Winter-sowing tomatoes??

auntnawneeOctober 22, 2009

Has anyone here winter-sown tomatoes?If so,how did they turn out?Every year I think about doing them,then i chicken out.I was thinking this time i will try it because i am running out of space to start everything that needs an early start..But first,I'd like to hear from some of you who have successfully winter-sown tomatoes..Thanks,Dawn

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kmpsmom

Dawn:

I had the same feeling but this was my second year WSing tomatoes and they did great (even keeping in mind the crazy summer weather). I strongly encourage you to try it, you WILL get hooked!

Happy gardening, Ann

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 6:37PM
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lois(PA Zone 6)

Why not start a few inside and wintersow the rest? I did that this year and will probably do it again since I want to have a long season of tomatoes.

Lois in PA

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 7:14PM
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trudi_d

Hi Nawnee,

It works fine, but as you're in zone five you need to choose toms that are are early or for short seasons. I think anything 72DTM or less will work for your zone.

At WinterSown.Org I offer free tomato seeds for anyone who would like them, if anyone is interested please use the link for the details.

T

Here is a link that might be useful: Your Choice Tomato SASE

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 7:22PM
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auntyara(5a)

Hi Aunt Noreen,
I only tried cherrys and they took a looong time to sprout then really took off. I'm going to try more kinds this yr.
:)Laura

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 9:49PM
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floodthelast(5 N. OH)

They definitely seem to like a warm start but I winter sowed all mine this year and will do the same next year.
I did mine in cups then put them out in the garden pretty small with cloches made of 2lt tops. Worked great. So far these are the ones I grew.
Marglobe
cherokee purple
tumbling tom
yellow pear
deweese
bloody butcher
mortgage lifter
rutgers
pink accordian
beefsteak
all in zone five

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 11:55PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

There have been so many posts on this subject over the past few years. I live in Zone 5 (Canada) and while I can WS tomatoes, they will be so late I'd be left with all green toms. Vera, who is in Zone 5 (USA) winter sows her tomatoes with success, so you should be O.K. I am hoping to try to get an arctic type of tomato for winter sowing this year - otherwise all mine must be started indoors. BTW, do accept Trudi's offer. It's a beautiful mix of tomatoes and I have been growing and collecting seed from them for 2 years. Thanks, Trudi!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 4:54AM
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mmqchdygg(Z5NH)

Thanks for the reminder about DTM; I bet the ones I had this year were WAY longer than I should have had...they didn't turn red until way late (and then the blight got 'em). I guess there was a reason I was fond of ones called "early girl" in previous years.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 9:05AM
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daisydawnny(5)

I did Cherry, Rutger's and Homestead. They quickly caught up to the tom's my MIL purchased at the big box store.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 11:38AM
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ljpother(3a)

Here is a link to my winter sown tomato comparison thread on "Far North". Keep in mind we had an extra-ordinarily warm August and we have 16 hours of sun going into July. I had a few ws tomatoes ripen, but most were green.

winter sown tomato comparison

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 11:56AM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

I like harvesting tomatoes all season. This year I started some indoors in mid February. I planted out those in April just as the wintersown ones were germinating. I had tomatoes into September from those plants while my early ones started producing in June and died off in July.

Check your mail Trudi, SASE and donation on the way tomorrow. Yippee!!!!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 1:20PM
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trudi_d

Thank you Token, your generous spirit grows!

Trudi

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 2:21PM
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auntnawnee

Thank you all for your replies...I think you gave me enough inspiration to try the tomatoes this time..I'll winter-sow some and start some indoors.I'll just have to go thru my seeds and see which ones will work..

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 9:20AM
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vera_eastern_wa(5a-5b)

Actually Northerner I'm more a zone 6 here :)

It should be clarified that I and I think most of us who winter-sow tomatoes are really "spring-sowing". I get mine started in mid April, but for the last 2 years our April-May weather has been pretty below average and I've had to hall my tomato jugs back indoors for a few nights (nights only) just to get a jump on germination. Usually within 2-3 nights of doing this they get the boot back outside...there are at least 1-2 sprouts in a jug or signs of radical emergence. I didn't get mine planted this year until the morning of May 30th and it reached 94F that afternoon! Oh yeah...I remember LOL! A cool early/mid May, but it was made up for indeed.
I started picking the fist tomatoes in mid August with 'Black Plum Paste'...a very prolific producer!! In 2008 my first were also in August with 'LaRossa Paste'(very prolific) as well as 'Brandywine'. The 'Brandywine were not at all prolific, but they produced better than some growers have reported AND they tasted fantastic...that in itself makes up for lack of fruit!! The 2nd prolific in 2008 were the 'Tiger-like'. The 'Cherokee Green' and 'Russian Prince' also started in late August and the determinate 'Manitoba' and 'Russian Persimmon' in mid September through September 30th. 'Black Cherry' again was a disappointment with only a handful of ripe fruits before the first frost on Sept. 27th...maybe 11 ripe total. The plant finally became loaded but only too late! There was a lot of blossom drop and I'm concluding that either these didn't like the heat or it was the low sumnmer humidity. I also had very poor production from 'Russian Prince', but liked the flavor. The other plants produced very well with 'Black Plum Paste' coming in a no.1!
I've never had a harvest earlier than mid-late August but really I can't complain. I only did a few in 2007 and even the determinate 'Oregon Spring' with a DTM of 65 days wasn't before mid August!
A picture of the partial 2009 harvest on September 23rd. I already had 2 gal. size zip-locks filled up with 'Black Plum Paste' and a few more with 'Russian Persimmon and 'Manitoba' in the freezer and we didn't finish picking until September 30th. The 'Cherokee Green' were saved for fresh eating...a unique tangy flavor!

AND I just have to show off the very largest 'Russian Persimmon' picked Sept. 15th...they were HUGE! The majority of them were not at all this big....BTW these are orange not yellow like my camera phone made them look

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 5:12PM
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trudi_d

It should be clarified that most of us who Winter Sow tomatoes do in fact WINTER SOW them Vera.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 6:25PM
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vera_eastern_wa(5a-5b)

As long as I've been on this forum...7 years, the majority of discussions posted are of sowing tomatoes between Feb-April depending on geographic location. When I say "spring-sow" that is how I see it...I don't literally mean after the true spring equinox of March 20th! However, I've yet to read many posters sowing them in December-January. Most people who garden are referring to Feb-April when speaking about "early spring" sowing/planting.
No need for snippiness

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 4:39AM
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trudi_d

Snippy? No. Indignant? Yes.

Vera, last I looked April is still Winter in Zone five---I lived in the Upper Catskills for 13 years, I know how cold it in April and May. February is pretty much still Winter where everyone is--it happens to be the month I set my tomato seeds out. Vera, you don't sit on my side of the monitor. You didn't create a tomato seed program to share tom seeds with people so they could WS them and you don't have my feedback files. And, as far as I'm concerned, it takes some gaul to publicly declare people don't WS tomatoes with the tomatoes you've grown from seeds I gave you.

Everybody does it their own way Vera, you feel a need to bring your seedlings inside, but there aren't too many people who do. They want their seeds to go through the full WS experience--no coddling--and Mother Nature does take its toll on the weak, but the remainder grow just fine. In zone five you should be choosing toms with a max of 70 DTM or less to have ripe fruits before the end of season, otherwise, to quote Mr. Spock, "It is not logical".

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 8:33AM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

Trudi,

You said you put your tomatoes out in February. Is that early or late Feb? And have you ever tried to do them earlier? I looked on WinterSown.org, but I can't find the list of when to put what out. Can you direct me? Thanks.

Caryl

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 11:01AM
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trudi_d

I put my tom seeds out in February, sometimes that's mid or late. But that's when I also put out all tender annuals.

Is there a list of times? Sigh. No, because a long time ago everyone wanted calendar dates and that doesn't work because of the many different zones, but after so many years perhaps I should do some zone based suggestions.

For the most part we've followed a pattern of woody plants in December and January because they usually need a lot of freezes and thaws to germinate, hardy annuals, all perennials and biennials, cold-season veggies all throughout Winter, and tender annuals and warm-season veggies when winter is transitioning into spring.
T

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 11:28AM
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siichan(6)

Hi Trudi,
Forgive my noobiness, but as a first WS-er, I sowed my tomatoes on Dec, along with some other seeds. Have I ruined my tomato seeds?

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 2:25PM
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trudi_d

I don't know. They will sprout when the soil thaws, but the problem is if there is another deep freeze after that. I am hugely against bringing germinated flats inside because it coddles seedlings and makes them weak against the climate. But I can suggest that you hedge your bets and sow more seeds, you can get them from me for just a two-stamp SASE--the list has about 150 selections so you're sure to find many you'll love.

T

Here is a link that might be useful: Your Choice Tomato SASE

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 2:31PM
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siichan(6)

I'll cross my fingers. I should still have some leftovers. I will sow the rest later then. Oh, and I did get them from you. Thank you very much Trudi!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 2:40PM
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trudi_d

You're very welcome, I hope they work out for you.

T

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 3:16PM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

Trudi - I think i'll try some tomatoes this year in the coldframes (with lids propped during the day, of course). I have a couple of questions. Would sowing them in cellpacks be a problem? I'll do this during the latter part of February. Can I do peppers then, too?

EG

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 5:21PM
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trudi_d

The only problem I see with cell packs is that the cells are so small. Could you do a larger container...maybe something the size of an 8 ounce yogourt cup or a coffee cup?

Peppers do fine but I've always had a greater percentage of germination with hot peppers or frying peppers over bells.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 5:58PM
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dorisl(5)

Zone 5 Tom WSer here. Yep, they grow if you actually WS them, realistically tho, nothing really happens until May 1 or so tho, so no rush to get them in the containers in Feb or anything.

Do pay attention to the DTM, I did well with Bloody Butcher and Arkansas Traveler, Bonnie best also. Cherry toms do well and even the Big Ones like Mortgage Lifter do pretty good, take longer tho.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 6:09PM
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trudi_d

Hi Doris,

What did you think overall about Bonnie Best? I think it's a nice classic red tomato and I like the flavor--touch of tang to it.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 6:22PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Another zone 5 tomato wintersower here. The first year I wintersowed half, and indoor sowed half. Neither ripened before August, and the indoor sown ones were much higher maintenance. Last year, I wintersowed all of them the first week of March, they germinated in late April through early May, were planted out the last week of May, and started ripening the first of August. A couple of the larger beefsteak types, with DTM's of 80+ didn't ripen until late Aug./early Sept.

Now as far as babying the sprouts, if we get one of our late spring freezes, say lows in the teens once the tomatoes have sprouted, I have been known to throw them in the unheated garage overnight, and stick them back out in the morning. Call it cheating if you want, but I'm not willing to take a chance with those babies : )

EG, in your zone 7, you should be able to WS peppers too, but mine need a bit of a head start to have time to get a harvest with our short growing season.

Bonnie

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 7:04PM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

trudi - sure, I can use cups. I was just looking at getting more in the coldframes. Hmmm....I may have to build another! Rats, bell peppers was what I intended to sow. Oh well, no biggie.

Bonnie - Peppers take FOREVER to reach maturity here, too.

EG

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 7:42PM
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trudi_d

Good advice Bonnie. I used to live on the north slope of a mountain in the Upper Catskills. The leaves on the trees began turning brown at the end of August and we got our first light frost usually in the very beginning of September...growing time is short.

It's nice to be back on the island and though I do sometimes miss the spectaular mountain views and slower-paced way of life, I never miss those twenty-below-zero weeks. Brrrrrr.

T

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 7:55PM
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deanna_in_nh(5a/4b)

Wow. We moved from zone 7 or 8 to zone 4/5. I really wanted to move and had no regrets...except for the shorter growing season. I bought about 13 short DTM tomatoes from TomatoFest, but I'm amazed I won't get tomatoes until August! Oh, well. Down there we would get tomatoes earlier (partly because we started from nursery plants and not seed), but then as the sun baked everything to a slow and complete death the tomato production wasn't too good...partly because the gardner felt like she was going to absolutely melt in the summer heat and humidity so the garden went to you-know-what! So I can look forward to August tomatoes, but I'll have great tomatoes into the cool weather, at least! And, I'll enjoy working the garden so much more. I still can't believe I garden in long sleeves up here--paradise!

This post has been very helpful. How to WS my tomatoes has been one of my biggest questions. Many of my short DTM varieties are Russian. Do you think the seeds would withstand the cold temps better than other tomatoes?

Deanna

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 8:46PM
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vvesper(7TN)

I started my tomatoes indoors last year, even though I WSed almost all my flowers (first year). I am debating WS tomatoes this year - but I like the long DTM, heirloom big ones. And I don't want to wait too late to get them. I usually put my indoor-started ones out in about March under wall-o-waters for earlier harvest. (Our last frost is the beginning of May usually.)

So my question is - do you think I could just start them under the wall-o-waters outside in late January? It would be sort of halfway between WS and a heated greenhouse. Those things get pretty warm on sunny days and really hold some heat. Do you think I'd start getting tomatoes in early to mid July like with the indoor start? The indoor start is such a pain, and I really like the WS - but I don't want to give up early tomatoes, and I don't much care about the smaller ones (early DTM). What I can't wait for in summer is BLTs and sliced tomato on a burger!!

Anyone?

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 11:08AM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

Ok, it's official - after checking the DTM on all of the varieties I'm planning to grow this year, Black Cherry will be wintersown in the coldframes. DTM = 64 days
WooHoo!

EG

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 11:18AM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Vvesper, I haven't tried that method, but there is a guy on the Rocky Mountain Gardening forum, elkwc, that has done something similar to that with some success. I tried to link an old thread on the subject, but all of the pages of old threads are currently missing from that forum.

EG, that is the best tasting cherry I've grown so far!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 12:07PM
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trudi_d

Hi Deanna, et al,

A few years ago I WSed several varieties from Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as varieties well known in America. The Eastern European/Slavic and Russian varietes were the very first to germinate! I most certainly recommend them. I have several types on the Your Choice list, please avail yourself to the list, and if you need suggestions let me know.

And just as general information, if you live in a short season climate and you want to WS tomatoes you need to choose wisely. Look for short DTMs (Days to Maturity) of 70 or less, look for origin--does it come from a cold climate, look for clue-in words, like early, arctic, cold. mountain. Some examples are Early Girl, Sub-Arctic Plenty, Manitoba, Cold-Set, Gregori's Altai (the Altai Mountains).

Online catalogues are great knowledge resources, you can order from them or not, but the descriptions are free to read. Tomato Growers Supply very wisely has a section of tomatoes specifically for Early Season. Look at the list and learn from them, you see a lot of info in the names, the origins, the short DTMs.

T

Here is a link that might be useful: TGS Early Varieties.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 12:20PM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

highalttransplant - I've never eaten Black Cherry, but received some seeds as bonus with a recent seed order. Do they taste anything like Cherokee Purple? (just smaller)

Trudi - I'm gonna have to check your list out - those russian varieties sound like something I want to try.

EG

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 1:32PM
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dorisl(5)

Trudi,

Bonnie best became one of my faves. Its a nice size and very elegantly shaped and loved the taste.

I love mortgage lifted also and its huge and awkwardly shaped and GREAT on BLT's.

:)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 10:11PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

EG, I grew black cherries this year from seed I received in a trade. Maybe it's just me, or maybe it was the plant they were harvested from, but they flavor was just not very appealing. I prefer an acidic tomato over a sweet one. These were neither. They were plump and juicy, but the taste was just ... off. It was almost like they were spoiled. All of them tasted like this. I decided not to save any seeds from them. On the flip side, I gave my sister a plant and she loved hers. I didn't get to taste them though. She likes sweet tomatoes.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 10:27PM
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trudi_d

I don't remember if I've grown ML--but I believe you when you say it's yum. It's a frequent request from my list. Another nice one, similar to Bonnie Best, is Marion. I just repacked them and they're on my mind. They're also among the great "3R" tomatoes--red, round and reliable ;-)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 10:28PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

I planted Marion from seed from wintersown.org a few years ago. I second Trudi's comment that it is a nice tomato and one I will plant again.

My reaction to Black Cherry was meh, nothing special, though didn't have a spoiled taste. Maybe it is one I should try again as many have posted that it was delicious.

One I plant every year is Caspian Pink. Large though late tomato that is delicious.

I also like Boxcar Willie.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 11:05PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Well, EG, based on everyone's reviews, I guess if you like a sweet, low acid tomato, than you should like the Black Cherry. I tend to like the black tomatoes, but my favorite this past year was Earl's Faux, which is a pink one.

Mnwsgal, Caspian Pink is on my grow list this year. Of course, that is subject to change still.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 11:31PM
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trudi_d

Black Krim was the first black tomato I grew and it was AWESOME!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 11:56PM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

Thanks Trudi and everyone else. I think I'll wait till Feb. to put the tomatoes out. Most of the seeds I've got are 55-70 DTM so they should be fine. I'm trying about seven new varieties including Anna Russian and Box Car Willie. Totally Tomatoes also threw in a sample pack of something called Red Alert. I have no idea what it is, but I'll try it.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 2:44PM
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animailia

Hi i live in between zone 7 and 8 and i was wondering when i should wintersow gardeners delight tomatoes. Thank you

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 6:12PM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

I ws all my tomatoes now. In fact, mine went out last week, which was a little earlier than when I usually do them, which is now through the end of Feb. It's been cold this year, so I'm not expecting sprouting till April unless we have a major warmup in the next few weeks.

Caryl

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 6:28AM
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ryseryse_2004

I have been WS for 5 years now and tried tomatoes the first year. In Z5, we just don't have a long enough growing season for WS. You probably could do cherry tomatoes and you would even get the larger tomatoes in the early fall, but my experience was that you will see no tomatoes in June with this method.

I NEED fresh tomatoes as early as possible!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 4:41PM
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another_buffalo(6)

I want tomatos as soon as possible, so start indoors. Two years ago, they were started too early and got really leggy, so I decided to set some out on March 10. I planted them deep, so leggy was an asset. Then I covered them with a milk jug with the bottoms cut out. Next I hilled up compost and mulch to cover the jugs almost up to the neck. The lid was off,, of course.

The tomatos grew wonderfully. As they got near the top of the jug, I would tug the jug higher and mound around it again. There would be ice or snow on top of the soil, but the tomatoes were as happy as could be. They were grape tomatoes and were the first ripe tomatoes at the farmers market that year.

So..... if your tomatos sprout, then a freeze is coming, you might try protecting them in this manner.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:33PM
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ryseryse_2004

That's a great idea --- used all my milk jugs though, will have to find more.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 9:21AM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

Wow, this is an old thread that resurfaced.

I sow my tomatoes closer to spring too. Depending on the weather in a given year, I usually do them around late Feb. or early March. If you're looking for a good flavor early type, consider Matina. DTM is 58 days. They ripen uniformly with no green shoulders.

Karen

Here is a link that might be useful: Matina

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 4:20PM
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missyga64(8 (central GA))

Hello All,
This is my first year of WSing and I have jumped in with both feet so to speak.

I have several types of tomatoes sown. Everything from Determinates, Indeterminates and cherrys, a few ground cherrys too.

The Cherokee has 1-2 inch sprouts already, the others are just breaking through the dirt.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 8:59PM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

I just discovered winter sowing, and I'm totally intoxicated by the idea. I just stumbled across this thread, and realizing that it's approaching the end of the growing season, I thought I'd ask how this season's winter sown crop of tomatoes has gone for those of you in Z5. Any luck?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 7:46PM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

I've wintersown tomatoes for years now with great success. Until this year. The tomatoes sprouted then stagnated, and I think it's because I uncovered the jugs too early when we had a few hot days. Then it got cool, damp and almost sunless for what seemed like weeks.

They recovered and grew normally, well, as normally as any tomatoes did this season. We had a lot of rain in June and July and a heat wave right around the time when many plants should have been setting fruit. The result for many in my area is the worst tomato season in memory with plants just decimated by septoria. And the tomatoes I did get were so-so, even some of my favorites lacked their usual taste.

But I'll be wintersowing again come late February. Any farmer or gardener will tell you that some years you win and some you lose -- you just keep trying.

So give it a whirl, and you can always hedge your bets by starting a few inside for your peace of mind. I think you'll find that the wintersown ones will be smaller, but with better root systems they will quickly catch up once you transplant.

Caryl

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 6:49AM
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ryseryse_2004

Welcome to Winter Sowing Leggs! I love it and do it every January. I prefer milk jugs to all other containers. BUT - in Z5a, our growing season is pretty short for tomatoes so winter sowing isn't an ideal way to sow tomatoes. Try some if you want along with your other perennials, but be sure to also start some indoors for extra insurance.

I have lots of tomatoes that come up volunteer but they never start producing until late September. Then they are gone with the first early frost (sometimes only a month later!)

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 8:33AM
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terrene(5b MA)

This past winter we did a winter-sowing experiment - a bunch of people sowed the same seeds on the same day (February something??), and then reported back when they sprouted. One of the seeds was a tomato variety, either Purple Cherokee or Black Krim.

So I sowed the Purple Cherokee seeds and they sprouted earlier than my other tomato plants which I do in cups in the Spring, but stayed small in the container, so in the long run they all grew to approx. the same size.

This year the tomato plants are green and lush with nice clumps of green fruit. Only a little wilt yet, knock on wood. Only problem is, they are ripening sooooo slowly this year. Got lots of green fruit but they're not turning red. Could be where I grow them doesn't get enough sun.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 3:53AM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

Thanks! That's great to know!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 9:38AM
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