Column: The Garden Girl – Tomato Time!

March 23, 2014 14:00 pm · 31 comments


Okay, Claycord veggie growers, now it is time to plant all your favorite summer vegetables. I know many of you have already started, and those of you who haven’t…don’t consider yourself late, you are right in time.

Tomatoes are the most installed summer vegetables. Considering our current water issues this isn’t the year to try some new selection, it is the year to install productive varieties that are proven to produce dozens of the tomatoes we love. Three traditional style tomato selections to fearlessly install are Early Girl, Champion and Big Beef.

Early Girl ripens fast. The grower is gifted with fabulous 4-6 ounce tomatoes perfect for slicing. Early Girl is very dependable and defiantly the most planted tomato throughout Claycord. Another bonus of the Early Girl tomato is its resistance to disease. This tomato is indeterminate. Indeterminate tomatoes produce consistently throughout the growing season. They grow like vines and will need to be supported.

Champion tomatoes are another excellent selection. They are a full sized 8-ounce selection that is solid, meaty and very sweet. You’ll need to support the Champion tomato as well. Champion makes an excellent sandwich tomato.

Big Beef is a hybrid tomato. They took the Beef Master and Big Boy to create this traditionally flavored, delicious tomato. Big Beef is a colossal size tomato. You can expect tomatoes to grow up to a pound. Big Beef is a round, normal shaped, red tomato.

Cherry type tomatoes are always popular. Sweet 100’s are the most planted and talked about cherry tomatoes. They have prolific yields with a super-sweet flavor.

Yellow pear tomatoes are also fabulous installations. Their unique shape and color make them standouts in the garden. They are very productive plants with an exceptionally long season of harvest.

We are still going to plant our vegetables. Water restrictions or not. We are just going to be wiser. Container grown vegetables may the way to go for many concerned about their water use. Planting in containers prevents water waste from runoff. Some containers such as the Earth Boxes waste no water at all. Containers have come a long way. Fabric Raised Beds and Pots are also an option for someone who wants to grow more. Container grown vegetables you can be grown in premium soils that are designed to hold water longer. If your containers are the right sizes, you’ll really be successful.

Happy Gardening.

Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio and Gardens, located at 6780 Marsh Creek Road in Clayton, 925-672-0207.

Nicole writes for the Clayton Pioneer Newspaper, and She is also the Clayton Valley Garden Club 2012 President.

1 anon March 23, 2014 at 5:52 PM

I’ve already planted tomatoes,bush beans, cucumbers, melon, swiss chard, collard greens, and I’m just starting.

2 Cowellian March 23, 2014 at 5:58 PM

OK, I’ll admit to missing Bay Area weather. I just brought my tomato plants and herbs inside to avoid tonight’s freeze.


3 Killjoy March 23, 2014 at 6:00 PM

I’m more concerned about being able to water my tomato plants during our drought. :(

4 @Killjoy, #3 March 23, 2014 at 6:39 PM

A good thick layer of mulch around those tomatoes will prevent the sun from drying the soil, allowing you to use less water. And I mean a THICK layer. Or, do as the commercial growers do, and use black plastic, which has the added benefit of absorbing heat, aiding plant growth. Anything to keep the sun off the dirt.

5 Silva March 23, 2014 at 7:18 PM

Poor Cowellian. Got my Early Girls last week. It’s nice not to have to wait till September for the harvest.

6 Silva March 23, 2014 at 7:21 PM

I’ll water with dish and laundry water and see what I get, I suppose. I must get a big bucket for the shower.

7 Dr. Jellyfinger® March 23, 2014 at 9:14 PM

You’ll get tomatoes that taste like soap and leftovers. I can’t even imagine what the shower water will taste like….

8 itsme March 23, 2014 at 9:43 PM

Love the picture!

9 Cat Wrangler March 23, 2014 at 9:48 PM

We’re trying containers for tomatoes and peppers.

10 Ms. Jean March 23, 2014 at 10:07 PM

We’ve begun watering the roses and non-edible plants with gray water. We’ll save our clean water allotment for the veggie garden. Happy gardening, everyone!

11 I'm The Urban Spaceman March 23, 2014 at 11:03 PM

My kumquats have turned black on the ends of the fruit…this discoloration can be rubbed off…any idea what this is? ¿spider mites?

12 Antler March 24, 2014 at 5:16 AM

I’m the Urban Spaceman at #11 …..

I lost my kumquat tree because I didn’t take seriously that it needed full sun and excellent drainage. The die-back began with the black mold such as you describe. I have never known red spider mites to cause a black mold or fungus, but Garden Girl might suggest a spray so that you can save your plant. I’d be tempted to re-pot in a soil mix with more sand in the equation.

Now you have me wanting to try growing a kumquat again! The fruit is so delightful in salads, jams, and chutneys. Has anyone ever tried using them in a pie?

13 Garden Girl March 24, 2014 at 8:44 AM

Hi I’m the Urban Spaceman and Antler.
Actinovate can treat mold on citrus. The problem with your fruit could be caused by insect as well. In that case Neem oil should be applied weekly until insects are under control. Perhaps you can bring in some leaves and kumquats so they can be better evaluated. Don’t come today though. R&M is closed on Mondays.

14 Original G March 24, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Used seedling heating mats and temperate controller for first time this year and they worked out great, will be picking zucchini late this week. As an experiment used gas powered post hole digger to loosen up soil for roots and planted tall tomato plants 3 feet deep.

May try Kratky method hydroponics.

There’s a hydroponics store in Pleasant Hill off Oak Park past the Library, next to sign shop. on Patterson Blvd.

15 Clayton Squirrel March 24, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Thanks for the reminder!

16 no need to water roses... March 24, 2014 at 12:06 PM

I have rose bushes facing every direction – on every side of my house. I’ve had some for 15 years, and some for 2 years. I don’t EVERY water them. I live in Clayton. Some are in full sun, some in part shade. All I do is prune them…roses grow WILD on Mt. Diablo and flourish…so don’t fret over keeping your roses watered, I say!

17 I'm The Urban Spaceman March 24, 2014 at 12:26 PM

Thanks Antler and GG…it’s in the gorund so repotting is out of the question…it needs a drastic pruning too.

18 I'm The Urban Spaceman March 24, 2014 at 12:29 PM

gorund = ground.

19 Shelly March 24, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Original G, what kind of tomatoes are you planting 3 feet deep? Sounds very interesting.

I find the sweet flavor of my tomatoes grown in Claycord adobe soil distasteful. I’d much rather have tart tomatoes than sweet. Does anyone else find this to be true? My neighbor likes hers sweet, but how can I get more pizazz?

20 LetCannabisBloom March 24, 2014 at 5:42 PM

These plants and there offensive smell not to mention the bees they attract that killed my kid like terrorist! This is terrorism and anyone involved growing these plants should be in jail this should be illegal! If you want fruits and veggies you should have to buy them off the street from some sketchy dealer!

21 Puddintain March 24, 2014 at 8:12 PM

Hello Troll!!

22 LauraS March 24, 2014 at 11:20 PM

What’s blooming that smells so wonderful? I’ve noticed the beautiful sweet smell for the past several days as I’ve taken by daily walk. Is it orange trees? Honeysuckle?

23 Antler March 25, 2014 at 4:03 AM

Hello, LauraS! In our yard the Washington Navel Orange tree is loaded with blossoms. And the baby pink Cecil Brunner rose vine is blooming only 10 feet away. The combined fragrances make it seem as though one is holding a bridal bouquet, and I am so grateful not to have allergies!

Our laurel trees have already bloomed, and the jasmine has not yet set blossoms. I’m like you….eager to hear what is fragrant in others’s yards. Happy day!

24 anon March 25, 2014 at 5:51 AM

Maybe it’s he jasmine that you smell since they are in full bloom right now.

25 Garden Girl March 25, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Spring smells awsome this year.
Citrus is in heavy flower. Oranges, lemons, limes. This spring their flowers are prolific! More than usual. Their fragrance sweeps into the gift store at at R&M through the open doors. Customers think the fragrance is coming from scented candles.
The pink jasmine is also blooming up some huge sweet fragrance. Its especially noticed in the early morning.

26 Shelly G March 25, 2014 at 7:18 AM

Dear Garden Girl,
So, last year you suggested not to plant tomatoes until the night temps consistently remained over 50 degrees. And now you are suggesting that it is OK to plant tomatoes now, but yet it is still dropping to as low as 41 degrees at night….44 degrees last night! Please advise.

27 Garden Girl March 25, 2014 at 8:08 AM

Hi Shelly.
Every year we garden differently, depending on the weather. This year early planting is worth the risk. Look how warm our days are. This week we are expecting rain. We must take advantage of any rain that comes our way. A day of rain equals days without watering.
Thanks for reading.

28 Silva March 25, 2014 at 10:38 AM

There’s huge bushes of mock orange across the street from me, and the heavenly fragrance is coming my way on warm days!

I’ve just watered, usually that and cleaning the car will inspire more rain.

Thanks Dr. Jellyfinger, I always appreciate your weighing in.

29 Original G March 25, 2014 at 12:16 PM

@Shelly, Tomatoes are Early Girl, Agro (paste tomato) and Celebrity. A few still in my little greenhouse, will end up with around 7 plants total. Am thinking going deep will help plant’s moisture needs. Long plant stems will send out roots wherever they touch the soil and do it faster in the less densely packed mix of potting soil and compost used to back fill holes. Last few inches of hole used our adobe to hold down evaporation. Is an experiment, hope it works. So far have 4 tomatoes about size of a quarter and lots of blossoms.

30 Shelly March 25, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Well it sounds ingenious! Good luck with the experiment, but it sounds like a success already.

31 Marianne March 25, 2014 at 12:57 PM

@Original G–good luck with that!

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