years. We had enough rain that I only needed to water occasionally. So far this spring I’m worried about too much rain. I look forward to your comments.

  58. I’m trying not to overcrowd my garden this year Karen, which I usually do. Hopefully that will result in better tomatoes. Looks like I need to follow a few of your pointers, rather than the other way around based on the beautiful tomatoes you grow.

    1. Hi Barb, I agree with you about not overcrowding your garden. I think it is very important that air can move freely about plants to keep them healthy. I plant my tomatoes three feet apart and even with that distance by the end of the growing season they are nearly touching. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and tips…thank you!

    1. Thank you Nazneen, for your nice compliment. We did get some beautiful tomatoes last year and I hoping for a good crop this summer. I’m glad to know that you grow tomatoes on your patio. It is nice to have tomatoes close by for the picking. 🙂

  59. Karen, you just tempted me to try planting a pot over here even though I might fail big time….those tomatoes are just too gorgeous!!! And driving me crazy.

    1. Danny, Just let nature do its work…not wrapping necessary. At the end of the season, I’ll bring some indoors to finish ripening but that is just because of frost. Good luck!

  60. Hi Karen, Gee—-I wish I lived in Maine (or New Hampshire)…. I’d love it up there –although our area is also beautiful… You obviously have a wonderful life –since you have a gorgeous summer home on the water. WOW!!!!

    No–don’t grow my own tomatoes –but hubby ‘babies’ our roses like you do your tomatoes… You might want to check out my latest rose post on my blog (Monday’s post this week). I am blessed to have these gorgeous roses –just like you are blessed to have those gorgeous tomatoes… YUM—I love home-grown tomatoes….. Wish I had one!!!!


    1. Hi Betsy, I hope someday you get a chance to visit New England, I think you would enjoy it. The lake in Maine is lovely but I would describe our summer cottage as tiny and fun. It is wonderful that your husband babies your roses. I have two climbing roses that grow along my garden fence and over my garden shed in New Hampshire. They are so fragrant and old fashioned looking.

  61. I love your strategy of keeping a few plants as “insurance” It’s a great idea with the crazy weather this year. I could not imagine a summer without a homegrown tomato, and yours are beautiful. Happy Gardening!!

    1. Hi Mary, I hope the tomatoes that we have planted are doing OK with all the rain. The “insurance” tomatoes are very happy back in the potting shed but they are going back to Maine in a couple of days to face the real world. 🙂 Thank you for your comment and wish.

  62. oh Karen! That last shot of the stacked tomatoes is just beyond amazing. Breathtaking to be exact. You have the best informational post. When you decide to share something you really allow us to leave with that knowledge and understand it:)

    1. Thank you Jessica, for your lovely compliment…it is very much appreciated. I’m so happy to know that you enjoyed the post and photos.

  63. I just left a comment but it isn’t showing up! i hope its not going to your spam! Please check and make sure! I want you to know each and every time I visit so I can exclaim how amazing your recipes and posts are:)))

    1. Hi Jessica, Yes…both of your comments were in my spam file. I have no idea why you would end up there. I really appreciate your taking the time to comment again. I’ve been having a lot of problems with my comments not going through as well on Blogger and Blogspot blogs. It is like they disappear in thin air. I really do appreciate your visits and lovely compliments…thank you.

  64. You would not believe it: I was just thinking that I should grow something more foodstuff on my balcony than just herbs…tomatoes maybe? And then I see your lovely post. It must be a sign 😉

  65. Thanks so much for stopping by may blog, Karen! I am so looking forward to following yours after having a look around.

    You really do have a love for growing tomatoes and I agree, it’s well worth it. I have been planting tomatoes for over 25 years each summer, however, I’ve never tried the heirloom varieties. And, after many attempts, I was never able to start them from seed. A friend does that just using a sunny window in her home and then acclimating them to the outdoors.

    For the first time I am trying growing tomatoes in a large pot on my patio. I have quite a bit of sun at our lakehouse but the rabbits, squirrels and racoons seem to love them and each year it gets more disappointing. My home in the city is surrounded by trees and the only sunny place I have is my patio…so, we shall see how they do!


    1. Hi Jane, It seems that we have a lot in common…I’m glad we have found each other. If you would like to try starting from seed, you can check the link in this post. I have never had a problem with germination. I have problems with critters at our lake as well…have you ever tried a Havahart trap. Good luck!

  66. Hi Karen, Your tomato garden post was very interesting. We grow tomatoes in container gardening. We have had pretty good luck with them this way. There is usually enough for just the two of us. Better tasting tomatoes such as Heritage sounds good to me. We truly lack the know how to take care of tomato plant diseases, so it scares me a bit. We are also able to buy tomatoes at a local farmers stand that are very tasty. I never buy them at a grocery store that’s for sure.

    1. Hi Jeanne, Thank you for stopping by. Containers are a great way to grow tomatoes…all my cherry tomatoes are grown in pots. I’m sure a member of your garden club could probably help if any of your tomatoes should develop a problem. Good luck with your gardening and thank you for your comment.

  67. Love those photo’s. What a nice blog enjoyed it very much I also love old heirloom tomatoes as well as some of the new open pollinated variety’s great post thanks.

  68. i don’t like raw tomatoes, but i love tomato sauces. 🙂 i really like your rolling greenhouse, though. 🙂

    Your wine cellar below looks awesome and impressive!

    1. Hi Theresa, Thank you for stopping by for a visit. Fresh tomato sauces are great. We always have more tomatoes than we can eat during the season so we make a lot of sauce that we freeze and use all winter. I’m glad that you liked our wine cellar…thank you for your compliment.

  69. One of my greatest summer pleasures is eating a tomato sandwich. With native tomatoes of course. I love the big heirloom tomatoes, especially the maroon colored ones. Your lake front is lovely. I bet you have beautiful loons that come by.

    1. Hi Susan, My husband and I will be counting the days until we can have the first bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Yes, the loons are always on our lake and you can hear them at night…such a lovely and haunting sound.

  70. Karen, you a such a big tease showing us those beautiful vine ripened heirloom tomato in spring! I know the weather has been very strange in all parts of the world so starting with a really big seedling sounds like the way to go this year. My dad always has the best heirloom juicy and sweet tomatoes. Do you talk to your plants? I think that might be my dad’s little secret.. LOL

    1. Hi Bobbie, I guess I am a tease, showing last years tomatoes. It is nice to have something to dream about until we are able to start enjoying tomatoes this year. I do talk to my plants…they don’t talk back but I can imagine what they would say if they could. The ones that are already planted in Maine want to go back to the comfort of the potting shed in New Hampshire. The ones that we brought back with us would be saying that they don’t like Maine and want to stay in New Hampshire. My poor babies will just have to adjust. 🙂

  71. That photo of those gorgeous ripe tomatoes made my mouth water! I love the smell of a fresh, home-grown tomato. Supermarket tomatoes just don’t smell or taste the same. I haven’t tried growing tomatoes before but I do buy them from a local organic farm and they taste almost as good as home-grown ones.

    In the summer I like serving a salad of fresh tomatoes with mozzarella, basil and olive oil. That along with some fresh bread, a dish of Kalamata olives and maybe some red wine makes a lovely lunch or an appetizer before an evening meal.

    1. Thank you Grace, for your nice compliment. There is nothing quite as good as a summer tomato and I agree that a tomato and mozzarella salad is delicious.

  72. What a lovely location for your tomatoes, Karen. My stepdad had a little greenhouse in the garden and year in, year out we had the sweetest red and yellow tomatoes. I always meant to try it with a growbag, but I never get around to it. They can’t be left can they, and need daily watering? I know what you mean about the tasteless shop bought variety though. :).

    1. Hi Jo, The tomatoes do get to live in a pretty spot even if it is windier than they would like. Once they get planted in the ground, they can go several days without being watered. How nice that your stepdad could grow tomatoes year round.

  73. Wow, looks like all your TLC has paid off. When I was younger, my father-in-law used to try to tell me all his tomato secrets. I was too young to appreciate what he was trying to tell me. I was busy trying to raise babies and thought I did not have time for both tomatoes and babies. I so regret not listening closer. He must be smiling down on me now and saying I told you so.

    btw, you really have some seriously delicious looking food here on your site.

    1. Hi Madonna, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. I happy that you enjoyed looking around at my food posts. I think we all regret that we didn’t pay more attention when advise was given when we were younger. 🙂

    1. Hi Jen, You might not want to go by me as far as the work involved in growing heirloom tomatoes. I may be an over protective “mother” to my baby tomato plants. 🙂 I still mumble about the price for an heirloom tomato I see at a farmer’s market…it is why I grow my own. 🙂

  74. never did grow my tomatoes but maybe next year… do you think they could grow on a vase on a balcony in a Nordic country with pretty chilly nights? I will need a lot of guidance if and when I really try this… counting on you 🙂 great job with your heirlooms they look fabulous!

    1. Hi Barbara, I definitely think that you can grow a pot or two of tomatoes on your balcony if you have sunshine. I’ll be more than happy to help you in any way I can. Our season in Maine to grow tomatoes is from June to September because of frost…so I think our seasons might be similar.

    1. Hi Hester, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post and the caprese salad. I’m flattered that you want to use your first tomatoes for this dish…thank you.

  75. I still remember my grandparents used to have a little vegetable garden. The tomatoes are one of my favorite from the garden – sooooooooooo delicious! I totally agree with you that raising own tomatoes is a secret! My house gets visits from wild animals including deer and mountain lion etc…and everything we planted disappeared. I’m jealous of your garden!

    1. Hi Nami, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post about my garden. I can appreciate your problems with critters. I have deer in our orchard in New Hampshire…they love to eat the leaves, bark and the fruit from our apple trees. Turkeys and birds love with wild blue berries and grapes. In both my Maine garden and at our home in New Hampshire there are always the squirrels, chipmunks and greedy groundhogs. The one critter that I have never experienced are mountain loins. 🙂

  76. Great post! So glad to meet another person who worries about their tomato plants as much as I do! I worry about all my ‘babies’ – it only makes sense – we take so much time to plant, cultivate and them nurture them before being transplanted out, that one can only worry! I do hope the weather calms down – we’ve had a crazy late spring, I agree! I was relieved to know my tomatoes made it through the last storm, though disappointed a few of my cucumbers drowned…luckily, not all! It must be challenging to have a garden in Maine, though also live in NH – how do you sleep at night, being so far away? (:

    1. Thank you Jennifer, for your nice compliment. I’m glad you agree, you can’t help but worry about the “babies”…sorry some of your plants drowned in all the rain. We usually spend the entire summer at the lake but with no chance of outdoor activities because of the weather, it was back to NH. Headed back today with our very tall “insurance” tomato plants. Now if we can have some sunshine, we will both have successful gardens. 🙂

  77. I love watching your garden grow, Karen! You are so spot on about the flavor. Last year I had two heirloom plants in containers growing on my deck. So delicious! I didn’t get to plant any tomatoes this year, sadly, but I hear you on all the rain. My poor herbs and peppers are drowning in their pots!

    1. Thank you, my friend…I’m glad you enjoy my gardening posts and agree about how delicious heirloom tomatoes are. I can’t believe all the rain we are having…too much water creates all kinds of problems. I hope your potted plants survive. To my friends and readers that post as anonymous, you can always leave your first name at the end of your comment if you wish.

  78. Great post about how you care for your tomato plants, Karen. I remember many of these photos fondly from some of your previous posts last summer. I hope your crop will be large and pest free this year! I’m looking forward to our first tomato harvest here in Germany too!

    1. Thank you Laura, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. Yes, the first and last photo were from last year’s harvest. Hopefully we will both have a good crop again this year. Happy gardening. 🙂

  79. I hear that a lot with tomatoes. Best ones are the ones you grow yourself. Unfortunately my yard doesn’t get enough sunlight (too many damn trees!), *sad face* :(. However it does keep the house rather cool during those bloody hot summer days. Have a great weekend Karen!

    1. Hi Anne, I know what you mean about having too much shade. We have a lot of shade from huge pine trees on our property in Maine. That is why our tomato garden is a long and narrow strip at the edge of our yard. We also grow some tomatoes in pots in another area that gets morning sun. I hope you have a lovely weekend as well.

    1. Hi T.W., I totally agree with you. If I had to buy tomato plants from a nursery in Maine, they would be half the size of the ones I grew in New Hampshire. It would also be hard to find some of the heirloom varieties that I am growing.

  80. I dream of the day when I can really grow tomatoes and have the sun and space to do it. Meanwhile, I have my one little tomato plant on the deck…hoping for the best. Here’s hoping you have a bumper crop this year, Karen!

    1. Hi Betsy, I will take one little tomato plant on the deck instead of the anemic cardboard tasting tomatoes from a grocery store any day. Let’s hope we both get some tasty tomatoes this summer. 🙂

  81. I too start my tomatoes at the end of March or early April and I live in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada – just off the northern shores of Great Slave Lake. I just put the rest of my tomatoes in their planters this week. I did have some others planted earlier on in my greenhouse with boxed cold frames to give them extra protection. I tend to follow the same transplant regime too, from plugs to small pots to 6″ pots. However, I’m thinking I could’ve let them stay in their plugs (six packs) longer. They can dry out fast in a small space, but there were not that many roots when I transplanted them around a month/5 weeks old. I find as soon as you transplant they start to grow bigger faster, and it does create more work having to move more real estate, so to speak, in and out of the house.

    Nice summer place.

    1. Hi YK, I’m happy that you agree with the transplanting schedule…I really do think that it produces strong plants with good root systems. I’m glad that you like our summer home…thank you. There will be more garden posts from Maine during the summer.

  82. I absolutely love how you baby your plants and nurture them -just like children. I am thrilled to see the photo of the plants in front of the lake and I am so jealous of how close you live to the water. We have lovely views of the sea which is only a two minute walk away but living right on the edge would be so lovely. I am looking forward to watching your plants start producing tomatoes. You are right – there is no comparison with the store bought ones.

    1. Hi Suzanne, I’m happy that you enjoyed the post and are looking forward to when the plants start producing tomatoes. When we are sitting on our porch, we still comment on the beauty of our spot on the lake…even after three summers here.

  83. I think my tomatoes are going to be terrible this year…they are barely a foot tall (and I think I am beign generous because I am so broken up about it) despite all my coddling. thank goodness we have a CSa to draw from, but for the love of God, a dedicated raised bed….lovely seedlings….I don’t have a black thumb, but my garden is just not right this year! So I am living vicariously through your successes!

    1. Hi Natalia, Don’t give up hope on your garden because I think the problem is the weather. This spring have been so cool and wet…everything a tomato plant doesn’t like. A week of warmth and sunshine will do wonders. 🙂

  84. I definitely agree that the only good tomato is the homegrown tomato! What beautiful plants and I’d pay big time for that box of tomatoes!

    1. I’m glad you agree with me, MJ. I try to do everything possible to grow strong plants. The tomatoes from last year were very good…hopefully, this year’s crop will be just as successful.

    1. Hi EZ, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your lovely compliment. I think you should trying growing tomatoes…even if you only start out with one plant in a pot. The “rolling green house” was the perfect way to keep the tomatoes in sunshine but protected from the wind until the weather improved.

  85. I wish I could grow my own tomatoes and have a vegetable garden… Your tomatoes look amazing and that Caprese salad is ever so mouthwatering.



    1. Hi Renee, I have never grown the chocolate cherry but have grown the black cherry tomato, which is great. You will have to let me know what you think of the chocolate tomato’s flavor when you start harvesting them. Here is to a good growing season. 🙂

  86. Just can’t wait until our tomatoes are ready…patience, I the little tractor greenhouse..I hate to admit it – we just plant and then let nature take it’s course…seems to work out for us, most of the time. The only thing we baby is the basil – have to protect it from cold weather early in our season due to temp shifts. Happy gardening!!

    1. Hi Susan, I know what you mean. Everything is in the garden now and I’m counting the days for that first ripe tomato. The “rolling green house” worked real well. I could move it around all day so that the plants were in the sun but out of the wind. I hope we all have a good growing season.

  87. Every morning I go out and visit my tomatoes, touch them a little, twirl their pots just a touch. Yes, pots. I’ve had much more success growing them in huge pots on the patio. I know the varieties that do well that way now and with some warmer weather (finally) they are doing great. I fertilize them every time they are watered. There is nothing like a fresh, warm home grown tomato!

    1. Hi Susan, I’m glad to know that you enjoy growing tomatoes as well. We grow our cherry tomatoes in pots because there isn’t room for anymore in the garden. 🙂 Happy gardening.

  88. I don’t have any secrets to a good tomatoes, but I’m very certain you do. These beauties look so lovely and without a doubt, fresh tomatoes with the Caprese salad *swoon!*

    1. Hi Alli, I grow my tomatoes with lots of TLC but I never know what Mother Nature has in store each year. A caprese salad is wonderful with slices of homegrown tomatoes…I’m glad you agree.

  89. We just started a garden this year and I am crossing my fingers for the tomatoes – especially since that is what I am the most excited about. We started about 144 plants from seed which was a fun project for the girls and fun to watch everything grow. I think next year we need to start earlier and I need to figure out a better system beyond the little greenhouses they give you. We are a little worried that the tomatoes aren’t getting enough sun in our shady backyard. I think they probably get 4-5 hours of sun per day, but we are waiting to see how things go. I have lots of basil so I am ready to make a caprese salad – just need to see how the tomatoes cooperate. If not we have a wonderful farm stand near our house that we love to visit, too. This is a great post Karen and some great instruction for successful plantings from seed.

    1. Becki, A 144 tomato plants! Wow, your garden has to be huge. A small section of our garden gets about 5 hours of sun and we get tomatoes. The plants just don’t get as big as the others. It will be interesting to see how your plants do…great I hope. I’m happy that you enjoyed the post. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  90. I know that I would enjoy Maine. It reminds me of some places on the West Coast, but definitely of the Maritime Provinces. As for the tomatoes I miss my gardens.

    1. Hi Val, I’m sure you would enjoy Maine…it is similar to the Maritime Provinces. Unfortunately we have had lots of rain so I don’t how well the tomatoes will do this season.

  91. I grow lots of tomatoes here in Italy. This year I’ve grown them from seed and many are heritage varieties kindly given to me by friends from the States. I’m very interested in your tomato supports, in the past I’ve grown the kinds of tomatoes that you pick out the side shoots so they grow up one cane; most heritage ones aren’t like that and I’m not sure what is the best way to grow them.

    1. Hi Christina, I grow my heritage varieties just the way you do…I pick out the side shoots as well. I use a wire cage around them with a six foot metal post driven into the ground to support the tomato plant as it grows. I use twine to tie heavy branches to the metal post or cage. I think you will have good luck with your new varieties. I would love to know how you enjoy your new tomatoes once you start harvesting them.

  92. Your opening sentence, Karen, says it all. Our mass-produced tomatoes are grown with thicker and thicker skins while fewer are allowed to ripen on the vine. GIve me a good homegrown heirloom any day. Love the photo of the row of tomato plants with the lake in the background. I bet those plants bear plenty of tomatoes in gratitude for such a lovely view. 🙂

    1. Hi John, I think we can all agree that a homegrown tomato wins hands down over a mass produced grocery store tomato. The tomatoes do grow in a pretty spot…wish it could guarantee a good crop. 🙂

    1. Hi Jerry, I just did a new post about the garden. I don’t think we will have a very good year either. I hope we are both wrong and that things will turn out differently. 🙂

    1. Thank you Heather, for dedicating a post to me. How thoughtful…it is much appreciated. I’m happy to know how much you enjoy my posts about tomatoes.

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